The CNS penetrating taxane TPI 287 and the AURKA inhibitor alisertib induce synergistic apoptosis in glioblastoma cells

J Neurooncol. 2018 May;137(3):481-492. doi: 10.1007/s11060-018-2755-2. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Glioblastoma is a highly malignant disease in critical need of expanded treatment options. The AURKA inhibitor alisertib exhibits antiproliferative activity against glioblastoma in vitro and in vivo. Unlike current clinically used taxane drugs, the novel taxane TPI 287 penetrates the CNS. We tested for interactions between three selective AURKA inhibitors and TPI 287 against standard U87 and U1242 cells and primary glioblastoma neurospheres using colony formation assays. Bliss and Chou-Talalay analyses were utilized to statistically test for synergism. Morphological analysis, flow cytometry and annexin V binding were employed to examine cell cycle and apoptotic effects of these drug combinations. TPI 287 not only potentiated the cytotoxicity of the AURKA inhibitors alisertib, MLN8054 and TC-A2317, but was often potently synergistic. Morphologic and biochemical analysis of the combined effects of alisertib and TPI 287 consistently revealed synergistic induction of apoptosis. While each agent alone induces a mitotic block, slippage occurs allowing some tumor cells to avoid apoptosis. Combination treatment greatly attenuated mitotic slippage, committing the majority of cells to apoptosis. Alisertib and TPI 287 demonstrate significant synergism against glioblastoma cells largely attributable to a synergistic effect in inducing apoptosis. These results provide compelling rationale for clinical testing of alisertib and/or other AURKA inhibitors for potential combination use with TPI 287 against glioblastoma and other CNS neoplasms.

Keywords: Alisertib; Apoptosis; Glioblastoma; Synergy; TPI 287.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Aurora Kinase A / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Aurora Kinase A / metabolism
  • Azepines / pharmacology*
  • Benzazepines / pharmacology
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Synergism
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy*
  • Glioblastoma / enzymology
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / enzymology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / physiology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology*
  • Taxoids / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Stem Cell Assay


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Azepines
  • Benzazepines
  • MLN 8237
  • MLN8054
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidines
  • TPI-287
  • Taxoids
  • AURKA protein, human
  • Aurora Kinase A