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Mech Dev. 2005 Feb;122(2):223-30.

In vivo inhibition of endogenous brain tumors through systemic interference of Hedgehog signaling in mice.

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The Skirball Institute, NYU School of Medicine, 540 First Avenue, New York, NY 10012, USA.


The full spectrum of developmental potential includes normal as well as abnormal and disease states. We therefore subscribe to the idea that tumors derive from the operation of paradevelopmental programs that yield consistent and recognizable morphologies. Work in frogs and mice shows that Hedgehog (Hh)-Gli signaling controls stem cell lineages and that its deregulation leads to tumor formation. Moreover, human tumor cells require sustained Hh-Gli signaling for proliferation as cyclopamine, an alkaloid of the lily Veratrum californicum that blocks the Hh pathway, inhibits the growth of different tumor cells in vitro as well as in subcutaneous xenografts. However, the evidence that systemic treatment is an effective anti-cancer therapy is missing. Here we have used Ptc1(+/-); p53(-/-) mice which develop medulloblastoma to test the ability of cyclopamine to inhibit endogenous tumor growth in vivo after tumor initiation through intraperitoneal delivery, which avoids the brain damage associated with direct injection. We find that systemic cyclopamine administration improves the health of Ptc1(+/-);p53(-/-) animals. Analyses of the cerebella of cyclopamine-treated animals show a severe reduction in tumor size and a large decrease in the number of Ptc1-expressing cells, as a readout of cells with an active Hu-Gli pathway, as well as an impairment of their proliferative capacity, always in comparison with vehicle treated mice. Our data demonstrate that systemic treatment with cyclopamine inhibits tumor growth in the brain supporting its therapeutical value for human HH-dependent tumors. They also demonstrate that even the complete loss of the well-known tumor suppressor p53 does not render the tumor independent of Hh pathway function.

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