Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor, nimesulide, improves radiation treatment against non-small cell lung cancer both in vitro and in vivo

Kristopher R. Grimes, Graham W. Warren, Fang Fang, Yong Xu, William H. St. Clair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Despite improvements in radiation, surgery and chemotherapy the 5 year survival statistics of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have improved little over the past two decades. It has been proposed that NF-κB is a participant in the cytoprotection against several redox-mediated therapeutic agents including ionizing radiation. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibition has become an attractive target for enhancing the efficacy of radiation and chemotherapy. Numerous mechanistic pathways have been proposed as the means through which COX-2 inhibition enhances the efficacy of radiation. We hypothesize that the COX-2 inhibitor, nimesulide, will improve the efficacy of radiation therapy (RT), at least in part, via the suppression of NF-κB mediated cytoprotective pathways. In this study we used the COX-2 inhibitor nimesulide to improve the efficacy of RT when measured by tumor regrowth assays in vivo and clonegenic survival in vitro. For the in vivo assay, A549 tumor cells representing NSCLC were subcutaneously injected into the right flanks of female athymic nude mice (n=10/group). Mice were given nimesulide via drinking water at a concentration of 5 μg/g body weight (b.w.) and the water was replenished daily. Tumors were treated with 30 Gy fractionated radiation and measured biweekly. For our in vitro study, clonogenic survival assays were evaluated to determine the effect of nimesulide, radiation, and the combination. The NF-κB mediated mechanism of nimesulide was measured by Western blot analysis of NF-κB target genes, MnSOD and survivin. In vivo, mice that received combined treatments of 5 μg/g b.w. nimesulide and 30 Gy radiation (3 Gy/fraction, 10 daily fractions) had significant reduction in tumor size in comparison to the 30 Gy radiation control group (p<0.05). In vitro, nimesulide alone produced a significant decrease in clonogenic survival at doses from 0-300 μM. Nimesulide demonstrated an additive effect in combination with radiation. Nimesulide alone reduced MnSOD and survivin protein levels in a dose-dependent manner. 6 Gy radiation caused an initial elevation of MnSOD protein levels which was inhibited by prior treatment of nimesulide suggesting an inhibition of radiation induced NF-κB target genes. These results support the hypothesis that COX-2 inhibitors such as nimesulide can increase the efficacy of radiation therapy. In vitro, our results suggest that the radiosensitization of A549 tumor cells by nimesulide is mediated by the suppression of NF-κB-mediated, radiation-induced cytoprotective genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-776
Number of pages6
JournalOncology Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • MnSOD
  • NF-κB
  • Nimesulide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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