BACKGROUND. Apoptosis is a therapeutic target for the elimination of cancer cells. As elevations in ceramide levels induce apoptosis, there is much excitement about the use of agents that elevate ceramide levels as novel chemotherapeutic agents. Ceramidases are enzymes involved in degradation of ceramide and inhibition of ceramidase has been proposed as a mechanism to increase ceramide levels. This study provides the first insight into the effect of B13, an inhibitor of acid ceramidase, on human prostate cancer cell lines and xenografts. METHODS. Cell death was evaluated by the trypan blue assay; apoptosis by the Apo2.7 apoptosis assay; and glutathione levels by HPLC. Tumors were irradiated with a dose of 5 Gy of X-rays (250 kVp, 15 mA, 2 Gy/min) and tumor volume was measured during the course of the experiment. At the conclusion of the experiment, tumor weight was determined and the tumors were evaluated histologically. RESULTS. B13 is an inducer of cell death, by apoptosis, in cultured prostate cancer cells. LNCaP and PC3 cells have different responsiveness to the enantiomers of B13. In LNCaP cells, the R enantiomer of B13 (10 μM) was significantly more effective than the S enantiomer at inducing cell death as determined by the trypan blue assay, culminating in approximately 90% cell death at 48 hr. In contrast, the same concentration of B13S induced <20% cell death at 48 hr. In PC3 cells, the S enantiomer was a more effective inducer of cell death, culminating in ∼30% cell death, relative to 14% for B13R in this model. Evaluation of induction of apoptosis by the Apo2.7 mitochondrial assay confirmed that this induction of cell death was by apoptosis. Concurrent with induction of apoptosis, glutathione levels drop in response to B13. Specifically, B13R caused a significant drop in glutathione levels in LNCaP cells, culminating in a reduction to 40% control values at 48 hr. In PC3 cells, in contrast, the drop in glutathione levels was more dramatic, culminating in a drop to 12% control values in response to B13S at 48 hr. The effects of B13R, however, were not significantly different from control values. In in vivo studies using a model of xenografted androgen-insensitive prostate cancer, B13 sensitized the tumors to the effects of radiation, resulting in a significant reduction in tumor volume and weight after treatment with the combination of B13 and radiation. Microscopic evaluation of the tumors indicated that apoptosis was the primary mechanism of this effect. CONCLUSIONS. Targeting ceramide pathways may be a novel treatment strategy for hormone refractory prostate cancer.
- Prostate cancer
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