apoptosis; cereblon; IKZF1; IKZF3; IMiD; thalidomide
In a recent paper published in Cell, He and colleagues reported the identification and functional characterization of Beclin 2, a mammal-specific homolog of the evolutionarily conserved autophagy-regulatory and oncosuppressive factor Beclin 1. In spite of a non-negligible degree of sequence identity, Beclin 1 and Beclin 2 differ from each other in multiple aspects, including their functional profile as well as the genomic organization of the respective loci.
By means of an unbiased, automated fluorescence microscopy-based screen, we identified the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors erlotinib and gefitinib as potent enhancers of the differentiation of HL-60 acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells exposed to suboptimal concentrations of vitamin A (all-trans retinoic acid, ATRA) or vitamin D (1α,25-hydroxycholecalciferol, VD). Erlotinib and gefitinib alone did not promote differentiation, yet stimulated the acquisition of morphological and biochemical maturation markers (including the expression of CD11b and CD14 as well as increased NADPH oxidase activity) when combined with either ATRA or VD. Moreover, the combination of erlotinib and ATRA or VD synergistically induced all the processes that are normally linked to terminal hematopoietic differentiation, namely, a delayed proliferation arrest in the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle, cellular senescence, and apoptosis. Erlotinib potently inhibited the (auto)phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase 14 (MAPK14, best known as p38MAPK) and SRC family kinases (SFKs). If combined with the administration of ATRA or VD, the inhibition of p38MAPK or SFKs with specific pharmacological agents mimicked the pro-differentiation activity of erlotinib. These data were obtained with 2 distinct AML cell lines (HL-60 and MOLM-13 cells) and could be confirmed on primary leukemic blasts isolated from the circulation of AML patients. Altogether, these findings point to a new regimen for the treatment of AML, in which naturally occurring pro-differentiation agents (ATRA or VD) may be combined with EGFR inhibitors.
BCR-ABL; PML-RARα; cancer; dasatinib; imatinib; monocyte-specific esterase
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are an evolutionarily conserved group of enzymatically inactive, single membrane-spanning proteins that recognize a wide panel of exogenous and endogenous danger signals. Besides constituting a crucial component of the innate immune response to bacterial and viral pathogens, TLRs appear to play a major role in anticancer immunosurveillance. In line with this notion, several natural and synthetic TLR ligands have been intensively investigated for their ability to boost tumor-targeting immune responses elicited by a variety of immunotherapeutic and chemotherapeutic interventions. Three of these agents are currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or equivalent regulatory agencies for use in cancer patients: the so-called bacillus Calmette-Guérin, monophosphoryl lipid A, and imiquimod. However, the number of clinical trials testing the therapeutic potential of both FDA-approved and experimental TLR agonists in cancer patients is stably decreasing, suggesting that drug developers and oncologists are refocusing their interest on alternative immunostimulatory agents. Here, we summarize recent findings on the use of TLR agonists in cancer patients and discuss how the clinical evaluation of FDA-approved and experimental TLR ligands has evolved since the publication of our first Trial Watch dealing with this topic.
BCG; CpG-7909; Hiltonol™; damage-associated molecular patterns; polyI:C; resiquimod
Tumor-targeting immune responses provide a significant contribution to (when they do not entirely account for) the clinical activity of diverse antineoplastic regimens, encompassing not only a large panel of immunotherapeutic strategies but also conventional cytotoxic molecules, targeted anticancer agents and irradiation. In line with this notion, several approaches have been devised to elicit novel or boost existing anticancer immune responses, including the administration of immunomodulatory cytokines. Such a relatively unspecific intervention suffices to mediate clinical effects in (at least a subset of) patients bearing particularly immunogenic tumors, like melanoma and renal cell carcinoma. More often, however, immunostimulatory cytokines are administered to boost the immunogenic potential of other agents, including (but not limited to) immune checkpoint-blocking antibodies, anticancer vaccines, oncolytic viruses and immunogenic chemotherapeutics. Here, we summarize the latest advances in the clinical development of recombinant cytokines as an immunomodulatory intervention for cancer therapy.
