Dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor NVP-BEZ235-induced apoptosis of hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines is enhanced by inhibitors of autophagy

Zhexing Chang, Guang Shi, Jiqiang Jin, Huatao Guo, Xuefeng Guo, Fangyue Luo, Yuguo Song, Xiaojing Jia
International Journal of Molecular Medicine 2013, 31 (6): 1449-56
Dysregulation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling has been found in several types of human cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). NVP-BEZ235 is a novel, orally bioavailable dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor that has exhibited promising activity against HCC in preclinical models. Autophagy is a cellular lysosomal degradation pathway essential for the regulation of cell survival and death to maintain homeostasis. This process is negatively regulated by mTOR signaling and often counteracts the efficacy of certain cancer therapeutic agents. In this study, we explored the role of autophagy in apoptosis induced by NVP-BEZ235 in two HCC cell lines, Hep3B and PLC/PRF/5, and identified the mechanism of combinatorial treatment. NVP-BEZ235 was effective in inhibiting the growth of the two HCC cell lines possibly though induction of apoptosis. NVP-BEZ235 also potently increased the expression of LC3-II and decreased the expression of p62, indicating induction of autophagy. When NVP-BEZ235 was used in combination with Atg5 siRNA or the autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA), enhancement of the inhibitory effects on the growth of HCC cells was detected. In addition, enhanced induction of apoptosis was observed in cells exposed to the combination of NVP-BEZ235 and Atg5 siRNA or 3-MA. Thus, induction of autophagy by NVP-BEZ235 may be a survival mechanism that counteracts its anticancer effects. Based on these data, we suggest a strategy to enhance the anticancer efficacy of BEZ235 by blockade of autophagy. Thus, our study provides a rationale for the clinical development of combinations of NVP-BEZ235 and autophagy inhibitors for the treatment of HCC and other malignancies.

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