Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) and celecoxib have been used as potential anti-cancer therapies. Aspirin exerts its therapeutic effect in both cyclooxygenase (COX)-dependent and -independent pathways to reduce tumor growth and disable tumorigenesis. Celecoxib, a selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor, reduces factors that cause inflammation and pain. The question is whether aspirin and celecoxib have other molecular targets of equal or more therapeutic efficacy with significant anti-cancer preventive benefits.
Here, we propose that aspirin and celecoxib exert their anti-cancer effects by targeting and inhibiting mammalian neuraminidase-1 (Neu-1). Neu-1 has been reported to regulate the activation of several receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and TOLL-like receptors and their downstream signaling pathways. Neu-1 in complex with matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) has been reported to be tethered to RTKs at the ectodomain.
The WST-1 cell viability assay, Caspase 3/7 assay, and Annexin V assay were used to evaluate the cell viability and detect apoptotic and necrotic cells following treatment in MiaPaCa-2, PANC-1 and the gemcitabine-resistant PANC-1 variant (PANC-1 GemR) cells. Microscopic imaging, lectin cytochemistry, and flow cytometry were used to detect levels of α-2,3 sialic acid. Epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated live cell sialidase assays and neuraminidase assays were used to detect Neu-1 activity. Immunocytochemistry was used to detect levels of EGFR and phosphorylated EGFR (pEGFR) following treatment.
For the first time, aspirin and celecoxib were shown to significantly inhibit Neu-1 sialidase activity in a dose- and time-dependent manner following stimulation with EGF. Aspirin blocked Neu-1 desialylation of α-2,3-sialic acid expression following 30 min stimulation with EGF. Aspirin and celecoxib significantly and dose-dependently inhibited isolated neuraminidase ( Clostridium perfringens) activity on fluorogenic substrate 2ʹ-(4-methylumbelliferyl)-α-D-N-acetylneuraminic acid (4-MUNANA). Aspirin inhibited phosphorylation of the EGFR in EGF-stimulated cells. Aspirin dose- and time-dependently induced CellEvent caspase-3/7 + cells as well as apoptosis and necrosis on PANC-1 cells.
These findings signify a novel multimodality mechanism(s) of action for aspirin and celecoxib, specifically targeting and inhibiting Neu-1 activity, regulating EGF-induced growth receptor activation and inducing apoptosis and necrosis in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Repurposing aspirin and celecoxib as anti-cancer agents may also upend other critical targets involved in multistage tumorigenesis regulated by mammalian neuraminidase-1.