Background/aims: In planning adjuvant treatment of colorectal cancer, it is of critical importance to optimize the treatment by identifying subsets of patients that will respond or not to chemotherapy. Thymidylate synthase (TS) and dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) are key enzymes involved in the biochemical functions of the antimetabolite 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). In searching for the factors determining the 5-FU sensitivity of colorectal cancer, TS and DPD were analyzed in relation to the inhibitory effect of 5-FU on cell proliferation in a series of human colorectal cancer cell lines.
Methodology: TS and DPD protein expressions were quantified in 5 human colorectal cancer cell lines, using TS binding assay and Western blotting, respectively. Cellular growth inhibition was assessed by MTT assay after 48 hours of continuous exposure to 5-FU or cisplatin (CDDP).
Results: TS protein expression was detected in all but one of the cell lines studied and varied within a 17-fold range, while DPD protein expression was detectable in only one cell line (CaR1). CaR1, which expressed the highest level of DPD and no detectable TS, showed remarkable resistance to 5-FU. The other colorectal cancer cell lines with undetectable DPD expression were sensitive to 5-FU. There was no correlation between TS expression and 5-FU sensitivity. All of the cell lines studied showed similar sensitivity to CDDP.
Conclusions: These data suggest that DPD, but not TS, expression predicts 5-FU sensitivity in colorectal cancer cell lines.