Synergy between Paclitaxel and Anti-Cancer Peptide PNC-27 in the Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

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Paclitaxel is widely used in the treatment of gynecologic malignancies. It targets tumor cells in the M phase of the cell cycle. Cells in other phases survive the insult and repopulate the tumor. PNC-27 is a peptide synthesized of amino acids of the p53-MDM-2 binding domain. It kills various cancer cell lines in a dose-dependent manner. The goal of this study is to assess ovarian cancer cells’ sensitivity to PNC-27 after surviving exposure to paclitaxel and to investigate the potential for synergy between PNC-27 and paclitaxel in the treatment of ovarian cancer.


The impact of exposure to paclitaxel on the surface expression of MDM-2 was assessed with the use of flow cytometry. For measurement of cytotoxicity in vitro, ID8 cells were exposed to paclitaxel for 12 hours in various concentrations. At 12 hours, the drug containing media was removed and the cells were cultured in media containing various concentrations of PNC-27 for 24 hours. Viability was assessed with the use of an MTT assay. Survival fractions were plotted against drug concentrations and the data were fit to logistic dose-response curves. Isoeffective combinations were used to create isobolograms. The combined treatment with weekly paclitaxel and PNC-27 was tested in an intraperitoneal mouse model of ovarian cancer (ID8).


Exposure to paclitaxel rendered incomplete time-dependent killing, while PNC-27 mediated comprehensive, dose-dependent killing of ID8 cells. The cytotoxic effect of PNC-27 was dependent on its binding to MDM-2. Blocking MDM-2 inhibited the killing by PNC-27. ID8 cells surviving paclitaxel demonstrated increased expression of MDM-2 and increased susceptibility to PNC-27. Isobologram for dose combinations that were isoeffective indicates synergistic effect between the 2 agents (Combination index <1). In an in vivo model of ovarian cancer (ID8), the addition of PNC-27 to weekly paclitaxel administration significantly reduces tumor growth.


These data demonstrate synergism between PNC-27 and paclitaxel. PNC-27 could target cells surviving paclitaxel and improve its antitumor effect.

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