Hedgehog pathway inhibition radiosensitizes non-small cell lung cancers

November 20, 2012


Despite improvements in chemoradiation, local control remains a major clinical problem in locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The Hedgehog pathway has been implicated in tumor recurrence by promoting survival of tumorigenic precursors and through effects on tumor-associated stroma. Whether Hedgehog inhibition can affect radiation efficacy in vivo has not been reported.


We evaluated the effects of a targeted Hedgehog inhibitor (HhAntag) and radiation on clonogenic survival of human non-small cell lung cancer lines in vitro. Using an A549 cell line xenograft model, we examined tumor growth, proliferation, apoptosis, and gene expression changes after concomitant HhAntag and radiation. In a transgenic mouse model of Kras(G12D)-induced and Twist1-induced lung adenocarcinoma, we assessed tumor response to radiation and HhAntag by serial micro-computed tomography (CT) scanning.


In 4 human lung cancer lines in vitro, HhAntag showed little or no effect on radiosensitivity. By contrast, in both the human tumor xenograft and murine inducible transgenic models, HhAntag enhanced radiation efficacy and delayed tumor growth. By use of the human xenograft model to differentiate tumor and stromal effects, mouse stromal cells, but not human tumor cells, showed significant and consistent downregulation of Hedgehog pathway gene expression. This was associated with increased tumor cell apoptosis.


Targeted Hedgehog pathway inhibition can increase in vivo radiation efficacy in lung cancer preclinical models. This effect is associated with pathway suppression in tumor-associated stroma. These data support clinical testing of Hedgehog inhibitors as a component of multimodality therapy for locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

Zeng J, Aziz K, Chettiar ST, Aftab BT, Armour M, Gajula R, Gandhi N, Salih T, Herman JM, Wong J, Rudin CM, Tran PT & Hales RK.

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