UNLABELLED - The Mdm2 oncogene is a negative regulator of the p53 tumor suppressor and recently identified inhibitor of DNA break repair. Nutlin-3 is a small-molecule inhibitor of Mdm2-p53 interaction that can induce apoptosis in cancer cells through activation of p53. Although this is a promising therapy for those cancers with wild-type p53, half of all human cancers have inactivated p53. Here, we reveal that a previously unappreciated effect of Nutlin is inhibition of DNA break repair, stemming from its ability to increase Mdm2 protein levels. The Nutlin-induced increase in Mdm2 inhibited DNA double-strand break repair and prolonged DNA damage response signaling independent of p53. Mechanistically, this effect of Nutlin required Mdm2 and acted through Nbs1 of the Mre11-Rad50-Nbs1 DNA repair complex. In ovarian cancer cells, where >90% have inactivated p53, Nutlin combined with the genotoxic agents, cisplatin or etoposide, had a cooperative lethal effect resulting in increased DNA damage and apoptosis. Therefore, these data demonstrate an unexpected consequence of pharmacologically increasing Mdm2 levels that when used in combination with genotoxic agents induces synthetic lethality in ovarian cancer cells, and likely other malignant cell types, that have inactivated p53.
IMPLICATIONS - Data reveal a therapeutically beneficial effect of pharmacologically increasing Mdm2 levels combined with chemotherapeutic agents for malignancies that have lost functional p53.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.