Autophagic Activation with Nimotuzumab Enhances Chemo-radiosensitivity

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A study recently published in the May 2014 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine sought to determine whether an EGFR-targeted therapy in accordance with chemo-radiotherapy can in fact improve local tumor control effectively, as opposed to cytotoxic agents or irradiation alone.

Dr. Haizhu Song and peers from Jinling Hospital and the Medical School of Nanjing University in China showed that nimotuzumab could indeed improve chemo-radiosensitivity by promoting autophagic cell death in esophageal squamous carcinoma (ESCC) cells.

"Song and colleagues provide evidence, worth pursuing, that activation of autophagy by nimotuzumab may provide increased chemosensitivity and radiosensivity in ESCC," stated editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology and Medicine, Dr. Steven R. Goodman.Chemo-radiosensitivity

Nimotuzumab is a humanized anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody that slows down EGF-stimulated receptor autophosphorylation and downstream signaling pathways. The vast majority of previous studies have allotted single focus on the therapeutic effects of nimotuzumab on cancer cells including cell cycle arrest and the induction of apoptotic cell death. Dr. Chen's, who served as corresponding author, laboratory identified the autophagic activity of ESCC cells after a combination of nimotuzumab with paclitaxel, cis-platinum or external beam radiation.

The outcomes demonstrate that autophagic activation by nimotuzumab assisted the antitumor effects of cytotoxic agents and irradiation in ESCC cells with high expression of EGFR. Consequently, nimotuzumab-combined therapy might be more advantageous for treating ESCC patients with a high level of EGFR expression and activation of autophagy; as part of a combined therapy or as a different treatment plan to terminate cancer cells more effectively.

"We hope that our study will be meaningful in gaining a mechanistic understanding of nimotuzumab-combined therapy and provide a potential strategy for improving therapeutic efficacy in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma," said Chen.