Targeting the hedgehog signal transduction pathway at the level of GLI inhibits neuroblastoma cell growth in vitro and in vivo

Malin Wickström, Cecilia Dyberg, Takashi Shimokawa, Jelena Milosevic, Ninib Baryawno, Ole M FuskevÄg, Rolf Larsson, Per Kogner, Peter G Zaphiropoulos, John I Johnsen
International Journal of Cancer. Journal International du Cancer 2013 April 1, 132 (7): 1516-24
Hedgehog (HH) signaling is an important regulator of embryogenesis that has been associated with the development of several types of cancer. HH signaling is characterized by Smoothened (SMO)-dependent activation of the GLI transcription factors, which regulate the expression of critical developmental genes. Neuroblastoma, an embryonal tumor of the sympathetic nervous system, was recently shown to express high levels of key molecules in this signaling cascade. Using compounds blocking SMO (cyclopamine and SANT1) or GLI1/GLI2 (GANT61) activity revealed that inhibition of HH signaling at the level of GLI was most effective in reducing neuroblastoma growth. GANT61 sensitivity positively correlated to GLI1 and negatively to MYCN expression in the neuroblastoma cell lines tested. GANT61 downregulated GLI1, c-MYC, MYCN and Cyclin D1 expression and induced apoptosis of neuroblastoma cells. The effects produced by GANT61 were mimicked by GLI knockdown but not by SMO knockdown. Furthermore, GANT61 enhanced the effects of chemotherapeutic drugs used in the treatment of neuroblastoma in an additive or synergistic manner and reduced the growth of established neuroblastoma xenografts in nude mice. Taken together this study suggests that inhibition of HH signaling is a highly relevant therapeutic target for high-risk neuroblastoma lacking MYCN amplification and should be considered for clinical testing.

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