Glioblastoma (GBM) is a devastating disease and the most common primary brain malignancy of adults with a median survival barely exceeding one year. Recent findings suggest that the antipsychotic drug pimozide triggers an autophagy-dependent, lysosomal type of cell death in GBM cells with possible implications for GBM therapy. One oncoprotein that is often overactivated in these tumors and associated with a particularly dismal prognosis is Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (STAT3). Here, we used isogenic human and murine GBM knockout cell lines, advanced fluorescence microscopy, transcriptomic analysis and FACS-based assessment of cell viability to show that STAT3 has an underappreciated, context-dependent role in drug-induced cell death. Specifically, we demonstrate that depletion of STAT3 significantly enhances cell survival after treatment with Pimozide, suggesting that STAT3 confers a particular vulnerability to GBM. Furthermore, we show that active STAT3 has no major influence on the early steps of the autophagy pathway, but exacerbates drug-induced lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) and release of cathepsins into the cytosol. Collectively, our findings support the concept of exploiting the pro-death functions of autophagy and LMP for GBM therapy and to further determine whether STAT3 can be employed as a treatment predictor for highly apoptosis-resistant, but autophagy-proficient cancers.
- Autophagy-dependent cell death
- Lysosomal-dependent cell death