The treatment of glioblastoma (GBM) remains challenging in part due to the presence of stem-like tumor-propagating cells that are resistant to standard therapies consisting of radiation and temozolomide. Among the novel and targeted agents under evaluation for the treatment of GBM are BRAF/MAPK inhibitors, but their effects on tumor-propagating cells are unclear. Here, we characterized the behaviors of CD133+ tumor-propagating cells isolated from primary GBM cell lines. We show that CD133+ cells exhibited decreased sensitivity to the antiproliferative effects of BRAF/MAPK inhibition compared to CD133- cells. Furthermore, CD133+ cells exhibited an extended G2-M phase and increased polarized asymmetric cell divisions. At the molecular level, we observed that polo-like kinase (PLK) 1 activity was elevated in CD133+ cells, prompting our investigation of BRAF/PLK1 combination treatment effects in an orthotopic GBM xenograft model. Combined inhibition of BRAF and PLK1 resulted in significantly greater antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects beyond those achieved bymonotherapy (P < 0.05). We propose that PLK1 activity controls a polarity checkpoint and compensates for BRAF/MAPK inhibition in CD133+ cells, suggesting the need for concurrent PLK1 inhibition to improve antitumor activity against a therapy-resistant cell compartment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research