Autophagy is frequently activated in radioresistant cancer cells. Rapamycin, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor, activates autophagy but enhances radiosensitivity. The mechanism of these actions by which such opposing functions coexist was investigated on radiation-resistant cancer cell lines (AMC-HN-9 and U-87) and the antitumor activity was evaluated in mice bearing xenografts of the cancer cells. Enhanced autophagic flux induced by radiation returned to untreated control levels. Treatment of the cancer cells with rapamycin leads to the potentiation and prolongation of radiation-induced autophagy, the increases in senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity, heterochromatin formation, and irreversible growth arrest. Furthermore, rapamycine resulted in a tumor regrowth delay and increased the level of β-galactosidase staining and the expression of heterochromatin markers in irradiated xenografts. These results suggest that even though autophagy is a survival mechanism in radioresistant cells, a persistent activation of autophagy by mTOR inhibitor induces premature senescence in these cells, eventually making the cells radiosensitive. Our data suggest a novel mechanism by which an inhibition of mTOR pathway increases autophagy but paradoxically increases radiosensitivity in radioresistant cancer cells.

Citation Format: Hae Yun Nam, Myung Woul Han, Hyo Won Chang, Yoon Sun Lee, Myungjin Lee, Mi Ra Kim, Hyang Ju Lee, Ji Yung Jeoung, So Young Moon, Hyo Jung Kim, Sang Yoon Kim, Seong Who Kim. Rapamycin increases radiosensitivity of cancer cells by induction of premature senescence. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2013 Apr 6-10; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2013;73(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 81. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2013-81