Withanolides are potent novel targeted therapeutic agents against adrenocortical carcinomas

Chitra Subramanian, Huaping Zhang, Robert Gallagher, Gary Hammer, Barbara Timmermann, Mark Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare and aggressive malignancy with poor prognosis, as a majority of patients present with advanced disease. Current adjuvant strategies for metastatic patients include mitotane or other cytotoxic agents and carry a significant morbidity as well as a low (<10 %) 5-year survival. Withanolides, including withaferin A, are novel chemotherapeutic agents with potent targeted effects in medullary thyroid cancer and a number of solid malignancies with low toxicity in vivo. We hypothesize that novel naturally derived withanolides will have potent targeted anti-cancer activity against ACCs. Methods: In vitro cell viability of ACC cell lines (Y1 and SW13) was measured using MTS cell proliferation assay. Cell cycle and apoptotic analysis studied using annexin V/propidium iodide staining on flow cytometry (FC) and targeted molecular mechanisms of withanolide cytotoxicity were assessed using standard Western blot analysis. Results: All the withanolides potently reduced ACC cell viability on MTS assay with 7- to 185-fold higher selectivity than normal fibroblasts. Cell cycle analysis demonstrated a shift in cell cycle arrest from G1/G0 to G2/M with induction of apoptosis at nanomolar concentrations of withanolides. Unlike current ACC therapeutics, withanolides modulated expression of several key oncogenic pathway proteins in ACCs by Western blot, including Jagged 1, MAPK, and Akt/mTOR pathway proteins in a dose-dependent manner after 24 h drug treatment of SW13 cells. Conclusion: These results demonstrate the first evidence of the anticancer efficacy of withanolides in ACC cells and provide support for future translational evaluation of these compounds as novel therapeutic agents for ACC patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1343-1352
Number of pages10
JournalWorld Journal of Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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