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Clin Cancer Res. 2006 May 1;12(9):2928-36.

PUMA sensitizes lung cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents and irradiation.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Hillamn Cancer Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.



Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide, is often diagnosed at late stages and responds poorly to conventional therapies, including chemotherapy and irradiation. A great majority of lung tumors are defective in the p53 pathway, which plays an important role in regulating apoptotic response to anticancer agents. PUMA was recently identified as an essential mediator of DNA damage-induced and p53-dependent apoptosis. In this study, we investigated whether the regulation of PUMA by anticancer agents is abrogated in lung cancer cells and whether PUMA expression suppresses growth of lung cancer cells and/or sensitizes lung cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents and irradiation through induction of apoptosis.


The expression of PUMA was examined in lung cancer cells with different p53 status treated with chemotherapeutic agents. An adenovirus expressing PUMA (Ad-PUMA), alone or in combination with chemotherapeutic agents or gamma-irradiation, was used to treat lung cancer cells. The growth inhibitory and apoptotic effects of PUMA in vitro and in vivo were examined. The mechanisms of PUMA-mediated growth suppression and apoptosis were investigated through analysis of caspase activation and release of mitochondrial apoptogenic proteins. The cytotoxicities of PUMA on cancer and normal/nontransformed cells were compared. The efficacy of PUMA and p53 in suppressing the growth of lung cancer cells was also compared.


We showed that the induction of PUMA by chemotherapeutic agents is abolished in p53-deficient lung cancer cells. PUMA expression resulted in potent growth suppression of lung cancer cells and suppressed xenograft tumor growth in vivo through induction of apoptosis. Low dose of Ad-PUMA significantly sensitized lung cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents and gamma-irradiation through induction of apoptosis. The effects of PUMA are mediated by enhanced caspase activation and release of cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor into the cytosol. Furthermore, PUMA seems to be selectively toxic to cancer cells and more efficient than p53 in suppressing lung cancer cell growth.


Our findings indicate that PUMA is an important modulator of therapeutic responses of lung cancer cells and is potentially useful as a sensitizer in lung cancer therapy.

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