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Cabozantinib induces PUMA-dependent apoptosis in colon cancer cells via AKT/GSK-3β/NF-κB signaling pathway


Cabozantinib is a multi-kinase inhibitor targeting MET, AXL, and VEGFR2, and has been approved for use in multiple malignancies. The means by which Cabozantinib acts to target colorectal cancer (CRC) cells remains poorly understood, and we sought to investigate how this drug disrupts cell growth in CRC cells and how it interacts to enhance the efficacy of other chemotherapeutic agents. In this study, we found that Cabozantinib activated a p65-dependent signaling pathway in response to both inhibition of AKT and activation of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), leading to upregulation of PUMA in CRC cells regardless of p53 activity. PUMA upregulation facilitates CRC apoptosis in response to Cabozantinib, which also acts synergistically with the chemotherapeutic agents Cetuximab and 5-FU to induce robust apoptosis in a PUMA-dependent manner. Eliminating PUMA expression ablated this apoptosis induced by Cabozantinib in xenograft mouse model. Our findings revealed that Cabozantinib acts to drive CRC cells apoptosis via a PUMA-dependent mechanism, thus identifying PUMA expression as a potential predictor of Cabozantinib efficacy and a potential novel therapeutic target.

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This study was supported by Natural Science Foundation of Liaoning (No. 20180550877 to Shida Yang and No. 20180550530 to Huiling Qu).

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Correspondence to Hongmei Zhao.

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