Resistance to existing therapies is a significant challenge in improving outcomes for glioblastoma (GBM) patients. Metabolic plasticity has emerged as an important contributor to therapy resistance, including radiation therapy (RT). Here, we investigated how GBM cells reprogram their glucose metabolism in response to RT to promote radiation resistance.
Effects of radiation on glucose metabolism of human GBM specimens were examined in vitro and in vivo with the use of metabolic and enzymatic assays, targeted metabolomics, and FDG-PET. Radiosensitization potential of interfering with M2 isoform of pyruvate kinase (PKM2) activity was tested via gliomasphere formation assays and in vivo human GBM models.
Here, we show that RT induces increased glucose utilization by GBM cells, and this is accompanied with translocation of GLUT3 transporters to the cell membrane. Irradiated GBM cells route glucose carbons through the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) to harness the antioxidant power of the PPP and support survival after radiation. This response is regulated in part by the PKM2. Activators of PKM2 can antagonize the radiation-induced rewiring of glucose metabolism and radiosensitize GBM cells in vitro and in vivo.
These findings open the possibility that interventions designed to target cancer-specific regulators of metabolic plasticity, such as PKM2, rather than specific metabolic pathways, have the potential to improve the radiotherapeutic outcomes in GBM patients.