Hedgehog Signals Mediate Anti-Cancer Drug Resistance in Three-Dimensional Primary Colorectal Cancer Organoid Culture

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Apr 6;19(4):1098. doi: 10.3390/ijms19041098.


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer death worldwide. In patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, combination treatment with several anti-cancer drugs is employed and improves overall survival in some patients. Nevertheless, most patients with metastatic disease are not cured owing to the drug resistance. Cancer stem cells are known to regulate resistance to chemotherapy. In the previous study, we established a novel three-dimensional organoid culture model from tumor colorectal tissues of human patients using an air-liquid interface (ALI) method, which contained numerous cancer stem cells and showed resistance to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and Irinotecan. Here, we investigate which inhibitor for stem cell-related signal improves the sensitivity for anti-cancer drug treatment in tumor ALI organoids. Treatment with Hedgehog signal inhibitors (AY9944, GANT61) decreases the cell viability of organoids compared with Notch (YO-01027, DAPT) and Wnt (WAV939, Wnt-C59) signal inhibitors. Combination treatment of AY9944 or GANT61 with 5-FU, Irinotecan or Oxaliplatin decreases the cell viability of tumor organoids compared with each anti-cancer drug alone treatment. Treatment with AY9944 or GANT61 inhibits expression of stem cell markers c-Myc, CD44 and Nanog, likely through the decrease of their transcription factor, GLI-1 expression. Combination treatment of AY9944 or GANT61 with 5-FU or Irinotecan also prevents colony formation of colorectal cancer cell lines HCT116 and SW480. These findings suggest that Hedgehog signals mediate anti-cancer drug resistance in colorectal tumor patient-derived ALI organoids and that the inhibitors are useful as a combinational therapeutic strategy against colorectal cancer.

Keywords: Hedgehog signal; chemoresistance; colorectal cancer; organoid; stem cell.

MeSH terms

  • Camptothecin / analogs & derivatives
  • Camptothecin / pharmacology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Hedgehog Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / genetics
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism
  • Irinotecan
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Organoids / drug effects*
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / pharmacology
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1 / genetics
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1 / metabolism
  • trans-1,4-Bis(2-chlorobenzaminomethyl)cyclohexane Dihydrochloride / pharmacology


  • GANT 61
  • GLI1 protein, human
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Pyridines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1
  • Oxaliplatin
  • trans-1,4-Bis(2-chlorobenzaminomethyl)cyclohexane Dihydrochloride
  • Irinotecan
  • Fluorouracil
  • Camptothecin