Extracellular matrix metalloprotease inducer (EMMPRIN) is a tumor surface protein that promotes growth and is overexpressed in head and neck cancer. These features make it a potential therapeutic target for monoclonal antibody (mAb) – based therapy. Because molecular therapy is considered more effective when delivered with conventional cytotoxic agents, anti-EMMPRIN therapy was assessed alone and in combination with external beam radiation.
Using a murine flank model, loss of EMMPRIN function was achieved by transfection with a small interfering RNA against EMMPRIN or treatment with a chimeric anti-EMMPRIN blocking mAb. Cytokine expression was assessed for xenografts, tumor cells, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells.
Animals treated with anti-EMMPRIN mAb had delayed tumor growth compared with untreated controls, whereas treatment with combination radiation and anti-EMMPRIN mAb showed the greatest reduction in tumor growth (P = 0.001). Radiation-treated EMMPRIN knockdown xenografts showed a reduction in tumor growth compared with untreated knockdown controls (P = 0.01), whereas radiation-treated EMMPRIN – expressing xenografts did not show a delay in tumor growth. Immunohistochemical evaluation for Ki67 and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) resulted in a reduction in proliferation (P = 0.007) and increased apoptosis in anti-EMMPRIN mAb – treated xenografts compared with untreated controls (P = 0.087). In addition, we provide evidence that EMMPRIN suppression results in decreased interleukin 1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and IL-8 cytokine production, in vitro and in vivo.
These data suggest that anti-EMMPRIN antibody inhibits tumor cell proliferation in vivo and may represent a novel targeted treatment option in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.