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Keywords:

  • colorectal cancer;
  • Nox1;
  • reactive oxygen species;
  • oxaliplatin;
  • cetuximab

Background and purpose:  Oxaliplatin is the first platinum-based compound effective in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Oxaliplatin combined with cetuximab for metastatic colorectal cancer is under evaluation. The preliminary results seem controversial, particularly for the use of cetuximab in K-Ras mutated patients. K-Ras mutation is known to affect redox homeostasis. Here we evaluated how the efficacy of oxaliplatin alone or combined with cetuximab varied according to the Ras mutation and redox status in a panel of colorectal tumour cell lines.

Experimental approach:  Viability was evaluated by methylthiazoletetrazolium assay, reactive oxygen species production by DCFDA and lucigenin on HT29-D4, Caco-2, SW480 and SW620 cell lines.

Key results:  Combination of oxaliplatin and cetuximab was less cytotoxic than oxaliplatin alone in colorectal cells harbouring wild-type Ras and membrane expression of receptors for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), such as HT29-D4 and Caco-2 cells. In contrast, cetuximab did not affect oxaliplatin efficiency in cells harbouring K-RasV12 mutation, irrespective of membrane EGFR expression (SW620 and SW480 cells). Transfection of HT29-D4 with K-RasV12 decreased oxaliplatin IC50 and impaired cetuximab sensitivity, without affecting expression of membrane EGFR compared with HT29-D4 control. Oxaliplatin efficacy relies on endogenous production of H2O2. Cetuximab inhibits H2O2 production inhibiting the EGFR/Nox1 NADPH oxidase pathway. Oxaliplatin efficacy was impaired by short hairpin RNA for Nox1 and by catalase (H2O2 scavenger).

Conclusions and implications:  Cetuximab limited oxaliplatin efficiency by affecting the redox status of cancer cells through Nox1. Such combined therapy might be improved by controlling H2O2 elimination.