Recombinant human stem cell factor (SCF) binds to the c-kit receptor on human bone marrow progenitor cells and enhances their survival following irradiation. Since the c-kit receptor has also been detected on malignant cells, experiments were performed to study the effect of SCF on the proliferation and radiation survival of a variety of both c-kit-positive and -negative human tumor cell lines using [3H]thymidine incorporation and colony formation assays. The addition of SCF to both c-kit-positive and -negative cell line cultures had no significant effect on the stimulation index (in [3H]thymidine assay). In contrast, colony formation by H69 (small cell lung cancer cell line), H128 (small cell lung cancer cell line), and HEL (erythroid leukemia cell line) cells was enhanced by SCF in a dose-dependent manner, but SCF did not promote the in vivo growth of H128 xenograft tumors in terms of graft rate, time from implantation to tumor detection, or tumor size. Furthermore, SCF did not significantly increase the surviving fraction of either c-kit-positive or -negative cell lines following radiation, and there were no statistically significant differences between D0 [defined by the slope of the terminal exponential region of the two-component (single-hit multitarget model) survival curve where slope = 1/D0], Dq (quasithreshold dose), n (extrapolation number), α, and β values for any of the cell lines studied that were irradiated with and without SCF. Finally, nude mice with transplanted human LG425 cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (c-kit positive) were treated with 10 Gy with or without SCF (100 µg/kg i.p. 20 h before, 2 h before, and 4 h after irradiation). There were no significant differences in the median tumor quadrupling time between groups that received either no treatment or SCF alone, or between groups treated with 10 Gy and SCF or 10 Gy alone (P > 0.05). These results are encouraging and suggest that SCF does not stimulate tumor cell proliferation in vivo or enhance the survival of tumor cells following irradiation.

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This work was supported in part by an American Cancer Society Career Development Award, a Lazard Faculty Scholarship, a gift from the Friends of Radiology, a grant from Amgen, Inc. and American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, Radiological Society of North America, and Ho-Tim-Stanley Ho-Li Ka Shing Fellowships.

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