The present study investigates the ability of recombinant interleukin 12 (rIL-12) to modulate the growth of a primary tumor as well as the outgrowth of metastatic tumor cells in an ovarian carcinoma (OV-HM) model. This aggressive tumor displayed rapid growth of the primary tumor mass, high incidence of metastases to lung and lymph nodes, and invasion from the primary s.c. site to the peritoneal cavity. Starting 12 days after s.c. tumor cell implantation, several i.p. injections of rIL-12 at 2–3-day intervals resulted in regression of growing tumors. These treated mice did not show signs of metastases or tumor recurrence at the original site. One month after tumor implantation, untreated mice did not have visible lung metastasis, but some did have palpable lymph nodes. At this stage, the primary tumors of animals without palpable lymph nodes were surgically resected. When examined 2 months later, most animals had developed lymph node and lung metastases. In contrast, rIL-12 injections after tumor resection inhibited the development of metastases in both lung and lymph nodes. This contrasted with the failure of IL-2 to prevent metastases. Even for mice already showing signs of lymph node metastases or invasion of the abdominal wall, rIL-12 administration after tumor resection prevented further invasion to the peritoneal cavity and growth of metastatic tumor cells in lung. It was somewhat surprising that the IL-12 treatment of animals after 1 month of tumor growth without resection also resulted in complete tumor regression, as well as eradication of micrometastasis that would have occurred before the treatment. Moreover, they exhibited resistance to a rechallenge with the same tumor but not with a second tumor. Thus, this tumor system provides a relevant model to clinical situations in terms of treatment of advanced tumors and metastases. These results also indicate that IL-12 can induce a curative immune response, even in the face of an aggressive micrometastasizing tumor.

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This work was supported by Special Project Research-Cancer Bioscience from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Japan.

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