[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In 2008 we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, research on this topic has continued to accelerate, and many new scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Accordingly, it is important to update these guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Various reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose. Nevertheless, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes.
For example, a key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers or volume of autophagic elements (e.g., autophagosomes or autolysosomes) at any stage of the autophagic process versus those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway (i.e., the complete process including the amount and rate of cargo sequestered and degraded). In particular, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation must be differentiated from stimuli that increase autophagic activity, defined as increased autophagy induction coupled with increased delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes and some protists such as Dictyostelium) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). In other words, it is especially important that investigators new to the field understand that the appearance of more autophagosomes does not necessarily equate with more autophagy. In fact, in many cases, autophagosomes accumulate because of a block in trafficking to lysosomes without a concomitant change in autophagosome biogenesis, whereas an increase in autolysosomes may reflect a reduction in degradative activity. It is worth emphasizing here that lysosomal digestion is a stage of autophagy and evaluating its competence is a crucial part of the evaluation of autophagic flux, or complete autophagy.
Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of methods for use by investigators who aim to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as for reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to monitor autophagy. Along these lines, because of the potential for pleiotropic effects due to blocking autophagy through genetic manipulation, it is imperative to target by gene knockout or RNA interference more than one autophagy-related protein. In addition, some individual Atg proteins, or groups of proteins, are involved in other cellular pathways implying that not all Atg proteins can be used as a specific marker for an autophagic process. In these guidelines, we consider these various methods of assessing autophagy and what information can, or cannot, be obtained from them. Finally, by discussing the merits and limits of particular assays, we hope to encourage technical innovation in the field.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and antioxidants in cancer is controversial because of their context-dependent ability to promote or suppress tumorigenesis. Piskounova et al. (2015) now show that ROS limit distant metastasis: only cells with increased antioxidant capacity are able to succeed in their purpose to metastasize.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer cells grow in highly complex stromal microenvironments, which through metabolic remodelling, catabolism, autophagy and inflammation nurture them and are able to facilitate metastasis and resistance to therapy. However, these changes in the metabolic profile of stromal cancer-associated fibroblasts and their impact on cancer initiation, progression and metastasis are not well-known. This is the first study to provide a comprehensive proteomic portrait of the azathioprine and taxol-induced catabolic state on human stromal fibroblasts, which comprises changes in the expression of metabolic enzymes, myofibroblastic differentiation markers, antioxidants, proteins involved in autophagy, senescence, vesicle trafficking and protein degradation, and inducers of inflammation. Interestingly, many of these features are major contributors to the aging process. A catabolic stroma signature, generated with proteins found differentially up-regulated in taxol-treated fibroblasts, strikingly correlates with recurrence, metastasis and poor patient survival in several solid malignancies. We therefore suggest the inhibition of the catabolic state in healthy cells as a novel approach to improve current chemotherapy efficacies and possibly avoid future carcinogenic processes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here, we developed an isogenic cell model of "stemness" to facilitate protein biomarker discovery in breast cancer. For this purpose, we used knowledge gained previously from the study of the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV). MMTV initiates mammary tumorigenesis in mice by promoter insertion adjacent to two main integration sites, namely Int-1 (Wnt1) and Int-2 (Fgf3), which ultimately activates Wnt/β-catenin signaling, driving the propagation of mammary cancer stem cells (CSCs). Thus, to develop a humanized model of MMTV signaling, we over-expressed WNT1 and FGF3 in MCF7 cells, an ER(+) human breast cancer cell line. We then validated that MCF7 cells over-expressing both WNT1 and FGF3 show a 3.5-fold increase in mammosphere formation, and that conditioned media from these cells is also sufficient to promote stem cell activity in untransfected parental MCF7 and T47D cells, as WNT1 and FGF3 are secreted factors. Proteomic analysis of this model system revealed the induction of i) EMT markers, ii) mitochondrial proteins, iii) glycolytic enzymes and iv) protein synthesis machinery, consistent