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Fowler Award Presentation: Effects of ErbB2 Signaling on the Response of Vestibular Schwannoma Cells to γ-Irradiation


  • Editor's Note: This Manuscript was accepted for publication December 3, 2007. Support: This work was supported by NIH KO8 DC006211 and Department of Defense NF050193.


Objective: For vestibular schwannomas (VSs) that require treatment, options are limited to microsurgery or irradiation (IR). Development of alternative therapies that augment or replace microsurgery or IR would benefit patients not suitable for current therapies. This study explored the ability of ErbB2 inhibitors to modulate the effects of IR on VS cells.

Study Design: Prospective study using primary cultures derived from human VSs.

Methods: Primary cultures of VS cells were derived from acutely resected tumors. Cultures received single escalating doses (15–40 Gy) of γ-irradiation from a 137Cs γ-irradiation source. Cell proliferation was determined by BrdU uptake and apoptosis by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL). Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and PD158780 were independently used to inhibit ErbB2 signaling while neuregulin-1β (NRG-1) was used to activate ErbB2.

Results: IR induces VS cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in doses greater than 20 Gy, demonstrating that VS cells are relatively radioresistant. This radioresistance likely arises from their low proliferative capacity as a sublethal dose of IR (10 Gy) strongly induces deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage evidenced by histone H2AX phosphorylation. Inhibition of ErbB2, which decreases VS cell proliferation, protects VS cells from radiation-induced apoptosis, while NRG-1, an ErbB2 ligand and VS cell mitogen, increases radiation-induced VS cell apoptosis.

Conclusions: Compared with many neoplastic conditions, VS cells are relatively radioresistant. The radio-protective effect of ErbB2 inhibitors implies that the sensitivity of VS cells to IR depends on their proliferative capacity. These results hold important implications for current and future treatment strategies.