Melanoma is a highly aggressive malignancy with an exceptional ability to develop resistance and no curative therapy is available for patients with metastatic disease.

Inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAP) play a key role in preventing cell death by apoptosis. In normal cell, IAPs are highly regulated by endogenous antagonists (e.g. SMAC) but in melanoma cell lines and in patient samples expression levels of IAPs are generally high and depleting IAPs by siRNA tended to reduce cell viability, with XIAP reduction being the most efficient [1]. Small molecule IAP antagonists have the ability to switch IAP-controlled pro-survival pathways towards apoptosis and cell death. Recent evidence suggests that a true dual antagonist of both cIAP1 and XIAP will promote an effective apoptotic response through generation of death-inducing ripoptosome complexes, with resultant caspase activation [2, 3].

We have used our fragment-based drug discovery technology PyramidTM to derive a non-peptidomimetic IAP antagonist, AT-IAP, which does not have an alanine warhead and has nanomolar cellular potency for both XIAP and cIAP1.

Initial pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling of AT-IAP in mice bearing the MDA-MB-231 cell line indicated that daily oral dosing of AT-IAP at 30 mg/kg ensures high concentrations of compound in tumor and plasma over a 24 h period with resultant inhibition of both XIAP and cIAP1 and induction of apoptosis markers (cleaved PARP and cleaved caspase-3).

In this paper, we describe the characterization of AT-IAP in melanoma models. An in vitro cell line proliferation screen demonstrated that 36% of melanoma cell lines exhibited enhanced sensitivity to AT-IAP, which was improved on addition of exogenous 1 ng/ml TNF-α (92% of cell lines were sensitive to AT-IAP + TNF-α). Sensitivity of melanoma cells to AT-IAP has also been confirmed in a panel of 20 primary melanoma tumors in colony formation assays set up in the presence and absence of added TNF-α.

Finally, a set of biomarkers has been identified and used to predict single agent activity of AT-IAP in a range of melanoma cell line and patient derived xenograft models.

[1] Engesaeter et al., Cancer Biology & Therapy, 2011, 12 (1), 47

[2] Ndubaku et al., ACS Chem Biol., 2009, 4 (7), 557

[3] Meier, P., Nat Rev. Cancer, 2010, 10 (8), 561

Citation Format: Gianni Chessari, Ahn Maria, Ildiko Buck, Elisabetta Chiarparin, Joe Coyle, James Day, Martyn Frederickson, Charlotte Griffiths-Jones, Keisha Hearn, Steven Howard, Tom Heightman, Petra Hillmann, Aman Iqbal, Christopher N. Johnson, Jon Lewis, Vanessa Martins, Joanne Munck, Mike Reader, Lee Page, Anna Hopkins, Alessia Millemaggi, Caroline Richardson, Gordon Saxty, Tomoko Smyth, Emiliano Tamanini, Neil Thompson, George Ward, Glyn Williams, Pamela Williams, Nicola Wilsher, Alison Woolford. AT-IAP, a dual cIAP1 and XIAP antagonist with oral antitumor activity in melanoma models. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2013 Apr 6-10; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2013;73(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 2944. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2013-2944