Neoadjuvant radiation is standard of care for locally advanced rectal cancer. Response to radiation is highly variable and directly linked with survival. However, there currently are no validated biomarkers or molecular targets to predict or improve radiation response, which would help develop personalized treatment and ideally targeted therapies. Here, we identified a novel biomarker, coenzyme A synthase (COASY), whose mRNA expression was consistently elevated in radioresistant human rectal cancers. This observation was validated in independent patient cohorts and further confirmed in colorectal cancer cell lines. Importantly, genetic overexpression and knockdown yielded radioresistant and sensitive phenotypes, respectively, in vitro and in vivo. COASY-knockdown xenografts were more vulnerable to radiation, showing delayed tumor growth, decreased proliferation, and increased apoptosis. Mechanistically, COASY protein directly interacted with the PI3K regulatory subunit PI3K-P85a, which increased AKT and mTOR phosphorylation, enhancing cell survival. Furthermore, shRNA COASY knockdown disrupted downstream PI3K pathway activation and also hindered DNA double-strand break repair, which both led to improved radiosensitivity. Collectively, this work reveals for the first time the biological relevance of COASY as a predictive rectal cancer biomarker for radiation response and offers mechanistic evidence to support COASY as a potential therapeutic target. Significance: COASY is a novel radiotherapy response modulator in rectal cancer that regulates PI3K activation and DNA repair. Furthermore, COASY levels directly correlate with radiation response and serve as a predictive biomarker.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research