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Mol Cancer Ther. 2011 Oct;10(10):1829-38. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-11-0206. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

Targeting tumor-initiating cancer cells with dCD133KDEL shows impressive tumor reductions in a xenotransplant model of human head and neck cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, MMC: 367, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


A novel anticancer agent was constructed by fusing a gene encoding the scFV that targets both glycosylated and unglycosylated forms of CD133 to a gene fragment encoding deimmunized PE38KDEL. The resulting fusion protein, dCD133KDEL, was studied to determine its ability to bind and kill tumor-initiating cells in vitro and in vivo. The anti-CD133 scFV selectively bound HEK293 cells transfected with the CD133 receptor gene. Time course viability studies showed that dCD133KDEL selectively inhibited NA-SCC and UMSCC-11B, 2 head and neck squamous cell carcinomas that contain a CD133 expressing subpopulation. Importantly, the drug did not inhibit the viability of hematopoietic lineages measured by long-term culture-initiating cell and colony-forming assays from sorted human CD34+ progenitor cells. In addition to in vitro studies, in vivo tumor initiation experiments confirmed that CD133-sorted cells implanted into the flanks of nude mice grew faster and larger than unsorted cells. In contrast, cells that were pretreated with dCD133KDEL before implantation showed the slowest and lowest incidence of tumors. Furthermore, UMSCC-11B-luc tumors treated with multiple intratumoral injections of dCD133KDEL showed marked growth inhibition, leading to complete degradation of the tumors that was not observed with an irrelevant control-targeted toxin. Experiments in immunocompetent mice showed that toxin deimmunization resulted in a 90% reduction in circulating antitoxin levels. These studies show that dCD133KDEL is a novel anticancer agent effective at inhibiting cell proliferation, tumor initiation, and eliminating established tumors by targeting the CD133 subpopulation. This agent shows significant promise for potential development as a clinically useful therapy.

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