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Open Access Open Badges Research

Radiosensitization by the novel DNA intercalating agent vosaroxin

Ira K Gordon*, Christian Graves, Whoon J Kil, Tamalee Kramp, Philip Tofilon and Kevin Camphausen

Author Affiliations

Radiation Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, 10 Center Drive, MSC 1002, Bldg 10 Rm. B3B100, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

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Radiation Oncology 2012, 7:26  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-26

Published: 27 February 2012



Vosaroxin is a first in class naphthyridine analog structurally related to quinolone antibacterials, that intercalates DNA and inhibits topoisomerase II. Vosaroxin is not a P-glycoprotein receptor substrate and its activity is independent of p53, thus evading common drug resistance mechanisms. To evaluate vosaroxin as a clinically applicable radiation sensitizer, we investigated its effects on tumor cell radiosensitivity in vitro and in vivo.


Vosaroxin's effect on post-irradiation sensitivity of U251, DU145, and MiaPaca-2 cells was assessed by clonogenic assay. Subsequent mechanistic and in vivo studies were performed with U251 cells. Cell cycle distribution and G2 checkpoint integrity was analyzed by flow cytometry. DNA damage and repair was evaluated by a high throughput gamma-H2AX assay. Apoptosis was assessed by flow cytometry. Mitotic catastrophe was assessed by microscopic evidence of fragmented nuclei by immunofluorescence. In vivo radiosensitization was measured by subcutaneous tumor growth delay.


50-100 nmol/L treatment with vosaroxin resulted in radiosensitization of all 3 cell lines tested with a dose enhancement factor of 1.20 to 1.51 measured at a surviving fraction of 0.1. The maximal dose enhancement was seen in U251 cells treated with 75 nmol/L vosaroxin (DEF 1.51). Vosaroxin exposure did not change cell cycle distribution prior to irradiation nor alter G2 checkpoint integrity after irradiation. No difference was seen in the apoptotic fraction regardless of drug or radiation treatment. The number of cells in mitotic catastrophe was significantly greater in irradiated cells treated with vosaroxin than cells receiving radiation only at 72 hr (p = 0.009). Vosaroxin alone did not significantly increase mitotic catastrophe over control (p = 0.53). Cells treated with vosaroxin and radiation maintained significantly higher gamma-H2AX levels than cells treated with vehicle control (p = 0.014), vosaroxin (p = 0.042), or radiation alone (p = 0.039) after 24 hr. In vivo tumor growth delay was 1.5 days for vosaroxin alone (IV 10 mg/kg), 1.0 days for radiation (3 Gy) alone, and 8.6 days for the group treated with vosaroxin 4 hours prior to radiation.


Vosaroxin enhanced tumor cell radiosensitivity in vitro and in vivo. The mechanism appears to be related to inhibition of DNA repair and increased mitotic catastrophe.

Vosaroxin; SNS-595; Naphthyridine; Quinolone