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J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2018 May;144(5):809-819. doi: 10.1007/s00432-018-2600-1. Epub 2018 Feb 9.

Treatment with 5-azacitidine delay growth of glioblastoma xenografts: a potential new treatment approach for glioblastomas.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Charité University Hospital, Chariteplatz 1, 10117, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Neurosurgery, Ernst von Bergmann Hospital, Potsdam, Germany.
Department of Neurosurgery, Vivantes Hospital Berlin Neukölln, Berlin, Germany.
Institute of Neuropathology, University Hospital, Göttingen, Germany.
Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.
Department of Neurosurgery, Charité University Hospital, Chariteplatz 1, 10117, Berlin, Germany.
Experimental Pharmacology and Oncology GmbH, Berlin, Germany.
Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, Germany.



Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most lethal primary brain tumor in adults. The epigenetically active ribonucleoside analog 5-azacitidine is a new therapy option that changes tumor cell chromatin, which is frequently modified by methylation and deacetylation in malignant gliomas.


In vitro, we analyzed cell viability, cell apoptosis, and migration of human GBM cells. In vivo, we established subcutaneous and intracerebral GBM mouse models originating from U87MG, U373MG, and primary GBM cells as well as one patient-derived xenograft. Xenografts were treated with 5-azacitidine as well as valproic acid, bevacizumab, temozolomide, and phosphate buffered saline. The tumor sizes and Ki67 proliferation indices were determined. Glioma angiogenesis was examined immunohistochemically by expression analysis of endothelial cells (CD31) and pericytes (PDGFRβ).


In vitro, 5-azacitidine treatment significantly reduced human glioblastoma cell viability, increased cellular apoptosis, and reduced cellular migration. In vivo, 5-azacitidine significantly reduced growth in two intracerebral GBM models. Notably, this was also shown for a xenograft established from a patient surgery sample; whereas, epigenetically acting valproic acid did not show any growth reduction. Highly vascularized tumors responded to treatment, whereas low-vascularized xenografts showed no response. Furthermore, intracerebral glioblastomas treated with 5-azacitidine showed a clearly visible reduction of tumor angiogenesis and lower numbers of endothelial cells and tumor vessel pericytes.


Our data show significant growth inhibition as well as antiangiogenic effects in intracerebral as well as patient-derived GBM xenografts. This encourages to investigate in detail the multifactorial effects of 5-azacitidine on glioblastomas.


5-Azacitidine; Epigenetics; Glioblastoma; Temozolomide; Valproic acid; Xenografts

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