The STAT3 inhibitor pyrimethamine displays anti-cancer and immune stimulatory effects in murine models of breast cancer

Mohammad W. Khan, Abdulrahman Saadalla, Ahmed H. Ewida, Khalid Al-Katranji, Ghadier Al-Saoudi, Zachary T. Giaccone, Fotini Gounari, Ming Zhang, David A. Frank, Khashayarsha Khazaie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The transcription factor signal activator and transducer or transcription (STAT3), which regulates genes controlling proliferation, survival, and invasion, is activated inappropriately in many human cancers, including breast cancer. Activation of STAT3 can lead to both malignant cellular behavior and suppression of immune cell function in the tumor microenvironment. Through a chemical-biology screen, pyrimethamine (PYR), an FDA approved anti-microbial drug, was identified as an inhibitor of STAT3 function at concentrations known to be achieved safely in humans. We report that PYR shows therapeutic activity in two independent mouse models of breast cancer, with both direct tumor inhibitory and immune stimulatory effects. PYR-inhibited STAT3 activity in TUBO and TM40D-MB metastatic breast cancer cells in vitro and inhibited tumor cell proliferation and invasion into Matrigel basement membrane matrix. In tumor-transplanted mice, PYR had both direct and indirect tumor inhibitory effects. Tumor-bearing mice treated with PYR showed reduced STAT3 activation in tumor cells, attenuated tumor growth, and reduced tumor-associated inflammation. In addition, expression of Lamp1 by tumor infiltrating CD8+ T cells was elevated, indicating enhanced release of cytotoxic granules. These findings suggest that PYR may have beneficial effects in the treatment of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-23
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Breast cancer
  • Immunity
  • Metastasis
  • Pyrimethamine
  • STAT3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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