The poor prognosis of children with high-grade glioma (HGG) and high-risk neuroblastoma, despite multidisciplinary therapeutic approaches, demands new treatments for these indications. F14512 is a topoisomerase II inhibitor containing a spermine moiety that facilitates selective uptake by tumor cells via the Polyamine Transport System (PTS) and increases topoisomerase II poisoning. Here, F14512 was evaluated in pediatric HGG and neuroblastoma cell lines. PTS activity and specificity were evaluated using a fluorescent spermine-coupled probe. The cytotoxicity of F14512, alone or in combination with ionizing radiation and chemotherapeutic agents, was investigated in vitro. The antitumor activity of F14512 was assessed in vivo using a liver-metastatic model of neuroblastoma. An active PTS was evidenced in all tested cell lines, providing a specific and rapid transfer of spermine-coupled compounds into cell nuclei. Competition experiments confirmed the essential role of PTS in the cell uptake and cytotoxicity of F14512. This cytotoxicity appeared greater in neuroblastoma cells compared with HGG cells but appeared independent of PTS activity levels. In vivo evaluation confirmed a marked and prolonged antitumoral effect in neuroblastoma cells. The combinations of F14512 with cisplatin and carboplatin were often found to be synergistic, and we demonstrated the significant radiosensitizing potential of F14512 in the MYCN-amplified Kelly cell line. Thus, F14512 appears more effective than etoposide in pediatric tumor cell lines, with greater efficacy in neuroblastoma cells compared with HGG cells. The synergistic effects observed with platinum compounds and the radiosensitizing effect could lead to a clinical development of the drug in pediatric oncology.
The polyamines transport system (PTS) is usually enhanced in cancer cells and can be exploited to deliver anticancer drugs. The spermine-conjugated epipodophyllotoxin derivative F14512 is a topoisomerase II poison that exploits the PTS to target preferentially tumor cells. F14512 has been characterized as a potent anticancer drug candidate and is currently in phase 1 clinical trials. Here we have analyzed the mechanisms of cell death induced by F14512, compared to the parent drug etoposide lacking the polyamine tail. F14512 proved to be >30-fold more cytotoxic than etoposide against A549 non-small cell lung cancer cells and triggers less but unrecoverable DNA damages. The cytotoxic action of F14512 is extremely rapid (within 3 h) and does not lead to a marked accumulation in the S-phase of the cell cycle, unlike etoposide. Interestingly, A549 cells treated with F14512 were less prone to undergo apoptosis (neither caspases-dependent nor caspases-independent pathways) or autophagy but preferentially entered into senescence. Drug-induced senescence was characterized qualitatively and quantitatively by an increased ?-galactosidase activity, both by cytochemical staining and by flow cytometry. A morphological analysis by electron microscopy revealed the presence of numerous multi-lamellar and vesicular bodies and large electron-lucent (methuosis-like) vacuoles in F14512-treated cell samples. The mechanism of drug-induced cell death is thus distinct for F14512 compared to etoposide, and this difference may account for their distinct pharmacological profiles and the markedly superior activity of F14512 in vivo. This study suggests that senescence markers should be considered as potential pharmacodynamic biomarkers of F14512 antitumor activity.
