Nelfinavir targets multiple drug resistance mechanisms to increase the efficacy of doxorubicin in MCF-7/Dox breast cancer cells.Biochimie. 2016 May; 124:53-64.B
Development of multidrug resistance (MDR) remains a significant problem in cancer chemotherapy and underscores the importance of using chemosensitizers. Well known MDR mechanisms include: (i) upregulation of drug-efflux; (ii) increased signaling via AKT; and (iii) decreased apoptosis. Therefore, chemosensitizers should target multiple resistance mechanisms. We investigated the efficacy of nelfinavir (NFV), a clinically approved anti-HIV drug, in increasing doxorubicin (DOX) toxicity in a MDR breast cancer cell line, MCF-7/Dox. As compared to parental MCF-7 cells, the MCF-7/Dox were 15-20 fold more resistant to DOX-induced cytotoxicity at 48 h post-exposure (DOX IC50 = 1.8 μM vs. 32.4 μM). Coexposures to NFV could significantly (p < 0.05) decrease DOX-IC50 in MCF-7/Dox cells. Multiple exposures to physiologic concentrations of NFV (2.25 μM or 6.75 μM) decreased DOX-IC50 by 21-fold and 50-fold, respectively. Interestingly, although single exposure to NFV transiently induced P-glycoprotein (P-gp) levels, multiple treatments with NFV inhibited both P-gp expression and efflux function, which increased intracellular DOX concentrations. Single exposure to NFV augmented the markers of cell-survival (AKT) and autophagy (LC3-II), whereas multiple exposures enabled suppression of both total AKT (t-AKT) and insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)-induced phosphorylated AKT (p-AKT) levels. Multiple exposures to NFV also resulted in increased unfolded protein response (UPR) transducers, e.g. Grp78, p-PERK, p-eIF2α, and ATF-4; and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress induced death sensors, e.g. CHOP & TRIB-3. Multiple exposures to NFV also abrogated the mitogenic effects of IGF-1. In mice carrying MCF-7/Dox tumor xenografts, intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of NFV (20 mg/kg/day) and DOX (2 mg/kg/twice/wk) decreased tumor growth more significantly (p < 0.01) than either agent alone. Immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis revealed decreased p-AKT and Ki-67 levels. Thus, NFV overcomes MDR in breast cancer cells and should be tested as an adjunct to chemotherapy.