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Open Access Research article

Use of NQO1 status as a selective biomarker for oesophageal squamous cell carcinomas with greater sensitivity to 17-AAG

Katie E Hadley and Denver T Hendricks*

Author Affiliations

Division of Medical Biochemistry, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory, Cape Town 7925, South Africa

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:334  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-334

Published: 15 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a major health burden in Sub-Saharan Africa, and novel chemotherapies are urgently required to combat this disease. The heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) inhibitor 17-N-allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG) has previously been proposed as a possible candidate drug. NADPH quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) is known to increase the potency of 17-AAG, therefore we investigated the effects of 17-AAG in OSCC cell lines in the context of their NQO1 status.

Methods

We used MTT assays to compare the sensitivity of a panel of OSCC cell lines to 17-AAG. Western blotting, and RT-PCR were used to investigate NQO1 protein and mRNA levels, while an RFLP approach was used to investigate the NQO1 C609T SNP.

Results

Expression of NQO1 markedly increased sensitivity to 17-AAG in the OSCC cell lines, while normal fibroblasts, which expressed HSP90 at much lower levels, were more resistant to 17-AAG. In isolation, neither the C609T SNP, nor NQO1 mRNA levels was an accurate predictor of NQO1 protein levels.

Conclusions

Since NQO1 greatly enhances the anti-cancer effects of 17-AAG, this could be used as a selective marker for patients that would benefit most from 17-AAG chemotherapy at low doses. Testing for the presence of the C609T SNP in both alleles could be used as a screen to exclude potentially poor responders to 17-AAG treatment at low dosages.