Targeting nucleolin for better survival in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

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Anthracyclines have been a cornerstone in the cure of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and other hematological cancers. The ability of anthracyclines to eliminate DLBCL depends on the presence of topoisomerase-II-alpha (TopIIA), a DNA repair enzyme complex. We identified nucleolin as a novel binding partner of TopIIA. Abrogation of nucleolin sensitized DLBCL cells to TopIIA targeting agents (doxorubicin/etoposide). Silencing nucleolin and challenging DLBCL cells with doxorubicin enhanced the phosphorylation of H2AX (γH2AX-marker of DNA damage) and allowed DNA fragmentation. Reconstitution of nucleolin expression in nucleolin-knockdown DLBCL cells prevented TopIIA targeting agent-induced apoptosis. Nucleolin binding to TopIIA was mapped to RNA-binding domain 3 of nucleolin, and this interaction was essential for blocking DNA damage and apoptosis. Nucleolin silencing decreased TopIIA decatenation activity, but enhanced formation of TopIIA-DNA cleavable complexes in the presence of etoposide. Moreover, combining nucleolin inhibitors: aptamer AS1411 or nucant N6L with doxorubicin reduced DLBCL cell survival. These findings are of clinical importance because low nucleolin levels versus high nucleolin levels in DLBCL predicted 90-month estimated survival of 70% versus 12% (P < 0.0001) of patients treated with R-CHOP-based therapy.

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