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1.  Vorinostat and sorafenib increase ER stress, autophagy and apoptosis via ceramide-dependent CD95 and PERK activation 
Cancer biology & therapy  2008;7(10):1648-1662.
We recently noted that low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat interact in a synergistic fashion to kill carcinoma cells by activating CD95, and this drug combination is entering phase I trials. The present studies mechanistically extended our initial observations. Low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat, but not the individual agents, caused an acidic sphingomyelinase and fumonisin B1-dependent increase in CD95 surface levels and CD95 association with caspase 8. Knock down of CD95 or FADD expression reduced sorafenib/vorinostat lethality. Signaling by CD95 caused PERK activation that was responsible for both promoting caspase 8 association with CD95 and for increased eIF2α phosphorylation; suppression of eIF2α function abolished drug combination lethality. Cell killing was paralleled by PERK- and eIF2α-dependent lowering of c-FLIP-s protein levels and over-expression of c-FLIP-s maintained cell viability. In a CD95-, FADD- and PERK-dependent fashion, sorafenib and vorinostat increased expression of ATG5 that was responsible for enhanced autophagy. Expression of PDGFRβ and FLT3 were essential for high dose single agent sorafenib treatment to promote autophagy. Suppression of PERK function reduced sorafenib and vorinostat lethality whereas suppression of ATG5 levels elevated sorafenib and vorinostat lethality. Over-expression of c-FLIP-s blocked apoptosis and enhanced drug-induced autophagy. Thus sorafenib and vorinostat promote ceramide-dependent CD95 activation followed by induction of multiple downstream survival regulatory signals: ceramide-CD95-PERK-FADD-pro-caspase 8 (death); ceramide-CD95-PERK-eIF2α -↓c-FLIP-s (death); ceramide-CD95-PERK-ATG5-autophagy (survival).
PMCID: PMC2674577  PMID: 18787411
Vorinostat; Sorafenib; CD95; c-FLIP-s; PDGFRβ; FLT3; autophagy; ceramide; cell death; ASMase
2.  Vorinostat and sorafenib synergistically kill tumor cells via FLIP suppression and CD95 activation 
Purpose and Design
Mechanism(s) by which the multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib and the histone deacetylase inhibitor vorinostat interact to kill hepatic, renal and pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells have been defined.
Low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat interacted in vitro in a synergistic fashion to kill hepatic, renal and pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells in multiple short term viability (24–96h) and in long term colony formation assays. Cell killing was suppressed by inhibition of cathepsin proteases and caspase 8, and to a lesser extent by inhibition of caspase 9. Twenty four hours after exposure, the activities of ERK1/2, AKT and NFκB were only modestly modulated by sorafenib and vorinostat treatment. However, 24h after exposure, sorafenib and vorinostat- treated cells exhibited markedly diminished expression of c-FLIP-s, full length BID, BCL-2, BCLXL, MCL-1, XIAP, increased expression of BIM, and increased activation of BAX, BAK and BAD. Expression of eIF2α S51A blocked sorafenib and vorinostat –induced suppression of c-FLIP-s levels and over-expression of c-FLIP-s abolished lethality. Sorafenib and vorinostat treatment increased surface levels of CD95 and CD95 association with caspase 8. Knock down of CD95 or FADD expression significantly reduced sorafenib / vorinostat -mediated lethality.
These data demonstrate that combined exposure of epithelial tumor cell types to sorafenib and vorinostat diminishes expression of multiple anti-apoptotic proteins, promotes activation of the CD95 extrinsic apoptotic and the lysosomal protease pathways, and that suppression of c-FLIP-s expression represents a critical event in transduction of the pro-apoptotic signals from CD95 to promote mitochondrial dysfunction and death.
PMCID: PMC2561272  PMID: 18765530
Vorinostat; Sorafenib; CD95; c-FLIP-s; caspase 8; cathepsin; cell death
3.  Vorinostat and sorafenib increase CD95 activation in gastrointestinal tumor cells through a Ca2+ - de novo ceramide - PP2A - ROS dependent signaling pathway 
Cancer research  2010;70(15):6313-6324.
The targeted therapeutics sorafenib and vorinostat interact in a synergistic fashion to kill carcinoma cells by activating CD95, and this drug combination is entering phase I evaluation. In this study we determined how CD95 is activated by treatment with this drug combination. Low doses of sorafenib and vorinostat but not the individual drugs rapidly increased ROS, Ca2+ and ceramide levels in GI tumor cells. The production of ROS was reduced in Rho zero cells. Quenching ROS blocked drug-induced CD95 surface localization and apoptosis. ROS generation, CD95 activation and cell killing was also blocked by quenching of induced Ca2+ levels or by inhibition of PP2A. Inhibition of acidic sphingomyelinase or de novo ceramide generation blocked the induction of ROS however combined inhibition of both acidic sphingomyelinase and de novo ceramide generation was required to block the induction of Ca2+. Quenching of ROS did not impact on drug-induced ceramide/dihydro-ceramide levels whereas quenching of Ca2+ reduced the ceramide increase. Sorafenib and vorinostat treatment radiosensitized liver and pancreatic cancer cells, an effect that was suppressed by quenching ROS or knock down of LASS6. Further, sorafenib and vorinostat treatment suppressed the growth of pancreatic tumors in vivo. Our findings demonstrate that induction of cytosolic Ca2+ by sorafenib and vorinostat is a primary event that elevates dihydroceramide levels, each essential steps in ROS generation that promotes CD95 activation.
