Intravesical immunotherapy of superficial bladder cancer with chitosan/interleukin-12

David A. Zaharoff, Benjamin S. Hoffman, H. Brooks Hooper, Compton J. Benjamin, Kiranpreet K. Khurana, Kenneth W. Hance, Connie J. Rogers, Peter A. Pinto, Jeffrey Schlom, John W. Greiner

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86 Scopus citations


Intravesical BCG has been used successfully to treat superficial bladder cancer for three decades. However, 20% to 30% of patients will fail initial BCG therapy and 30% to 50% of patients will develop recurrent tumors within 5years. Alternative or complementary strategies for the management of superficial bladder cancer are needed. Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is a potent TH1 cytokine with robust antitumor activity and the ability to potentiate immunologic memory. Unfortunately, intravesical IL-12 did not show antitumor efficacy in a recent clinical study of patients with recurrent superficial bladder cancer. We hypothesized that coformulation of IL-12 with chitosan, a biocompatible, mucoadhesive polysaccharide, could improve intravesical IL-12 delivery and provide an effective and durable alternative for the treatment of superficial bladder cancer. In antitumor studies, 88% to 100% of mice bearing orthotopic bladder tumors were cured after four intravesical treatments with chitosan/IL-12. In contrast, only 38% to 60% of mice treated with IL-12 alone and 0% treated with BCG were cured. Antitumor responses following chitosan/ IL-12 treatments were durable and provided complete protection from intravesical tumor rechallenge. Urinary cytokine analysis showed that chitosan/IL-12 induced multiple TH1 cytokines at levels significantly higher than either IL-12 alone or BCG. Immunohistochemistry revealed moderate to intense tumor infiltration by T cells and macrophages following chitosan/IL-12 treatments. Bladder submucosa from cured mice contained residual populations of immune cells that returned to baseline levels after several months. Intravesical chitosan/IL-12 is a well-tolerated, effective immunotherapy that deserves further consideration for testing in humans for the management of superficial bladder cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6192-6199
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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