The role of short-term starvation in sensitizing breast cancer to chemotherapy

Govender, Yogeshni (2013-03)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Introduction: Breast cancer is a major contributor to mortality in women worldwide. Although, anthracyclines, such as doxorubicin, are among the most valuable treatments for breast cancer, their clinical use is limited due to detrimental side-effects such as cardiotoxicity. Additionally, evidence suggests that cancer cells are becoming increasingly resistant to chemotherapeutic agents. The consequence of poor vascularisation within tumours subsequently leads to a nutrient deprived microenvironment which cancer cells are known to adapt to via metabolic remodelling and increasing autophagy. Autophagy is an intracellular degradation system, which is induced as a survival mechanism in response to starvation and other environmental stressors. Recent studies have shown that starvation protects non-tumourigenic cells against chemotherapy-induced cell death. Furthermore, patients who starved prior to chemotherapy reported reduced side-effects. However, these studies investigated the effects of long-term starvation, which maybe clinically challenging. Therefore, this concept, under shorter and more tolerable periods of starvation still needs to be investigated. We hypothesis, that short-term starvation will sensitize breast cancer cells to doxorubicin-induced cell death. In order to test this hypothesis this study was approached by the following aims: (i) to establish a time point at which MCF12A breast epithelial cells are protected against starvation; (ii) to determine the effect of short-term starvation on doxorubicin induced cell death; (iii) to assess autophagy and; (iv) to assess these above mentioned aims using an in vivo model. Methods: MDAMB231 cells and MCF12A cells were starved for 0, 3, 6, 12, 24 and 48 hours using Hanks Balanced Salt Solution. Cell viability was assessed using the trypan blue, MTT and Caspase-Glo assays. MDAMB231 cells and MCF12A cells were subjected to the following conditions: (1) control; (2) 5 μM doxorubicin; (3) starvation of 3 hours and (4) a combination of starvation and doxorubicin. Following treatment an MTT assay to assess cell viability was performed. MDAMB231 cells were further examined using Live-Cell Imaging and western blot analysis. C57BL6 tumour bearing mice were treated with doxorubicin (5 mg/kg) or in combination with starvation of 24 hours. Upon termination of the protocol, tumour tissue was assessed using western blot analysis. In both in vitro and in vivo analyses cleaved-caspase 3 and cleaved-PARP were used as markers for apoptosis, LC3 and p62 as autophagic markers and p-AMPK and p-mTOR as markers of oxygen and energy sensing, respectively. Results and discussion: Three hours of starvation was chosen for in vitro experiments since no significant reduction in cell viability or increases in apoptosis occurred at this time-point in the normal MCF12A breast epithelial cells. As expected, doxorubicin induced a significant decrease in cell viability in the cancerous MDAMB231 cells. Short-term starvation in combination with doxorubicin treatment caused a further significant decrease in cell viability in MDAMB231 cells compared to the doxorubicin group alone. Interestingly, starved MCF12A cells were protected against doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity as cell viability significantly increased. A significant decrease in autophagy was further observed with the combined treatment of doxorubicin and starvation which corresponded with a significant increase in cell death. In contrast, although the in vivo study also demonstrated a significant elevation in cell death and autophagy in response to doxorubicin treatment, the combined treatment (starvation and doxorubicin) did not have an additive effect when compared to the doxorubicin group alone. Conclusion: Our in vitro results clearly demonstrate that short-term starvation sensitizes breast cancer cells to doxorubicin-induced cell death. Additionally, decreased levels of autophagy appear to contribute to this phenomenon of sensitization. Although doxorubicin treatment resulted in increased apoptosis in vivo, 24 hours starvation in combination with doxorubicin did not sensitize the tumours to doxorubicin treatment. Thus, for future in vivo studies more time points should be considered in order to translate the beneficial effects of short-term starvation observed in our in vitro study to an animal model.