Small-molecule natural product physachenolide C potentiates immunotherapy efficacy by targeting BET proteins

Poonam Tewary, Alan D. Brooks, Ya Ming Xu, E. M. Kithsiri Wijeratne, Ashley L. Babyak, Timothy C. Back, Raj Chari, Christine N. Evans, Curtis J. Henrich, Thomas J. Meyer, Elijah F. Edmondson, Maria T.Prudente De Aquino, Thanigaivelan Kanagasabai, Anil Shanker, A. A. Leslie Gunatilaka, Thomas J. Sayers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Screening for sensitizers of cancer cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis identified a natural product of the 17β-hydroxywithanolide (17-BHW) class, physachenolide C (PCC), as a promising hit. In this study, we show that PCC was also able to sensitize melanoma and renal carcinoma cells to apoptosis in response not only to TRAIL, but also to the synthetic polynucleotide poly I:C, a viral mimetic and immune activator, by reducing levels of antiapoptotic proteins cFLIP and Livin. Both death receptor and TLR3 signaling elicited subsequent increased assembly of a proapoptotic ripoptosome signaling complex. Administration of a combination of PCC and poly I:C in human M14 melanoma xenograft and a syngeneic B16 melanoma model provided significant therapeutic benefit as compared with individual agents. In addition, PCC enhanced melanoma cell death in response to activated human T cells in vitro and in vivo in a death ligand-dependent manner. Biochemical mechanism-ofaction studies established bromo and extraterminal domain (BET) proteins as major cellular targets of PCC. Thus, by targeting of BET proteins to reduce antiapoptotic proteins and enhance caspase-8-dependent apoptosis of cancer cells, PCC represents a unique agent that can potentially be used in combination with various immunotherapeutic approaches to promote tumor regression and improve outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3374-3386
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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