F14512 is a novel anti-tumor molecule based on an epipodophyllotoxin core coupled to a cancer-cell vectoring spermine moiety. This polyamine linkage is assumed to ensure the preferential uptake of F14512 by cancer cells, strong interaction with DNA and potent inhibition of topoisomerase II (Topo II). The antitumor activity of F14512 in human tumor models is significantly higher than that of other epipodophyllotoxins in spite of a lower induction of DNA breakage. Hence, the demonstrated superiority of F14512 over other Topo II poisons might not result solely from its preferential uptake by cancer cells, but could also be due to unique effects on Topo II interactions with DNA. To further dissect the mechanism of action of F14512, we used Drosophila melanogaster mutants whose genetic background leads to an easily scored phenotype that is sensitive to changes in Topo II activity and/or localization. F14512 has antiproliferative properties in Drosophila cells and stabilizes ternary Topo II/DNA cleavable complexes at unique sites located in moderately repeated sequences, suggesting that the drug specifically targets a select and limited subset of genomic sequences. Feeding F14512 to developing mutant Drosophila larvae led to the recovery of flies expressing a striking phenotype, "Eye wide shut," where one eye is replaced by a first thoracic segment. Other recovered F14512-induced gain- and loss-of-function phenotypes similarly correspond to precise genetic dysfunctions. These complex in vivo results obtained in a whole developing organism can be reconciled with known genetic anomalies and constitute a remarkable instance of specific alterations of gene expression by ingestion of a drug. "Drosophila-based anticancer pharmacology" hence reveals unique properties for F14512, demonstrating the usefulness of an assay system that provides a low-cost, rapid and effective complement to mammalian models and permits the elucidation of fundamental mechanisms of action of candidate drugs of therapeutic interest in humans.
F14512 exploiting the polyamine transport system (PTS) for tumour cell delivery has been described as a potent antitumour agent. The optimal use of this compound will require a probe to identify tumour cells expressing a highly active PTS that might be more sensitive to the treatment. The aim of this study was to design and characterize a scintigraphic probe to evaluate its uptake in cancer cells expressing the PTS.
Triptolide, a natural product extracted from the Chinese plant Tripterygium wilfordii, possesses antitumor properties. Despite numerous reports showing the proapoptotic capacity and the inhibition of NF-kappaB-mediated transcription by triptolide, the identity of its cellular target is still unknown. To clarify its mechanism of action, we further investigated the effect of triptolide on RNA synthesis in the human non-small cell lung cancer cell line A549. Triptolide inhibited both total RNA and mRNA de novo synthesis, with the primary action being on the latter pool. We used 44K human pan-genomic DNA microarrays and identified the genes primarily affected by a short treatment with triptolide. Among the modulated genes, up to 98% are down-regulated, encompassing a large array of oncogenes including transcription factors and cell cycle regulators. We next observed that triptolide induced a rapid depletion of RPB1, the RNA polymerase II main subunit that is considered a hallmark of a transcription elongation blockage. However, we also show that triptolide does not directly interact with the RNA polymerase II complex nor does it damage DNA. We thus conclude that triptolide is an original pharmacologic inhibitor of RNA polymerase activity, affecting indirectly the transcription machinery, leading to a rapid depletion of short-lived mRNA, including transcription factors, cell cycle regulators such as CDC25A, and the oncogenes MYC and Src. Overall, the data shed light on the effect of triptolide on transcription, along with its novel potential applications in cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia, which is in part driven by the aforementioned oncogenic factors.
We have exploited the polyamine transport system (PTS) to deliver selectively a spermine-drug conjugate, F14512 to cancer cells. This study was aimed to define F14512 anticancer efficacy against tumor models and to investigate whether fluorophor-labeled polyamine probes could be used to identify tumors expressing a highly active PTS and that might be sensitive to F14512 treatments. Eighteen tumor models were used to assess F14512 antitumor activity. Cellular uptake of spermine-based fluorescent probes was measured by flow cytometry in cells sampled from tumor xenografts by needle biopsy. The accumulation of the fluorescent probe within B16 tumors in vivo was assessed using infrared fluorescence imaging. This study has provided evidence of a major antitumor activity for F14512. Significant responses were obtained in 67% of the tumor models evaluated, with a high level of activity recorded in 33% of the responsive models. Complete tumor regressions were observed after i.v., i.p. or oral administrations of F14512 and its antitumor activity was demonstrated over a range of 2-5 dose levels, providing evidence of its good tolerance. The level of cellular fluorescence emitted by the fluorescent probes was higher in cells sampled from tumors sensitive to F14512 treatments than from F14512-refractory tumors. We suggest that these probes could be used to identify tumors expressing a highly active PTS and guide the selection of patients that might be treated with F14512. These results emphasize the preclinical interest of this novel molecule and support its further clinical development.
