Alcohol-abuse drug disulfiram targets pediatric glioma via MLL degradation

Stefanie Meier, Sandra Cantilena, Maria Victoria Niklison Chirou, John Anderson, Darren Hargrave, Paolo Salomoni, Jasper de Boer, David Michod

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Pediatric gliomas comprise a broad range of brain tumors derived from glial cells. While high-grade gliomas are often resistant to therapy and associated with a poor outcome, children with low-grade gliomas face a better prognosis. However, the treatment of low-grade gliomas is often associated with severe long-term adverse effects. This shows that there is a strong need for improved treatment approaches. Here, we highlight the potential for repurposing disulfiram to treat pediatric gliomas. Disulfiram is a drug used to support the treatment of chronic alcoholism and was found to be effective against diverse cancer types in preclinical studies. Our results show that disulfiram efficiently kills pediatric glioma cell lines as well as patient-derived glioma stem cells. We propose a novel mechanism of action to explain disulfiram’s anti-oncogenic activities by providing evidence that disulfiram induces the degradation of the oncoprotein MLL. Our results further reveal that disulfiram treatment and MLL downregulation induce similar responses at the level of histone modifications and gene expression, further strengthening that MLL is a key target of the drug and explaining its anti-oncogenic properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number785
Number of pages12
JournalCell Death & Disease
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

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