The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is upregulated within a high percentage of solid tumors and hence is an attractive target for tumor-targeted therapies including gene therapy. The natural EGFR ligand epidermal growth factor (EGF) has been used for this purpose, despite the risk of mitogenic effects due to EGFR activation. We have developed a fully synthetic, EGFR-targeted gene delivery system based on PEGylated linear polyethylenimine (LPEI), allowing evaluation of different EGFR-binding peptides in terms of transfection efficiency and EGFR activation. Peptide sequences directly derived from the human EGF molecule enhanced transfection efficiency with concomitant EGFR activation. Only the EGFR-binding peptide GE11, which has been identified by phage display technique, showed specific enhancement of transfection on EGFR-overexpressing tumor cells including glioblastoma and hepatoma, but without EGFR activation. EGFR targeting led to high levels of cell association of fluorescently labeled polyplexes after only 30min of incubation. EGF pretreatment of cells induced enhanced cellular internalization of all polyplex types tested, pointing at generally enhanced macropinocytosis. EGF polyplexes diminished cell surface expression of EGFR for up to 4hr, whereas GE11 polyplexes did not. In a clinically relevant orthotopic prostate cancer model, intratumorally injected GE11 polyplexes were superior in inducing transgene expression when compared with untargeted polyplexes.,
Human Gene Therapy
Department of Urology

Schäfer, A, Pahnke, A, Schaffert, D, van Weerden, W.M, de Ridder, C.M.A, Rödl, W, … Ogris, M. (2011). Disconnecting the Yin and Yang relation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mediated delivery: A fully synthetic, EGFR-targeted gene transfer system avoiding receptor activation. Human Gene Therapy, 22(12), 1463–1473. doi:10.1089/hum.2010.231