Retargeting Strategies for Oncolytic Herpes Simplex Viruses
Most of the oncolytic herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) exhibit a high safety profile achieved through attenuation. They carry defects in virulence proteins that antagonize host cell response to the virus, including innate response, apoptosis, authophagy, and depend on tumor cell proliferation. They grow robustly in cancer cells, provided that these are deficient in host cell responses, which is often the case. To overcome the attenuation limits, a strategy is to render the virus highly cancer-specific, e.g., by retargeting their tropism to cancer-specific receptors, and detargeting from natural receptors. The target we selected is HER-2, overexpressed in breast, ovarian and other cancers. Entry of wt-HSV requires the essential glycoproteins gD, gH/gL and gB. Here, we reviewed that oncolytic HSV retargeting was achieved through modifications in gD: the addition of a single-chain antibody (scFv) to HER-2 coupled with appropriate deletions to remove part of the natural receptors’ binding sites. Recently, we showed that also gH/gL can be a retargeting tool. The insertion of an scFv to HER-2 at the gH N-terminus, coupled with deletions in gD, led to a recombinant capable to use HER-2 as the sole receptor. The retargeted oncolytic HSVs can be administered systemically by means of carrier cells-forcedly-infected mesenchymal stem cells. Altogether, the retargeted oncolytic HSVs are highly cancer-specific and their replication is not dependent on intrinsic defects of the tumor cells. They might be further modified to express immunomodulatory molecules.