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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Parallel screening of FDA-approved antineoplastic drugs for identifying sensitizers of TRAIL-induced apoptosis in cancer cells

David J Taylor1, Christine E Parsons1, Haiyong Han2, Arul Jayaraman3 and Kaushal Rege1*

Author Affiliations

1 Chemical Engineering, Arizona State University, 501 E. Tyler Mall, ECG 303, Tempe, AZ 85287-6106, USA

2 The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), 445 N. Fifth Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA

3 Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, 3122 TAMU, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:470  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-470

Published: 1 November 2011

Abstract

Background

    T
umor Necrosis Factor-α
    R
elated
    A
poptosis
    I
nducing
    L
igand (TRAIL) and agonistic antibodies to death receptor 4 and 5 are promising candidates for cancer therapy due to their ability to induce apoptosis selectively in a variety of human cancer cells, while demonstrating little cytotoxicity in normal cells. Although TRAIL and agonistic antibodies to DR4 and DR5 are considered safe and promising candidates in cancer therapy, many malignant cells are resistant to DR-mediated, TRAIL-induced apoptosis. In the current work, we screened a small library of fifty-five FDA and foreign-approved anti-neoplastic drugs in order to identify candidates that sensitized resistant prostate and pancreatic cancer cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis.

Methods

FDA-approved drugs were screened for their ability to sensitize TRAIL resistant prostate cancer cells to TRAIL using an MTT assay for cell viability. Analysis of variance was used to identify drugs that exhibited synergy with TRAIL. Drugs demonstrating the highest synergy were selected as leads and tested in different prostate and pancreatic cancer cell lines, and one immortalized human pancreatic epithelial cell line. Sequential and simultaneous dosing modalities were investigated and the annexin V/propidium iodide assay, in concert with fluorescence microscopy, was employed to visualize cells undergoing apoptosis.

Results

Fourteen drugs were identified as having synergy with TRAIL, including those whose TRAIL sensitization activities were previously unknown in either prostate or pancreatic cancer cells or both. Five leads were tested in additional cancer cell lines of which, doxorubicin, mitoxantrone, and mithramycin demonstrated synergy in all lines. In particular, mitoxantrone and mithramycin demonstrated significant synergy with TRAIL and led to reduction of cancer cell viability at concentrations lower than 1 μM. At these low concentrations, mitoxantrone demonstrated selectivity toward malignant cells over normal pancreatic epithelial cells.

Conclusions

The identification of a number of FDA-approved drugs as TRAIL sensitizers can expand chemotherapeutic options for combination treatments in prostate and pancreatic cancer diseases.