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Cancer Res. 2003 May 1;63(9):2139-44.

Inhibition of heat shock protein 90 function down-regulates Akt kinase and sensitizes tumors to Taxol.

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Department of Medicine, Program in Cell Biology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


The phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/Akt pathway is activated frequently in human cancer, and has been implicated in tumor proliferation, cell survival, and resistance to apoptotic stimuli. Akt forms a complex with heat shock protein (Hsp) 90 and Cdc37, and inhibitors of Hsp90 cause Akt degradation. 17-allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AGG) is an Hsp90 inhibitor currently in Phase I clinical trial. 17-AAG inhibits Akt activation and expression in tumors, and has antitumor activity in breast cancer xenografts. The combination of 17-AAG and Taxol is synergistic, and 17-AAG sensitizes tumor cells to Taxol-induced apoptosis in a schedule-dependent manner. Transfection of membrane-bound p110 PI3k prevented 17-AAG inactivation of Akt and abrogated the enhancement of Taxol-induced apoptosis caused by the drug. 17-AAG and Taxol could be administered together at their maximally tolerated doses to tumor-bearing mice. Doses of 17-AAG that induce HER2 degradation and cause Akt inactivation but have no single agent activity were effective in sensitizing tumors to Taxol. Enhancement was schedule-dependent and maximal when Taxol and 17-AAG were administered on the same day. These results suggest that Hsp90 inhibitors can effectively suppress Akt activity in animal models of human cancer at nontoxic doses, thus sensitizing tumor cells to proapoptotic stimuli.

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