IFN-α has been applied in medical treatment of various neuroendocrine (NE) tumors, either alone or combination with somatostatin analogues. They can improve clinical symptoms in 50-70% of patients but a significant tumor reduction is only observed in 5-15% patients. Vasostatin (vaso) is believed to be an angiogenic inhibitor. The aim of this study is to evaluate the feasibility to use IFN-α and vasostatin gene therapy in NE tumors.
We constructed plasmid vectors carrying human IFN-α2 (hIFN-α2) gene and human vasostatin gene, which were transfected into BON I cell to obtain stable gene-expressing cell lines. We found that in animal tumor model and cell experiments gene transfer of vasostatin caused a faster cell growth and tumor development via down-regulation of the tumor suppressor gene and p27. Cell adhesion, spreading, migration and invasion ability were increased in vaso-expressing BON I cells. Transfecting chicken vinculin could reverse the malignant behavior and restored expression of tumor suppressor genes. Moreover, vinculin knockdown could result in a faster cell growth and an increased colony formation.
Condition medium taken from hIFN-α2-expressing BON I cells showed significant antiproliferative effects both on the NE tumor cells, BON I and LCC18, and the endothelial cells, PAE. It also suppressed cell adhesion and cell invasion and inhibited angiogenesis on CAM assay. Mice implanted with a mixture of WT BON cells and hIFN-α2-expressing BON cells (1:1) demonstrated significantly lower tumor incidence and longer tumor doubling time. Furthermore, long-acting IFN-α2b (PEGIntron®) demonstrated a better anti-tumor effect in contrast with IFN-α2b (IntronA®). Intratumoral injection of hIFN-α2 plasmids significantly inhibited NE tumor growth and caused tumor regression.
We concluded that gene transfer of vasostatin into BON I cells might cause an enhanced malignant tumor behavior. Therefore, vasostatin therapy can not be recommended for patients with NE tumors. Vinculin might play an important role in NE tumor development and growth regulation. Gene therapy by using plasmid DNA carrying hIFN-α2 gene is feasible and promising in NE tumors.