A New Functional Screening Platform Identifies Colistin Sulfate as an Enhancer of Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity

Cortés-Kaplan, S.; Kurdieh, R.; Hasim, M. S.; Kaczmarek, S.; Taha, Z.; Maznyi, G.; McComb, S.; Lee, S.-H.; Diallo, J.-S.; Ardolino, M.
Cancers (Basel) 14 (12), 2832 (2022)

Due to their crucial role in tumor immunity, NK cells have quickly became a prime target for immunotherapies, with the adoptive transfer of NK cells and the use of NK cell engagers quickly moving to the clinical stage. On the other hand, only a few studies have focused on small molecule drugs capable of unleashing NK cells against cancer. In this context, repurposing small molecules is an attractive strategy to identify new immunotherapies from already approved drugs. Here, we developed a new platform to screen small molecule compounds based on a high-throughput luciferase-release cytotoxicity assay. We tested 1200 FDA approved drugs from the Prestwick Chemical Library, to identify compounds that increase NK cells’ cytotoxic potential. We found that the antibiotic colistin sulfate increased the cytotoxicity of human NK cells towards cancer cells. The effect of colistin was short lived and was not observed when NK cells were pretreated with the drug, showing how NK cell activity was potentiated only when the compound was present at the time of recognition of cancer cells. Further studies are needed to uncover the mechanism of action and the pre-clinical efficacy of colistin sulfate in mouse cancer models.

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