Evaluation of bystander cell killing effects in suicide gene therapy of cancer: Engineered thymidylate kinase (TMPK)/AZT enzyme-prodrug axis

Takeya Sato, Anton Neschadim, Ryo Nakagawa, Teruyuki Yanagisawa, Jeffrey A. Medin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Suicide gene therapy of cancer (SGTC) entails the introduction of a cDNA sequence into tumor cells whose polypeptide product is capable of either directly activating apoptotic pathways itself or facilitating the activation of pharmacologic agents that do so. The latter class of SGTC approaches is of the greater utility in cancer therapy owing to the ability of some small, activated cytotoxic compounds to diffuse from their site of activation into neighboring malignant cells, where they can also mediate destruction. This phenomenon, termed “bystander killing”, can be highly advantageous in driving significant tumor regression in vivo without the requirement of transduction of each and every tumor cell with the suicide gene. We have developed a robust suicide gene therapy enzyme/prodrug system based on an engineered variant of the human thymidylate kinase (TMPK), which has been endowed with the ability to drive azidothymidine (AZT) activation. Delivery of this suicide gene sequence into tumors by means of recombinant lentivirus- mediated transduction embodies an SGTC strategy that successfully employs bystander cell killing as a mechanism to achieve significant ablation of solid tumors in vivo. Thus, this engineered TMPK/ AZT suicide gene therapy axis holds great promise for clinical application in the treatment of inoperable solid tumors in the neoadjuvant setting. Here we present detailed procedures for the preparation of recombinant TMPK-based lentivirus, transduction of target cells, and various approaches for the evaluation of bystander cell killing effects in SGCT in both in vitro and in vivo models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-67
Number of pages13
JournalMethods in Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Azidothymidine
  • Bystander cell killing
  • Cancer
  • Suicide gene therapy
  • Thymidylate monophosphate kinase (TMPK)
  • Tumor xenografts


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