Repurposing dextromethorphan and metformin for treating nicotine-induced cancer by directly targeting CHRNA7 to inhibit JAK2/STAT3/SOX2 signaling

Lu Wang, Du Liang, Xiao Xiong, Yusheng Lin, Jianlin Zhu, Zhimeng Yao, Shuhong Wang, Yi Guo, Yuping Chen, Kyla Geary, Yunlong Pan, Fuyou Zhou, Shegan Gao, Dianzheng Zhang, Sai-Ching Jim Yeung, Hao Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    15 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Smoking is one of the most impactful lifestyle-related risk factors in many cancer types including esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). As the major component of tobacco and e-cigarettes, nicotine is not only responsible for addiction to smoking but also a carcinogen. Here we report that nicotine enhances ESCC cancer malignancy and tumor-initiating capacity by interacting with cholinergic receptor nicotinic alpha 7 subunit (CHRNA7) and subsequently activating the JAK2/STAT3 signaling pathway. We found that aberrant CHRNA7 expression can serve as an independent prognostic factor for ESCC patients. In multiple ESCC mouse models, dextromethorphan and metformin synergistically repressed nicotine-enhanced cancer-initiating cells (CIC) properties and inhibited ESCC progression. Mechanistically, dextromethorphan non-competitively inhibited nicotine binding to CHRNA7 while metformin downregulated CHRNA7 expression by antagonizing nicotine-induced promoter DNA hypomethylation of CHRNA7. Since dextromethorphan and metformin are two safe FDA-approved drugs with minimal undesirable side-effects, the combination of these drugs has a high potential as either a preventive and/or a therapeutic strategy against nicotine-promoted ESCC and perhaps other nicotine-sensitive cancer types as well.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages14
    JournalONCOGENE
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 18-Feb-2021

    Cite this