Publication Date



Cancer Cell International


BACKGROUND: Hyaluronic acid (HA) promotes cancer metastasis; however, the currently approved treatments do not target HA. Metastatic renal carcinoma (mRCC) is an incurable disease. Sorafenib (SF) is a modestly effective antiangiogenic drug for mRCC. Although only endothelial cells express known SF targets, SF is cytotoxic to RCC cells at concentrations higher than the pharmacological-dose (5-µM). Using patient cohorts, mRCC models, and SF combination with 4-methylumbelliferone (MU), we discovered an SF target in RCC cells and targeted it for treatment.

METHODS: We analyzed HA-synthase (HAS1, HAS2, HAS3) expression in RCC cells and clinical (n = 129), TCGA-KIRC (n = 542), and TCGA-KIRP (n = 291) cohorts. We evaluated the efficacy of SF and SF plus MU combination in RCC cells, HAS3-transfectants, endothelial-RCC co-cultures, and xenografts.

RESULTS: RCC cells showed increased HAS3 expression. In the clinical and TCGA-KIRC/TCGA-KIRP cohorts, higher HAS3 levels predicted metastasis and shorter survival. At > 10-µM dose, SF inhibited HAS3/HA-synthesis and RCC cell growth. However, at ≤ 5-µM dose SF in combination with MU inhibited HAS3/HA synthesis, growth of RCC cells and endothelial-RCC co-cultures, and induced apoptosis. The combination inhibited motility/invasion and an HA-signaling-related invasive-signature. We previously showed that MU inhibits SF inactivation in RCC cells. While HAS3-knockdown transfectants were sensitive to SF, ectopic-HAS3-expression induced resistance to the combination. In RCC models, the combination inhibited tumor growth and metastasis with little toxicity; however, ectopic-HAS3-expressing tumors were resistant.

CONCLUSION: HAS3 is the first known target of SF in RCC cells. In combination with MU (human equivalent-dose, 0.6-1.1-g/day), SF targets HAS3 and effectively abrogates mRCC.


HAS3, Hyaluronic acid, 4-methylumbelliferone, Renal cell carcinoma, Molecular targeting, Sorafenib



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