Multimodal targeting of tumor vasculature and cancer stem-like cells in sarcomas with VEGF-A inhibition, HIF-1α inhibition, and hypoxia-activated chemotherapy

Changhwan Yoon, Kevin K Chang, Jun Ho Lee, William D Tap, Charles P Hart, M Celeste Simon, Sam S Yoon
Oncotarget 2016 July 12, 7 (28): 42844-42858
Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) inhibition with pazopanib is an approved therapy for sarcomas, but likely results in compensatory pathways such as upregulation of hypoxia inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α). In addition, cancer stem-like cells can preferentially reside in hypoxic regions of tumors and be resistant to standard chemotherapies. In this study, we hypothesized that the combination of VEGF-A inhibition, HIF-1α inhibition, and hypoxia-activated chemotherapy with evofosfamide would be an effective multimodal strategy. Multimodal therapy was examined in one genetically engineered and two xenograft mouse models of sarcoma. In all three models, multimodal therapy showed greater efficacy than any single agent therapy or bimodality therapy in blocking tumor growth. Even after cessation of therapy, tumors treated with multimodal therapy remained relatively dormant for up to 2 months. Compared to the next best bimodality therapy, multimodal therapy caused 2.8-3.3 fold more DNA damage, 1.5-2.7 fold more overall apoptosis, and 2.3-3.6 fold more endothelial cell-specific apoptosis. Multimodal therapy also decreased microvessel density and HIF-1α activity by 85-90% and 79-89%, respectively, compared to controls. Sarcomas treated with multimodal therapy had 95-96% depletion of CD133(+) cancer stem-like ells compared to control tumors. Sarcoma cells grown as spheroids to enrich for CD133(+) cancer stem-like cells were more sensitive than monolayer cells to multimodal therapy in terms of DNA damage and apoptosis, especially under hypoxic conditions. Thus multimodal therapy of sarcomas with VEGF-A inhibition, HIF-1α inhibition, and hypoxia-activated chemotherapy effectively blocks sarcoma growth through inhibition of tumor vasculature and cancer stem-like cells.

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