Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States. Triple-negative breast cancer constitutes a subset of breast cancer that is associated with higher rates of relapse, decreased survival, and limited therapeutic options for patients afflicted with this type of breast cancer. Mammalian orthoreovirus (reovirus) selectively infects and kills transformed cells and a serotype 3 reovirus is in clinical trials to assess its efficacy as an oncolytic agent against several cancers. It is unclear if reovirus serotypes differentially infect and kill triple-negative breast cancer cells and if reovirus-induced cytotoxicity of breast cancer cells can be enhanced by modulating the activity of host molecules and pathways. Here, we generated reassortant reoviruses by forward genetics with enhanced infective and cytotoxic properties in triple-negative breast cancer cells. From a high-throughput screen of small molecule inhibitors, we identified topoisomerase inhibitors as a class of drugs that enhance reovirus infectivity and cytotoxicity of triple-negative breast cancer cells. Treatment of triple-negative breast cancer cells with topoisomerase inhibitors activates DNA damage response pathways and reovirus infection induces robust production of Type III, but not Type I, interferon. Although Type I and Type III IFN can activate STAT1 and STAT2, triple-negative breast cancer cellular proliferation is only negatively affected by Type I IFN. Together, these data show that reassortant viruses with a novel genetic composition generated by forward genetics in combination with topoisomerase inhibitors more efficiently infect and kill triple-negative breast cancer cells.
IMPORTANCE Patients afflicted by triple-negative breast cancer have decreased survival and limited therapeutic options. Reovirus infection results in cell death of a variety of cancers, but it is unknown if different reovirus types lead to triple-negative breast cancer cell death. In this study, we generated two novel reoviruses that more efficiently infect and kill triple-negative breast cancer cells. We show that infection in the presence of DNA-damaging agents enhances infection and triple-negative breast cancer cell killing by reovirus. These data suggest that a combination of a genetically engineered oncolytic reovirus and topoisomerase inhibitors may provide a potent therapeutic option for patients afflicted with triple-negative breast cancer.