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Int J Cancer. 2008 Nov 1;123(9):2013-9. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23721.

Acquired cisplatin resistance in the head-neck cancer cell line Cal27 is associated with decreased DKK1 expression and can partially be reversed by overexpression of DKK1.

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Pharmaceutical Biochemistry, Institute of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry, University of Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf, Germany.


Head and neck cancers are treated by a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. The clinical success of cisplatin-based chemotherapy, mostly in combination with 5-FU or a taxane, is however limited by multifactorial intrinsic or acquired resistance. So far, known genes involved in cisplatin resistance do not sufficiently allow the prediction of cancer chemosensitivity. Thus, the purpose of this study was to search for further genes involved in cisplatin resistance by differential gene expression analysis of the parental tongue cancer cell line Cal27 and its 10-fold more resistant sub-cell line Cal27cis, which was obtained by treating Cal27 with increasing concentrations of cisplatin. As found by the suppression subtractive hybridization, expression of DKK1, an inhibitor of canonical WNT signaling, was decreased in Cal27cis. Microarray analysis, qPCR and ELISA confirmed the approximately 2-fold difference in expression. Cisplatin treatment and serum starvation increased by 2-fold the secretion of DKK1 in Cal27 and Cal27cis, thus rendering DKK1-levels significantly different in both cell lines under basal and stress conditions. Recombinant overexpression of DKK1 in Cal27 and Cal27cis resulted in clonal cell lines, which were both 2.2- to 3-fold more sensitive toward cisplatin in cell viability (MTT) and in proliferation (BrdU) assays. In conclusion, acquired (10-fold) resistance of Cal27 against cisplatin is associated with decreased DKK1 expression and could partially be reversed by DKK1 overexpression, thus suggesting DKK1 and the WNT signaling pathway as a marker and target for cisplatin chemosensitivity.

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