Despite important advances in understanding the molecular basis of cancer, few treatments have been devised which rationally target known causal oncogenic defects. Selectively replicating viruses have a major advantage over nonreplicating viruses to target these defects because the therapeutic effect of the injected virus is augmented by virus produced within the tumor. To permit rational targeting of colon tumors, we have developed replicating adenoviruses that express the viral E1B and E2 genes from promoters controlled by the Tcf4 transcription factor. Tcf4 is constitutively activated by mutations in the adenomatous polyposis coli and β-catenin genes in virtually all colon tumors and is constitutively repressed by Groucho and CtBP in normal tissue. The Tcf-E2 and Tcf-E1B promoters are active in many, but not all, cell lines with activation of tile wnt pathway. Viruses with Tcf regulation of E2 expression replicate normally in SW480 colon cancer cells but show a 50- to 100-fold decrease in replication in H1299 lung cancer cells and WI38 normal fibroblasts. Activation of wnt signaling by transduction of a stable β-catenin mutant into normal fibroblasts renders the cells permissive for virus replication. Insertion of Tcf4 sites in the E1B promoter has only small effects on replication in vitro but significantly reduces the inflammatory response in a rodent lung model in vivo. Replicating adenoviruses with Tcf regulation of both E1B and E2 transcription are potentially useful for the treatment of liver metastases from colorectal tumors, but additional changes will be required to produce a virus that can be used to treat all colon tumors.
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