Journal article Open Access

The evaluation of the efficacy and potential genotoxic hazard of combined SAHA and 5-FU treatment in the chemoresistant colorectal cancer cell lines

Lucia Balintova; Miroslava Matuskova; Alena Gabelova

5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is an essential chemotherapeutic drug for colorectal cancer (CRC) treatment. However, the frequent development of drug resistance has dramatically affected its clinical use. Therefore, novel treatment strategies are critical to improving patient outcomes. Herein, we investigated the ability of the epigenetic drug SAHA to increase the sensitivity of chemoresistant CRC cells to 5-FU. In addition, we evaluated the potential genotoxic risk of SAHA+5-FU combination treatment. As a model system, we used three CRC cell lines, HT-29, SW480, and HT-29/EGFP/FUR, differing in their resistance to 5-FU. CRC cell lines were exposed to sub-toxic SAHA concentrations for 24 h, followed by a 48 h treatment with 5-FU. The cytotoxicity of SAHA, 5-FU, and SAHA+5-FU was measured by the MTT test, the genotoxicity by the comet assay, and the micronucleus test. The apoptotic/necrotic activity was assessed using morphological criteria.

We found a synergic decrease in the viability of HT-29 and SW480 cells, but not the most resistant HT-29/ EGFP/FUR cells after combined SAHA+5-FU exposure compared to 5-FU. Remarkably, SAHA most efficiently induced apoptosis in HT-29/EGFP/FUR cells compared to HT-29 and SW480 cells. Combined SAHA+5-FU treatment resulted in a synergistic increase in apoptotic/necrotic cells in HT-29 cell line, while rather additive/ sub-additive effect was determined in the SW480 and HT-29/EGFP/FUR cells. At the same time, however, a synergistic rise in micronuclei was found in CRC cell lines (at least at some concentrations). We have shown that SAHA can sensitize CRC cells to 5-FU; therefore, epigenetic and convential drug combinations could be beneficial for the patients. However, the increase in micronucleus formation after combined SAHA+5-FU treatment indicates a potential health hazard. The clastogenic activity could contribute to cancer heterogeneity, favoring progeny of such aberrant cells to clonal expansion. Therefore, developing new specific epigenetic drugs or nanocarriers for targeted drug delivery might reduce the potential genotoxic risk.

This study was supported by the Slovak Academy of Sciences under the Joint Research Program SAS – TÜBITAK SBAG (project code: 118S126) 2018 – project TAcTiCAI; and European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 857381, project VISION (Strategies to strengthen scientific excellence and innovation capacity for early diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancers).
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