Marine natural products as inhibitors of hypoxic signaling in tumors

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Abstract

Marine natural products have become a major source of new chemical entities in the discovery of potential anticancer agents that potently suppress various antitumor molecular targets. As a consequence of insufficient vascularization, hypoxic regions form within rapidly growing solid tumor masses. Specific alterations of gene expression in these hypoxic tumor cells help facilitate the survival and metastatic spread of solid tumors. The transcriptional response to cellular hypoxia is primarily mediated by the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) that regulates the expression of more than 100 genes involved in cellular adaptation and survival under hypoxic stress. Clinical studies in cancer patients indicate that HIF-1 activation is directly correlated with advanced disease stages and treatment resistance. HIF-1 has emerged as an important tumor-selective molecular target for anticancer drug discovery. As a result, natural product-based inhibitors of HIF-1 activation have been identified from plants and microorganisms. Recently, structurally unique natural products from marine sponges, crinoids, and algae have been identified as HIF-1 activation inhibitors. The US National Cancer Institute's Open Repository of marine invertebrate and algae extracts has proven to be a valuable source of natural product HIF-1 inhibitors. Among the active compounds identified, certain marine natural products have also been shown to suppress the hypoxic induction of HIF-1 target genes such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Some of these marine HIF-1 inhibitors act by interfering with the generation of mitochondrial signaling molecules in hypoxic cells. However, the precise mechanisms of action for many newly identified marine natural product HIF-1 inhibitors remain unresolved.

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