Novel Curcumin inspired bis-chalcone promotes endoplasmic reticulum stress and glioblastoma neurosphere cell death

Lorenzo Sansalone, Eduardo A. Veliz, Nadia G. Myrthil, Vasileios Stathias, Winston Walters, Ingrid I. Torrens, Stephan C. Schürer, Steven Vanni, Roger M. Leblanc, Regina M. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma (GBM) has a dismal prognosis and successful elimination of GBM stem cells (GSCs) is a high-priority as these cells are responsible for tumor regrowth following therapy and ultimately patient relapse. Natural products and their derivatives continue to be a source for the development of effective anticancer drugs and have been shown to effectively target pathways necessary for cancer stem cell self-renewal and proliferation. We generated a series of curcumin inspired bis-chalcones and examined their effect in multiple patient-derived GSC lines. Of the 19 compounds synthesized, four analogs robustly induced GSC death in six separate GSC lines, with a half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) ranging from 2.7–5.8 μM and significantly reduced GSC neurosphere formation at sub-cytotoxic levels. Structural analysis indicated that the presence of a methoxy group at position 3 of the lateral phenylic appendages was important for activity. Pathway and drug connectivity analysis of gene expression changes in response to treatment with the most active bis-chalcone 4j (the 3,4,5 trimethoxy substituted analog) suggested that the mechanism of action was the induction of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and unfolded protein response (UPR) mediated cell death. This was confirmed by Western blot analysis in which 4j induced robust increases in CHOP, p-jun and caspase 12. The UPR is believed to play a significant role in GBM pathogenesis and resistance to therapy and as such represents a promising therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number357
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Bis-chalcones
  • Brain tumor
  • Cancer stem cell
  • Curcumin
  • Endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Glioblastoma stem cell
  • Unfolded protein response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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