Liver cancer has no effective therapies, hence a poor survival. Cancer stem-like cells not only contribute to cancer initiation and progression, but also to drug resistance, cancer metastasis, and eventually treatment failure. Hence, any approaches that can effectively kill cancer stem-like cells hold a great potential for cancer treatment. CD133 is a robust marker for liver cancer stem-like cells. We developed a specific aptamer against CD133 (CD133-apt), and then loaded this aptamer with an anticancer drug doxorubicin (CD133-apt-Dox). The efficacy of CD133-apt-Dox in targeting liver cancer stem-like cells and its overall effect in treating liver cancer were investigated using multiple in vitro and in vivo studies including in patients-derived liver cancer organoids. We have observed that CD133-apt could preferably delivered doxorubicin to CD133-expressing cells with efficient drug accumulation and retention. CD133-apt-Dox impaired the self-renewal capacity of liver cancer stem-like cells and attenuated their stem-ness phenotypes in vitro or in vivo. CD133-apt-Dox significantly inhibited the growth of liver cancer cells and patients-derived organoids and reduced the growth of xenograft tumours in nude mice inhibited the growth of DEN-induced liver cancer in immunocompetent mice. Hence, aptamer-mediated targeting of CD133 is a highly promising approach for liver cancer therapy.
Keywords: Aptamer; CD133; Cancer stem-like cells; Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); Therapeutic targeting.
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