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Author and Curator: Ritu Saxena, Ph.D

Although cancer stem cells constitute only a small percentage of the tumor burden, their self-renewal capacity and possible link with recurrence of cancer post treatment makes them a sought after therapeutic target in cancer. The post on cancer stem cells published on the 22nd of March, 2013, describes the identity of CSCs, their functional characteristics, possible cell of origin and biomarkers. This post focuses on the therapeutic potential of CSCs, their resistance to conventional anti-tumor therapies and current therapeutic targets including biomarkers, signaling pathways and niches.

CSCs Are Resistant to conventional anticancer therapies including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery that are used either alone or in combination. However, these strategies have failed several times to eradicate CSCs resulting in metastasis and relapse, hence, a fatal disease outcome.

The properties of CSCs that contribute to or lead to chemoresistance include:

Quiescent Phenotype

Chemotherapeutic agents target fast-growing cells; however, some CSCs that remain in the dormant or quiescent stage are spared from lethal damage. Later, when the dormant CSCs enter cell cycle, tumor proliferation is stimulated.

Antiapoptosis

Antiapoptotic proteins such as BCL-2 and some self-renewal pathways such as transforming growth factor β, Wnt/ β -catenin or BMI-1 are activated in CSCs. Consequently, DNA damage repair capability of CSCs is enhanced after genotoxic stress or activation of autocrine loops through the production of growth factors like epidermal growth factor (Moserle L, Cancer Lett, 1 Feb 2010;288(1):1-9).

Expression of Drug Efflux Pumps

CSCs express some proteins that have typically been known to contribute to multidrug resistance. The proteins are drug efflux pumps ABCC1, ABCG2 or MDR1. Multidrug resistance-associated proteins (ABCC subfamily) are members of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) superfamily of transport proteins and act as cellular efflux transporters for a wide variety of substrates, in particular glutathione, glucuronide and sulfate conjugates of diverse compounds.

Radiotherapy is mainly used in breast cancer and glioblastoma multiforme. In glioblastoma multiforme, the properties of CSCs that contribute to radiotherapy resistance is the presence of CD133 marker. CD133+ CSCs preferentially activate DNA damage repair pathway and significantly induced checkpoint kinases that leads to reduced apoptosis in CSCs compared to the CD133- tumor cells (Bao S, Nature, 7 Dec 2006;444(7120):756-60).

Radiotherapy resistance in breast cancer is due to reduced levels of reactive oxygen species in CSCs. In addition, radiation resistance of progenitor cells in an immortalized breast cancer cell line was mediated by the Wnt/β catenin pathway proteins (Diehn M, et al, Nature, 9 Apr 2009;458(7239):780-3; Chen MS, et al, J Cell Sci, 1 Feb 2007;120(Pt 3):468-77).

As mentioned in the previous post on CSCs, CSC targeting therapy could either eliminate CSCs by either killing them after differentiating them from other tumor population, and/or by disrupting their niche. Efficient eradication of CSCs may require the combined ablation of CSCs themselves and their niches. Thus, identification of appropriate and specific markers of CSCs is crucial for targeting them and preventing tumor relapse. Table 1 (adapted from a review article on CSCs by Zhao et al) describes the currently used biomarkers for CSC-targeted therapy (Zhao L, et al, Eur Surg Res, 2012;49(1):8-15).

