Chemoresistant cancer cells express high levels of aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDHs), particularly in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The ALDH family of enzymes detoxify both exogenous and endogenous aldehydes. Since many chemotherapeutic agents, such as cisplatin, result in the generation of cytotoxic aldehydes and oxidative stress, we hypothesized that cells expressing high levels of ALDH may be more chemoresistant due to their increased detoxifying capacity and that inhibitors of ALDHs may sensitize them to these drugs. Here, we show that overall ALDH activity is increased with cisplatin treatment of HNSCC and that ALDH3A1 protein expression is particularly enriched in cells treated with cisplatin. Activation of ALDH3A1 by a small molecule activator (Alda-89) increased survival of HNSCC cells treated with cisplatin. Conversely, treatment with a novel small molecule ALDH inhibitor (Aldi-6) resulted in a marked decrease in cell viability, and the combination of Aldi-6 and cisplatin resulted in a more pronounced reduction of cell viability and a greater reduction in tumor burden in vivo than what was observed with cisplatin alone. These data indicate that ALDH3A1 contributes to cisplatin resistance in HNSCC and that the targeting of ALDH, specifically, ALDH3A1, appears to be a promising strategy in this disease.
View details for DOI 10.18632/oncotarget.17017
View details for PubMedID 28455980