Auranofin radiosensitizes tumor cells through targeting thioredoxin reductase and resulting overproduction of reactive oxygen species
Gastric cancer (GC) is one of the leading causes of cancer mortality in the world. In addressing the need of treatments for relapsed disease, we report the identification of an existing U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved small-molecule drug to repurpose for GC treatment. Auranofin (AF), clinically used to treat rheumatic arthritis, but it exhibited preclinical efficacy in GC cells. By increasing intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, AF induces a lethal endoplasmic reticulum stress response and mitochondrial dysfunction in cultured GC cells. Blockage of ROS production reversed AF-induced ER stress and mitochondrial pathways activation as well as apoptosis. In addition, AF displays synergistic lethality with an ROS-generating agent piperlongumine, which is a natural product isolated from the long pepper Piper longum L. Taken together, this work provides a novel anticancer candidate for the treatment of gastric cancer. More importantly, it reveals that increased ROS generation might be an effective strategy in treating human gastric cancer.