Research Papers:

Akt inhibition improves irinotecan treatment and prevents cell emergence by switching the senescence response to apoptosis

Alexandra Vétillard, Barbara Jonchère, Marie Moreau, Bertrand Toutain, Cécile Henry, Simon Fontanel, Anne-Charlotte Bernard, Mario Campone, Catherine Guette and Olivier Coqueret _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:43342-43362. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6126

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Alexandra Vétillard1, Barbara Jonchère1, Marie Moreau1, Bertrand Toutain1, Cécile Henry1, Simon Fontanel1, Anne-Charlotte Bernard1, Mario Campone1, Catherine Guette1 and Olivier Coqueret1

1 Paul Papin ICO Cancer Center, INSERM U892, CNRS 6299, Angers University, Angers, France

Correspondence to:

Olivier Coqueret, email:

Keywords: chemotherapy, senescence, irinotecan, Akt, drug resistance

Received: May 19, 2015 Accepted: October 06, 2015 Published: October 15, 2015


Activated in response to chemotherapy, senescence is a tumor suppressive mechanism that induces a permanent loss of proliferation. However, in response to treatment, it is not really known how cells can escape senescence and how irreversible or incomplete this pathway is. We have recently described that cells that escape senescence are more transformed than non-treated parental cells, they resist anoikis and rely on Mcl-1. In this study, we further characterize this emergence in response to irinotecan, a first line treatment used in colorectal cancer. Our results indicate that Akt was activated as a feedback pathway during the early step of senescence. The inhibition of the kinase prevented cell emergence and improved treatment efficacy, both in vitro and in vivo. This improvement was correlated with senescence inhibition, p21waf1 downregulation and a concomitant activation of apoptosis due to Noxa upregulation and Mcl-1 inactivation. The inactivation of Noxa prevented apoptosis and increased the number of emergent cells. Using either RNA interference or p21waf1-deficient cells, we further confirmed that an intact p53-p21-senescence pathway favored cell emergence and that its downregulation improved treatment efficacy through apoptosis induction. Therefore, although senescence is an efficient suppressive mechanism, it also generates more aggressive cells as a consequence of apoptosis inhibition. We therefore propose that senescence-inducing therapies should be used sequentially with drugs favoring cell death such as Akt inhibitors. This should reduce cell emergence and tumor relapse through a combined induction of senescence and apoptosis.

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