Artesunate shows potent anti-tumor activity in B-cell lymphoma
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Hematology & Oncology. 2018, 11:23 1-12. 10.1186/s13045-018-0561-0
Background Although chemo-immunotherapy has led to an improved overall survival for most B-cell lymphoma types, relapsed and refractory disease remains a challenge. The malaria drug artesunate has previously been identified as a growth suppressor in some cancer types and was tested as a new treatment option in B-cell lymphoma. Methods We included artesunate in a cancer sensitivity drug screen in B lymphoma cell lines. The preclinical properties of artesunate was tested as single agent in vitro in 18 B-cell lymphoma cell lines representing different histologies and in vivo in an aggressive B-cell lymphoma xenograft model, using NSG mice. Artesunate-treated B lymphoma cell lines were analyzed by functional assays, gene expression profiling, and protein expression to identify the mechanism of action. Results Drug screening identified artesunate as a highly potent anti-lymphoma drug.Artesunate induced potent growth suppression in most B lymphoma cells with an IC50 comparable to concentrations measured in serum from artesunate-treated malaria patients, while leaving normal B-cells unaffected. Artesunate markedly inhibited highly aggressive tumor growth in a xenograft model. Gene expression analysis identified endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and the unfolded protein response as the most affected pathways and artesunate-induced expression of the ER stress markers ATF-4 and DDIT3 was specifically upregulated in malignant B-cells, but not in normal B-cells. In addition, artesunate significantly suppressed the overall cell metabolism, affecting both respiration and glycolysis. Conclusions Artesunate demonstrated potent apoptosis-inducing effects across a broad range of B-cell lymphoma cell lines in vitro, and a prominent anti-lymphoma activity in vivo, suggesting it to be a relevant drug for treatment of B-cell lymphoma.