Table 1

Specific Target Cancer type Marker properties and therapy
Targeting cell markers
CD24+CD44+ESA+ Pancreatic cancer Pancreatic CSCs, elevated during tumorigenesis
CD44+CD24–ESA+ Breast cancer Breast CSCs
EpCAM high CD44+CD166+ Colorectal cancer
CD34+CD38– AML broad use as a target for chemotherapy
CD133+ Prostate cancer and breast cancer 5-transmembrane domain cell surface glycoprotein,also a marker for neuron epithelial, hematopoietic and endothelialprogenitor cells
Stro1+CD105+CD44+ Bone sarcoma
Nodal/activin Knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of its receptorAlk4/7 abrogated self-renewal capacity and in vivo tumorigenicity of CSCs.
Targeting signaling pathways
Hedgehog signaling Upregulated in several cancer types inhibitors: GDC-0449,PF04449913, BMS-833923, IPI-926 and TAK-441
Wnt/β-catenin signaling CML, squamous cell carcinoma Be required for CSC self-renewal and tumor growthinhibitors: PRI-724, WIF-1 and telomerase
Notch signaling Several cancer types An important regulator in normal development, adult stem cell maintenance,and tumorigenesis in multiple organs,inhibitors: RO4929097, BMS-906024, IPI-926 and MK0752
PI3K/Akt/PTEN/mTOR, Several cancer types The pathway is deregulated in many tumors and used to preferentially target CSCsinhibitors: temsirolimus, everolimus FDA-approved therapy for renal cell carcinoma
Targeting CSC Niche
Angiogenesis Niche Colon cancer, breast cancer, NSCLC Inhibitor: bevacizumab results in a disruption of the CSC niche, depleted vasculature and a dramatic reduction in the number of CSCs.
Hypoxia (HIF pathway) Ovarian cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer Inhibitors: topotecan and digoxin have been approved for ovarian, lung and cervical cancer
Targeting Micro RNA
miR-200 family Inhibits EMT and cancer cell migration by direct targeting of E-cadherin transcriptional repressors ZEB1 and ZEB2
Let-7 family Regulates BT-IC stem cell-like properties by silencing more than one target
miR-124 Related to neuronal differentiation, targets laminin γ1 and integrin β1.
miR-21 Suppresses the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells

The challenge is to develop an effective treatment regimen that prevents survival, self-renewal and differentiation of CSCs and also disturbs their niche without damaging normal stem cells. In order to evaluate the efficiency of CSC-targeting therapies, in vitro models and mouse xenotransplantation models have been used for preclinical studies. Some potential CSC targeting agents in preclinical stages include notch inhibitors for glioblastoma stem cells and telomerase peptide vaccination after chemoradiotherapy of non-small cell lung cancer stem cells Stem Cells (Hovinga KE, et al, Jun 2010;28(6):1019-29; Serrano D, Mol Cancer, 9 Aug 2011;10:96). In addition, several phase II and phase III trials are currently underway to test CSC-targeting drugs focusing on efficacy and safety of treatment.

Reference:

Bao S, Nature, 7 Dec 2006;444(7120):756-60).

Diehn M, et al, Nature, 9 Apr 2009;458(7239):780-3

Chen MS, et al, J Cell Sci, 1 Feb 2007;120(Pt 3):468-77

Zhao L, et al, Eur Surg Res, 2012;49(1):8-15

Hovinga KE, et al, Jun 2010;28(6):1019-29

Serrano D, Mol Cancer, 9 Aug 2011;10:96

Pharmaceutical Intelligence posts:

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/03/22/in-focus-identity-of-cancer-stem-cells/ Author and curator: Ritu Saxena, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/08/15/to-die-or-not-to-die-time-and-order-of-combination-drugs-for-triple-negative-breast-cancer-cells-a-systems-level-analysis/ Authors: Anamika Sarkar, PhD and Ritu Saxena, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/03/07/the-importance-of-cancer-prevention-programs-new-perceptions-for-fighting-cancer/ Author: Ziv Raviv, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/03/03/treatment-for-metastatic-her2-breast-cancer/ Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/03/02/recurrence-risk-for-breast-cancer/ Larry H Bernstein, MD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/02/14/prostate-cancer-androgen-driven-pathomechanism-in-early-onset-forms-of-the-disease/ Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/01/15/exploring-the-role-of-vitamin-c-in-cancer-therapy/ Curator: Ritu Saxena, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/01/12/harnessing-personalized-medicine-for-cancer-management-prospects-of-prevention-and-cure-opinions-of-cancer-scientific-leaders-httppharmaceuticalintelligence-com/ Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/01/10/the-molecular-pathology-of-breast-cancer-progression/ Author and reporter: Tilda Barliya PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/11/30/histone-deacetylase-inhibitors-induce-epithelial-to-mesenchymal-transition-in-prostate-cancer-cells/ Reporter and Curator: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/10/22/blood-vessel-generating-stem-cells-discovered/ Reporter: Ritu Saxena, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/10/17/stomach-cancer-subtypes-methylation-based-identified-by-singapore-led-team/ Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/09/17/natural-agents-for-prostate-cancer-bone-metastasis-treatment/ Reporter: Ritu Saxena, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/08/28/cardiovascular-outcomes-function-of-circulating-endothelial-progenitor-cells-cepcs-exploring-pharmaco-therapy-targeted-at-endogenous-augmentation-of-cepcs/ Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

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