PURPOSE - Gastric cancer is a leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Limited therapeutic options highlight the need to understand the molecular changes responsible for the disease and to develop therapies based on this understanding. The goal of this study was to develop cell-permeable (CP-) forms of the RUNT-related transcription factor 3, RUNX3-a candidate tumor suppressor implicated in gastric and other epithelial cancers-to study the therapeutic potential of RUNX3 in the treatment of gastric cancer.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN - We developed novel macromolecule transduction domains (MTD) which were tested for the ability to promote protein uptake by mammalian cells and tissues and used to deliver of biologically active RUNX3 into human gastric cancer cells. The therapeutic potential CP-RUNX3 was tested in the NCI-N87 human tumor xenograft animal model.
RESULTS - RUNX3 fusion proteins, HM(57)R and HM(85)R, containing hydrophobic MTDs enter gastric cancer cells and suppress cell phenotypes (e.g., cell-cycle progression, wounded monolayer healing, and survival) and induce changes in biomarker expression (e.g., p21(Waf1) and VEGF) consistent with previously described effects of RUNX3 on TGF-β signaling. CP-RUNX3 also suppressed the growth of subcutaneous human gastric tumor xenografts. The therapeutic response was comparable with studies augmenting RUNX3 gene expression in tumor cell lines; however, the protein was most active when administered locally, rather than systemically (i.e., intravenously).
CONCLUSIONS - These results provide further evidence that RUNX3 can function as a tumor suppressor and suggest that practical methods to augment RUNX3 function could be useful in treating of some types of gastric cancer.