Previously, we demonstrated that nitric oxide (NO) synthase (NOS) is uncoupled in a wide range of solid tumors and that restoring NOS coupling with the tetrahydrobiopterin precursor sepiapterin (SP) inhibits tumor progression. Endothelial dysfunction characterizes the poorly functional vasculature of solid tumors, and since NO is critical for regulation of endothelial function we asked whether SP, by recoupling NOS, improves tumor vasculature structure and function-enhancing chemotherapeutic delivery and response to radiotherapy. MMTV-neu mice with spontaneous breast tumors were treated with SP by oral gavage and evaluated by multispectral optoacoustic tomographic analysis of tumor HbO2 and by tissue staining for markers of hypoxia, blood perfusion, and markers of endothelial and smooth muscle proteins. Recoupling tumor NOS activity results in vascular normalization observed as reduced tumor hypoxia, improved tumor percentage of HbO2 and perfusion, as well as increased pericyte coverage of tumor blood vessels. The normalized vasculature and improved tumor oxygenation led to a greater than 2-fold increase in radiation-induced apoptosis compared with radiation or SP alone. High-performance liquid chromatography analysis of tumor doxorubicin levels showed a greater than 50% increase in doxorubicin uptake and a synergistic effect on tumor cell apoptosis. This study highlights for the first time the importance of NOS uncoupling and endothelial dysfunction in the development of tumor vasculature and presents a new approach for improving the tumoricidal efficacies of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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