Amino acid starvation sensitizes resistant breast cancer to doxorubicin-induced cell death

Thomas, Mark ; Davis, Tanja ; Nell, Theo ; Sishi, Balindiwe ; Engelbrecht, Anna-Mart (2020)

CITATION: Thomas, M., et al. 2020. Amino acid starvation sensitizes resistant breast cancer to doxorubicin-induced cell death. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, 8:565915, doi:10.3389/fcell.2020.565915.

The original publication is available at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcell.2020.565915/full

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund

Article

Many clinical trials are beginning to assess the effectiveness of compounds known to regulate autophagy in patients receiving anti-cancer chemotherapy. However, autophagy inhibition, through exogenous inhibitors, or activation, through starvation, has revealed conflicting roles in cancer management and chemotherapeutic outcome. This study aimed to assess the effect of amino acid starvation on doxorubicin-treated breast cancer cells by assessing the roles of autophagy and apoptosis. An in vitro breast cancer model consisting of the normal breast epithelial MCF12A and the metastatic breast cancer MDAMB231 cells was used. Apoptotic and autophagic parameters were assessed following doxorubicin treatments, alone or in combination with bafilomycin, ATG5 siRNA or amino acid starvation. Inhibition of autophagy, through ATG5 siRNA or bafilomycin treatment, increased caspase activity and intracellular doxorubicin concentrations in MCF12A and MDAMB231 cells during doxorubicin treatment. While amino acid starvation increased autophagic activity and decreased caspase activity and intracellular doxorubicin concentrations in MCF12A cells, no changes in autophagic parameters or caspase activity were observed in MDAMB231 cells. Our in vivo data showed that 24 h protein starvation during high dose doxorubicin treatment resulted in increased survival of tumor-bearing GFP-LC3 mice. Results from this study suggest that short term starvation during doxorubicin chemotherapy may be a realistic avenue for adjuvant therapy, especially with regards to the protection of non-cancerous cells. More research is however, needed to fully understand the regulation of autophagic flux during starvation.

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