Expression of CD44 in glioma cells was previously correlated with tumor grade and is considered a stem cell marker. CD44 stabilizes the cystine-glutamate transporter (xCT) and inhibits apoptosis in cancer stem cells (CSCs). Recently it was found that Sulfasalazine (SSZ), an anti-inflammatory drug, acts as an inhibitor of xCT and therefore has potential as a targeted therapy for CSCs. In this study, we tested an efficacy of SSZ against glioma stem cell model developed in rats. As poor penetration of blood-brain barrier resulted in insufficient efficacy of systemic SSZ treatment, SSZ was delivered locally with convection-enhanced delivery (CED). In vitro, expression of CD44 in glioma cells and efficacy of SSZ against glioma cells and glioma stem cells were confirmed. SSZ demonstrated anti-proliferative activity in a dose dependent manner against these cells. This activity was partially reversible with the addition of antioxidant, N-acetyl-L-cysteine, to the medium. In vivo, CED successfully delivered SSZ into the rat brain parenchyma. When delivered at 5 mM concentration, which was the highest possible concentration when SSZ was dissolved in water, CED of SSZ resulted in almost no tissue damage. Against highly malignant bRiTs-G3 brain tumor xenografted rat model; the glioma stem cell model, CED of SSZ at 5 mM concentration induced apoptosis and prolonged survival. Consequently, CED of SSZ induced glioma stem cell death without evidence of tissue damage to normal brain parenchyma. This strategy may be a promising targeted treatment against glioma stem cells.
Keywords: Cancer stem cell; Convection-enhanced delivery; Drug delivery; Malignant glioma; Sulfasalazine.