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Original article

Potential risk factors associated with the use of cidofovir to treat benign human papillomavirus-related disease

Adam J Donne, Lynne Hampson, Xiaotong T He, Philip JR Day, Fiona Salway, Michael P Rothera, Jarrod J Homer, Ian N Hampson

Corresponding author name: Adam J Donne
Corresponding author e-mail: ajdonne@doctors.org.uk

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2009; 14:939-952
doi: 10.3851/IMP1421

Date accepted: 16 June 2009
Date published online: 11 November 2009


Background: Cidofovir is currently being used off-licence to treat different viral infections, such as benign low-risk human papillomavirus (HPV)-related recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP). There are concerns over the safety of this practice as rat studies demonstrated a high malignant transformation rate. As yet, there are no clinical reports of cidofovir-induced malignant changes in humans.

Methods: Telomerase immortalised human keratinocytes (hTert) stably expressing E6 proteins from either low-risk HPV6b or high-risk HPV16 and vector control cells were treated with either low-dose (5 μg/ml) or higher dose (30 μg/ml) cidofovir for 2 days and the effects evaluated by clonogenic survival assays. Based on these results, gene expression microarray analysis was performed on cidofovir-treated low-risk E6 and vector cells before, during and after drug treatment, and the results verified by real-time PCR.

Results: Both low-risk and high-risk E6-expressing cells show significantly improved long-term survival compared with vector control cells when exposed to 5 μg/ml cidofovir for 2 days, (hTert T6E6 P=0.0007, hTert T16E6 P=0.00023 and hTert vector control P=0.62). Microarray and real-time PCR analyses of low-dose cidofovir-treated low-risk E6-expressing cells revealed changes in gene expression that are known to be associated with malignant progression, which were not observed in drug-treated vector control cells.

Conclusions: This is the first report that cidofovir can both increase cell survival and induce alterations in gene expression that are known to be associated with malignant transformation in cells transduced only with the E6 gene from low-risk HPV. It is our belief that these data provide cause for concern over the off-license use of this drug to treat RRP.


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