Epidemiological data suggest an important role of vitamin D signaling in cancer development and progression, and experimental studies demonstrate that the active vitamin D metabolite 1α, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D₃ (1,25D₃) has broad spectrum antitumor activity. Hypercalcemia has often been suggested to limit the clinical application of these data. The 14-epi-analog of 1,25D₃, inecalcitol [19-nor-14-epi-23-yne-1,25-(OH)₂D₃; TX522], was developed to have superagonistic antitumor activities but low hypercalcemia potential. We examined the antitumor activity of inecalcitol and the underlying mechanisms in a murine squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) model system. In vitro, compared with 1,25D₃, inecalcitol showed enhanced vitamin D receptor (VDR)-mediated transcriptional activity. Inecalcitol suppressed SCC cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner with an IC50 value 30 times lower than that of 1,25D₃. Both inecalcitol and 1,25D₃ induced a comparable level of G0/G₁ cell cycle arrest in SCC cells. The level of apoptosis induced by inecalcitol was markedly higher than that of 1,25D₃. Apoptosis was mediated through the activation of the caspase 8/10- caspase 3 pathway. Further, inecalcitol markedly inhibited the mRNA and protein expression of c-IAP1 and XIAP compared with 1,25D₃. In vivo, inecalcitol inhibits SCC tumor growth in a dose-dependent fashion. Notably, inecalcitol induced a significantly higher level of apoptosis in the SCC xenograft model. While in vitro inecalcitol demonstrates apparent enhanced VDR binding and antiproliferative effects compared to 1,25D₃, in vivo these advantages disappear; at doses of inecalcitol that have equivalent antitumor effects, similar hypercalcemia is seen. This may be explained by the pharmacokinetics of 1,25D₃ vs. inecalcitol and attributed to the much shorter serum half-life of inecalcitol.We show that inecalcitol has potent antitumor activity in the SCC model system, and this is associated with a strong induction of apoptosis. These findings support the further development of inecalcitol in cancer treatment.
Keywords: 1,25D3; SCC; TX522; apoptosis; inecalcitol.