Chk1 is a serine/threonine kinase that plays several important roles in the cellular response to genotoxic stress. Since many current standard-of-care therapies for human cancer directly damage DNA or inhibit DNA synthesis, there is interest in using small molecule inhibitors of Chk1 to potentiate their clinical activity. Additionally, Chk1 is known to be critically involved in cell cycle progression of unperturbed cells. Therefore, it is plausible that treatment with a Chkl inhibitor alone could also be an efficacious cancer therapy. Here we report that Chk1-A, a potent and highly selective small molecule inhibitor of Chk1, is antiproliferative as a single agent in a variety of human cancer cell lines in vitro. The inhibition of proliferation is associated with collapse of DNA replication and apoptosis. Rapid decreases in inhibitory phosphorylation of CDKs and a concomitant increase in CDK kinase activity and chromatin loading of Cdc45 suggest that the antiproliferative and proapoptotic activity of Chk1-A is at least in part due to deregulation of DNA synthesis. We extend these in vitro studies by demonstrating that Chk1-A inhibits the growth of tumor xenografts in vivo in a treatment regimen that is well tolerated. Together, these results suggest that single-agent inhibition of Chk1 may be an effective treatment strategy for selected human malignancies.
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