The use of viruses to treat tumors has received renewed interest with the availability of genetically defined attenuated mutants. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 in particular has been shown to be effective for tumors of neuronal origin. However, the model systems used for these studies rely on the use of explanted tumor cells in immunodeficient animals. We have used a recently developed transgenic mouse model, wherein mice spontaneously develop retinoblastomas, to determine if a mutant HSV has a therapeutic effect against an endogenously arising tumor in an immunocompetent host. The injection of 1 x 106 PFU of the neuroattenuated HSV-1/HSV-2 recombinant RE6 into the vitreous of transgenic mice resulted in a significant inhibition of tumor growth compared to injection of medium alone (P = 0.0063). Immunohistochemical analysis of viral antigen showed that viral replication was restricted to focal areas of the tumors and the retinal pigment epithelium. Viral growth was not significantly different in the eyes of transgene-positive and transgene-negative mice, suggesting that enhanced replication in tumor cells may not explain the effects. Tumor cells in the treated eyes were significantly less differentiated than those in the untreated eyes (P = 0.04), suggesting that the virus may replicate better in certain cell types in the tumors. Although the injection of RE6 resulted in a difference in tumor size, the treatment did not result in the elimination of tumors in any of the mice. Improvements in the efficacy of tumor control are needed if this therapy is to be of use.
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