Phospho-ibuprofen (MDC-917) suppresses breast cancer growth: An effect controlled by the thioredoxin system

Yu Sun, Leahana M. Rowehl, Liqun Huang, Gerardo Mackenzie, Kvetoslava Vrankova, Despina Komninou, Basil Rigas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Introduction: We have recently synthesized phospho-ibuprofen (P-I; MDC-917), a safer derivative of ibuprofen, which has shown anti-cancer activity. We investigated its efficacy and mechanism of action in the treatment of breast cancer in preclinical models.Methods: We evaluated the anti-breast-cancer efficacy of P-I alone or incorporated into liposomes (Lipo-P-I) in human estrogen receptor-positive (MCF-7) and triple-negative, i.e., estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER2-negative (MDA-MB231) breast cancer cell lines - as they represent the most frequent (estrogen receptor-positive) and the most difficult-to-treat (triple-negative) subtypes of breast cancer - and their xenografts in nude mice. We assessed the effect of P-I on the levels of reactive oxygen nitrogen species in response to P-I using molecular probes, on the thioredoxin system (expression and redox status of thioredoxin-1 (Trx-1) and thioredoxin reductase activity), on cyclooxygenase 2, NF-κB and mitogen-activated protein kinase cell signaling; and on the growth of xenografts with stably knocked-down Trx-1.Results: Compared with controls, P-I 400 mg/kg/day inhibited the growth of MDA-MB231 xenografts by 266%, while the growth of MCF-7 xenografts was inhibited 51% byP-I 300 mg/kg/day and 181% by Lipo-P-I 300 mg/kg/day. In both cell lines, P-I induced oxidative stress and suppressed the thioredoxin system (oxidized Trx-1 and decreased its expression; inhibited thioredoxin reductase activity). These changes triggered downstream redox signaling: the activity of NF-κB was suppressed and the Trx-1-ASK1 complex was dissociated, activating the p38 and JNK mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades. Trx-1 knockdown abrogated the anti-cancer effect of P-I in vitro and in vivo.Conclusion: P-I is safe and effective against breast cancer. Liposomal formulation enhances its efficacy; the effect is heavily dependent on the induction of oxidative stress and the suppression of the thioredoxin system. P-I merits further evaluation as an agent for the treatment of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberR20
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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