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Human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive malignancy with poor clinical outcomes. There are limited therapeutic options for those diagnosed with terminal HCC and therefore incorporating novel agents into standard-of-care regimens is urgently needed. In contrast to de novo drug discovery, the strategy of repurposing compounds initially designed to treat animals might yield substantial advantages in terms of efficacy and safety. Given the evidence for the clinical efficacy of toceranib phosphate (TOC) against canine carcinomas, we aimed to investigate its therapeutic effect on human HCC. The antitumor effects of TOC were evaluated using human HCC cellĀ lines and cell-line-derived xenograft models. Changes in autophagic response upon TOC exposure were quantified through immunoblotting and immunofluorescence analysis. The role of TOC-triggered autophagy was addressed via pharmacological and genetic inhibition. We demonstrated TOC exhibited potent antitumor activity against human HCC cells by stimulating apoptosis in vitro and in vivo by a concomitant increase in autophagic flux. Blocking the TOC-triggered autophagy inhibited cellular proliferation and decreased tumour burden, indicating a protective role of autophagy against TOC-mediated HCC cell death. This role played by TOC-induced autophagy was further linked to the inactivation of the Akt/mTOR pathway that could be attributed to the upregulation of Cyr61. Moreover, treatment with sorafenib plus TOC resulted in pronounced synergistic effects on HCC cells. Our results elucidate a newly identified therapeutic potential of TOC in treating HCC, sparking a growing interest in repurposing such canine drugs for human use. Ā© 2023 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Ling Qiao, Siyuan Qin, Ningna Weng, Bowen Li, Maochao Luo, Zhe Zhang, Li Zhou, Dong Wang, Canhua Huang. Discovery of canine drug toceranib phosphate as a repurposed agent against human hepatocellular carcinoma. Liver international : official journal of the International Association for the Study of the Liver. 2023 Apr;43(4):928-944

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PMID: 36776105

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