PloS one

DNA methyltransferase inhibitors improve the effect of chemotherapeutic agents in SW48 and HT-29 colorectal cancer cells.

PMID 24676085


DNA methylation is an epigenetic phenomenon known to play an important role in the development and progression of human cancer. Enzyme responsible for this process is DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) that maintains an altered methylation pattern by copying it from parent to daughter DNA strands after replication. Aberrant methylation of the promoter regions of genes critical for normal cellular functions is potentially reversible. Therefore, inactivation of DNMT1 seems to be a valuable target for the development of cancer therapies. Currently, the most popular DNMT inhibitors (DNMTi) are cytidine analogues like 5-azacytidine, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (decitabine) and pyrimidin-2-one ribonucleoside (zebularine). In colorectal cancer, epigenetic modifications play an essential role at each step of carcinogenesis. Therefore, we have addressed the hypothesis that DNA methyltransferase inhibitors may potentiate inhibitory effects of classical chemotherapeutic agents, such as oxaliplatin and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), commonly used in colorectal cancer therapy. Here, our report shows that DNMTi can have positive interactions with standard chemotherapeutics in colorectal cancer treatment. Using pharmacological models for the drug-drug interaction analysis, we have revealed that the combination of decitabine with 5-FU or oxaliplatin shows the most attractive interaction (synergism), whereas the effect of zebularine in combinations with chemotherapeutics is moderate and may be depended on genetic/epigenetic background of a cell line or secondary drug used in combination. Our results suggest that DNMTi administered in combination with standard chemotherapeutics might improve the treatment of patients with colorectal cancers.