Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) downregulate the Fanconi Anemia-BRCA pathway and increase the efficacy of chemotherapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma preclinical models

Lung Cancer 2021 August 27 [Link]

Helena Mumblat, Antonia Martinez-Conde, Ori Braten, Mijal Munster, Eyal Dor-On, Rosa S Schneiderman, Yaara Porat, Tali Voloshin, Shiri Davidi, Roni Blatt, Anna Shteingauz, Catherine Tempel-Brami, Einav Zeevi, Carolina Lajterer, Yuval Shmueli, Shiri Danilov, Adi Haber, Moshe Giladi, Uri Weinberg, Adrian Kinzel, Yoram Palti


Objectives: Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) are low intensity, intermediate frequency, alternating electric fields with antimitotic effects on cancerous cells. TTFields concomitant with pemetrexed and a platinum agent are approved in the US and EU as first line therapy for unresectable, locally advanced or metastatic malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). The goal of the current study was to characterize the mechanism of action of TTFields in MPM cell lines and animal models.

Methods: Human MPM cell lines MSTO-211H and NCI-H2052 were treated with TTFields to determine the frequency that elicits maximal cytotoxicity. The effect of TTFields on DNA damage and repair, and the cytotoxic effect of TTFields in combination with cisplatin and/or pemetrexed were examined. Efficacy of TTFields concomitant with cisplatin and pemetrexed was evaluated in orthotopic IL-45 and subcutaneous RN5 murine models.

Results: TTFields at a frequency of 150 kHz demonstrated the highest cytotoxicity to MPM cells. Application of 150 kHz TTFields resulted in increased formation of DNA double strand breaks, elevated expression of DNA damage induced cell cycle arrest proteins, and reduced expression of Fanconi Anemia (FA)-BRCA DNA repair pathway proteins. Co-treatment of TTFields with cisplatin or pemetrexed significantly increased treatment efficacy versus each modality alone, with additivity and synergy exhibited by the TTFields-pemetrexed and TTFields-cisplatin combinations, respectively. In animal models, tumor volume was significantly lower for the TTFields-cisplatin-pemetrexed combination compared to control, accompanied by increased DNA damage within the tumor.

Conclusion: This research demonstrated that the efficacy of TTFields for the treatment of MPM is associated with reduced expression of FA-BRCA pathway proteins and increased DNA damage. This mechanism of action is consistent with the observed synergism for TTFields-cisplatin vs additivity for TTFields-pemetrexed, as cisplatin-induced DNA damage is repaired via the FA-BRCA pathway.