Oxaliplatin disrupts pathological features of glioma cells and associated macrophages independent of apoptosis induction

J Neurooncol. 2018 Dec;140(3):497-507. doi: 10.1007/s11060-018-2979-1. Epub 2018 Aug 21.


Introduction: Emerging evidence suggests that effective treatment of glioblastoma (GBM), the most common and deadly form of adult primary brain cancer, will likely require concurrent treatment of multiple aspects of tumor pathobiology to overcome tumor heterogeneity and the complex tumor-supporting microenvironment. Recent studies in non-central nervous system (CNS) tumor cells have demonstrated that oxaliplatin (OXA) can induce multi-faceted anti-tumor effects, in particular at drug concentrations below those required to induce apoptosis. These findings motivated re-investigation of OXA for the treatment of GBM.

Methods: The effects of OXA on murine KR158 and GL261 glioma cells including cell growth, cell death, inhibition of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) activity, O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) expression, and immunogenic cell death (ICD) initiation, were evaluated by cytotoxicity assays, Western blot analysis, STAT3-luciferase reporter assays, qRT-PCR assays, and flow cytometry. Chemical inhibitors of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress were used to investigate the contribution of this cell damage response to the observed OXA effects. The effect of OXA on bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM) exposed to glioma conditioned media (GCM) was also analyzed by Western blot analysis.

Results: We identified the OXA concentration threshold for induction of apoptosis and from this determined the drug dose and treatment period for sub-cytotoxic treatments of glioma cells. Under these experimental conditions, OXA reduced STAT3 activity, reduced MGMT levels and increased temozolomide sensitivity. In addition, there was evidence of immunogenic cell death (elevated EIF2α phosphorylation and calreticulin exposure) following prolonged OXA treatment. Notably, inhibition of ER stress reversed the OXA-mediated inhibition of STAT3 activity and MGMT expression in the tumor cells. In BMDMs exposed to GCM, OXA also reduced levels of phosphorylated STAT3 and decreased expression of Arginase 1, an enzyme known to contribute to pro-tumor functions in the tumor-immune environment.

Conclusions: OXA can induce notable multi-faceted biological effects in glioma cells and BMDMs at relatively low drug concentrations. These findings may have significant therapeutic relevance against GBM and warrant further investigation.

Keywords: Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Glioblastoma; Glioma; MGMT; Oxaliplatin; STAT3.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress
  • Glioma / drug therapy
  • Glioma / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Oxaliplatin / pharmacology*
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Temozolomide


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Temozolomide