with an anabolic CSC phenotype. MitoTracker staining validated the expected WNT1/FGF3-induced increase in mitochondrial mass and activity, which presumably reflects increased mitochondrial biogenesis. Importantly, many of the proteins that were up-regulated by WNT/FGF-signaling in MCF7 cells, were also transcriptionally over-expressed in human breast cancer cells in vivo, based on the bioinformatic analysis of public gene expression datasets of laser-captured patient samples. As such, this isogenic cell model should accelerate the discovery of new biomarkers to predict clinical outcome in breast cancer, facilitating the development of personalized medicine. Finally, we used mitochondrial mass as a surrogate marker for increased mitochondrial biogenesis in untransfected MCF7 cells. As predicted, metabolic fractionation of parental MCF7 cells, via MitoTracker staining, indicated that high mitochondrial mass is a new metabolic biomarker for the enrichment of anabolic CSCs, as functionally assessed by mammosphere-forming activity. This observation has broad implications for understanding the role of mitochondrial biogenesis in the propagation of stem-like cancer cells. Technically, this general metabolic approach could be applied to any cancer type, to identify and target the mitochondrial-rich CSC population. The implications of our work for understanding the role of mitochondrial metabolism in viral oncogenesis driven by random promoter insertions are also discussed, in the context of MMTV and ALV infections.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chemo-resistance is a clinical barrier to more effective anti-cancer therapy. In this context, cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) are thought to be chemo-resistant, resulting in tumor recurrence and distant metastasis. Our hypothesis is that chemo-resistance in CSCs is driven, in part, by enhanced mitochondrial function. Here, we used breast cell lines and metastatic breast cancer patient samples to begin to dissect the role of mitochondrial metabolism in conferring the CSC phenotype. More specifically, we employed fluorescent staining with MitoTracker (MT) to metabolically fractionate these cell lines into mito-high and mito-low sub-populations, by flow-cytometry. Interestingly, cells with high mitochondrial mass (mito-high) were specifically enriched in a number of known CSC markers, such as aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity, and they were ESA+/CD24-/low and formed mammospheres with higher efficiency. Large cell size is another independent characteristic of the stem cell phenotype; here, we observed a >2-fold increase in mitochondrial mass in large cells (>12-μm), relative to the smaller cell population (4-8-μm). Moreover, the mito-high cell population showed a 2.4-fold enrichment in tumor-initiating cell activity, based on limiting dilution assays in murine xenografts. Importantly, primary human breast CSCs isolated from patients with metastatic breast cancer or a patient derived xenograft (PDX) also showed the co-enrichment of ALDH activity and mitochondrial mass. Most significantly, our investigations demonstrated that mito-high cells were resistant to paclitaxel, resulting in little or no DNA damage, as measured using the comet assay. In summary, increased mitochondrial mass in a sub-population of breast cancer cells confers a stem-like phenotype and chemo-resistance. As such, our current findings have important clinical implications for over-coming drug resistance, by therapeutically targeting the mito-high CSC population.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tumor cell metabolic heterogeneity is thought to contribute to tumor recurrence, distant metastasis and chemo-resistance in cancer patients, driving poor clinical outcome. To better understand tumor metabolic heterogeneity, here we used the MCF7 breast cancer line as a model system to metabolically fractionate a cancer cell population. First, MCF7 cells were stably transfected with an hTERT-promoter construct driving GFP expression, as a surrogate marker of telomerase transcriptional activity. To enrich for immortal stem-like cancer cells, MCF7 cells expressing the highest levels of GFP (top 5%) were then isolated by FACS analysis. Notably, hTERT-GFP(+) MCF7 cells were significantly more efficient at forming mammospheres (i.e., stem cell activity) and showed increased mitochondrial mass and mitochondrial functional activity, all relative to hTERT-GFP(-) cells. Unbiased proteomics analysis of hTERT-GFP(+) MCF7 cells directly demonstrated the over-expression of 33 key mitochondrial proteins, 17 glycolytic enzymes, 34 ribosome-related proteins and 17 EMT markers, consistent with an anabolic cancer stem-like phenotype. Interestingly, MT-CO2 (cytochrome c oxidase subunit 2; Complex IV) expression was increased by >20-fold. As MT-CO2 is encoded by mt-DNA, this finding is indicative of increased mitochondrial biogenesis in hTERT-GFP(+) MCF7 cells. Importantly, most of these candidate biomarkers were transcriptionally over-expressed in human breast cancer epithelial cells in vivo. Similar results were obtained using cell size (forward/side scatter) to fractionate MCF7 cells. Larger stem-like cells also showed increased hTERT-GFP levels, as well as increased mitochondrial mass and function. Thus, this simple and rapid approach for the enrichment of immortal anabolic stem-like cancer cells will allow us and others to develop new prognostic biomarkers and novel anti-cancer therapies, by specifically and