Targeting cancer stem-like cells as an approach to defeating cellular heterogeneity in Ewing sarcoma.

Sandrine Cornaz-Buros, Nicolo Riggi, Claudio DeVito, Alexandre Sarre, Igor Letovanec, Paolo Provero, Ivan Stamenkovic
Cancer research2014
Plasticity in cancer stem-like cells (CSC) may provide a key basis for cancer heterogeneity and therapeutic response. In this study, we assessed the effect of combining a drug that abrogates CSC properties with standard-of-care therapy in a Ewing sarcoma family tumor (ESFT). Emergence of CSC in this setting has been shown to arise from a defect in TARBP2-dependent microRNA maturation, which can be corrected by exposure to the fluoroquinolone enoxacin. In the present work, primary ESFT from four patients containing CD133(+) CSC subpopulations ranging from 3% to 17% of total tumor cells were subjected to treatment with enoxacin, doxorubicin, or both drugs. Primary ESFT CSC and bulk tumor cells displayed divergent responses to standard-of-care chemotherapy and enoxacin. Doxorubicin, which targets the tumor bulk, displayed toxicity toward primary adherent ESFT cells in culture but not to CSC-enriched ESFT spheres. Conversely, enoxacin, which enhances miRNA maturation by stimulating TARBP2 function, induced apoptosis but only in ESFT spheres. In combination, the two drugs markedly depleted CSCs and strongly reduced primary ESFTs in xenograft assays. Our results identify a potentially attractive therapeutic strategy for ESFT that combines mechanism-based targeting of CSC using a low-toxicity antibiotic with a standard-of-care cytotoxic drug, offering immediate applications for clinical evaluation.
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