Targeting treatment resistant cancer stem cells with FKBPL and its peptide therapeutics

Lana McClements

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


FKBPL and its peptide derivatives have already demonstrated well-established inhibitory effects on cancer growth and CD44-dependent anti-angiogenic activity. Since cancer stem cells (CSCs) are CD44 positive, we wanted to explore if these therapeutics could specifically target CSCs in breast and ovarian cancer. In a tumoursphere assay, FKBPL stable overexpression or FKBPL-based peptide (AD-01, preclinical peptide or ALM201, clinical peptide candidate) treatment were highly effective at reducing the CSC population measured by inhibiting tumoursphere forming efficiency in breast and ovarian cancer cell lines and primary breast cancer samples from both solid breast tumours and pleural effusions. Flow cytometry, to assess the ESA+/CD44+/CD24- and ALDH+ cell subpopulations representative of CSCs, validated these results. The ability of AD-01 and ALM201 to inhibit the self-renewal capacity of CSCs was confirmed across three generations, eradicating CSC completely by the third generation (p<0.001). Furthermore, clonogenic assay demonstrated that FKBPL-based peptides mediated CSC differentiation, with a significant decrease in the number of CSCs or holoclones and an associated increase in differentiated cancer cells or meroclones/paraclones. In addition, AD-01 treatment in vitro and in vivo led to a significant reduction in the stem cell markers, Nanog, Sox2 and Oct4 protein and mRNA levels; whilst transfection of FKBPL-targeted siRNAs led to an increase in these markers and in tumoursphere forming potential, highlighting the endogenous role of FKBPL in stem cell signalling. The clinical relevance of this was confirmed using a publically available microarray data set (GSE7390), where, high FKBPL and low Nanog expression were independently associated with improved overall survival in breast cancer patients (log rank test p=0.03; hazard ratio=3.01). Additionally, when AD-01 was combined with other agents, we observed additive activity with the Notch inhibitor, DAPT and AD-01 was also able to abrogate a chemo- and radiotherapy induced enrichment in CSCs. Importantly, using gold standard in vivo limiting dilution assays we demonstrated a delay in tumour initiation and reoccurrence in AD-01 treated xenografts. In summary, FKBPL-based peptides appear to have dual anti-angiogenic and anti-CSC activity which will be advantageous as this agent enters clinical trial.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014
Event50th Irish Association for Cancer Research Conference 2014 - Galway, Ireland
Duration: 27 Feb 201428 Feb 2014


Conference50th Irish Association for Cancer Research Conference 2014
Abbreviated titleIACR 2014
Internet address


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