Hypoxia promotes neovascularization, increased tumor growth, and therapeutic resistance. The transcription factor, hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α), has been reported as the master driver of adaptation to hypoxia. We previously identified the sphingosine kinase 1/sphingosine 1-phosphate (SphK1/S1P) pathway as a new modulator of HIF-1α under hypoxia. Taking advantage of a monoclonal antibody neutralizing extracellular S1P (sphingomab), we report that inhibition of S1P extracellular signaling blocks HIF-1α accumulation and activity in several cancer cell models exposed to hypoxia. In an orthotopic xenograft model of prostate cancer, we show that sphingomab reduces hypoxia and modifies vessel architecture within 5 days of treatment, leading to increased intratumoral blood perfusion. Supporting the notion that a transient vascular normalization of tumor vessels is the mechanism by which sphingomab exerts its effects, we demonstrate that administration of the antibody for 5 days before chemotherapy is more effective at local tumor control and metastatic dissemination than any other treatment scheduling. These findings validate sphingomab as a potential new normalization agent that could contribute to successful sensitization of hypoxic tumors to chemotherapy.
Keywords: angiogenesis; hypoxia; sphingolipid; vessel normalization.