Disulfiram, an old drug with new potential therapeutic uses for human hematological malignancies

Concetta Conticello, Daniela Martinetti, Luana Adamo, Simona Buccheri, Raffaella Giuffrida, Nunziatina Parrinello, Laura Lombardo, Gabriele Anastasi, Giulia Anastasi, Gabriella Amato, Maide Cavalli, Annalisa Chiarenza, Ruggero De Maria Marchiano, Rosario Giustolisi, Massimo Gulisano, Mario Domenico Gulisano, Francesco Di Raimondo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Disulfiram (DSF) is an aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor currently used for the treatment of alcoholism. Here, we show that multiple myeloma (MM) cell lines and primary cells from newly diagnosed and relapsed/resistant patients affected by MM, acute myeloid and lymphoblastic leukemia are significantly sensitive to DSF alone and in combination with copper. These effects are present at doses lower than those achievable in vivo after DSF standard administration. The cytotoxic effect achieved by this treatment is comparable to that obtained by conventional chemotherapy and is absent in normal hematopoietic cells. In addition, we found that DSF plus copper induces loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, triggers reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and activates executioner caspases. DSF-copper-induced apoptosis and caspases activation are strongly reversed by antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, thus indicating a critical role of ROS. These results might suggest the use of the old drug DSF, alone or in combination with copper, in the treatment of hematological malignancies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2197-2203
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • acute leukemia, apoptosis, disulfiram, mitochondria, multiple myeloma


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