Small Molecular TRAIL Inducer ONC201 Induces Death in Lung Cancer Cells: A Preclinical Study

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) selectively targets cancer cells. The present preclinical study investigated the anti-cancer efficiency of ONC201, a first-in-class small molecule TRAIL inducer, in lung cancer cells. We showed that ONC201 was cytotoxic and anti-proliferative in both established (A549 and H460 lines) and primary human lung cancer cells. It was yet non-cytotoxic to normal lung epithelial cells. Further, ONC201 induced exogenous apoptosis activation in lung cancer cells, which was evidenced by TRAIL/death receptor-5 (DR5) induction and caspase-8 activation. The caspase-8 inhibitor or TRAIL/DR5 siRNA knockdown alleviated ONC201's cytotoxicity against lung cancer cells. Molecularly, ONC201 in-activated Akt-S6K1 and Erk signalings in lung cancer cells, causing Foxo3a nuclear translocation. For the in vivo studies, intraperitoneal injection of ONC201 at well-tolerated doses significantly inhibited xenografted A549 tumor growth in severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. Further, ONC201 administration induced TRAIL/DR5 expression, yet inactivated Akt-S6K1 and Erk in tumor tissues. These results of the study demonstrates the potent anti-lung cancer activity by ONC201.

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