PMCID: PMC2918282  PMID: 20631069
4.  Regulation of autophagy by ceramide-CD95-PERK signaling 
Autophagy  2008;4(7):929-931.
The manuscripts by Park et al.1 and Zhang et al.2 were initially planned as studies to understand the regulation of cell survival in transformed cells treated with sorafenib and vorinostat, and in primary hepatocytes treated with a bile acid+MEK1/2 inhibitor. In both cell systems we discovered that the toxicity of sorafenib and vorinostat or bile acid+MEK1/2 inhibitor exposure depended on the generation of ceramide and the ligand-independent activation of the CD95 death receptor, with subsequent activation of pro-caspase 8. We noted, however, in these systems that, in parallel with death receptor–induced activation of the extrinsic pathway, CD95 signaling also promoted increased phosphorylation of PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) and eIF2α, increased expression of ATG5, and increased processing of LC3 and vesicularization of a GFP-LC3 construct. The knockdown of ATG5 expression blocked GFP-LC3 vesicularization and enhanced cell killing. Thus ceramide-CD95 signaling promoted cell death via activation of pro-caspase 8 and cell survival via autophagy. PERK was shown to signal in a switch-hitting fashion; PERK promoted CD95-DISC formation and an eIF2α-dependent reduction in c-FLIP-s levels that were essential for cell killing to proceed, but in parallel it also promoted autophagy that was protective. The death receptor-induced apoptosis and autophagy occur proximal to the receptor rather than the mitochondrion, and the relative flow of death receptor signaling into either pathway may determine cell fate. Finally, death receptor induced apoptosis and autophagy could be potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3292039  PMID: 18719356
Vorinostat; Sorafenib; bile acid; CD95; autophagy; ceramide; cell death; ASMase
5.  The Role of Sorafenib in the Treatment of Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma: An Update 
Sorafenib is the first and only orally administered drug currently approved to treat advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, concerns have been raised about sorafenib therapy, including acquired drug resistance. This review provides an overview of sorafenib in the treatment of HCC on the basis of data obtained in the laboratory and in clinical studies. Three underlying mechanisms have been found to support sorafenib therapy. First, sorafenib blocks HCC cell proliferation by inhibiting BRaf and Raf1/c-Raf serine/threonine kinase phosphorylation in the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. Second, sorafenib induces apoptosis by reducing elF4E phosphorylation and down-regulating Mcl-1 levels in tumor cells. Third, sorafenib prevents tumor-associated angiogenesis by inactivating vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFR-2 and VEGFR-3) and the platelet-derived growth factor receptor-β (PDGFR-β). Clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness and relative safety of sorafenib, and thus the drug is used in un-resectable HCC. However, many patients may develop acquired resistance to sorafenib, so their response to sorafenib is eventually lost. Sorafenib may induce autophagy, which leads to apoptosis. However, autophagy can also cause drug resistance. Many studies have combined sorafenib with other treatments in an effort to increase its effects, reduce the necessary dosage, or overcome resistance. It is urgent to study the mechanisms underlying how sorafenib interacts with cellular molecules and other drugs to increase its efficacy and reduce resistance in HCC patients.
PMCID: PMC3574194  PMID: 23145926
Sorafenib; Liver Neoplasms; Carcinoma; Hepatocellular; raf Kinases; Angiogenesis inhibitors; Drug Resistance
6.  Targeting of distinct signaling cascades and cancer-associated fibroblasts define the efficacy of Sorafenib against prostate cancer cells 
Cell Death & Disease  2012;3(1):e262-.
Sorafenib, a multi-tyrosine kinase inhibitor, kills more effectively the non-metastatic prostate cancer cell line 22Rv1 than the highly metastatic prostate cancer cell line PC3. In 22Rv1 cells, constitutively active STAT3 and ERK are targeted by sorafenib, contrasting with PC3 cells, in which these kinases are not active. Notably, overexpression of a constitutively active MEK construct in 22Rv1 cells stimulates the sustained phosphorylation of Bad and protects from sorafenib-induced cell death. In PC3 cells, Src and AKT are constitutively activated and targeted by sorafenib, leading to an increase in Bim protein levels. Overexpression of constitutively active AKT or knockdown of Bim protects PC3 cells from sorafenib-induced killing. In both PC3 and 22Rv1 cells, Mcl-1 depletion is required for the induction of cell death by sorafenib as transient overexpression of Mcl-1 is protective. Interestingly, co-culturing of primary cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) with 22Rv1 or PC3 cells protected the cancer cells from sorafenib-induced cell death, and this protection was largely overcome by co-administration of the Bcl-2 antagonist, ABT737. In summary, the differential tyrosine kinase profile of prostate cancer cells defines the cytotoxic efficacy of sorafenib and this profile is modulated by CAFs to promote resistance. The combination of sorafenib with Bcl-2 antagonists, such as ABT737, may constitute a promising therapeutic strategy against prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3270278  PMID: 22278289
prostate cancer; tyrosine kinase inhibitor; sorafenib; apoptosis; autophagy; ABT737
7.  Sorafenib induces growth arrest and apoptosis of human glioblastoma cells via dephosphorylation of STAT3 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2010;9(4):953-962.
