The potential of isoprenoids in adjuvant cancer therapy to reduce adverse effects of statins

Huanbiao Mo, Rayna Jeter, Andrea Bachmann, Sophie T. Yount, Chwan Li Shen, Hoda Yeganehjoo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The mevalonate pathway provides sterols for membrane structure and nonsterol intermediates for the post-translational modification and membrane anchorage of growth-related proteins, including the Ras, Rac, and Rho GTPase family. Mevalonate-derived products are also essential for the Hedgehog pathway, steroid hormone signaling, and the nuclear localization of Yes-associated protein and transcriptional co-activator with PDZ-binding motif, all of which playing roles in tumorigenesis and cancer stem cell function. The phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase-AKT-mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 pathway, p53 with gain-of-function mutation, and oncoprotein MYC upregulate the mevalonate pathway, whereas adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase and tumor suppressor protein RB are the downregulators. The rate-limiting enzyme, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), is under a multivalent regulation. Sterol regulatory element binding protein 2 mediates the sterol-controlled transcriptional downregulation of HMGCR. UbiA prenyltransferase domain-containing protein-1 regulates the ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation of HMGCR, which is accelerated by 24, 25-dihydrolanosterol and the diterpene geranylgeraniol. Statins, competitive inhibitors of HMGCR, deplete cells of mevalonate-derived intermediates and consequently inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis. Clinical application of statins is marred by dose-limiting toxicities and mixed outcomes on cancer risk, survival and mortality, partially resulting from the statin-mediated compensatory upregulation of HMGCR and indiscriminate inhibition of HMGCR in normal and tumor cells. Tumor HMGCR is resistant to the sterol-mediated transcriptional control; consequently, HMGCR is upregulated in cancers derived from adrenal gland, blood and lymph, brain, breast, colon, connective tissue, embryo, esophagus, liver, lung, ovary, pancreas, prostate, skin, and stomach. Nevertheless, tumor HMGCR remains sensitive to isoprenoid-mediated degradation. Isoprenoids including monoterpenes (carvacrol, L-carvone, geraniol, perillyl alcohol), sesquiterpenes (cacalol, farnesol, β-ionone), diterpene (geranylgeranyl acetone), “mixed” isoprenoids (tocotrienols), and their derivatives suppress the growth of tumor cells with little impact on nonmalignant cells. In cancer cells derived from breast, colon, liver, mesothelium, prostate, pancreas, and skin, statins and isoprenoids, including tocotrienols, geraniol, limonene, β-ionone and perillyl alcohol, synergistically suppress cell proliferation and associated signaling pathways. A blend of dietary lovastatin and δ-tocotrienol, each at no-effect doses, suppress the growth of implanted murine B16 melanomas in C57BL6 mice. Isoprenoids have potential as adjuvant agents to reduce the toxicities of statins in cancer prevention or therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1515
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Issue numberJAN
StatePublished - 2019


  • Cancer
  • HMG CoA reductase
  • Isoprenoids
  • Mevalonate
  • Statin
  • Synergy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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