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Radiother Oncol. 2011 Jun;99(3):339-43. doi: 10.1016/j.radonc.2011.05.070. Epub 2011 Jun 23.

Inhibition of STAT-3 results in greater cetuximab sensitivity in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA.



The inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFr) with the monoclonal antibody cetuximab reduces cell proliferation and survival which correlates with increased DNA damage. Since the signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT-3) is involved in the EGFr-induced signaling pathway, we hypothesized that depletion of STAT-3 may augment cetuximab-induced processes in human head and neck cancer cells.


Human head and neck squamous carcinoma cells (UM-SCC-5) were transfected with short hairpin RNA (shRNA) against STAT-3 (STAT3-2.4 and 2.9 cells). A mutated form of this shRNA was transfected for a control (NEG4.17 cells). Radiosensitivity was assessed by a standard colony formation assay. Proliferation was assessed by daily cell counts following treatment and apoptosis was assessed by an annexin V-FITC assay. The alkaline comet assay was used to assess DNA damage.


The STAT-3 knockdown cells (STAT3-2.4 and STAT3-2.9 cells) demonstrated enhanced radiosensitivity compared to control NEG4.17 cells, which correlated with increased apoptosis. Also, the STAT-3 knockdown cells demonstrated decreased proliferation with cetuximab treatments compared to control cells (NEG4.17). The increased cetuximab sensitivity of the STAT-3 knockdown cells correlated with increased apoptosis and DNA damage compared to control cells (NEG4.17).


These studies revealed that the greater anti-proliferative effects and increased cytotoxicity of cetuximab in the STAT3-2.4 and STAT3-2.9 cells compared to control NEG4.17 cells, may be a result of STAT3-mediated effects on cellular apoptosis and DNA damage.

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