Sickle erythrocytes target cytotoxics to hypoxic tumor microvessels and potentiate a tumoricidal response.


Resistance of hypoxic solid tumor niches to chemotherapy and radiotherapy remains a major scientific challenge that calls for conceptually new approaches. Here we exploit a hitherto unrecognized ability of sickled erythrocytes (SSRBCs) but not normal RBCs (NLRBCs) to selectively target hypoxic tumor vascular microenviroment and induce diffuse vaso-occlusion. Within minutes after injection SSRBCs, but not NLRBCs, home and adhere to hypoxic 4T1 tumor vasculature with hemoglobin saturation levels at or below 10% that are distributed over 70% of the tumor space. The bound SSRBCs thereupon form microaggregates that obstruct/occlude up to 88% of tumor microvessels. Importantly, SSRBCs, but not normal RBCs, combined with exogenous prooxidant zinc protoporphyrin (ZnPP) induce a potent tumoricidal response via a mutual potentiating mechanism. In a clonogenic tumor cell survival assay, SSRBC surrogate hemin, along with H(2)O(2) and ZnPP demonstrate a similar mutual potentiation and tumoricidal effect. In contrast to existing treatments directed only to the hypoxic tumor cell, the present approach targets the hypoxic tumor vascular environment and induces injury to both tumor microvessels and tumor cells using intrinsic SSRBC-derived oxidants and locally generated ROS. Thus, the SSRBC appears to be a potent new tool for treatment of hypoxic solid tumors, which are notable for their resistance to existing cancer treatments.





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Publication Info

Terman, David S, Benjamin L Viglianti, Rahima Zennadi, Diane Fels, Richard J Boruta, Hong Yuan, Mathew R Dreher, Gerald Grant, et al. (2013). Sickle erythrocytes target cytotoxics to hypoxic tumor microvessels and potentiate a tumoricidal response. PLoS One, 8(1). p. e52543. 10.1371/journal.pone.0052543 Retrieved from

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