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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1996 Jan 15;34(2):375-80.

Ethacrynic acid: a novel radiation enhancer in human carcinoma cells.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.



Because agents that interfere with thiol metabolism and glutathione S-transferase (GST) functions have been shown to enhance antitumor effects of alkylating agents in vitro and in vivo, the present study was conceived on the basis that an inhibitor of GST would enhance the radiation response of some selected human carcinoma cells. Ethacrynic acid (EA) was chosen for the study because it is an effective inhibitor of GST and is a well known diuretic in humans.


Experiments were carried out with well-established human tumor cells in culture growing in Eagle's minimum essential medium (MEM) supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum (FCS). Cell lines used were MCF-7, MCF-7 adriamycin resistant (AR) cells (breast carcinoma), HT-29 cells (colon carcinoma), DU-145 cells (prostate carcinoma), and U-373 cells (malignant glioma). Cell survival following the exposure of cells to drug alone, radiation alone, and a combined treatment was assayed by determining the colony-forming ability of single plated cells in culture to obtain dose-survival curves. The drug enhancement ratio was correlated with levels of GST.


The cytotoxicity of EA was most pronounced in MCF-7, U-373, and DU-145 cells compared to MCF-7 AR and HT-29 cells. The levels of GST activity were found to be lower in those EA-sensitive cells. A significant radiation enhancement was obtained with EA-sensitive cells exposed to nontoxic concentrations of the drug immediately before or after irradiation. The sensitizer enhancement ratio (SER) of MCF-7 cells was 1.55 with EA (20 micrograms/ml), while the SER of MCF-7 AR was less than 1.1. Based on five different human tumor cells, a clear inverse relationship was demonstrated between the magnitude of SER and GST levels of tumor cells prior to the combined treatment.


The present results suggest that EA, which acts as both a reversible and irreversible inhibitor of GST activity, could significantly enhance the radiation response of human cancer cells and the level of GST in tumor cells may predict the magnitude of radiation enhancement with EA. Ethacrynic acid would be an excellent drug as a radiosensitizer for further in vivo tumor study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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