Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2020 Nov 2. doi: 10.1038/s41401-020-00544-w. Online ahead of print.
Proteasome inhibitors, bortezomib (BTZ), and carfilzomib (CFZ) are approved drugs for hematological malignancies, but lack anticancer activities against most solid tumors. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a very aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma of the lungs demanding effective therapy. In this study we investigated whether BTZ or CFZ combined with obatoclax (OBX), an antagonist for MCL-1 and a pan-BCL family inhibitor, could cause synergistic growth inhibition of SCLC cells. We showed that
combined application of BTZ or CFZ with OBX caused synergistic growth inhibition of human SCLC cell lines (H82, H526, DMS79, H196, H1963, and H69) than single agent alone. Both BTZ-OBX and CFZ-OBX combinations displayed marked synergism on inducing apoptosis (~50% increase vs BTZ or CFZ alone). A comprehensive proteomics analysis revealed that BTZ preferentially induced the expression of MCL-1, an antiapoptotic protein, in SCLC cells. Thus, proteasome inhibitor-OBX combinations could specifically induce massive growth inhibition and apoptosis in SCLC cells. Subsequent proteome-wide profiling analysis of activated transcription factors suggested that BTZ- or CFZ-induced MCL-1 upregulation was transcriptionally driven by FOXM1. In nude mice bearing in SCLC H82 xenografts, both BTZ-OBX, and CFZ-OBX combinations exhibited remarkable antitumor activities against SCLC tumors evidenced by significant reduction of tumor size and the proliferation marker Ki-67 signals in tumor tissues as compared with single agent alone. Thus, proteasome inhibitor-OBX combinations are worth immediate assessments for SCLC in clinical settings.