CPT-11 (irinotecan) has been investigated as a treatment for malignant brain tumors. However, limitations of CPT-11 therapy include low levels of the drug entering brain tumor sites and systemic toxicities associated with higher doses. Neural stem cells (NSCs) offer a novel way to overcome these obstacles because of their inherent tumor tropism and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which enables them to selectively target brain tumor sites. Carboxylesterases (CEs) are enzymes that can convert the prodrug CPT-11 (irinotecan) to its active metabolite SN-38, a potent topoisomerase I inhibitor. We have adenovirally transduced an established clonal human NSC line (HB1.F3.CD) to express a rabbit carboxylesterase (rCE) or a modified human CE (hCE1m6), which are more effective at converting CPT-11 to SN-38 than endogenous human CE. We hypothesized that NSC-mediated CE/CPT-11 therapy would allow tumor-localized production of SN-38 and significantly increase the therapeutic efficacy of irinotecan. Here, we report that transduced NSCs transiently expressed high levels of active CE enzymes, retained their tumor-tropic properties, and mediated an increase in the cytotoxicity of CPT-11 toward glioma cells. CE-expressing NSCs (NSC.CEs), whether administered intracranially or intravenously, delivered CE to orthotopic human glioma xenografts in mice. NSC-delivered CE catalyzed conversion of CPT-11 to SN-38 locally at tumor sites. These studies demonstrate the feasibility of NSC-mediated delivery of CE to glioma and lay the foundation for translational studies of this therapeutic paradigm to improve clinical outcome and quality of life in patients with malignant brain tumors.
Numerous stem cell-based therapies are currently under clinical investigation, including the use of neural stem cells (NSCs) as delivery vehicles to target therapeutic agents to invasive brain tumors. The ability to monitor the time course, migration, and distribution of stem cells following transplantation into patients would provide critical information for optimizing treatment regimens. No effective cell-tracking methodology has yet garnered clinical acceptance. A highly promising noninvasive method for monitoring NSCs and potentially other cell types in vivo involves preloading them with ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (USPIOs) to enable cell tracking using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We report here the preclinical studies that led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for first-in-human investigational use of ferumoxytol to label NSCs prior to transplantation into brain tumor patients, followed by surveillance serial MRI. A combination of heparin, protamine sulfate, and ferumoxytol (HPF) was used to label the NSCs. HPF labeling did not affect cell viability, growth kinetics, or tumor tropism in vitro, and it enabled MRI visualization of NSC distribution within orthotopic glioma xenografts. MRI revealed dynamic in vivo NSC distribution at multiple time points following intracerebral or intravenous injection into glioma-bearing mice that correlated with histological analysis. Preclinical safety/toxicity studies of intracerebrally administered HPF-labeled NSCs in mice were also performed, and they showed no significant clinical or behavioral changes, no neuronal or systemic toxicities, and no abnormal accumulation of iron in the liver or spleen. These studies support the clinical use of ferumoxytol labeling of cells for post-transplant MRI visualization and tracking.
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