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  • Author or Editor: Axel H. Schönthal x
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Axel H. Schönthal

✓ Celecoxib (Celebrex) appears to be unique among the class of selective COX-2 inhibitors (coxibs), because this particular compound exerts a second function that is independent of its celebrated ability to inhibit COX-2. This second function is the potential to inhibit cell proliferation and stimulate apoptotic cell death at much lower concentrations than any other coxibs. Intriguingly, these two functions are mediated by different moieties of the celecoxib molecule and can be separated. The author, as well as others, have generated and investigated analogs of celecoxib that retain only one of these two functions. One derivative, 2,5-dimethyl-celecoxib (DMC), which retains the antiproliferative and apoptosis-inducing function, but completely lacks the COX-2 inhibitory activity, is able to mimic faithfully all of the numerous antitumor effects of celecoxib that have been investigated so far, including reduction of neovascularization and inhibition of experimental tumor growth in various in vivo tumor models. In view of the controversy that has recently arisen regarding the life-threatening side effects of this class of coxibs, it may be worthwhile to pursue further the potential benefits of drugs such as DMC for anticancer therapy. Because DMC is not a coxib yet potently maintains celecoxib's antitumor potential, one may be inclined to speculate that this novel compound could potentially be advantageous in the management of COX-2–independent cancers. In this summary, the implications of recent findings with DMC will be presented and discussed.

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Thomas C. Chen, Gina R. Napolitano, Frank Adell, Axel H. Schönthal and Yehoshua Shachar

Patients with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis face a particularly grim prognosis. Current treatment consists of intrathecal delivery of methotrexate (MTX) or cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C) via Ommaya reservoir or lumbar puncture. Yet despite these interventions, the median survival after diagnosis is only 4–7 months. To address inherent shortcomings of current treatments and provide a more effective therapeutic approach, the Pharmaco-Kinesis Corporation has developed a novel type of implantable pump capable of delivering intrathecal chemotherapy (i.e., MTX) in a metronomic fashion with electronic feedback. The Metronomic Biofeedback Pump (MBP) consists of 3 components: 1) a 2-lumen catheter; 2) a microfluidic delivery pump with 2 reservoirs; and 3) a spectrophotometer monitoring MTX concentrations in the CSF. Using an animal model of intraventricular drug delivery, the authors demonstrate that the MBP can reliably deliver volumes of 500 μl/min, consistently measure real-time intrathecal MTX concentrations via CSF aspiration, and provide biofeedback with the possibility of instant control and delivery adjustments. Therefore, this novel approach to chemotherapy minimizes toxic drug levels and ensures continuous exposure at precisely adjusted, individualized therapeutic levels. Altogether, application of the MBP is expected to increase survival of patients with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, and appropriate Phase I and II trials are pending.

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Weijun Wang, Adel Kardosh, Yuzhuang S. Su, Axel H. Schonthal and Thomas C. Chen

Object

The incidence of primary central nervous system lymphomas (PCNSLs) has increased over the past several decades. Unfortunately, even with the most effective therapeutic regimen (that is, methotrexate with whole-brain radiation therapy), PCNSL recurs within a few years in more than half of the treated patients and is eventually fatal. Because PCNSL usually occurs in older patients and in those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, combination treatments in which both chemo- and radiation therapy are used is often poorly tolerated and results in a significant reduction in the quality of life. Recently, it has been demonstrated that the selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor celecoxib (Celebrex), can block the growth of lymphoma cells in vitro.

Methods

To create an experimental animal model in vivo for the PCNSL study, the authors intracranially injected a human B-cell lymphoma cell line into nude mice. Their data demonstrate that this experimental model is an excellent one for human PCNSL with brain and leptomeningeal involvement. They also evaluated the feasibility of using celecoxib as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of PCNSL. Nude mice with intracranial lymphomas were treated with celecoxib contained in the animal chow. The treated animals demonstrated significantly prolonged survival times compared with the untreated animals.

Conclusions

Based on the authors' data, celecoxib may be a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of PCNSL.

