The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway plays a critical role in oncogenesis, and dysregulation of this pathway through loss of PTEN suppression is a particularly common phenomenon in aggressive prostate cancers. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a downstream signaling kinase in this pathway, exerting prosurvival influence on cells through the activation of factors involved in protein synthesis. The mTOR inhibitor rapamycin and its derivatives are cytotoxic to a number of cell lines. Recently, mTOR inhibition has also been shown to radiosensitize endothelial and breast cancer cells in vitro. Because radiation is an important modality in the treatment of prostate cancer, we tested the ability of the mTOR inhibitor RAD001 (everolimus) to enhance the cytotoxic effects of radiation on two prostate cancer cell lines, PC-3 and DU145. We found that both cell lines became more vulnerable to irradiation after treatment with RAD001, with the PTEN-deficient PC-3 cell line showing the greater sensitivity. This increased susceptibility to radiation is associated with induction of autophagy. Furthermore, we show that blocking apoptosis with caspase inhibition and Bax/Bak small interfering RNA in these cell lines enhances radiation-induced mortality and induces autophagy. Together, these data highlight the emerging importance of mTOR as a molecular target for therapeutic intervention, and lend support to the idea that nonapoptotic modes of cell death may play a crucial role in improving tumor cell kill.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research