Background and purpose Esophageal cancer has a persistently low 5-year survival rate and has recently been classified as a cancer of unmet need by Cancer Research UK. Consequently, new approaches to therapy are urgently required. Here, we tested the hypothesis that an ATR inhibitor, VX-970, used in combination with standard therapies for esophageal cancer could improve treatment outcome. Material and methods Using esophageal cancer cell lines we evaluated the efficacy of combining VX-970 with cisplatin and carboplatin in vitro and with radiation in vitro and in vivo. Radiation experiments were also carried out in hypoxic conditions to mimic the tumor microenvironment. Results Combining VX-970 with cisplatin, carboplatin and radiation increased tumor cell kill in vitro. A significant tumor growth delay was observed when VX-970 was combined with radiotherapy in vivo. Conclusions VX-970 is an effective chemo/radiosensitizer which could be readily integrated in the current treatment paradigm to improve the treatment response in esophageal cancer and we plan to test it prospectively in the forthcoming phase I dose escalation safety study combining the ATR inhibitor VX-970 with chemoradiotherapy in esophageal cancer (EudraCT number: 2015-003965-27).
Leszczynska, K. B., Dobrynin, G., Leslie, R. E., Ient, J., Boumelha, A. J., Senra, J. M., … Hammond, E. M. (2016). Preclinical testing of an Atr inhibitor demonstrates improved response to standard therapies for esophageal cancer. Radiotherapy and Oncology, 121(2), 232–238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.radonc.2016.10.023