Vivo-Morpholinos: Same oligos, from cultures to critters -



Combination therapy, in which two or more agents are applied, is more effective than single therapies for combating cancer. For this reason, combinations of chemotherapy with radiation are being explored in clinical trials, albeit with an empirical approach. We developed a screen to identify, from the onset, molecules that act in vivo in conjunction with radiation, using Drosophila as a model. Screens through two small molecule libraries from the NCI Developmental Therapeutics Program yielded microtubule poisons; this class of agents is known to enhance the effect of radiation in mammalian cancer models. Here we report an analysis of one microtubule depolymerizing agent, maytansinol isobutyrate (NSC292222; maytansinol), in Drosophila and in human cancer cells. We find that the effect of maytansinol is p53 dependent in Drosophila cells and human cancer cells, that maytansinol enhances the effect of radiation in both systems, and that the combinatorial effect of drug and radiation is additive. We also uncover a differential sensitivity to maytansinol between Drosophila cells and Drosophila larvae, which illustrates the value of studying cell behavior in the context of a whole organism. On the basis of these results, we propose that Drosophila might be a useful model for unbiased screens through new molecule libraries to find cancer drugs for combination therapy.



    T.T.S. is a co-founder, D.R. is a member of the scientific advisory board and B.F. is a consultant for Suvica. The University of Colorado has an issued patent for the Drosophila screen described here (US Patent #7,695,899).


    T.T.S., B.F. and D.R. conceived and designed the experiments. A.E., M.G. and P.Y. performed the experiments. A.E., M.G., P.Y. and T.T.S. analyzed the data. D.R. contributed reagents and materials. M.G. and T.T.S. wrote the paper.


    Supplementary material for this article is available at

  • Received August 4, 2010.
  • Accepted March 5, 2011.

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