Therapeutic potential of the metabolic modulator phenformin in targeting the stem cell compartment in melanoma

Tiziana Petrachi, Alessandra Romagnani, Adriana Albini, Caterina Longo, Giuseppe Argenziano, Giulia Grisendi, Massimo Dominici, Alessia Ciarrocchi, Katiuscia Dallaglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Melanoma is the most dangerous and treatment-resistant skin cancer. Tumor resistance and recurrence are due to the persistence in the patient of aggressive cells with stem cell features, the cancer stem cells (CSC). Recent evidences have shown that CSC display a distinct metabolic profile as compared to tumor bulk population: a promising anti-tumor strategy is therefore to target specific metabolic pathways driving CSC behavior. Biguanides (metformin and phenformin) are anti-diabetic drugs able to perturb cellular metabolism and displaying anti-cancer activity. However, their ability to target the CSC compartment in melanoma is not known. Here we show that phenformin, but not metformin, strongly reduces melanoma cell viability, growth and invasion in both 2D and 3D (spheroids) models. While phenformin decreases melanoma CSC markers expression and the levels of the pro-survival factor MITF, MITF overexpression fails to prevent phenformin effects. Phenformin significantly reduces cell viability in melanoma by targeting both CSC (ALDHhigh) and non-CSC cells and by significantly reducing the number of viable cells in ALDHhigh and ALDHlow derived spheroids. Consistently, phenformin reduces melanoma cell viability and growth independently from SOX2 levels. Our results show that phenformin is able to affect both CSC and non-CSC melanoma cell viability and growth and suggests its potential use as anti-cancer therapy in melanoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6914-6928
Number of pages15
JournalOncotarget
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Dec 28 2016

Keywords

  • ALDH
  • Cancer stem cells
  • Melanoma
  • Phenformin
  • Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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