Oncolytic vaccinia virus synergizes with irinotecan in colorectal cancer

Kathryn Ottolino-Perry, Sergio A. Acuna, Fernando A. Angarita, Clara Sellers, Siham Zerhouni, Nan Tang, J. Andrea McCart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC) is complex clinical challenge for which there are limited treatment options. Chemotherapy with or without surgery provides moderate improvements in overall survival and quality of life; nevertheless the 5-year survival remains below 30%. Oncolytic vaccinia virus (VV) shows strong anti-tumour activity in models of CRC, however transient delays in disease progression are insufficient to lead to long-term survival. Here we examined the efficacy of VV with oxaliplatin or SN-38 (active metabolite of irinotecan) in CRC cell lines in vitro and VV with irinotecan in an orthotopic model of metastatic CRC. Synergistic improvements in in vitro cell killing were observed in multiple cell lines. Combination therapy was well tolerated in tumour-bearing mice and the median survival was significantly increased relative to monotherapy despite a drug-dependent decrease in the mean tumour titer. Increased apoptosis following in vitro and in vivo combination therapy was observed. In vitro cell cycle analysis showed increases in S-phase cells following infection occurred in both infected and uninfected cell populations. This corresponded to a 4-fold greater increase in apoptosis in the uninfected compared to infected cells following combination therapy. Combination treatment strategies are among the best options for patients with advanced cancers. VV is currently under clinical investigation in patients with CRC and the data presented here suggest that its combination with irinotecan may provide benefit to a subset of CRC patients. Further, investigation of this combination is necessary to determine the tumour characteristics responsible for mediating synergy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1539-1552
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Oncology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Chemotherapy
  • Combination therapy
  • Double-deleted vaccinia virus
  • Metastatic colorectal cancer
  • Oncolytic virotherapy
  • Orthotopic tumour model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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