Metabolic reprogramming is an integral part of the growth-promoting program driven by the MYC family of oncogenes. However, this reprogramming also imposes metabolic dependencies that could be exploited therapeutically. Here we report that the pyrimidine biosynthetic enzyme dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) is an attractive therapeutic target for MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer with poor prognosis. Gene expression profiling and metabolomic analysis reveal that MYCN promotes pyrimidine nucleotide production by transcriptional upregulation of DHODH and other enzymes of the pyrimidine-synthesis pathway. Genetic and pharmacological inhibition of DHODH suppresses the proliferation and tumorigenicity of MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cell lines. Furthermore, we obtain evidence suggesting that serum uridine is a key factor in determining the efficacy of therapeutic agents that target DHODH. In the presence of physiological concentrations of uridine, neuroblastoma cell lines are highly resistant to DHODH inhibition. This uridine-dependent resistance to DHODH inhibitors can be abrogated by dipyridamole, an FDA-approved drug that blocks nucleoside transport. Importantly, dipyridamole synergizes with DHODH inhibition to suppress neuroblastoma growth in animal models. These findings suggest that a combination of targeting DHODH and nucleoside transport is a promising strategy to overcome intrinsic resistance to DHODH-based cancer therapeutics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research