Oxidative pentose phosphate pathway inhibition is a key determinant of antimalarial induced cancer cell death.

PMID 26434592


Despite immense interest in using antimalarials as autophagy inhibitors to treat cancer, it remains unclear whether these agents act predominantly via autophagy inhibition or whether other pathways direct their anti-cancer properties. By comparing the treatment effects of the antimalarials chloroquine (CQ) and quinacrine (Q) on KRAS mutant lung cancer cells, we demonstrate that inhibition of the oxidative arm of the pentose phosphate pathway (oxPPP) is required for antimalarial induced apoptosis. Despite inhibiting autophagy, neither CQ treatment nor RNAi against autophagy regulators (ATGs) promote cell death. In contrast, Q triggers high levels of apoptosis, both in vitro and in vivo, and this phenotype requires both autophagy inhibition and p53-dependent inhibition of the oxPPP. Simultaneous genetic targeting of the oxPPP and autophagy is sufficient to trigger apoptosis in lung cancer cells, including cells lacking p53. Thus, in addition to reduced autophagy, oxPPP inhibition serves as an important determinant of antimalarial cytotoxicity in cancer cells.