Research Papers:

Conception, synthesis, and characterization of a rofecoxib-combretastatin hybrid drug with potent cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibiting and microtubule disrupting activities in colon cancer cell culture and xenograft models

Surendra R. Punganuru, Hanumantha Rao Madala, Constantinos M. Mikelis, Anshuman Dixit, Viswanath Arutla and Kalkunte S. Srivenugopal _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:26109-26129. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25450

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Surendra R. Punganuru1, Hanumantha Rao Madala1, Constantinos M. Mikelis1, Anshuman Dixit2, Viswanath Arutla1 and Kalkunte S. Srivenugopal1

1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Amarillo, TX, USA

2Institute of Life Sciences, Nalco Square, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Correspondence to:

Kalkunte S. Srivenugopal, email: [email protected]

Keywords: COX-2; hybrid drugs; microtubule inhibitors; colon cancer; angiogenesis inhibitors

Received: April 04, 2018    Accepted: May 03, 2018    Published: May 25, 2018


Tumor heterogeneity and drug resistance pose severe limitations to chemotherapy of colorectal cancers (CRCs) necessitating innovative approaches to trigger multiple cytocidal events for increased efficacy. Here, we developed a hybrid drug called KSS19 by combining the COX-2 selective NSAID rofecoxib with the cis-stilbene found in combretastatin A4 (CA4), a problematic, but potent antimicrotubule and anti-angiogenesis agent. The structural design of KSS19 completely prevented the isomerization of CA4 its biologically inactive trans-form. Molecular modeling showed that KSS19 bound avidly to the COX-2 active site and colchicine –binding site of tubulin, with similar docking scores of rofecoxib and CA4 respectively. KSS-19 showed potent anti-proliferative activity against a panel of colon cancer cell lines; HT29 cells, which are resistant to CA4 were 100 times more sensitive to KSS19. The hybrid drug potently inhibited the tubulin polymerization in vitro and in cells inducing a G2/M arrest and aberrant mitotic spindles. Both the basal and LPS-activated levels of COX-2 in colon cancer cells were highly suppressed by the KSS-19. The cancer cell migration/invasion was inhibited and accompanied by increased E-cadherin levels and activated NF-kB/Snail pathways in KSS19-treated cells. The drug also curtailed the formation of endothelial tubes in three-dimensional cultures of the HUVE cells at 250 nM, indicating strong anti-angiogenic properties. In subcutaneous HT29 colon cancer xenografts, KSS19, as a single agent (25 mg/kg/day) significantly inhibited the tumor growth and downregulated the intratumoral COX-2, Ki-67, the angiogenesis marker CD31, however, the cleaved caspase-3 was elevated. Collectively, KSS19 represents a rational hybrid drug with clinical relevance to CRC.

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