Intermediate and high-risk rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) patients have poor prognosis with available treatment options, highlighting a clear unmet need for identification of novel therapeutic strategies. Ezrin-radixin-moesin (ERM) family members are membrane-cytoskeleton linker proteins with well-defined roles in tumor metastasis, growth, and survival. ERM protein activity is regulated by dynamic changes in the phosphorylation at a conserved threonine residue in their C-terminal actin-binding domain. Interestingly, ERM family member, ezrin, has elevated expression in the RMS tissue. Despite this, the translational scope of targeting ERM family proteins in these tumors through pharmacological inhibition has never been considered. This study investigates the inhibition of ERM phosphorylation using a small molecule pharmacophore NSC668394 as a potential strategy against RMS. Upon in vitro treatment with NSC668394, RMS cells exhibit a dose-dependent decrease in cell viability and proliferation, with induction of caspase-3 cleavage and apoptosis. siRNA-mediated knockdown of individual ERM protein expression revealed that each regulates RMS survival to a different degree. In vivo administration of NSC668394 in RMS xenografts causes significant decrease in tumor growth, with no adverse effect on body weight. Collectively, this study highlights the importance of the active conformation of ERM proteins in RMS progression and survival and supports pharmacologic inhibition of these proteins as a novel therapeutic approach.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging