Virtually all transcription factors partner with coactivators that recruit chromatin remodeling factors and interact with the basal transcription machinery. Coactivators have been implicated in cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis, including the p160 steroid receptor coactivator (SRC) family composed of SRC-1 (NCOA1), SRC-2 (TIF2/GRIP1/NCOA2), and SRC-3 (AIB1/ACTR/NCOA3). Given their broad involvement in many cancers, they represent candidate molecular targets for new chemotherapeutics. Here, we report on the results of a high-throughput screening effort that identified the cardiac glycoside bufalin as a potent small-molecule inhibitor for SRC-3 and SRC-1. Bufalin strongly promoted SRC-3 protein degradation and was able to block cancer cell growth at nanomolar concentrations. When incorporated into a nanoparticle delivery system, bufalin was able to reduce tumor growth in a mouse xenograft model of breast cancer. Our work identifies bufalin as a potentially broad-spectrum small-molecule inhibitor for cancer.
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