Pathogenic peptides to enhance treatment of glioblastoma: evaluation of RVG-29 from rabies virus and chlorotoxin from scorpion venom
Glioblastoma (GBM) is a highly invasive and deadly late stage tumor that develops from abnormal astrocytes in the brain. With few improvements in treatment over many decades, median patient survival is only 15 months and the 5-year survival rate hovers at 6%. Numerous challenges are encountered in the development of treatments for GBM. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) serves as a primary obstacle due to its innate ability to prevent unwanted molecules, such as most chemotherapeutics, from entering the brain tissue and reaching malignant cells. The GBM cells themselves serve as a second obstacle, having a high level of genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity. This characteristic improves the probability of a population of cells to have resistance to treatment, which ensures the survival of the tumor. Here, the development and testing of two different modes of therapy for treating GBM is described. These therapeutics were enhanced by pathogenic peptides known to improve entry into brain tissue or to bind GBM cells to overcome the BBB and/or tumor cell heterogeneity. The first therapeutic utilizes a small peptide, RVG-29, derived from the rabies virus glycoprotein to improve brain-specific delivery of nanoparticles encapsulated with a small molecule payload. RVG-29-targeted nanoparticles were observed to reach the brain of healthy mice in higher concentrations 2 hours following intravenous injection compared to control particles. However, targeted camptothecin-loaded nanoparticles were not capable of producing significant treatment benefits compared to non-targeted particles in an orthotopic mouse model of GBM. Peptide degradation following injection was shown to be a likely cause for reduced treatment benefit. The second therapeutic utilizes chlorotoxin, a non-toxic 36-amino acid peptide found in the venom of the deathstalker scorpion, expressed as a fusion to antibody fragments to enhance T cell recognition and killing of GBM. This candidate biologic, known as anti-CD3/chlorotoxin (ACDClx) is expressed as an insoluble protein in Nicotiana benthamiana and Escherichia coli and must be purified in denaturing and reducing conditions prior to being refolded. ACDClx was shown to selectively activate T cells only in the presence of GBM cells, providing evidence that further preclinical development of ACDClx as a GBM immunotherapy is warranted.