Cancer-selective drug delivery is an important concept in improving treatment while minimizing off-site toxicities, and sigma-2 receptors, which are overexpressed in solid tumors, represent attractive pharmacologic targets. Select sigma-2 ligands have been shown to be rapidly internalized selectively into cancer cells while retaining the capacity to deliver small molecules as drug cargoes. We utilized the sigma-2-based drug delivery concept to convert Erastin, a clinically underperforming drug, into a potent pancreatic cancer therapeutic. The Erastin derivative des-methyl Erastin (dm-Erastin) was chemically linked to sigma-2 ligand SV119 to create SW V-49. Conjugation increased the killing capacity of dm-Erastin by nearly 35-fold in vitro and reduced the size of established tumors and doubled the median survival in syngeneic and patient-derived xenograft models when compared to non-targeted dm-Erastin. Mechanistic analyses demonstrated that cell death was associated with robust reactive oxygen species production and could be efficiently antagonized with antioxidants. Mass spectrometry was employed to demonstrate selective uptake into pancreatic cancer cells. Thus, targeted delivery of dm-Erastin via conjugation to the sigma-2 ligand SV119 produced efficient tumor control and prolonged animal survival with minimal off-target toxicities, and SW V-49 represents a promising new therapeutic with the potential to advance the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33529-33541
Number of pages13
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 7 2016


  • Erastin
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Selective delivery
  • Sigma-2 receptors
  • Targeted therapy


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