Rapalink-1 Targets Glioblastoma Stem Cells and Acts Synergistically with Tumor Treating Fields to Reduce Resistance against Temozolomide

Cancers (Basel). 2020 Dec 21;12(12):3859. doi: 10.3390/cancers12123859.


Glioblastoma (GBM) is a lethal disease with limited clinical treatment options available. Recently, a new inhibitor targeting the prominent cancer signaling pathway mTOR was discovered (Rapalink-1), but its therapeutic potential on stem cell populations of GBM is unknown. We applied a collection of physiological relevant organoid-like stem cell models of GBM and studied the effect of RL1 exposure on various cellular features as well as on the expression of mTOR signaling targets and stem cell molecules. We also undertook combination treatments with this agent and clinical GBM treatments tumor treating fields (TTFields) and the standard-of-care drug temozolomide, TMZ. Low nanomolar (nM) RL1 treatment significantly reduced cell growth, proliferation, migration, and clonogenic potential of our stem cell models. It acted synergistically to reduce cell growth when applied in combination with TMZ and TTFields. We performed an in silico analysis from the molecular data of diverse patient samples to probe for a relationship between the expression of mTOR genes, and mesenchymal markers in different GBM cohorts. We supported the in silico results with correlative protein data retrieved from tumor specimens. Our study further validates mTOR signaling as a druggable target in GBM and supports RL1, representing a promising therapeutic target in brain oncology.

Keywords: EMT; drug development; glioblastoma; human stem cell in vitro platform; mTOR; rapalink-1; risk assessment; therapy resistance; tumor treating fields.