Research ArticleCancer

Avasopasem manganese synergizes with hypofractionated radiation to ablate tumors through the generation of hydrogen peroxide

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Science Translational Medicine  12 May 2021:
Vol. 13, Issue 593, eabb3768
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abb3768

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Reinforcing radiation therapy

The superoxide dismutase mimetic avasopasem manganese (AVA) is in a late-stage clinical trial for its ability to limit toxicity in the normal tissues of patients with cancer during radiation treatment. Now, Sishc et al. show that AVA also sensitizes cancer cells to high dose per fraction radiation by enhancing the generation of hydrogen peroxide, inflammation, and apoptosis. The combined modality had synergistic effects on xenograft tumors in mouse models but was not cytotoxic to nonneoplastic cells. This study indicates that AVA may have therapeutic, not just protective, potential for patients with cancer undergoing radiation therapy.


Avasopasem manganese (AVA or GC4419), a selective superoxide dismutase mimetic, is in a phase 3 clinical trial (NCT03689712) as a mitigator of radiation-induced mucositis in head and neck cancer based on its superoxide scavenging activity. We tested whether AVA synergized with radiation via the generation of hydrogen peroxide, the product of superoxide dismutation, to target tumor cells in preclinical xenograft models of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Treatment synergy with AVA and high dose per fraction radiation occurred when mice were given AVA once before tumor irradiation and further increased when AVA was given before and for 4 days after radiation, supporting a role for oxidative metabolism. This synergy was abrogated by conditional overexpression of catalase in the tumors. In addition, in vitro NSCLC and mammary adenocarcinoma models showed that AVA increased intracellular hydrogen peroxide concentrations and buthionine sulfoximine– and auranofin-induced inhibition of glutathione- and thioredoxin-dependent hydrogen peroxide metabolism selectively enhanced AVA-induced killing of cancer cells compared to normal cells. Gene expression in irradiated tumors treated with AVA suggested that increased inflammatory, TNFα, and apoptosis signaling also contributed to treatment synergy. These results support the hypothesis that AVA, although reducing radiotherapy damage to normal tissues, acts synergistically only with high dose per fraction radiation regimens analogous to stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy against tumors by a hydrogen peroxide–dependent mechanism. This tumoricidal synergy is now being tested in a phase I-II clinical trial in humans (NCT03340974).

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