Here, we propose a new strategy for the treatment of early cancerous lesions and advanced metastatic disease, via the selective targeting of cancer stem cells (CSCs), a.k.a., tumor-initiating cells (TICs). We searched for a global phenotypic characteristic that was highly conserved among cancer stem cells, across multiple tumor types, to provide a mutation-independent approach to cancer therapy. This would allow us to target cancer stem cells, effectively treating cancer as a single disease of “stemness”, independently of the tumor tissue type. Using this approach, we identified a conserved phenotypic weak point – a strict dependence on mitochondrial biogenesis for the clonal expansion and survival of cancer stem cells. Interestingly, several classes of FDA-approved antibiotics inhibit mitochondrial biogenesis as a known “side-effect”, which could be harnessed instead as a “therapeutic effect”. Based on this analysis, we now show that 4-to-5 different classes of FDA-approved drugs can be used to eradicate cancer stem cells, in 12 different cancer cell lines, across 8 different tumor types (breast, DCIS, ovarian, prostate, lung, pancreatic, melanoma, and glioblastoma (brain)). These five classes of mitochondrially-targeted antibiotics include: the erythromycins, the tetracyclines, the glycylcyclines, an anti-parasitic drug, and chloramphenicol. Functional data are presented for one antibiotic in each drug class: azithromycin, doxycycline, tigecycline, pyrvinium pamoate, as well as chloramphenicol, as proof-of-concept. Importantly, many of these drugs are non-toxic for normal cells, likely reducing the side effects of anti-cancer therapy. Thus, we now propose to treat cancer like an infectious disease, by repurposing FDA-approved antibiotics for anti-cancer therapy, across multiple tumor types. These drug classes should also be considered for prevention studies, specifically focused on the prevention of tumor recurrence and distant metastasis. Finally, recent clinical trials with doxycycline and azithromycin (intended to target cancer-associated infections, but not cancer cells) have already shown positive therapeutic effects in cancer patients, although their ability to eradicate cancer stem cells was not yet appreciated.
Chronic pancreatitis is a persistent inflammatory disease of the pancreas. The digestive protease trypsin plays a fundamental role in the pathogenesis. Here we analyzed the gene encoding the trypsindegrading enzyme chymotrypsin C (CTRC) in German subjects with idiopathic or hereditary chronic pancreatitis. Two alterations, p.R254W and p.K247_R254del, were significantly overrepresented in the pancreatitis group and were present in 30/901 (3.3%) affected individuals but only in 21/2,804 (0.7%) controls (OR=4.6; CI=2.6−8.0; P=1.3×10 −7 ). A replication study identified these two variants in 10/348 (2.9%) individuals with alcoholic chronic pancreatitis but only in 3/432 (0.7%) subjects with alcoholic liver disease (OR=4.2; CI=1.2−15.5; P=0.02). CTRC variants were also found in 10/71 (14.1%) Indian subjects with tropical pancreatitis but only in 1/84 (1.2%) control (OR=13.6; CI=1.7 −109.2; P=0.0028). Functional analysis of the CTRC variants revealed impaired activity and/or reduced secretion. The results indicate that loss-of-function alterations in CTRC predispose to pancreatitis by diminishing its protective trypsin-degrading activity.Chronic pancreatitis is a continuing inflammatory disorder characterized by permanent destruction of the pancreatic parenchyma leading to maldigestion and diabetes mellitus due to exocrine and endocrine insufficiency. Penetrating insight into the pathomechanism came from relatively recent studies investigating the genes encoding cationic trypsinogen (PRSS1; OMIM 276000), anionic trypsinogen (PRSS2; OMIM 601564), and the pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor (SPINK1; OMIM 167790). Gain-of-function variants in PRSS1 have been linked to autosomal dominant hereditary pancreatitis and subsequently also to idiopathic chronic pancreatitis 1-4 . Recently, triplication of the PRSS1 locus has been observed in a subset of families with hereditary pancreatitis 5 . In vitro biochemical studies revealed that the majority of disease predisposing PRSS1 variants increase autocatalytic conversion of trypsinogen to active trypsin and probably promote premature intrapancreatic trypsin activation in vivo 6,7 . Consistent with the central pathophysiological role of trypsin, p.N34S and other loss-offunction alterations in the trypsin inhibitor SPINK1 predispose to idiopathic, tropical, and alcoholic chronic pancreatitis 8-15 . In contrast to pathogenic PRSS1 and SPINK1 variations, the p.G191R PRSS2 variant affords protection against chronic pancreatitis due to rapid autodegradation 16 . Taken together, genetic and biochemical evidence defines a pathological pathway in which a sustained imbalance between intrapancreatic trypsinogen activation and trypsin inactivation results in the development of chronic pancreatitis ( Supplementary Fig. 1).Because trypsin degradation serves as a protective mechanism against pancreatitis, we hypothesized that loss of function in trypsin degrading enzymes increases the risk for pancreatitis. We recently demonstrated that chymotrypsin C (CTRC) degrades all human tryps...