selectively targeting this metabolic sub-population of aggressive cancer cells. Based on our proteomics and functional analysis, FDA-approved inhibitors of protein synthesis and/or mitochondrial biogenesis, may represent novel treatment options for targeting these anabolic stem-like cancer cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is a small proportion of cells within a tumour with self-renewing properties, which is resistant to conventional therapy, and is responsible for tumour initiation, maintenance and metastasis. These cells are known as cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumour-initiating cells (TICs) . Recent publications identify several antibiotics, such as salinomycin or doxycycline, as selective CSCs inhibitors [2-4]. However, the mechanisms of action of these antibiotics on CSCs are not fully understood.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The pathogenesis of the adrenocortical cancer (ACC) involves integration of molecular signals and the interplay of different downstream pathways (i.e. IGFII/IGF1R, β-catenin, Wnt, ESR1). This tumor is characterized by limited therapeutic options and unsuccessful treatments. A useful strategy to develop an effective therapy for ACC is to identify a common downstream target of these multiple pathways. A good candidate could be the transcription factor estrogen-related receptor alpha (ERRα) because of its ability to regulate energy metabolism, mitochondrial biogenesis and signalings related to cancer progression. In this study we tested the effect of ERRα inverse agonist, XCT790, on the proliferation of H295R adrenocortical cancer cell line. Results from in vitro and in vivo experiments showed that XCT790 reduced H295R cell growth. The inhibitory effect was associated with impaired cell cycle progression which was not followed by any apoptotic event. Instead, incomplete autophagy and cell death by necrotic processes, as a consequence of the cell energy failure, induced by pharmacological reduction of ERRα was evidenced. Our results indicate that therapeutic strategies targeting key factors such as ERRα that control the activity and signaling of bioenergetics processes in high-energy demanding tumors could represent an innovative/alternative therapy for the treatment of ACC.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Macrophages are a major cellular constituent of the tumour stroma and contribute to breast cancer prognosis. The precise role and treatment strategies to target macrophages remain elusive. As macrophage infiltration is associated with poor prognosis and high grade tumours we used the THP-1 cell line to model monocyte-macrophage differentiation in co-culture with four breast cancer cell lines (MCF7, T47D, MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-468) to model in vivo cellular interactions. Polarisation into M1 and M2 subtypes was confirmed by specific cell marker expression of ROS and HLA-DR, respectively. Co-culture with all types of macrophage increased migration of ER-positive breast cancer cell lines, while M2-macrophages increased mammosphere formation, compared to M1-macrophages, in all breast cancer cells lines. Treatment of cells with Zoledronate in co-culture reduced the “pro-tumourigenic” effects (increased mammospheres/migration) exerted by macrophages. Direct treatment of breast cancer cells in homotypic culture was unable to reduce migration or mammosphere formation.
Macrophages promote “pro-tumourigenic” cellular characteristics of breast cancer cell migration and stem cell activity. Zoledronate targets macrophages within the microenvironment which in turn, reduces the “pro-tumourigenic” characteristics of breast cancer cells. Zoledronate offers an exciting new treatment strategy for both primary and metastatic breast cancer.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer cells recruit normal cells such as fibroblasts to establish reactive microenvironments. Via metabolic stress, catabolism and inflammation, these cancer-associated fibroblasts set up a synergistic relationship with tumour cells, that contributes to their malignancy and resistance to therapy. Given that chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, the possibility that healthy cell damage affects the metastatic risk or the prospect of developing a second malignancy becomes relevant. Here, we demonstrate standard chemotherapies phenotypically and metabolically transform stromal fibroblasts into cancer-associated fibroblasts, leading to the emergence of a highly glycolytic, autophagic and pro-inflammatory microenvironment. This catabolic microenvironment, in turn, activates stemness (Sonic hedgehog (Shh)/GLI signalling), the antioxidant response and interferon-mediated signalling, in adjacent breast cancer cells. Thus, we propose a model by which chemotherapy-induced catabolism in healthy fibroblasts constitutes a source of energy-rich nutrients and inflammatory cytokines that would activate stemness in adjacent epithelial cells, possibly triggering new tumorigenic processes. In this context, immune cell recruitment would be also stimulated to further support malignancy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been over 20 years since the discovery that caveolar lipid rafts function as signalling organelles. Lipid rafts create plasma membrane heterogeneity, and caveolae are the most extensively studied subset of lipid rafts. A newly emerging paradigm is that changes in caveolae also generate tumour metabolic heterogeneity. Altered caveolae create a catabolic tumour microenvironment, which supports oxidative mitochondrial metabolism in cancer cells and which contributes to dismal survival rates for cancer patients. In this Review, we discuss the role of caveolae in tumour progression, with a special emphasis on their metabolic and cell signalling effects, and their capacity to transform the tumour microenvironment.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Nature Reviews Cancer
