Cell lines have been used for drug discovery as useful models of cancers; however, they do not recapitulate cancers faithfully, especially in the points of rapid growth rate and microenvironment independency. Consequently, the majority of conventional anti-cancer drugs are less sensitive to slow growing cells and do not target microenvironmental support, although most primary cancer cells grow slower than cell lines and depend on microenvironmental support. Here, we developed a novel high throughput drug screening system using patient-derived xenograft (PDX) cells of lymphoma that maintained primary cancer cell phenotype more than cell lines. The library containing 2613 known pharmacologically active substance and off-patent drugs were screened by this system. We could find many compounds showing higher cytotoxicity than conventional anti-tumor drugs. Especially, pyruvinium pamoate showed the highest activity and its strong anti-tumor effect was confirmed also in vivo. We extensively investigated its mechanism of action and found that it inhibited glutathione supply from stromal cells to lymphoma cells, implying the importance of the stromal protection from oxidative stress for lymphoma cell survival and a new therapeutic strategy for lymphoma. Our system introduces a primary cancer cell phenotype into cell-based phenotype screening and sheds new light on anti-cancer drug development.
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