The nearly universal recurrence of glioblastoma (GBM) is driven in part by a treatment-resistant subpopulation of GBM stem cells (GSC). To identify improved therapeutic possibilities, we combined the EGFR/HER2 inhibitor lapatinib with a novel small molecule, CBL0137, which inhibits FACT (facilitates chromatin transcription), a histone chaperone complex predominantly expressed in undifferentiated cells. Lapatinib and CBL0137 synergistically inhibited the proliferation of patient-derived GBM cells. Compared with non-stem tumor cells (NSTC) enriched from the same specimens, the GSCs were extremely sensitive to CBL0137 monotherapy or FACT knockdown. FACT expression was elevated in GSCs compared with matched NSTCs and decreased in GSCs upon differentiation. Acute exposure of GSCs to CBL0137 increased asymmetric cell division, decreased GSC marker expression, and decreased the capacity of GSCs to form tumor spheres in vitro and to initiate tumors in vivo Oral administration of CBL0137 to mice bearing orthotopic GBM prolonged their survival. Knockdown of FACT reduced the expression of genes encoding several core stem cell transcription factors (SOX2, OCT4, NANOG, and OLIG2), and FACT occupied the promoters of these genes. FACT expression was elevated in GBM tumors compared with non-neoplastic brain tissues, portended a worse prognosis, and positively correlated with GSC markers and stem cell gene expression signatures. Preferential targeting of GSCs by CBL0137 and synergy with EGFR inhibitors support the development of clinical trials combining these two agents in GBM. Cancer Res; 76(8); 2432-42. ©2016 AACR.
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.