Inhibition of lung adenocarcinoma by combinations of sulfasalazine (SAS) and disulfiram-copper (DSF-Cu) in cell line models and mice

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Sulfasalazine (SAS) is a repurposed antitumor drug which inhibits the proliferation and survival of cancer cells by inhibiting the xCT cellular antioxidant system. Recent clinical studies have shown that, due to poor bioavailability, the antitumor effects of SAS monotherapy are minimal. Therefore, we hypothesized that DSF, another repurposed drug that has demonstrated anticancer effects, or its complex with copper (DSF-copper, DSF-Cu) could potentiate the antilung cancer effects of SAS. Exposure of non-small cell lung cancer cells to therapeutically achievable concentrations of SAS-induced low-to-moderate cytotoxic effects (20–40% reduction in cell viability) and, unexpectedly, induced the antioxidant protein NRF2 and its downstream effectors xCT and ALDH1A1. However, combinations of SAS and DSF-Cu, but not SAS and DSF, induced a significantly higher cytotoxic effect (64–88% reduction in cell viability), apoptosis and generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species as compared with SAS or DSF-Cu alone. Moreover, DSF-Cu abrogated SAS-induced NRF2, xCT and ALDH1A1 expression. In a mouse model of lung tumor, SAS + DSF-Cu showed a higher efficacy than the individual drugs in reducing the number and size of tumors as well as the incidence and multiplicity of lung adenocarcinoma. Taken together, our findings indicate that the observed antilung cancer effects of SAS plus DSF-Cu are mediated, at least in part, via impairment of reactive oxygen species defense and ­enhancement of oxidative stress and provide evidence for the preventive/therapeutic potential of this combinatorial approach against lung cancer.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-303
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: [email protected].

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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