Hepatocellular Carcinoma Is a Natural Target for Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) 2 Vectors
Although therapeutic options are gradually improving, the overall prognosis for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is still poor. Gene therapy-based strategies are developed to complement the therapeutic armamentarium, both in early and late-stage disease. For efficient delivery of transgenes with antitumor activity, vectors demonstrating preferred tumor tropism are required. Here, we report on the natural tropism of adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 2 vectors for HCC. When applied intravenously in transgenic HCC mouse models, similar amounts of vectors were detected in the liver and liver tumor tissue. In contrast, transduction efficiency, as indicated by the level of transgene product, was moderate in the liver but was elevated up to 19-fold in mouse tumor tissue. Preferred transduction of HCC compared to hepatocytes was confirmed in precision-cut liver slices from human patient samples. Our mechanistic studies revealed that this preference is due to the improved intracellular processing of AAV2 vectors in HCC, resulting, for example, in nearly 4-fold more AAV vector episomes that serve as templates for gene transcription. Given this background, AAV2 vectors ought to be considered to strengthen currentâor develop novelâstrategies for treating HCC.