Objectives; Antisense oligonucleotides (AO) downregulate Bcl-2 protein expression in various tumours if good target cell uptake is achieved. In this study, uptake of FITC labelled AO (FITC-AO) directed at Bcl-2 was examined in; (1) the RT4 bladder tumour cell line (2) normal pig urothelium and (3) human superficial bladder tumours. Methods; In the RT4 cell line, uptake of FITC-AO, FITC-scrambled and FITC-sense oligonucleotides were quantified by flow cytometry at 4h intervals over 24h. Uptake of FITC-AO was assessed in normal pig urothelium by flow cytometry after FITC-AO was infused for 1h. Uptake of FITC AO was assessed in samples from 14 human superficial bladder tumours which were maintained in an ex vivo model. In samples from 6 tumours, uptake at 4h was assessed using fluorescence microscopy. In samples from 8 separate tumours uptake every 4h within the first 24h incubation period was assessed by flow cytometry. Results; In the RT4 cell line the FITC-AO, FITC-scrambled and FITC-sense oligonucleotide uptake was similar. Disaggregated cells from the normal urothelium of the three pigs exhibited 33%, 46%, 51% of cells staining positively for FITC-AO as determined by flow cytometry. All 6 tumour samples had detectable intracellular FITC-AO by fluorescence microscopy at 4h. In the 8 tumours ,examined over the 24h incubation period, there was a range of percentages of positively staining cells. However, most tumours had a monotonic increase in intracellular fluorescence intensity that plateaued 16h post infusion. Conclusion; Antisense Bcl-2 oligonucleotides were readily taken up by superficial bladder cancer cells but the heterogenous uptake in tumour samples needs to be considered when assessing the bioavailability of these drugs.
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