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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jul 18;97(15):8658-63.

Fibroblast growth factors: an epigenetic mechanism of broad spectrum resistance to anticancer drugs.

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  • 1College of Pharmacy and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Based on the observation that removal of tumors from metastatic organs reversed their chemoresistance, we hypothesized that chemoresistance is induced by extracellular factors in tumor-bearing organs. By comparing chemosensitivity and proteins in different tumors (primary vs. metastases) and different culture systems (tumor fragment histocultures vs. monolayer cultures derived from the same tumor), we found elevated levels of acidic (aFGF) and basic (bFGF) fibroblast growth factors in the conditioned medium (CM) of solid and metastatic tumors. These CM induced broad spectrum resistance to drugs with diverse structures and action mechanisms (paclitaxel, doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil). Inhibition of bFGF by mAb and its removal by immunoprecipitation resulted in complete reversal of the CM-induced chemoresistance, whereas inhibition/removal of aFGF resulted in partial reversal. Using CM that had been depleted of aFGF and/or bFGF and subsequently reconstituted with respective human recombinant proteins, we found that bFGF but not aFGF induced chemoresistance whereas aFGF amplified the bFGF effect. aFGF and bFGF fully accounted for the CM effect, indicating these proteins as the underlying mechanism of the chemoresistance. The FGF-induced resistance was not due to reduced intracellular drug accumulation or altered cell proliferation. We further showed that an inhibitor of aFGF/bFGF (suramin) enhanced the in vitro and in vivo activity of chemotherapy, resulting in shrinkage and eradication of well established human lung metastases in mice without enhancing toxicity. These results indicate elevated levels of extracellular aFGF/bFGF as an epigenetic mechanism by which cancer cells elude cytotoxic insult by chemotherapy, and provide a basis for designing new treatment strategies.

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