Conjugation to a SMAC mimetic potentiates sigma-2 ligand induced tumor cell death in ovarian cancer

Gunjal Garg, Suwanna Vangveravong, Chenbo Zeng, Lynne Collins, Mary Hornick, Yassar Hashim, David Piwnica-Worms, Matthew A. Powell, David G. Mutch, Robert H. Mach, William G. Hawkins, Dirk Spitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Drug resistance is a significant problem in the treatment of ovarian cancer and can be caused by multiple mechanisms. Inhibition of apoptosis by the inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) represents one such mechanism, and can be overcome by a mitochondrial protein called second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (SMAC). We have previously shown that the ligands of sigma-2 receptors effectively induce tumor cell death. Additionally, because sigma-2 receptors are preferentially expressed in tumor cells, their ligands provide an effective mechanism for selective anti-cancer therapy.Methods: In the current work, we have improved upon the previously described sigma-2 ligand SW43 by conjugating it to a pro-apoptotic small molecule SMAC mimetic SW IV-52, thus generating the novel cancer therapeutic SW IV-134. The new cancer drug was tested for receptor selectivity and tumor cell killing activity in vitro and in vivo.Results: We have shown that SW IV-134 retained adequate sigma-2 receptor binding affinity in the context of the conjugate and potently induced cell death in ovarian cancer cells. The cell death induced by SW IV-134 was significantly greater than that observed with either SW43 or SW IV-52 alone and in combination. Furthermore, the intraperitoneal administration of SW IV-134 significantly reduced tumor burden and improved overall survival in a mouse xenograft model of ovarian cancer without causing significant adverse effects to normal tissues. Mechanistically, SW IV-134 induced degradation of cIAP-1 and cIAP-2 leading to NF-κB activation and TNFα-dependent cell death.Conclusions: Our findings suggest that coupling sigma-2 ligands to SMAC peptidomimetics enhances their effectiveness while maintaining the cancer selectivity. This encouraging proof-of-principle preclinical study supports further development of tumor-targeted small peptide mimetics via ligands to the sigma-2 receptor for future clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
JournalMolecular Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 7 2014


  • Apoptosis
  • Drug conjugate
  • Ovarian cancer
  • SMAC-peptidomimetic
  • Sigma-2 ligand
  • Small molecule
  • Targeted drug delivery


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