Oncolytic viruses (OVs) and phytochemical ursolic acid (UA) are two efficacious therapeutic candidates in development against breast cancer, the deadliest women’s cancer worldwide. However, as single agents, OVs and UA have limited clinical efficacies. As a common strategy of enhancing monotherapeutic anticancer efficacy, we explored the combinatorial chemovirotherapeutic approach of combining oncolytic measles virus (MV), which targets the breast tumor marker Nectin-4, and the anticancer UA against breast adenocarcinoma. Our findings revealed that in vitro co-treatment with UA synergistically potentiated the killing of human breast cancer cells by oncolytic MV, without UA interfering the various steps of the viral infection. Mechanistic studies revealed that the synergistic outcome from the combined treatment was mediated through UA’s potentiation of apoptotic killing by MV. To circumvent UA’s poor solubility and bioavailability and strengthen its clinical applicability, we further developed UA nanoparticles (UA-NP) by nanoemulsification. Compared to the non-formulated UA, UA-NP exhibited improved drug dissolution property and similarly synergized with oncolytic MV in inducing apoptotic breast cancer cell death. This oncolytic potentiation was partly attributed to the enhanced autophagic flux induced by the UA-NP and MV combined treatment. Finally, the synergistic effect from the UA-NP and MV combination was also observed in BT-474 and MDA-MB-468 breast cancer cells. Our study thus highlights the potential value of oncolytic MV and UA-based chemovirotherapy for further development as a treatment strategy against breast cancer, and the feasibility of employing nanoformulation to enhance UA’s applicability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Combination treatment
  • Measles virus
  • Nanoparticles
  • Oncolytic virotherapy
  • Ursolic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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