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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 12;8(4):e60975. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060975. Print 2013.

Zoledronic acid restores doxorubicin chemosensitivity and immunogenic cell death in multidrug-resistant human cancer cells.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, University of Torino, Torino, Italy.


Durable tumor cell eradication by chemotherapy is challenged by the development of multidrug-resistance (MDR) and the failure to induce immunogenic cell death. The aim of this work was to investigate whether MDR and immunogenic cell death share a common biochemical pathway eventually amenable to therapeutic intervention. We found that mevalonate pathway activity, Ras and RhoA protein isoprenylation, Ras- and RhoA-downstream signalling pathway activities, Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1alpha activation were significantly higher in MDR+ compared with MDR- human cancer cells, leading to increased P-glycoprotein expression, and protection from doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity and immunogenic cell death. Zoledronic acid, a potent aminobisphosphonate targeting the mevalonate pathway, interrupted Ras- and RhoA-dependent downstream signalling pathways, abrogated the Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1alpha-driven P-glycoprotein expression, and restored doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity and immunogenic cell death in MDR+ cells. Immunogenic cell death recovery was documented by the ability of dendritic cells to phagocytise MDR+ cells treated with zoledronic acid plus doxorubicin, and to recruit anti-tumor cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes. These data indicate that MDR+ cells have an hyper-active mevalonate pathway which is targetable with zoledronic acid to antagonize their ability to withstand chemotherapy-induced cytotoxicity and escape immunogenic cell death.

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