Background: Proteins involved in the aberrant regulation of signaling pathways and their downstream effectors are promising targets for cancer therapy. Survivin is an anti-apoptotic and cell cycle-promoting protein, which is consistently overexpressed in cancer cells. In normal cells, its expression is tightly controlled by signaling pathways and their associated transcriptional activators and repressors. In cancer cells, its expression is enhanced as a consequence of oncogenic signaling. We investigated the potential of a novel, peptide-based survivin inhibitor in breast cancer (SK-BR-3, MDA-MB-468) and glioblastoma (Tu9648) cells. These cells express high levels of survivin.
Materials and methods: We downregulated survivin expression in tumor cells with a lentiviral gene transfer vector encoding a specific shRNA and a recombinant fusion protein, rSip, comprising the FTH1-derived survivin interaction domain, the human thioredoxin and a protein transduction domain.
Results: Downregulation of survivin expression decreased the growth and viability of tumor cells in culture and reduced growth of the cancer cells upon transplantation into immunodeficient mice. rSip selectively targets the anti-apoptotic function of survivin and causes tumor cell death. Non-transformed NIH/3T3 and MCF10A cells remain unaffected.
Conclusions: rSip provides a lead structure for the development of drugs targeting the tumor cell "addiction protein" survivin.