GM-CSF; IFN; IL-2; TGFβ1; TNFα; chemokines
Oncolytic viruses are natural or genetically modified viral species that selectively infect and kill neoplastic cells. Such an innate or exogenously conferred specificity has generated considerable interest around the possibility to employ oncolytic viruses as highly targeted agents that would mediate cancer cell-autonomous anticancer effects. Accumulating evidence, however, suggests that the therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy is not a simple consequence of the cytopathic effect, but strongly relies on the induction of an endogenous immune response against transformed cells. In line with this notion, superior anticancer effects are being observed when oncolytic viruses are engineered to express (or co-administered with) immunostimulatory molecules. Although multiple studies have shown that oncolytic viruses are well tolerated by cancer patients, the full-blown therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy, especially when implemented in the absence of immunostimulatory interventions, remains unclear. Here, we cover the latest advances in this active area of translational investigation, summarizing high-impact studies that have been published during the last 12 months and discussing clinical trials that have been initiated in the same period to assess the therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy in oncological indications.
adenovirus; ColoAd1; mesenchymal stem cells; MV-NIS; reolysin; talimogene laherparepvec
A chemical screen designed to identify novel inducers of autophagy led to the discovery that signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) inhibitors can potently stimulate the autophagic flux. Although STAT3 is best known as a pro-inflammatory and oncogenic transcription factor, mechanistic analyses revealed that autophagy is regulated by the cytoplasmic, not nuclear, pool of STAT3. Cytoplasmic STAT3 normally interacts with the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2, subunit 1α, 35kDa (EIF2S1/eIF2α) kinase 2/protein kinase, RNA-activated (EIF2AK2/PKR), a sensor of double-stranded RNA. This interaction, which could be recapitulated using recombinant proteins in pull-down experiments, involves the catalytic domain of EIF2AK2 as well as the SH2 domain of STAT3, which can adopt a fold similar to that of EIF2S1. Thus, STAT3 may act as a competitive inhibitor of EIF2AK2. Indeed, pharmacological or genetic inhibition of STAT3 stimulates EIF2AK2-dependent EIF2S1 phosphorylation and autophagy. Conversely, the overexpression of wild-type STAT3 as well as of STAT3 mutants that cannot be phosphorylated by JAK2 or are excluded from the nucleus inhibits autophagy. However, STAT3 mutants that fail to interact with EIF2AK2 are unable to suppress autophagy. Both STAT3-targeting agents (i.e., Stattic, JSI-124 and WP1066) and EIF2AK2 activators (such as the double-strand RNA mimetic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid) are capable of disrupting the inhibitory interaction between STAT3 and EIF2AK2 in cellula, yet only the latter does so in cell-free systems in vitro. A further screen designed to identify EIF2AK2-dependent autophagy inducers revealed that several fatty acids including palmitate trigger autophagy via a pathway that involves the disruption of the STAT3-EIF2AK2 complex as well as the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase 8/c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (MAPK8/JNK1) and EIF2S1. These results reveal an unsuspected crosstalk between cellular metabolism (fatty acids), pro-inflammatory signaling (STAT3), innate immunity (EIF2AK2), and translational control (EIF2S1) that regulates autophagy.
EIF2S1S51A; endoplasmic reticulum; IRS1; palmitate; polyI:C; STAT3Y705F
Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer and is associated with a high mortality rate worldwide. The majority of individuals bearing NSCLC are treated with surgery plus adjuvant cisplatin, an initially effective therapeutic regimen that, however, is unable to prevent relapse within 5 years after tumor resection in an elevated proportion of patients. The factors that predict the clinical course of NSCLC and its sensitivity to therapy remain largely obscure. One notable exception is provided by pyridoxal kinase (PDXK), the enzyme that generates the bioactive form of vitamin B6. PDXK has recently been shown to be required for optimal cisplatin responses in vitro and in vivo and to constitute a bona fide prognostic marker in the NSCLC setting. Together with PDXK, 84 additional factors were identified that influence the response of NSCLC cells to cisplatin, in vitro including the hepatic lipase LIPC. Here, we report that the intratumoral levels of LIPC, as assessed by immunohistochemistry in two independent cohorts of NSCLC patients, positively correlate with disease outcome. In one out of two cohorts studied, the overall survival of NSCLC patients bearing LIPChigh lesions was unaffected, if not slightly worsened, by cisplatin-based adjuvant therapy. Conversely, the overall survival of patients with LIPClow lesions was prolonged by post-operative cisplatin. Pending validation in appropriate clinical series, these results suggest that LIPClow NSCLC patients would be those who mainly benefit from adjuvant cisplatin therapy. Thus, the expression levels of LIPC appear to have an independent prognostic value (and perhaps a predictive potential) in the setting of NSCLC. If these findings were confirmed by additional studies, LIPC expression levels might allow not only for NSCLC patient stratification, but also for the implementation of personalized therapeutic approaches.
anaplastic lymphoma kinase; apoptosis; BCL-XL; PDXP; personalized medicine; pyridoxine
The term “mitochondrial permeability transition” (MPT) refers to an abrupt increase in the permeability of the inner mitochondrial membrane to low molecular weight solutes. Due to osmotic forces, MPT is paralleled by a massive influx of water into the mitochondrial matrix, eventually leading to the structural collapse of the organelle. Thus, MPT can initiate mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP), promoting the activation of the apoptotic caspase cascade as well as of caspase-independent cell death mechanisms. MPT appears to be mediated by the opening of the so-called “permeability transition pore complex” (PTPC), a poorly characterized and versatile supramolecular entity assembled at the junctions between the inner and outer mitochondrial membranes. In spite of considerable experimental efforts, the precise molecular composition of the PTPC remains obscure and only one of its constituents, cyclophilin D (CYPD), has been ascribed with a crucial role in the regulation of cell death. Conversely, the results of genetic experiments indicate that other major components of the PTPC, such as voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) and adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT), are dispensable for MPT-driven MOMP. Here, we demonstrate that the c subunit of the FO ATP synthase is required for MPT, mitochondrial fragmentation and cell death as induced by cytosolic calcium overload and oxidative stress in both glycolytic and respiratory cell models. Our results strongly suggest that, similar to CYPD, the c subunit of the FO ATP synthase constitutes a critical component of the PTPC.
ATP5G1; apoptosis; caspases; cytochrome c; mitochondrial respiratory chain; p53; permeability transition pore (PTP)
Vitamin B6 metabolism influences the adaptive response of non-small lung carcinoma (NSCLC) cells to distinct, potentially lethal perturbations in homeostasis, encompassing nutrient deprivation, hyperthermia, hypoxia, irradiation as well as the exposure to cytotoxic chemicals, including the DNA-damaging agent cisplatin (CDDP). Thus, the siRNA-mediated downregulation of pyridoxal kinase (PDXK), the enzyme that generates the bioactive form of vitamin B6, protects NSCLC cells (as well as a large collection of human and murine malignant cells of distinct histological derivation) from the cytotoxic effects of CDDP. Accordingly, the administration of pyridoxine, one of the inactive precursors of vitamin B6, exacerbates cisplatin-induced cell death, in vitro and in vivo, but only when PDXK is expressed. Conversely, antioxidants such as non-oxidized glutathione (GSH) are known to protect cancer cells from CDDP toxicity. Pyridoxine increases the amount of CDDP-DNA adducts formed upon the exposure of NSCLC cells to CDDP and aggravates the consequent DNA damage response. On the contrary, in the presence of GSH, NSCLC cells exhibit near-to-undetectable levels of CDDP-DNA adducts and a small fraction of the cell population activates the DNA damage response. We therefore wondered whether vitamin B6 metabolism and GSH might interact with CDDP in a pharmacokinetic fashion. In this short communication, we demonstrate that GSH inhibits the intracellular accumulation of CDDP, while pyridoxine potentiates it in a PDXK-dependent fashion. Importantly, such pharmacokinetic effects do not involve plasma membrane transporters that mediate a prominent fraction of CDDP influx, i.e., solute carrier family 31, member 1 (SLC31A1, best known as copper transporter 1, CTR1) and efflux, i.e., ATPase, Cu2+ transporting, β polypeptide (ATP7B).
