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1.  Ethoxysanguinarine Induces Inhibitory Effects and Downregulates CIP2A in Lung Cancer Cells 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;5(2):113-118.
Cancerous inhibitor of protein phosphatase 2A (CIP2A) is an oncoprotein that is able to stabilize c-Myc oncogenic transcription factor and promote proliferation and transformation of cells. CIP2A is overexpressed in many primary tumors, and pharmacological inactivation of CIP2A is an emerging concept for the development of novel anticancer agents. In this study, we demonstrate that overexpression of CIP2A predicts poor prognosis in lung cancer, and a natural compound, ethoxysanguinarine (ESG), effectively downregulates CIP2A protein and its downstream signaling molecules, c-Myc and pAkt, and induces protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) activity. ESG inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis of lung cancer cells, and enhances the effects of cisplatin on malignant cells. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that CIP2A is inversely associated with the clinical outcome of lung cancer, and ESG can serve as a lead compound for the development of CIP2A inhibitor for cancer therapies.
PMCID: PMC4027744  PMID: 24900782
Ethoxysanguinarine; CIP2A; lung cancer; cell proliferation; apoptosis
2.  Largazole Arrests Cell Cycle at G1 Phase and Triggers Proteasomal Degradation of E2F1 in Lung Cancer Cells 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;4(10):921-926.
Aberration in cell cycle has been shown to be a common occurrence in lung cancer, and cell cycle inhibitor represents an effective therapeutic strategy. In this study, we test the effects of a natural macrocyclic depsipeptide largazole on lung cancer cells and report that this compound potently inhibits the proliferation and clonogenic activity of lung cancer cells but not normal bronchial epithelial cells. Largazole arrests cell cycle at G1 phase with up-regulation of the expression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21. Interestingly, largazole enhances the E2F1-HDAC1 binding affinity and induces a proteasomal degradation of E2F1, leading to suppression of E2F1 function in lung cancer but not normal bronchial epithelial cells. Because E2F1 is overexpressed in lung cancer tumor samples, these data indicate that largazole is an E2F1-targeting cell cycle inhibitor, which bears therapeutic potentials for this malignant neoplasm.
PMCID: PMC4027503  PMID: 24900585
Lung cancer; cell cycle; largazole; E2F1; degradation
3.  The natural compound magnolol inhibits invasion and exhibits potential in human breast cancer therapy 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:3098.
Invasion and metastasis are the main causes of treatment failure and death in breast cancer. Thus, novel invasion-based therapies such as those involving natural agents are urgently required. In this study, we examined the effects of magnolol (Mag), a compound extracted from medicinal herbs, on breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Highly invasive cancer cells were found to be highly sensitive to treatment. Mag markedly inhibited the activity of highly invasive MDA-MB-231 cells. Furthermore, Mag significantly downregulated matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) expression, an enzyme critical to tumor invasion. Mag also inhibited nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) transcriptional activity and the DNA binding of NF-κB to MMP-9 promoter. These results indicate that Mag suppresses tumor invasion by inhibiting MMP-9 through the NF-κB pathway. Moreover, Mag overcame the promoting effects of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) on the invasion of MDA-MB-231 cells. Our findings reveal the therapeutic potential and mechanism of Mag against cancer.
PMCID: PMC3827615  PMID: 24226295
4.  Gefitinib Analogue V1801 Induces Apoptosis of T790M EGFR-Harboring Lung Cancer Cells by Up-Regulation of the BH-3 Only Protein Noxa 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48748.
Treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with drugs targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), e.g., gefitinib and erlotinib, will eventually fail because of the development of secondary mutations such as T790M in EGFR. Strategies to overcome this resistance are therefore an urgent need. In this study, we synthesized a dozen of novel gefitinib analogues and evaluated their effects on L858R/T790M-EGFR harboring NSCLC cells, and reported that one of these gefitinib mimetics, N-(2-bromo-5-(trifluoromethyl) phenyl)-6-methoxy-7-(3-(piperidin-1-yl)propoxy)quinazolin-4-amine (hereafter, V1801), triggered apoptosis of the NSCLC cells and overcame gefitinib-resistance in mice inoculated with NCI-H1975 cells. Though V1801 only moderately inhibited EGFR kinase activity, it markedly induced the expression of the BH3-only protein Noxa, and Noxa silencing significantly reduced V1801-induced apoptosis of NCI-H1975 cells. It is showed that V1801 interfered with the expression of the transcription factor c-Myc and the extracellular signal regulated kinase (Erk) pathway. V1801 in combination with proteasome inhibitor bortezomib exerted enhanced cytotoxicity in NCI-H1975 cells possibly due to potentiated induction of Noxa expression. These data indicate that gefinitib analogues with weak EGFR inhibitory activity may overcome drug-resistance via activation of BH-3 only pro-apoptotic proteins, and V1801 may have therapeutic potentials for NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3504066  PMID: 23185274
5.  Identification of an Annonaceous Acetogenin Mimetic, AA005, as an AMPK Activator and Autophagy Inducer in Colon Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47049.
