3 years ago

Effect of Akt activation and experimental pharmacological inhibition on responses to neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy in rectal cancer

J. M. Fernandes, J. Gama-Rodrigues, R. O. Perez, C. M. Lopes Ramos, B. B. Vailati, G. P. São Julião, V. A. F. Alves, F. Ledesma, A. A. Camargo, A. Habr-Gama, F. C. Koyama
Background Neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (CRT) is one of the preferred initial treatment strategies for locally advanced rectal cancer. Responses are variable, and most patients still require surgery. The aim of this study was to identify molecular mechanisms determining poor response to CRT. Methods Global gene expression and pathway enrichment were assessed in pretreatment biopsies from patients with non-metastatic cT2–4 N0–2 rectal cancer within 7 cm of the anal verge. Downstream Akt activation was assessed in an independent set of pretreatment biopsies and in colorectal cancer cell lines using immunohistochemistry and western blot respectively. The radiosensitizing effects of the Akt inhibitor MK2206 were assessed using clonogenic assays and xenografts in immunodeficient mice. Results A total of 350 differentially expressed genes were identified, of which 123 were upregulated and 199 downregulated in tumours from poor responders. Mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (P < 0·001) and phosphatidylinositol signalling pathways (P < 0·050) were identified as significantly enriched pathways among the set of differentially expressed genes. Deregulation of both pathways is known to result in Akt activation, and high immunoexpression of phosphorylated Akt S473 was observed among patients with a poor histological response (tumour regression grade 0–2) to CRT (75 per cent versus 48 per cent in those with a good or complete response; P = 0·016). Akt activation was also confirmed in the radioresistant cell line SW480, and a 50 per cent improvement in sensitivity to CRT was observed in vitro and in vivo when SW480 cells were exposed to the Akt inhibitor MK2206 in combination with radiation and 5-fluorouracil. Conclusion Akt activation is a key event in the response to CRT. Pharmacological inhibition of Akt activation may enhance the effects of CRT. Surgical relevance Organ preservation is an attractive alternative in rectal cancer management following neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (CRT) to avoid the morbidity of radical surgery. Molecular steps associated with tumour response to CRT may provide a useful tool for the identification of patients who are candidates for no immediate surgery. In this study, tumours resistant to CRT were more likely to have activation of specific genetic pathways that result in phosphorylated Akt (pAkt) activation. Pretreatment biopsy tissues with high immunoexpression of pAkt were more likely to exhibit a poor histological response to CRT. In addition, the introduction of a pAkt inhibitor to cancer cell lines in vitro and in vivo led to a significant improvement in sensitivity to CRT. Identification of pAkt-activated tumours may thus allow the identification of poor responders to CRT. In addition, the concomitant use of pAkt inhibitors to increase sensitivity to CRT in patients with rectal cancer may constitute an interesting strategy for increasing the chance of a complete response to treatment and organ preservation.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/bjs.10695

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