Inhibition of DNA-PK may improve response to neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy in rectal cancer

Academic Article


  • Treatment of locally advanced rectal cancer includes chemoradiation and surgery, but patient response to treatment is variable. Patients who have a complete response have improved outcomes; therefore, there is a critical need to identify mechanisms of resistance to circumvent them. DNA-PK is involved in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks caused by radiation, which we found to be increased in rectal cancer after treatment. We hypothesized that inhibiting this complex with a DNA-PK inhibitor, Peposertib (M3814), would improve treatment response. We assessed pDNA-PK in a rectal cancer cell line and mouse model utilizing western blotting, viability assays, γH2AX staining, and treatment response. The three treatment groups were: standard of care (SOC) (5-fluorouracil (5FU) with radiation), M3814 with radiation, and M3814 with SOC. SOC treatment of rectal cancer cells increased pDNA-PK protein and increased γH2AX foci, but this was abrogated by the addition of M3814. Mice with CT26 tumors treated with M3814 with SOC did not differ in average tumor size but individual tumor response varied. The clinical complete response rate improved significantly with the addition of M3814 but pathological complete response did not. We investigated alterations in DNA repair and found that Kap1 and pATM are increased after M3814 addition suggesting this may mediate resistance. When the DNA-PK inhibitor, M3814, is combined with SOC treatment, response improved in some rectal cancer models but an increase in other repair mechanisms likely diminishes the effect. A clinical trial is ongoing to further explore the role of DNA-PK inhibition in rectal cancer treatment.
  • Published In

  • Neoplasia  Journal
  • Neoplasia  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Smithson M; Irwin RK; Williams G; McLeod MC; Choi EK; Ganguly A; Pepple A; Cho CS; Willey CD; Leopold J
  • Start Page

  • 53
  • End Page

  • 61
  • Volume

  • 25