A549; apoptosis; N-acetyl-cysteine; PDXP; reactive oxygen species; Wilson disease
Circumstantial evidence suggests that colon carcinogenesis can ensue the transient tetraploidization of (pre-)malignant cells. In line with this notion, the tumor suppressors APC and TP53, both of which are frequently inactivated in colon cancer, inhibit tetraploidization in vitro and in vivo. Here, we show that—contrarily to their wild-type counterparts—Tp53−/− colonocytes are susceptible to drug-induced or spontaneous tetraploidization in vitro. Colon organoids generated from tetraploid Tp53−/− cells exhibit a close-to-normal morphology as compared to their diploid Tp53−/− counterparts, yet the colonocytes constituting these organoids are characterized by an increased cell size and an elevated expression of the immunostimulatory protein calreticulin on the cell surface. The subcutaneous injection of tetraploid Tp53−/− colon organoids led to the generation of proliferating tumors in immunodeficient, but not immunocompetent, mice. Thus, tetraploid Tp53−/− colonocytes fail to survive in immunocompetent mice and develop neoplastic lesions in immunocompromised settings only. These results suggest that tetraploidy is particularly oncogenic in the context of deficient immunosurveillance.
apoptosis; cell cycle; cytochalasin D; mitotic catastrophe; nocodazole; p53
Immunostimulatory monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) exert antineoplastic effects by eliciting a novel or reinstating a pre-existing antitumor immune response. Most often, immunostimulatory mAbs activate T lymphocytes or natural killer (NK) cells by inhibiting immunosuppressive receptors, such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA4) or programmed cell death 1 (PDCD1, best known as PD-1), or by engaging co-stimulatory receptors, like CD40, tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, member 4 (TNFRSF4, best known as OX40) or TNFRSF18 (best known as GITR). The CTLA4-targeting mAb ipilimumab has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma in 2011. The therapeutic profile of ipilimumab other CTLA4-blocking mAbs, such as tremelimumab, is currently being assessed in subjects affected by a large panel of solid neoplasms. In the last few years, promising clinical results have also been obtained with nivolumab, a PD-1-targeting mAb formerly known as BMS-936558. Accordingly, the safety and efficacy of nivolumab and other PD-1-blocking molecules are being actively investigated. Finally, various clinical trials are underway to test the therapeutic potential of OX40- and GITR-activating mAbs. Here, we summarize recent findings on the therapeutic profile of immunostimulatory mAbs and discuss clinical trials that have been launched in the last 14 months to assess the therapeutic profile of these immunotherapeutic agents.
CD137; checkpoint blockade; immunogenic chemotherapy; immunosuppression; lirilumab; IPH2101; PD-L1
Depending on tumor type, stage and immunological contexture, the inhibition of chemokines or their receptors may yield positive or deleterious effects on disease progression. We have recently demonstrated in several murine models of anthracycline-based chemotherapy that the inhibition of chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2) or chemokine (C-C motif) receptor 2 (CCR2) may impair the elicitation of anticancer immune responses that contribute to therapeutic success.
