The medical options available to prevent or treat radiation-induced injury are scarce and developing effective countermeasures is still an open research field. In addition, more than half of cancer patients are treated with radiation therapy, which displays a high antitumor efficacy but can cause, albeit rarely, disabling long-term toxicities including radiation fibrosis. Progress has been made in the definition of molecular pathways associated with normal tissue toxicity that suggest potentially effective therapeutic targets. Targeting the Rho/ROCK pathway seems a promising anti-fibrotic approach, at least in the gut; the current study was performed to assess whether this target was relevant to the prevention and/or treatment of injury to the main thoracic organs, namely heart and lungs. First, we showed activation of two important fibrogenic pathways (Smad and Rho/ROCK) in response to radiationexposure to adult cardiomyocytes; we extended these observations in vivo to the heart and lungs of mice, 15 and 30 weeks post-irradiation. We correlated this fibrogenic molecular imprint with alteration of heart physiology and long-term remodelling of pulmonary and cardiac histological structures. Lastly, cardiac and pulmonary radiation injury and bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis were successfully modulated using Rho/ROCK inhibitors (statins and Y-27632) and this was associated with a normalization of fibrogenic markers. In conclusion, the present paper shows for the first time, activation of Rho/ROCK and Smad pathways in pulmonary and cardiac radiation-induced delayed injury. Our findings thereby reveal a safe and efficient therapeutic opportunity for the abrogation of late thoracic radiation injury, potentially usable either before or after radiation exposure; this approach is especially attractive in (i) the radiation oncology setting, as it does not interfere with prior anti-cancer treatment and in (ii) radioprotection, as applicable to the treatment of established radiation injury, for example in the case of radiation accidents or acts of terrorism.
Keywords: Fibrosis, radiation therapy, cardiac toxicity, pulmonary fibrosis, Rho/ROCK, Smad, Statins, ROCK inhibition, therapy, pulmonary, toxicity, ROCK, inhibition, Heart, Lung, homeostasis, (CM), (LV), (LVEDD), (HES), BLM, CNN2, TGF-βRII, Cardiac hypertrophy, Rho, heart failure, TGF-βsignals