Annonaceous acetogenins, a large family of naturally occurring polyketides isolated from various species of the plant genus Annonaceae, have been found to exhibit significant cytotoxicity against a variety of cancer cells. Previous studies showed that these compounds could act on the mitochondria complex-I and block the corresponding electron transport chain and terminate ATP production. However, more details of the mechanisms of action remain ambiguous. In this study we tested the effects of a set of mimetics of annonaceous acetogenin on some cancer cell lines, and report that among them AA005 exhibits the most potent antitumor activity. AA005 depletes ATP, activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inhibits mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) signal pathway, leading to growth inhibition and autophagy of colon cancer cells. AMPK inhibitors compound C and inosine repress, while AMPK activator AICAR enhances, AA005-caused proliferation suppression and subsequent autophagy of colon cancer cells. AA005 enhances the ATP depletion and AMPK activation caused by 2-deoxyglucose, an inhibitor of mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis. AA005 also inhibits chemotherapeutic agent cisplatin-triggered up-regulation of mTOR and synergizes with this drug in suppression of proliferation and induction of apoptosis of colon cancer cells. These data indicate that AA005 is a new metabolic inhibitor which exhibits therapeutic potentials in colon cancer.
PMCID: PMC3466238  PMID: 23056575
6.  Small Compound 6-O-Angeloylplenolin Induces Mitotic Arrest and Exhibits Therapeutic Potentials in Multiple Myeloma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21930.
Multiple myeloma (MM) is a disease of cell cycle dysregulation while cell cycle modulation can be a target for MM therapy. In this study we investigated the effects and mechanisms of action of a sesquiterpene lactone 6-O-angeloylplenolin (6-OAP) on MM cells.
Methodology/Principal Findings
MM cells were exposed to 6-OAP and cell cycle distribution were analyzed. The role for cyclin B1 to play in 6-OAP-caused mitotic arrest was tested by specific siRNA analyses in U266 cells. MM.1S cells co-incubated with interleukin-6 (IL-6), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), or bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) were treated with 6-OAP. The effects of 6-OAP plus other drugs on MM.1S cells were evaluated. The in vivo therapeutic efficacy and pharmacokinetic features of 6-OAP were tested in nude mice bearing U266 cells and Sprague-Dawley rats, respectively. We found that 6-OAP suppressed the proliferation of dexamethasone-sensitive and dexamethasone-resistant cell lines and primary CD138+ MM cells. 6-OAP caused mitotic arrest, accompanied by activation of spindle assembly checkpoint and blockage of ubiquitiniation and subsequent proteasomal degradation of cyclin B1. Combined use of 6-OAP and bortezomib induced potentiated cytotoxicity with inactivation of ERK1/2 and activation of JNK1/2 and Casp-8/-3. 6-OAP overcame the protective effects of IL-6 and IGF-I on MM cells through inhibition of Jak2/Stat3 and Akt, respectively. 6-OAP inhibited BMSCs-facilitated MM cell expansion and TNF-α-induced NF-κB signal. Moreover, 6-OAP exhibited potent anti-MM activity in nude mice and favorable pharmacokinetics in rats.
These results indicate that 6-OAP is a new cell cycle inhibitor which shows therapeutic potentials for MM.
PMCID: PMC3130785  PMID: 21755010
7.  Overexpression and Small Molecule-Triggered Downregulation of CIP2A in Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20159.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with a five-year overall survival rate of only 15%. Cancerous inhibitor of PP2A (CIP2A) is a human oncoprotein inhibiting PP2A in many human malignancies. However, whether CIP2A can be a new drug target for lung cancer is largely unclear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Normal and malignant lung tissues were derived from 60 lung cancer patients from southern China. RT-PCR, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry were used to evaluate the expression of CIP2A. We found that among the 60 patients, CIP2A was undetectable or very low in paratumor normal tissues, but was dramatically elevated in tumor samples in 38 (63.3%) patients. CIP2A overexpression was associated with cigarette smoking. Silencing CIP2A by siRNA inhibited the proliferation and clonogenic activity of lung cancer cells. Intriguingly, we found a natural compound, rabdocoetsin B which is extracted from a Traditional Chinese Medicinal herb Rabdosia coetsa, could induce down-regulation of CIP2A and inactivation of Akt pathway, and inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis in a variety of lung cancer cells.
Our findings strongly indicate that CIP2A could be an effective target for lung cancer drug development, and the therapeutic potentials of CIP2A-targeting agents warrant further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3105001  PMID: 21655278
8.  Synergy between Proteasome Inhibitors and Imatinib Mesylate in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6257.
Resistance developed by leukemic cells, unsatisfactory efficacy on patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) at accelerated and blastic phases, and potential cardiotoxity, have been limitations for imatinib mesylate (IM) in treating CML. Whether low dose IM in combination with agents of distinct but related mechanisms could be one of the strategies to overcome these concerns warrants careful investigation.
