Metformin increases antitumor activity of MEK inhibitors through GLI1 downregulation in LKB1 positive human NSCLC cancer cells

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Abstract

Purpose: Metformin, widely used as antidiabetic drug, showed antitumoral effects expecially in combination with chemotherapy. Our group recently has demonstrated that metformin and gefitinib are synergistic in LKB1-wild-type NSCLC cells. In these models, metformin as single agent induced an activation and phosphorylation of mitogen-activated-protein-kinase (MAPK) through an increased C-RAF/B-RAF heterodimerization. Experimental design: Since single agent metformin enhances proliferating signals through the RAS/RAF/MAPK pathway, and several MEK inhibitors (MEK-I) demonstrated clinical efficacy in combination with other agents in NSCLC, we tested the effects of metformin plus MEK-I (selumetinib or pimasertib) on proliferation, invasiveness, migration abilities in vitro and in vivo in LKB1 positive NSCLC models harboring KRAS wild type and mutated gene. Results: The combination of metformin with MEK-I showed a strong antiproliferative and proapoptotic effect in Calu-3, H1299, H358 and H1975 human NSCLC cell lines, independently from the KRAS mutational status. The combination reduced the metastatic behaviour of NSCLC cells, via a downregulation of GLI1 trascritional activity, thus affecting the transition from an epithelial to a mesenchymal phenotype. Metformin and MEK-Is combinations also decreased the production and activity of MMP-2 and MMP-9 by reducing the NF-kB (p65) binding to MMP-2 and MMP-9 promoters. Conclusions: Metformin potentiates the antitumor activity of MEK-Is in human LKB1-wild-type NSCLC cell lines, independently from the KRAS mutational status, through GLI1 downregulation and by reducing the NF-kB (p65)-mediated transcription of MMP-2 and MMP-9.

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Della Corte, C. M., Ciaramella, V., Di Mauro, C., Castellone, M. D., Papaccio, F., Fasano, M., … Morgillo, F. (2016). Metformin increases antitumor activity of MEK inhibitors through GLI1 downregulation in LKB1 positive human NSCLC cancer cells. Oncotarget, 7(4), 4265–4278. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6559

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