An ABCG2 non-substrate anticancer agent FL118 targets drug-resistant cancer stem-like cells and overcomes treatment resistance of human pancreatic cancer

J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2018 Oct 3;37(1):240. doi: 10.1186/s13046-018-0899-8.


Background: Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease with a very low 5-year patient survival rate of 6-8%. The major challenges of eliminating pancreatic cancer are treatment resistance and stromal barriers to optimal drug access within the tumor. Therefore, effective molecular targeting drugs with high intra-tumor access and retention are urgently needed for managing this devastating disease in the clinic.

Methods: This study has used the following in vitro and in vivo techniques for the investigation of exceptional anticancer drug FL118's efficacy in treatment of resistant pancreatic cancer: cell culture; immunoblotting analysis to test protein expression; DNA sub-G1 flow cytometry analyses to test cell death; MTT assay to test cell viability; pancreatic cancer stem cell assays (fluorescence microscopy tracing; matrigel assay; CD44-positive cell colony formation assay); human luciferase-labeled pancreatic tumor orthotopic animal model in vivo imaging; pancreatic cancer patient-derived xenograft (PDX) animal models; and toxicology studies with immune-competent BALB/cj mice and beagle dogs.

Results: Our studies found that FL118 alone preferentially killed cisplatin-resistant cancer cells, while a combination of FL118 with cisplatin synergistically killed resistant pancreatic cancer cells and reduced spheroid formation of treatment-resistant pancreatic cancer stem-like cells. Furthermore, using in vivo-imaging, we found that FL118 in combination with cisplatin strongly inhibited both drug-resistant pancreatic xenograft tumor growth and metastasis. In PDX model, we demonstrated that FL118 alone effectively eliminated PDX tumors, while FL118 in combination with gemcitabine eliminated PDX tumors that showed relative resistance (less sensitivity) to treatment with FL118. These FL118 efficacy results are consistent with our molecular-targeting data showing that FL118 inhibited the expression of multiple antiapoptotic proteins (survivin, Mcl-1, XIAP, cIAP2) and ERCC6, a critical regulator of DNA repair, in treatment-resistant pancreatic stem-like cancer cells. Furthermore, FL118 toxicity studies in BALB/cj mice and beagle dogs indicated that FL118 exhibits favorable hematopoietic and biochemical toxicities.

Conclusion: Together, our studies suggest that FL118 is a promising anticancer drug for further clinical development to effectively treat drug-resistant pancreatic cancer alone or in combination with other pancreatic cancer chemotherapeutic drugs.

Keywords: FL118; Human pancreatic cancer patient-derived xenograft (PDX) animal models; Orthotopic pancreatic cancer model; Stem-like cancer cells; Survivin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzodioxoles / pharmacology
  • Benzodioxoles / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indolizines / pharmacology
  • Indolizines / therapeutic use*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology


  • 7-ethyl-7-hydroxy-10H-1,3-Dioxolo(4,5-g)pyrano(3',4':6,7)indolizino(1,2-b)quinoline-8,11(7H,12H)-dione
  • Benzodioxoles
  • Indolizines