Improved Tumor Control Following Radiosensitization with Ultrasound-Sensitive Oxygen Microbubbles and Tumor Mitochondrial Respiration Inhibitors in a Preclinical Model of Head and Neck Cancer

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Tumor hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) is a major contributor to radiotherapy resistance. Ultrasound-sensitive microbubbles containing oxygen have been explored as a mechanism for overcoming tumor hypoxia locally prior to radiotherapy. Previously, our group demonstrated the ability to encapsulate and deliver a pharmacological inhibitor of tumor mitochondrial respiration (lonidamine (LND)), which resulted in ultrasound-sensitive microbubbles loaded with O2 and LND providing prolonged oxygenation relative to oxygenated microbubbles alone. This follow-up study aimed to evaluate the therapeutic response to radiation following the administration of oxygen microbubbles combined with tumor mitochondrial respiration inhibitors in a head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) tumor model. The influences of different radiation dose rates and treatment combinations were also explored. The results demonstrated that the co-delivery of O2 and LND successfully sensitized HNSCC tumors to radiation, and this was also enhanced with oral metformin, significantly slowing tumor growth relative to unsensitized controls (p < 0.01). Microbubble sensitization was also shown to improve overall animal survival. Importantly, effects were found to be radiation dose-rate-dependent, reflecting the transient nature of tumor oxygenation.


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