Pharmacologic synergy between dual phosphoinositide-3-kinase and mammalian target of rapamycin inhibition and 5-fluorouracil in PIK3CA mutant gastric cancer cells

Bhaskar Bhattacharya, Mohamed Akram, Indirikumar Balasubramanian, Kimberley K Y Tam, King X Koh, Mei Q Yee, Richie Soong
Cancer Biology & Therapy 2012 January 1, 13 (1): 34-42
Phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors are an emerging class of anti-cancer agents. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor, PI103, could synergize with the chemotherapeutic agent, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) by inhibiting E2F1, thymidylate synthase (TS) and enhancing DNA damage. Drug combination effects were assessed in gastric cancer cells using the median-effect equation. The specific effects of inhibition of E2F1 and PIK3CA were examined by siRNA, and mTOR by rapamycin exposure. Protein expression and apoptosis pre- and post-treatment was measured using standard methods. PI103 and 5-FU was synergistic in 3/5 gastric cancer cell lines tested. Synergy was associated with PI3KCA mutation, reduced TS and E2F1 protein levels, increased H2AX phosphorylation and apoptosis. E2F1 siRNA enhanced sensitivity to 5-FU only in cells displaying synergy. Excess thymidine exposure converted synergism to antagonism in all cells. Inhibition of PI3K and mTOR alone enhanced 5-FU cytotoxicity in only 2/3 cell lines that displayed synergy each. In AGS cells, PI3K inhibition alone enhanced 5-FU sensitivity as much as dual PI3K/mTOR inhibition. In HGC27 cells, dual inhibition increased 5-FU sensitivity more than single PI3K or mTOR inhibition. Combined PI103 and 5-FU treatment reduced in vivo tumor growth more than treatment with single agents. PI3K/mTOR inhibitors can enhance 5-FU cytotoxicity in vitro and in vivo, especially in PIK3CA mutant tumor cells. Dual, rather than single, PI3K/mTOR inhibitors may combine better with 5-FU due to cellular heterogeneity in sensitivity to PI3K and mTOR inhibition.

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