Nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), as an antiapoptotic factor, crucially affects the outcomes of cancer treatments, being one of the major culprits of resistance to chemotherapy. In this study, we investigated whether dehydroxymethylepoxyquinomicin (DHMEQ), a novel NF-κB inhibitor, can enhance antitumor activities of taxanes in anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) cells. Taxanes induced NF-κB activation in ATC cells, which could compromise the therapeutic effect of the drugs. However, DHMEQ, by inhibiting the nuclear translocation of NF-κB, completely suppressed the DNA binding capacities of NF-κB and lowered the levels of nuclear NF-κB protein. Compared with single treatment (either taxane or DHMEQ), the combined treatment strongly potentiated apoptosis, confirmed by cell survival assay; Western blotting for poly (ADPribose) polymerase, caspase 3, X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis, and survivin; and flow cytometry for annexin V. Furthermore, we also demonstrate for the first time that the combined treatment showed significantly greater inhibitory effect on tumor growth in a nude mice xenograft model. These findings suggest that taxanes are able to induce NF-κB activation in ATC cells, which could attenuate antitumor activities of the drugs, but inhibition of NF-κB by DHMEQ creates a chemosensitive environment and greatly enhances apoptosis in taxanes-treated ATC cells in vitro and in vivo. Thus, DHMEQ may emerge as an attractive therapeutic strategy to enhance the response to taxanes in ATCs.
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