Combined Inhibition of CDK4/6 and PI3K/AKT/mTOR Pathways Induces a Synergistic Anti-Tumor Effect in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Cells

Mara A. Bonelli, Graziana Digiacomo, Claudia Fumarola, Roberta Alfieri, Federico Quaini, Angela Falco, Denise Madeddu, Silvia La Monica, Daniele Cretella, Andrea Ravelli, Paola Ulivi, Michela Tebaldi, Daniele Calistri, Angelo Delmonte, Luca Ampollini, Paolo Carbognani, Marcello Tiseo, Andrea Cavazzoni, Pier Giorgio Petronini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a progressive malignancy associated to the exposure of asbestos fibers. The most frequently inactivated tumor suppressor gene in MPM is CDKN2A/ARF, encoding for the cell cycle inhibitors p16INK4a and p14ARF, deleted in about 70% of MPM cases. Considering the high frequency of alterations of this gene, we tested in MPM cells the efficacy of palbociclib (PD-0332991), a highly selective inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4/6. The analyses were performed on a panel of MPM cell lines and on two primary culture cells from pleural effusion of patients with MPM. All the MPM cell lines, as well as the primary cultures, were sensitive to palbociclib with a significant blockade in G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle and with the acquisition of a senescent phenotype. Palbociclib reduced the phosphorylation levels of CDK6 and Rb, the expression of myc with a concomitant increased phosphorylation of AKT. Based on these results, we tested the efficacy of the combination of palbociclib with the PI3K inhibitors NVP-BEZ235 or NVP-BYL719. After palbociclib treatment, the sequential association with PI3K inhibitors synergistically hampered cell proliferation and strongly increased the percentage of senescent cells. In addition, AKT activation was repressed while p53 and p21 were up-regulated. Interestingly, two cycles of sequential drug administration produced irreversible growth arrest and senescent phenotype that were maintained even after drug withdrawal. These findings suggest that the sequential association of palbociclib with PI3K inhibitors may represent a valuable therapeutic option for the treatment of MPM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-648
Number of pages12
JournalNeoplasia (United States)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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