Combination of nutlin-3 and VX-680 selectively targets p53 mutant cells with reversible effects on cells expressing wild-type p53

C F Cheok, etc
Cell Death & Differentiation, 2010

Chemotherapeutics (e.g., aurora kinase inhibitors) designed to target proliferative cells are often nonspecific for tumor cells as normal cycling cells are also susceptible. Indeed, one of the major dose-limiting toxicities of aurora kinase inhibitors is a dangerous depletion of neutrophils in patients. In this study we proposed a strategy to selectively target p53 mutant cells while sparing normal ones. The strategy is based on the understanding that normal cells have an intact p53 pathway but not tumor cells carrying p53 mutations. Nongenotoxic activation of p53 using nutlin led to a reversible activation of G1 and G2 arrest in normal cells, which prevents them from entering mitosis, thus protecting them from the side effects of aurora kinase inhibition (VX-680), namely endoreduplication and apoptosis. Cells carrying mutant p53 are selectively killed by the nutlin/VX-680 combination, whereas p53 wild-type cells retain their proliferative capacity. The major implications drawn from these results are: (1) reversible nongenotoxic activation of p53 may be used as a strategy for the chemoprotection of normal tissues, and (2) aurora kinase inhibitors may have alleviated side effects when used in combination with nutlin-like inhibitors. We highlight the distinct roles of p53 and p73 in mediating the cellular responses to VX-680 and suggest that dual protection by p53 and p73 are needed to guard against endoreduplication and polyploidy.

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Cell Death & Differentiation