Cancer patients undergoing treatment with systemic cancer chemotherapy drugs often experience debilitating fatigue similar to sickness behavior, a normal response to infection or tissue damage caused by the production of the inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-6. The p38 mitogen activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK) plays a central role in the production of these cytokines and consequently the development of sickness behavior. Targeted inhibitors of p38 MAPK can reduce systemic inflammatory cytokine production and the development of sickness behavior. Several systemic cancer chemotherapy drugs have been shown to stimulate inflammatory cytokine production, yet whether this response is related to a common ability to activate p38 MAPK is not known and is the focus of this study. This understanding may present the possibility of using p38 MAPK activity is required for chemotherapy-induced cytotoxicity of tumor cells. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate proof of principal that p38 MAPK inhibition can block chemotherapy- induced inflammatory cytokine production without inhibiting drug-induced cytotoxicity using murine peritoneal macrophages and Lewis Lung Carcinoma (LLC1) cells as model cell systems. Using these cell we assessed the requirement of etoposide, doxorubicin, 5-flourouracil, and docetaxel for p38 MAPK in inflammatory cytokine production and cytotoxicity. Study findings demonstrate that clinically relevant doses of etoposide, doxorubicin, and 5-FU activated p38 MAPK in both macrophages and LLC1 cells. In contrast, docetaxel failed to activate p38 MAPK in either cell type. Activation of p38 MAPK mediated the drug's effects on inflammatory cytokine production in macrophages but not LLC1 cytotoxicity and this was confirmed with inhibitor studies.
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