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Sakibul Huq, Nivedha V. Kannapadi, Joshua Casaos, Tarik Lott, Raphael Felder, Riccardo Serra, Noah L. Gorelick, Miguel A. Ruiz-Cardozo, Andy S. Ding, Arba Cecia, Ravi Medikonda, Jeff Ehresman, Henry Brem, Nicolas Skuli, and Betty M. Tyler

OBJECTIVE

Medulloblastoma, the most common pediatric brain malignancy, has Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) and group 3 (Myc driven) subtypes that are associated with the activity of eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), a critical mediator of translation, and enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), a histone methyltransferase and master regulator of transcription. Recent drug repurposing efforts in multiple solid and hematologic malignancies have demonstrated that eIF4E and EZH2 are both pharmacologically inhibited by the FDA-approved antiviral drug ribavirin. Given the molecular overlap between medulloblastoma biology and known ribavirin activity, the authors investigated the preclinical efficacy of repurposing ribavirin as a targeted therapeutic in cell and animal models of medulloblastoma.

METHODS

Multiple in vitro assays were performed using human ONS-76 (a primitive SHH model) and D425 (an aggressive group 3 model) cells. The impacts of ribavirin on cellular growth, death, migration, and invasion were quantified using proliferation and Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) assays, flow cytometry with annexin V (AnnV) staining, scratch wound assays, and Matrigel invasion chambers, respectively. Survival following daily ribavirin treatment (100 mg/kg) was assessed in vivo in immunodeficient mice intracranially implanted with D425 cells.

RESULTS

Compared to controls, ribavirin treatment led to a significant reduction in medulloblastoma cell growth (ONS-76 proliferation assay, p = 0.0001; D425 CCK-8 assay, p < 0.0001) and a significant increase in cell death (flow cytometry for AnnV, ONS-76, p = 0.0010; D425, p = 0.0284). In ONS-76 cells, compared to controls, ribavirin significantly decreased cell migration and invasion (Matrigel invasion chamber assay, p = 0.0012). In vivo, ribavirin significantly extended survival in an aggressive group 3 medulloblastoma mouse model compared to vehicle-treated controls (p = 0.0004).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors demonstrate that ribavirin, a clinically used drug known to inhibit eIF4E and EZH2, has significant antitumor effects in multiple preclinical models of medulloblastoma, including an aggressive group 3 animal model. Ribavirin may represent a promising targeted therapeutic in medulloblastoma.