Glioblastoma is the most common type of primary brain tumor and is rapidly progressive with few treatment options. Here, we report that sorafenib (≤ 10 μM) inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in two established cell lines (U87, U251) and two primary cultures (PBT015, PBT022) from human glioblastomas. Effects of sorafenib on these tumor cells were associated with inhibiting phosphorylated STAT3 (Tyr705). Expression of a constitutively activated STAT3 mutant partially blocked the effects of sorafenib, consistent with a role for STAT3 inhibition in the response to sorafenib. Phosphorylated JAK1 was inhibited in U87 and U251 cells, while phosphorylated JAK2 was inhibited in primary cultures. Sodium vanadate, a general inhibitor of protein tyrosine phosphatases, blocked the inhibition of phosphorylation of STAT3 (Tyr705) induced by sorafenib. These data indicate that the inhibition of STAT3 activity by sorafenib involves both inhibition of upstream kinases (JAK1 and JAK2) of STAT3 and increased phosphatase activity. Phosphorylation of AKT was also reduced by sorafenib. In contrast, MAPK were not consistently inhibited by sorafenib in these cells. Two key cyclins (D and E) and the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 were down-regulated by sorafenib in both cell lines and primary cultures. Our data suggest that inhibition of STAT3 signaling by sorafenib contributes to growth arrest and induction of apoptosis in glioblastoma cells. These findings provide a rationale for potential treatment of malignant gliomas with sorafenib.
PMCID: PMC2852467  PMID: 20371721
Sorafenib; glioblastoma; STAT3; apoptosis; proliferation
8.  Sorafenib and HDAC inhibitors synergize to kill CNS tumor cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2012;13(7):567-574.
The present studies were designed to determine whether the multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib (Nexavar) interacted with histone deacetylase inhibitors to kill glioblastoma and medulloblastoma cells. In a dose-dependent fashion sorafenib lethality was enhanced in multiple genetically disparate primary human glioblastoma isolates by the HDAC inhibitor sodium valproate (Depakote). Drug exposure reduced phosphorylation of p70 S6K and of mTOR. Similar data to that with valproate were also obtained using the HDAC inhibitor vorinostat (Zolinza). Sorafenib and valproate also interacted to kill medulloblastoma and PNET cell lines. Treatment with sorafenib and HDAC inhibitors radio-sensitized both GBM and medulloblastoma cell lines. Knock down of death receptor (CD95) expression protected GBM cells from the drug combination, as did overexpression of c-FLIP-s, BCL-XL and dominant negative caspase 9. Knock down of PDGFRα recapitulated the effect of sorafenib in combination with HDAC inhibitors. Collectively, our data demonstrate that the combination of sorafenib and HDAC inhibitors kills through activation of the extrinsic pathway, and could represent a useful approach to treat CNS-derived tumors.
PMCID: PMC3679096  PMID: 22406992
HDAC inhibitor; Sorafenib; apoptosis; glioma
9.  Sorafenib enhances pemetrexed cytotoxicity through an autophagy -dependent mechanism in cancer cells 
Cancer research  2011;71(14):4955-4967.
Pemetrexed (ALIMTA) is a folate anti-metabolite that has been approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, and has been shown to stimulate autophagy. In the present study, we sought to further understand the role of autophagy in the response to pemetrexed and to test if combination therapy could enhance the level of toxicity through altered autophagy in tumor cells. The multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib (NEXAVAR), used in the treatment of renal and hepatocellular carcinoma, suppresses tumor angiogenesis and promotes autophagy in tumor cells. We found that sorafenib interacted in a greater than additive fashion with pemetrexed to increase autophagy and to kill a diverse array of tumor cell types. Tumor cell types that displayed high levels of cell killing after combination treatment showed elevated levels of AKT, p70 S6K and/or phosphorylated mTOR, in addition to Class III RTKs such as PDGFRβ and VEGFR1, known in vivo targets of sorafenib. In xenograft and in syngeneic animal models of mammary carcinoma and glioblastoma, the combination of sorafenib and pemetrexed suppressed tumor growth without deleterious effects on normal tissues or animal body mass. Taken together, the data suggest that premexetred and sorafenib act synergistically to enhance tumor killing via the promotion of a toxic form of autophagy that leads to activation of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway, and predict that combination treatment represents a future therapeutic option in the treatment of solid tumors.
PMCID: PMC3139015  PMID: 21622715
10.  Sorafenib enhances pemetrexed cytotoxicity through an autophagy- dependent mechanism in cancer cells 
Autophagy  2011;7(10):1261-1262.
Pemetrexed (ALIMTA) is a folate anti-metabolite that has been approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, and has been shown to stimulate autophagy. In the present study, we sought to further understand the role of autophagy in the response to pemetrexed and to test if combination therapy could enhance the level of toxicity through altered autophagy in tumor cells. The multikinase inhibitor sorafenib (NEXAVAR), used in the treatment of renal and hepatocellular carcinoma, suppresses tumor angiogenesis and promotes autophagy in tumor cells. We found that sorafenib interacted in a greater than additive fashion with pemetrexed to increase autophagy and to kill a diverse array of tumor cell types. Tumor cell types that displayed high levels of cell killing after combination treatment showed elevated levels of AKT, p70 S6K and/or phosphorylated mTOR, in addition to class III RTKs such as PDGFRβ and VEGFR1, known in vivo targets of sorafenib. In xenograft and in syngeneic animal models of mammary carcinoma and glioblastoma, the combination of sorafenib and pemetrexed suppressed tumor growth without deleterious effects on normal tissues or animal body mass. Taken together, the data suggest that premexetred and sorafenib act synergistically to enhance tumor killing via the promotion of a toxic form of autophagy that leads to activation of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway, and predict that combination treatment represents a future therapeutic option in the treatment of solid tumors.
PMCID: PMC3210312  PMID: 21814046
pemetrexed; sorafenib; autophagy; apoptosis; PDGFR; ZMP; AMP; thymidylate synthase
11.  Nutlin-3 Enhances Sorafenib Efficacy in Renal Cell Carcinoma 
Molecular carcinogenesis  2011;52(1):39-48.
The renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is one of the top ten cancers in USA. The renal tumors are highly angiogenic and are resistant to conventional interventions, particularly radiotherapy. The advent of multispecific tyrosine kinase inhibitor sorafenib has improved the progression-free survival in RCC, but overall survival in recurrent and metastatic RCC is still a concern that has lead to characterization of combinatorial regimens. Hence, we studied the effect of combination of nutlin-3, an MDM2 inhibitor which increases p53 levels, and sorafenib in RCC. Sorafenib along with nutlin-3 synergistically inhibited the cell survival and enhanced caspase-3 cleavage leading to apoptosis in RCC. Nutlin-3 and sorafenib were more effective in reducing the migration of RCC, in combination than as single agents. Sorafenib and nutlin-3 decreased the phosphorylation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) and ERK along with inducing p53 activity. The sorafenib and nutlin-3 co-treatment lead to enhanced levels of p53, p-p53 and increase in the levels of p53 pro-apoptotic effector PUMA, Bax and decrease in the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 levels. Importantly, our studies revealed that sorafenib alone can activate p53 in a concentration dependent manner. Thus, co-treatment of nutlin-3 with sorafenib leads to increased half-life of p53, which in turn can be activated by sorafenib, to induce downstream pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferative effects. This is the first report showing the synergistic effect of sorafenib and nutlin-3 while providing a strong clinical-translational rationale for further testing of sorafenib and nutlin-3 combinatorial regimen in human RCC.
PMCID: PMC4153352  PMID: 22006587
Renal Cell Carcinoma; Nutlin-3; Sorafenib; p53; Chemotherapy
12.  Sorafenib-Induced Apoptosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Cells Is Associated with Downregulation of RAF and Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 (Mcl-1) 
Molecular Medicine  2011;18(1):19-28.
We have previously shown that sorafenib, a multikinase inhibitor, exhibits cytotoxic effects on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells. Because the cellular microenvironment can protect CLL cells from drug-induced apoptosis, it is important to evaluate the effect of novel drugs in this context. Here we characterized the in vitro cytotoxic effects of sorafenib on CLL cells and the underlying mechanism in the presence of marrow stromal cells (MSCs) and nurselike cells (NLCs). One single dose of 10 μmol/L or the repeated addition of 1 μmol/L sorafenib caused caspase-dependent apoptosis and reduced levels of phosphorylated B-RAF, C-RAF, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (Mcl-1) in CLL cells in the presence of the microenvironment. We show that the RAF/mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)/ERK pathway can modulate Mcl-1 expression and contribute to CLL cell viability, thereby associating so-rafenib cytotoxicity to its impact on RAF and Mcl-1. To evaluate if the other targets of sorafenib can affect CLL cell viability and contribute to sorafenib-mediated cytotoxicity, we tested the sensitivity of CLL cells to several kinase inhibitors specific for these targets. Our data show that RAF and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) but not KIT, platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) and FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) are critical for CLL cell viability. Taken together, our data suggest that sorafenib exerts its cytotoxic effect likely via inhibition of the VEGFR and RAF/MEK/ERK pathways, both of which can modulate Mcl-1 expression in CLL cells. Furthermore, sorafenib induced apoptosis of CLL cells from fludarabine refractory patients in the presence of NLCs or MSCs. Our results warrant further clinical exploration of sorafenib in CLL.
PMCID: PMC3269641  PMID: 21979753
13.  Activity of the Multikinase Inhibitor Sorafenib in Combination With Cytarabine in Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a genetically heterogeneous cancer that frequently exhibits aberrant kinase signaling. We investigated a treatment strategy combining sorafenib, a multikinase inhibitor with limited single-agent activity in AML, and cytarabine, a key component of AML chemotherapy.
Using 10 human AML cell lines, we determined the effects of sorafenib (10 μM) on antileukemic activity by measuring cell viability, proliferation, ERK1/2 signaling, and apoptosis. We also investigated the effects of sorafenib treatment on the accumulation of cytarabine and phosphorylated metabolites in vitro. A human equivalent dose of sorafenib in nontumor-bearing NOD-SCID-IL2Rγnull mice was determined by pharmacokinetic studies using high performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometric detection, and steady-state concentrations were estimated by the fit of a one-compartment pharmacokinetic model to concentration–time data. The antitumor activity of sorafenib alone (60 mg/kg) twice daily, cytarabine alone (6.25 mg/kg administered intraperitoneally), or sorafenib once or twice daily plus cytarabine was evaluated in NOD-SCID-IL2Rγnull mice bearing AML xenografts.
Sorafenib at 10 μM inhibited cell viability, proliferation and ERK1/2 signaling, and induced apoptosis in all cell lines studied. Sorafenib also increased the cellular accumulation of cytarabine and metabolites resulting in additive to synergistic antileukemic activity. A dose of 60 mg/kg in mice produced a human equivalent sorafenib steady-state plasma exposure of 10 μM. The more dose-intensive twice-daily sorafenib plus cytarabine (n = 15) statistically significantly prolonged median survival in an AML xenograft model compared with sorafenib once daily plus cytarabine (n = 12), cytarabine alone (n = 26), or controls (n = 27) (sorafenib twice daily plus cytarabine, median survival = 46 days; sorafenib once daily plus cytarabine, median survival = 40 days; cytarabine alone, median survival = 36 days; control, median survival = 19 days; P < .001 for combination twice daily vs all other treatments listed).
