Direct evidence that apoptosis enhances tumor responses to fractionated radiotherapy CANCER RESEARCH Rupnow, B. A., Murtha, A. D., Alarcon, R. M., Giaccia, A. J., Knox, S. J. 1998; 58 (9): 1779-1784


Currently, the contribution of cellular apoptotic sensitivity to tumor response after radiation therapy remains controversial. To address this issue, the survival of Rat-1 fibroblasts containing a 4-hydroxytamoxifen-regulated c-Myc allele, c-MycER (T. D. Littlewood et al., Nucleic Acids Res., 23: 1686-1690, 1995), after single and fractionated doses of radiation was investigated. This model system allows pharmacological regulation of apoptosis sensitivity in the same cells in vitro and as xenograft tumors derived from these cells in vivo (G. I. Evan et al., Cell, 69: 119-128, 1992; R. M. Alarcon et al., Cancer Res., 56: 4315-4319, 1996). Activating c-MycER in vitro resulted in marked sensitization of Rat-1 fibroblasts to the effects of both single-dose and fractionated irradiation as measured by the induction of apoptosis and clonogenic survival. Overexpression of the antiapoptosis protein Bcl-2 suppressed the induction of apoptosis and increased clonogenic survival in cells with activated c-Myc after single-dose and fractionated radiation. Systemic time-release implant delivery of 4-hydroxytamoxifen to severe combined immunodeficient mice bearing Rat-1-MycER tumors over the course of either single-dose (10 Gy) or fractionated (five fractions of 2 Gy) radiotherapy resulted in prolonged tumor growth delay relative to identical tumors from mice that received placebo implants. Furthermore, tumors derived from Rat-1-MycER cells that overexpressed Bcl-2 exhibited shorter tumor growth delays relative to similarly treated Rat-1-MycER tumors. The length of tumor growth delay after single-dose or fractionated radiotherapy strongly correlated with the extent of radiation-induced apoptosis in the xenograft tumors as measured by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling. These in vivo results provide direct evidence that increasing the sensitivity of tumor cells to die by apoptosis increases the efficacy of fractionated radiotherapy by reducing tumor cell clonogenic survival.

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