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Cancer Res. 2005 Jun 1;65(11):4799-808.

Synthetic triterpenoids cooperate with tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand to induce apoptosis of breast cancer cells.

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The Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL or Apo2L) has been shown to induce apoptosis specifically in cancer cells while sparing normal tissues. Unfortunately not all cancer cells respond to TRAIL; therefore, TRAIL sensitizing agents are currently being explored. We have identified synthetic triterpenoids, including 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO) and its derivative 1-(2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oyl) imidazole (CDDO-Im), which sensitize TRAIL-resistant cancer cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis. Here we show that TRAIL-treated T47D and MDA-MB-468 breast cancer cells fail to initiate detectable caspase-8 processing and, consequently, do not initiate TRAIL-mediated apoptosis. Concomitant treatment with CDDO or CDDO-Im reverses the TRAIL-resistant phenotype, promoting robust caspase-8 processing and induction of TRAIL-mediated apoptosis in vitro. The combination of triterpenoids and monoclonal anti-TRAIL receptor-1 (DR4) antibody also induces apoptosis of breast cancer cells in vitro. From a mechanistic standpoint, we show that CDDO and CDDO-Im down-regulate the antiapoptotic protein c-FLIP(L), and up-regulate cell surface TRAIL receptors DR4 and DR5. CDDO and CDDO-Im, when used in combination with TRAIL, have no adverse affect on cultured normal human mammary epithelial cells. Moreover, CDDO-Im and TRAIL are well tolerated in mice and the combination of CDDO-Im and TRAIL reduces tumor burden in vivo in an MDA-MB-468 tumor xenograft model. These data suggest that CDDO and CDDO-Im may be useful for selectively reversing the TRAIL-resistant phenotype in cancer but not normal cells.

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