Temporary elevation of tumor temperature, also known as hyperthermia, is a safe and well-tolerated treatment modality. The efficacy of hyperthermia can be improved by efficient thermosensitizers, and various candidate drugs, including inhibitors of the heat stress response, have been explored in vitro and in animal models, but clinically relevant thermosensitizers are lacking. Here, we employ unbiased in silico approaches to uncover new mechanisms and compounds that could be leveraged to increase the thermosensitivity of cancer cells. We then focus on elesclomol, a well-performing compound, which amplifies cell killing by hyperthermia by 5- to 20-fold in cell lines and outperforms clinically applied chemotherapy when combined with hyperthermia in vitro. Surprisingly, our findings suggest that the thermosensitizing effects of elesclomol are independent of its previously reported modes of action but depend on copper shuttling. Importantly, we show that, like elesclomol, multiple other copper shuttlers can thermosensitize, suggesting that disturbing copper homeostasis could be a general strategy for improving the efficacy of hyperthermia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number423
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • cancer
  • copper
  • elesclomol
  • heat stress
  • hyperthermia

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