Despite good initial responses, drug resistance and disease recurrence remain major issues for lung adenocarcinoma patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations taking EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). To discover new strategies to overcome this issue, we investigated 40 essential oils from plants indigenous to Taiwan as alternative treatments for a wide range of illnesses. Here, we found that hinokitiol, a natural monoterpenoid from the heartwood of Calocedrus formosana, exhibited potent anticancer effects. In this study, we demonstrated that hinokitiol inhibited the proliferation and colony formation ability of lung adenocarcinoma cells as well as the EGFR-TKI-resistant lines PC9-IR and H1975. Transcriptomic analysis and pathway prediction algorithms indicated that the main implicated pathways included DNA damage, autophagy, and cell cycle. Further investigations confirmed that in lung cancer cells, hinokitiol inhibited cell proliferation by inducing the p53-independent DNA damage response, autophagy (not apoptosis), S-phase cell cycle arrest, and senescence. Furthermore, hinokitiol inhibited the growth of xenograft tumors in association with DNA damage and autophagy but exhibited fewer effects on lung stromal fibroblasts. In summary, we demonstrated novel mechanisms by which hinokitiol, an essential oil extract, acted as a promising anticancer agent to overcome EGFR-TKI resistance in lung cancer cells via inducing DNA damage, autophagy, cell cycle arrest, and senescence in vitro and in vivo.
Despite rapid progress in anticancer drug development and improvement in clinical outcomes, the survival rate for many types of cancer is still unacceptably low. Therefore, it is crucial to discover novel anticancer drugs to both prevent and treat the disease. In recent years, the advent of combinatorial chemistry allows the design and parallel synthesis of millions of small compounds that have drug-like properties. In vitro high throughput screening of such compound libraries has allowed the identification of many new drug candidates that may be further evaluated for their efficacy and mechanism of action. The overall objective of this study was to identify small molecule compounds as candidates for anti-cancer drug development. We first used cell proliferation and cytotoxicity assays to identify compounds exhibiting anti-cancer activity in vitro in a leukemia cell line (K562). Six top compounds selected from the initial screening of a library of 2,560 compounds were further evaluated in multiple cancer cell lines to rank the drug candidates. The top candidate was further investigated to elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying its anticancer activity. Our studies suggest that this piperazine derivative effectively (GI50 = 0.06-0.16 μM) inhibits cancer cell proliferation and induces caspase-dependent apoptosis via inhibiting multiple cancer signaling pathways including the PI3K/AKT, the Src family kinases and the BCR-ABL pathways.
Sensitive and specific biomarkers of protein kinase inhibition can be leveraged to accelerate drug development studies in oncology by associating early molecular responses with target inhibition. In this study, we utilized unbiased shotgun phosphotyrosine (pY) proteomics to discover novel biomarkers of response to dasatinib, a small molecule Src-selective inhibitor, in preclinical models of colorectal cancer (CRC). We performed unbiased mass spectrometry shotgun pY proteomics to reveal the pY proteome of cultured HCT-116 colonic carcinoma cells, and then extended this analysis to HCT-116 xenograft tumors to identify pY biomarkers of dasatinib-responsiveness in vivo. Major dasatinib-responsive pY sites in xenograft tumors included sites on delta-type protein kinase C (PKCδ), CUB-domain-containing protein 1 (CDCP1), Type-II SH2-domain-containing inositol 5-phosphatase (SHIP2), and receptor protein-tyrosine phosphatase alpha (RPTPα). The pY313 site PKCδ was further supported as a relevant biomarker of dasatinib-mediated Src inhibition in HCT-116 xenografts by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting with a phosphospecific antibody. Reduction of PKCδ pY313 was further correlated with dasatinib-mediated inhibition of Src and diminished growth as spheroids of a panel of human CRC cell lines. These studies reveal PKCδ pY313 as a promising readout of Src inhibition in CRC and potentially other solid tumors and may reflect responsiveness to dasatinib in a subset of colorectal cancers.