Effects of HIV protease inhibitor ritonavir on Akt-regulated cell proliferation in breast cancer

Anjaiah Srirangam, Ranjana Mitra, Mu Wang, J. Christopher Gorski, Sunil Badve, Lee Ann Baldridge, Justin Hamilton, Hiromitsu Kishimoto, John Hawes, Lang Li, Christie M. Orschell, Edward F. Srour, Janice S. Blum, David Donner, George W. Sledge, Harikrishna Nakshatri, David A. Potter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: These studies were designed to determine whether ritonavir inhibits breast cancer in vitro and in vivo and, if so, how. Experimental Design: Ritonavir effects on breast cancer cell growth were studied in the estrogen receptor (ER)-positive lines MCF7 and T47D and in the ER-negative lines MDA-MB-436 and MDA-MB-231. Effects of ritonavir on Rb-regulated and Akt-mediated cell proliferation were studied. Ritonavir was tested for inhibition of a mammary carcinoma xenograft. Results: ER-positive estradiol-dependent lines (IC50,12-24 μmol/L) and ER-negative (IC50, 45 μmol/L) lines exhibit ritonavir sensitivity. Ritonavir depletes ER-α levels notably in ER-positive lines. Ritonavir causes G 1 arrest, depletes cyclin-dependent kinases 2, 4, and 6 and cyclin D1 but not cyclin E, and depletes phosphorylated Rb and Ser 473 Akt. Ritonavir induces apoptosis independent of G1 arrest, inhibiting growth of cells that have passed the G1 checkpoint. Myristoyl-Akt, but not activated K-Ras, rescues ritonavir inhibition. Ritonavir inhibited a MDA-MB-231 xenograft and intratumoral Akt activity at a clinically attainable serum Cmax of 22 ± 8 μmol/L. Because heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) substrates are depleted by ritonavir, ritonavir effects on Hsp90 were tested. Ritonavir binds Hsp90 (K D, 7.8 μmol/L) and partially inhibits its chaperone function. Ritonavir blocks association of Hsp90 with Akt and, with sustained exposure, notably depletes Hsp90. Stably expressed Hsp90α short hairpin RNA also depletes Hsp90, inhibiting proliferation and sensitizing breast cancer cells to low ritonavir concentrations. Conclusions: Ritonavir inhibits breast cancer growth in part by inhibiting Hsp90 substrates, including Akt. Ritonavir may be of interest for breast cancer therapeutics and its efficacy may be increased by sustained exposure or Hsp90 RNA interference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1883-1896
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes

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