Adenovirus-mediated gene therapy combined with chemotherapeutic agents is expected to represent a new approach for treating pancreatic cancer. However, there have been no reports of definitive effects of chemotherapeutic agents on adenovirus-mediated gene therapies. In the present study, we investigated the effects of chemotherapeutic agents on the transduction efficiency of an adenovirus-based gene therapy. Adenovirus (Ad-NK4) expressing NK4, which acts as a hepatocyte growth factor antagonist, was used as a representative gene therapy. Pancreatic cancer cells infected with Ad-NK4 were treated with chemotherapeutic agents (5-fluorouracil [5FU], cisplatin or etoposide), and the NK4 levels in their culture media were measured. To examine the effects of chemotherapeutic agents in vivo, Ad-NK4 was administered to subcutaneous tumors in mice after treatment with the agents, and the tumor NK4 levels were measured. The NK4 levels in culture media from cells treated with 5FU, cisplatin and etoposide were 5.2-fold (P = 0.026), 6-fold (P < 0.001) and 4.3-fold (P < 0.001) higher than those of untreated cells, respectively. The chemotherapeutic agents also increased Ad-NK4 uptake. The NK4 levels in tumors treated with 5FU, cisplatin and etoposide were 5.4-fold (P = 0.006), 11.8-fold (P < 0.001) and 4.9-fold (P = 0.017) higher than those in untreated tumors, respectively. The present findings suggest that chemotherapeutic agents significantly improve the efficiency of adenovirus-mediated gene transfer in pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, they will contribute to decreases in the adenovirus doses required for gene transfer, thereby controlling the side-effects of adenovirus infection in normal tissues.
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