Combinatorial effect of maytansinol and radiation in Drosophila and human cancer cells

Anthony Edwards, Mara Gladstone, Petros Yoon, David Raben, Barbara Frederick, Tin Tin Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Combination therapy, in which two or more agents are applied, is more effective than single therapies for combating cancer. For this reason, combinations of chemotherapy with radiation are being explored in clinical trials, albeit with an empirical approach. We developed a screen to identify, from the onset, molecules that act in vivo in conjunction with radiation, using Drosophila as a model. Screens through two small molecule libraries from the NCI Developmental Therapeutics Program yielded microtubule poisons; this class of agents is known to enhance the effect of radiation in mammalian cancer models. Here we report an analysis of one microtubule depolymerizing agent, maytansinol isobutyrate (NSC292222; maytansinol), in Drosophila and in human cancer cells. We find that the effect of maytansinol is p53 dependent in Drosophila cells and human cancer cells, that maytansinol enhances the effect of radiation in both systems, and that the combinatorial effect of drug and radiation is additive. We also uncover a differential sensitivity to maytansinol between Drosophila cells and Drosophila larvae, which illustrates the value of studying cell behavior in the context of a whole organism. On the basis of these results, we propose that Drosophila might be a useful model for unbiased screens through new molecule libraries to find cancer drugs for combination therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-503
Number of pages8
JournalDMM Disease Models and Mechanisms
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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