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PURPOSE: Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors potentiate radiation therapy in preclinical models of human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and other types of cancer. However, the mechanisms underlying radiosensitization in vivo are incompletely understood. Herein, we investigated the impact of hypoxia on radiosensitization by the PARP inhibitor olaparib in human NSCLC xenograft models. METHODS AND MATERIALS: NSCLC Calu-6 and Calu-3 cells were irradiated in the presence of olaparib or vehicle under normoxic (21% O2) or hypoxic (1% O2) conditions. In vitro radiosensitivity was assessed by clonogenic survival assay and γH2AX foci assay. Established Calu-6 and Calu-3 subcutaneous xenografts were treated with olaparib (50 mg/kg, daily for 3 days), radiation (10 Gy), or both. Tumors (n=3/group) were collected 24 or 72 hours after the first treatment. Immunohistochemistry was performed to assess hypoxia (carbonic anhydrase IX [CA9]), vessels (CD31), DNA double strand breaks (DSB) (γH2AX), and apoptosis (cleaved caspase 3 [CC3]). The remaining xenografts (n=6/group) were monitored for tumor growth. RESULTS: In vitro, olaparib showed a greater radiation-sensitizing effect in Calu-3 and Calu-6 cells in hypoxic conditions (1% O2). In vivo, Calu-3 tumors were well-oxygenated, whereas Calu-6 tumors had extensive regions of hypoxia associated with down-regulation of the homologous recombination protein RAD51. Olaparib treatment increased unrepaired DNA DSB (P<.001) and apoptosis (P<.001) in hypoxic cells of Calu-6 tumors following radiation, whereas it had no significant effect on radiation-induced DNA damage response in nonhypoxic cells of Calu-6 tumors or in the tumor cells of well-oxygenated Calu-3 tumors. Consequently, olaparib significantly increased radiation-induced growth inhibition in Calu-6 tumors (P<.001) but not in Calu-3 tumors. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that hypoxia potentiates the radiation-sensitizing effects of olaparib by contextual synthetic killing, and that tumor hypoxia may be a potential biomarker for selecting patients who may get the greatest benefit from the addition of olaparib to radiation therapy.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys

Publication Date





772 - 781


Animals, Apoptosis, Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung, Cell Hypoxia, Cell Line, Tumor, DNA Damage, Female, Humans, Lung Neoplasms, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Phthalazines, Piperazines, Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors, Rad51 Recombinase, Radiation-Sensitizing Agents, Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays