1. School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology, Tianjin University, Tianjin, 300072 P. R. China;
2. Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53705 USA;
3. Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA 02129 USA.
Background: Melanoma is a heterogeneous malignancy that presents an immense challenge in therapeutic development. Recent approaches targeting the oncogenic MAP kinase pathways have shown tremendous improvement in the overall survival of patients with advanced melanoma. However, there is still an urgent need for identification of new strategies to overcome drug resistances and to improve therapeutic efficacy. Haspin (Haploid Germ Cell-Specific Nuclear Protein Kinase) belongs to a selected group of mitotic kinases and is required for normal mitosis progression. In contrast to inhibitors of other mitotic kinases, anti-tumor potential of haspin inhibitors has not been well explored. Herein, we aim to examine effects of CHR-6494, a small molecule inhibitor of haspin, in melanoma cells.
Methods: Anti-tumor activities of the haspin inhibitor CHR-6494 were tested in a number of melanoma cell lines either as a single agent or in combination with the MEK inhibitor Trametinib (GSK1120212). Experiments are based on: 1) Cell viability determined by the crystal violet staining assay; 2) apoptotic responses measured by the caspase 3/7 activity assay and western blot analysis for the level of cleaved PARP (Poly ADP-Ribose Polymerase); 3) cell cycle analysis conducted using flow cytometry; and 4) cell migratory ability assessed by the scratch assay and the transwell migration assay.
Results: We have found that CHR-6494 alone elicits a dose dependent inhibitory effect on the viability of several melanoma cell lines. This growth inhibition is accompanied by an increase in apoptotic responses. More importantly, CHR-6494 appears to synergize with the MEK inhibitor Trametinib in suppressing cell growth and enhancing apoptosis in both wild type and BRAFV600E mutant melanoma cell lines. Administering of these two small molecules as a combination is also capable of suppressing cell migration to a greater extent than the individual agent.
Conclusion: These results suggest that haspin can be considered as a viable anti-melanoma target, and that concomitant inhibition of haspin and MEK activities with small molecules could represent a novel therapeutic strategy with improved efficacy for treatment of melanoma.
Keywords: melanoma, mitotic kinases, haspin, MEK, inhibitor, targeted therapy, combined therapy.