FasL-mediated cytotoxicity is one of the mechanisms that CTLs use to kill tumor cells. However, human colon carcinoma often deregulates the Fas signaling pathway to evade host cancer immune surveillance. We aimed at testing the hypothesis that novel ceramide analogs effectively modulate Fas function to sensitize colon carcinoma cells to FasL-induced apoptosis. We used rational design and synthesized twenty ceramide analogs as Fas function modulators. Five ceramide analogs, IG4, IG7, IG14, IG17, and IG19, exhibit low toxicity and potent activity in sensitization of human colon carcinoma cells to FasL-induced apoptosis. Functional deficiency of Fas limits both FasL and ceramide analogs in the induction of apoptosis. Ceramide enhances FasL-induced activation of the MAPK, NF-Î° B, and caspase 8 despite induction of potent tumor cell death. Finally, a sublethal dose of several ceramide analogs significantly increased CTL-mediated and FasL-induced apoptosis of colon carcinoma cells. We have therefore developed five novel ceramide analogs that act at a sublethal dose to enhance the efficacy of tumor-specific CTLs, and these ceramide analogs hold great promise for further development as adjunct agents in CTL-based colon cancer immunotherapy.
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