The activation of antiviral drugs as a consequence of thymidine kinase expression has been shown in recent years to have potential as a treatment for malignant tumors. It was hypothesized that the property of the drugs that make them effective against viruses and proliferating cells, namely their ability to interfere with the integrity of the DNA, may be exploited to sensitize cells to radiation damage. The antiviral drug, BVdUrd, structurally a pyrimidine analogue, was found to enhance selectively the radiation cytotoxicity of human tumor cells transduced with the HSV-tk thymidine kinase gene. Human glioma cells from the U-251 lineage transduced with HSV-tk and exposed to 40 µg/ml of BVdUrd for 24 h prior to irradiation were more sensitive to radiation compared with control cells under the same conditions; the sensitization enhancement ratio was 1.9. The results suggest that the addition of radiation will improve the effectiveness of HSV-tk gene therapy for the treatment of brain tumors.

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This research was supported in part by Grant CA53114 from the National Cancer Institute.

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