Repurposing FDA approved drugs inhibiting mitochondrial function for targeting glioma-stem like cells

Sandipan Datta, Thomas Sears, Gino Cortopassi, Kevin Woolard, James M. Angelastro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) tumors contain a small population of glioma stem-like cells (GSCs) among the various differentiated GBM cells (d-GCs). GSCs drive tumor recurrence, and resistance to Temozolomide (TMZ), the standard of care (SoC) for GBM chemotherapy. In order to investigate a potential link between GSC specific mitochondria function and SoC resistance, two patient-derived GSC lines were evaluated for differences in their mitochondrial metabolism. In both the lines, GSCs had significantly lower mitochondrial -content, and -function compared to d-GCs. In vitro, the standard mitochondrial-specific inhibitors oligomycin A, antimycin A, and rotenone selectively inhibited GSC proliferation to a greater extent than d-GCs and human primary astrocytes. These findings indicate that mitochondrial inhibition can be a potential GSC-targeted therapeutic strategy in GBM with minimal off-target toxicity. Mechanistically the standard mitochondrial inhibitors elicit their GSC-selective cytotoxic effects through the induction of apoptosis or autophagy pathways. We tested for GSC proliferation in the presence of 3 safe FDA-approved drugs--trifluoperazine, mitoxantrone, and pyrvinium pamoate, all of which are also known mitochondrial-targeting agents. The SoC GBM therapeutic TMZ did not trigger cytotoxicity in glioma stem cells, even at 100 μM concentration. By contrast, trifluoperazine, mitoxantrone, and pyrvinium pamoate exerted antiproliferative effects in GSCs about 30–50 fold more effectively than temozolomide. Thus, we hereby demonstrate that FDA-approved mitochondrial inhibitors induce GSC-selective cytotoxicity, and targeting mitochondrial function could present a potential therapeutic option for GBM treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111058
JournalBiomedicine and Pharmacotherapy
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Antimycin A (CID: 6604296)
  • Cancer stem cells
  • Chemotherapy
  • Drug repurposing
  • Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitoxantrone (CID:4212)
  • Oligomycin A (CID: 5281899)
  • Pyrvinium pamoate (CID:54680693)
  • Rotenone (CID:6758)
  • Therapeutics
  • Trifluoperazine (CID:5566)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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