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Nitric Oxide. 2008 Sep;19(2):164-9. doi: 10.1016/j.niox.2008.04.015. Epub 2008 Apr 24.

Hypoxic tumor cell radiosensitization through nitric oxide.

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UZ Brussel, Oncologisch Centrum, Dienst Radiotherapie, Laarbeeklaan 101, B-1090 Brussels, Belgium.


Hypoxia is a principal signature of the tumor microenvironment and is considered to be the most important cause of clinical radioresistance and local failure. Oxygen is so far the best radiosensitizer, but tumor oxygenation protocols are compromised by its metabolic consumption and therefore limited diffusion inside tumors. Many chemical radiosensitizers can selectively target hypoxic tumor cells, but their systemic toxicity compromises their adequate clinical use. NO is an efficient hypoxic radiosensitizer, as it may mimic the effects of oxygen on fixation of radiation-induced DNA damage, but the required levels cannot be obtained in vivo because of vasoactive complications. Our laboratory explored whether this problem may be overcome by endogenous production of NO inside tumors. We demonstrated that iNOS, activated by pro-inflammatory cytokines, is capable of radiosensitizing tumor cells through endogenous production of NO, at non-toxic extracellular concentrations. We observed that this radiosensitizing effect is transcriptionally controlled by hypoxia and by NF-kappaB. Tumor-associated immune cells may contribute to the iNOS-mediated radiosensitization by the generation of pro-inflammatory cytokines and NO, which may diffuse towards bystander tumor cells. Our findings indicate a rationale for combining immunostimulatory and radiosensitizing strategies in the future.

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