Additive effect of sirolimus and anti-death receptor 5 agonistic antibody against hepatocellular carcinoma



Norman M. Kneteman MD, MSc, FRCSC, Department of Surgery, University of Alberta, 2D4.44 Mackenzie Center, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2B7, Canada

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Background & Aims

Despite careful patient selection, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) recurs in 10–20% of cases after liver transplantation, and the use of potent adjuvant anticancer drugs would be welcome. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficiency of a combined therapy of rapamycin (sirolimus) and anti-death receptor (DR)5 monoclonal antibody (mAb) on HCC.


We first assessed the side effects of anti-DR5 mAb administration in vivo by giving various doses of anti-DR5 mAb. Cell proliferation assays were then performed using mouse Hepa1-6 cells or human Huh7 cells to quantify the relative cell viability under various concentrations of sirolimus, anti-DR5 mAb or a combination. Next, one million Hepa1-6 cells were transplanted into C.B17-SCID-beige mice subcutaneously, and four groups were created: (1) untreated, (2) anti-DR5 mAb alone, (3) sirolimus alone and (4) anti-DR5 mAb + sirolimus.


Anti-DR5 mAb (200 and 300 μg/day) induced liver dysfunction with partial necrosis of the liver, but 100 μg/day was well tolerated with transaminitis, but normal bilirubin and only minor histological liver damage. In vitro, anti-DR5 mAb lysed Hepa1-6 and Huh7 cells in a dose-dependent manner, and combinations of sirolimus and anti-DR5 mAb demonstrated an additive effect. In vivo studies demonstrated that tumour sizes were significantly smaller in the combined therapy group than in the monotherapy groups.


Combining sirolimus and low-dose anti-DR5 mAb has a significant effect against HCC. This strategy represents a potential novel approach for the management of HCC.