Shikonin and its derivatives inhibit the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling and synergistically kill glioblastoma cells in combination with erlotinib.
Int J Cancer. 2015 Feb 16. Epub 2015 Feb 16. PMID: 25688715
Overexpression and mutation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene play a causal role in tumorigenesis and resistance to treatment of glioblastoma (GBM). EGFR inhibitors such as erlotinib are currently used for the treatment of GBM; however, their efficacy has been limited due to drug resistance. New treatment strategies are therefore urgently needed. Shikonin, a natural naphthoquinone, induces both apoptosis and necroptosis in human glioma cells, but the effectiveness of erlotinib-shikonin combination treatment as well as the underlying molecular mechanisms is unknown yet. In this study, we investigated erlotinib in combination with shikonin and 14 shikonin derivatives in parental U87MG and transfected U87MG.ΔEGFR GBM cells. Most of the shikonin derivatives revealed strong cytotoxicity. Shikonin together with five other derivatives, namely deoxyshikonin, isobutyrylshikonin, acetylshikonin, β,β-dimethylacrylshikonin and acetylalkannin showed synergistic cytotoxicity toward U87MG.ΔEGFR in combinationwith erlotinib. Moreover, the combined cytotoxic effect of shikonin and erlotinib was further confirmed with another three EGFR-expressing cell lines, BS153, A431 and DK-MG. Shikonin not only dose-dependently inhibited EGFR phosphorylation and decreased phosphorylation of EGFR downstream molecules,including AKT, P44/42MAPK and PLCγ1, but also together with erlotinib synergistically inhibited ΔEGFR phosphorylation in U87MG.ΔEGFR cells as determined by Loewe additivity and Bliss independence drug interaction models. These results suggest that the combination of erlotinib with shikonin or itsderivatives might be a potential strategy to overcome drug resistance to erlotinib.