[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The emergence of diseases associated with telomere dysfunction, including AIDS, aplastic anemia and pulmonary fibrosis, has bolstered interest in telomerase activators. We report identification of a new small molecule activator, GRN510, with activity ex vivo and in vivo. Using a novel mouse model, we tested the potential of GRN510 to limit fibrosis induced by bleomycin in mTERT heterozygous mice. Treatment with GRN510 at 10 mg/kg/day activated telomerase 2-4 fold both in hematopoietic progenitors ex vivo and in bone marrow and lung tissue in vivo, respectively. Telomerase activation was countered by co-treatment with Imetelstat (GRN163L), a potent telomerase inhibitor. In this model of bleomycin-induced fibrosis, treatment with GRN510 suppressed the development of fibrosis and accumulation of senescent cells in the lung via a mechanism dependent upon telomerase activation. Treatment of small airway epithelial cells (SAEC) or lung fibroblasts ex vivo with GRN510 revealed telomerase activating and replicative lifespan promoting effects only in the SAEC, suggesting that the mechanism accounting for the protective effects of GRN510 against induced lung fibrosis involves specific types of lung cells. Together, these results support the use of small molecule activators of telomerase in therapies to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(3):e58423. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer recurrence is one of the major setbacks in oncology. Maintaining telomeres is essential for sustaining the limitless replicative potential of such cancers. Because telomerase is thought to be active in all tumor cells and normal stem cells, telomerase inhibition may be nonspecific and have detrimental effects on tissue maintenance and development by affecting normal stem cell self-renewal.
We examined telomerase activity, telomere maintenance, and stem cell maturation in tumor subpopulations from freshly resected gliomas, long-term, primary, neural tumor-initiating cells (TIC) and corresponding normal stem cell lines. We then tested the efficacy of the telomerase inhibitor Imetelstat on propagation and self-renewal capacity of TIC and normal stem cells in vitro and in vivo.
Telomerase was undetectable in the majority of tumor cells and specific to the TIC subpopulation that possessed critically short telomeres. In contrast, normal tissue stem cells had longer telomeres and undetectable telomerase activity and were insensitive to telomerase inhibition, which results in proliferation arrest, cell maturation, and DNA damage in neural TIC. Significant survival benefit and late tumor growth arrest of neuroblastoma TIC were observed in a xenograft model (P = 0.02). Furthermore, neural TIC exhibited irreversible loss of self-renewal and stem cell capabilities even after cessation of treatment in vitro and in vivo.
TIC exhaustion with telomerase inhibition and lack of telomerase dependency in normal stem cells add new dimensions to the telomere hypothesis and suggest that targeting TIC with telomerase inhibitors may represent a specific and safe therapeutic approach for tumors of neural origin.
Clinical Cancer Research 01/2011; 17(1):111-21. · 7.84 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer stem cells (CSC) are rare drug-resistant cancer cell subsets proposed to be responsible for the maintenance and recurrence of cancer and metastasis. Telomerase is constitutively active in both bulk tumor cell and CSC populations but has only limited expression in normal tissues. Thus, inhibition of telomerase has been shown to be a viable approach in controlling cancer growth in nonclinical studies and is currently in phase II clinical trials. In this study, we investigated the effects of imetelstat (GRN163L), a potent telomerase inhibitor, on both the bulk cancer cells and putative CSCs. When breast and pancreatic cancer cell lines were treated with imetelstat in vitro, telomerase activity in the bulk tumor cells and CSC subpopulations were inhibited. Additionally, imetelstat treatment reduced the CSC fractions present in the breast and pancreatic cell lines. In vitro treatment with imetelstat, but not control oligonucleotides, also reduced the proliferation and self-renewal potential of MCF7 mammospheres and resulted in cell death after <4 weeks of treatment. In vitro treatment of PANC1 cells showed reduced tumor engraftment in nude mice, concomitant with a reduction in the CSC levels. Differences between telomerase activity expression levels or telomere length of CSCs and bulk tumor cells in these cell lines did not correlate with the increased sensitivity of CSCs to imetelstat, suggesting a mechanism of action independent of telomere shortening for the effects of imetelstat on the CSC subpopulations. Our results suggest that imetelstat-mediated depletion of CSCs may offer an alternative mechanism by which telomerase inhibition may be exploited for cancer therapy.
