In treating bladder cancer, determining the molecular mechanisms of tumor invasion, metastasis, and drug resistance are urgent to improving long-term patient survival. One of the metabolic enzymes, aldo-keto reductase 1C1 (AKR1C1), plays an essential role in cancer invasion/metastasis and chemoresistance. In orthotopic xenograft models of a human bladder cancer cell line, UM-UC-3, metastatic sublines were established from tumors in the liver, lung, and bone. These cells possessed elevated levels of EMT-associated markers, such as Snail, Slug, or CD44, and exhibited enhanced invasion. By microarray analysis, AKR1C1 was found to be up-regulated in metastatic lesions, which was verified in metastatic human bladder cancer specimens. Decreased invasion caused by AKR1C1 knockdown suggests a novel role of AKR1C1 in cancer invasion, which is probably due to the regulation of Rac1, Src, or Akt. An inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-1β, was found to increase AKR1C1 in bladder cancer cell lines. One particular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, flufenamic acid, antagonized AKR1C1 and decreased the cisplatin-resistance and invasion potential of metastatic sublines. These data uncover the crucial role of AKR1C1 in regulating both metastasis and drug resistance; as a result, AKR1C1 should be a potent molecular target in invasive bladder cancer treatment.
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