With current treatment strategies, nearly half of all medulloblastoma (MB) patients die from progressive tumors. Accordingly, the identification of novel therapeutic strategies remains a major goal. Deregulation of c-MYC is evident in numerous human cancers. In MB, over-expression of c-MYC has been shown to cause anaplasia and correlate with unfavorable prognosis.
To study the role of c-MYC in MB biology, we down-regulated c-MYC expression by using small interfering RNA (siRNA) and investigated changes in cellular proliferation, cell cycle analysis, apoptosis, telomere maintenance, and response to ionizing radiation (IR) and chemotherapeutics in a representative panel of human MB cell lines expressing different levels of c-MYC (DAOY wild-type, DAOY transfected with the empty vector, DAOY transfected with c-MYC, D341, and D425).
siRNA-mediated c-MYC down-regulation resulted in an inhibition of cellular proliferation and clonogenic growth, inhibition of G1-S phase cell cycle progression, and a decrease in human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) expression and telomerase activity. On the other hand, down-regulation of c-MYC reduced apoptosis and decreased the sensitivity of human MB cells to IR, cisplatin, and etoposide. This effect was more pronounced in DAOY cells expressing high levels of c-MYC when compared with DAOY wild-type or DAOY cells transfected with the empty vector.
In human MB cells, in addition to its roles in growth and proliferation, c-MYC is also a potent inducer of apoptosis. Therefore, targeting c-MYC might be of therapeutic benefit when used sequentially with chemo- and radiotherapy rather than concomitantly.