Despite development of current targeted therapies for medullary thyroid cancer (MTC), long-term survival remains unchanged. Recently isolated novel withanolide compounds from Solanaceae physalis are highly potent against MTCs. We hypothesize that these withanolides uniquely inhibit RET phosphorylation and the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway in MTC cells as a mechanism of antiproliferation and apoptosis.
MTC cells were treated with novel withanolides and MTC-targeted drugs. In vitro studies assessed cell viability and proliferation (MTS; trypan blue assays), apoptosis (flow cytometry with Annexin V/PI staining; confirmed by Western blot analysis), long-term cytotoxic effects (clonogenic assay), and suppression of key regulatory proteins such as RET, Akt, and mTOR (by Western blot analysis).
The novel withanolides potently reduced MTC cell viability (half maximal inhibitory concentration [IC50], 270–2,850 nmol/L; 250–1,380 nmol/L for vandetanib; 360–1,640 nmol/L for cabozantinib) with induction of apoptosis at <1,000 nmol/L of drug. Unique from other targeted therapies, withanolides suppressed RET and Akt phosphorylation and protein expression (in a concentration- and time-dependent manner) as well as mTOR activity and translational activity of 4E-BP1 and protein synthesis mediated by p70S6kinase activation at IC50 concentrations.
Novel withanolides from Physalis selectively and potently inhibit MTC cells in vitro. Unlike other MTC-targeted therapies, these compounds uniquely inhibit both RET kinase activity and the Akt/mTOR prosurvival pathway. Further translational studies are warranted to evaluate their clinical potential.
Samadi, Abbas K. et al. “Novel Withanolides Target Medullary Thyroid Cancer through Inhibition of Both RET Phosphorylation and the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Pathway.” Surgery 152.6 (2012): 1238–1247.