In vivo effects of immunomodulators in a murine model of Fluorouracil-induced mucositis

Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 2011 Dec;72(6):262-72. doi: 10.1016/j.curtheres.2011.11.003.


Background: Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a pyrimidine analogue used as a cancer treatment. Its toxic side effects, including mucositis, are reported to occur in 40% of the treated patients. Because of the inflammatory component of mucositis, we explored the possibility of modulating this condition with an immunomodulatory agent and a tumor necrosis factor-α inhibitor.

Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of 2 immunosuppressive agents, etanercept and cyclosporine, in a murine model of 5-FU-induced mucositis.

Methods: To study the short-term effects of 5-FU on mucositis, cyclosporine and etanercept were administered to mice after an injection of 5-FU. The animals (n = 8) were euthanized at 6 hours post-challenge. Hematoxylin and eosin-stained histologic sections of the small intestine were examined for signs of apoptosis. To further examine the potential of cyclosporine in the treatment of 5-FU-induced mucositis in a longer duration, the animals (N = 15) were given 2 challenges of 5-FU within 6 hours. All mice were dosed daily until day 9 with either cyclosporine (100 mg/kg) or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS).

Results: Six hours after 5-FU challenge, 25 mg/kg etanercept and 50 mg/kg cyclosporine had no effect on 5-FU-induced apoptosis (P > 0.05). However, 100 mg/kg cyclosporine significantly reduced the cumulative level of apoptosis >41.6% of the intestinal crypt surface (P < 0.05). During long-term observation, all mice began to lose weight at a rate of approximately 0.8 g/day after 5-FU exposure. The rates of weight loss and survival were not affected by cyclosporine treatment. The diarrhea onset began on day 4 with 46.7% of the PBS-treated mice showing signs of diarrhea compared with 53.3% in the cyclosporine group. The diarrhea score for both groups plateaued on day 7, with a cumulative score of 41 for the PBS group and 50 for the cyclosporine group. Cyclosporine treatment did not affect the diarrhea onset day or severity compared with the PBS-treated group (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: Our data indicated that etanercept is not a suitable treatment for 5-FU-induced mucositis. Despite decreased apoptosis in the gut, cyclosporine did not affect the severity of the diarrhea or survival. Therefore, we concluded that cyclosporine treatment was only effective in mediating the short-term apoptotic events in the intestines but has no long-term effect on the animals' survival and diarrhea.

Keywords: cyclosporine; etanercept; fluorouracil; mucositis.