Pleural malignant mesothelioma (MM) shows poor survival, regardless of tumour stage at diagnosis. MM is unresponsive to present treatment regimens and new protocols are desperately needed. The localised nature, the potential accessibility, and the relative lack of distant metastases make MM a particularly attractive candidate for somatic gene therapy. A common target for cancer gene therapy is the tumour suppressor protein p53. p53 does not seem to be mutated or deleted in MM, but it can be inactivated by binding to other proteins, like mdm2 and SV40 large T antigen. We tested the effects of a replication-deficient adenoviral vector carrying wild-type p53 cDNA in human MM cells. Our results show that >95% of MM cells were efficiently infected with 25 multiplicity of infection (MOI) of vector. Wild-type p53 was effectively expressed resulting in >80% inhibition of proliferation in MM cells. AdCMV.p53 infection induced apoptosis while controls did not show any evident morphological alterations. Ex vivo p53 gene transfer experiments inhibited tumourigenesis in nude mice. In vivo, direct intratumour injection of AdCMV.p53 arrested tumour growth and prolonged survival of treated mice. These results indicate that p53-gene therapy should be strongly exploited for clinical trials in MM patients.
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