Role of Smac in determining the chemotherapeutic response of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

Yang Xu, Lanping Zhou, Jing Huang, Fang Liu, Jian Yu, Qimin Zhan, Lin Zhang, Xiaohang Zhao
Clinical Cancer Research 2011 August 15, 17 (16): 5412-22

PURPOSE: Second mitochondria-derived activator of caspase (Smac) regulates chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Smac mimetics have been tested in clinical trials as chemosensitizers. We determined the role of Smac in modulating the chemosensitivity of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Smac expression was evaluated in tissues from ESCC patients with differential chemotherapeutic responses. The effects of Smac knockdown and Smac mimetics on the chemosensitivity of ESCC cells and the molecular mechanisms by which Smac and Smac mimetics modulate chemosensitivity were determined. The therapeutic responses of ESCC cells with different Smac statuses were compared using xenograft models.

RESULTS: We found that Smac was significantly downregulated in most ESCC samples (36.8%, 25/68, P = 0.001), and Smac expression differed significantly (P < 0.05) between chemosensitive and chemoresistant tumors. The associations of tested factors and their responses were examined using logistic regression analysis. In ESCC cells treated with cisplatin, a common chemotherapeutic drug, Smac and cytochrome c were released from mitochondria, and caspase-3 and caspase-9 were activated. Knockdown of Smac abrogated cisplatin-induced apoptosis, mitochondrial dysfunction, cytochrome c release, and caspase activation. Smac deficiency also reduced the effect of cisplatin on long-term cell viability, and led to cisplatin resistance in xenograft tumors in vivo. LBW242, a small molecule Smac mimetic, enhanced cisplatin-induced apoptosis and caspase activation and restored cisplatin sensitivity in Smac-deficient cells.

CONCLUSION: Our data suggested that downregulation of Smac may be a chemoresistance mechanism in ESCC. Combinations of Smac mimetics with chemotherapeutic agents may have therapeutic benefits for the treatment of esophageal cancer.

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