Pharmacology and preclinical validation of a novel anticancer compound targeting PEPCK-M

Marc Aragó, Juan Moreno-Felici, Sonia Abás, Sergio Rodríguez-Arévalo, Petra Hyroššová, Agnes Figueras, Francesc Viñals, Belén Pérez, Maria I. Loza, Jose Brea, Pedro Latorre, Jose A. Carrodeguas, Pablo M. García-Rovés, Carlos Galdeano, Tiziana Ginex, Francisco J. Luque, Carmen Escolano, Jose C. Perales*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) catalyzes the decarboxylation of oxaloacetate to phosphoenolpyruvate. The mitochondrial isozyme, PEPCK-M is highly expressed in cancer cells, where it plays a role in nutrient stress response. To date, pharmacological strategies to target this pathway have not been pursued. Methods: A compound embodying a 3-alkyl-1,8-dibenzylxanthine nucleus (iPEPCK-2), was synthesized and successfully probed in silico on a PEPCK-M structural model. Potency and target engagement in vitro and in vivo were evaluated by kinetic and cellular thermal shift assays (CETSA). The compound and its target were validated in tumor growth models in vitro and in murine xenografts. Results: Cross-inhibitory capacity and increased potency as compared to 3-MPA were confirmed in vitro and in vivo. Treatment with iPEPCK-2 inhibited cell growth and survival, especially in poor-nutrient environment, consistent with an impact on colony formation in soft agar. Finally, daily administration of the PEPCK-M inhibitor successfully inhibited tumor growth in two murine xenograft models as compared to vehicle, without weight loss, or any sign of apparent toxicity. Conclusion: We conclude that iPEPCK-2 is a compelling anticancer drug targeting PEPCK-M, a hallmark gene product involved in metabolic adaptations of the tumor.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109601
JournalBiomedicine and Pharmacotherapy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Breast carcinoma
  • Cancer metabolism
  • Colon carcinoma
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Insulin secretion
  • Mitochondrial physiology
  • PEPCK inhibitors
  • Preclinical
  • Xanthine derivatives
  • Xenograft


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