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Transplantation. 2004 May 15;77(9):1319-26.

Rapamycin protects allografts from rejection while simultaneously attacking tumors in immunosuppressed mice.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, The University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.


Cancer is an increasingly recognized problem associated with immunosuppression. Recent reports, however, suggest that the immunosuppressive agent rapamycin has anti-cancer properties that could address this problem. Thus far, rapamycin's effects on immunity and cancer have been studied separately. Here we tested the effects of rapamycin, versus cyclosporine A (CsA), on established tumors in mice simultaneously bearing a heart allograft. In one tumor-transplant model, BALB/c mice received subcutaneous syngenic CT26 colon adenocarcinoma cells 7 days before C3H ear-heart transplantation. Rapamycin or CsA treatment was initiated with transplantation. In a second model system, a B16 melanoma was established in C57BL/6 mice that received a primary vascularized C3H heart allograft. In vitro angiogenic effects of rapamycin and CsA were tested in an aortic ring assay. Results show that CT26 tumors grew for 2 weeks before tumor complications occurred. However, rapamycin protected allografts, inhibited tumor growth, and permitted animal survival. In contrast, CsA-treated mice succumbed to advancing tumors, albeit with a functioning allograft. Rapamycin's antitumor effect also functioned in severe combined immunodeficient BALB/c mice. Similar effects of the drugs occurred with B16 melanomas and primary vascularized C3H allografts in C57BL/6 mice. Furthermore, in this model, rapamycin inhibited the tumor growth-enhancing effects of CsA. Moreover, in vitro experiments showed that CsA promotes angiogenesis by a transforming growth factor-beta-related mechanism, and that this effect is abrogated by rapamycin. This study demonstrates that rapamycin simultaneously protects allografts from rejection and attacks tumors in a complex transplant-tumor situation. Notably, CsA protects allografts from rejection, but cancer progression is promoted in transplant recipients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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