ONC201 and imipridones: Anti-cancer compounds with clinical efficacy.
ABSTRACT: ONC201 was originally discovered as TNF-Related Apoptosis Inducing Ligand (TRAIL)-inducing compound TIC10. ONC201 appears to act as a selective antagonist of the G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2), and as an allosteric agonist of mitochondrial protease caseinolytic protease P (ClpP). Downstream of target engagement, ONC201 activates the ATF4/CHOP-mediated integrated stress response leading to TRAIL/Death Receptor 5 (DR5) activation, inhibits oxidative phosphorylation via c-myc, and inactivates Akt/ERK signaling in tumor cells. This typically results in DR5/TRAIL-mediated apoptosis of tumor cells; however, DR5/TRAIL-independent apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, or antiproliferative effects also occur. The effects of ONC201 extend beyond bulk tumor cells to include cancer stem cells, cancer associated fibroblasts and immune cells within the tumor microenvironment that can contribute to its efficacy. ONC201 is orally administered, crosses the intact blood brain barrier, and is under evaluation in clinical trials in patients with advanced solid tumors and hematological malignancies. ONC201 has single agent clinical activity in tumor types that are enriched for DRD2 and/or ClpP expression including specific subtypes of high-grade glioma, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, mantle cell lymphoma, and adrenal tumors. Synergy with radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immune-checkpoint agents has been identified in preclinical models and is being evaluated in clinical trials. Structure-activity relationships based on the core pharmacophore of ONC201, termed the imipridone scaffold, revealed novel potent compounds that are being developed. Imipridones represent a novel approach to therapeutically target previously undruggable GPCRs, ClpP, and innate immune pathways in oncology.
Project description:Self-renewing colorectal cancer stem/progenitor cells (CSC) contribute to tumor maintenance and resistance to therapy. Therapeutic targeting of CSCs could improve treatment response and prolong patient survival. ONC201/TIC10 is a first-in-class antitumor agent that induces TRAIL pathway-mediated cell death in cancer cells without observed toxicity. We have previously described that ONC201/TIC10 exposure leads to transcriptional induction of the TRAIL gene via transcription factor Foxo3a, which is activated by dual inactivation of Akt and ERK. The Akt and ERK pathways serve as important targets in CSCs. Foxo3a is a key mediator of Akt and ERK-mediated CSC regulation. We hypothesized that the potent antitumor effect of ONC201/TIC10 in colorectal cancer involves targeting CSCs and bulk tumor cells. ONC201/TIC10 depletes CD133(+), CD44(+), and Aldefluor(+) cells in vitro and in vivo. TIC10 significantly inhibits colonosphere formation of unsorted and sorted 5-fluorouracil-resistant CSCs. ONC201/TIC10 significantly reduces CSC-initiated xenograft tumor growth in mice and prevents the passage of these tumors. ONC201/TIC10 treatment also decreased xenograft tumor initiation and was superior to 5-fluorouracil treatment. Thus, ONC201/TIC10 inhibits CSC self-renewal in vitro and in vivo. ONC201/TIC10 inhibits Akt and ERK, consequently activating Foxo3a and significantly induces cell surface TRAIL and DR5 expression in both CSCs and non-CSCs. ONC201/TIC10-mediated anti-CSC effect is significantly blocked by the TRAIL sequestering antibody RIK-2. Overexpression of Akt, DR5 knockdown, and Foxo3a knockdown rescues ONC201/TIC10-mediated depletion of CD44(+) cells and colonosphere inhibition. In conclusion, ONC201/TIC10 is a promising agent for colorectal cancer therapy that targets both non-CSCs and CSCs in an Akt-Foxo3a-TRAIL-dependent manner.
Project description:ONC201/TIC10 is a small molecule initially discovered by its ability to coordinately induce and activate the TRAIL pathway selectively in tumor cells and has recently entered clinical trials in adult advanced cancers. The anti-tumor activity of ONC201 has previously been demonstrated in several preclinical models of cancer, including refractory solid tumors and a transgenic lymphoma mouse model. Based on the need for new safe and effective therapies in pediatric non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and the non-toxic preclinical profile of ONC201, we investigated the in vitro efficacy of ONC201 in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) cell lines to evaluate its therapeutic potential for this disease. ONC201 caused a dose-dependent reduction in the cell viability of NHL cell lines that resulted from induction of apoptosis. As expected from prior observations, induction of TRAIL and its receptor DR5 was also observed in these cell lines. Furthermore, dual induction of TRAIL and DR5 appeared to drive the observed apoptosis and TRAIL expression was correlated linearly with sub-G1 DNA content, suggesting its potential role as a biomarker of tumor response to ONC201-treated lymphoma cells. We further investigated combinations of ONC201 with approved chemotherapeutic agents used to treat lymphoma. ONC201 exhibited synergy in combination with the anti-metabolic agent cytarabine in vitro, in addition to cooperating with other therapies. Together these findings indicate that ONC201 is an effective TRAIL pathway-inducer as a monoagent that can be combined with chemotherapy to enhance therapeutic responses in pediatric NHL.
