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Oncogene. 2008 Nov 6;27(52):6646-56. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.259. Epub 2008 Jul 28.

Apoptosis-based treatment of glioblastomas with ABT-737, a novel small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2 family proteins.

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Molecular Neuro-Oncology, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.


Defects in the apoptotic signaling cascades contribute to the poor therapeutic response of malignant gliomas. As glioblastomas are characterized by high expression levels of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins, we studied the effects of the novel Bcl-2 inhibitor, ABT-737, on malignant glioma cells. ABT-737 treatment released the pro-apoptotic Bax protein from its binding partner Bcl-2 and potently induced apoptotic cell death in glioblastoma cells in vitro and in vivo. The local administration of ABT-737 prolonged the survival in an intracranial glioma xenograft model. Downregulation of Mcl-1 and overexpression of Bcl-2 sensitized the cells to ABT-737-mediated apoptosis. Moreover, ABT-737 potentiated the cytotoxicity of the chemotherapeutic drugs vincristine and etoposide, and of the death ligand TRAIL. As glioma stem cells may play a crucial role for the tumor progression and the resistance to treatment in glioblastomas, we investigated the effects of ABT-737 on the subpopulation of glioma cells exhibiting stem cell characteristics. Inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis by ABT-737 were less efficient in glioma stem cells than in non-stem cell-like glioma cells. As the resistance of glioma stem cells was associated with high Mcl-1 expression levels, ABT-737 treatment combined with downregulation of Mcl-1 could represent a promising novel approach in glioblastoma treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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