Molecular oncology

5-Fluorouracil preferentially sensitizes mutant KRAS non-small cell lung carcinoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis.

PMID 26130327


Mutations in the KRAS gene are very common in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but effective therapies targeting KRAS have yet to be developed. Interest in tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), a potent inducer of cell death, has increased following the observation that TRAIL can selectively kill a wide variety of human cancer cells without killing normal cells both in vitro and in xenograft models. However, results from clinical trials of TRAIL-based therapy are disappointingly modest at best and many have demonstrated a lack of therapeutic benefit. Current research has focused on selecting a subpopulation of cancer patients who may benefit from TRAIL-based therapy and identifying best drugs to work with TRAIL. In the current study, we found that NSCLC cells with a KRAS mutation were highly sensitive to treatment with TRAIL and 5-fluorouracil (5FU). Compared with other chemotherapeutic agents, 5FU displayed the highest synergy with TRAIL in inducing apoptosis in mutant KRAS NSCLC cells. We also found that, on a mechanistic level, 5FU preferentially repressed survivin expression and induced expression of TRAIL death receptor 5 to sensitize NSCLC cells to TRAIL. The combination of low-dose 5FU and TRAIL strongly inhibited xenograft tumor growth in mice. Our results suggest that the combination of TRAIL and 5FU may be beneficial for patients with mutant KRAS NSCLC.