Breast cancer remains one of the leading cancers among women and an estimated 90% of breast cancer deaths are due to metastasis. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a sub-population of cancer cells which are responsible for its initiation, progression and metastasis. CSCs are resistant to conventional chemo- and radio-therapies and therefore therapeutic strategies targeting CSCs hold great potential for novel advances in cancer treatment. Salinomycin (SAL) is a naturally occurring polyether ionophore antibiotic which was shown to effectively target breast CSCs. A library of 17 novel SAL analogs was synthesized and screened to identify compounds with improved selectivity against breast cancer stem cells. SAL analogs were either single modified esters or amides in the C1 position or double-modified C20-oxo derivatives. Eight single- and two double-modified analogs were more potent (IC50 range of 1.13 ± 0.19 to 3.93 ± 0.39 µM) towards the breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 compared to parent SAL (IC50 of 4.90 ± 1.60 µM). These analogs induced DNA fragmentation suggestive of apoptotic cell death. Compounds 2 (butyl ester analog of SAL) and 17 (double-modified C20-oxosalinomycin with benzhydroxamic acid) have been chosen for follow-up screening due to their improved activity and selectivity versus parent SAL. This included clonogenic assays to assess the ability of the compounds to affect cell renewal, and wound healing assays to assess cell migratory properties. In both assays, compound 17 showed superior properties over SAL. Furthermore, analog 17 showed improved targeting of breast CSCs in both cell monolayer and organoid culture as assessed in assays measuring the CD44+/CD24- stem cell sub-population. Analogs and parent compound were further studied examining (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage and Bcl-2 levels by immunoblotting. All three compounds induced loss of 116 kDa PARP expression within 48h, with the highest effect induced by analog 17. In addition, treatment with compound 17 caused a decrease in Bcl-2 expression as early as 24 h. Select analogs were next screened against the NCI-60 Human Tumor Cell Line Panel. The described above double-modified analog was found to be more potent than SAL towards all 6 breast cancer cell lines in the panel as well as other tumor types. The present findings highlight the therapeutic potential of SAL analogs towards breast stem cells and support further research and clinical development of these compounds.

Funding: The present study was funded by grants (to AM and TCC) from the Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program. Testing was performed by the Developmental Therapeutics Program, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, National Cancer Institute, http://dtp.cancer.gov.

Citation Format: Alicja Joanna Urbaniak, Megan R. Reed, Michał Antoszczak, Michał Sulik, Adam Huczyński, Robert L. Eoff, Melanie C. MacNicol, Timothy C. Chambers, Angus M. MacNicol. Inhibition of breast cancer stem cells in 2- and 3-dimensional culture by novel salinomycin analogs [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2020 San Antonio Breast Cancer Virtual Symposium; 2020 Dec 8-11; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(4 Suppl):Abstract nr PS18-46.