Gemcitabine therapeutically disrupts essential SIRT1-mediated p53 repression in Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumors

Dennis S. Metselaar, Michaël H. Meel, Joshua R. Goulding, Piotr Waranecki, Mark C. de Gooijer, Marjolein Breur, Jan Koster, Sophie E.M. Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Marianna Bugiani, Pieter Wesseling, Gertjan J.L. Kaspers, Esther Hulleman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Other contributionAcademic



Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumors (ATRT) are highly malignant embryonal tumors of the central nervous system with a dismal prognosis. Despite recent advances in understanding the molecular characteristics and subclasses of these tumors, effective therapeutic options remain scarce.


In this study, we developed and validated a novel patient-derived ATRT culture and xenograft model, which we used alongside a panel of other primary ATRT models for large-scale drug discovery assays. The identified hits were mechanistically and therapeutically investigated using an array of molecular assays and two orthotopic xenograft murine models.


We found that ATRT are selectively sensitive to the nucleoside analogue gemcitabine, with additional efficacy in Sonic Hedgehog (SHH)-subtype ATRT. Gene expression profiles and protein analyses indicated that gemcitabine treatment causes degradation of Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), resulting in cell death through activation of NF-kB and p53. Furthermore, we discovered that gemcitabine-induced loss of SIRT1 results in a nucleus-to-cytoplasm translocation of the SHH signaling activator GLI2, explaining the additional gemcitabine sensitivity in SHH-subtype ATRT. Treatment of SHH-subgroup ATRT xenograft-bearing mice with gemcitabine resulted in a >30% increase in median survival (p<0.005, log-rank test) and yielded long-term survivors in two independent patient-derived xenograft models.


These findings demonstrate that ATRT are highly sensitive to gemcitabine treatment, and we propose that gemcitabine may form part of a future multimodal treatment strategy for ATRT.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
PublisherCold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Publication statusSubmitted - 5 Sept 2023

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