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Cardiac glycosides are broad-spectrum senolytics

  • Guerrero, A
  • Herranz, N
  • Sun, B
  • Wagner, V
  • Gallage, S
  • Guiho, R
  • Wolter, K
  • Pombo, J
  • Irvine, EE
  • Innes, AJ
  • Birch, J
  • Glegola, J
  • Manshaei, S
  • Heide, D
  • Dharmalingam, G
  • Harbig, J
  • Olona, A
  • Behmoaras, J
  • Dauch, D
  • Uren, AG
  • And 6 more
Publication Date
Sep 10, 2019
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


Senescence is a cellular stress response that results in the stable arrest of old, damaged or pre-neoplastic cells. Oncogene-induced senescence is tumour suppressive but can also exacerbate tumorigenesis through the secretion of proinflammatory factors from senescent cells. Drugs that selectively kill senescent cells, termed ‘senolytics’, have proved beneficial in animal models of many age-associated diseases. In the present study, we show that the cardiac glycoside ouabain is a senolytic agent with broad activity. Senescent cells are sensitized to ouabain-induced apoptosis, a process mediated in part by induction of the proapoptotic Bcl-2 family protein NOXA. We demonstrate that cardiac glycosides synergize with anti-cancer drugs to kill tumour cells and eliminate senescent cells that accumulate after irradiation or in old mice. Ouabain also eliminates senescent pre-neoplastic cells. The findings of the present study suggest that cardiac glycosides may be effective anti-cancer drugs by acting through multiple mechanisms. Given the broad range of senescent cells targeted by cardiac glycosides, their use against age-related diseases warrants further exploration.

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