Tumor-specific gene transfer via an adenoviral vector targeted to the pan-carcinoma antigen EpCAM

H. J. Haisma, H. M. Pinedo, A. Van Rijswijk, I. Van Der Meulen-Muileman, B. A. Sosnowski, W. Ying, V. W. Van Beusechem, B. W. Tillman, W. R. Gerritsen, D. T. Curiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


The utility of adenoviral vectors for cancer therapy is limited due to their lack of specificity for tumor cells. In order to target adenovirus to tumor the natural tropism of the adenovirus should be ablated and replaced by a tumor-specific binding domain. To this end, a neutralizing anti-fiber antibody conjugated to an anti-EpCAM antibody was created that targets the adenovirus to the EpCAM antigen present on tumor cells. The EpCAM antigen was chosen as the target because this antigen is highly expressed on a variety of adenocarcinomas of different origin such as breast, ovary, colon and lung whereas EpCAM expression is limited in normal tissues. In these studies, the EpCAM-targeted adenovirus was shown to infect specifically cancer cell lines of different origin expressing EpCAM such as ovary, colon and head and neck. Gene transfer was blocked by excess anti-EpCAM antibody and dramatically reduced in EpCAM negative cell lines, thus showing the specificity of the EpCAM-targeted adenovirus. Importantly, infection with targeted adenovirus was independent of CAR, which is the natural receptor for adenovirus binding, since blocking of CAR with recombinant fiber knob did not affect infection with targeted adenovirus. Apart from the cancer cell lines, the efficacy of targeted viral infection was studied in freshly isolated primary human colon cancer cells. As colon cancer predominantly metastasizes to liver, and adenovirus has a high tropism for hepatocytes, we also sought to determine if the EpCAM-targeted adenovirus showed reduced infectivity of human liver cells. The bispecific antibody could successfully mediate gene transfer to primary human colon cancer cells, whereas it almost completely abolished infection of liver cells. This work thus demonstrates that EpCAM-targeted adenoviral vectors can be specifically directed to a wide variety of adenocarcinomas. This approach may prove to be useful for selective gene therapy of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1469-1474
Number of pages6
JournalGene therapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1999


  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Adenovirus
  • Gene transfer
  • Targeting


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