The styryl benzoic acid derivative DC10 potentiates radiotherapy by targeting the xCT-glutathione axis
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionFrontiers in Oncology. 2022, 12, 786739. 10.3389/fonc.2022.786739
Metastatic tumors with moderate radiosensitivity account for most cancer-related deaths, highlighting the limitations of current radiotherapy regimens. The xCT-inhibitor sulfasalazine (SAS) sensitizes cancer cells to radiotherapy by blocking cystine uptake via the xCT membrane antiporter, and thereby glutathione (GSH) synthesis protecting against radiation-induced oxidative stress. The expression of xCT in multiple tumor types implies it as a target generic to cancer rather than confined to few subtypes. However, SAS has limited clinical potential as a radiosensitizer due to side effects and low bioavailability. Using SAS as a starting point, we previously developed synthetic xCT-inhibitors through scaffold hopping and structure optimization aided by structure-activity relationship analysis (SAR). Notably, the compound DC10 exhibited inhibition of GSH synthesis. In this study, we validated DC10 as a radiosensitizer in the xCT-expressing cancer cell lines A172, A375 and MCF7, and mice harboring melanoma xenografts. After DC10 treatment, we measured 14C-cystine uptake in the cancer cells using liquid scintillation counting, and intracellular GSH levels and reactive oxygen species (ROS) using luminescence assays. We performed immunoblotting of H2AX and ATM to assess DNA damage after treatment with DC10 and radiotherapy. We then assessed the effect of adding DC10 to radiation upon cancer cell colony formation. Blood samples from mice treated with DC10 underwent biochemical analysis to assess toxicity. Finally, mice with A375 melanomas in the flank, received DC10 and radiotherapy in combination, as monotherapies or no treatment. Notably, DC10 reduced cystine uptake and GSH synthesis and increased ROS levels in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, DC10 interacted synergistically with radiation to increase DNA damage and reduce tumor cell colony formation. Mice receiving DC10 were clinically unaffected, whereas blood samples analysis to assess bone marrow suppression, liver or kidney toxicity revealed no significant differences between treated mice and untreated controls. Importantly, DC10 potentiated the anti-tumor efficacy of radiation in mice with melanoma xenografts. We conclude that DC10 is well tolerated and acts as a radiosensitizer by inhibiting cystine uptake, leading to GSH depletion and increased oxidative stress. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of using synthetic xCT-inhibitors to overcome radioresistance.