Upregulation of ABCB1/MDR1 (P-gp) and BIRC5/Survivin promotes multidrug resistance in a variety of human cancers. LCL161 is an anti-cancer DIABLO/SMAC mimetic currently being tested in patients with solid tumors, but the molecular mechanism of action of LCL161 in cancer cells is still incompletely understood. It is still unclear whether LCL161 is therapeutically applicable for patients with ABCB1-overexpressing multidrug resistant tumors. In this study, we found that the potency of LCL161 is not affected by the expression of ABCB1 in KB-TAX50, KB-VIN10, and NTU0.017 cancer cells. Besides, LCL161 is equally potent towards the parental MCF7 breast cancer cells and its BIRC5 overexpressing, hormone therapy resistance subline MCF7-TamC3 in vitro. Mechanistically, we found that LCL161 directly modulates the ABCB1-ATPase activity and inhibits ABCB1 multi-drug efflux activity at low cytotoxic concentrations (i.e. 0.5xIC50 or less). Further analysis revealed that LCL161 also decreases intracellular ATP levels in part through BIRC5 downregulation. Therapeutically, co-treatment with LCL161 at low cytotoxic concentrations restored the sensitivity to the known ABCB1 substrate, paclitaxel, in ABCB1-expressing cancer cells and increased the sensitivity to tamoxifen in MCF7-TamC3 cells. In conclusion, LCL161 has the potential for use in the management of cancer patients with ABCB1 and BIRC5-related drug resistance. The findings of our study provide important information to physicians for designing a more “patient-specific” LCL161 clinical trial program in the future.
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