Sorafenib in combination with cytarabine resulted in strong anti-AML activity in vitro and in vivo. These results warrant clinical evaluation of sorafenib with cytarabine-based regimens in molecularly heterogeneous AML.
PMCID: PMC3110171  PMID: 21487100
14.  Activating oxidative phosphorylation by a pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase inhibitor overcomes sorafenib resistance of hepatocellular carcinoma 
British Journal of Cancer  2012;108(1):72-81.
Sorafenib is the only drug approved for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The bioenergetic propensity of cancer cells has been correlated to anticancer drug resistance, but such correlation is unclear in sorafenib resistance of HCC.
Six sorafenib-naive HCC cell lines and one sorafenib-resistant HCC cell line (Huh-7R; derived from sorafenib-sensitive Huh-7) were used. The bioenergetic propensity was calculated by measurement of lactate in the presence or absence of oligomycin. Dichloroacetate (DCA), a pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK) inhibitor, and siRNA of hexokinase 2 (HK2) were used to target relevant pathways of cancer metabolism. Cell viability, mitochondrial membrane potential, and sub-G1 fraction were measured for in vitro efficacy. Reactive oxygen species (ROS), adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and glucose uptake were also measured. A subcutaneous xenograft mouse model was used for in vivo efficacy.
The bioenergetic propensity for using glycolysis correlated with decreased sorafenib sensitivity (R2=0.9067, among sorafenib-naive cell lines; P=0.003, compared between Huh-7 and Huh-7 R). DCA reduced lactate production and increased ROS and ATP, indicating activation of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). DCA markedly sensitised sorafenib-resistant HCC cells to sorafenib-induced apoptosis (sub-G1 (combination vs sorafenib): Hep3B, 65.4±8.4% vs 13±2.9% Huh-7 R, 25.3± 5.7% vs 4.3±1.5% each P<0.0001), whereas siRNA of HK2 did not. Sorafenib (10 mg kg−1 per day) plus DCA (100 mg kg−1 per day) also resulted in superior tumour regression than sorafenib alone in mice (tumour size: −87% vs −36%, P<0.001).
The bioenergetic propensity is a potentially useful predictive biomarker of sorafenib sensitivity, and activation of OXPHOS by PDK inhibitors may overcome sorafenib resistance of HCC.
PMCID: PMC3553537  PMID: 23257894
glycolysis; oxidative phosphorylation; sorafenib; dichloroacetate; hepatocellular carcinoma
15.  Multiple Mechanisms Mediate Resistance to Sorafenib in Urothelial Cancer 
Genetic and epigenetic changes in the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling render urothelial cancer a potential target for tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) treatment. However, clinical trials of several TKIs failed to prove efficacy. In this context, we investigated changes in MAPK signaling activity, downstream apoptotic regulators and changes in cell cycle distribution in different urothelial cancer cell lines (UCCs) upon treatment with the multikinase inhibitor sorafenib. None of the classical sorafenib targets (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1/-receptor 2, VEGFR1/-R2; platelet-derived growth factor receptor α/-receptor β, PDGFR-α/-β; c-KIT) was expressed at significant levels leaving RAF proteins as its likely molecular target. Low sorafenib concentrations paradoxically increased cell viability, whereas higher concentrations induced G1 arrest and eventually apoptosis. MAPK signaling remained partly active after sorafenib treatment, especially in T24 cells with an oncogenic HRAS mutation. AKT phosphorylation was increased, suggesting compensatory activation of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway. Sorafenib regularly down regulated the anti-apoptotic myeloid cell leukemia 1 (Mcl-1) protein, but combinatorial treatment with ABT-737 targeting other B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family proteins did not result in synergistic effects. In summary, efficacy of sorafenib in urothelial cancer cell lines appears hampered by limited effects on MAPK signaling, crosstalk with further cancer pathways and an anti-apoptotic state of UCCs. These observations may account for the lack of efficacy of sorafenib in clinical trials and should be considered more broadly in the development of signaling pathway inhibitors for drug therapy in urothelial carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC4264180  PMID: 25387078
tyrosine kinase inhibitor; urothelial cancer; mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling; apoptosis
16.  Vitamin K enhancement of Sorafenib-mediated HCC cell growth inhibition in vitro and in vivo 
The multi-kinase inhibitor Sorafenib, is the first oral agent to show activity against human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Apoptosis has been shown to be induced in HCC by several agents, including Sorafenib, as well as by the naturally occurring K vitamins (VKs). Since few non toxic agents have activity against HCC growth, we evaluated the activity of Sorafenib and K vitamins, both independently and together on the growth in vitro and in vivo of HCC cells. We found that when VK was combined with Sorafenib, the concentration of Sorafenib required for growth inhibition was substantially reduced. Conversely, VK enhanced Sorafenib effects in several HCC cell lines on growth inhibition. Growth could be inhibited at doses of VK plus Sorafenib that were ineffective with either agent alone,using vitamins K1, K2 and K5. Combination VK1 plus Sorafenib induced apoptosis on FACS, TUNEL staining and caspase activation. Phospho-ERK levels were decreased, as was Mcl-1, an ERK target. Sorafenib alone inhibited growth of transplantable HCC in vivo. At sub-effective Sorafenib doses in vivo, addition of VK1 caused major tumor regression, with decreased phospho-ERK and Mcl-1 staining. Thus, combination VK1 plus Sorafenib strongly induced growth inhibition and apoptosis in rodent and human HCC and inhibited the RAF/MEK/ERK pathway. VK1 alone activated PKA, a mediator of inhibitory Raf phosphorylation. Thus, each agent can antagonize Raf; Sorafenib as a direct inhibitor and VK1 through inhibitory Raf phosphorylation. Since both agents are available for human use, the combination has potential for improving Sorafenib effects in HCC.
