Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is an EBV-associated epithelial malignancy prevalent in southern China. Presence of treatment-resistant cancer stem cells (CSC) may associate with tumor relapse and metastasis in NPC. ICG-001 is a specific CBP/β-catenin antagonist that can block CBP/β-catenin-mediated transcription of stem cell associated genes and enhance p300/β-catenin-mediated transcription, thereby reducing the CSC-like population via forced differentiation. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the effect of ICG-001 on the CSC-like population, and the combination effect of ICG-001 with cisplatin in the C666-1 EBV-positive NPC cells. Results showed that ICG-001 inhibited C666-1 cell growth and reduced expression of CSC-associated proteins with altered expression of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers. ICG-001 also inhibited C666-1 tumor sphere formation, accompanied with reduced SOX2 hi /CD44 hi CSC-like population. ICG-001 was also found to restore the expression of a tumor suppressive microRNA-145 (miR-145). Ectopic expression of miR-145 effectively repressed SOX2 protein expression and inhibited tumor sphere formation. Combination of ICG-001 with cisplatin synergistically suppressed in vitro growth of C666-1 cells and significantly suppressed growth of NPC xenografts. These results suggested that therapeutically targeting of the CBP/β-catenin signaling pathway with ICG-001 can effectively reduce the CSC-like population and combination with cisplatin can effectively suppress the growth of NPC.
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