COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Antisense oligonucleotides and all-trans retinoic acid have a synergistic anti-tumor effect on oral squamous cell carcinoma

Qin Xu, Zhiyuan Zhang, Ping Zhang, Wantao Chen
BMC Cancer 2008, 8: 159
18522733

BACKGROUND: Antisense oligonucleotides against hTR (As-ODN-hTR) have shown promising results as treatment strategies for various human malignancies. All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is a signalling molecule with important roles in differentiation and apoptosis. Biological responses to ATRA are currently used therapeutically in various human cancers. The aim of this study was to evaluate the anti-tumor effects of As-ODN-hTR combined with ATRA in vivo.

METHODS: In situ human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) models were established by subcutaneous injection of Tca8113 cells. Mice were treated with sense oligonucleotides against hTR(S-ODN-hTR) alone, As-ODN-hTR alone, ATRA alone, As-ODN-hTR plus ATRA, or S-ODN-hTR plus ATRA. Tumor size and weight were assessed in the mice. Telomerase activity was detected by a TRAP assay, apoptotic cells were evaluated with a Tunel assay, the expression of apoptosis-related proteins (Bcl-2 and Bax) was evaluated by immunohistochemistry and ultrastructural morphological changes in the tumor specimen were examined.

RESULTS: Both As-ODN-hTR and ATRA can significantly inhibit tumor growth in this OSCC xenograft solid-tumor model, and the combination of the two agents had a synergistic anti-tumorogenic effect. We also demonstrated that this anti-tumor effect correlated with inhibition of telomerase activity. Furthermore, significant increases in the number of apoptotic cells, typical apoptotic morphology and a downregulation of the anti-apoptotic protein, bcl-2 were observed in the treated tissues.

CONCLUSION: The combination of As-ODN-hTR and ATRA has a synergistic anti-tumor effect. This anti-tumor effect can be mainly attributed to apoptosis induced by a decrease in telomerase activity. Bcl-2 plays an important role in this process. Therefore, combining As-ODN-hTR and ATRA may be an approach for the treatment of human oral squamous cell carcinoma.

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