Introduction: Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive thoracic cancer with a poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) are a noninvasive, locoregionally, antineoplastic treatment, delivering low intensity (1-3 V/cm), intermediate frequency (100-500 kHz), alternating electric fields, that has demonstrated a promising median overall survival in patients with MPM without increases in systemic toxicity (STELLAR clinical trial). Accordingly, TTFields with pemetrexed and a platinum-based chemotherapy agent received FDA-approval as first line therapy for MPM. While efficacy of TTFields for MPM treatment is well-established, the underlying mechanism of action needs further elucidation.

Methods: Human MPM cell lines (NCI-H2052 and MSTO-211H) were treated using various TTFields frequencies to assess the most effective frequency. The effect of optimal frequency TTFields on levels of DNA double strand breaks (DSB) was examined by fluorescent microscopy detection of γH2AX foci, and the levels of DNA damage repair proteins was evaluated by immunoblotting. The combined cytotoxic effect of TTFields with cisplatin or pemetrexed was tested in vitro, and efficacy of TTFields in combination with both chemotherapeutic agents was examined in C57BL/6 mice injected subcutaneously with RN-5 cells, by measuring tumor volume and through detection for DNA damage within the tumor.

Results: The optimal TTFields frequency in both MPM cell lines was 150 kHz, demonstrating significant cytotoxicity and increases in formation of DNA DSB. These effects were associated with reduced expression of proteins from the Fanconi Anemia (FA) repair pathway for DNA repair - FANCA, FANCD2, FANCJ, and BRCA1. Co-treatment of TTFields with cisplatin or pemetrexed significantly increased treatment efficacy versus each treatment alone, with an additive effect shown by the TTFields-pemetrexed combination, and a tendency towards synergism displayed for TTFields-cisplatin co-administration. In animal models, tumor volume fold increase was significantly decreased for co-treatment with TTFields and chemotherapy (cisplatin + pemetrexed) versus the control, showing also increased DNA damage within the tumor bed in comparison to control or chemotherapy alone.

Conclusions: The results presented here demonstrate that the efficacy of TTFields for treatment of MPM is associated with reduced expression of FA pathway proteins and increased DNA DSB. This effect may account for the synergistic effect seen for TTFields-cisplatin co-treatment, as cisplatin is known to cause DNA damage that requires the FA pathway for repair. This research provides further insights on the mechanism of action of TTFields in MPM, a treatment already approved against this malignancy.

Citation Format: Helena Mumblat, Antonia Martinez, Ori Braten, Mijal Munster, Eyal Dor-On, Rosa S. Schneiderman, Yaara Porat, Tali Voloshin, Shiri Davidi, Roni Blatt, Anna Shteingauz, Catherine Tempel-Brami, Einav Zeevi, Carolina Lajterer, Yuval Shmueli, Shiri Danilov, Adi Haber, Moshe Giladi, Adrian Kinzel, Uri Weinberg, Yoram Palti. Efficacy of Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) in mesothelioma is associated with reduced capacity for DNA damage repair [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr 1186.