ATP; autophagy; cancer stem cells; immunogenic cell death; immunosurveillance; γδ T lymphocytes
In 1997, for the first time in history, a monoclonal antibody (mAb), i.e., the chimeric anti-CD20 molecule rituximab, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in cancer patients. Since then, the panel of mAbs that are approved by international regulatory agencies for the treatment of hematopoietic and solid malignancies has not stopped to expand, nowadays encompassing a stunning amount of 15 distinct molecules. This therapeutic armamentarium includes mAbs that target tumor-associated antigens, as well as molecules that interfere with tumor-stroma interactions or exert direct immunostimulatory effects. These three classes of mAbs exert antineoplastic activity via distinct mechanisms, which may or may not involve immune effectors other than the mAbs themselves. In previous issues of OncoImmunology, we provided a brief scientific background to the use of mAbs, all types confounded, in cancer therapy, and discussed the results of recent clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of this approach. Here, we focus on mAbs that primarily target malignant cells or their interactions with stromal components, as opposed to mAbs that mediate antineoplastic effects by activating the immune system. In particular, we discuss relevant clinical findings that have been published during the last 13 months as well as clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to investigate the therapeutic profile of hitherto investigational tumor-targeting mAbs.
bevacizumab; brentuximab vedotin; cetuximab; nimotuzumab; trastuzumab; tumor-associated antigen
HER2; CD8+ T lymphocytes; MMTV-NeuT mice; oncogene addiction; p53; trastuzumab
B lymphocytes; SAHA; histone deacetylase inhibitors; immunogenic cell death; interferon γ; natural killer cells
Throughout the past 3 decades, along with the recognition that the immune system not only influences oncogenesis and tumor progression, but also determines how established neoplastic lesions respond therapy, renovated enthusiasm has gathered around the possibility of using vaccines as anticancer agents. Such an enthusiasm quickly tempered when it became clear that anticancer vaccines would have to be devised as therapeutic, rather than prophylactic, measures, and that malignant cells often fail to elicit (or actively suppress) innate and adaptive immune responses. Nonetheless, accumulating evidence indicates that a variety of anticancer vaccines, including cell-based, DNA-based, and purified component-based preparations, are capable of circumventing the poorly immunogenic and highly immunosuppressive nature of most tumors and elicit (at least under some circumstances) therapeutically relevant immune responses. Great efforts are currently being devoted to the identification of strategies that may provide anticancer vaccines with the capacity of breaking immunological tolerance and eliciting tumor-associated antigen-specific immunity in a majority of patients. In this sense, promising results have been obtained by combining anticancer vaccines with a relatively varied panels of adjuvants, including multiple immunostimulatory cytokines, Toll-like receptor agonists as well as inhibitors of immune checkpoints. One year ago, in the December issue of OncoImmunology, we discussed the biological mechanisms that underlie the antineoplastic effects of peptide-based vaccines and presented an abundant literature demonstrating the prominent clinical potential of such an approach. Here, we review the latest developments in this exciting area of research, focusing on high-profile studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to evaluate purified peptides or full-length proteins as therapeutic anticancer agents.
adjuvants; dendritic cells; ipilimumab; NY-ESO-1; survivin; TLR agonists
Lenalidomide is a synthetic derivative of thalidomide currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients affected by multiple myeloma (in combination with dexamethasone) and low or intermediate-1 risk myelodysplastic syndromes that harbor 5q cytogenetic abnormalities. For illustrative purposes, the mechanism of action of lenalidomide can be subdivided into a cancer cell-intrinsic, a stromal, and an immunological component. Indeed, lenalidomide not only exerts direct cell cycle-arresting and pro-apoptotic effects on malignant cells, but also interferes with their physical and functional interaction with the tumor microenvironment and mediates a robust, pleiotropic immunostimulatory activity. In particular, lenalidomide has been shown to stimulate the cytotoxic functions of T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, to limit the immunosuppressive impact of regulatory T cells, and to modulate the secretion of a wide range of cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor α, interferon γ as well as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, and IL-12. Throughout the last decade, the antineoplastic and immunostimulatory potential of lenalidomide has been investigated in patients affected by a wide variety of hematological and solid malignancies. Here, we discuss the results of these studies and review the status of clinical trials currently assessing the safety and efficacy of this potent immunomodulatory drug in oncological indications.
