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Oncotarget. 2015 Feb 28;6(6):4159-70.

Simultaneous inhibition of deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) and autophagy synergistically kills breast cancer cells.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Heath, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Department of Oncology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death among women in the United States. Patients expressing the estrogen and progesterone receptor (ER and PR) and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER-2) tumor markers have favorable prognosis and efficacious therapeutic options. In contrast, tumors that are negative for these markers (triple-negative) have a disproportionate share of morbidity and mortality due to lack of a validated molecular target. Deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) are a critical component of ubiquitin-proteasome-system degradation and have been shown to be differentially expressed and activated in a number of cancers, including breast, with their aberrant activity linked to cancer prognosis and clinical outcome. We evaluated the effect of the DUB inhibitors b-AP15 and RA-9 alone and in combination with early- and late-stage lysosomal inhibitors on cell viability in a panel of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cell lines. Our results indicate small-molecule DUB inhibitors have a profound effect on TNBC viability and lead to activation of autophagy as a cellular mechanism to compensate for ubiquitin-proteasome-system stress. Treatment with sub-optimal doses of DUB and lysosome inhibitors synergistically kills TNBC cells. This supports the evaluation of DUB inhibition, in combination with lysosomal inhibition, as a therapeutic approach for the treatment of TNBC.

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