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The unfolding role of ceramide in coordinating retinoid-based cancer therapy
Biochemical Journal  (IF3.857),  Pub Date : 2021-10-15, DOI: 10.1042/bcj20210368
Ghandour, Botheina, Dbaibo, Ghassan, Darwiche, Nadine

Sphingolipid-mediated regulation in cancer development and treatment is largely ceramide-centered with the complex sphingolipid metabolic pathways unfolding as attractive targets for anticancer drug discovery. The dynamic interconversion of sphingolipids is tightly controlled at the level of enzymes and cellular compartments in response to endogenous or exogenous stimuli, such as anticancer drugs, including retinoids. Over the past two decades, evidence emerged that retinoids owe part of their potency in cancer therapy to modulation of sphingolipid metabolism and ceramide generation. Ceramide has been proposed as a ‘tumor-suppressor lipid' that orchestrates cell growth, cell cycle arrest, cell death, senescence, autophagy, and metastasis. There is accumulating evidence that cancer development is promoted by the dysregulation of tumor-promoting sphingolipids whereas cancer treatments can kill tumor cells by inducing the accumulation of endogenous ceramide levels. Resistance to cancer therapy may develop due to a disrupted equilibrium between the opposing roles of tumor-suppressor and tumor-promoter sphingolipids. Despite the undulating effect and complexity of sphingolipid pathways, there are emerging opportunities for a plethora of enzyme-targeted therapeutic interventions that overcome resistance resulting from perturbed sphingolipid pathways. Here, we have revisited the interconnectivity of sphingolipid metabolism and the instrumental role of ceramide-biosynthetic and degradative enzymes, including bioactive sphingolipid products, how they closely relate to cancer treatment and pathogenesis, and the interplay with retinoid signaling in cancer. We focused on retinoid targeting, alone or in combination, of sphingolipid metabolism nodes in cancer to enhance ceramide-based therapeutics. Retinoid and ceramide-based cancer therapy using novel strategies such as combination treatments, synthetic retinoids, ceramide modulators, and delivery formulations hold promise in the battle against cancer