Object: Recurrent malignant gliomas have inherent resistance to traditional chemotherapy. Novel therapies target specific molecular mechanisms involved in abnormal signaling and resistance to apoptosis. The proteasome is a key regulator of multiple cellular functions, and its inhibition in malignant astrocytic lines causes cell growth arrest and apoptotic cell death. The proteasome inhibitor bortezomib was reported to have very good in vitro activity against malignant glioma cell lines, with modest activity in animal models as well as in clinical trials as a single agent. In this paper, the authors describe the multiple effects of bortezomib in both in vitro and in vivo glioma models and offer a novel explanation for its seeming lack of activity.
Methods: Glioma stem-like cells (GSCs) were obtained from resected glioblastomas (GBMs) at surgery and expanded in culture. Stable glioma cell lines (U21 and D54) as well as temozolomide (TMZ)-resistant glioma cells derived from U251 and D54-MG were also cultured. GSCs from 2 different tumors, as well as D54 and U251 cells, were treated with bortezomib, and the effect of the drug was measured using an XTT cell viability assay. The activity of bortezomib was then determined in D54-MG and/or U251 cells using apoptosis analysis as well as caspase-3 activity and proteasome activity measurements. Human glioma xenograft models were created in nude mice by subcutaneous injection. Bevacizumab was administered via intraperitoneal injection at a dose of 5 mg/kg daily. Bortezomib was administered by intraperitoneal injection 1 hour after bevacizumab administration in doses of at a dose of 0.35 mg/kg on days 1, 4, 8, and 11 every 21 days. Tumors were measured twice weekly.
Results: Bortezomib induced caspase-3 activation and apoptotic cell death in stable glioma cell lines and in glioma stem-like cells (GSCs) derived from malignant tumor specimens Furthermore, TMZ-resistant glioma cell lines retained susceptibility to the proteasome inhibition. The bortezomib activity was directly proportional with the cells' baseline proteasome activity. The proteasome inhibition stimulated both hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production in malignant GSCs. As such, the VEGF produced by GSCs stimulated endothelial cell growth, an effect that could be prevented by the addition of bevacizumab (VEGF antibody) to the media. Similarly, administration of bortezomib and bevacizumab to athymic mice carrying subcutaneous malignant glioma xenografts resulted in greater tumor inhibition and greater improvement in survival than administration of either drug alone. These data indicate that simultaneous proteasome inhibition and VEGF blockade offer increased benefit as a strategy for malignant glioma therapy.
Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that combination therapies based on bortezomib and bevacizumab might offer an increased benefit when the two agents are used in combination. These drugs have a complementary mechanism of action and therefore can be used together to treat TMZ-resistant malignant gliomas.