Gliomas account for about 60% of all primary CNS tumors. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) or grade IV gliomas which comprise two thirds of all gliomas are the most malignant form. Limitation to brain tumor therapy in general is the difficulty in delivering therapeutic agents across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) sufficient to achieve high concentrations at the tumor site. In this project, we will focus on developing a gene delivery system that can change the surface of a tumor cell so that it presents a molecular """"""""beacon"""""""" (biotinylated receptors) to attract diagnostic and therapeutic agents to it. This strategy is designed to make tumor cells a selective, """"""""easy target"""""""" for different biotinylated-imaging agents (for diagnostics) or biotinylated-diphtheria toxin (for therapy) complexed to streptavidin which binds with extremely high affinity to biotin (Kd = 10-15) and can be internalized into tumor cells. A critical component of this strategy will be to facilitate delivery of these biotinylated therapeutic/diagnostic agents from the vasculature into tumors in the brain using a complex between streptavidin and transferrin. This universal transport vehicle will take advantage of transferrin receptors on blood vessels in the brain which normally facilitate passage of molecules across the blood-brain barrier. This should enhance the delivery of targeted toxins to the brain and therefore increase their therapeutic efficacy for brain tumors by virtue of high affinity binding between biotin on the tumor cell surface and streptavidintoxin complex. The toxin complex will be safe to normal cells which will not take it up by endocytosis, but will be activated in tumor cells by endocytosis mediated by the biotinylated receptors. The advantage of this biotinylation approach is that it allows the imaging of brain tumors with different modalities including Magnetic Resonance (MR), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) as well as Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT). The strategies proposed here are designed to have a major impact on the development of more efficient brain tumor therapeutic and imaging systems and can be combined with traditional therapies. The versatility of this technique can be extended to allow the tracking of any cell transduced to express biotin on its surface, including stem cells, and is fully compatible with translation into humans since all components of this system including the biotin-streptavidin system, the different imaging modalities, diphtheria toxin as well as gene transfer have already been used separately in clinical trials in the USA.

Public Health Relevance

These studies focus on a new form of cell-to-cell communication in which RNA species are transferred from one cell to another within membrane vesicles. We will evaluate whether RNA contained in these vesicles can change the genetic status of the recipient cell as a means of cancer cells modifying their environment to promote tumor growth.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1-SRLB-G (M1))
Program Officer
Mietz, Judy
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Massachusetts General Hospital
United States
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Balaj, Leonora; Atai, Nadia A; Chen, Weilin et al. (2015) Heparin affinity purification of extracellular vesicles. Sci Rep 5:10266
Rajendran, Lawrence; Bali, Jitin; Barr, Maureen M et al. (2014) Emerging roles of extracellular vesicles in the nervous system. J Neurosci 34:15482-9
Lai, Charles P; Tannous, Bakhos A; Breakefield, Xandra O (2014) Noninvasive in vivo monitoring of extracellular vesicles. Methods Mol Biol 1098:249-58
Lai, Charles P; Mardini, Osama; Ericsson, Maria et al. (2014) Dynamic biodistribution of extracellular vesicles in vivo using a multimodal imaging reporter. ACS Nano 8:483-494
Mizrak, Arda; Bolukbasi, Mehmet Fatih; Ozdener, Gokhan Baris et al. (2013) Genetically engineered microvesicles carrying suicide mRNA/protein inhibit schwannoma tumor growth. Mol Ther 21:101-8
Chen, Walter W; Balaj, Leonora; Liau, Linda M et al. (2013) BEAMing and Droplet Digital PCR Analysis of Mutant IDH1 mRNA in Glioma Patient Serum and Cerebrospinal Fluid Extracellular Vesicles. Mol Ther Nucleic Acids 2:e109
Atai, Nadia A; Balaj, Leonora; van Veen, Henk et al. (2013) Heparin blocks transfer of extracellular vesicles between donor and recipient cells. J Neurooncol 115:343-51
Lai, Charles Pin-Kuang; Breakefield, Xandra Owen (2012) Role of exosomes/microvesicles in the nervous system and use in emerging therapies. Front Physiol 3:228
Wurdinger, Thomas; Gatson, Natosha N; Balaj, Leonora et al. (2012) Extracellular vesicles and their convergence with viral pathways. Adv Virol 2012:767694
Maguire, Casey A; Balaj, Leonora; Sivaraman, Sarada et al. (2012) Microvesicle-associated AAV vector as a novel gene delivery system. Mol Ther 20:960-71

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