PURPOSE: Modulated electro-hyperthermia (mEHT), known as oncothermia, is an anticancer therapy that induces radiofrequency thermal damage to the cancer tissues. This study aimed to evaluate the potential effectiveness of mEHT as a therapeutic tool in ovarian and cervical cancer.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We used both tumor-bearing mice and ovarian and cervical OVCAR-3, SK-OV-3, HeLa and SNU-17 cancer cell lines to investigate the effects of mEHT in vivo and in vitro, respectively, and determine whether it was enhanced by cotreatment with an autophagy inhibitor.
RESULTS: We discovered that phosphorylation of p38, a stress-dependent kinase, was induced at the Thr180/Tyr182 residue in cancer cells exposed to mEHT. Apoptotic markers such as cleaved caspase-3 and poly-ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) were increased in OVCAR-3 and SNU-17 cells. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis showed a significant increase in the population of sub-G1 mEHT-exposed cells, which are dying and apoptotic cells. mEHT also reduced both weight and volume of xenograft tumors in mice transplanted with ovarian and cervical cancer cells and patient-derived cancer tissues. We determined that mEHT-induced cellular damage recovery was mediated by autophagy and, therefore, expectedly, cotreatment with mEHT and 3-methyladenine (3-MA), an autophagy inhibitor, more effectively inhibited cancer cell growth than individual treatment did.
CONCLUSIONS: mEHT treatment alone was sufficient to inhibit cancer growth, while a combined treatment with mEHT and an autophagy inhibitor amplified this inhibition effect.