A small-molecule inhibitor of glucose transporter 1 downregulates glycolysis, induces cell-cycle arrest, and inhibits cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo

Mol Cancer Ther. 2012 Aug;11(8):1672-82. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0131. Epub 2012 Jun 11.


The functional and therapeutic importance of the Warburg effect is increasingly recognized, and glycolysis has become a target of anticancer strategies. We recently reported the identification of a group of novel small compounds that inhibit basal glucose transport and reduce cancer cell growth by a glucose deprivation-like mechanism. We hypothesized that the compounds target Glut1 and are efficacious in vivo as anticancer agents. Here, we report that a novel representative compound WZB117 not only inhibited cell growth in cancer cell lines but also inhibited cancer growth in a nude mouse model. Daily intraperitoneal injection of WZB117 at 10 mg/kg resulted in a more than 70% reduction in the size of human lung cancer of A549 cell origin. Mechanism studies showed that WZB117 inhibited glucose transport in human red blood cells (RBC), which express Glut1 as their sole glucose transporter. Cancer cell treatment with WZB117 led to decreases in levels of Glut1 protein, intracellular ATP, and glycolytic enzymes. All these changes were followed by increase in ATP-sensing enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and declines in cyclin E2 as well as phosphorylated retinoblastoma, resulting in cell-cycle arrest, senescence, and necrosis. Addition of extracellular ATP rescued compound-treated cancer cells, suggesting that the reduction of intracellular ATP plays an important role in the anticancer mechanism of the molecule. Senescence induction and the essential role of ATP were reported for the first time in Glut1 inhibitor-treated cancer cells. Thus, WZB117 is a prototype for further development of anticancer therapeutics targeting Glut1-mediated glucose transport and glucose metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / chemistry
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / metabolism
  • Glycolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydroxybenzoates / administration & dosage
  • Hydroxybenzoates / chemistry
  • Hydroxybenzoates / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • WZB117
  • Glucose