Research Papers:

Inhibition of the prolyl isomerase Pin1 enhances the ability of sorafenib to induce cell death and inhibit tumor growth in hepatocellular carcinoma

Min Zheng _, Huijuan Xu, Xin-Hua Liao, Champ Peng Chen, Arina Li Zhang, Wenxian Lu, Long Wang, Dayun Yang, Jichuang Wang, Hekun Liu, Xiao Zhen Zhou and Kun Ping Lu

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:29771-29784. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.15967

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Min Zheng1,2,*, Huijuan Xu1,2,*, Xin-Hua Liao1,2,*, Champ Peng Chen1,2, Arina Li Zhang1,2, Wenxian Lu1,2, Long Wang1,2, Dayun Yang1,2, Jichuang Wang1,2, Hekun Liu1,2, Xiao Zhen Zhou1,2,3, Kun Ping Lu1,2,3

1Fujian Key Laboratory for Translational Research in Cancer and Neurodegenerative Diseases, Institute for Translational Medicine, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, Fujian 350108, China

2Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education for Gastrointestinal Cancer, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, Fujian 350108, China

3Division of Translational Therapeutics, Department of Medicine and Cancer Research Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Kun Ping Lu, email: [email protected]

Keywords: sorafenib, Pin1, ATRA, HCC, cell death

Received: September 27, 2016     Accepted: January 24, 2017     Published: March 07, 2017


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common cancer, but is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, partially due to its heterogeneity and drug resistance. Sorafenib is the only medical treatment with a proven efficacy against advanced HCC, but its overall clinical efficacy is still modest. Therefore, a major challenge is how to improve its therapeutic efficacy. The unique prolyl isomerase Pin1 regulates numerous cancer-driving pathways. Notably, Pin1 is overexpressed in about 70% HBV-positive HCC patients and contributes to HCC tumorigenesis. However, the role of Pin1 in the efficacy of sorafenib against HCC is unknown. Here we found that sorafenib down-regulated Pin1 mRNA and protein expression, likely through inhibition of Pin1 transcription by the Rb/E2F pathway. Importantly, Pin1 knockdown potently enhanced the ability of sorafenib to induce cell death in HCC, which was further supported by the findings that Pin1 knockdown led to stabilization of Fbxw7 and destabilization of Mcl-1. Furthermore, all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), a known anticancer drug that inhibits and ultimately induces degradation of active Pin1 in cancer cells, also potently sensitized HCC cells to sorafenib-induced cell death at least in part through a caspase-dependent manner. Moreover, ATRA also synergistically enhanced the ability of sorafenib to reduce Pin1 and inhibit tumor growth of HCC in mouse xenograft models. Collectively, these results not only demonstrate that Pin1 down-regulation is a key event underlying the anti-tumor effects of sorafenib, but also uncover that Pin1 inhibitors offer a novel approach to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of sorafenib against HCC.

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