Radiotherapy modulates expression of EGFR, ERCC1 and p53 in cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is a public health problem and the molecular mechanisms underlying radioresistance are still poorly understood. Here, we evaluated the modulation of key molecules involved in cell proliferation, cell cycle and DNA repair in cervical cancer cell lines (CASKI and C33A) and in malignant tissues biopsied from 10 patients before and after radiotherapy. The expression patterns of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), excision repair cross-complementation group 1 (ERCC1) and p53 were evaluated in cancer cell lines by quantitative PCR and western blotting, and in human malignant tissues by immunohistochemistry. The mutation status of TP53 gene was evaluated by direct sequencing. Among cell lines, absent or weak modulations of EGFR, ERCC1 and p53 were observed after exposure to 1.8 Gy. Conversely, increased expressions of p53 (5/10 patients; P=0.0239), ERCC1 (5/10 patients; P=0.0294) and EGFR (4/10 patients; P=0.1773) were observed in malignant tissues after radiotherapy with the same radiation dose. TP53 mutations were found only in one patient. Here we show that a single dose of radiotherapy induced EGFR, ERCC1 and p53 expression in malignant tissues from cervical cancer patients but not in cancer cell lines, highlighting the gap between in vitro and in vivo experimental models. Studies on larger patient cohorts are needed to allow an interpretation that an upregulation of p53, EGFR and ERCC1 may be part of a radioresistance mechanism.