The Antiproliferative and Colony-suppressive Activities of STAT3 Inhibitors in Human Cancer Cells Is Compromised Under Hypoxic Conditions.

Tian J, Xiao H, Wu R, Cao Y, Li C, Xu R, Pierson CR, Finlay JL, Yang F, Gu N, Lin J
Anticancer Res 37 547-553 01/01/2017


Constitutive activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) has been indicated as a novel cancer drug target, since it plays an important role in diverse oncogenic processes including survival, cell proliferation and migration. Emerging STAT3 inhibitors have demonstrated efficacy in cancer cells and animal tumor models. It is well known that most solid tumors are characterized by hypoxia, but it is not clear if hypoxic conditions affect activity of STAT3 inhibitors. To examine this, two STAT3 inhibitors were tested to investigate their inhibitory efficacy in cancer cells grown under hypoxic conditions compared with those without hypoxia. Cell proliferation, colony formation and western blot assays were performed to examine the differences in the cell viability, proliferation and proteins in the STAT3 pathway. Under hypoxic conditions, the half-maximal inhibitory concentration values for both STAT3 inhibitors were increased compared to normoxic conditions in human pancreatic cancer, medulloblastoma and sarcoma cell lines. In addition, the ability of both STAT3 inhibitors to inhibit colony formation in pancreatic cancer, medulloblastoma and sarcoma cell lines was reduced under hypoxic conditions when compared to cells under normoxic conditions. Furthermore, there was an increase in phosphorylated STAT3 levels in cancer cells under hypoxic conditions, suggesting this may be one of the mechanisms of resistance. In summary, the results presented here provide a novel finding of STAT3 inhibitor activity under hypoxic conditions and indicate that under such low oxygen conditions, the anticancer efficacy of STAT3 inhibitors was indeed hampered. These results highlight the need to develop new therapeutic strategies to overcome the resistance of cancer cells to STAT3 inhibitors under hypoxic conditions.

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