PMCID: PMC2955185  PMID: 21351273
Sorafenib; Vitamin K; Apoptosis; ERK; HCC
17.  Valproic acid overcomes transforming growth factor-β-mediated sorafenib resistance in hepatocellular carcinoma 
Sorafenib is a multi-kinase inhibitor approved for hepatocellular carcinoma, but rarely causes tumor regression in patients with chronic liver diseases. To investigate whether growth factor-mediated signaling is involved in sorafenib resistance, HepG2 and PLC/PRF/5 hepatoma cells were exposed to epidermal growth factor (EGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) or transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) prior to treatment with sorafenib. Furthermore, to identify an effective combination treatment with sorafenib, growth factor-sensitized cells were treated with sorafenib alone or in combination with celecoxib, lovastatin or valproic acid (VPA). Trypan blue staining and Annexin V assays showed that the cytotoxic effect of sorafenib was inhibited by 15-54% in cells sensitized to TGF-β (P<0.05). Western blotting analysis showed that TGF-β significantly activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-mediated AKT signaling, and sorafenib failed to suppress both ERK and AKT in TGF-β-sensitized cells. The decreased anti-tumor effect of sorafenib was rescued by chemical inhibition of ERK and AKT. When TGF-β-sensitized cells were treated with sorafenib plus VPA, the levels of phosphorylated ERK and AKT were considerably suppressed and the numbers of dead cells were increased by 3.7-5.7-fold compared with those exposed to sorafenib alone (P<0.05). Moreover, low dose sorafenib-induced cell migration was effectively suppressed by combination treatment with sorafenib and VPA. Collectively, TGF-β/ERK/AKT signaling might play a critical role in sorafenib resistance in hepatoma cells, and combination treatment with VPA may be effective against this drug resistance.
PMCID: PMC4014211  PMID: 24817927
Sorafenib; TGF-β; hepatocellular carcinoma
18.  Differential modulatory effects of GSK-3β and HDM2 on sorafenib-induced AIF nuclear translocation (programmed necrosis) in melanoma 
Molecular Cancer  2011;10:115.
GSK-3β phosphorylates numerous substrates that govern cell survival. It phosphorylates p53, for example, and induces its nuclear export, HDM2-dependent ubiquitination, and proteasomal degradation. GSK-3β can either enhance or inhibit programmed cell death, depending on the nature of the pro-apoptotic stimulus. We previously showed that the multikinase inhibitor sorafenib activated GSK-3β and that this activation attenuated the cytotoxic effects of the drug in various BRAF-mutant melanoma cell lines. In this report, we describe the results of studies exploring the effects of GSK-3β on the cytotoxicity and antitumor activity of sorafenib combined with the HDM2 antagonist MI-319.
MI-319 alone increased p53 levels and p53-dependent gene expression in melanoma cells but did not induce programmed cell death. Its cytotoxicity, however, was augmented in some melanoma cell lines by the addition of sorafenib. In responsive cell lines, the MI-319/sorafenib combination induced the disappearance of p53 from the nucleus, the down modulation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, the translocation of p53 to the mitochondria and that of AIF to the nuclei. These events were all GSK-3β-dependent in that they were blocked with a GSK-3β shRNA and facilitated in otherwise unresponsive melanoma cell lines by the introduction of a constitutively active form of the kinase (GSK-3β-S9A). These modulatory effects of GSK-3β on the activities of the sorafenib/MI-319 combination were the exact reverse of its effects on the activities of sorafenib alone, which induced the down modulation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL and the nuclear translocation of AIF only in cells in which GSK-3β activity was either down modulated or constitutively low. In A375 xenografts, the antitumor effects of sorafenib and MI-319 were additive and associated with the down modulation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, the nuclear translocation of AIF, and increased suppression of tumor angiogenesis.
Our data demonstrate a complex partnership between GSK-3β and HDM2 in the regulation of p53 function in the nucleus and mitochondria. The data suggest that the ability of sorafenib to activate GSK-3β and alter the intracellular distribution of p53 may be exploitable as an adjunct to agents that prevent the HDM2-dependent degradation of p53 in the treatment of melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3189171  PMID: 21929745
Sorafenib; MI-319; HDM2; p53; GSK-3β; Apoptosis-Inducing Factor (AIF); apoptosis; Bcl-2
19.  Inhibition of autophagy significantly enhances combination therapy with sorafenib and HDAC inhibitors for human hepatoma cells 
AIM: To clarify whether histone deacetylase inhibitors histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACIs) can sensitize hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells to sorafenib treatment.
METHODS: Bax, Bcl-2, ATG5-ATG12, p21, and p27 protein levels in Hep3B, HepG2, and PLC/PRF/5 cells were examined by Western blot. CCK8 and a fluorometric caspase-3 assay were used to examine cellular viability and apoptosis levels. The effect of Beclin-1 on sensitization of HCC cells to sorafenib was examined by transfecting Beclin-1 siRNA into Hep3B, HepG2, and PLC/PRF/5 cells.
RESULTS: Autophagy inhibition enhances the inhibitory effects of vorinostat and sorafenib alone or in combination on HCC cell growth. Vorinostat and sorafenib synergistically induced apoptosis and cell cycle alterations. Western blot data indicated that HDACIs and Beclin-1 knockdown increased the p53 acetylation level. The knockdown of Beclin-1 enhanced the synergistic effect of the combination of vorinostat with sorafenib.
