The efficacy of approaches in which vascular disrupting agents (VDA) are used in combination with conventional chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer might be improved if there were a better understanding of the cellular and molecular changes induced in normal and malignant cells as a result of VDA exposure. Toward this goal, murine endothelial cells were treated in vitro with ANG501, a novel stilbene VDA developed in our laboratory, and alterations in gene expression determined by genome-wide microarray analysis and subsequently confirmed by Western blot analysis. Among the genes that were shown to be induced upon brief exposure to non-cytotoxic doses of ANG501 were several involved in the control of cell cycle progression and apoptosis, including p21Waf1 and the heat shock/stress proteins hsp25, hsp70 and anti-B-crystallin. Reflecting such induction, functional studies confirmed that normal cell cycling is temporarily inhibited following treatment with ANG501 such that the majority of cells accumulate at the radiation-sensitive G2/M phase of the cell cycle at 6 hr. The effects were transient and by 24 hr normal cell cycling had largely resumed. Combination experiments confirmed that endothelial cells treated 6 hr previously with ANG501 were more readily killed by radiation. Importantly, significant effects were evident at clinically relevant radiation doses. Taken together these findings emphasize the need to consider the radiosensitizing activity of VDAs when developing therapies in which these promising compounds are used in combination with radiation.
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