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Encouse B. Golden, Hee-Yeon Cho, Florence M. Hofman, Stan G. Louie, Axel H. Schönthal and Thomas C. Chen

OBJECT

Chloroquine (CQ) is a quinoline-based drug widely used for the prevention and treatment of malaria. More recent studies have provided evidence that this drug may also harbor antitumor properties, whereby CQ possesses the ability to accumulate in lysosomes and blocks the cellular process of autophagy. Therefore, the authors of this study set out to investigate whether CQ analogs, in particular clinically established antimalaria drugs, would also be able to exert antitumor properties, with a specific focus on glioma cells.

METHODS

Toward this goal, the authors treated different glioma cell lines with quinine (QN), quinacrine (QNX), mefloquine (MFQ), and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and investigated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress–induced cell death, autophagy, and cell death.

RESULTS

All agents blocked cellular autophagy and exerted cytotoxic effects on drug-sensitive and drug-resistant glioma cells with varying degrees of potency (QNX > MFQ > HCQ > CQ > QN). Furthermore, all quinoline-based drugs killed glioma cells that were highly resistant to temozolomide (TMZ), the current standard of care for patients with glioma. The cytotoxic mechanism involved the induction of apoptosis and ER stress, as indicated by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage and CHOP/GADD153. The induction of ER stress and resulting apoptosis could be confirmed in the in vivo setting, in which tumor tissues from animals treated with quinoline-based drugs showed increased expression of CHOP/GADD153, along with elevated TUNEL staining, a measure of apoptosis.

CONCLUSIONS

Thus, the antimalarial compounds investigated in this study hold promise as a novel class of autophagy inhibitors for the treatment of newly diagnosed TMZ-sensitive and recurrent TMZ-resistant gliomas.

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Weijun Wang, Steve Swenson, Hee-Yeon Cho, Florence M. Hofman, Axel H. Schönthal and Thomas C. Chen

OBJECTIVE

Many pharmaceutical agents are highly potent but are unable to exert therapeutic activity against disorders of the central nervous system (CNS), because the blood-brain barrier (BBB) impedes their brain entry. One such agent is bortezomib (BZM), a proteasome inhibitor that is approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Preclinical studies established that BZM can be effective against glioblastoma (GBM), but only when the drug is delivered via catheter directly into the brain lesion, not after intravenous systemic delivery. The authors therefore explored alternative options of BZM delivery to the brain that would avoid invasive procedures and minimize systemic exposure.

METHODS

Using mouse and rat GBM models, the authors applied intranasal drug delivery, where they co-administered BZM together with NEO100, a highly purified, GMP-manufactured version of perillyl alcohol that is used in clinical trials for intranasal therapy of GBM patients.

RESULTS

The authors found that intranasal delivery of BZM combined with NEO100 significantly prolonged survival of tumor-bearing animals over those that received vehicle alone and also over those that received BZM alone or NEO100 alone. Moreover, BZM concentrations in the brain were higher after intranasal co-delivery with NEO100 as compared to delivery in the absence of NEO100.

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrates that intranasal delivery with a NEO100-based formulation enables noninvasive, therapeutically effective brain delivery of a pharmaceutical agent that otherwise does not efficiently cross the BBB.

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Vinay Gupta, Yuzhuang S. Su, Weijun Wang, Adel Kardosh, Leonard F. Liebes, Florence M. Hofman, Axel H. Schönthal and Thomas C. Chen

Object

The chemotherapeutic agent temozolomide has demonstrated antitumor activity in patients with recurrent malignant glioma. Because responses are not enduring and recurrence is nearly universal, further improvements are urgently needed.

Methods

In an effort to increase the clinical activity of temozolomide, the authors investigated whether its antitumor activity could be enhanced by adding tamoxifen or hypericin, two drugs that are known to inhibit the activity of protein kinase C. Human glioblastoma multiforme cell lines A172 and LA567 were treated with combinations of temozolomide and tamoxifen or hypericin in vitro, and cell survival was analyzed using various methods. Tamoxifen and hypericin were able to greatly increase the growth-inhibitory and apoptosis-stimulatory potency of temozolomide via the downregulation of critical cell cycle–regulatory and prosurvival components. Furthermore, with the use of an in vivo xenograft mouse model, the authors demonstrated that hypericin was able to enhance the antiglioma effects of temozolomide in the in vivo setting as well.

