Wild-type p53 reactivation by small-molecule Minnelide™ in human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Emiro E Caicedo-Granados, Rui Lin, Caitlin Fujisawa, Bevan Yueh, Veena Sangwan, Ashok K Saluja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives The incidence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) continues to increase, particularly oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) cases. The inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene promotes a chain of molecular events, including cell cycle progression and apoptosis resistance. Reactivation of wild-type p53 function is an intriguing therapeutic strategy. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a novel compound derived from diterpene triepoxide (Minnelide™) can reactivate wild-type p53 function in HPV-positive HNSCC.

Materials and methods For all of our in vitro experiments, we used 2 HPV-positive HNSCC cell lines, University of Michigan squamous cell carcinoma (UM-SCC) 47 and 93-VU-147, and 2 HPV-positive human cervical cancer cell lines, SiHa and CaSki. Cells were treated with different concentrations of triptolide and analyzed for p53 activation. Mice bearing UM-SCC 47 subcutaneous xenografts and HPV-positive patient-derived tumor xenografts were treated with Minnelide and evaluated for tumor growth and p53 activation.

Results In HPV-positive HNSCC, Minnelide reactivated p53 by suppressing E6 oncoprotein. Activation of apoptosis followed, both in vitro and in vivo. In 2 preclinical HNSCC animal models (a subcutaneous xenograft model and a patient-derived tumor xenograft model), Minnelide reactivated p53 function and significantly decreased tumor progression and tumor volume.

Conclusion Triptolide and Minnelide caused cell death in vitro and in vivo in HPV-positive HNSCC by reactivating wild-type p53 and thus inducing apoptosis. In addition, in 2 HPV-positive HNSCC animal models, Minnelide decreased tumor progression and induced apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1149-1156
Number of pages8
JournalOral Oncology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • HPV
  • Minnelide
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
  • Preclinical animal model
  • p53 Reactivation


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