We have investigated the effect of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) delivery at the site of tumor growth by transducing, via retroviral vector, the human (hu) G-CSF gene into the colon adenocarcinoma C-26 and assaying the ability of transduced cells to form tumors when injected into syngeneic mice. As a control, the same tumor cells were infected with retroviruses engineered to transduce an unrelated gene, the human nerve growth factor receptor, or carry the neomycin resistance gene only. Only cells transduced with the huG-CSF were unable to develop tumors, although huG-CSF was expressed and produced at low level as estimated by both RNA analysis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, indicating that G-CSF can exert an antitumor effect at a physiological dose. Implication of G-CSF as mediator of tumor inhibition was proven by reversing the nontumorigenic phenotype of G-CSF-expressing cells with anti-huG-CSF monoclonal antibody injected at the tumor site. No tumors were formed by injecting C-26 infected cells into nu/nu mice, while neoplastic nodules appeared after injection into sublethally irradiated mice; such tumors, however, regressed when mice normalized their leukocyte counts after irradiation. Tumors were also formed after injection of a mixture of infected and uninfected C-26 cells, although critical delay in tumor formation occurred when infected cells were 10 times more represented in the mixture. Histological examination of tissues surrounding the site of injection showed infiltration of neutrophilic granulocytes, whose number correlated with that of G-CSF-expressing C-26 cells in the injected mixture. These results indicate that G-CSF may have a potent antitumoral activity when released, even at low doses, at the tumor site. The antitumoral effect is mediated by recruitment and targeting of neutrophilic granulocytes to G-CSF-releasing cells.

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