Preclinical investigation of ibrutinib, a Bruton's kinase tyrosine (Btk) inhibitor, in suppressing glioma tumorigenesis and stem cell phenotypes

Oncotarget. 2016 Oct 25;7(43):69961-69975. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.11572.


Standard interventions for glioma include surgery, radiation and chemotherapies but the prognosis for malignant cases such as glioblastoma multiforme remain grim. Even with targeted therapeutic agent, bevacitumab, malignant glioma often develops resistance and recurrence. Thus, developing alternative interventions (therapeutic targets, biomarkers) is urgently required. Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk) has been long implicated in B cell malignancies but surprisingly it has recently been shown to also play a tumorigenic role in solid tumors such as ovarian and prostate cancer. Bioinformatics data indicates that Btk is significantly higher in clinical glioma samples as compared to normal brain cells and Btk expression level is associated with stage progression. This prompts us to investigate the potential role of Btk as a therapeutic target for glioma. Here, we demonstrate Btk expression is associated with GBM tumorigenesis. Down-regulation of Btk in GBM cell lines showed a significantly reduced abilities in colony formation, migration and GBM sphere-forming potential. Mechanistically, Btk-silenced cells showed a concomitant reduction in the expression of CD133 and Akt/mTOR signaling. In parallel, Ibrutinib (a Btk inhibitor) treatment led to a similar anti-tumorigenic response. Using xenograft mouse model, tumorigenesis was significantly reduced in Btk-silenced or ibrutinib-treated mice as compared to control counterparts. Finally, our glioma tissue microarray analysis indicated a higher Btk staining in the malignant tumors than less malignant and normal brain tissues. Collectively, Btk may represent a novel therapeutic target for glioma and ibrunitib may be used as an adjuvant treatment for malignant GBM.

Keywords: Bruton’s tyrosine kinase; cancer stem cells; glioma; ibrutinib.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agammaglobulinaemia Tyrosine Kinase
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Glioma / enzymology
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Phenotype
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use*


  • PCI 32765
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyrimidines
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Agammaglobulinaemia Tyrosine Kinase
  • BTK protein, human
  • Btk protein, mouse