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Cancer Res. 2011 Dec 1;71(23):7226-37. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-4660. Epub 2011 Sep 7.

STAT3 is necessary for proliferation and survival in colon cancer-initiating cells.

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Center for Childhood Cancer, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43205, USA.


STAT3 is constitutively activated in colon cancer but its contributions in cancer-initiating cells have not been explored. In this study, we characterized STAT3 in aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)-positive (ALDH(+)) and CD133-positive (CD133(+)) subpopulations of human colon tumor cells that exhibited more potent tumor-initiating ability than ALDH(-)/CD133(-) cells in tumor xenograft assays in mice. We found that ALDH(+)/CD133(+) cells expressed higher levels of the active phosphorylated form of STAT3 than either ALDH(-)/CD133(-) or unfractionated colon cancer cells. STAT3 inhibition by RNA interference-mediated knockdown or small-molecule inhibitors LLL12 or Stattic blocked downstream target gene expression, cell viability, and tumorsphere-forming capacity in cancer-initiating cells. Similarly, treatment of mouse tumor xenografts with STAT3 short hairpin RNA (shRNA), interleukin 6 shRNA, or LLL12 inhibited tumor growth. Our results establish that STAT3 is constitutively activated in colon cancer-initiating cells and that these cells are sensitive to STAT3 inhibition. These findings establish a powerful rationale to develop STAT3 inhibitory strategies for treating advanced colorectal cancers.

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