Despite recent success in melanoma therapy, most patients with metastatic disease still undergo deadly progression. We have identified a novel mechanism of multidrug resistance allowing a small subpopulation of slow-cycling melanoma cells to survive based on elevated oxidative bioenergy metabolism. In this study, we asked whether such slow-cycling cells could be eliminated by co-treatment with the copper-chelator elesclomol. Elesclomol-copper complexes can cause oxidative stress by disruption of the mitochondrial respiration chain or by indirect non-mitochondrial induction of reactive oxygen species. We have found that elesclomol effectively kills the slow-cycling subpopulation and prevents the selective enrichment for slow-cycling cells, which usually results after monotreatment. We hypothesize that elesclomol could overcome the multidrug resistance of slow-cycling melanoma cells and prevent tumor repopulation in melanoma patients in future.
Keywords: melanoma; mitochondria; reactive oxygen species; therapy resistance; tumor heterogeneity.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.