Research Papers:

Tumor growth suppression by inhibiting both autophagy and STAT3 signaling in HNSCC

Teng-Fei Fan, Lin-Lin Bu, Wei-Ming Wang, Si-Rui Ma, Jian-Feng Liu, Wei-Wei Deng, Liang Mao, Guang-Tao Yu, Cong-Fa Huang, Bing Liu, Wen-Feng Zhang and Zhi-Jun Sun _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:43581-43593. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6294

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Teng-Fei Fan1,*, Lin-Lin Bu1,*, Wei-Ming Wang1, Si-Rui Ma1, Jian-Feng Liu1, Wei-Wei Deng1, Liang Mao1, Guang-Tao Yu1, Cong-Fa Huang1, Bing Liu2, Wen-Feng Zhang1,2, Zhi-Jun Sun1,2

1The State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Basic Science of Stomatology & Key Laboratory of Oral Biomedicine Ministry of Education, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China

2Department of Oral and Maxillofacial-Head and Neck Oncology, School and Hospital of Stomatology, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Zhi-Jun Sun, e-mail: [email protected]

Wen-Feng Zhang, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: autophagy, STAT3, head and neck cancer, apoptosis

Received: July 06, 2015     Accepted: October 20, 2015     Published: October 30, 2015


Autophagy is considered as a double-edged sword. It can prolong the survival of cancer cells and enhance its resistance to apoptosis, and paradoxically, defective autophagy has been linked to increased tumorigenesis, but the mechanism behind this phenomenon is unclear. In this study, we demonstrated that decreased phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (p-STAT3) was correlated with increased autophagy through the Akt/mTOR and Erk signaling pathways in human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). We also showed that blockage of STAT3 by NSC74859 could markedly induce apoptotic cell death and autophagy. Meanwhile, increased autophagy inhibited apoptosis. The pharmacological or genetic inhibition of autophagy and STAT3 further sensitized HNSCC cells to apoptosis. Furthermore, evidence from xenograft model proved that suppressed STAT3 activity combined with inhibition of autophagy promoted tumor regression better than either treatment alone. Taken together, this present study demonstrated that autophagy alleviates apoptotic cell death in HNSCC, and combination of inhibition of STAT3 by NSC74859 and autophagy might be a promising new therapeutic strategy for HNSCC.

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