Background: Doublecortin-like kinase 1 (DCLK1) is emerging as a tumor specific stem cell marker in colorectal and pancreatic cancer. Previous in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of inhibiting DCLK1 with small interfering RNA (siRNA) as well as genetically targeting the DCLK1+ cell for deletion. However, the effects of inhibiting DCLK1 kinase activity have not been studied directly. Therefore, we assessed the effects of inhibiting DCLK1 kinase activity using the novel small molecule kinase inhibitor, LRRK2-IN-1, which demonstrates significant affinity for DCLK1.
Results: Here we report that LRRK2-IN-1 demonstrates potent anti-cancer activity including inhibition of cancer cell proliferation, migration, and invasion as well as induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Additionally we found that it regulates stemness, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and oncogenic targets on the molecular level. Moreover, we show that LRRK2-IN-1 suppresses DCLK1 kinase activity and downstream DCLK1 effector c-MYC, and demonstrate that DCLK1 kinase activity is a significant factor in resistance to LRRK2-IN-1.
Conclusions: Given DCLK1's tumor stem cell marker status, a strong understanding of its biological role and interactions in gastrointestinal tumors may lead to discoveries that improve patient outcomes. The results of this study suggest that small molecule inhibitors of DCLK1 kinase should be further investigated as they may hold promise as anti-tumor stem cell drugs.