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