The metal-binding domain of IGFBP-3 selectively delivers therapeutic molecules into cancer cells

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Conventional chemotherapy for cancer has limited specificity for cancer cells. Here, we investigate the possibility of improving the selectivity of chemotherapy by coadministering targeted biological modifier peptides. We show that the 22-amino acid metal-binding transporter domain (MBD) derived from insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-3 selectively targets cancer cells. The rate of MBD uptake by cells was measured using a panel of 54 human cancer cell lines and correlated with MBD cross-linking to cell surface transferrin receptor, caveolin 1, and integrin β. Gene array data show that MBD uptake correlates with the expression of genes associated with cellular stress-coping mechanisms commonly upregulated in cancer (nuclear factor-κB, Hsp-70B). MBD-tagged peptides designed to inhibit such mechanisms have cytotoxic effects on a broad range of human cancer cell lines. The discriminant validity of these peptides as potential cotherapeutic agents was investigated by comparing their cytotoxicity to cancer cell lines versus normal human cell counterparts. Synergies between these peptides and marginally cytotoxic levels of 5-fluorouracil were demonstrated. Biodistribution data from in-vivo experiments in mice and rats confirm that MBD-tagged peptides and proteins preferably localize to specific tissues, such as kidney and pancreas. Intracardial injection of CCRF-CEM T-cell leukemia or MDA-MB-435 cells into Rag-2 mice establishes disseminated disease within 7 days. Twenty-five-day subcutaneous administration of a three-peptide cocktail (3 mg/kg) in combination with 5-fluorouracil in Rag-2 mice with established CCRF-CEM leukemia significantly reduces splenomegaly and bone marrow cancer cell burden. In a similar experiment using MDA-MB-435 cells, MBD-tagged peptides reduced human cell burden in bone marrow. Taken together, these data suggest that MBD-tagged molecules can be used as highly selective chemosensitizers in the treatment of hematological and disseminated malignancies.

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