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Cancer Res. 2012 Oct 1;72(19):5035-47. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-0979. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Inactivation of the HIF-1α/PDK3 signaling axis drives melanoma toward mitochondrial oxidative metabolism and potentiates the therapeutic activity of pro-oxidants.

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Unit 837 Equipe 4 Inserm and Faculté de Médecine, Université de Lille II 1 Place, Verdun Cedex, CHRU Lille, France.


Cancer cells can undergo a metabolic reprogramming from oxidative phosphorylation to glycolysis that allows them to adapt to nutrient-poor microenvironments, thereby imposing a selection for aggressive variants. However, the mechanisms underlying this reprogramming are not fully understood. Using complementary approaches in validated cell lines and freshly obtained human specimens, we report here that mitochondrial respiration and oxidative phosphorylation are slowed in metastatic melanomas, even under normoxic conditions due to the persistence of a high nuclear expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α). Pharmacologic or genetic blockades of the HIF-1α pathway decreased glycolysis and promoted mitochondrial respiration via specific reduction in the expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase-3 (PDK3). Inhibiting PDK3 activity by dichloroacetate (DCA) or siRNA-mediated attenuation was sufficient to increase pyruvate dehydrogenase activity, oxidative phosphorylation, and mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation. Notably, DCA potentiated the antitumor effects of elesclomol, a pro-oxidative drug currently in clinical development, both by limiting cell proliferation and promoting cell death. Interestingly, this combination was also effective against BRAF V600E-mutant melanoma cells that were resistant to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib. Cotreatment of melanomas with DCA and elesclomol in vivo achieved a more durable response than single agent alone. Our findings offer a preclinical validation of the HIF-1/PDK3 bioenergetic pathway as a new target for therapeutic intervention in metastatic melanoma, opening the door to innovative combinations that might eradicate this disease.

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