Despite new agent development and short-term benefits in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC), metastatic CRC cure rates have not improved due to high rates of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)/leucovorin/oxaliplatin (FOLFOX)-resistance and a clinical therapeutic plateau. At the same time, this treatment regime leads to significant toxicity, cost, and patient inconvenience. Drug-resistance is linked to CRC stem cells, which are associated with the epidermal-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) pathway. Thus, to optimally treat CRC, a therapy that can target the cell survival and EMT pathways in both CRC bulk and stem cell populations is critical. We recently identified a novel small molecule NSC30049 (7a) that is effective alone, and in combination potentiates 5-FU-mediated growth inhibition of CRC bulk, FOLFOX-resistant, and CRC stem cells both in vitro and in vivo models. In the present study, we report the synthesis and anti-CRC evaluation of several stable and effective 7a analogs. ASR352 (7b) was identified as one of the equipotent 7a analogs that inhibited the growth of CRC bulk cells, sensitized FOLFOX-resistant cells, and reduced the sphere formation capacity of CRC stem cells. It appears that the complex mechanism of cytotoxicity for 7b includes abrogation of 5-FU-induced the S phase, reduction of the phosphorylation of Chk1 at S317P, S345P and S296P, increased γH2AX staining, activation of caspase 3/PARP1 cleavage, and enhancement of Bax/Bcl2 ratio. Further 7b-mediated reduced phosphorylation of Chk1 was an indirect effect, since it did not inhibit Chk1 activity in an in vitro kinase assay. Our findings suggest that 7b as a single agent, or in combination with 5-FU can be developed as a therapeutic agent in CRC bulk, FOLFOX-resistant, and CRC stem cell populations for unmanageable metastatic CRC conditions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Drug Discovery
- Organic Chemistry