Parthenolide selectively sensitizes prostate tumor tissue to radiotherapy while protecting healthy tissues in vivo

Katherine Morel, Rebecca Ormsby, Eva Bezak, Christopher Sweeney, Pamela Sykes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Radiotherapy is widely used in cancer treatment, however the benefits can be limited by radiation-induced damage to neighboring normal tissues. Parthenolide (PTL) exhibits anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties and selectively induces radiosensitivity in prostate cancer cell lines, while protecting primary prostate epithelial cell lines from radiation-induced damage. Low doses of radiation have also been shown to protect from subsequent high-dose-radiation-induced apoptosis as well as DNA damage. These properties of PTL and low-dose radiation could be used to improve radiotherapy by killing more tumor cells and less normal cells. Sixteen-week-old male Transgenic Adenocarcinoma of the Mouse Prostate (TRAMP) and C57BL/6J mice were treated with PTL (40 mg/kg), dimethylaminoparthenolide (DMAPT, a PTL analogue with increased bioavailability) (100 mg/kg), or vehicle control three times over one week prior to combinations of low (10 mGy) and high (6 Gy) doses of whole-body X-irradiation. Tissues were analyzed for apoptosis at a range of time points up to 72 h postirradiation. Both PTL and DMAPT protected normal tissues, but not prostate tumor tissues, from a significant proportion of high-dose-radiation-induced apoptosis. DMAPT provided superior protection compared to PTL in normal dorsolateral prostate (71.7% reduction, P = 0.026), spleen (48.2% reduction, P = 0.0001) and colorectal tissue (38.0% reduction, P = 0.0002), and doubled radiation-induced apoptosis in TRAMP prostate tumor tissue (101.3% increase, P = 0.039). Both drugs induced the greatest radiosensitivity in TRAMP prostate tissue in areas with higher grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) lesions. A 10 mGy dose delivered 3 h prior to a 6 Gy dose induced a radioadaptive apoptosis response in normal C57Bl/6J prostate (28.4% reduction, P = 0.045) and normal TRAMP spleen (13.6% reduction, P = 0.047), however the low-dose-adaptive radioprotection did not significantly add to the PTL/DMAPT-induced protection in normal tissues, nor did it affect tumor kill. These results support the use of the more bioavailable DMAPT and low-dose radiation, alone or in combination as useful radioprotectors of normal tissues to alleviate radiotherapy-induced side-effects in patients. The enhanced radiosensitisation in prostate tissues displaying high-grade PIN suggests that DMAPT also holds promise for targeted therapy of advanced prostate cancer, which may go on to become metastatic. The redox mechanisms involved in the differential radioprotection observed here suggest that increased radiotherapy efficacy by DMAPT is more broadly applicable to a range of cancer types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-512
Number of pages12
JournalRadiation Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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