Combined inhibition of Smoothened and the DNA damage checkpoint WEE1 exerts antitumor activity in Cholangiocarcinoma
Hedgehog pathway
GLI genes
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Anichini, G.; Raggi, C.; Pastore, M.; et al. "Combined inhibition of Smoothened and the DNA damage checkpoint WEE1 exerts antitumor activity in Cholangiocarcinoma". Molecular cancer Therapeutics. 22 (3), 2023, 343 - 356
Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is characterized by resistance to chemotherapy and a poor prognosis. Therefore, treatments that can effectively suppress tumor growth are urgently needed. Aber-rant activation of hedgehog (HH) signaling has been implicated in several cancers, including those of the hepatobiliary tract. However, the role of HH signaling in intrahepatic CCA (iCCA) has not been completely elucidated. In this study, we addressed the function of the main transducer Smoothened (SMO) and the transcription factors (TFs) GLI1 and GLI2 in iCCA. In addition, we evaluated the potential benefits of the combined inhibition of SMO and the DNA damage kinase WEE1. Transcriptomic analysis of 152 human iCCA samples showed increased expression of GLI1, GLI2, and Patched 1 (PTCH1) in tumor tissues compared with nontumor tissues. Genetic silencing of SMO, GLI1, and GLI2 inhibited the growth, survival, invasiveness, and self-renewal of iCCA cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of SMO reduced iCCA growth and viability in vitro, by inducing double-strand break DNA damage, leading to mitotic arrest and apoptotic cell death. Importantly, SMO inhibition resulted in the activation of the G2-M checkpoint and DNA damage kinase WEE1, increasing the vulnerability to WEE1 inhibition. Hence, the combination of MRT-92 with the WEE1 inhibitor AZD-1775 showed increased antitumor activity in vitro and in iCCA xenografts compared with single treatments. These data indicate that combined inhibition of SMO and WEE1 reduces tumor burden and may represent a strategy for the clinical devel-opment of novel therapeutic approaches in iCCA.

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