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The NQO1 Bioactivatable Drug, β-lapachone, Alters The Redox State Of NQO1+ Pancreatic Cancer Cells, Causing Perturbation In Central Carbon Metabolism

Molly A Silvers, Stanislaw Deja, N. Singh, Robert A. Egnatchik, J. Sudderth, Xiuquan Luo, M. Beg, S. Burgess, R. DeBerardinis, D. Boothman, M. Merritt
Published 2017 · Biology, Medicine

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Many cancer treatments, such as those for managing recalcitrant tumors like pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, cause off-target toxicities in normal, healthy tissue, highlighting the need for more tumor-selective chemotherapies. β-Lapachone is bioactivated by NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). This enzyme exhibits elevated expression in most solid cancers and therefore is a potential cancer-specific target. β-Lapachone's therapeutic efficacy partially stems from the drug's induction of a futile NQO1-mediated redox cycle that causes high levels of superoxide and then peroxide formation, which damages DNA and causes hyperactivation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, resulting in extensive NAD+/ATP depletion. However, the effects of this drug on energy metabolism due to NAD+ depletion were never described. The futile redox cycle rapidly consumes O2, rendering standard assays of Krebs cycle turnover unusable. In this study, a multimodal analysis, including metabolic imaging using hyperpolarized pyruvate, points to reduced oxidative flux due to NAD+ depletion after β-lapachone treatment of NQO1+ human pancreatic cancer cells. NAD+-sensitive pathways, such as glycolysis, flux through lactate dehydrogenase, and the citric acid cycle (as inferred by flux through pyruvate dehydrogenase), were down-regulated by β-lapachone treatment. Changes in flux through these pathways should generate biomarkers useful for in vivo dose responses of β-lapachone treatment in humans, avoiding toxic side effects. Targeting the enzymes in these pathways for therapeutic treatment may have the potential to synergize with β-lapachone treatment, creating unique NQO1-selective combinatorial therapies for specific cancers. These findings warrant future studies of intermediary metabolism in patients treated with β-lapachone.
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