Spores of some species of the strictly anaerobic bacteria Clostridium naturally target and partially lyse the hypoxic cores of tumors, which tend to be refractory to conventional therapies. The anti-tumor effect can be augmented by engineering strains to convert a non-toxic prodrug into a cytotoxic drug specifically at the tumor site by expressing a prodrug-converting enzyme (PCE). Safe doses of the favored prodrug CB1954 lead to peak concentrations of 6.3 mu M in patient sera, but at these concentration(s) known nitroreductase (NTR) PCEs for this prodrug show low activity. Furthermore, efficacious and safe Clostridium strains that stably express a PCE have not been reported. Here we identify a novel nitroreductase from Neisseria meningitidis, NmeNTR, which is able to activate CB1954 at clinically-achievable serum concentrations. An NmeNTR expression cassette, which does not contain an antibiotic resistance marker, was stably localized to the chromosome of Clostridium sporogenes using a new integration method, and the strain was disabled for safety and containment by making it a uracil auxotroph. The efficacy of Clostridium-Directed Enzyme Prodrug Therapy (CDEPT) using this system was demonstrated in a mouse xenograft model of human colon carcinoma. Substantial tumor suppression was achieved, and several animals were cured. These encouraging data suggest that the novel enzyme and strain engineering approach represent a promising platform for the clinical development of CDEPT.
- pro-drug converting enzyme
- solid tumor