Research Papers:

Celecoxib inhibits proliferation and survival of chronic myelogeous leukemia (CML) cells via AMPK-dependent regulation of β-catenin and mTORC1/2

Beatrice Riva _, Marco De Dominici, Ilaria Gnemmi, Samanta A. Mariani, Alberto Minassi, Valentina Minieri, Paolo Salomoni, Pier Luigi Canonico, Armando A. Genazzani, Bruno Calabretta and Fabrizio Condorelli

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:81555-81570. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13146

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Beatrice Riva1, Marco De Dominici2, Ilaria Gnemmi1, Samanta A. Mariani3, Alberto Minassi1, Valentina Minieri2, Paolo Salomoni4, Pier Luigi Canonico1, Armando A. Genazzani1, Bruno Calabretta2, and Fabrizio Condorelli1

1Department of Pharmacological Sciences, Università del Piemonte Orientale “A. Avogadro”, 28100 Novara, Italy

2Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia 19107, PA, USA

3MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH16 4TJ, UK

4Samantha Dickson Brain Cancer Unit, University College London Cancer Institute, London WC1E 6BT, UK

Correspondence to:

Fabrizio Condorelli, email: [email protected]

Keywords: celecoxib, chronic myelogenous leukemia, cyclooxygenase-2, beta-catenin, AMP-activated kinase

Received: May 27, 2016    Accepted: October 19, 2016    Published: November 07, 2016


CML is effectively treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). However, the efficacy of these drugs is confined to the chronic phase of the disease and development of resistance to TKIs remains a pressing issue. The anti-inflammatory COX2 inhibitor celecoxib has been utilized as anti-tumour drug due to its anti-proliferative activity. However, its effects in hematological malignancies, in particular CML, have not been investigated yet. Thus, we tested biological effects and mechanisms of action of celecoxib in Philadelphia-positive (Ph+) CML and ALL cells.

We show here that celecoxib suppresses the growth of Ph+ cell lines by increasing G1-phase and apoptotic cells and reducing S- and G2-phase cells. These effects were independent of COX2 inhibition but required the rapid activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and the consequent inhibition mTORC1 and 2. Treatment with celecoxib also restored GSK3β function and led to down-regulation of β-catenin activity through transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms, two effects likely to contribute to Ph+ cell growth suppression by celecoxib.

Celecoxib inhibited colony formation of TKI-resistant Ph+ cell lines including those with the T315I BCR-ABL mutation and acted synergistically with imatinib in suppressing colony formation of TKI-sensitive Ph+ cell lines. Finally, it suppressed colony formation of CD34+ cells from CML patients, while sparing most CD34+ progenitors from healthy donors, and induced apoptosis of primary Ph+ ALL cells.

Together, these findings indicate that celecoxib may serve as a COX2-independent lead compound to simultaneously target the mTOR and β-catenin pathways, key players in the resistance of CML stem cells to TKIs.

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