Opaganib Protects against Radiation Toxicity: Implications for Homeland Security and Antitumor Radiotherapy

Lynn W. Maines, Randy S. Schrecengost, Yan Zhuang, Staci N. Keller, Ryan A. Smith, Cecelia L. Green, Charles D. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Exposure to ionizing radiation (IR) is a lingering threat from accidental or terroristic nuclear events, but is also widely used in cancer therapy. In both cases, host inflammatory responses to IR damage normal tissue causing morbidity and possibly mortality to the victim/patient. Opaganib, a first-in-class inhibitor of sphingolipid metabolism, has broad anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity. Opaganib elevates ceramide and reduces sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) in cells, conditions that increase the antitumor efficacy of radiation while concomitantly suppressing inflammatory damage to normal tissue. Therefore, opaganib may suppress toxicity from unintended IR exposure and improve patient response to chemoradiation. To test these hypotheses, we first examined the effects of opaganib on the toxicity and antitumor activity of radiation in mice exposed to total body irradiation (TBI) or IR with partial bone marrow shielding. Oral treatment with opaganib 2 h before TBI shifted the LD75 from 9.5 Gy to 11.5 Gy, and provided substantial protection against gastrointestinal damage associated with suppression of radiation-induced elevations of S1P and TNFα in the small intestines. In the partially shielded model, opaganib provided dose-dependent survival advantages when administered 4 h before or 24 h after radiation exposure, and was particularly effective when given both prior to and following radiation. Relevant to cancer radiotherapy, opaganib decreased the sensitivity of IEC6 (non-transformed mouse intestinal epithelial) cells to radiation, while sensitizing PAN02 cells to in vitro radiation. Next, the in vivo effects of opaganib in combination with radiation were examined in a syngeneic tumor model consisting of C57BL/6 mice bearing xenografts of PAN02 pancreatic cancer cells and a cross-species xenograft model consisting of nude mice bearing xenografts of human FaDu cells. Mice were treated with opaganib and/or IR (plus cisplatin in the case of FaDu tumors). In both tumor models, the optimal suppression of tumor growth was attained by the combination of opaganib with IR (± cisplatin). Overall, opaganib substantially protects normal tissue from radiation damage that may occur through unintended exposure or cancer radiotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13191
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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