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Cell Death Dis. 2012 Nov 15;3:e420. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2012.161.

Sensitization to the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis augments melanoma tumor cell responses to conventional chemotherapeutic regimens.

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  • 1Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Oncological Sciences, New York, NY 100129, USA.


Metastatic malignant melanoma is highly resistant to chemotherapy, and the average survival rate is under 1 year. The only FDA-approved conventional chemotherapy (i.e., dacarbazine) targets melanoma tumor cells by inducing a form of cell death referred to as apoptosis. However, dacarbazine exhibits a response rate of ~5%, and combination chemotherapies consisting of cisplatin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine often offer little clinical advantage over dacarbazine alone. Apoptosis is governed by the BCL-2 family of proteins, which is comprised of anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic members. To determine if the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 repertoire established the cell death threshold and chemoresistance in melanoma, a novel treatment strategy was designed to inhibit the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 members with ABT-737. Using various melanoma model systems, we determined the affects of ABT-737 on sensitivity to dacarbazine-based regimens. Strikingly, ABT-737 re-sensitized melanoma cell lines to common chemotherapeutics leading to marked BIM-mediated apoptosis. Cellular features of the ABT-737 combination treatments were loss of proliferation, mitochondrial fragmentation, nuclear condensation, phosphatidylserine exposure, and decreased clonogenic survival. We also observed significant anti-tumor activity in an in vivo melanoma model system. Our data indicate that ABT-737 may be a beneficial adjuvant therapy to improve melanoma response rates when conventional chemotherapy is the only option.

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