Simultaneous perturbation of the MAPK and the PI3K/mTOR pathways does not lead to increased radiosensitization

Sebastian Kuger, Michael Flentje, Cholpon S Djuzenova
Radiation Oncology 2015, 10: 214

BACKGROUND: The mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways are intertwined on various levels and simultaneous inhibition reduces tumorsize and prolonges survival synergistically. Furthermore, inhibiting these pathways radiosensitized cancer cells in various studies. To assess, if phenotypic changes after perturbations of this signaling network depend on the genetic background, we integrated a time series of the signaling data with phenotypic data after simultaneous MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK) and PI3K/mTOR inhibition and ionizing radiation (IR).

METHODS: The MEK inhibitor AZD6244 and the dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor NVP-BEZ235 were tested in glioblastoma and lung carcinoma cells, which differ in their mutational status in the MAPK and the PI3K/mTOR pathways. Effects of AZD6244 and NVP-BEZ235 on the proliferation were assessed using an ATP assay. Drug treatment and IR effects on the signaling network were analyzed in a time-dependent manner along with measurements of phenotypic changes in the colony forming ability, apoptosis, autophagy or cell cycle.

RESULTS: Both inhibitors reduced the tumor cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner, with NVP-BEZ235 revealing the higher anti-proliferative potential. Our Western blot data indicated that AZD6244 and NVP-BEZ235 perturbed the MAPK and PI3K/mTOR signaling cascades, respectively. Additionally, we confirmed crosstalks and feedback loops in the pathways. As shown by colony forming assay, the AZD6244 moderately radiosensitized cancer cells, whereas NVP-BEZ235 caused a stronger radiosensitization. Combining both drugs did not enhance the NVP-BEZ235-mediated radiosensitization. Both inhibitors caused a cell cycle arrest in the G1-phase, whereas concomitant IR and treatment with the inhibitors resulted in cell line- and drug-specific cell cycle alterations. Furthermore, combining both inhibitors synergistically enhanced a G1-phase arrest in sham-irradiated glioblastoma cells and induced apoptosis and autophagy in both cell lines.

CONCLUSION: Perturbations of the MEK and the PI3K pathway radiosensitized tumor cells of different origins and the combination of AZD6244 and NVP-BEZ235 yielded cytostatic effects in several tumor entities. However, this is the first study assessing, if the combination of both drugs also results in synergistic effects in terms of radiosensitivity. Our study demonstrates that simultaneous treatment with both pathway inhibitors does not lead to synergistic radiosensitization but causes cell line-specific effects.

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