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, 6 (8), 1308-15

Mebendazole Induces Apoptosis via Bcl-2 Inactivation in Chemoresistant Melanoma Cells

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Mebendazole Induces Apoptosis via Bcl-2 Inactivation in Chemoresistant Melanoma Cells

Nicole Doudican et al. Mol Cancer Res.

Abstract

Most metastatic melanoma patients fail to respond to available therapy, underscoring the need for novel approaches to identify new effective treatments. In this study, we screened 2,000 compounds from the Spectrum Library at a concentration of 1 micromol/L using two chemoresistant melanoma cell lines (M-14 and SK-Mel-19) and a spontaneously immortalized, nontumorigenic melanocyte cell line (melan-a). We identified 10 compounds that inhibited the growth of the melanoma cells yet were largely nontoxic to melanocytes. Strikingly, 4 of the 10 compounds (mebendazole, albendazole, fenbendazole, and oxybendazole) are benzimidazoles, a class of structurally related, tubulin-disrupting drugs. Mebendazole was prioritized to further characterize its mechanism of melanoma growth inhibition based on its favorable pharmacokinetic profile. Our data reveal that mebendazole inhibits melanoma growth with an average IC(50) of 0.32 micromol/L and preferentially induces apoptosis in melanoma cells compared with melanocytes. The intrinsic apoptotic response is mediated through phosphorylation of Bcl-2, which occurs rapidly after treatment with mebendazole in melanoma cells but not in melanocytes. Phosphorylation of Bcl-2 in melanoma cells prevents its interaction with proapoptotic Bax, thereby promoting apoptosis. We further show that mebendazole-resistant melanocytes can be sensitized through reduction of Bcl-2 protein levels, showing the essential role of Bcl-2 in the cellular response to mebendazole-mediated tubulin disruption. Our results suggest that this screening approach is useful for identifying agents that show promise in the treatment of even chemoresistant melanoma and identifies mebendazole as a potent, melanoma-specific cytotoxic agent.

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