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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24102. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024102. Epub 2011 Sep 19.

Efficient elimination of cancer cells by deoxyglucose-ABT-263/737 combination therapy.

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  • 1Program of Cell Death and Apoptosis, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla, California, United States of America.


As single agents, ABT-263 and ABT-737 (ABT), molecular antagonists of the Bcl-2 family, bind tightly to Bcl-2, Bcl-xL and Bcl-w, but not to Mcl-1, and induce apoptosis only in limited cell types. The compound 2-deoxyglucose (2DG), in contrast, partially blocks glycolysis, slowing cell growth but rarely causing cell death. Injected into an animal, 2DG accumulates predominantly in tumors but does not harm other tissues. However, when cells that were highly resistant to ABT were pre-treated with 2DG for 3 hours, ABT became a potent inducer of apoptosis, rapidly releasing cytochrome c from the mitochondria and activating caspases at submicromolar concentrations in a Bak/Bax-dependent manner. Bak is normally sequestered in complexes with Mcl-1 and Bcl-xL. 2DG primes cells by interfering with Bak-Mcl-1 association, making it easier for ABT to dissociate Bak from Bcl-xL, freeing Bak to induce apoptosis. A highly active glucose transporter and Bid, as an agent of the mitochondrial apoptotic signal amplification loop, are necessary for efficient apoptosis induction in this system. This combination treatment of cancer-bearing mice was very effective against tumor xenograft from hormone-independent highly metastasized chemo-resistant human prostate cancer cells, suggesting that the combination treatment may provide a safe and effective alternative to genotoxin-based cancer therapies.

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