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Tumor cells might resist therapy with ionizing radiation (IR) by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) of IR-induced double-strand breaks. One of the key players in NHEJ is DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK). The catalytic subunit of DNA-PK, i.e. DNA-PKcs, can be inhibited with the small-molecule inhibitor NU7026. In the current study, the in vitro potential of NU7026 to radiosensitize neuroblastoma cells was investigated. DNA-PKcs is encoded by the PRKDC (protein kinase, DNA-activated, catalytic polypeptide) gene. We showed that PRKDC levels were enhanced in neuroblastoma patients and correlated with a more advanced tumor stage and poor prognosis, making DNA-PKcs an interesting target for radiosensitization of neuroblastoma tumors. Optimal dose finding for combination treatment with NU7026 and IR was performed using NGP cells. One hour pre-treatment with 10 μM NU7026 synergistically sensitized NGP cells to 0.63 Gy IR. Radiosensitizing effects of NU7026 increased in time, with maximum effects observed from 96 h after IR-exposure on. Combined treatment of NGP cells with 10 μM NU7026 and 0.63 Gy IR resulted in apoptosis, while no apoptotic response was observed for either of the therapies alone. Inhibition of IR-induced DNA-PK activation by NU7026 confirmed the capability of NGP cells to, at least partially, resist IR by NHEJ. NU7026 also synergistically radiosensitized other neuroblastoma cell lines, while no synergistic effect was observed for low DNA-PKcs-expressing non-cancerous fibroblasts. Results obtained for NU7026 were confirmed by PRKDC knockdown in NGP cells. Taken together, the current study shows that DNA-PKcs is a promising target for neuroblastoma radiosensitization.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Apoptosis, Cell Line, Tumor, Chromones, DNA Damage, DNA End-Joining Repair, DNA-Activated Protein Kinase, DNA-Binding Proteins, Humans, Morpholines, Neuroblastoma, Nuclear Proteins, Radiation Tolerance, Radiation, Ionizing, Radiation-Sensitizing Agents