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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Mar 15;10(6):2158-67.

Characterization of p53 wild-type and null isogenic colorectal cancer cell lines resistant to 5-fluorouracil, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


To elucidate mechanisms of resistance to chemotherapies currently used in the first-line treatment of advanced colorectal cancer, we have developed a panel of HCT116 p53 wild-type (p53(+/+)) and null (p53(-/-)) isogenic colorectal cancer cell lines resistant to the antimetabolite 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), topoisomerase I inhibitor irinotecan (CPT-11), and DNA-damaging agent oxaliplatin. These cell lines were generated by repeated exposure to stepwise increasing concentrations of each drug over a period of several months. We have demonstrated a significant decrease in sensitivity to 5-FU, CPT-11, and oxaliplatin in each respective resistant cell line relative to the parental line as determined by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide analysis, with increases in IC(50 (72 h)) concentrations ranging from 3- to 65-fold. Using flow cytometry, we have also demonstrated compromised apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in 5-FU-, oxaliplatin-, and CPT-11-resistant cell lines compared with the parental lines after exposure to each drug. In addition, we found that resistance to 5-FU and oxaliplatin was higher in parental p53(-/-) cells compared with parental p53(+/+) cells, with an approximately 5-fold increase in IC(50 (72 h)) for each drug. In contrast, the IC(50 (72 h)) doses for CPT-11 were identical in the p53 wild-type and null cell lines. Furthermore, apoptosis after treatment with 5-FU and oxaliplatin, but not CPT-11, was significantly reduced in parental p53(-/-) cells compared with parental p53(+/+) cells. These data suggest that p53 may be an important determinant of sensitivity to 5-FU and oxaliplatin but not CPT-11. Using semiquantitative reverse transcription-PCR, we have demonstrated down-regulation of thymidine phosphorylase mRNA in both p53(+/+) and p53(-/-) 5-FU-resistant cells, suggesting that decreased production of 5-FU active metabolites may be an important resistance mechanism in these lines. In oxaliplatin-resistant cells, we noted increased mRNA levels of the nucleotide excision repair gene ERCC1 and ATP-binding cassette transporter breast cancer resistance protein. In CPT-11-resistant cells, we found reduced mRNA levels of carboxylesterase, the enzyme responsible for converting CPT-11 to its active metabolite SN-38, and topoisomerase I, the SN-38 target enzyme. In addition, we noted overexpression of breast cancer resistance protein in the CPT-11-resistant lines. These cell lines are ideal tools with which to identify novel determinants of drug resistance in both the presence and absence of wild-type p53.

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