Smac Mimetics and Innate Immune Stimuli Synergize to Promote Tumor Death

Smac mimetic compounds (SMC), a class of drugs that sensitize cells to apoptosis by counteracting the activity of inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins, have proven safe in phase 1 clinical trials in cancer patients. However, because SMCs act by enabling transduction of pro-apoptotic signals, SMC monotherapy may be efficacious only in the subset of patients whose tumors produce large quantities of death-inducing proteins such as inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, we reasoned that SMCs would synergize with agents that stimulate a potent yet safe “cytokine storm.” Here we show that oncolytic viruses and adjuvants such as poly(I:C) and CpG induce bystander death of cancer cells treated with SMCs that is mediated by interferon beta (IFN-β), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and/or TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). This combinatorial treatment resulted in tumor regression and extended survival in two mouse models of cancer. As these and other adjuvants have been proven safe in clinical trials, it may be worthwhile to explore their clinical efficacy in combination with SMCs.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Shawn Beug

    Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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  2. Robert Korneluk

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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  3. Eric LaCasse

    Associate Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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