Wee1 Kinase Inhibitor AZD1775 Effectively Sensitizes Esophageal Cancer to Radiotherapy

Clin Cancer Res. 2020 Jul 15;26(14):3740-3750. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-3373. Epub 2020 Mar 27.


Purpose: Esophageal cancer is a deadly malignancy with a 5-year survival rate of only 5% to 20%, which has remained unchanged for decades. Esophageal cancer possesses a high frequency of TP53 mutations leading to dysfunctional G1 cell-cycle checkpoint, which likely makes esophageal cancer cells highly reliant upon G2-M checkpoint for adaptation to DNA replication stress and DNA damage after radiation. We aim to explore whether targeting Wee1 kinase to abolish G2-M checkpoint sensitizes esophageal cancer cells to radiotherapy.

Experimental design: Cell viability was assessed by cytotoxicity and colony-forming assays, cell-cycle distribution was analyzed by flow cytometry, and mitotic catastrophe was assessed by immunofluorescence staining. Human esophageal cancer xenografts were generated to explore the radiosensitizing effect of AZD1775 in vivo.

Results: The IC50 concentrations of AZD1775 on esophageal cancer cell lines were between 300 and 600 nmol/L. AZD1775 (100 nmol/L) as monotherapy did not alter the viability of esophageal cancer cells, but significantly radiosensitized esophageal cancer cells. AZD1775 significantly abrogated radiation-induced G2-M phase arrest and attenuation of p-CDK1-Y15. Moreover, AZD1775 increased radiation-induced mitotic catastrophe, which was accompanied by increased γH2AX levels, and subsequently reduced survival after radiation. Importantly, AZD1775 in combination with radiotherapy resulted in marked tumor regression of esophageal cancer tumor xenografts.

Conclusions: Abrogation of G2-M checkpoint by targeting Wee1 kinase with AZD1775 sensitizes esophageal cancer cells to radiotherapy in vitro and in mouse xenografts. Our findings suggest that inhibition of Wee1 by AZD1775 is an effective strategy for radiosensitization in esophageal cancer and warrants clinical testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Chemoradiotherapy / methods*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • G2 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • G2 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Mitosis / radiation effects
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology*
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Pyrimidinones / pharmacology*
  • Pyrimidinones / therapeutic use
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyrimidinones
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • WEE1 protein, human
  • adavosertib