Project description:ONC201 (also called TIC10) is a small molecule that inactivates the cell proliferation- and cell survival-promoting kinases Akt and ERK and induces cell death through the proapoptotic protein TRAIL. ONC201 is currently in early-phase clinical testing for various malignancies. We found through gene expression and protein analyses that ONC201 triggered an increase in TRAIL abundance and cell death through an integrated stress response (ISR) involving the transcription factor ATF4, the transactivator CHOP, and the TRAIL receptor DR5. ATF4 was not activated in ONC201-resistant cancer cells, and in ONC201-sensitive cells, knockdown of ATF4 or CHOP partially abrogated ONC201-induced cytotoxicity and diminished the ONC201-stimulated increase in DR5 abundance. The activation of ATF4 in response to ONC201 required the kinases HRI and PKR, which phosphorylate and activate the translation initiation factor eIF2?. ONC201 rapidly triggered cell cycle arrest, which was associated with decreased abundance of cyclin D1, decreased activity of the kinase complex mTORC1, and dephosphorylation of the retinoblastoma (Rb) protein. The abundance of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) negatively correlated with the extent of apoptosis in response to ONC201. These effects of ONC201 were independent of whether cancer cells had normal or mutant p53. Thus, ONC201 induces cell death through the coordinated induction of TRAIL by an ISR pathway.
Project description:Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) selectively targets cancer cells. The present preclinical study investigated the anti-cancer efficiency of ONC201, a first-in-class small molecule TRAIL inducer, in lung cancer cells. We showed that ONC201 was cytotoxic and anti-proliferative in both established (A549 and H460 lines) and primary human lung cancer cells. It was yet non-cytotoxic to normal lung epithelial cells. Further, ONC201 induced exogenous apoptosis activation in lung cancer cells, which was evidenced by TRAIL/death receptor-5 (DR5) induction and caspase-8 activation. The caspase-8 inhibitor or TRAIL/DR5 siRNA knockdown alleviated ONC201's cytotoxicity against lung cancer cells. Molecularly, ONC201 in-activated Akt-S6K1 and Erk signalings in lung cancer cells, causing Foxo3a nuclear translocation. For the in vivo studies, intraperitoneal injection of ONC201 at well-tolerated doses significantly inhibited xenografted A549 tumor growth in severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. Further, ONC201 administration induced TRAIL/DR5 expression, yet inactivated Akt-S6K1 and Erk in tumor tissues. These results of the study demonstrates the potent anti-lung cancer activity by ONC201.
Project description:ONC201 was initially identified as an inducer of cell death through the tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) pathway. The compound is currently being tested in patients with hematological malignancies and solid tumors, including those of the breast. We investigated strategies to convert the response of breast cancers to ONC201 from anti-proliferative to apoptotic. ONC201 treatment upregulates TRAIL and primes TRAIL-resistant non-triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells to undergo cell death through the extrinsic pathway. Remarkably, the addition of exogenous recombinant human TRAIL (rhTRAIL) converts the response of TRAIL-resistant non-TNBC cells to ONC201 from anti-proliferative to apoptotic in a death receptor 5 (DR5)-dependent manner in vitro. Importantly, normal fibroblasts do not undergo apoptosis following rhTRAIL plus ONC201. In vivo, MDA-MB-361 tumor growth rate is significantly reduced following treatment with a combination of ONC201 and rhTRAIL as compared to control tumors. Natural killer (NK) cells which use TRAIL to kill DR5-expressing cancer cells, exhibit greater cytotoxicity against ONC201-treated breast cancer cells compared to controls. rhTRAIL also converts the response of cells from other tumor types to ONC201 from anti-proliferative to apoptotic. A monoclonal DR5-agonistic antibody converts the response of non-TNBC cells to ONC201 from anti-proliferative to apoptotic. Our findings describe a novel therapeutic strategy that potently converts the response of a cancer cell to ONC201 from anti-proliferative to apoptotic. This approach may be clinically relevant and has potential to induce tumor regression of patient tumors with relative resistance to ONC201 monotherapy.
Project description:ONC201/TIC10 is a small-molecule inducer of the TRAIL gene under current investigation as a novel anticancer agent. In this study, we identify critical molecular determinants of ONC201 sensitivity offering potential utility as pharmacodynamic or predictive response markers. By screening a library of kinase siRNAs in combination with a subcytotoxic dose of ONC201, we identified several kinases that ablated tumor cell sensitivity, including the MAPK pathway-inducer KSR1. Unexpectedly, KSR1 silencing did not affect MAPK signaling in the presence or absence of ONC201, but instead reduced expression of the antiapoptotic proteins FLIP, Mcl-1, Bcl-2, cIAP1, cIAP2, and survivin. In parallel to this work, we also conducted a synergy screen in which ONC201 was combined with approved small-molecule anticancer drugs. In multiple cancer cell populations, ONC201 synergized with diverse drug classes, including the multikinase inhibitor sorafenib. Notably, combining ONC201 and sorafenib led to synergistic induction of TRAIL and its receptor DR5 along with a potent induction of cell death. In a mouse xenograft model of hepatocellular carcinoma, we demonstrated that ONC201 and sorafenib cooperatively and safely triggered tumor regressions. Overall, our results established a set of determinants for ONC201 sensitivity that may predict therapeutic response, particularly in settings of sorafenib cotreatment to enhance anticancer responses.
