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Oncogene. 2014 Feb 20;33(8):1037-46. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.25. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

Targeting HPV16 E6-p300 interaction reactivates p53 and inhibits the tumorigenicity of HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

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1] Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH, USA [2] Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbus, OH, USA.
Department of Chemistry, New York University, New York, NY, USA.


The incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has rapidly increased over the past 30 years, prompting the suggestion that an epidemic maybe on the horizon. Therefore, there is a clinical need to develop alternate therapeutic strategies to manage the growing number of HPV-positive HNSCC patients. High-risk HPV E6 inactivates p53 through two distinct mechanisms; association with E6AP to degrade p53 and association with p300 to block p300-mediated p53 acetylation and activation. In this study, we determined if targeting the E6-p300 interaction is an effective approach to reactivate p53 in HPV-positive HNSCC. Ectopic expression of the CH1 domain of p300 in HPV-positive HNSCC blocks the association between E6 and p300, increases total and acetylated p53 levels and enhances p53 transcriptional activity. Moreover, expression of p21, miR-34a and miR-200c are increased, demonstrating functional p53 reactivation. CH1 overexpression in HPV-positive HNSCC has a global anticancer effect resulting in a decrease in cell proliferation and clonogenic survival and an increase in apoptosis. The in vivo tumor-initiating ability of HPV-positive HNSCC is severely compromised with CH1 overexpression, in part through a reduction in the cancer-initiating cell population. A novel small-molecule CH1 inhibitor, CH1iB, reactivates p53 and potentiates the anticancer activity of cis-platinum in HPV-positive HNSCC cells. Our work shows that CH1-domain inhibitors represent a novel class of p53-reactivation therapeutics for managing HPV-positive HNSCC patients.

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