PloS one

Evaluation of connectivity map-discovered celastrol as a radiosensitizing agent in a murine lung carcinoma model: Feasibility study of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging.

PMID 28542649


This study was designed to identify potential radiosensitizing (RS) agents for combined radio- and chemotherapy in a murine model of human lung carcinoma, and to evaluate the in vivo effect of the RS agents using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI). Radioresistance-associated genes in A549 and H460 cells were isolated on the basis of their gene expression profiles. Celastrol was selected as a candidate RS by using connectivity mapping, and its efficacy in lung cancer radiotherapy was tested. Mice inoculated with A549 carcinoma cells were treated with single ionizing radiation (SIR), single celastrol (SC), or celastrol-combined ionizing radiation (CCIR). Changes in radiosensitization over time were assessed using DW-MRI before and at 3, 6, and 12 days after therapy initiation. The tumors were stained with hematoxylin and eosin at 6 and 12 days after therapy. The percentage change in the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) value in the CCIR group was significantly higher than that in the SC and SIR group on the 12th day (Mann-Whitney U-test, p = 0.05; Kruskal-Wallis test, p < 0.05). A significant correlation (Spearman's rho correlation coefficient of 0.713, p = 0.001) was observed between the mean percentage tumor necrotic area and the mean ADC values after therapy initiation. These results suggest that the novel radiosensitizing agent celastrol has therapeutic effects when combined with ionizing radiation (IR), thereby maximizing the therapeutic effect of radiation in non-small cell lung carcinoma. In addition, DW-MRI is a useful noninvasive tool to monitor the effects of RS agents by assessing cellularity changes and sequential therapeutic responses.