Combinations of proteasome inhibitors with obatoclax are effective for small cell lung cancer

Yan ping Yin, Wen hao Shi, Ke Deng, Xiao li Liu, Hong Li, Xiao tong Lv, Vivian Wai Yan Lui, Chen Ding, Bo Hong, Wen chu Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Proteasome inhibitors, bortezomib (BTZ), and carfilzomib (CFZ) are approved drugs for hematological malignancies, but lack anticancer activities against most solid tumors. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a very aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma of the lungs demanding effective therapy. In this study we investigated whether BTZ or CFZ combined with obatoclax (OBX), an antagonist for MCL-1 and a pan-BCL family inhibitor, could cause synergistic growth inhibition of SCLC cells. We showed that combined application of BTZ or CFZ with OBX caused synergistic growth inhibition of human SCLC cell lines (H82, H526, DMS79, H196, H1963, and H69) than single agent alone. Both BTZ–OBX and CFZ–OBX combinations displayed marked synergism on inducing apoptosis (~50% increase vs BTZ or CFZ alone). A comprehensive proteomics analysis revealed that BTZ preferentially induced the expression of MCL-1, an antiapoptotic protein, in SCLC cells. Thus, proteasome inhibitor–OBX combinations could specifically induce massive growth inhibition and apoptosis in SCLC cells. Subsequent proteome-wide profiling analysis of activated transcription factors suggested that BTZ- or CFZ-induced MCL-1 upregulation was transcriptionally driven by FOXM1. In nude mice bearing in SCLC H82 xenografts, both BTZ–OBX, and CFZ–OBX combinations exhibited remarkable antitumor activities against SCLC tumors evidenced by significant reduction of tumor size and the proliferation marker Ki-67 signals in tumor tissues as compared with single agent alone. Thus, proteasome inhibitor–OBX combinations are worth immediate assessments for SCLC in clinical settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1298-1310
Number of pages13
JournalActa Pharmacologica Sinica
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • FOXM1
  • MCL-1
  • apoptosis
  • bortezomib
  • carfilzomib
  • obatoclax
  • proteomics analysis
  • small cell lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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