Metformin, the most used drug for the treatment of diabetes type 2 patients, has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. In this study, we found that metformin induced apoptosis in Primary Effusion Lymphoma (PEL) cells, an aggressive B cell lymphoma associated with KSHV against which the conventional therapies usually fail. The cytotoxic effect of metformin correlated with intracellular reactive oxygen species reduction, activation of AMPK, the inhibition of pro-survival pathways such as mTOR and STAT3 and the down-regulation of v-FLIP, a latent viral antigen that also plays a pivotal role in PEL cell survival. Interestingly, we found that metformin could be used to potentiate the bortezomib-mediated cytotoxicity against PEL cells and to inhibit the activation of KSHV lytic cycle, a side effect of this treatment that resulted in a block of autophagy in these cells. Mechanistically, metformin altered UPR activated by bortezomib, leading to a reduced expression of BiP, up-regulation of CHOP and down-regulation of Bcl-2. In summary, this study suggests that metformin could represent a promising strategy for the treatment of PEL alone or in combination with bortezomib. In the latter case, besides exerting a stronger cytotoxic effect, it might be used to restrain bortezomib-induced viral replication that is involved in the maintenance and progression of KSHV-associated malignancies.
Granato, M., Montani, M. S. G., Romeo, M. A., Santarelli, R., Gonnella, R., D'Orazi, G., Faggioni, A., & Cirone, M. (2017). Metformin triggers apoptosis in PEL cells and alters bortezomib-induced Unfolded Protein Response increasing its cytotoxicity and inhibiting KSHV lytic cycle activation. Cellular Signalling, 40, 239-247. https://doi.org/S0898-6568(17)30256-5 [pii]