Selective targeting of human colon cancer stem-like cells by the mTOR inhibitor Torin-1
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Maria Giovanna Francipane1,2 and Eric Lagasse1
1 McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
2 RiMed Foundation, Palermo, Italy.
Eric Lagasse, email:
Keywords: colorectal cancer; cancer stem cells; mTOR; apoptosis.
Received: August 21, 2013 Accepted: September 17, 2013 Published: September 19, 2013
Metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC) is incurable for most patients. Since mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) has been suggested as a crucial modulator of tumor biology, we aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of mTOR targeting for CRC therapy. To this purpose, we analyzed mTOR expression and the effect of mTOR inhibition in cancer stem-like cells isolated from three human metastatic CRCs (CoCSCs).
CoCSCs exhibited a strong mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2) expression, and a rare expression of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1). This latter correlated with differentiation, being expressed in CoCSC-derived xenografts. We indicate Serum/glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1 (SGK1) as the possible main mTORC2 effector in CoCSCs, as highlighted by the negative effect on cancer properties following its knockdown. mTOR inhibitors affected CoCSCs differently, resulting in proliferation, autophagy as well as apoptosis induction. The apoptosis-inducing mTOR inhibitor Torin-1 hindered growth, motility, invasion, and survival of CoCSCs in vitro, and suppressed tumor growth in vivo with a concomitant reduction in vessel formation. Torin-1 also affected the expression of markers for cell proliferation, angio-/lympho-genesis, and stemness in vivo, including Ki67, DLL1, DLL4, Notch, Lgr5, and CD44. Importantly, Torin-1 did not affect the survival of normal colon stem cells in vivo, suggesting its selectivity towards cancer cells. Thus, we propose Torin-1 as a powerful drug candidate for metastatic CRC therapy.
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