Research Papers:

Hypoxia potentiates the cytotoxic effect of piperlongumine in pheochromocytoma models

Petra Bullova _, Antony Cougnoux, Luma Abunimer, Juraj Kopacek, Silvia Pastorekova and Karel Pacak

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:40531-40545. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9643

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Petra Bullova1,2,*, Antony Cougnoux3,*, Luma Abunimer1, Juraj Kopacek2, Silvia Pastorekova2, Karel Pacak1

1Section on Medical Neuroendocrinology, Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD, NIH, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

2Department of Molecular Medicine, Institute of Virology, Biomedical Research Center, Slovak Academy of Sciences, 84505 Bratislava, Slovakia

3Section on Molecular Dysmorphology, Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD, NIH, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Karel Pacak, email: mailto:[email protected]

Keywords: pheochromocytoma, piperlongumine, hypoxia, reactive-oxygen species, apoptosis

Received: January 12, 2016    Accepted: April 23, 2016    Published: May 26, 2016


Hypoxia is a common feature of solid tumors that activates a plethora of pathways, resulting in proliferation and resistance of cancer cells to radio- and chemotherapy. Pheochromocytomas/paragangliomas (PHEOs/PGLs) with mutations in the gene coding for the subunit B of succinate dehydrogenase (SDHB) are the most aggressive forms of the disease, which is partially due to their pseudohypoxic character, metabolic abnormalities, and elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. We investigated the effect of piperlongumine (PL), a natural product with cytotoxic properties restricted to cancer cells by significantly increasing intracellular ROS levels, on PHEO cells. Here we report for the first time that PL mediates PHEO cell death by activating both apoptosis and necroptosis in vitro and in vivo. This effect is magnified in hypoxic conditions, making PL a promising potential candidate for use as a therapeutic option for patients with PHEO/PGL, including those with SDHB mutations.

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