J Cancer 2017; 8(10):1809-1817. doi:10.7150/jca.16486

Research Paper

HIF is not essential for suppression of experimental tumor growth by mTOR inhibition

Karl X. Knaup, Regina Guenther, Johanna Stoeckert, Juliana M. Monti, Kai-Uwe Eckardt, Michael S. Wiesener

Department of Nephrology and Hypertension, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.

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Knaup KX, Guenther R, Stoeckert J, Monti JM, Eckardt KU, Wiesener MS. HIF is not essential for suppression of experimental tumor growth by mTOR inhibition. J Cancer 2017; 8(10):1809-1817. doi:10.7150/jca.16486. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v08p1809.htm

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The Hypoxia Inducible Transcription Factor (HIF) is the master regulator of cellular response to hypoxic adaptation. Solid tumors inevitably harbour hypoxic regions with subsequent stabilization and activation of HIF and HIF target genes due to poor vascularization and rapid growth. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a global regulator of cellular growth and proliferation, which can also regulate HIF expression independantly of hypoxia via specific activation of cellular translation and transcription. An effective blockade of mTOR results in attenuation of HIF under hypoxic conditions in vitro. This mechanism could enable a simultaneous inhibition of both the mTOR- and the HIF-pathway, resulting in an effective tool for cancer targeting. We set out to analyze the effect of mTOR inhibition and the involvement of mTOR regulation on HIF in vivo in a subcutaneous xenograft model in nude mice. Our results demonstrate that mTOR inhibition in our model leads to a clear reduction in tumor growth of various cellular origins, most likely due to inhibition of cellular proliferation. Moreover, these effects can also be achieved independently of the HIF status of the tumor cells. The HIF levels per se seem to remain unaffected by mTOR inhibition, probably due to the profound hypoxic environment in these threedimensional structures, consequently leading to a strong HIF stabillization. Therefore, treatment of these experimental tumors with mTOR inhibitors is an effective tool to achieve size regression. The involvement of and the effect on HIF in this in vivo setting is nevertheless negligible.

Keywords: cancer, hypoxia, immunosuppression, mTOR, HIF, xenograft