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Open AccessReview

Small Molecules in the Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinomas: Focus on Indirubins

1
Clinic and Policlinic for Dermatology and Venereology, University Medical Center Rostock, 18057 Rostock, Germany
2
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Lübeck, 23562 Lübeck, Germany
3
Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Medical Center Rostock, 18057 Rostock, Germany
4
Institute for Chemistry, University Rostock, 18059 Rostock, Germany
5
ZIK Plasmatis, Leibniz-Institute for Plasma Science and Technology (INP), 17489 Greifswald, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Ralf Gutzmer
Cancers 2021, 13(8), 1770; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13081770
Received: 10 March 2021 / Revised: 23 March 2021 / Accepted: 28 March 2021 / Published: 7 April 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mechanism Underlying Tumor Relapse and Targeted Treatment Strategies)
In this review, the genetic landscape of squamous cell carcinoma is related to the potential targets of indirubin-based small molecules in cancer therapy. Being a component of traditional Chinese medicine, indirubins are used to treat chronic or inflammatory diseases, and have received increasing attention in cancer treatment due to their proapoptotic and antiproliferative activity. Frequent genetic alterations of squamous cell carcinomas are summarized, and it is discussed how these may render tumors susceptible to indirubin-based small molecule inhibitors.
Skin cancers are the most common malignancies in the world. Among the most frequent skin cancer entities, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) ranks second (~20%) after basal cell carcinoma (~77%). In early stages, a complete surgical removal of the affected tissue is carried out as standard therapy. To treat advanced and metastatic cancers, targeted therapies with small molecule inhibitors are gaining increasing attention. Small molecules are a heterogeneous group of protein regulators, which are produced by chemical synthesis or fermentation. The majority of them belong to the group of receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (RTKIs), which specifically bind to certain RTKs and directly influence the respective signaling pathway. Knowledge of characteristic molecular alterations in certain cancer entities, such as SCC, can help identify tumor-specific substances for targeted therapies. Most frequently, altered genes in SCC include TP53, NOTCH, EGFR, and CCND1. For example, the gene CCND1, which codes for cyclin D1 protein, is upregulated in nearly half of SCC cases and promotes proliferation of affected cells. A treatment with the small molecule 5′-nitroindirubin-monoxime (INO) leads to inhibition of cyclin D1 and thus inhibition of proliferation. As a component of Danggui Longhui Wan, a traditional Chinese medicine, indirubins are used to treat chronic diseases and have been shown to inhibit inflammatory reactions. Indirubins are pharmacologically relevant small molecules with proapoptotic and antiproliferative activity. In this review, we discuss the current literature on indirubin-based small molecules in cancer treatment. A special focus is on the molecular biology of squamous cell carcinomas, their alterations, and how these are rendered susceptible to indirubin-based small molecule inhibitors. The potential molecular mechanisms of the efficacy of indirubins in killing SCC cells will be discussed as well. View Full-Text
Keywords: indirubins; small molecules; squamous cell carcinoma indirubins; small molecules; squamous cell carcinoma
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MDPI and ACS Style

Schäfer, M.; Semmler, M.L.; Bernhardt, T.; Fischer, T.; Kakkassery, V.; Ramer, R.; Hein, M.; Bekeschus, S.; Langer, P.; Hinz, B.; Emmert, S.; Boeckmann, L. Small Molecules in the Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinomas: Focus on Indirubins. Cancers 2021, 13, 1770. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13081770

AMA Style

Schäfer M, Semmler ML, Bernhardt T, Fischer T, Kakkassery V, Ramer R, Hein M, Bekeschus S, Langer P, Hinz B, Emmert S, Boeckmann L. Small Molecules in the Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinomas: Focus on Indirubins. Cancers. 2021; 13(8):1770. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13081770

Chicago/Turabian Style

Schäfer, Mirijam; Semmler, Marie L.; Bernhardt, Thoralf; Fischer, Tobias; Kakkassery, Vinodh; Ramer, Robert; Hein, Martin; Bekeschus, Sander; Langer, Peter; Hinz, Burkhard; Emmert, Steffen; Boeckmann, Lars. 2021. "Small Molecules in the Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinomas: Focus on Indirubins" Cancers 13, no. 8: 1770. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13081770

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