Cell death & disease

Identification of thiostrepton as a novel therapeutic agent that targets human colon cancer stem cells.

PMID 26136074


Accumulating evidence shows that colorectal cancer stem cells (CRSCs) are largely responsible for the metastasis and relapse of colorectal cancer (CRC) after therapy. Hence, identifying new agents that specifically target CRSCs would help improve the effectiveness of current CRC therapies. To accelerate identification of agents targeting CRSCs, the Connectivity Map (CMap) approach was used. Among the top-ranked candidates, thiostrepton, a thiazole antibiotic, was selected for further investigation because of its known tumoricidal activity. Thiostrepton could selectively induce apoptosis in CRSC subpopulations in both parental HCT-15 and HT-29 human CRC lines as well as in EMT and chemoresistant clones derived from them. Further, we investigated its inhibitory effects on the sphere- and colony-forming capabilities of the aforementioned CRC lines. The in vitro inhibition of sphere and colony formation was associated with downregulation of various modulators of the stem cell phenotype. The combination of thiostrepton and oxaliplatin eradicated both CD44(+) HCT-15 and HT-29 cells more efficiently than either drug alone. FoxM1, an oncogenic transcription factor, was identified as a critical positive modulator of stemness and as the main target of thiostrepton in the CRC lines. This is the first report showing the selective killing of CRSCs by thiostrepton, which has been proposed to be a promising anti-neoplastic agent. On the basis of its synergism with oxaliplatin in killing CRSCs in vitro, if this activity is confirmed in vivo, thiostrepton may be a promising agent to be used clinically in combination with current chemotherapies to improve the efficacy of these regimens.