Blockade of the NFκB pathway drives differentiating glioblastoma-initiating cells into senescence both in vitro and in vivo

Oncogene. 2011 Aug 11;30(32):3537-48. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.74. Epub 2011 Mar 21.


Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most devastating cancers and presents unique challenges to therapy because of its aggressive behavior. Cancer-initiating or progenitor cells have been described to be the only cell population with tumorigenic capacity in glioblastoma. Therefore, effective therapeutic strategies targeting these cells or the early precursors may be beneficial. We have established different cultures of glioblastoma-initiating cells (GICs) derived from surgical specimens and found that, after induction of differentiation, the NFκB transcriptional pathway was activated, as determined by analyzing key proteins such as p65 and IκB and the upregulation of a number of target genes. We also showed that blockade of nuclear factor (NF)κB signaling in differentiating GICs by different genetic strategies or treatment with small-molecule inhibitors, promoted replication arrest and senescence. This effect was partly mediated by reduced levels of the NFκB target gene cyclin D1, because its downregulation by RNA interference reproduced a similar phenotype. Furthermore, these results were confirmed in a xenograft model. Intravenous treatment of immunodeficient mice bearing human GIC-derived tumors with a novel small-molecule inhibitor of the NFκB pathway induced senescence of tumor cells but no ultrastructural alterations of the brain parenchyma were detected. These findings reveal that activation of NFκB may keep differentiating GICs from acquiring a mature postmitotic phenotype, thus allowing cell proliferation, and support the rationale for therapeutic strategies aimed to promote premature senescence of differentiating GICs by blocking key factors within the NFκB pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carbazoles / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics*
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy
  • Glioblastoma / genetics*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Glycosides / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • I-kappa B Kinase / genetics
  • I-kappa B Kinase / metabolism
  • I-kappa B Proteins / genetics
  • I-kappa B Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Knockout
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / genetics*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells / pathology
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • RNA Interference
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Sulfones / pharmacology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • BAY 11-7085
  • Carbazoles
  • Glycosides
  • I-kappa B Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Nitriles
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Sulfones
  • Cyclin D1
  • I-kappa B Kinase

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE20736