Azathioprine antagonizes aberrantly elevated lipid metabolism and induces apoptosis in glioblastoma

iScience. 2021 Feb 26;24(3):102238. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102238. eCollection 2021 Mar 19.

Abstract

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive type of brain tumor with poor survival rate. Temozolomide (TMZ) is used as standard chemotherapy to treat GBM, but a large number of patients either respond poorly and/or develop resistance after long-term use, emphasizing the need to develop potent drugs with novel mechanisms of action. Here, using high-throughput compound screening (HTS), we found that azathioprine, an immunosuppressant, is a promising therapeutic agent to treat TMZ-resistant GBM. Through integrative genome-wide analysis and global proteomic analysis, we found that elevated lipid metabolism likely due to hyperactive EGFR/AKT/SREBP-1 signaling was inhibited by azathioprine. Azathioprine also promoted ER stress-induced apoptosis. Analysis of orthotopic xenograft models injected with patient-derived GBM cells revealed reduced tumor volume and increased apoptosis after azathioprine and TMZ co-treatment. These data indicate that azathioprine could be a powerful therapeutic option for TMZ-resistant GBM patients.

Keywords: Biological Sciences; Cancer; Cancer Systems Biology; Cell Biology; Proteomics.