The p53-reactivating small molecule RITA induces senescence in head and neck cancer cells

Hui Ching Chuang, Liang Peng Yang, Alison L. Fitzgerald, Abdullah Osman, Sang Hyeok Woo, Jeffrey N. Myers, Heath D. Skinner

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29 Scopus citations


TP53 is the most commonly mutated gene in head and neck cancer (HNSCC), with mutations being associated with resistance to conventional therapy. Restoring normal p53 function has previously been investigated via the use of RITA (reactivation of p53 and induction of tumor cell apoptosis), a small molecule that induces a conformational change in p53, leading to activation of its downstream targets. In the current study we found that RITA indeed exerts significant effects in HNSCC cells. However, in this model, we found that a significant outcome of RITA treatment was accelerated senescence. RITA-induced senescence in a variety of p53 backgrounds, including p53 null cells. Also, inhibition of p53 expression did not appear to significantly inhibit RITA-induced senescence. Thus, this phenomenon appears to be partially p53-independent. Additionally, RITA-induced senescence appears to be partially mediated by activation of the DNA damage response and SIRT1 (Silent information regulator T1) inhibition, with a synergistic effect seen by combining either ionizing radiation or SIRT1 inhibition with RITA treatment. These data point toward a novel mechanism of RITA function as well as hint to its possible therapeutic benefit in HNSCC.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere104821
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 13 08 2014


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