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have used an unbiased proteomic profiling strategy to identify new potential therapeutic targets in tumor-initiating cells (TICs), a.k.a., cancer stem cells (CSCs). Towards this end, the proteomes of mammospheres from two breast cancer cell lines were directly compared to attached monolayer cells. This allowed us to identify proteins that were highly over-expressed in CSCs and/or progenitor cells. We focused on ribosomal proteins and protein folding chaperones, since they were markedly over-expressed in mammospheres. Overall, we identified >80 molecules specifically associated with protein synthesis that were commonly upregulated in mammospheres. Most of these proteins were also transcriptionally upregulated in human breast cancer cells in vivo, providing evidence for their potential clinical relevance. As such, increased mRNA translation could provide a novel mechanism for enhancing the proliferative clonal expansion of TICs. The proteomic findings were functionally validated using known inhibitors of protein synthesis, via three independent approaches. For example, puromycin (which mimics the structure of tRNAs and competitively inhibits protein synthesis) preferentially targeted CSCs in both mammospheres and monolayer cultures, and was ~10-fold more potent for eradicating TICs, than "bulk" cancer cells. In addition, rapamycin, which inhibits mTOR and hence protein synthesis, was very effective at reducing mammosphere formation, at nanomolar concentrations. Finally, mammosphere formation was also markedly inhibited by methionine restriction, which mimics the positive effects of caloric restriction in cultured cells. Remarkably, mammosphere formation was >18-fold more sensitive to methionine restriction and replacement, as directly compared to monolayer cell proliferation. Methionine is absolutely required for protein synthesis, since every protein sequence starts with a methionine residue. Thus, the proliferation and survival of CSCs is very sensitive to the inhibition of protein synthesis, using multiple independent approaches. Our findings have important clinical implications, since they may also explain the positive therapeutic effects of PI3-kinase inhibitors and AKT inhibitors, as they ultimately converge on mTOR signaling and would block protein synthesis. We conclude that inhibition of mRNA translation by pharmacological or protein/methionine restriction may be effective strategies for eliminating TICs. Our data also indicate a novel mechanism by which caloric/protein restriction may reduce tumor growth, by targeting protein synthesis in anabolic tumor-initiating cancer cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here, we used quantitative proteomics analysis to identify novel therapeutic targets in cancer stem cells and/or progenitor cells. For this purpose, mammospheres from two ER-positive breast cancer cell lines (MCF7 and T47D) were grown in suspension using low-attachment plates and directly compared to attached monolayer cells grown in parallel. This allowed us to identify a subset of proteins that were selectively over-expressed in mammospheres, relative to epithelial monolayers. We focused on mitochondrial proteins, as they appeared to be highly upregulated in both MCF7 and T47D mammospheres. Key mitochondrial-related enzymes involved in beta-oxidation and ketone metabolism were significantly upregulated in mammospheres, as well as proteins involved in mitochondrial biogenesis, and specific protein inhibitors of autophagy/mitophagy. Overall, we identified >40 "metabolic targets" that were commonly upregulated in both MCF7 and T47D mammospheres. Most of these "metabolic targets" were also transcriptionally upregulated in human breast cancer cells in vivo, validating their clinical relevance. Based on this analysis, we propose that increased mitochondrial biogenesis and decreased mitochondrial degradation could provide a novel mechanism for the accumulation of mitochondrial mass in cancer stem cells. To functionally validate our observations, we utilized a specific MCT1/2 inhibitor (AR-C155858), which blocks the cellular uptake of two types of mitochondrial fuels, namely ketone bodies and L-lactate. Our results indicate that inhibition of MCT1/2 function effectively reduces mammosphere formation, with an IC-50 of ~1 µM, in both ER-positive and ER-negative breast cancer cell lines. Very similar results were obtained with oligomycin A, an inhibitor of the mitochondrial ATP synthase. Thus, the proliferative clonal expansion of cancer stem cells appears to require oxidative mitochondrial metabolism, related to the re-use of monocarboxylic acids, such as ketones or L-lactate. Our findings have important clinical implications for exploiting mitochondrial metabolism to eradicate cancer stem cells and to prevent recurrence, metastasis and drug resistance in cancer patients. Importantly, a related MCT1/2 inhibitor (AZD3965) is currently in phase I clinical trials in patients with advanced cancers: http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01791595.