CONCLUSION: HDACIs can sensitize HCC cells to sorafenib treatment by regulating the acetylation level of Beclin-1.
PMCID: PMC4009527  PMID: 24833845
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Histone deacetylase inhibitors; Autophagy; Sorafenib; Chemoresistance
20.  Hepatic Stellate Cell Coculture Enables Sorafenib Resistance in Huh7 Cells through HGF/c-Met/Akt and Jak2/Stat3 Pathways 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:764981.
Purpose. Tumor microenvironment confers drug resistance to kinase inhibitors by increasing RKT ligand levels that result in the activation of cell-survival signaling including PI3K and MAPK signals. We assessed whether HSC-LX2 coculture conferred sorafenib resistance in Huh7 and revealed the mechanism underlying the drug resistance. Experimental Design. The effect of LX2 on sorafenib resistance was determined by coculture system with Huh7 cells. The rescue function of LX2 supernatants was assessed by MTT assay and fluorescence microscopy. The underlying mechanism was tested by administration of pathway inhibitors and manifested by Western blotting. Results. LX2 coculture significantly induced sorafenib resistance in Huh7 by activating p-Akt that led to reactivation of p-ERK. LX2 secreted HGF into the culture medium that triggered drug resistance, and exogenous HGF could also induce sorafenib resistance. The inhibition of p-Akt blocked sorafenib resistance caused by LX2 coculture. Increased phosphorylation of Jak2 and Stat3 was also detected in LX2 cocultured Huh7 cells. The Jak inhibitor tofacitinib reversed sorafenib resistance by blocking Jak2 and Stat3 activation. The combined administration of sorafenib and p-Stat3 inhibitor S3I-201 augmented induced apoptosis even in the presence of sorafenib resistance. Conclusions. HSC-LX2 coculture induced sorafenib resistance in Huh7 through multiple pathways: HGF/c-Met/Akt pathway and Jak2/Stat3 pathway. A combined administration of sorafenib and S3I-201 was able to augment sorafenib-induced apoptosis even in the presence of LX2 coculture.
PMCID: PMC4095710  PMID: 25057499
21.  Effects of Sorafenib on Intra-Tumoral Interstitial Fluid Pressure and Circulating Biomarkers in Patients with Refractory Sarcomas (NCI Protocol 6948) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e26331.
Sorafenib is a multi-targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor with therapeutic efficacy in several malignancies. Sorafenib may exert its anti-neoplastic effect in part by altering vascular permeability and reducing intra-tumoral interstitial hypertension. As correlative science with a phase II study in patients with advanced soft-tissue sarcomas (STS), we evaluated the impact of this agent on intra-tumor interstitial fluid pressure (IFP), serum circulating biomarkers, and vascular density.
Patients and Methods
Patients with advanced STS with measurable disease and at least one superficial lesion amenable to biopsy received sorafenib 400 mg twice daily. Intratumoral IFP and plasma and circulating cell biomarkers were measured before and after 1–2 months of sorafenib administration. Results were analyzed in the context of the primary clinical endpoint of time-to-progression (TTP).
In 15 patients accrued, the median TTP was 45 days (range 14–228). Intra-tumoral IFP measurements obtained in 6 patients at baseline showed a direct correlation with tumor size. Two patients with stable disease at two months had post-sorafenib IFP evaluations and demonstrated a decline in IFP and vascular density. Sorafenib significantly increased plasma VEGF, PlGF, and SDF1α and decreased sVEGFR-2 levels. Increased plasma SDF1α and decreased sVEGFR-2 levels on day 28 correlated with disease progression.
Pretreatment intra-tumoral IFP correlated with tumor size and decreased in two evaluable patients with SD on sorafenib. Sorafenib also induced changes in circulating biomarkers consistent with expected VEGF pathway blockade, despite the lack of more striking clinical activity in this small series.
Trial Registration NCT00330421
PMCID: PMC3274514  PMID: 22347360
22.  Sorafenib inhibits tumor growth and vascularization of rhabdomyosarcoma cells by blocking IGF-1R-mediated signaling 
OncoTargets and therapy  2008;1:67-78.
The growth of many soft tissue sarcomas is dependent on aberrant growth factor signaling, which promotes their proliferation and motility. With this in mind, we evaluated the effect of sorafenib, a receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, on cell growth and apoptosis in sarcoma cell lines of various histological subtypes. We found that sorafenib effectively inhibited cell proliferation in rhabdomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma with IC50 values <5 μM. Sorafenib effectively induced growth arrest in rhabdomyosarcoma cells, which was concurrent with inhibition of Akt and Erk signaling. Studies of ligand-induced phosphorylation of Erk and Akt in rhabdomyosarcoma cells showed that insulin-like growth factor-1 is a potent activator, which can be blocked by treatment with sorafenib. In vivo sorafenib treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma xenografts had a significant inhibitory effect on tumor growth, which was associated with inhibited vascularization and enhanced necrosis in the adjacent tumor stroma. Our results demonstrate that in vitro and in vivo growth of rhabdomyosarcoma can be suppressed by treatment with sorafenib, and suggests the possibilities of using sorafenib as a potential adjuvant therapy for the treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma.
PMCID: PMC2994208  PMID: 21127754
soft tissue sarcoma; kinase inhibitors; targeted therapy; vascularization
23.  Schedule-dependent antitumor effects of 5-fluorouracil combined with sorafenib in hepatocellular carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:363.
