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Cell Discov. 2017 Nov 21;3:17042. doi: 10.1038/celldisc.2017.42. eCollection 2017.

Dihydroartemisinin selectively inhibits PDGFRα-positive ovarian cancer growth and metastasis through inducing degradation of PDGFRα protein.

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School of Public health, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
Key Laboratory of Food Safety Research, Institute for Nutritional Sciences, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.
Key Laboratory of Receptor Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China.
Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA.


To develop traditional medicines as modern pharmacotherapies, understanding their molecular mechanisms of action can be very helpful. We have recently reported that Artemisinin and its derivatives, which are clinically used anti-malarial drugs, have significant effects against ovarian cancer, but the direct molecular targets and related combination therapy have been unclear. Herein, we report that dihydroartemisinin, one of the most active derivatives of Artemisinin, directly targets platelet-derived growth factor receptor-alpha (PDGFRα) to inhibit ovarian cancer cell growth and metastasis. Dihydroartemisinin directly binds to the intercellular domain of PDGFRα, reducing its protein stability by accelerating its ubiquitin-mediated degradation, which further inactivates downstream phosphoinositide 3-Kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways and subsequently represses epithelial-mesenchymal transition, inhibiting cell growth and metastasis of PDGFRα-positive ovarian cancer in vitro and in vivo. A combinational treatment reveals that dihydroartemisinin sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to PDGFR inhibitors. Our clinical study also finds that PDGFRα is overexpressed and positively correlated with high grade and metastasis in human ovarian cancer. Considering that Artemisinin compounds are currently clinically used drugs with favorable safety profiles, the results from this study will potentiate their use in combination with clinically used PDGFRα inhibitors, leading to maximal therapeutic efficacy with minimal adverse effects in PDGFRα-positive cancer patients. These findings also shed high light on future development of novel Artemisinin-based targeted therapy.


Dihydroartemisinin; Epithelial–mesenchymal transition; PDGFRα; metastasis; ovarian cancer

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