Tumor treating fields cause replication stress and interfere with DNA replication fork maintenance: Implications for cancer therapy

Narasimha Kumar Karanam, Liang Hao-Ding, Asaithamby Aroumougame, Michael D Story
Translational Research: the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine 2019 October 21
Tumor treating fields (TTFields) is a noninvasive physical modality of cancer therapy that applies low-intensity, intermediate frequency, and alternating electric fields to a tumor. Interference with mitosis was the first mechanism describing the effects of TTFields on cancer cells; however, TTFields was shown to not only reduce the rejoining of radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), but to also induce DNA DSBs. The mechanism(s) by which TTFields generates DNA DSBs is related to the generation of replication stress including reduced expression of the DNA replication complex genes MCM6 and MCM10 and the Fanconi's Anemia pathway genes. When markers of DNA replication stress as a result of TTFields exposure were examined, newly replicated DNA length was reduced with TTFields exposure time and there was increased R-loop formation. Furthermore, as cells were exposed to TTFields a conditional vulnerability environment developed which rendered cells more susceptible to DNA damaging agents or agents that interfere with DNA repair or replication fork maintenance. The effect of TTFields exposure with concomitant exposure to cisplatin or PARP inhibition, the combination of TTFields plus concomitant PARP inhibition followed by radiation, or radiation alone at the end of a TTFields exposure were all synergistic. Finally, gene expression analysis of 47 key mitosis regulator genes suggested that TTFields-induced mitotic aberrations and DNA damage/replication stress events, although intimately linked to one another, are likely initiated independently of one another. This suggests that enhanced replication stress and reduced DNA repair capacity are also major mechanisms of TTFields effects, effects for which there are therapeutic implications.

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