COTI-2 reactivates mutant p53 and inhibits growth of triple-negative breast cancer cells

  • Naoise C. Synnott
  • David O’Connell
  • John Crown
  • Michael J. DuffyEmail author
Preclinical Study



Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) currently lacks an approved targeted therapy. The tumour suppressor TP53 gene is mutated in approximately 80% of TNBC cases. COTI-2 is a third-generation thiosemicarbazone engineered for high efficacy and low toxicity which acts by reactivating mutant p53 to a WT form. The aim of this study was to investigate COTI-2 as a targeted therapy for TNBC patients.


Using a panel of 18 breast cell lines, we carried out MTT assay. p53 protein folding was determined by immunofluorescent staining with the p53 mutant-specific antibody PAb240 and the p53 WT-specific PAb1620. Surface plasmon resonance was used to determine binding affinity of COTI-2 to full length (FL) p53, and the DNA-binding domain (DBD). Flow cytometry was used to measure apoptosis.


TNBC cell lines were significantly more responsive to COTI-2 than non-TNBC cell lines (p = 0.04). Furthermore, lower IC50 values were found in p53 mutant compared to p53 WT cells (p = 0.001). COTI-2 was shown to bind to FL and DBD of mutant p53. Treatment resulted in an increase in staining with PAb1620 which coincided with a decrease in staining with PAb240, suggesting refolding of the mutant protein. In addition, COTI-2 was found to induce apoptosis in TNBC cell lines.


We conclude that targeting mutant p53 with COTI-2 is a potential approach for treating p53-mutated TNBC.


p53 TP53 COTI-2 Triple-negative breast cancer Treatment APR-246 



We thank the BREAST-PREDICT (CCRC13GAL) program of the Irish Cancer Society and the Cancer Clinical Research Trust for funding this work. We also thank Professor Alan Fersht (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge) for supplying the full length and the mutated p53-R175H DNA-binding domain of p53.

Author contributions

MJD conceived the original idea. MJD and JC supervised the project. DOC designed, carried out and analysed the surface plasmon resonance experiments. NCS carried out all other experiments and data analysis. All authors contributed to results interpretation. NCS and MJD wrote the manuscript with input from DOC.


This study was funded by the Irish Cancer Society as part of the BREAST-PREDICT Collaborative Cancer Research Centre (CCRC13GAL) and the Cancer Clinical Research Trust.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

NCS, DOC and MJD have no conflict of interest to report. JC reports the following: Research Funding: Puma, GSK, Roche, BI Honoraria: Eisai, Merck Serono, Pfizer, BI, Puma, Seattle Genetics, Genomic Health, Travel grants: AbbVie, Pfizer, MSD, Stock/Ownership: Oncomark.

Ethical approval and consent to participate

No ethical approval was required for this study, due to the fact that purchased cell lines were used.

Consent to publish

All authors give consent to publish this data. No human tissue was used in this study.

Supplementary material

10549_2019_5435_MOESM1_ESM.docx (91 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 92 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCD School of Medicine, Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical ResearchUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  2. 2.UCD School of Biomolecular & Biomedical ScienceUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  3. 3.Department of Medical OncologySt. Vincent’s University HospitalDublin 4Ireland
  4. 4.UCD Clinical Research CentreSt. Vincent’s University HospitalDublin 4Ireland

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