Cancer Research 11/2010; 70(22):9494-504. · 8.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plasma cells constitute the majority of tumor cells in multiple myeloma (MM) but lack the potential for sustained clonogenic growth. In contrast, clonotypic B cells can engraft and recapitulate disease in immunodeficient mice suggesting they serve as the MM cancer stem cell (CSC). These tumor initiating B cells also share functional features with normal stem cells such as drug resistance and self-renewal potential. Therefore, the cellular processes that regulate normal stem cells may serve as therapeutic targets in MM. Telomerase activity is required for the maintenance of normal adult stem cells, and we examined the activity of the telomerase inhibitor imetelstat against MM CSC. Moreover, we carried out both long and short-term inhibition studies to examine telomere length-dependent and independent activities.
Human MM CSC were isolated from cell lines and primary clinical specimens and treated with imetelstat, a specific inhibitor of the reverse transcriptase activity of telomerase. Two weeks of exposure to imetelstat resulted in a significant reduction in telomere length and the inhibition of clonogenic MM growth both in vitro and in vivo. In addition to these relatively long-term effects, 72 hours of imetelstat treatment inhibited clonogenic growth that was associated with MM CSC differentiation based on expression of the plasma cell antigen CD138 and the stem cell marker aldehyde dehydrogenase. Short-term treatment of MM CSC also decreased the expression of genes typically expressed by stem cells (OCT3/4, SOX2, NANOG, and BMI1) as revealed by quantitative real-time PCR.
Telomerase activity regulates the clonogenic growth of MM CSC. Moreover, reductions in MM growth following both long and short-term telomerase inhibition suggest that it impacts CSC through telomere length-dependent and independent mechanisms.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Telomerase is one of the key enzymes responsible for the proliferative immortality of the majority of cancer cells. We recently introduced a new telomerase inhibitor, a 13-mer oligonucleotide N3' --> P5'-thio-phosphoramidate lipid conjugate, designated as GRN163L. This compound inhibits telomerase activity in various tumor cell lines with IC(50) values of 3-300 nM without any cellular uptake enhancers. GRN163L demonstrated potent and sequence specific anti-cancer activity in vivo in multiple animal models. This compound was able to significantly affect not only the growth of primary tumors, but also the spread and proliferation of metastases. GRN163L is currently in Phase I and Phase I/II clinical studies in patients with solid tumors and CLL, respectively.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Human telomerase is a reverse transcriptase that is expressed in essentially all cancer cells, but not in the vast majority of normal somatic cells. Therefore, the specific inhibition of telomerase activity in tumors might have significant beneficial therapeutic effects. We have designed and evaluated oligonucleotide N3' --> P5' thio-phosphoramidates as telomerase template antagonists. In biochemical cell-free assays 11-13-mer thio-phosphoramidate oligonucleotides demonstrated sequence specific and dose dependent inhibition of telomerase with pico-molar IC50 values. Optimization of the oligonucleotide sequence and length resulted in the identification of a 13-mer-oligonucleotide thio-phosphoramidate GRN163 as a drug development candidate. In cell cultures GRN163 was able to inhibit telomerase activity in the absence of cationic lipid with approximately 1 microM IC50 values. Telomerase inhibition by GRN163 produced gradual telomere shortening, followed by cellular senescence and/or apoptosis of cancer derived cell lines.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have designed, synthesized, and evaluated using physical, chemical and biochemical assays various oligonucleotide N3'-->P5' phosphoramidates, as potential telomerase inhibitors. Among the prepared compounds were 2'-deoxy, 2'-hydroxy, 2'-methoxy, 2'-ribo-fluoro, and 2'-arabino-fluoro oligonucleotide phosphoramidates, as well as novel N3'-->P5' thio-phosphoramidates. The compounds demonstrated sequence specific and dose dependent activity with IC50 values in the sub-nM to pM concentration range.