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Inhibition of cyclin-dependent kinase 4 as a potential therapeutic strategy for treatment of synovial sarcoma.


Synovial sarcoma is a highly aggressive but rare form of soft tissue malignancy that primarily affects the extremities of the arms or legs, for which current chemotherapeutic agents have not been proven to be very effective. The cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6-retinoblastoma protein (CDK4/6-Rb) pathway of cell cycle control is known to be aberrant in a large proportion of cancers. Recently, CDK4 inhibitors have successfully been used pre-clinically for the treatment of many human cancers, and in 2015, following the success of clinical trials, the FDA approved the first selective CDK4/6 inhibitor, palbociclib, for the treatment of endocrine therapy resistant breast cancers. However, the expression and therapeutic potential of targeting CDK4 in synovial sarcoma remains unclear. In the present study, we report that CDK4 is highly expressed in human synovial sarcoma, and high CDK4 expressions are associated with poor prognosis in sarcomas patients and the clinical stage and the TNM grade in synovial sarcoma patients. Knockdown of CDK4 with specific small interference RNAs inhibits cell proliferation and enhances apoptotic effects in synovial sarcoma cells. CDK4 inhibitor palbociclib suppresses synovial sarcoma cell proliferation and growth in a dose and time-dependent manner. Palbociclib also inhibits the CDK4/6-Rb signaling pathway and promotes cell apoptosis without changing CDK4/6 protein levels, suggesting that palbociclib only represses the hyper-activation, not the expression of CDK4/6. Flow cytometry analysis reveals that palbociclib induces G1 cell-cycle arrest and apoptotic effects by targeting the CDK4/6-Rb pathway in synovial sarcoma cells. Furthermore, wound healing assays demonstrate that inhibition of the CDK4/6-Rb pathway by palbociclib significantly decreases synovial sarcoma cell migration in vitro. Our study highlights the importance of the CDK4/6-Rb pathway in human synovial sarcoma pathogenesis, and the role of the current selective CDK4/6 inhibitor, palbociclib, as a potential promising targeted therapeutic agent in the treatment of human synovial sarcoma.

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