Conclusions

Taken together, analysis of the results indicated that combination therapy involving temozolomide and tamoxifen or hypericin potently inhibited tumor growth by inducing apoptosis and provided an effective means of treating malignant glioma.

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Peter Pyrko, Weijun Wang, Francis S. Markland, Steve D. Swenson, Stephanie Schmitmeier, Axel H. Schönthal and Thomas C. Chen

Object

Malignant gliomas are not curable because of diffuse brain invasion. The tumor cells invade the surrounding brain tissue without a clear tumor—brain demarcation line, making complete resection impossible. Therapy aimed at inhibition of invasion is crucial not only for prevention of tumor spread, but also for selectively blocking migrating cells that may be more resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. Recently, investigations have shown that the snake venom disintegrin contortrostatin specifically binds to certain integrins on the surface of glioma cells and thereby inhibits their interaction with the extracellular matrix (ECM), resulting in a blockage of cell motility and invasiveness. To translate these in vitro findings into clinical settings, the authors examined the effect of contortrostatin on glioma progression in a rodent model.

Methods

Athymic mice were intracranially or subcutaneously injected with U87 glioma cells, and the effect of intratumorally administered contortrostatin on tumor progression and animal survival was then studied. In addition, the authors evaluated the pharmacological safety of contortrostatin use in the brains of tumor-free animals.

Conclusions

The results demonstrate that contortrostatin is able to inhibit tumor growth and angiogenesis and to prolong survival in a rodent glioma model. Moreover, contortrostatin appears to be well tolerated by the animal and lacks obvious neurotoxic side effects. Thus, contortrostatin may have potential as a novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of malignant gliomas.

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Encouse B. Golden, Hee-Yeon Cho, Ardeshir Jahanian, Florence M. Hofman, Stan G. Louie, Axel H. Schönthal and Thomas C. Chen

Object

In a recent clinical trial, patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme benefited from chloroquine (CQ) in combination with conventional therapy (resection, temozolomide [TMZ], and radiation therapy). In the present study, the authors report the mechanism by which CQ enhances the therapeutic efficacy of TMZ to aid future studies aimed at improving this therapeutic regimen.

Methods

Using in vitro and in vivo experiments, the authors determined the mechanism by which CQ enhances TMZ cytotoxicity. They focused on the inhibition-of-autophagy mechanism of CQ by knockdown of the autophagy-associated proteins or treatment with autophagy inhibitors. This mechanism was tested using an in vivo model with subcutaneously implanted U87MG tumors from mice treated with CQ in combination with TMZ.

Results

Knockdown of the autophagy-associated proteins (GRP78 and Beclin) or treatment with the autophagy inhibitor, 3-methyl adenine (3-MA), blocked autophagosome formation and reduced CQ cytotoxicity, suggesting that autophagosome accumulation precedes CQ-induced cell death. In contrast, blocking autophagosome formation with knockdown of GRP78 or treatment with 3-MA enhanced TMZ cytotoxicity, suggesting that the autophagy pathway protects from TMZ-induced cytotoxicity. CQ in combination with TMZ significantly increased the amounts of LC3B-II (a marker for autophagosome levels), CHOP/GADD-153, and cleaved PARP (a marker for apoptosis) over those with untreated or individual drug-treated glioma cells. These molecular mechanisms seemed to take place in vivo as well. Subcutaneously implanted U87MG tumors from mice treated with CQ in combination with TMZ displayed higher levels of CHOP/GADD-153 than did untreated or individual drug-treated tumors.

Conclusions

Taken together, these results demonstrate that CQ blocks autophagy and triggers endoplasmic reticulum stress, thereby increasing the chemosensitivity of glioma cells to TMZ.

