Simvastatin inhibits the development of radioresistant esophageal cancer cells by increasing the radiosensitivity and reversing EMT process via the PTEN-PI3K/AKT pathway

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Acquired radioresistance compromises the efficacy of radiotherapy for carcinomas including esophageal cancer (EC), thus resulting in recurrence and poor survival. Recent research corroborated radiosensitive function of simvastatin in stem-like breast cancer cells. However, its role in EC radioresistance remains poorly elucidated. Here, we developed a radioresistant EC cell line Ec9706-R with higher resistance to irradiation relative to control Ec9706 cells. Intriguingly, Ec9706-R cells exhibited epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) characteristics with high invasion and migration ability. Simvastatin sensitized radioresistance of Ec9706-R cells and suppressed cell proliferation, but aggravated radiation-induced apoptosis and caspase-3 activity. Furthermore, simvastatin reversed EMT and inhibited cell invasion and migration of Ec9706-R cells. Mechanism assay confirmed the activation of PI3K/AKT pathway after radiation, which was inhibited by simvastatin. After restoring this pathway by its activator, IGF-1, simvastatin-mediated radiosensitivity and EMT reversion were abrogated. Further assay substantiated the PTEN suppression after irradiation, which was elevated following simvastatin pre-treatment. Moreover, PTEN cessation attenuated the inhibitory effect of simvastatin on PI3K/AKT activation, and subsequently antagonized simvastatin-induced radiosensitivity and EMT reversion. Additionally, simvastatin aggravated radiation-mediated Ec9706-R tumor growth inhibition. Together, simvastatin inhibits the development of Ec9706-R cells by increasing radiosensitivity and reversing EMT via PTEN-PI3K/AKT pathway, implying a promising strategy against EC radioresistance.

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