N-(4-hydroxyphenyl) retinamide is cytotoxic to melanoma cells in vitro through induction of programmed cell death

Paolo G. Montaldo, Gabriella Pagnan, Fabio Pastorino, Valeria Chiesa, Lizzia Raffaghello, Marc Kirchmeier, Theresa M. Allen, Mirco Ponzoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Melanoma is a highly malignant and increasingly common tumour. Since metastatic melanoma remains incurable, new treatment approaches are needed. Previously, we reported that the synthetic retinoid N-(4- hydroxyphenyl)retinamide (fenretinide, HPR) induces apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells, sharing a neuroectodermal origin with melanoma cells. Since no data exist thus far on the effects of HPR on human melanoma tumours, our purpose was to investigate the in vitro modulation of cell growth and apoptosis by HPR in melanoma cells. Ten human melanoma cell lines were exposed in vitro to increasing concentrations of HPR. Dose-dependent growth inhibition and cytotoxicity were observed. According to cytofluorimetric analysis, propidium iodide staining and TUNEL assay, HPR-treated melanoma cells were shown to undergo apoptosis. However, IC50 values ranged from 5 to 28 μM, while IC90 values were between 10 and 45 μM. These last concentrations are approximately 10-fold higher than those achievable in patients given oral HPR. To explore the potential of new delivery strategies, HPR was loaded at high concentrations into immunoliposomes directed to disialoganglioside GD2, a tumour-specific antigen extensively expressed by neuroectoderma-derived tumours. Treatment of melanoma cells for a short time (2 hr) with HPR-containing immunoliposomes followed by culture in drug-free medium gave rise to apoptosis of target cells, whereas cells treated for 2 hr with equivalent concentrations of the free drug survived. The efficacy of immunoliposomal HPR was strongly dependent on the density of GD2 expression in the different cell lines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-267
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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