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Cancer Res. 2004 Oct 15;64(20):7545-52.

Inhibition of smoothened signaling prevents ultraviolet B-induced basal cell carcinomas through regulation of Fas expression and apoptosis.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.


Abnormal activation of the hedgehog-signaling pathway is the pivotal abnormality driving the growth of basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), the most common type of human cancer. Antagonists of this pathway such as cyclopamine may therefore be useful for treatment of basal cell carcinomas and other hedgehog-driven tumors. We report here that chronic oral administration of cyclopamine dramatically reduces ( approximately 66%) UVB induced basal cell carcinoma formation in Ptch1(+/-) mice. Fas expression is low in human and murine basal cell carcinomas but is up-regulated in the presence of the smoothened (SMO) antagonist, cyclopamine, both in vitro in the mouse basal cell carcinoma cell line ASZ001 and in vivo after acute treatment of mice with basal cell carcinomas. This parallels an elevated rate of apoptosis. Conversely, expression of activated SMO in C3H10T1/2 cells inhibits Fas expression. Fas/Fas ligand interactions are necessary for cyclopamine-mediated apoptosis in these cells, a process involving caspase-8 activation. Our data provide strong evidence that cyclopamine and perhaps other SMO antagonists are potent in vivo inhibitors of UVB-induced basal cell carcinomas in Ptch1(+/-) mice and likely in humans because the majority of human basal cell carcinomas manifest mutations in PTCH1 and that a major mechanism of their inhibitory effect is through up-regulation of Fas, which augments apoptosis.

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