Investigational New Drugs

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 531–540 | Cite as

The aurora kinase inhibitor VX-680 shows anti-cancer effects in primary metastatic cells and the SW13 cell line

  • Raffaele PezzaniEmail author
  • Beatrice Rubin
  • Loris Bertazza
  • Marco Redaelli
  • Susi Barollo
  • Halenya Monticelli
  • Enke Baldini
  • Caterina Mian
  • Carla Mucignat
  • Carla Scaroni
  • Franco Mantero
  • Salvatore Ulisse
  • Maurizio Iacobone
  • Marco Boscaro


New therapeutic targets are needed to fight cancer. Aurora kinases (AK) were recently identified as vital key regulators of cell mitosis and have consequently been investigated as therapeutic targets in preclinical and clinical studies. Aurora kinase inhibitors (AKI) have been studied in many cancer types, but their potential capacity to limit or delay metastases has rarely been considered, and never in adrenal tissue. Given the lack of an effective pharmacological therapy for adrenal metastasis and adrenocortical carcinoma, we assessed AKI (VX-680, SNS314, ZM447439) in 2 cell lines (H295R and SW13 cells), 3 cell cultures of primary adrenocortical metastases (from lung cancer), and 4 primary adrenocortical tumor cell cultures. We also tested reversan, which is a P-gp inhibitor (a fundamental efflux pump that can extrude drugs), and we measured AK expression levels in 66 adrenocortical tumor tissue samples. Biomolecular and cellular tests were performed (such as MTT, thymidine assay, Wright’s staining, cell cycle and apoptosis analysis, Western blot, qRT-PCR, and mutation analysis). Our results are the first to document AK overexpression in adrenocortical carcinoma as well as in H295R and SW13 cell lines, thus proving the efficacy of AKI against adrenal metastases and in the SW13 cancer cell model. We also demonstrated that reversan and AKI Vx-680 are useless in the H295R cell model, and therefore should not be considered as potential treatments for ACC. Serine/threonine AK inhibition, essentially with VX-680, could be a promising, specific therapeutic tool for eradicating metastases in adrenocortical tissue.


VX-680 Aurora kinases Adrenal gland Metastasis Reversan SW13 cells Primary cell cultures Lung carcinoma 



Aurora kinase


Aurora kinase inhibitors


Adrenocortical tumors


adrenocortical carcinomas


non-aldosterone-secreting cortical adenomas


aldosterone-producing adenomas


non-small-cell lung cancer


AK gene



We thank Dr. Frances Coburn and Jillian Walton for text editing. This work was partially supported by the ENS@T-CANCER (European Network for the Study of Adrenal Tumors - grant agreement no. 259735), and the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca Oncologica di Base (AIROB, Padova, Italy). All authors have read the journal’s authorship agreement and the manuscript has been read and approved by all named authors.

Compliance with ethical standards


All authors have read the journal’s policy on conflicts of interest and have none to disclose.

Supplementary material

10637_2016_358_Fig6_ESM.gif (75 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 1 Cell viability and cell proliferation analyzed by MTT and [3H] thymidine assay. A and B, cell viability in H295R cells at different times and concentrations for ZM447439 and SNS314. Experiments were performed in triplicate. C and D, cell viability in SW13 and H295R cells at 24 h and 72 h treated with mitotane alone or the combination of mitotane + VX-680: V1 = 10 μM(mitotane) + 200 nM(VX-680), V2 = 10 μM(mitotane) + 10 nM(VX-680). E and F, [3H] thymidine incorporation for H295R cells at 24 h and 72 h treated with VX-680. Experiments were performed in triplicate. The standard deviation bars are present for each point-analysis, but they are not easily perceived due to small values. (GIF 75 kb)

10637_2016_358_MOESM1_ESM.tif (1.2 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 1.18 mb)
10637_2016_358_Fig7_ESM.gif (69 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2 Representative histograms of SW13 and H295R cells at 24 h and 72 h by flow cytometric analysis with Annexin V-FITC and propidium iodide. A and B, SW13 cells. C and D, H295R cells. Experiments were performed in triplicate. (GIF 69 kb)

10637_2016_358_MOESM2_ESM.tif (773 kb)
High resolution image (TIFF 772 kb)
10637_2016_358_Fig8_ESM.gif (48 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 3 Western blot analysis of SW13 and H295R cells treated and untreated with VX-680. Histograms represent band quantification by ImageJ analysis, normalized to control (arbitrary units). A and B, band quantification of AKB and p-AKB for H295R cells. C, D, E, band quantification of AKB, p-AKB, p-Akt for SW13 cells. * p < 0.05. Experiments were performed in triplicate. (GIF 48 kb)

10637_2016_358_MOESM3_ESM.tif (838 kb)
High resolution image (TIFF 837 kb)
10637_2016_358_Fig9_ESM.gif (16 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 4 Kaplan-Meier survival curves of AURKA or AURKB gene expression in ACC patients (n = 23). Comparison between ACC patients not overexpressing AK genes and ACC patients overexpressing AURKA or AURKB. Log-rank Mantel-Cox Test p = 0.18. (GIF 16 kb)

10637_2016_358_MOESM4_ESM.tif (862 kb)
High resolution image (TIFF 862 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raffaele Pezzani
    • 1
    Email author
  • Beatrice Rubin
    • 1
  • Loris Bertazza
    • 1
  • Marco Redaelli
    • 2
  • Susi Barollo
    • 1
  • Halenya Monticelli
    • 1
  • Enke Baldini
    • 3
  • Caterina Mian
    • 1
  • Carla Mucignat
    • 2
  • Carla Scaroni
    • 1
  • Franco Mantero
    • 1
  • Salvatore Ulisse
    • 3
  • Maurizio Iacobone
    • 4
  • Marco Boscaro
    • 1
  1. 1.Endocrinology Unit, Department of MedicineUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Molecular MedicineUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Experimental MedicineUniversity of Roma “La Sapienza”RomeItaly
  4. 4.Endocrine Surgery Unit, Department of Surgical and Gastroenterological SciencesUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly

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