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Dis Model Mech. 2012 May;5(3):342-50. doi: 10.1242/dmm.008722. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

A translation inhibitor identified in a Drosophila screen enhances the effect of ionizing radiation and taxol in mammalian models of cancer.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, 347 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-80347, USA.


We described previously a screening protocol in Drosophila melanogaster that allows us to identify small molecules that increase the killing effect of ionizing radiation in vivo in a multicellular context. The ability of this screen to identify agents that enhance the effect of radiation in human cancer models has been validated in published proof-of-concept studies. Here we describe an agent, identified by screening through two National Cancer Institute (NCI) small molecule libraries in Drosophila, that increases the effect of radiation. This agent, Bouvardin (NSC 259968), inhibits the elongation step of protein synthesis. We find that Bouvardin enhances the killing effect of X-rays in both Drosophila larvae and in human cancer cells. More detailed analysis showed that Bouvardin also increases the effect of radiation in clonogenic assays and in human cancer xenografts in mice. Finally, we present data that Bouvardin can also increase the efficacy of taxol. Regulation of translation is important to cancer biology. Current therapies target every aspect of cancer cell proliferation from growth factor signaling to cell division, with the exception of translation elongation. Our identification of Bouvardin as an enhancer of radio- and chemo-therapeutic agents suggests that targeting this niche has the potential to improve existing cancer therapies.

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