Smac agonists sensitize for Apo2L/TRAIL- or anticancer drug-induced apoptosis and induce regression of malignant glioma in vivo

Simone Fulda, Wolfgang Wick, Michael Weller, Klaus-Michael Debatin
Nature Medicine 2002, 8 (8): 808-15
A major concern in cancer therapy is resistance of tumors such as glioblastoma to current treatment protocols. Here, we report that transfer of the gene encoding second mitochondria-derived activator of caspase (Smac) or Smac peptides sensitized various tumor cells in vitro and malignant glioma cells in vivo for apoptosis induced by death-receptor ligation or cytotoxic drugs. Expression of a cytosolic active form of Smac or cell-permeable Smac peptides bypassed the Bcl-2 block, which prevented the release of Smac from mitochondria, and also sensitized resistant neuroblastoma or melanoma cells and patient-derived primary neuroblastoma cells ex vivo. Most importantly, Smac peptides strongly enhanced the antitumor activity of Apo-2L/tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in an intracranial malignant glioma xenograft model in vivo. Complete eradication of established tumors and survival of mice was only achieved upon combined treatment with Smac peptides and Apo2L/TRAIL without detectable toxicity to normal brain tissue. Thus, Smac agonists are promising candidates for cancer therapy by potentiating cytotoxic therapies.

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