Purpose: A wide variety of tumors depend on the dysregulation of Bcl-2 family proteins for survival. The resulting apoptotic block can often provide a mechanism for resistance to anticancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. This current study evaluates the efficacy of combining systemically delivered Bcl-2 phosphorothioate antisense (Bcl-2 ASO) and radiation for nasopharyngeal cancer therapy.
Results: Antisense uptake was unaffected by 0, 3, or 6 Gy radiation. Radiation decreased the fraction of viable C666-1 cells to 60%, with a further decrease to 40% in combination with Bcl-2 ASO. Despite a modest in vitro effect, Bcl-2 ASO alone caused the regression of established xenograft tumors in mice, extending survival by 15 days in a C666-1 and by 6 days in a C15 model. The survival times for mice treated with both Bcl-2 ASO and radiation increased by 52 days in C666-1 and by 20 days in C15 tumors. This combination resulted in a more-than-additive effect in C666-1 tumors. Less impressive gains observed in C15 tumors might be attributable to higher expression of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins and limited drug distribution in the tumor. Retreatment of C666-1 tumors with the Bcl-2 ASO-radiation combination, however, was effective, resulting in mice surviving for >80 days relative to untreated controls.
Conclusions: Our results show that the Bcl-2 ASO and radiation combination is a highly potent therapy for nasopharyngeal cancer. Further examination of combination therapy with radiation and other Bcl-2 family-targeted anticancer agents in both preclinical and clinical settings is definitely warranted.