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Anti-cancer effects of nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates on human cancer cells


Zoledronic acid, a potent nitrogen-containing bisphosphonate (NBP), has been extensively used to limit bone turnover in a various diseases including tumors. Recent clinical studies have demonstrated direct anti-cancer effects of zoledronic acid, in addition to its clinical benefits for skeletal-related events. Here we investigated the effects of 4 clinically available NBPs on human tumor cell proliferation. Our data demonstrate a potent anti-proliferative effect of zoledronic acid against glioblastoma (GBM) cell lines, breast cancer cells and GBM patient-derived lines. Zoledronic acid also effectively inhibited GBM tumor growth in xenograft mouse models. Zoledronic acid strongly stimulated autophagy but not apoptotic signals in all tested cells. Only one intermediate product of cholesterols synthesis pathway, geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) rescued cells from the cytotoxic effects of zoledronic acid. To further investigate the effect of GGPP, we knocked down RABGGTA, which encodes a subunit of the Rabgeranylgeranyltransferase protein. This knockdown induced an effect similar to zoledronic acid in cancer cell lines. These data are promising and suggested a potential for zoledronic acid as an anti-cancer agent, through its ablation of the function of Rab proteins.

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