NGR-TNF is a derivative of TNF-alpha that targets tumor blood vessels and enhances penetration of chemotherapeutic drugs. Because of this property, NGR-TNF is being tested in combination with chemotherapy in various phase II and III clinical trials. Here we report that chromogranin A (CgA), a protein present in variable amounts in the blood of normal subjects and cancer patients, inhibits the synergism of NGR-TNF with doxorubicin and melphalan in mouse models of lymphoma and melanoma. Pathophysiologically relevant levels of circulating CgA blocked NGR-TNF-induced drug penetration by enhancing endothelial barrier function and reducing drug extravasation in tumors. Mechanistic investigations done in endothelial cell monolayers in vitro showed that CgA inhibited phosphorylation of p38 MAP kinase, disassembly of VE-cadherin-dependent adherence junctions, paracellular macromolecule transport, and NGR-TNF-induced drug permeability. In this system, the N-terminal fragment of CgA known as vasostatin-1 also inhibited drug penetration and NGR-TNF synergism. Together, our results suggest that increased levels of circulating CgA and its fragments, as it may occur in certain cancer patients with nonneuroendocrine tumors, may reduce drug delivery to tumor cells particularly as induced by NGR-TNF. Measuring CgA and its fragments may assist the selection of patients that can respond better to NGR-TNF/chemotherapy combinations in clinical trials. Cancer Res; 71(17); 5881-90. (C) 2011 AACR.
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