Cariporide and other new and powerful NHE1 inhibitors as potentially selective anticancer drugs -- an integral molecular/biochemical/metabolic/clinical approach after one hundred years of cancer research.
In recent years an increasing number of publications have emphasized the growing importance of hydrogen ion dynamics in modern cancer research, from etiopathogenesis and treatment. A proton [H+]-related mechanism underlying the initiation and progression of the neoplastic process has been recently described by different research groups as a new paradigm in which all cancer cells and tissues, regardless of their origin and genetic background, have a pivotal energetic and homeostatic disturbance of their metabolism that is completely different from all normal tissues: an aberrant regulation of hydrogen ion dynamics leading to a reversal of the pH gradient in cancer cells and tissues (pHi/pHe, or "proton reversal"). Tumor cells survive their hostile microenvironment due to membrane-bound proton pumps and transporters, and their main defensive strategy is to never allow internal acidification because that could lead to their death through apoptosis. In this context, one of the primary and best studied regulators of both pHi and pHe in tumors is the Na+/H+ exchanger isoform 1 (NHE1). An elevated NHE1 activity can be correlated with both an increase in cell pH and a decrease in the extracellular pH of tumors, and such proton reversal is associated with the origin, local growth, activation and further progression of the metastatic process. Consequently, NHE1 pharmaceutical inhibition by new and potent NHE1 inhibitors represents a potential and highly selective target in anticancer therapy. Cariporide, being one of the better studied specific and powerful NHE1 inhibitors, has proven to be well tolerated by humans in the cardiological context, however some side-effects, mainly related to drug accumulation and cerebrovascular complications were reported. Thus, cariporide could become a new, slightly toxic and effective anticancer agent in different human malignancies.