Nano-targeted induction of dual ferroptotic mechanisms eradicates high-risk neuroblastoma

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High-risk neuroblastoma is a devastating malignancy with very limited therapeutic options. Here, we identify withaferin A (WA) as a natural ferroptosis-inducing agent in neuroblastoma, which acts through a novel double-edged mechanism. WA dose-dependently either activates the nuclear factor–like 2 pathway through targeting of Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (noncanonical ferroptosis induction) or inactivates glutathione peroxidase 4 (canonical ferroptosis induction). Noncanonical ferroptosis induction is characterized by an increase in intracellular labile Fe(II) upon excessive activation of heme oxygenase-1, which is sufficient to induce ferroptosis. This double-edged mechanism might explain the superior efficacy of WA as compared with etoposide or cisplatin in killing a heterogeneous panel of high-risk neuroblastoma cells, and in suppressing the growth and relapse rate of neuroblastoma xenografts. Nano-targeting of WA allows systemic application and suppressed tumor growth due to an enhanced accumulation at the tumor site. Collectively, our data propose a novel therapeutic strategy to efficiently kill cancer cells by ferroptosis.

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