Patients suffering from recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), a hereditary blistering disease of epithelia, show susceptibility to develop highly aggressive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Tumors metastasize early and are associated with mortality in the 30th-40th years of life in this patient group. So far, no adequate therapy is available for RDEB SCC. An approach is suicide gene therapy, in which a cell death-inducing agent is introduced to cancer cells. However, lack of specificity has constrained clinical application of this modality. Therefore, we used spliceosome-mediated RNA trans-splicing technology, capable of replacing a tumor-specific transcript with one encoding a cell death-inducing peptide/toxin, to provide tumor-restricted expression. We designed 3' pre-trans-splicing molecules (PTM) and evaluated their efficiency to trans-splice an RDEB SCC-associated target gene, the matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9), in a fluorescence-based test system. A highly efficient PTM was further adapted to insert the toxin streptolysin O (SLO) of Streptococcus pyogenes into the MMP9 gene. Transfection of RDEB SCC cells with the SLO-PTM resulted in cell death and induction of toxin function restricted to RDEB SCC cells. Thus, RNA trans-splicing is a suicide gene therapy approach with increased specificity to treat highly malignant SCC tumors.
Gruber, C., Gratz, I. K., Murauer, E. M., Mayr, E., Koller, U., Bruckner-Tuderman, L., … Bauer, J. W. (2011). Spliceosome-Mediated RNA Trans-Splicing Facilitates Targeted Delivery of Suicide Genes to Cancer Cells. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 10(2), 233–241. https://doi.org/10.1158/1535-7163.mct-10-0669