Novel therapies employing oncolytic viruses have emerged as promising anticancer modalities. The cure of particularly aggressive malignancies requires induction of immunogenic cell death (ICD), coupling oncolysis with immune responses via calreticulin, ATP, and high-mobility group box protein B1 (HMGB1) release from dying tumor cells. The present study shows that in human pancreatic cancer cells (pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma [PDAC] cells n=4), oncolytic parvovirus H-1 (H-1PV) activated multiple interconnected death pathways but failed to induce calreticulin exposure or ATP release. In contrast, H-1PV elevated extracellular HMGB1 levels by 4.0±0.5 times (58%±9% of total content; up to 100 ng/ml) in all infected cultures, whether nondying, necrotic, or apoptotic. An alternative secretory route allowed H-1PV to overcome the failure of gemcitabine to trigger HMGB1 release, without impeding cytotoxicity or other ICD activities of the standard PDAC medication. Such broad resistance of H-1PV-induced HMGB1 release to apoptotic blockage coincided with but was uncoupled from an autocrine interleukin-1? (IL-1?) loop. That and the pattern of viral determinants maintained in gemcitabine-treated cells suggested the activation of an inflammasome/caspase 1 (CASP1) platform alongside DNA detachment and/or nuclear exclusion of HMGB1 during early stages of the viral life cycle. We concluded that H-1PV infection of PDAC cells is signaled through secretion of the alarmin HMGB1 and, besides its own oncolytic effect, might convert drug-induced apoptosis into an ICD process. A transient arrest of cells in the cyclin A1-rich S phase would suffice to support compatibility of proliferation-dependent H-1PV with cytotoxic regimens. These properties warrant incorporation of the oncolytic virus H-1PV, which is not pathogenic in humans, into multimodal anticancer treatments.
Treatment of cancers by means of viruses, that specifically replicate in (oncotropism) and kill (oncolysis) neoplastic cells, is increasingly gaining acceptance in the clinic. Among these agents, parvoviruses have been shown to possess not only direct oncolytic but also immunomodulating properties, serving as an adjuvant to prime the immune system to react against infected tumors. Here, we aimed to establish whether immunomodulating mechanisms participate in the recently reported therapeutic potential of parvoviruses against pancreatic carcinoma. Using adoptive transfer experiments we discovered that the transfer of splenocytes of donor rats harboring H-1PV-treated orthotopic PDAC tumors could significantly prolong the survival of naïve tumor-bearing recipients, compared to those receiving cells from mock-treated donors. Closer investigation of immunological parameters in infected donor rats revealed that virus-induced interferon gamma production and cellular immune response played an important role in this effect. These data have also preclinical relevance since abortive H-1PV infection of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells or cocultivation of these cells with H-1PV-preinfected pancreatic cancer cells, resulted in enhancement of innate and adaptive immune reactivity. Taken together our data reveal that oncolytic H-1PV modulates the immune system into an anticancer state, and further support the concept of using parvoviruses in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
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