Background: Ionizing radiation (IR) therapy is a primary treatment for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a common and devastating brain tumor in humans. IR has been shown to induce PI3K-Akt activation in many cell types, and activation of the PI3K-Akt signaling pathway has been correlated with radioresistance.
Methods: Initially, the effects of IR on Akt activation were assessed in multiple human GBM cell lines. Next, to evaluate a potential causative role of IR-induced Akt activation on radiosensitivity, Akt activation was inhibited during IR with several complementary genetic and pharmacological approaches, and radiosensitivity measured using clonogenic survival assays.
Results: Three of the eight cell lines tested demonstrated IR-induced Akt activation. Further studies revealed that IR-induced Akt activation was dependent upon the presence of a serum factor, and could be inhibited by the EGFR inhibitor AG1478. Inhibition of PI3K activation with LY294002, or with inducible wild-type PTEN, inhibition of EGFR, as well as direct inhibition of Akt with two Akt inhibitors during irradiation increased the radiosensitivity of U87MG cells.
Conclusion: These results suggest that Akt may be a central player in a feedback loop whereby activation of Akt induced by IR increases radioresistance of GBM cells. Targeting the Akt signaling pathway may have important therapeutic implications when used in combination with IR in the treatment of a subset of brain tumor patients.