Approximately 25% of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients will develop metastatic (m)CRC despite treatment interventions. In this setting, tumor cells are attracted to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) oncogene. Kirsten rat sarcoma (RAS) 2 viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) mutations were reported to drive CRC by promoting cancer progression in activating Wnt/β‐catenin and RAS/extracellular signal‐regulated kinase (ERK) pathways. In addition, KRAS is associated with almost 40% of patients who acquire resistance to EGFR inhibitors in mCRC. Multiple studies have demonstrated that cancer stem cells (CSCs) promote tumorigenesis, tumor growth, and resistance to therapy. One of the most common CSC prognostic markers widely reported in CRC is a cluster of differentiation 44 (CD44), which regulates matrix metalloproteinases 7/9 (MMP7/9) to promote tumor progression and metastasis; however, the molecular role of CD44 in CRC is still unclear. In invasive CRC, overexpression of MMP7 was reported in tumor cells compared to normal cells and plays a crucial function in CRC cetuximab and oxaliplatin resistance and distant metastasis. Here, we utilized a bioinformatics analysis and identified overexpression of KRAS/MMP7/CD44 oncogenic signatures in CRC tumor tissues compared to normal tissues. In addition, a high incidence of mutations in KRAS and CD44 were associated with some of the top tumorigenic oncogene’s overexpression, which ultimately promoted a poor response to chemotherapy and resistance to some FDA‐approved drugs. Based on these findings, we explored a computational approach to drug repurposing of the drug, sulfasalazine, and our in silico molecular docking revealed unique interactions of sulfasalazine with the KRAS/MMP7/CD44 oncogenes, resulting in high binding af-finities compared to those of standard inhibitors. Our in vitro analysis demonstrated that sulfasal-azine combined with cisplatin reduced cell viability, colony, and sphere formation in CRC cell lines. In addition, sulfasalazine alone and combined with cisplatin suppressed the expression of KRAS/MMP7/CD44 in DLD‐1 and HCT116 cell lines. Thus, sulfasalazine is worthy of further investigation as an adjuvant agent for improving chemotherapeutic responses in CRC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number377
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Cancer stem cell (CSC)
  • Chemotherapy enhancement
  • Colorectal cancer (CRC)
  • Metastasis
  • Sulfasalazine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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