Department of Urology, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
Prostate cancer is a frequently occurring disease and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths of men in the United States. Current treatments have proved inadequate in curing or controlling prostate cancer, and a search for agents for the management of this disease is urgently needed. Survivin plays an important role in both progression of castration-resistant prostate cancer and resistance to chemotherapy. Altered expression of survivin in prostate cancer cells is associated with cancer progression, drug/radiation resistance, poor prognosis, and short patient survival. In the present study, the authors performed a cell-based rapid screen of the Prestwick Chemical Library consisting of 1120 Food and Drug Administration-approved compounds with known safety and bioavailability in humans to identify potential inhibitors of survivin and anticancer agents for prostate cancer. Sanguinarine, a benzophenanthridine alkaloid derived primarily from the bloodroot plant, was identified as a novel inhibitor of survivin that selectively kills prostate cancer cells over "normal" prostate epithelial cells. The authors found that sanguinarine inhibits survivin protein expression through protein degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Sanguinarine induces apoptosis and inhibits growth of human prostate cancer cells and in vivo tumor formation. Administration of sanguinarine, beginning 3 days after ectopic implantation of DU145 human prostate cancer cells, reduces both tumor weight and volume. In addition, sanguinarine sensitized paclitaxel-mediated growth inhibition and apoptosis, offering a potential therapeutic strategy for overcoming taxol resistance. These results suggest that sanguinarine may be developed as an agent either alone or in combination with taxol for treatment of prostate cancer overexpressing survivin.