Hsp90a’s vital role in tumour survival and progression, together with its highly inducible expression profile in gliomas and its absence in normal tissue and cell lines validates it as a therapeutic target for glioma. Hsp90a was downregulated using the post-transcriptional RNAi strategy (sihsp90a) and a post-translational inhibitor, the benzoquinone antibiotic 17-AAG. Glioblastoma U87-MG and normal human astrocyte SVGp12 were treated with sihsp90a, 17-AAG and concurrent sihsp90a/17-AAG (combined treatment). Both Hsp90a gene silencing and the protein inhibitor approaches resulted in a dramatic reduction in cell viability. Results showed that sihsp90a, 17-AAG and a combination of sihsp90a/17-AAG, reduced cell viability by 27%, 75% and 88% (p < 0.001), respectively, after 72 h. hsp90a
mRNA copy numbers were downregulated by 65%, 90% and 99% after 72 h treatment with sihsp90a, 17-AAG and sihsp90a/17-AAG, respectively. The relationship between Hsp90a protein expression and its client Akt kinase activity levels were monitored following treatment with sihsp90a, 17-AAG and sihsp90a/17-AAG. Akt kinase activity was downregulated as a direct consequence of Hsp90a inhibition. Both Hsp90a and Akt kinase levels were significantly downregulated after 72 h. Although, 17-AAG when used as a single agent reduces the Hsp90a protein and the Akt kinase levels, the efficacy demonstrated by combinatorial treatment was found to be far more effective. Combination treatment reduced the Hsp90a protein and Akt kinase levels to 4.3% and 43%, respectively, after 72 h. hsp90a
mRNA expression detected in SVGp12 was negligible compared to U87-MG, also, the combination treatment did not compromise the normal cell viability. Taking into account the role of Hsp90a in tumour progression and the involvement of Akt kinase in cell signalling and the anti-apoptotic pathways in tumours, this double targets treatment infers a novel therapeutic strategy.