Purpose: To examine the effects the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (VELCADE) on transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and target genes and the feasibility of combination therapy with reirradiation in patients with recurrent head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
Methods and materials: The tolerability and response to bortezomib 0.6 mg/m2 and 0.9 mg/m2 given twice weekly concurrent with daily reirradiation to 50-70 Gy was explored. Blood proteasome inhibition and NF-kappaB-modulated cytokines and factors were measured. Proteasome inhibition, nuclear localization of NF-kappaB phospho-p65, apoptosis, and expression of NF-kappaB-modulated mRNAs were compared in serial biopsies from accessible tumors.
Results: The maximally tolerated dose was exceeded, and study was limited to 7 and 2 patients, respectively, given bortezomib 0.6 mg/m2 and 0.9 mg/m2/dose with reirradiation. Grade 3 hypotension and hyponatremia were dose limiting. Mucositis was Grade 3 or less and was delayed. The mean blood proteasome inhibition at 1, 24, and 48 h after 0.6 mg/m2 was 32%, 16%, and 7% and after 0.9 mg/m2 was 56%, 26%, and 14%, respectively. Differences in proteasome and NF-kappaB activity, apoptosis, and expression of NF-kappaB-modulated cell cycle, apoptosis, and angiogenesis factor mRNAs were detected in 2 patients with minor tumor reductions and in serum NF-kappaB-modulated cytokines in 1 patient with a major tumor reduction.
Conclusions: In combination with reirradiation, the maximally tolerated dose of bortezomib was exceeded at a dose of 0.6 mg/m2 and the threshold of proteasome inhibition. Although this regimen with reirradiation is not feasible, bortezomib induced detectable differences in NF-kappaB localization, apoptosis, and NF-kappaB-modulated genes and cytokines in tumor and serum in association with tumor reduction, indicating that other schedules of bortezomib combined with primary radiotherapy or reirradiation may merit future investigation.