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Cancer Res. 2009 Jul 15;69(14):5829-34. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-3465. Epub 2009 Jun 30.

Preclinical development of a bifunctional cancer cell homing, PKCepsilon inhibitory peptide for the treatment of head and neck cancer.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the sixth most frequent cancer worldwide, comprising approximately 50% of all malignancies in some developing nations. Our recent work identified protein kinase Cepsilon (PKCepsilon) as a critical and causative player in establishing an aggressive phenotype in HNSCC. In this study, we investigated the specificity and efficacy of HN1-PKCepsilon, a novel bifunctional cancer cell homing, PKCepsilon inhibitory peptide, as a treatment for HNSCC. HN1-PKCepsilon peptide was designed by merging two separate technologies and synthesized as a capped peptide with two functional modules, HN1 (cancer cell homing) and PKCepsilon (specific PKCepsilon inhibitory), connected by a novel linker module. HN1-PKCepsilon preferentially internalized into UMSCC1 and UMSCC36 cells, two HNSCC cell lines, in comparison with oral epithelial cells: 82.1% positive for UMSCC1 and 86.5% positive for UMSCC36 compared with 1.2% positive for oral epithelial cells. In addition, HN1-PKCepsilon penetrated HNSCC cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Consistent with these in vitro observations, systemic injection of HN1-PKCepsilon resulted in selective delivery of HN1-PKCepsilon into UMSCC1 xenografts in nude mice. HN1-PKCepsilon blocked the translocation of active PKCepsilon in UMSCC1 cells, confirming HN1-PKCepsilon as a PKCepsilon inhibitor. HN1-PKCepsilon inhibited cell invasion by 72 +/- 2% (P < 0.001, n = 12) and cell motility by 56 +/- 2% (P < 0.001, n = 5) in UMSCC1 cells. Moreover, in vivo bioluminescence imaging showed that HN1-PKCepsilon significantly (83 +/- 1% inhibition; P < 0.02) retards the growth of UMSCC1 xenografts in nude mice. Our work indicates that the bifunctional HN1-PKCepsilon inhibitory peptide represents a promising novel therapeutic strategy for HNSCC.

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