Here, we show that new mitochondrial biogenesis is required for the anchorage independent survival and propagation of cancer stem-like cells (CSCs). More specifically, we used the drug XCT790 as an investigational tool, as it functions as a specific inhibitor of the ERRα-PGC1 signaling pathway, which governs mitochondrial biogenesis. Interestingly, our results directly demonstrate that XCT790 efficiently blocks both the survival and propagation of tumor initiating stem-like cells (TICs), using the MCF7 cell line as a model system. Mechanistically, we show that XCT790 suppresses the activity of several independent signaling pathways that are normally required for the survival of CSCs, such as Sonic hedgehog, TGFβ-SMAD, STAT3, and Wnt signaling. We also show that XCT790 markedly reduces oxidative mitochondrial metabolism (OXPHOS) and that XCT790-mediated inhibition of CSC propagation can be prevented or reversed by Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), a mitochondrial fuel. Consistent with our findings, over-expression of ERRα significantly enhances the efficiency of mammosphere formation, which can be blocked by treatment with mitochondrial inhibitors. Similarly, mammosphere formation augmented by FOXM1, a downstream target of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, can also be blocked by treatment with three different classes of mitochondrial inhibitors (XCT790, oligomycin A, or doxycycline). In this context, our unbiased proteomics analysis reveals that FOXM1 drives the expression of >90 protein targets associated with mitochondrial biogenesis, glycolysis, the EMT and protein synthesis in MCF7 cells, processes which are characteristic of an anabolic CSC phenotype. Finally, doxycycline is an FDA-approved antibiotic, which is very well-tolerated in patients. As such, doxycycline could be re-purposed clinically as a ‘safe’ mitochondrial inhibitor, to target FOXM1 and mitochondrial biogenesis in CSCs, to prevent tumor recurrence and distant metastasis, thereby avoiding patient relapse.
It is concluded that the HCO(3)(-) secretion stimulated by low concentrations of bile acids acts to protect the pancreas against toxic bile, whereas inhibition of HCO(3)(-) secretion by high concentrations of bile acids may contribute to the progression of acute pancreatitis.
Weber et al. report that neutrophils are required for both the sensitization and elicitation phase of contact hypersensitivity. Their results identify a novel role for neutrophils in shaping the adaptive immune response.
Tumor-initiating cells (TICs), a.k.a. cancer stem cells (CSCs), are difficult to eradicate with conventional approaches to cancer treatment, such as chemo-therapy and radiation. As a consequence, the survival of residual CSCs is thought to drive the onset of tumor recurrence, distant metastasis, and drug-resistance, which is a significant clinical problem for the effective treatment of cancer. Thus, novel approaches to cancer therapy are needed urgently, to address this clinical need. Towards this end, here we have investigated the therapeutic potential of graphene oxide to target cancer stem cells. Graphene and its derivatives are well-known, relatively inert and potentially non-toxic nano-materials that form stable dispersions in a variety of solvents. Here, we show that graphene oxide (of both big and small flake sizes) can be used to selectively inhibit the proliferative expansion of cancer stem cells, across multiple tumor types. For this purpose, we employed the tumor-sphere assay, which functionally measures the clonal expansion of single cancer stem cells under anchorage-independent conditions. More specifically, we show that graphene oxide effectively inhibits tumor-sphere formation in multiple cell lines, across 6 different cancer types, including breast, ovarian, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancers, as well as glioblastoma (brain). In striking contrast, graphene oxide is non-toxic for “bulk” cancer cells (non-stem) and normal fibroblasts. Mechanistically, we present evidence that GO exerts its striking effects on CSCs by inhibiting several key signal transduction pathways (WNT, Notch and STAT-signaling) and thereby inducing CSC differentiation. Thus, graphene oxide may be an effective non-toxic therapeutic strategy for the eradication of cancer stem cells, via differentiation-based nano-therapy.
DNA-PK is an enzyme that is required for proper DNA-repair and is thought to confer radio-resistance in cancer cells. As a consequence, it is a high-profile validated target for new pharmaceutical development. However, no FDA-approved DNA-PK inhibitors have emerged, despite many years of drug discovery and lead optimization. This is largely because existing DNA-PK inhibitors suffer from poor pharmacokinetics. They are not well absorbed and/or are unstable, with a short plasma half-life. Here, we identified the first FDA-approved DNA-PK inhibitor by “chemical proteomics”. In an effort to understand how doxycycline targets cancer stem-like cells (CSCs), we serendipitously discovered that doxycycline reduces DNA-PK protein expression by nearly 15-fold (> 90%). In accordance with these observations, we show that doxycycline functionally radio-sensitizes breast CSCs, by up to 4.5-fold. Moreover, we demonstrate that DNA-PK is highly over-expressed in both MCF7- and T47D-derived mammospheres. Interestingly, genetic or pharmacological inhibition of DNA-PK in MCF7 cells is sufficient to functionally block mammosphere formation. Thus, it appears that active DNA-repair is required for the clonal expansion of CSCs. Mechanistically, doxycycline treatment dramatically reduced the oxidative mitochondrial capacity and the glycolytic activity of cancer cells, consistent with previous studies linking DNA-PK expression to the proper maintenance of mitochondrial DNA integrity and copy number. Using a luciferase-based assay, we observed that doxycycline treatment quantitatively reduces the anti-oxidant response (NRF1/2) and effectively blocks signaling along multiple independent pathways normally associated with stem cells, including STAT1/3, Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), Notch, WNT and TGF-beta signaling. In conclusion, we propose that the efficacy of doxycycline as a DNA-PK inhibitor should be tested in Phase-II clinical trials, in combination with radio-therapy. Doxycycline has excellent pharmacokinetics, with nearly 100% oral absorption and a long serum half-life (18–22 hours), at a standard dose of 200-mg per day. In further support of this idea, we show that doxycycline effectively inhibits the mammosphere-forming activity of primary breast cancer samples, derived from metastatic disease sites (pleural effusions or ascites fluid). Our results also have possible implications for the radio-therapy of brain tumors and/or brain metastases, as doxycycline is known to effectively cross the blood-brain barrier. Further studies will be needed to determine if other tetracycline family members also confer radio-sensitivity.
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