Project description:ONC201/TIC10 is a first-in-class small molecule inducer of TRAIL that causes early activation of the integrated stress response. Its promising safety profile and broad-spectrum efficacy in vitro have been confirmed in Phase I/II trials in several advanced malignancies. Binding and reporter assays have shown that ONC201 is a selective antagonist of the dopamine D2-like receptors, specifically, DRD2 and DRD3. We hypothesized that ONC201's interaction with DRD2 plays a role in ONC201's anticancer effects. Using cBioportal and quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction analyses, we confirmed that DRD2 is expressed in different cancer cell types in a cell type-specific manner. On the other hand, DRD3 was generally not detectable. Overexpressing DRD2 in cells with low DRD2 levels increased ONC201-induced PARP cleavage, which was preceded and correlated with an increase in ONC201-induced CHOP mRNA expression. On the other hand, knocking out DRD2 using CRISPR/Cas9 in three cancer cell lines was not sufficient to abrogate ONC201's anticancer effects. Although ONC201's anticancer activity was not dependent on DRD2 expression in the cancer cell types tested, we assessed the cytotoxic potential of DRD2 blockade. Transient DRD2 knockdown in HCT116 cells activated the integrated stress response and reduced cell number. Pharmacological antagonism of DRD2 significantly reduced cell viability. Thus, we demonstrate in this study that disrupting dopamine receptor expression and activity can have cytotoxic effects that may at least be in part due to the activation of the integrated stress response. On the other hand, ONC201's anticancer activity goes beyond its ability to antagonize DRD2, potentially due to ONC201's ability to activate other pathways that are independent of DRD2. Nevertheless, blocking the dopamine D1-like receptor DRD5 via siRNA or the use of a pharmacological antagonist promoted ONC201-induced anticancer activity.
Project description:Anti-cancer small molecule ONC201 upregulates the integrated stress response (ISR) and acts as a dual inactivator of Akt/ERK, leading to TRAIL gene activation. ONC201 is under investigation in multiple clinical trials to treat patients with cancer. Given the unique imipridone core chemical structure of ONC201, we synthesized a series of analogs to identify additional compounds with distinct therapeutic properties. Several imipridones with a broad range of in vitro potencies were identified in an exploration of chemical derivatives. Based on in vitro potency in human cancer cell lines and lack of toxicity to normal human fibroblasts, imipridones ONC206 and ONC212 were prioritized for further study. Both analogs inhibited colony formation, and induced apoptosis and downstream signaling that involves the integrated stress response and Akt/ERK, similar to ONC201. Compared to ONC201, ONC206 demonstrated improved inhibition of cell migration while ONC212 exhibited rapid kinetics of activity. ONC212 was further tested in >1000 human cancer cell lines in vitro and evaluated for safety and anti-tumor efficacy in vivo. ONC212 exhibited broad-spectrum efficacy at nanomolar concentrations across solid tumors and hematological malignancies. Skin cancer emerged as a tumor type with improved efficacy relative to ONC201. Orally administered ONC212 displayed potent anti-tumor effects in vivo, a broad therapeutic window and a favorable PK profile. ONC212 was efficacious in vivo in BRAF V600E melanoma models that are less sensitive to ONC201. Based on these findings, ONC212 warrants further development as a drug candidate. It is clear that therapeutic utility extends beyond ONC201 to include additional imipridones.
Project description:ONC201 is the founding member of a novel class of anti-cancer compounds called imipridones that is currently in Phase II clinical trials in multiple advanced cancers. Since the discovery of ONC201 as a p53-independent inducer of TRAIL gene transcription, preclinical studies have determined that ONC201 has anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects against a broad range of tumor cells but not normal cells. The mechanism of action of ONC201 involves engagement of PERK-independent activation of the integrated stress response, leading to tumor upregulation of DR5 and dual Akt/ERK inactivation, and consequent Foxo3a activation leading to upregulation of the death ligand TRAIL. ONC201 is orally active with infrequent dosing in animals models, causes sustained pharmacodynamic effects, and is not genotoxic. The first-in-human clinical trial of ONC201 in advanced aggressive refractory solid tumors confirmed that ONC201 is exceptionally well-tolerated and established the recommended phase II dose of 625 mg administered orally every three weeks defined by drug exposure comparable to efficacious levels in preclinical models. Clinical trials are evaluating the single agent efficacy of ONC201 in multiple solid tumors and hematological malignancies and exploring alternative dosing regimens. In addition, chemical analogs that have shown promise in other oncology indications are in pre-clinical development. In summary, the imipridone family that comprises ONC201 and its chemical analogs represent a new class of anti-cancer therapy with a unique mechanism of action being translated in ongoing clinical trials.