The obesity hormone leptin has been implicated in the development and progression of different cancer types, and preclinical studies suggest that targeting leptin signaling could be a new therapeutic option for the treatment of cancer, especially in obese patients. To inhibit pro-neoplastic leptin activity, we developed leptin receptor (ObR) peptide antagonists capable of blocking leptin effects in vitro and in vivo. Our lead compound (Allo-aca), however, crosses the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), inducing undesirable orexigenic effects and consequent weight gain. Thus, redesigning Allo-aca to uncouple its central and peripheral activities should produce a superior compound for cancer treatment. The aim of this study was to generate novel Allo-aca analogs and test their biodistribution in vivo and anti-neoplastic activity in vitro in breast and colorectal cancer cells. Examination of several Allo-aca analogs resulted in the identification of the peptidomimetic, d-Ser, that distributed only in the periphery of experimental animals. d-Ser inhibited leptin-dependent-proliferation of ObR-positive breast and colorectal cancer cells in vitro at 1nM concentration without exhibiting any partial agonistic activity. d-Ser efficacy was demonstrated in monolayer and three-dimensional cultures, and its antiproliferative action was associated with the inhibition of several leptin-induced pathways, including JAK/STAT3, MAPK/ERK1/2 and PI3K/AKT, cyclin D1, and E-cadherin. In conclusion, d-Ser is the first leptin-based peptidomimetic featuring peripheral ObR antagonistic activity. The novel peptide may serve as a prototype to develop new therapeutics, particularly for the management of obesity-related cancers.
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