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Cell Death Differ. 2009 Oct;16(10):1352-61. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2009.76. Epub 2009 Jun 19.

Procaspase 8 overexpression in non-small-cell lung cancer promotes apoptosis induced by FLIP silencing.

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Drug Resistance Laboratory, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.


We found that procaspase 8 was overexpressed in non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) compared with matched normal tissues. The caspase 8 inhibitor FLICE-inhibitory protein (FLIP) was also overexpressed in the majority of NSCLCs. Silencing FLIP induced caspase 8 activation and apoptosis in NSCLC cell lines, but not in normal lung cell lines. Apoptosis induced by FLIP silencing was mediated by the TRAIL death receptors DR4 and DR5, but was not dependent on ligation of the receptors by TRAIL. Furthermore, the apoptosis induced by FLIP silencing was dependent on the overexpression of procaspase 8 in NSCLC cells. Moreover, in NSCLC cells, but not in normal cells, FLIP silencing induced co-localization of DR5 and ceramide, and disruption of this co-localization abrogated apoptosis. FLIP silencing supra-additively increased TRAIL-induced apoptosis of NSCLC cells; however, normal lung cells were resistant to TRAIL, even when FLIP was silenced. Importantly, FLIP silencing sensitized NSCLC cells but not normal cells to chemotherapy in vitro, and silencing FLIP in vivo retarded NSCLC xenograft growth and enhanced the anti-tumour effects of cisplatin. Collectively, our results suggest that due to frequent procaspase 8 overexpression, NSCLCs may be particularly sensitive to FLIP-targeted therapies.

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