The finding of reporter gene expression in muscle cells after intramuscular injection of a reporter gene containing DNA has suggested that injection of a certain gene in its naked form could induce an expression of the injected gene. The result proposed the concept, namely DNA or genetic vaccine technology, that injection of an antigen gene could induce a specific immune response against the antigen. Although the concept was initially applied to vaccination technology, the result also means that administration of cytokine genes with anti-tumor activity could exert their functions when they are applied as a naked form of DNA. To test the possibility, plasmid vector containing granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulation factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-12 (IL-12) genes, which are known as one of the most potent anti-tumor cytokines were constructed and injected into mice together with syngeneic tumor cells. When the cytokine gene containing plasmid was injected on the same day of tumor cell injection, a tumor mass developed in 4 out of 5 mice tested. Even among the 4 mice, the tumor mass of a mouse disappeared 2 weeks after tumor development. In addition, tumor generation was significantly delayed in cytokine gene injected mice and the average tumor size was about 51.5% that of vector control injected mice. These results suggested that tumor treatment through the injection of multiple cytokine genes with potent anti-tumor activity significantly inhibits tumor development and growth, and that the method could be considered as one of the tools for efficient tumor treatment.
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