Vaccinia virus expressing bone morphogenetic protein-4 in novel glioblastoma orthotopic models facilitates enhanced tumor regression and long-term survival

Rohit Duggal, Ulrike Geissinger, Qian Zhang, Jason Aguilar, Nanhai G. Chen, Elena Binda, Angelo L. Vescovi, Aladar A. Szalay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer with a high rate of recurrence. We propose a novel oncolytic vaccinia virus (VACV)-based therapy using expression of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-4 for treating GBM and preventing recurrence.Methods: We have utilized clinically relevant, orthotopic xenograft models of GBM based on tumor-biopsy derived, primary cancer stem cell (CSC) lines. One of the cell lines, after being transduced with a cDNA encoding firefly luciferase, could be used for real time tumor imaging. A VACV that expresses BMP-4 was constructed and utilized for infecting several primary glioma cultures besides conventional serum-grown glioma cell lines. This virus was also delivered intracranially upon implantation of the GBM CSCs in mice to determine effects on tumor growth.Results: We found that the VACV that overexpresses BMP-4 demonstrated heightened replication and cytotoxic activity in GBM CSC cultures with a broad spectrum of activity across several different patient-biopsy cultures. Intracranial inoculation of mice with this virus resulted in a tumor size equal to or below that at the time of injection. This resulted in survival of 100% of the treated mice up to 84 days post inoculation, significantly superior to that of a VACV lacking BMP-4 expression. When mice with a higher tumor burden were injected with the VACV lacking BMP-4, 80% of the mice showed tumor recurrence. In contrast, no recurrence was seen when mice were injected with the VACV expressing BMP-4, possibly due to induction of differentiation in the CSC population and subsequently serving as a better host for VACV infection and oncolysis. This lack of recurrence resulted in superior survival in the BMP-4 VACV treated group.Conclusions: Based on these findings we propose a novel VACV therapy for treating GBM, which would allow tumor specific production of drugs in the future in combination with BMPs which would simultaneously control tumor maintenance and facilitate CSC differentiation, respectively, thereby causing sustained tumor regression without recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number155
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 24 2013


  • Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)
  • Cancer stem cells (CSCs) and differentiation
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
  • Vaccinia virus (VACV)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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