Radioresistance remains a major obstacle to efficacious radiotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). DNA replication proteins are novel targets for radiosensitizers. POLQ is a DNA polymerase involved in DNA damage response and repair. We found that POLQ is overexpressed in NSCLC and is clinically correlated with high tumor stage, poor prognosis, increased tumor mutational burden, and ALK and TP53 mutation status; POLQ inhibition impaired lung tumorigenesis. Notably, POLQ expression was higher in radioresistant lung cancer cells than in wild type cancer cells. Moreover, POLQ expression was further increased in radioresistant cells after radiation. Enhanced radioresistance is through a prolonged G2/M phase and faster repair of DNA damage, leading to reduced radiation-induced apoptosis. Novobiocin (NVB), a POLQ inhibitor, specifically targeted cancer cells. Genetic knockdown of POLQ or pharmacological inhibition by NVB decreased radioresistance in lung adenocarcinoma while causing little toxicity to normal pulmonary epithelial cells. In conclusion, POLQ is a promising and practical cancer-specific target to impair tumorigenesis and enhance radiosensitivity in NSCLC.
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