Non-small cell lung carcinoma remains by far the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Overexpression of FLIP, which blocks the extrinsic apoptotic pathway by inhibiting caspase-8 activation, has been identified in various cancers. We investigated FLIP and procaspase-8 expression in NSCLC and the effect of HDAC inhibitors on FLIP expression, activation of caspase-8 and drug resistance in NSCLC and normal lung cell line models. Immunohistochemical analysis of cytoplasmic and nuclear FLIP and procaspase-8 protein expression was carried out using a novel digital pathology approach. Both FLIP and procaspase-8 were found to be significantly overexpressed in tumours, and importantly, high cytoplasmic expression of FLIP significantly correlated with shorter overall survival. Treatment with HDAC inhibitors targeting HDAC1-3 downregulated FLIP expression predominantly via post-transcriptional mechanisms, and this resulted in death receptor- and caspase-8-dependent apoptosis in NSCLC cells, but not normal lung cells. In addition, HDAC inhibitors synergized with TRAIL and cisplatin in NSCLC cells in a FLIP- and caspase-8-dependent manner. Thus, FLIP and procaspase-8 are overexpressed in NSCLC, and high cytoplasmic FLIP expression is indicative of poor prognosis. Targeting high FLIP expression using HDAC1-3 selective inhibitors such as entinostat to exploit high procaspase-8 expression in NSCLC has promising therapeutic potential, particularly when used in combination with TRAIL receptor-targeted agents.
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience