Recycling drug screen repurposes hydroxyurea as a sensitizer of glioblastomas to temozolomide targeting de novo DNA synthesis, irrespective of molecular subtype

Jian Teng, Seyedali Hejazi, Lotte Hiddingh, Litia Carvalho, Mark C. de Gooijer, Hiroaki Wakimoto, Marco Barazas, Marie Tannous, Andrew S. Chi, David P. Noske, Pieter Wesseling, Thomas Wurdinger, Tracy T. Batchelor, Bakhos A. Tannous

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Background Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and most aggressive primary malignant brain tumor. Standard-of-care treatment involves maximal surgical resection of the tumor followed by radiation and chemotherapy (temozolomide [TMZ]). The 5-year survival rate of patients with GBM is <10%, a colossal failure that has been partially attributed to intrinsic and/or acquired resistance to TMZ through O 6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter methylation status in the tumor. Methods A drug screening aimed at evaluating the potential recycling and repurposing of known drugs was conducted in TMZ-resistant GBM cell lines and primary cultures of newly diagnosed GBM with different MGMT promoter methylation status, phenotypic/genotypic background and subtype, and validated with sphere formation, cell migration assays, and quantitative invasive orthotopic in vivo models. Results We identified hydroxyurea (HU) to synergize with TMZ in GBM cells in culture and in vivo, irrespective of MGMT promoter methylation status, subtype, and/or stemness. HU acts specifically on the S-phase of the cell cycle by inhibiting the M2 unit of enzyme ribonucleotide reductase. Knockdown of this enzyme using RNA interference and other known chemical inhibitors exerted a similar effect to HU in combination with TMZ both in culture and in vivo. Conclusions We demonstrate preclinical efficacy of repurposing hydroxyurea in combination with TMZ for adjuvant GBM therapy. This combination benefit is of direct clinical interest given the extensive use of TMZ and the associated problems with TMZ-related resistance and treatment failure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-654
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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