Methods and Findings
We tested the therapeutic efficacies as well as adverse effects of low dose IM in combination with proteasome inhibitor, Bortezomib (BOR) or proteasome inhibitor I (PSI), in two CML murine models, and investigated possible mechanisms of action on CML cells. Our results demonstrated that low dose IM in combination with BOR exerted satisfactory efficacy in prolongation of life span and inhibition of tumor growth in mice, and did not cause cardiotoxicity or body weight loss. Consistently, BOR and PSI enhanced IM-induced inhibition of long-term clonogenic activity and short-term cell growth of CML stem/progenitor cells, and potentiated IM-caused inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis of BCR-ABL+ cells. IM/BOR and IM/PSI inhibited Bcl-2, increased cytoplasmic cytochrome C, and activated caspases. While exerting suppressive effects on BCR-ABL, E2F1, and β-catenin, IM/BOR and IM/PSI inhibited proteasomal degradation of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), leading to a re-activation of this important negative regulator of BCR-ABL. In addition, both combination therapties inhibited Bruton's tyrosine kinase via suppression of NFκB.
These data suggest that combined use of tyrosine kinase inhibitor and proteasome inhibitor might be helpful for optimizing CML treatment.
PMCID: PMC2705802  PMID: 19606213
9.  Analysis of phenotype–genotype connection: the story of dissecting disease pathogenesis in genomic era in China, and beyond 
DNA is the ultimate depository of biological complexity. Thus, in order to understand life and gain insights into disease pathogenesis, genetic information embedded in the sequence of DNA base pairs comprising chromosomes should be deciphered. The stories of investigating the association between phenotype and genotype in China and other countries further demonstrate that genomics can serve as a probe for disease biology. We now know that in Mendelian disorders, one gene is not only a dictator of one phenotype but also a dictator of two or more distinct disorders. Dissecting genetic abnormalities of complex diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, mental diseases, coronary heart disease and cancer, may unravel the complicated networks and crosstalks, and help to simplify the complexity of the disease. The transcriptome and proteomic analysis for medicine not only deepen our understanding of disease pathogenesis, but also provide novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Taken together, genomic research offers a new opportunity for determining how diseases occur, by taking advantage of experiments of nature and a growing array of sophisticated research tools to identify the molecular abnormalities underlying disease processes. We should be ready for the advent of genomic medicine, and put the genome into the doctors' bag, so that we can help patients to conquer diseases.
PMCID: PMC2435570  PMID: 17327209
phenotype; genotype; genome; China
10.  Treatment of acute promyelocytic leukaemia with all-trans retinoic acid and arsenic trioxide: a paradigm of synergistic molecular targeting therapy 
To turn a disease from highly fatal to highly curable is extremely difficult, especially when the disease is a type of cancer. However, we can gain some insight into how this can be done by looking back over the 50-year history of taming acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL). APL is the M3 type of acute myeloid leukaemia characterized by an accumulation of abnormal promyelocytes in bone marrow, a severe bleeding tendency and the presence of the chromosomal translocation t(15;17) or variants. APL was considered the most fatal type of acute leukaemia five decades ago and the treatment of APL was a nightmare for physicians. Great efforts have been made by scientists worldwide to conquer this disease. The first use of chemotherapy (CT) was unsuccessful due to lack of supportive care and cytotoxic-agent-related exacerbated coagulopathy. The first breakthrough came from the use of anthracyclines which improved the complete remission (CR) rate, though the 5-year overall survival could only be attained in a small proportion of patients. A rational and intriguing hypothesis, to induce differentiation of APL cells rather than killing them, was raised in the 1970s. Laudably, the use of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) in treating APL resulted in terminal differentiation of APL cells and a 90–95% CR rate of patients, turning differentiation therapy in cancer treatment from hypothesis to practice. The combination of ATRA with CT further improved the 5-year overall survival. When arsenic trioxide (ATO) was used to treat relapsed APL not only the patients but also the ancient drug were revived. ATO exerts dose-dependent dual effects on APL cells: at low concentration, ATO induces partial differentiation, while at relatively high concentration, it triggers apoptosis. Of note, both ATRA and ATO trigger catabolism of the PML–RARα fusion protein which is the key player in APL leukaemogenesis generated from t(15;17), targeting the RARα (retinoic acid receptor α) or promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) moieties, respectively. Hence, in treating APL both ATRA and ATO represent paradigms for molecularly targeted therapy. At molecular level, ATRA and ATO synergistically modulate multiple downstream pathways/cascades. Strikingly, a clearance of PML–RARα transcript in an earlier and more thorough manner, and a higher quality remission and survival in newly diagnosed APL are achieved when ATRA is combined with ATO, as compared to either monotherapy, making APL a curable disease. Thus, the story of APL can serve as a model for the development of curative approaches for disease; it suggests that molecularly synergistic targeted therapies are powerful tools in cancer, and dissection of disease pathogenesis or anatomy of the cancer genome is critical in developing molecular target-based therapies.
PMCID: PMC2435563  PMID: 17317642
acute promyelocytic leukaemia; all-trans retinoic acid; differentiation; arsenic trioxide; apoptosis; synergy
11.  Retinoic Acid and Arsenic for Treating Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia 
PLoS Medicine  2005;2(1):e12.
What were the critical steps in the development of ATRA and arsenic as treatments for APL? Researchers in Shanghai tell the story and look to the future
PMCID: PMC545204  PMID: 15696202

Results 1-11 (11)