Purpose: While the target of many anticancer agents has been identified, the processes leading to killing of the cancer cells and the molecular basis of resistance to the drugs are not well understood. We used human gastrointestinal cancer cell lines and examined how anticancer agents induced cell killing and how the chemosensitivity of these lines was determined. Methods: Twelve gastrointestinal cancer cell lines were examined for the presence of either a wild-type or mutant p53 gene by direct sequencing. We also determined whether or not cell killing would occur when the cell lines were exposed to anticancer drugs. The sensitivity to the anticancer agents was determined based on colony formation. Results: All 12 gastrointestinal cancer cell lines carried either a wild-type or mutant p53 gene. Three lines, MKN45, MKN74 and COLO320, carried the wild-type p53 gene, and nine carried the mutant p53 gene. When three lines were exposed to the anticancer agents etoposide, doxorubicin (DXR) or 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), cell death ensued. In these cells, the population of cells in G1 phase increased after exposure to high-dose anticancer agents, but cells in G2 phase increased when exposed to low-dose anticancer agents. Our observations support the concept that cells carrying the wild-type p53 gene tend to be sensitive to etoposide and DXR and, in particular, deletion of the p53 function results in a greater resistance to anticancer agents. Conclusion: Based on our findings, human gastrointestinal cancer-related cell death apparently occurs via a p53- dependent pathway. A relationship was observed between the induction of cell death and chemosensitivity.
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