Despite the fact that 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is the backbone for chemotherapy in colorectal cancer (CRC), the response rates in patients is limited to 50%. The mechanisms underlying 5-FU toxicity are debated, limiting the development of strategies to improve its efficacy. How fundamental aspects of cancer, such as driver mutations and phenotypic heterogeneity, relate to the 5-FU response remains obscure. This largely relies on the limited number of studies performed in pre-clinical models able to recapitulate the key features of CRC. Here, we analyzed the 5-FU response in patient-derived organoids that reproduce the different stages of CRC. We find that 5-FU induces pyrimidine imbalance, which leads to DNA damage and cell death in the actively proliferating cancer cells deficient in p53. Importantly, p53-deficiency leads to cell death due to impaired cell cycle arrest. Moreover, we find that targeting the Warburg effect in KRASG12D glycolytic tumor organoids enhances 5-FU toxicity by further altering the nucleotide pool and, importantly, without affecting non-transformed WT cells. Thus, p53 emerges as an important factor in determining the 5-FU response, and targeting cancer metabolism in combination with replication stress-inducing chemotherapies emerges as a promising strategy for CRC treatment.
- Tumor Suppressor Protein p53/genetics
- Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)/genetics
- Colorectal Neoplasms/drug therapy