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Overcoming Intrinsic Multidrug Resistance in Melanoma by Blocking the Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain of Slow-Cycling JARID1Bhigh Cells

Alexander Roeschsend, Adina Vultur, Ivan Bogeski, Huan Wang, Katharina M. Zimmermann, David Speicher, Christina Körbel, Matthias W. Laschke, Phyllis A. Gimotty, Stephan E. Philipp, Elmar Krause, Sylvie Pätzold, Jessie Villanueva, Clemens Krepler, Mizuho F

Cancer Cell Volume 23, Issue 6, 10 June 2013, Pages 811–825

Editor's comments:
Today we understand cancer metastases as a complex heterogeneous organized cell accumulation that includes proliferative components and slow growing components that present stem cell like features. Roesch et al. have now investigated a new treatment approach that might preferentially target slow cycling cells in melanoma metastases that present stemness features.


Despite success with BRAFV600E inhibitors, therapeutic responses in patients with metastatic melanoma are short-lived because of the acquisition of drug resistance. We identified a mechanism of intrinsic multidrug resistance based on the survival of a tumor cell subpopulation. Treatment with various drugs, including cisplatin and vemurafenib, uniformly leads to enrichment of slow-cycling, long-term tumor-maintaining melanoma cells expressing the H3K4-demethylase JARID1B/KDM5B/PLU-1. Proteome-profiling revealed an upregulation in enzymes of mitochondrial oxidative-ATP-synthesis (oxidative phosphorylation) in this subpopulation. Inhibition of mitochondrial respiration blocked the emergence of the JARID1Bhigh subpopulation and sensitized melanoma cells to therapy, independent of their genotype. Our findings support a two-tiered approach combining anticancer agents that eliminate rapidly proliferating melanoma cells with inhibitors of the drug-resistant slow-cycling subpopulation.