A novel approach to the discovery of anti-tumor pharmaceuticals: searching for activators of liponecrosis

Anthony Arlia-Ciommo, Veronika Svistkova, Sadaf Mohtashami and Vladimir I. Titorenko _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:5204-5225. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6440

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Anthony Arlia-Ciommo1, Veronika Svistkova1, Sadaf Mohtashami1 and Vladimir I. Titorenko1

1 Department of Biology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Correspondence to:

Vladimir I. Titorenko, email:

Keywords: cancer, anti-cancer therapeutics, lipid metabolism, programmed cell death, liponecrosis, yeast

Received: August 20, 2015 Accepted: November 21, 2015 Published: November 30, 2015


A recently conducted chemical genetic screen for pharmaceuticals that can extend longevity of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has identified lithocholic acid as a potent anti-aging molecule. It was found that this hydrophobic bile acid is also a selective anti-tumor chemical compound; it kills different types of cultured cancer cells if used at concentrations that do not compromise the viability of non-cancerous cells. These studies have revealed that yeast can be successfully used as a model organism for high-throughput screens aimed at the discovery of selectively acting anti-tumor small molecules. Two metabolic traits of rapidly proliferating fermenting yeast, namely aerobic glycolysis and lipogenesis, are known to be similar to those of cancer cells. The mechanisms underlying these key metabolic features of cancer cells and fermenting yeast have been established; such mechanisms are discussed in this review. We also suggest how a yeast-based chemical genetic screen can be used for the high-throughput development of selective anti-tumor pharmaceuticals that kill only cancer cells. This screen consists of searching for chemical compounds capable of increasing the abundance of membrane lipids enriched in unsaturated fatty acids that would therefore be toxic only to rapidly proliferating cells, such as cancer cells and fermenting yeast.

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