Novel Small Molecule Induces Apoptosis in Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors of Neurofibromatosis Type I

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Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) is an autosomal disease that affects neural crest-derived tissues, leading to a wide spectrum of clinical presentations. Patients commonly present with plexiform neurofibromas, benign but debilitating growths that can transform into malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs), a main cause of mortality. Currently, surgery is the primary course of treatment for MPNST, but with the limitation that these tumors are highly invasive. Radiotherapy is another treatment option, but is undesirable because it can induce additional mutations. MPNST patients may also receive doxorubicin as therapy, but this DNA-intercalating agent has relatively low tumor specificity and limited efficacy. In this study, we exploited a robust genetically-engineered mouse model of MPNST that recapitulates human NF1 associated MPNST to identify a novel small chemical compound that inhibits tumor cell growth. Compound 21 (Cpd21) inhibits growth of all available in vitro models of MPNST and human MPNST cell lines, while remaining non-toxic to normally-dividing Schwann cells or mouse embryonic fibroblasts. We show that this compound delays the cell cycle and leads to cellular apoptosis. Moreover, Cpd21 can reduce MPNST burden in a mouse allograft model, underscoring the compound's potential as a novel chemotherapeutic agent.

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