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Weijun Wang, Alex Ghandi, Leonard Liebes, Stan G. Louie, Florence M. Hofman, Axel H. Schönthal and Thomas C. Chen

Object

Irinotecan (CPT-11), a topoisomerase I inhibitor, is a cytotoxic agent with activity against malignant gliomas and other tumors. After systemic delivery, CPT-11 is converted to its active metabolite, SN-38, which displays significantly higher cytotoxic potency. However, the achievement of therapeutically effective plasma levels of CPT-11 and SN-38 is seriously complicated by variables that affect drug metabolism in the liver. Thus the capacity of CPT-11 to be converted to the active SN38 intratumorally in gliomas was addressed.

Methods

For in vitro studies, 2 glioma cell lines, U87 and U251, were tested to determine the cytotoxic effects of CPT-11 and SN-38 in a dose-dependent manner. In vivo studies were performed by implanting U87 intracranially into athymic/nude mice. For a period of 2 weeks, SN-38, CPT-11, or vehicle was administered intratumorally by means of an osmotic minipump. One series of experiments measured the presence of SN-38 or CPT-11 in the tumor and surrounding brain tissues after 2 weeks' exposure to the drug. In a second series of experiments, after 2 weeks' exposure to the drug, the animals were maintained, in the absence of drug, until death. The survival curves were then calculated.

Results

The results show that the animals that had CPT-11 delivered intratumorally by the minipump expressed SN-38 in vivo. Furthermore, both CPT-11 and SN-38 accumulated at higher levels in tumor tissues compared with uninvolved brain. Intratumoral delivery of CPT-11 or SN-38 extended the average survival time of tumor-bearing animals from 22 days to 46 and 65 days, respectively.

Conclusions

These results demonstrate that intratumorally administered CPT-11 can be effectively converted to SN-38 and this method of drug delivery is effective in extending the survival time of animals bearing malignant gliomas.

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Weijun Wang, Walavan Sivakumar, Shering Torres, Niyati Jhaveri, Vijaya Pooja Vaikari, Alex Gong, Adam Howard, Encouse B. Golden, Stan G. Louie, Axel H. Schönthal, Florence M. Hofman and Thomas C. Chen

OBJECT

Bevacizumab (Avastin), an antibody to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), alone or in combination with irinotecan (Camptosar [CPT-11]), is a promising treatment for recurrent glioblastoma. However, the intravenous (IV) administration of bevacizumab produces a number of systemic side effects, and the increase in survival it provides for patients with recurrent glioblastoma is still only a few months. Because bevacizumab is an antibody against VEGF, which is secreted into the extracellular milieu by glioma cells, the authors hypothesized that direct chronic intratumoral delivery techniques (i.e., convection-enhanced delivery [CED]) can be more effective than IV administration. To test this hypothesis, the authors compared outcomes for these routes of bevacizumab application with respect to animal survival, microvessel density (MVD), and inflammatory cell distribution.

METHODS

Two human glioma cell lines, U87 and U251, were used as sources of intracranial tumor cells. The glioma cell lines were implanted into the brains of mice in an orthotopic xenograft mouse tumor model. After 7 days, the mice were treated with one of the following: 1) vehicle, 2) CED bevacizumab, 3) IV bevacizumab, 4) intraperitoneal (IP) irinotecan, 5) CED bevacizumab plus IP irinotecan, or 6) IV bevacizumab plus IP irinotecan. Alzet micro-osmotic pumps were used to introduce bevacizumab directly into the tumor. Survival was monitored. Excised tumor tissue samples were immunostained to measure MVD and inflammatory cell and growth factor levels.

RESULTS

The results demonstrate that mice treated with CED of bevacizumab alone or in combination with irinotecan survived longer than those treated systemically; CED-treated animals survived 30% longer than IV-treated animals. In combination studies, CED bevacizumab plus CPT-11 increased survival by more than 90%, whereas IV bevacizumab plus CPT-11 increased survival by 40%. Furthermore, CED bevacizumab-treated tissues exhibited decreased MVD compared with that of IV-treated tissues. In additional studies, the infiltration of macrophages and dendritic cells into CED-treated animals were increased compared with those in IV-treated animals, suggesting a highly active inflammatory response taking place in CED-treated mice.

CONCLUSIONS

The administration of bevacizumab via CED increases survival over that of treatment with IV bevacizumab. Thus, CED of bevacizumab alone or in combination with chemotherapy can be an effective protocol for treating gliomas.