Retroviral-mediated gene transfer was used to introduce and express the gene for murine interleukin 7 (IL-7) in a fibrosarcoma tumor (FSA). The tumorigenicity of these genetically modified FSA cells was greatly decreased in immunologically intact syngeneic mice but was unaltered in T-cell-deprived mice. IL-7-infected tumors that did grow in intact animals from large size inocula did so slowly and had a high incidence of spontaneous regression. Furthermore, mice that had rejected tumors became specifically immune to challenge with uninfected parental tumor cells.

IL-7-infected FSA growing in intact mice were heavily infiltrated with host T-cells that were presumably responsible for slow growth and tumor regression, and tumor cells were in the minority. Fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis showed that there was a 530% increase in T-cells in IL-7-infected FSA compared with control tumors. CD8+ T-cells were particularly elevated, but CD4+ lymphocytes were also increased in number, as were eosinophils and basophils. The CD4+:CD8+ ratio in IL-7-infected FSA was 1:1.7 in comparison to 1:0.6 in control tumors. Lymphocytes isolated from IL-7-producing tumors had greatly enhanced cytotoxicity towards uninfected, parental FSA cells. Killing of non-cross-reacting fibrosarcoma line was also increased but to a much lesser extent.

Injection of recombinant human IL-7 directly into established FSA tumors slowed their growth and, in a significant number of instances, caused complete regression. Mice that had rejected tumor became specifically immune. The dose that was needed for this effect was, however, somewhat large: 20 µg twice daily for 10 days. This result contrasts with the efficacy of IL-7 gene infection in stimulating responses to the same tumor. These considerations make IL-7 a good candidate for tumor-directed cytokine gene therapy.


This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the British Columbia Health Care Research Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute of Canada. G. J. D. is a National Cancer Institute of Canada Career Scientist.

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