Novel FOXM1 inhibitor STL001 sensitizes human cancers to a broad-spectrum of cancer therapies

Cell Death Discov. 2024 May 2;10(1):211. doi: 10.1038/s41420-024-01929-0.


Forkhead box protein M1 (FOXM1) is often overexpressed in human cancers and strongly associated with therapy resistance and less good patient survival. The chemotherapy options for patients with the most aggressive types of solid cancers remain very limited because of the acquired drug resistance, making the therapy less effective. NPM1 mutation through the inactivation of FOXM1 via FOXM1 relocalization to the cytoplasm confers more favorable treatment outcomes for AML patients, confirming FOXM1 as a crucial target to overcome drug resistance. Pharmacological inhibition of FOXM1 could be a promising approach to sensitize therapy-resistant cancers. Here, we explore a novel FOXM1 inhibitor STL001, a first-generation modification drug of our previously reported FOXM1 inhibitor STL427944. STL001 preserves the mode of action of the STL427944; however, STL001 is up to 50 times more efficient in reducing FOXM1 activity in a variety of solid cancers. The most conventional cancer therapies studied here induce FOXM1 overexpression in solid cancers. The therapy-induced FOXM1 overexpression may explain the failure or reduced efficacy of these drugs in cancer patients. Interestingly, STL001 increased the sensitivity of cancer cells to conventional cancer therapies by suppressing both the high-endogenous and drug-induced FOXM1. Notably, STL001 does not provide further sensitization to FOXM1-KD cancer cells, suggesting that the sensitization effect is conveyed specifically through FOXM1 suppression. RNA-seq and gene set enrichment studies revealed prominent suppression of FOXM1-dependent pathways and gene ontologies. Also, gene regulation by STL001 showed extensive overlap with FOXM1-KD, suggesting a high selectivity of STL001 toward the FOXM1 regulatory network. A completely new activity of FOXM1, mediated through steroid/cholesterol biosynthetic process and protein secretion in cancer cells was also detected. Collectively, STL001 offers intriguing translational opportunities as combination therapies targeting FOXM1 activity in a variety of human cancers driven by FOXM1.