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Targeting radiation-resistant hypoxic tumour cells through ATR inhibition

Monteiro dos Santos Pires, Isabel; Olcina, M. M.; Anbalagan, S.; Pollard, J. R.; Reaper, P. M.; Charlton, P. A.; McKenna, W. G.; Hammond, E. M.


Isabel Monteiro dos Santos Pires

M. M. Olcina

S. Anbalagan

J. R. Pollard

P. M. Reaper

P. A. Charlton

W. G. McKenna

E. M. Hammond


Background:Most solid tumours contain regions of sub-optimal oxygen concentration (hypoxia). Hypoxic cancer cells are more resistant to radiotherapy and represent the most aggressive fraction of a tumour. It is therefore essential that strategies continue to be developed to target hypoxic cancer cells. Inhibition of the DNA damage response (DDR) might be an effective way of sensitising hypoxic tumour cells to radiotherapy. Methods:Here, we describe the cellular effects of pharmacological inhibition of the apical DDR kinase ATR (Ataxia Telangiectasia and Rad 3 related) with a highly selective inhibitor, VE-821, in hypoxic conditions and its potential as a radiosensitiser. Results:VE-821 was shown to inhibit ATR-mediated signalling in response to replication arrest induced by severe hypoxia. In these same conditions, VE-821 induced DNA damage and consequently increased Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated-mediated phosphorylation of H2AX and KAP1. Consistently, ATR inhibition sensitised tumour cell lines to a range of oxygen tensions. Most importantly, VE-821 increased radiation-induced loss of viability in hypoxic conditions. Using this inhibitor we have also demonstrated for the first time a link between ATR and the key regulator of the hypoxic response, HIF-1. HIF-1 stabilisation and transcriptional activity were both decreased in response to ATR inhibition. Conclusion:These findings suggest that ATR inhibition represents a novel strategy to target tumour cells in conditions relevant to pathophysiology and enhance the efficacy of radiotherapy.


Monteiro dos Santos Pires, I., Olcina, M. M., Anbalagan, S., Pollard, J. R., Reaper, P. M., Charlton, P. A., …Hammond, E. M. (2012). Targeting radiation-resistant hypoxic tumour cells through ATR inhibition. The British Journal of Cancer, 107(2), 291-299.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 10, 2012
Online Publication Date Jun 19, 2012
Publication Date Jul 10, 2012
Print ISSN 0007-0920
Electronic ISSN 1532-1827
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 107
Issue 2
Pages 291-299
Keywords ATR; hypoxia; replication; radiation; VE-821
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