Therapeutic evaluation of palbociclib and its compatibility with other chemotherapies for primary and recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Zhichao Xue, Vivian Wai Yan Lui, Yongshu Li, Lin Jia, Chanping You, Xin Li, Wenying Piao, Hui Yuan, Pek Lan Khong, Kwok Wai Lo, Lydia Wai Ting Cheung, Victor Ho Fan Lee, Anne Wing Mui Lee, Sai Wah Tsao, Chi Man Tsang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Recent genomic analyses revealed that druggable molecule targets were only detectable in approximately 6% of patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). However, a dependency on dysregulated CDK4/6–cyclinD1 pathway signaling is an essential event in the pathogenesis of NPC. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of a specific CDK4/6 inhibitor, palbociclib, and its compatibility with other chemotherapeutic drugs for the treatment of NPC by using newly established xenograft models and cell lines derived from primary, recurrent, and metastatic NPC. Methods: We evaluated the efficacies of palbociclib monotherapy and concurrent treatment with palbociclib and cisplatin or suberanilohydroxamic acid (SAHA) in NPC cell lines and xenograft models. RNA sequencing was then used to profile the drug response–related pathways. Palbociclib-resistant NPC cell lines were established to determine the potential use of cisplatin as a second-line treatment after the development of palbociclib resistance. We further examined the efficacy of palbociclib treatment against cisplatin-resistant NPC cells. Results: In NPC cells, palbociclib monotherapy was confirmed to induce cell cycle arrest in the G1 phase in vitro. Palbociclib monotherapy also had significant inhibitory effects in all six tested NPC tumor models in vivo, as indicated by substantial reductions in the total tumor volumes and in Ki-67 proliferation marker expression. In NPC cells, concurrent palbociclib treatment mitigated the cytotoxic effect of cisplatin in vitro. Notably, concurrent treatment with palbociclib and SAHA synergistically promoted NPC cell death both in vitro and in vivo. This combination also further inhibited tumor growth by inducing autophagy-associated cell death. NPC cell lines with induced palbociclib or cisplatin resistance remained sensitive to treatment with cisplatin or palbociclib, respectively. Conclusions: Our study findings provide essential support for the use of palbociclib as an alternative therapy for NPC and increase awareness of the effective timing of palbociclib administration with other chemotherapeutic drugs. Our results provide a foundation for the design of first-in-human clinical trials of palbociclib regimens in patients with NPC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number262
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug resistance
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Palbociclib
  • Patient-derived xenografts
  • SAHA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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