Research Papers:

Repurposing old carbon monoxide-releasing molecules towards the anti-angiogenic therapy of triple-negative breast cancer

Malamati Kourti _, Andrew Westwell, Wen Jiang and Jun Cai

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Oncotarget. 2019; 10:1132-1148. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.26638

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Malamati Kourti1,2, Andrew Westwell2, Wen Jiang1 and Jun Cai1

1Cardiff China Medical Research Collaborative, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN, UK

2School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3NB, UK

Correspondence to:

Jun Cai, email: [email protected]

Keywords: triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC); angiogenesis; breast cancer; carbon-monoxide releasing molecules (CORMs); anti-angiogenic therapy

Received: December 10, 2018     Accepted: January 16, 2019     Published: February 01, 2019


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is defined by the lack of expression of the oestrogen and progesterone receptors and HER-2. Recently, carbon monoxide (CO) was found to behave as an important endogenous signalling molecule and to suppress VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) and protein kinase B phosphorylation. Given that anti-angiogenic drugs exist as one of the few available targeted therapies against TNBC, the aim of this project was to study the effects of CO-releasing molecules (CORMs) on TNBC cell lines and the associated endothelial cells and characterise their anti-angiogenic properties that can be used for the reduction of cancer-driven angiogenesis. Four commercially available CORMs were screened for their cytotoxicity, their effects on cell metabolism, migration, VEGF expression, tube formation and VEGFR-2 activation. The most important result was the reduction in VEGF levels expressed by CORM-treated TNBC cells, along with the inhibition of phosphorylation of VEGFR2 and downstream proteins. The migration and tube formation ability of endothelial cells was also decreased by CORMs, justifying a potential re-purposing of old CORMs towards the anti-angiogenic therapy of TNBC. The additional favourable low cytotoxicity, reduction in the glycolysis levels and downregulation of haem oxygenase-1 in TNBC cells enhance the potential of CORMs against TNBC. In this study, CORM-2 remained the most effective CORM and we propose that CORM-2 may be pursued further as an additional agent in combination with existing anti-angiogenic therapies for a more successful targeting of malignant angiogenesis in TNBC.

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