Mechanisms of action of rapamycin in gliomas

Amy B. Heimberger*, Enze Wang, Eric C. McGary, Kenneth R. Hess, Verlene K. Henry, Tadahisa Shono, Zvi Cohen, Joy Gumin, Raymond Sawaya, Charles A. Conrad, Frederick F. Lang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Rapamycin has previously been shown to be efficacious against intracerebral glioma xenografts and to act in a cytostatic manner against gliomas. However, very little is known about the mechanism of action of rapamycin. The purpose of our study was to further investigate the in vitro and in vivo mechanisms of action of rapamycin, to elucidate molecular end points that may be applicable for investigation in a clinical trial, and to examine potential mechanisms of treatment failure. In the phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted from chromosome 10 (PTEN)-null glioma cell lines U-87 and D-54, but not the oligodendroglioma cell line HOG (PTEN null), doses of rapamycin at the IC50 resulted in accumulation of cells in G1, with a corresponding decrease in the fraction of cells traversing the S phase as early as 24 h after dosing. All glioma cell lines tested had markedly diminished production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) when cultured with rapamycin, even at doses below the IC50. After 48 h of exposure to rapamycin, the glioma cell lines (but not HOG cells) showed downregulation of the membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) invasion molecule. In U-87 cells, MMP-2 was down-regulated, and in D-54 cells, both MMP-2 and MMP-9 were downregulated after treatment with rapamycin. Treatment of established subcutaneous U-87 xenografts in vivo resulted in marked tumor regression (P < 0.05). Immunohistochemical studies of subcutaneous U-87 tumors demonstrated diminished production of VEGF in mice treated with rapamycin. Gelatin zymography showed marked reduction of MMP-2 in the mice with subcutaneous U-87 xenografts that were treated with rapamycin as compared with controls treated with phosphate-buffered saline. In contrast, treatment of established intracerebral U-87 xenografts did not result in increased median survival despite inhibition of the Akt pathway within the tumors. Also, in contrast with our findings for subcutaneous tumors, immunohistochemistry and quantitative Western blot analysis results for intracerebral U-87 xenografts indicated that there is not significant VEGF production, which suggests possible deferential regulation of the hypoxia-inducible factor 1α in the intracerebral compartment. These findings demonstrate that the complex operational mechanisms of rapamycin against gliomas include cytostasis, anti-VEGF, and anti-invasion activity, but these are dependent on the in vivo location of the tumor and have implications for the design of a clinical trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cancer Research


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