The synthesis of a series of conjugated spermine derivatives with benzoxadiazole, phenylxanthene or bodipy fluorophores is described. These fluorescent probes were used to identify the activity of the polyamine transport system (PTS). N(1)-Methylspermine NBD conjugate 5 proved to have the optimal fluorescence characteristics and was used to show a selectivity for PTS-proficient CHO versus PTS-deficient CHO-MG cells. It can therefore be used as a tool for the selection of cells sensitive to cytotoxic compounds vectored through the PTS.
Glycosphingolipids, which are abundant at the surface of melanoma cells, play crucial roles in tumor progression. We investigated whether a newly described glycosphingolipid hydrolase, encoded by the GBA2 gene, can modulate human melanoma cell growth and death. GBA2 expression was quantified on melanoma cells by RT-qPCR. The antiproliferative effects of GBA2 were assessed in tumor cells expressing inducible GBA2 and in established melanoma xenografts. As a control an inducible catalytically inactive GBA2 mutant was generated. Sphingolipid levels were monitored by mass spectrometry; unfolded protein response (UPR) and apoptosis were assessed by Western blot and flow cytometry analyses, respectively. We report that GBA2 is down-regulated in melanoma; inducible expression of GBA2 affects endogenous sphingolipid metabolism by promoting glucosylceramide degradation (decrease by 78%) and ceramide generation; this is followed by a UPR that causes apoptosis, subsequent decreased anchorage-independent cell growth, and reduced in vivo tumor growth (by 40%); and all these events are abrogated when expressing a catalytically inactive GBA2. This study documents for the first time the antitumor activity of GBA2 and provides evidence for the role of nonlysosomal glucosylceramide breakdown as a source of bioactive ceramide and a mechanistic link between glycolipid catabolism and the UPR/death response of melanoma cells.
Metastatic melanoma is the most aggressive skin cancer. Recently, phenotypically distinct subpopulations of tumor cells were identified. Among them, ABCB5-expressing cells were proposed to display an enhanced tumorigenicity with stem cell-like properties. In addition, ABCB5(+) cells are thought to participate to chemoresistance through a potential efflux function of ABCB5. Nevertheless, the fate of these cells upon drugs that are used in melanoma chemotherapy remains to be clarified. Here we explored the effect of anti-melanoma treatments on the ABCB5-expressing cells. Using a melanoma xenograft model (WM266-4), we observed in vivo that ABCB5-expressing cells are enriched after a temozolomide treatment that induces a significant tumor regression. These results were further confirmed in a preliminary study conducted on clinical samples from patients that received dacarbazine. In vitro, we showed that ABCB5-expressing cells selectively survive when exposed to dacarbazine, the reference treatment of metastatic melanoma, but also to vemurafenib, a new inhibitor of the mutated kinase V600E BRAF and other various chemotherapeutic drugs. Our results show that anti-melanoma chemotherapy might participate to the chemoresistance acquisition by selecting tumor cell subpopulations expressing ABCB5. This is of particular importance in understanding the relapses observed after anti-melanoma treatments and reinforces the interest of ABCB5 and ABCB5-expressing cells as potential therapeutic targets in melanoma.
The assessment of anticancer agents to treat leukemia needs to have animal models closer to the human pathology such as implantation in immunodeficient mice of leukemic cells from patient samples. A sensitive and early detection of tumor cells in these orthotopic models is a prerequisite for monitoring engraftment of leukemic cells and their dissemination in mice. Therefore, we developed a fluorescent antibody based strategy to detect leukemic foci in mice bearing patient-derived leukemic cells using fluorescence reflectance imaging (FRI) to determine when to start treatments with novel antitumor agents.
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