Single agent activity of B02 in HNSCC cell lines, Cell growth assay in HNSCC cells, Cell growth assay in HNSCC cells, and Synergy between B02 and AZD1775 is mediated in part through forced activation of CDK1 and inhibition of Chk1 associated with impaired Rad51-mediated homologous recombination repair in HNSCC cells.
ARTICLE ABSTRACTDespite advances in surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, there are limited treatment options for advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and survival remains very poor. Therefore, effective therapies are desperately needed. Recently, selective exploitation of DNA damage and replication stress responses has become a novel approach for cancer treatment. Wee1 kinase and Rad51 recombinase are two proteins involved in regulating replication stress and homologous recombination repair in cancer cells. In this study, we investigated the combined effect of Rad51 inhibitor (B02) and Wee1 inhibitor (AZD1775) in vitro and in vivo in various HNSCC cell lines. Clonogenic survival assays demonstrated that B02 synergized with AZD1775 in vitro in all HNSCC cell lines tested. The synergy between these drugs was associated with forced CDK1 activation and reduced Chk1 phosphorylation leading to induction of excessive DNA damage and replication stress, culminating in aberrant mitosis and apoptosis. Our results showed that elevated Rad51 mRNA expression correlated with worse survival in HNSCC patients with HPV-positive tumors. The combination of B02 and AZD1775 significantly inhibited tumor growth in vivo in mice bearing HPV-positive HNSCC tumors as compared to HPV-negative HNSCC. This differential sensitivity appears to be linked to HPV-positive tumors having more in vivo endogenous replication stress owing to transformation by E6 and E7 oncogenes. Furthermore, addition of B02 radiosensitized the HPV-negative HNSCC tumors in vitro and in vivo. In conclusion, our data implicate that a novel rational combination with Rad51 and Wee1 inhibitors holds promise as synthetic lethal therapy, particularly in high-risk HPV-positive HNSCC.