Sphingadienes show therapeutic efficacy in neuroblastoma in vitro and in vivo by targeting the AKT signaling pathway

Invest New Drugs. 2018 Oct;36(5):743-754. doi: 10.1007/s10637-017-0558-5. Epub 2018 Jan 16.


Neuroblastoma is a childhood malignancy that accounts for approximately 15% of childhood cancer deaths. Only 20-35% of children with metastatic neuroblastoma survive with standard therapy. Identification of more effective therapies is essential to improving the outcome of children with high-stage disease. Sphingadienes (SD) are growth-inhibitory sphingolipids found in natural sources including soy. They exhibit chemopreventive activity in mouse models of colon cancer, where they mediate cytotoxicity by inhibiting key pro-carcinogenic signaling pathways. In this study, the effect of SD on neuroblastoma was analyzed. Low micromolar concentrations of SD were cytotoxic to transformed and primary neuroblastoma cells independently of N-Myc amplification status. SD induced both caspase-dependent apoptosis and autophagy in neuroblastoma cells. However, only inhibition of caspase-dependent apoptosis protected neuroblastoma cells from SD-mediated cytotoxicity. SD also inhibited AKT activation in neuroblastoma cells as shown by reduced phosphorylated AKT levels. Pre-treatment with insulin attenuated SD-mediated cytotoxicity in vitro. SD-loaded nanoparticles (NP) administered parenterally to immunodeficient mice carrying neuroblastoma xenografts resulted in cytotoxic levels of SD in the circulation and significantly reduced tumor growth compared to vehicle-treated controls. Analysis of tumor extracts demonstrated reduced AKT activation in tumors of mice treated with SD-NP compared to controls treated with empty NP. Our findings indicate SD are novel potential chemotherapeutic agents that promote neuroblastoma cell death and reduce tumorigenicity in vivo.

Keywords: AKT; Nanoparticle; Neuroblastoma; PI3K; Sphingadienes; Sphingolipids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / blood
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice, SCID
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Neuroblastoma / drug therapy*
  • Neuroblastoma / metabolism
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Sphingolipids / administration & dosage*
  • Sphingolipids / blood
  • Sphingolipids / pharmacokinetics
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Sphingolipids
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt