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Mol Cancer Ther. 2013 Sep;12(9):1896-905. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-1243. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

A c-Myc activation sensor-based high-throughput drug screening identifies an antineoplastic effect of nitazoxanide.

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Corresponding Author: Sanjiv S. Gambhir, Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford, Stanford University School of Medicine, 318 Campus Drive, East Wing, 1st Floor, Stanford, CA 94305-5427.


Deregulation of c-Myc plays a central role in the tumorigenesis of many human cancers. Yet, the development of drugs regulating c-Myc activity has been challenging. To facilitate the identification of c-Myc inhibitors, we developed a molecular imaging sensor-based high-throughput screening (HTS) system. This system uses a cell-based assay to detect c-Myc activation in a HTS format, which is established from a pure clone of a stable breast cancer cell line that constitutively expresses a c-Myc activation sensor. Optimization of the assay performance in the HTS format resulted in uniform and robust signals at the baseline. Using this system, we conducted a quantitative HTS against approximately 5,000 existing bioactive compounds from five different libraries. Thirty-nine potential hits were identified, including currently known c-Myc inhibitors. There are a few among the top potent hits that are not known for anti-c-Myc activity. One of these hits is nitazoxanide, a thiazolide for treating human protozoal infections. Validation of nitazoxanide in different cancer cell lines revealed a high potency for c-Myc inhibition with IC50 ranging between 10 and 500 nmol/L. Oral administration of nitazoxanide in breast cancer xenograft mouse models significantly suppressed tumor growth by inhibition of c-Myc and induction of apoptosis. These findings suggest a potential of nitazoxanide to be repurposed as a new antitumor agent for inhibition of c-Myc-associated neoplasia. Our work also demonstrated the unique advantage of molecular imaging in accelerating discovery of drugs for c-Myc-targeted cancer therapy.

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