Research Papers:

Two clinical drugs deubiquitinase inhibitor auranofin and aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor disulfiram trigger synergistic anti-tumor effects in vitro and in vivo

Hongbiao Huang _, Yuning Liao, Ningning Liu, Xianliang Hua, Jianyu Cai, Changshan Yang, Huidan Long, Chong Zhao, Xin Chen, Xiaoying Lan, Dan Zang, Jinjie Wu, Xiaofen Li, Xianping Shi, Xuejun Wang and Jinbao Liu

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:2796-2808. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6425

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Hongbiao Huang1,*, Yuning Liao1,*, Ningning Liu1,2, Xianliang Hua1, Jianyu Cai1, Changshan Yang1, Huidan Long1, Chong Zhao1, Xin Chen1, Xiaoying Lan1, Dan Zang1, Jinjie Wu1, Xiaofen Li1, Xianping Shi1, Xuejun Wang1,3, Jinbao Liu1

1State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease, Protein Modification and Degradation Laboratory, Department of Pathophysiology, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangdong 511436, People’s Republic of China

2Guangzhou Research Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, The Second Affiliated Hospital, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangdong 510260, People’s Republic of China

3Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences, Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota 57069, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Hongbiao Huang, e-mail: [email protected]

Jinbao Liu, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: auranofin, deubiquitinase inhibitor, disulfiram, anticancer strategy

Received: August 10, 2015     Accepted: November 16, 2015     Published: November 28, 2015


Inhibition of proteasome-associated deubiquitinases (DUBs) is emerging as a novel strategy for cancer therapy. It was recently reported that auranofin (Aur), a gold (I)-containing compound used clinically to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is a proteasome-associated DUB inhibitor. Disulfiram (DSF), an inhibitor of aldehyde dehydrogenase, is currently in clinical use for treating alcoholism. Recent studies have indicated that DSF can also act as an antitumor agent. We investigated the effect of combining DSF and Aur on apoptosis induction and tumor growth in hepatoma cancer cells. Here we report that (i) the combined treatment of Aur and DSF results in synergistic cytotoxicity to hepatoma cells in vitro and in vivo; (ii) Aur and DSF in combination induces caspase activation, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production; (iii) pan-caspase inhibitor z-VAD-FMK could efficiently block apoptosis but not proteasome inhibition induced by Aur and DSF combined treatment, and ROS is not required for Aur+DSF to induce apoptosis. Collectively, we demonstrate a model of synergism between DSF and proteasome-associated DUB inhibitor Aur in the induction of apoptosis in hepatoma cancer cells, identifying a potential novel anticancer strategy for clinical use in the future.

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