Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a very aggressive asbestos-related neoplasm of the serous membranes, whose incidence is increasing worldwide. Although the introduction of new drug combinations, such as cisplatin plus pemetrexed/gemcitabine, has determined an improvement in the patient quality of life, MM remains a universally fatal disease. The observation that key G 1/S checkpoint regulators are often functionally inactivated in MM prompted us to test whether the use of G 2/M checkpoint inhibitors, able to sensitize G 1/S checkpoint-defective cancer cells to DNA-damaging agents, could be successful in MM. We treated six MM cell lines, representative of different histotypes (epithelioid, biphasic, and sarcomatoid), with cisplatin in combination with MK-1775, an inhibitor of the G 2/M checkpoint kinase WEE1. We observed that MK-1775 enhanced the cisplatin cytotoxic effect in all MM cell lines, except the sarcomatoid cell line, which is representative of the most aggressive histotype. As expected, the enhancement in cisplatin toxicity was accompanied by a decrease in the inactive phosphorylated form of cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1), a key substrate of WEE1, which is indicative of G 2/M checkpoint inactivation. Consistently, we also observed a decrease in G 2/M accumulation and an increase in mitotic entry of DNA-damaged cells and apoptosis, probably due to the loss of the cell ability to arrest cell cycle in response to DNA damage, irrespectively of p53 mutational status. Notably, this treatment did not increase cisplatin cytotoxicity on normal cells, thus suggesting a possible use of MK-1775 in combination with cisplatin for a safe and efficient treatment of epithelioid and biphasic MM.
Keywords: CDK1; G2/M checkpoint; MK-1775; WEE1; apoptosis; cisplatin; mesothelioma.