Everolimus (RAD001) sensitizes prostate cancer cells to docetaxel by down-regulation of HIF-1α and sphingosine kinase 1

Heba Alshaker, Qi Wang, Yoshiaki Kawano, Tawfiq Arafat, Torsten Böhler, Mathias Winkler, Colin Cooper, Dmitri Pchejetski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Resistance to docetaxel is a key problem in current prostate cancer management. Sphingosine kinase 1 (SK1) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways have been implicated in prostate cancer chemoresistance. Here we investigated whether their combined targeting may re-sensitize prostate cancer cells to docetaxel.

In hormone-insensitive PC-3 and DU145 prostate cancer cells the mTOR inhibitor everolimus (RAD001) alone did not lead to significant cell death, however, it strongly sensitized cells to low levels (5 nM) of docetaxel. We show that mTOR inhibition has led to a decrease in hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) protein levels and SK1 mRNA. HIF-1α accumulation induced by CoCl2 has led to a partial chemoresistance to RAD001/docetaxel combination. SK1 overexpression has completely protected prostate cancer cells from RAD001/docetaxel effects. Using gene knockdown and CoCl2 treatment we showed that SK1 mRNA expression is downstream of HIF-1α. In a human xenograft model in nude mice single RAD001 and docetaxel therapies induced 23% and 15% reduction in prostate tumor volume, respectively, while their combination led to a 58% reduction. RAD001 alone or in combination with docetaxel has suppressed intratumoral mTOR and SK1 signaling, however as evidenced by tumor size, it required docetaxel for clinical efficacy. Combination therapy was well tolerated and had similar levels of toxicity to docetaxel alone.

Overall, our data demonstrate a new mechanism of docetaxel sensitization in prostate cancer. This provides a mechanistic basis for further clinical application of RAD001/docetaxel combination in prostate cancer therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80943-80956
Number of pages14
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2016


  • prostate cancer
  • everolimus (RAD001)
  • mTOR
  • docetaxel
  • chemosensitization

Cite this