Synergistic antitumor activity of gemcitabine and ABT-737 in vitro and in vivo through disrupting the interaction of USP9X and Mcl-1

Chong Zhang, Tian-yu Cai, Hong Zhu, Liu-qing Yang, Hai Jiang, Xiao-wu Dong, Yong-Zhou Hu, Neng-ming Lin, Qiao-jun He, Bo Yang
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2011, 10 (7): 1264-75
The Bcl-2 antagonist ABT-737 targets Bcl-2/Bcl-xL, but not Mcl-1, which may confer resistance to this agent in various cancers with high levels of Mcl-1. Here, we showed that the combination of gemcitabine and ABT-737 exhibited synergistic cytotoxicity and induced significant apoptosis in multiple cancer types, including lung, renal, bladder, and prostate cancers. The enhanced apoptosis induced by gemcitabine plus ABT-737 was accompanied by the greater extent of mitochondrial depolarization, caspases-3 activation, and PARP cleavage in 95-D and 5637 cell lines. Importantly, in ABT-737-resistant cancer cells, the interaction between USP9X and Mcl-1, which was increased by ABT-737 treatment, could be disrupted by gemcitabine, thus resulting in enhanced ubiquitination and the subsequent degradation of Mcl-1 and ultimately in the synergism of these two drugs. Moreover, the increased anticancer efficacy of gemcitabine combined with ABT-737 was further validated in a human lung cancer 95-D xenograft model in nude mice. Taken together, our data first showed the synergistic anticancer capabilities achieved by combining gemcitabine and ABT-737 and, second, opened new opportunities to use antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family members, which drive tumor cell resistance in current anticancer therapies, therapeutically.

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