Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an aggressive, malignant cancer Johnson and O'Neill (J Neurooncol 107: 359-364, 2012). An extract from the winter cherry plant (Withania somnifera ), AshwaMAX, is concentrated (4.3 %) for Withaferin A; a steroidal lactone that inhibits cancer cells Vanden Berghe et al. (Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev 23: 1985-1996, 2014). We hypothesized that AshwaMAX could treat GBM and that bioluminescence imaging (BLI) could track oral therapy in orthotopic murine models of glioblastoma. Human parietal-cortical glioblastoma cells (GBM2, GBM39) were isolated from primary tumors while U87-MG was obtained commercially. GBM2 was transduced with lentiviral vectors that express Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)/firefly luciferase fusion proteins. Mutational, expression and proliferative status of GBMs were studied. Intracranial xenografts of glioblastomas were grown in the right frontal regions of female, nude mice (n = 3-5 per experiment). Tumor growth was followed through BLI. Neurosphere cultures (U87-MG, GBM2 and GBM39) were inhibited by AshwaMAX at IC50 of 1.4, 0.19 and 0.22 µM equivalent respectively and by Withaferin A with IC50 of 0.31, 0.28 and 0.25 µM respectively. Oral gavage, every other day, of AshwaMAX (40 mg/kg per day) significantly reduced bioluminescence signal (n = 3 mice, p < 0.02, four parameter non-linear regression analysis) in preclinical models. After 30 days of treatment, bioluminescent signal increased suggesting onset of resistance. BLI signal for control, vehicle-treated mice increased and then plateaued. Bioluminescent imaging revealed diffuse growth of GBM2 xenografts. With AshwaMAX, GBM neurospheres collapsed at nanomolar concentrations. Oral treatment studies on murine models confirmed that AshwaMAX is effective against orthotopic GBM. AshwaMAX is thus a promising candidate for future clinical translation in patients with GBM.
Keywords: AshwaMAX; Bioluminescent; Glioblastoma; Preclinical; Withaferin A.