Amongst the most prevalent malignancies worldwide, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is characterized by high morbidity and mortality. The failure of standard treatment modalities, such as surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, demands the need for in-depth understanding of the complex signaling networks involved in the development of treatment resistance. A tumor’s invasive growth and high levels of intrinsic or acquired treatment resistance are the primary causes of treatment failure. This may be a result of the presence of HNSCC’s cancer stem cells, which are known to have self-renewing capabilities that result in therapeutic resistance. Using bioinformatics methods, we discovered that elevated expressions of MET, STAT3, and AKT were associated with poor overall survival in HNSCC patients. We then evaluated the therapeutic potential of our newly synthesized small molecule HNC018 towards its potential as a novel anticancer drug. Our computer-aided structure characterization and target identification study predicted that HNC018 could target these oncogenic markers implicated in HNSCC. Subsequently, the HNC018 has demonstrated its anti-proliferative and anticancer activities towards the head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cell lines, along with displaying the stronger binding affinities towards the MET, STAT3, and AKT than the standard drug cisplatin. Reduction in the clonogenic and tumor-sphere-forming ability displays HNC018’s role in decreasing the tumorigenicity. Importantly, an vivo study has shown a significant delay in tumor growth in HNC018 alone or in combination with cisplatin-treated xenograft mice model. Collectively with our findings, HNC018 highlights the desirable properties of a drug-like candidate and could be considered as a novel small molecule for treating head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
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