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Inleiding: Borskanker is ‘n belangrike faktor wat bydrae tot sterftes in vrouens wêreldwyd. Alhoewel antrasikliene soos doxorubicin, waardevol is vir die behandeling van borskanker, word die kliniese gebruik daarvan beperk deur newe-effekte soos kardiotoksisiteit. Verder, word daar al hoe meer bewys dat kankerselle toenemend weeerstandbiedend word teen chemoterapeutiese middels. Swak vaskularisasie van tumore lei tot ‘n mikro-omgewing met beperkte voedingstowwe waaby kankerselle kan aanpas deur middel van metaboliese hermodelering en ‘n toename in autofagie. Autofagie is ‘n intrasellulêre degraderingsisteem wat as ‘n oorlewingsmeganisme aangewend word tydens verhongering en ander omgewingstressors. Onlangse studies het getoon dat verhongering nie-tumourigeniese (normale) selle teen chemoterapie-geïnduseerde seldood beskerm. Verder is daar ook geraporteer dat pasiënte wat gevas het voor chemoterapie, verminderde newe-effekte getoon het. Hierdie studies het egter gefokus op ‘n relatief lang-termyn vas, wat klinies nogal uitdagend kan wees. Daarom moet hierdie konsep nog op korter, meer hanteerbare tye getoets word. Ons hipotese is dus dat kort-termyn vas borskankerselle kan sensitiseer tot doxorubicin-geïnduseerde seldood. Om hierdie hipotese te toets, is die volgende doelwitte gestel: (i) om ‘n tydspunt te bepaal waar MCF12A borsepiteelselle beskerm is teen verhongering; (ii) om die effek van kort-termyn verhongering op doxorubicin-geïnduseerde seldood te toets; (iii) om autofagie te karakteriseer in ons model en; (iv) om hierdie doelwitte ook in ‘n in vivo model te toets. Metodes: MDAMB231 en MCF12A selle is verhonger vir 0, 3, 6, 12, 24 and 48 ure deur van Hanks se gebalanseerde soutoplossing gebruik te maak. Sellewensvatbaarheid is bepaal deur middel van trypan blou, MTT en die Caspase-Glo tegnieke. MDAMB231 en MCF12A selle is onderwerp aan die volgende omstandighede: (1) kontrole; (2) 5 μM doxorubicin; (3) verhongering van 3 ure en (4) ‘n kombinasie van verhongering en doxorubicin. Na behandeling is die sellewensvatbaarheid deur middel van die MTT tegniek bepaal. MDAMB231 selle is verder ondersoek deur middel van “Live-Cell Imaging” en die westelike klad tegniek. C57BL6 tumor-draende muise is behandel met doxorubicin (5 mg/kg) of met ‘n kombinasie van verhongering van 24 ure en doxorubicin. Aan die einde van die protokol, is die kankerweefsel geanaliseer deur die westelike klad tegniek. In beide in vitro en in vivo analises, is gekliefde- caspase 3 en -PARP as merkers vir apoptose, LC3 and p62 as merkers vir autofagie en p-AMPK en p-mTOR as suurstof- en energie sensors respektiewelik gemeet. Resultate en bespreking: Vir die in vitro eksperimente, is ‘n tydspunt van 3 ure gekies as gevolg van die feit dat geen afname in sellewensvatbaarheid en ‘n toename in apoptose in hierdie tydsgleuf tydens verhongering in die normale MCF12A borsepiteelselle plaasgevind het nie. Soos verwag, het doxorubicin behandeling ‘n insiggewende afname in sellewensvatbaarheid in die kankeragtige MDAMB231 selle veroorsaak. Die kombinasie-terapie van verhongering en doxorubicin het ‘n verdere verhoging in seldood teweeg gebring in die MDAMB231 selle, maar het die normale MCF12A borsepiteelselle teen doxorubicin-geïnduseerde toksisiteit beskerm. Die kombinasie-behandeling is ook geassosieer met ‘n afname in autofagie. Alhoewel, die in vivo studie ook getoon het dat doxorubicin alleen insiggewende hoeveelheid seldood teweeggebring het, het die kombinasie-behandeling nie die additiewe effek, soos in die in vitro studie, teweeg gebring nie. Gevolgtrekking: Die in vitro resultate het duidelik getoon dat kort-termyn verhongering borskankerselle kan sensitiseer vir doxorubicin terapie. Verder het dit geblyk dat ‘n afname in autofagie tot die fenomeen van sensitisering bygedrae het. Alhoewel doxorubicin behandeling in vivo tot ‘n toename in apoptose in die tumor gelei het, het die kombinasie behandeling nie die kankerweefsel ten op sigte van doxorubicin gesensitiseer nie. Daar sal dus vir toekomstige in vivo studies meer tydsgleuwe van behandeling ondersoek moet word om die optimum verhongeringsperiode te vind sodat die in vitro resultate ook in vivo van toepassing kan wees.

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