Several agents that induce differentiation have previously been shown to induce the terminal differentiation of leukemic cells and enhance the radiosensitivity of certain solid tumor cell lines in vitro using millimolar concentrations. We now report that aclacinomycin A (ACM), a potent inducer of leukemic cell differentiation in vitro, can significantly enhance the radiosensitivity of a human colon tumor cell line (Clone A) at a concentration of 10 nM. Based on colony-forming efficiency, the maximum increase in radiosensitivity was found using 15 nM ACM for 3 days with a dose enhancement factor of 1.4 at a surviving fraction of 0.10. This treatment increased cell doubling time, but had no effect on cell-cycle phase distribution. To gain insight into the mechanisms responsible for this radiosensitization, γ-ray-induced DNA single- and double-strand breaks were examined. Aclacinomycin A had no effect on the induction of DNA single-strand breaks but significantly enhanced the formation of γ-ray-induced DNA double-strand breaks. The rate or extent of repair of the induced double-strand breaks was not influenced by ACM treatment. These data suggest that ACM, at achievable plasma concentrations, can enhance the radiosensitivity of a human tumor cell line by increasing the initial level of radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks.

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