Magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) have shown promising features to be utilized in combinatorial magnetic hyperthermia and chemotherapy. Here, we assessed if a thermo-chemotherapeutic approach consisting of the intratumoral application of functionalized chitosan- coated MNPs (CS-MNPs) with 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and magnetic hyperthermia prospectively improves the treatment of colorectal cancer. With utilization of a human colorectal cancer (HT29) heterotopic tumor model in mice, we showed that the thermo-chemotherapeutic treatment is more efficient in inactivating colon cancer than either tumor treatments alone (i.e., magnetic hyperthermia vs. the presence of 5FU attached to MNPs). In particular, the thermo-chemotherapeutic treatment significantly (p < 0.01) impacts tumor volume and tumor cell proliferation (Ki67 expression, p < 0.001) compared to the single therapy modalities. The thermo-chemotherapeutic treatment: (a) affects DNA replication and repair as measured by H2AX and phosphorylated H2AX expression (p < 0.05 to 0.001), (b) it does not distinctly induce apoptosis nor necroptosis in target cells, since expression of p53, PARP cleaved-PARP, caspases and phosphorylated-RIP3 was non-conspicuous, (c) it renders tumor cells surviving therapy more sensitive to further therapy sessions as indicated by an increased expression of p53, reduced expression of NF-κB and HSPs, albeit by tendency with p > 0.05), and (d) that it impacts tumor vascularity (reduced expression of CD31 and αvβ3 integrin (p < 0.01 to 0.001) and consequently nutrient supply to tumors. We further hypothesize that tumor cells die, at least in parts, via a ROS dependent mechanism called oxeiptosis. Taken together, a very effective elimination of colon cancers seems to be feasible by utilization of repeated thermo-chemotherapeutic therapy sessions in the long-term.
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