Recently, a phase II clinical trial in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has suggested that the combination of sorafenib and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is feasible and side effects are manageable. However, preclinical experimental data explaining the interaction mechanism(s) are lacking. Our objective is to investigate the anticancer efficacy and mechanism of combined sorafenib and 5-FU therapy in vitro in HCC cell lines MHCC97H and SMMC-7721.
Drug effects on cell proliferation were evaluated by cell viability assays. Combined-effects analyses were conducted according to the median-effect principle. Cell cycle distribution was measured by flow cytometry. Expression levels of proteins related to the RAF/MEK/ERK and STAT3 pathways and to cell cycle progression (cyclin D1) were determined by western blot analysis.
Sorafenib and 5-FU alone or in combination showed significant efficacy in inhibiting cell proliferation in both cell lines tested. However, a schedule-dependent combined effect, associated with the order of compound treatments, was observed. Efficacy was synergistic with 5-FU pretreatment followed by sorafenib, but it was antagonistic with the reverse treatment order. Sorafenib pretreatment resulted in a significant increase in the half inhibitory concentration (IC50) of 5-FU in both cell lines. Sorafenib induced G1-phase arrest and significantly decreased the proportion of cells in S phase when administrated alone or followed by 5-FU. The RAF/MEK/ERK and STAT3 pathways were blocked and cyclin D1 expression was down regulated significantly in both cell lines by sorafenib; whereas, the kinase pathways were hardly affected by 5-FU, and cyclin D1 expression was up regulated.
Antitumor activity of sorafenib and 5-FU, alone or in combination, is seen in HCC cell lines. The nature of the combined effects, however, depends on the particular cell line and treatment order of the two compounds. Sorafenib appears to reduce sensitivity to 5-FU through down regulation of cyclin D1 expression by inhibiting RAF/MEK/ERK and STAT3 signaling, resulting in G1-phase arrest and reduction of the S-phase cell subpopulation when 5-FU is administrated after sorafenib, in which situation, combination treatment of the two agents results in antagonism; on the other hand, when sorafenib is administrated afterward, it can continue to work since it is not cell cycle specific, as a result, combination treatment of the two agents shows an additive-to-synergistic effect.
PMCID: PMC3734040  PMID: 23895220
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Sorafenib; 5-fluorouracil; Cell cycle arrest
24.  Sorafenib inhibits growth and metastasis of hepatocellular carcinoma by blocking STAT3 
AIM: To investigate the inhibitory role and the underlying mechanisms of sorafenib on signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) activity in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
METHODS: Human and rat HCC cell lines were treated with sorafenib. Proliferation and STAT3 dephosphorylation were assessed. Potential molecular mechanisms of STAT3 pathway inhibition by sorafenib were evaluated. In vivo antitumor action and STAT3 inhibition were investigated in an immunocompetent orthotopic rat HCC model.
RESULTS: Sorafenib decreased STAT3 phosphorylation at the tyrosine and serine residues (Y705 and S727), but did not affect Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) and phospha-tase shatterproof 2 (SHP2), which is associated with growth inhibition in HCC cells. Dephosphorylation of S727 was associated with attenuated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, similar to the effects of a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126, suggesting that sorafenib induced S727 dephosphorylation by inhibiting MEK/ERK signaling. Meanwhile, sorafenib could also inhibit Akt phosphorylation, and both the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002 and Akt knockdown resulted in Y705 dephosphorylation, indicating that Y705 dephosphorylation by sorafenib was mediated by inhibiting the PI3K/Akt pathway. Finally, in the rat HCC model, sorafenib significantly inhibited STAT3 activity, reducing tumor growth and metastasis.
CONCLUSION: Sorafenib inhibits growth and metastasis of HCC in part by blocking the MEK/ERK/STAT3 and PI3K/Akt/STAT3 signaling pathways, but independent of JAK2 and SHP2 activation.
PMCID: PMC3198022  PMID: 22025881
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Sorafenib; Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3; Extracellular signal regulated kinase; Akt
25.  The Kinase Inhibitor Sorafenib Induces Cell Death through a Process Involving Induction of Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(15):5499-5513.
Sorafenib is a multikinase inhibitor that induces apoptosis in human leukemia and other malignant cells. Recently, we demonstrated that sorafenib diminishes Mcl-1 protein expression by inhibiting translation through a MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signaling-independent mechanism and that this phenomenon plays a key functional role in sorafenib-mediated lethality. Here, we report that inducible expression of constitutively active MEK1 fails to protect cells from sorafenib-mediated lethality, indicating that sorafenib-induced cell death is unrelated to MEK1/2-ERK1/2 pathway inactivation. Notably, treatment with sorafenib induced endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in human leukemia cells (U937) manifested by immediate cytosolic-calcium mobilization, GADD153 and GADD34 protein induction, PKR-like ER kinase (PERK) and eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) phosphorylation, XBP1 splicing, and a general reduction in protein synthesis as assessed by [35S]methionine incorporation. These events were accompanied by pronounced generation of reactive oxygen species through a mechanism dependent upon cytosolic-calcium mobilization and a significant decline in GRP78/Bip protein levels. Interestingly, enforced expression of IRE1α markedly reduced sorafenib-mediated apoptosis, whereas knockdown of IRE1α or XBP1, disruption of PERK activity, or inhibition of eIF2α phosphorylation enhanced sorafenib-mediated lethality. Finally, downregulation of caspase-2 or caspase-4 by small interfering RNA significantly diminished apoptosis induced by sorafenib. Together, these findings demonstrate that ER stress represents a central component of a MEK1/2-ERK1/2-independent cell death program triggered by sorafenib.
PMCID: PMC1952105  PMID: 17548474

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