Overcoming Wnt-β-catenin dependent anticancer therapy resistance in leukaemia stem cells.
Leukaemia stem cells (LSCs) underlie cancer therapy resistance but targeting these cells remains difficult. The Wnt-β-catenin and PI3K-Akt pathways cooperate to promote tumorigenesis and resistance to therapy. In a mouse model in which both pathways are activated in stem and progenitor cells, LSCs expanded under chemotherapy-induced stress. Since Akt can activate β-catenin, inhibiting this interaction might target therapy-resistant LSCs. High-throughput screening identified doxorubicin (DXR) as an inhibitor of the Akt-β-catenin interaction at low doses. Here we repurposed DXR as a targeted inhibitor rather than a broadly cytotoxic chemotherapy. Targeted DXR reduced Akt-activated β-catenin levels in chemoresistant LSCs and reduced LSC tumorigenic activity. Mechanistically, β-catenin binds multiple immune-checkpoint gene loci, and targeted DXR treatment inhibited expression of multiple immune checkpoints specifically in LSCs, including PD-L1, TIM3 and CD24. Overall, LSCs exhibit distinct properties of immune resistance that are reduced by inhibiting Akt-activated β-catenin. These findings suggest a strategy for overcoming cancer therapy resistance and immune escape.
Nature cell biology
Perry JM, Tao F, Roy A, et al. Overcoming Wnt-β-catenin dependent anticancer therapy resistance in leukaemia stem cells. Nat Cell Biol. 2020;22(6):689-700. doi:10.1038/s41556-020-0507-y