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Disulfiram Acts as a Potent Radio-Chemo Sensitizer in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cell Lines and Transplanted Xenografts

Yao, Wenhao and Qian, Xu and Ochsenreither, Sebastian and Soldano, Ferrone and DeLeo, Albert B. and Sudhoff, Holger and Oppel, Felix and Kuppig, Andreas and Klinghammer, Konrad and Kaufmann, Andreas M. and Albers, Andreas E. (2021) Disulfiram Acts as a Potent Radio-Chemo Sensitizer in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cell Lines and Transplanted Xenografts. Cells, 10 (3). p. 517. ISSN 2073-4409

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The poor prognosis of locally advanced and metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is primarily mediated by the functional properties of cancer stem cells (CSCs) and resistance to chemoradiotherapy. We investigated whether the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) inhibitor disulfiram (DSF) can enhance the sensitivity of therapy. Cell viability was assessed by the 1-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-3,5-diphenylformazan (MTT) and apoptosis assays, and the cell cycle and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels were evaluated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). The radio-sensitizing effect was measured by a colony formation assay. The synergistic effects were calculated by combination index (CI) analyses. The DSF and DSF/Cu2+ inhibited the cell proliferation (inhibitory concentration 50 (IC50) of DSF and DSF/Cu2+ were 13.96 μM and 0.24 μM). DSF and cisplatin displayed a synergistic effect (CI values were <1). DSF or DSF/Cu2+ abolished the cisplatin-induced G2/M arrest (from 52.9% to 40.7% and 41.1%), and combining irradiation (IR) with DSF or DSF/Cu2+ reduced the colony formation and attenuated the G2/M arrest (from 53.6% to 40.2% and 41.9%). The combination of cisplatin, DSF or DSF/Cu2+, and IR enhanced the radio-chemo sensitivity by inducing apoptosis (42.04% and 32.21%) and ROS activity (46.3% and 37.4%). DSF and DSF/Cu2+ enhanced the sensitivity of HNSCC to cisplatin and IR. Confirming the initial data from patient-derived tumor xenograft (PDX) supported a strong rationale to repurpose DSF as a radio-chemosensitizer and to assess its therapeutic potential in a clinical setting


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Yao, Wenhao
Qian, Xu
Ochsenreither, Sebastian
Soldano, Ferrone
DeLeo, Albert B.deleo@pitt.edudeleo
Sudhoff, Holger
Oppel, Felix
Kuppig, Andreas
Klinghammer, Konrad
Kaufmann, Andreas M.
Albers, Andreas E.
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
Date: 28 February 2021
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Cells
Volume: 10
Number: 3
Publisher: MDPI AG
Page Range: p. 517
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3390/cells10030517
Schools and Programs: School of Medicine > Pathology
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: disulfiram, HNSCC stem cells, aldehyde dehydrogenase, cisplatin, irradiation
ISSN: 2073-4409
Official URL:
Funders: Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2021 18:56
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2021 18:56


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