ARTICLE ABSTRACTHigh-risk neuroblastoma exhibits transcriptional activation of the mevalonate pathway that produces cholesterol and nonsterol isoprenoids. A better understanding of how this metabolic reprogramming contributes to neuroblastoma development could help identify potential prevention and treatment strategies. Here, we report that both the cholesterol and nonsterol geranylgeranyl-pyrophosphate branches of the mevalonate pathway are critical to sustain neuroblastoma cell growth. Blocking the mevalonate pathway by simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug, impeded neuroblastoma growth in neuroblastoma cell line xenograft, patient-derived xenograft (PDX), and TH-MYCN transgenic mouse models. Transcriptional profiling revealed that the mevalonate pathway was required to maintain the FOXM1-mediated transcriptional program that drives mitosis. High FOXM1 expression contributed to statin resistance and led to a therapeutic vulnerability to the combination of simvastatin and FOXM1 inhibition. Furthermore, caffeine synergized with simvastatin to inhibit the growth of neuroblastoma cells and PDX tumors by blocking statin-induced feedback activation of the mevalonate pathway. This function of caffeine depended on its activity as an adenosine receptor antagonist, and the A2A adenosine receptor antagonist istradefylline, an add-on drug for Parkinson's disease, could recapitulate the synergistic effect of caffeine with simvastatin. This study reveals that the FOXM1-mediated mitotic program is a molecular statin target in cancer and identifies classes of agents for maximizing the therapeutic efficacy of statins, with implications for treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma.
Caffeine treatment and FOXM1 inhibition can both enhance the antitumor effect of statins by blocking the molecular and metabolic processes that confer statin resistance, indicating potential combination therapeutic strategies for neuroblastoma.See related commentary by Stouth et al., p. 2091