Stromal-epithelial interaction has been shown to promote local tumor growth and distant metastasis. We sought to create a promising gene therapy approach that co-targets cancer and its supporting stromal cells for combating castration-resistant prostate tumors. Herein, we demonstrated that human osteonectin is overexpressed in the prostate cancer epithelium and tumor stroma in comparison with their normal counterpart. We designed a novel human osteonectin promoter (hON-522E) containing positive transcriptional regulatory elements identified in both the promoter and exon 1 region of the human osteonectin gene. In vitro reporter assays revealed that the hON-522E promoter is highly active in androgen receptor negative and metastatic prostate cancer and bone stromal cells compared to androgen receptor-positive prostate cancer cells. Moreover, in vivo prostate-tumor-promoting activity of the hON-522E promoter was confirmed by intravenous administration of an adenoviral vector containing the hON-522E promoter-driven luciferase gene (Ad-522E-Luc) into mice bearing orthotopic human prostate tumor xenografts. In addition, an adenoviral vector with the hON-522E-promoter-driven herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase gene (Ad-522E-TK) was highly effective against the growth of androgen-independent human prostate cancer PC3M and bone stromal cell line in vitro and in pre-established PC3M tumors in vivo upon addition of the prodrug ganciclovir. Because of the heterogeneity of human prostate tumors, hON-522E promoter-mediated gene therapy has the potential for the treatment of hormone refractory and bone metastatic prostate cancers.
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