CC-5013; IMiDs; TNFα; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; pomalidomide; regulatory T cells
Resveratrol is a polyphenol contained in red wine that has been amply investigated for its beneficial effects on organismal metabolism, in particular in the context of the so-called “French paradox,” i.e., the relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease exhibited by a population with a high dietary intake of cholesterol and saturated fats. At least part of the beneficial effect of resveratrol on human health stems from its capacity to promote autophagy by activating the NAD-dependent deacetylase sirtuin 1. However, the concentration of resveratrol found in red wine is excessively low to account alone for the French paradox. Here, we investigated the possibility that other mono- and polyphenols contained in red wine might induce autophagy while affecting the acetylation levels of cellular proteins. Phenolic compounds found in red wine, including anthocyanins (oenin), stilbenoids (piceatannol), monophenols (caffeic acid, gallic acid) glucosides (delphinidin, kuronamin, peonidin) and flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, myricetin), were all capable of stimulating autophagy, although with dissimilar potencies. Importantly, a robust negative correlation could be established between autophagy induction and the acetylation levels of cytoplasmic proteins, as determined by a novel immunofluorescence staining protocol that allows for the exclusion of nuclear components from the analysis. Inhibition of sirtuin 1 by both pharmacological and genetic means abolished protein deacetylation and autophagy as stimulated by resveratrol, but not by piceatannol, indicating that these compounds act through distinct molecular pathways. In support of this notion, resveratrol and piceatannol synergized in inducing autophagy as well as in promoting cytoplasmic protein deacetylation. Our results highlight a cause-effect relationship between the deacetylation of cytoplasmic proteins and autophagy induction by red wine components.
Beclin 1; LC3; longevity; p62/SQSTM1; trichostatin A; U2OS
ATP; caspases; chemotherapy; immunogenic cell death; radiotherapy; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved catabolic process that involves the entrapment of cytoplasmic components within characteristic vesicles for their delivery to and degradation within lysosomes. Alterations in autophagic signaling are found in several human diseases including cancer. Here, we describe a validated immunohistochemical protocol for the detection of LC3 puncta in human formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cancer specimens that can also be applied to mouse tissues. In response to systemic chemotherapy, autophagy-competent mouse tumors exhibited LC3 puncta, which did not appear in mouse cancers that had been rendered autophagy-deficient by the knockdown of Atg5 or Atg7. As compared with normal tissues, LC3 staining was moderately to highly elevated in the large majority of human cancers studied, albeit tumors of the same histological type tended to be highly heterogeneous in the number and intensity of LC3 puncta per cell. Moreover, tumor-infiltrating immune cells often were highly positive for LC3. Altogether, this protocol for LC3 staining appears suitable for the specific detection of LC3 puncta in human specimens, including tissue microarrays. We surmise that this technique can be employed for retrospective or prospective studies involving large series of human tumor samples.
autophagosomes; CT26; immunohistochemistry; lysosomes; macroautophagy; MCA205
Dendritic cells (DCs) occupy a privileged position at the interface between innate and adaptive immunity, orchestrating a large panel of responses to both physiological and pathological cues. In particular, whereas the presentation of antigens by immature DCs generally results in the development of immunological tolerance, mature DCs are capable of priming robust, and hence therapeutically relevant, adaptive immune responses. In line with this notion, functional defects in the DC compartment have been shown to etiologically contribute to pathological conditions including (but perhaps not limited to) infectious diseases, allergic and autoimmune disorders, graft rejection and cancer. Thus, the possibility of harnessing the elevated immunological potential of DCs for anticancer therapy has attracted considerable interest from both researchers and clinicians over the last decade. Alongside, several methods have been developed not only to isolate DCs from cancer patients, expand them, load them with tumor-associated antigens and hence generate highly immunogenic clinical grade infusion products, but also to directly target DCs in vivo. This intense experimental effort has culminated in 2010 with the approval by the US FDA of a DC-based preparation (sipuleucel-T, Provenge®) for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castration-refractory prostate cancer. As an update to the latest Trial Watch dealing with this exciting field of research (October 2012), here we summarize recent advances in DC-based anticancer regimens, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to assess the antineoplastic potential of this variant of cellular immunotherapy.
