✓ Pentobarbital reduces cerebral radiation toxicity; however, the mechanism of this phenomenon remains unknown. As an anesthetic and depressant of cerebral metabolism, pentobarbital induces its effects on the central nervous system by stimulating the binding of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to its receptor and by inhibiting postsynaptic excitatory amino acid activity. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of these actions as well as other aspects of the radioprotective activity of pentobarbital.
Fischer 344 rats were separated into multiple groups and underwent two dose-response evaluations. In one set of experiments to examine the relationship of radioprotection to pentobarbital dose, a range of pentobarbital doses (0 to 75 mg/kg) were given intraperitoneally prior to a constant-level radiation dose (70 Gy). In a second series of experiments to determine the dose-response relationship of radiation protection to radiation dose, a range of radiation doses (10 to 90 Gy) were given with a single pentobarbital dose (60 mg/kg intraperitoneally). Further groups of animals were used to evaluate the importance of the timing of pentobarbital administration, the function of the (+) and (−) isomers of pentobarbital, and the role of an alternative GABA agonist (diazepam). In addition, the potential protective effects of alternative methods of anesthesia (ketamine) and induction of cerebral hypometabolism (hypothermia) were examined.
Enhancement of survival time from acute radiation injury due to high-dose single-fraction whole-brain irradiation was maximal with 60 mg/kg of pentobarbital, and occurred over the range of all doses examined between 30 to 90 Gy. Protection was seen only in animals that received the pentobarbital before irradiation. Administration of other compounds that enhance GABA binding (Saffan and diazepam) also significantly enhanced survival time. Ketamine and hypothermia were without protective effect.
Protection from acute radiation-induced mortality by pentobarbital in the rat model is a reproducible phenomenon and is associated with the GABA agonistic activity of the compound. This property of GABA agonists offers the potential for a novel approach to enhancement of the efficacy of radiation therapy in the treatment of brain tumors.