Prostate and colon cancers are among the most common cancers diagnosed annually, and both often require treatment with radiation therapy. Advancement in radiation delivery techniques has led to highly accurate targeting of tumor and sparing of normal tissue; however, in the pelvic region it is anatomically difficult to avoid off-target radiation exposure to other organs. Chronically the effects of normal urogenital tissue exposure can lead to urinary frequency, urinary incontinence, proctitis, and erectile dysfunction. Most of these symptoms are caused by radiation-induced fibrosis and reduce the quality of life for cancer survivors. We have observed in animal models that the severity of radiation-induced fibrosis in normal tissue correlates to damaged fat reservoirs in the pelvic region. We hypothesize that adipocytes may secrete a factor that prevents the induction of radiation-associated fibrosis in normal tissues. In these studies we show that the adipokine, adiponectin, is secreted by primary mouse adipocytes and protects fibroblasts from radiation-induced cell death, myofibroblast formation, and senescence. Further, we demonstrated that adiponectin does not protect colorectal or prostate cancer cells from radiation-induced death. Thus, we propose that adiponectin, or its downstream pathway, would provide a novel target for adjuvant therapy when treating pelvic cancers with radiation therapy.
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