antigen-presenting cells; immunogenic cell death; monoclonal antibodies; plasmacytoid dendritic cells; regulatory T cells; Toll-like receptors
Although chemically non-reactive, inert noble gases may influence multiple physiological and pathological processes via hitherto uncharacterized physical effects. Here we report a cell-based detection system for assessing the effects of pre-defined gas mixtures on the induction of apoptotic cell death. In this setting, the conventional atmosphere for cell culture was substituted with gas combinations, including the same amount of oxygen (20%) and carbon dioxide (5%) but 75% helium, neon, argon, krypton, or xenon instead of nitrogen. The replacement of nitrogen with noble gases per se had no effects on the viability of cultured human osteosarcoma cells in vitro. Conversely, argon and xenon (but not helium, neon, and krypton) significantly limited cell loss induced by the broad-spectrum tyrosine kinase inhibitor staurosporine, the DNA-damaging agent mitoxantrone and several mitochondrial toxins. Such cytoprotective effects were coupled to the maintenance of mitochondrial integrity, as demonstrated by means of a mitochondrial transmembrane potential-sensitive dye and by assessing the release of cytochrome c into the cytosol. In line with this notion, argon and xenon inhibited the apoptotic activation of caspase-3, as determined by immunofluorescence microscopy coupled to automated image analysis. The antiapoptotic activity of argon and xenon may explain their clinically relevant cytoprotective effects.
antimycin A, menadione, mitochondrial membrane permeabilization, rotenone; U2OS cells, Z-VAD-fmk
Radiotherapy has extensively been employed as a curative or palliative intervention against cancer throughout the last century, with a varying degree of success. For a long time, the antineoplastic activity of X- and γ-rays was entirely ascribed to their capacity of damaging macromolecules, in particular DNA, and hence triggering the (apoptotic) demise of malignant cells. However, accumulating evidence indicates that (at least part of) the clinical potential of radiotherapy stems from cancer cell-extrinsic mechanisms, including the normalization of tumor vasculature as well as short- and long-range bystander effects. Local bystander effects involve either the direct transmission of lethal signals between cells connected by gap junctions or the production of diffusible cytotoxic mediators, including reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide and cytokines. Conversely, long-range bystander effects, also known as out-of-field or abscopal effects, presumably reflect the elicitation of tumor-specific adaptive immune responses. Ionizing rays have indeed been shown to promote the immunogenic demise of malignant cells, a process that relies on the spatiotemporally defined emanation of specific damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Thus, irradiation reportedly improves the clinical efficacy of other treatment modalities such as surgery (both in neo-adjuvant and adjuvant settings) or chemotherapy. Moreover, at least under some circumstances, radiotherapy may potentiate anticancer immune responses as elicited by various immunotherapeutic agents, including (but presumably not limited to) immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies, cancer-specific vaccines, dendritic cell-based interventions and Toll-like receptor agonists. Here, we review the rationale of using radiotherapy, alone or combined with immunomodulatory agents, as a means to elicit or boost anticancer immune responses, and present recent clinical trials investigating the therapeutic potential of this approach in cancer patients.
brachytherapy; immunogenic cell death; intensity-modulated radiation therapy; radionuclide; stereotactic body radiation therapy; stereotactic radiosurgery
antigenicity; cognate immune effectors; immunogenicity; immunosuppressive networks; innate immune effectors; MDSCs