Combined anti-fetal liver kinase 1 monoclonal antibody and continuous low-dose doxorubicin inhibits angiogenesis and growth of human soft tissue sarcoma xenografts by induction of endothelial cell apoptosis

Lianglin Zhang, Dihua Yu, Daniel J Hicklin, Jonathan A F Hannay, Lee M Ellis, Raphael E Pollock
Cancer Research 2002 April 1, 62 (7): 2034-42
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and VEGF receptor 2 [fetal liver kinase 1 (Flk-1)/kinase insert domain-containing receptor] have been shown to play a major role in tumor angiogenesis. In this study, we investigated whether anti-Flk-1 monoclonal antibody DC101 could therapeutically inhibit growth and angiogenesis of human soft tissue sarcoma, and we explored its capacity to enhance the tumoricidal effects of doxorubicin. Treatment of well-established leiomyosarcoma SKLMS-1 and rhabdomyosarcoma RD xenografts in severe combined immunodeficient mice with DC101 resulted in significant antitumor activity. In a parallel study, we compared tumor inhibition with continuous low-dose "antiangiogenic" schedule versus once-every-2-weeks high-dose standard schedule of doxorubicin. We found that continuous low-dose treatment inhibited the tumor growth of RD xenografts about 46.5% of that with standard-schedule treatment, but that continuous low-dose treatment did not inhibit the tumor growth of SKLMS-1 xenografts. Notably, combined DC101 and continuous low-dose doxorubicin resulted in more effective growth inhibition of SKLMS-1 and RD xenografts than has been observed with any agent alone in a long-term s.c. tumor xenograft model. The combination therapy was associated with no additional toxicity to the host animal compared with low-dose doxorubicin alone. Histological examination of xenografts showed significantly reduced microvessel counts in the tumors given combined therapy compared with the tumors given either agent alone. These results are consistent with an enhanced inhibition of angiogenesis in vivo by combined DC101 and doxorubicin using Matrigel plug assay. Additionally, DC101 plus doxorubicin directly exerted enhanced inhibitory effects on endothelial cell migration, proliferation, and tube-like formation in vitro. Furthermore, the combination induced an enhanced apoptosis of endothelial cells that was associated with an increase of capase-3 activity. Thus, the inhibition of angiogenesis and induction of endothelial cell apoptosis are likely important mechanisms for the antitumor activity of combined DC101 and doxorubicin. Collectively, our data suggested that anti-VEGF receptor 2 in combination with continuous low-dose doxorubicin may provide a new therapeutic approach for human soft tissue sarcoma in the clinic.

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