Cancer initiating cells (CICs) represent a subpopulation of cancer cells, which are responsible for tumor growth and resistance to chemotherapy. Herein, we first used a cell-based aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity assay to identify that YMGKI-2 (also named as Ergone), an active component purified from Antrodia cinnamomea Mycelia extract (ACME), effectively abrogated the ALDH activity and abolished the CICs in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells (HNSCCs). Consequently, YMGKI-2 treatment suppressed self-renewal ability and expression of stemness signature genes (Oct-4 and Nanog) of sphere cells with enriched CICs. Moreover, YMGKI-2 treated sphere cells displayed reduction of CICs properties and promotion of cell differentiation, but not significant cytotoxicity. YMGKI-2 treatment also attenuated the tumorigenicity of HNSCC cells in vivo. Mechanistically, treatment of YMGKI-2 resulted in inactivation of STAT3 and Src. Lastly, combinatorial treatments with YMGKI-2 and standard chemotherapeutic drugs (cisplatin or Fluorouracil) restored the chemosensivity on sphere cells and cisplatin-resistant HNSCC cells. Together, we demonstrate that YMGKI-2 treatment effectively induces differentiation and reduces tumorigenicity of CICs. Further, combined treatment of YMGKI-2 and conventional chemotherapy can overcome chemoresistance. These results suggest that YMGKI-2 treatment may be used to improve future clinical responses in head and neck cancer treatment through targeting CICs.
- Cancer initiating cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas