Research ArticleCANCER

WNT antagonists exhibit unique combinatorial antitumor activity with taxanes by potentiating mitotic cell death

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Science Advances  21 Jun 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 6, e1700090
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700090

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Abstract

The WNT pathway mediates intercellular signaling that regulates cell fate in both normal development and cancer. It is widely appreciated that the WNT pathway is frequently dysregulated in human cancers through a variety of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Targets in the WNT pathway are being extensively pursued for the development of new anticancer therapies, and we have advanced two WNT antagonists for clinical development: vantictumab (anti-FZD) and ipafricept (FZD8-Fc). We examined the antitumor efficacy of these WNT antagonists in combination with various chemotherapies in a large set of patient-derived xenograft models. In responsive models, WNT blockade led to profound synergy with taxanes such as paclitaxel, and the combination activity with taxanes was consistently more effective than with other classes of chemotherapy. Taxane monotherapy increased the frequency of cells with active WNT signaling. This selection of WNT-active chemotherapy-resistant tumorigenic cells was prevented by WNT-antagonizing biologics and required sequential dosing of the WNT antagonist followed by the taxane. The WNT antagonists potentiated paclitaxel-mediated mitotic blockade and promoted widespread mitotic cell death. By blocking WNT/β-catenin signaling before mitotic blockade by paclitaxel, we found that this treatment effectively sensitizes cancer stem cells to taxanes. This combination strategy and treatment regimen has been incorporated into ongoing clinical testing for vantictumab and ipafricept.

Keywords
  • WNT antagonism
  • taxane resistance
  • Cancer stem cells
  • mitotic catastrophe
  • Ovarian cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • drug resistance pathways
  • drug combination strategies
  • chemotherapy resistance

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