Birinapant is a novel SMAC peptidomimetic molecule in clinical development. It suppresses the inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) and promotes cytochrome-C/Apaf-1/caspase-9 activation to induce effective apoptosis. Because IAP inhibition has been shown to enhance the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation, we investigated the role of birinapant in radiosensitization of glioblastoma cells in vitro and in vivo. Two glioblastoma cell lines, U-251 and U-87, were used to analyze radiosensitization in vitro with 7-AAD cell death/apoptosis and clonogenic assays. Subcutaneous flank (U-251 and U-87) and intracranial orthotopic (U-251) xenografts in nude mice were used to evaluate radiosensitization in vivo. TNF-α levels in media and serum were measured using electrochemiluminescence. Radiosensitization in vitro was more prominent for U-251 cells than for U-87 cells. In vivo, in both tumor models, significant tumor growth delay was observed with combination treatment compared to radiation alone. There was a survival benefit with combination treatment in the orthotopic U-251 model. TNF-α levels in media correlated directly with radiation dose in vitro. These findings show that birinapant can enhance the radiosensitivity of glioblastoma cell lines in cell-based assays and tumor models via radiation-induced TNF-α. Further study into the use of birinapant with radiation therapy is warranted.

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