Ultrasound-stimulated microbubbles enhancement of fractionated radiation for tumor treatment

Deepa, Sharma, Evan, McNabb, Niki, Law, Aaron, Cumal, Gregory J., Czarnota

BMC Cancer |

Background: Radiation therapy (XRT) causes numerous biological changes in tumor microenvironment. Radiation vascular response, due to endothelial disruption, can influence treatment outcomes in a dose-dependent manner. Ultrasound-stimulated microbubbles (USMB) have also been demonstrated to create a vascular response in the tumor microenvironment and enhance tumor response when used in combination with XRT. Single doses of 8–10 Gy are known to induce activation of acid sphingomyelinase (ASMase)-induced ceramide production, causing vascular damage. Destruction of vasculature results in endothelial apoptosis followed by tumor cell death. The effect of tumor response is known to be synergistic by 10-fold higher cell kill observed when USMB is combined with radiation. Methods: In this study, we used an USMB approach in combination with conventional low dose fractionated radiation to enhance endothelial cell responses to XRT in human PC3 prostate cancer xenograft model. Mice were divided into untreated, USMB therapy, fractionated XRT, and combined USMB therapy followed by XRT (USMB + XRT) groups. USMB therapy was delivered twice per week in the USMB-alone and combined USMB + XRT treatment groups over four weeks. Radiation treatments were delivered in fractions of 2 Gy/day (total 40 Gy in 20 fractions, BED10 = 48 Gy) in the XRT-alone and combined USMB + XRT groups. The treatment outcome was evaluated using histopathology, power Doppler, and immunohistochemistry assays. Results: Tumor growth assessment showed that sizes of tumors increased in the control and the single treatment groups over a treatment period of four weeks, but significantly decreased with the combined treatments of USMB + XRT. Immunohistochemical analysis indicated a statistically significant vascular disruption in mice that received treatment involving a full 4-week schedule of combined (USMB + XRT) treatments. A statistically significant increase in vascular disruption was demonstrated through CD68 and trichrome fibrosis staining. Changes in local perfusion assessed using high-frequency power Doppler imaging demonstrated attenuated blood flow in the combined group. Discussion and conclusions: This work demonstrates the efficacy of using USMB as a radiation sensitizer in a mouse model of human PC3 tumor xenograft. This radiation treatment enhancement modality has the advantage of targeting tumor vasculature with ultrasound stimulation that can be implemented prior to radiation treatment.