Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is distinct among autoimmune diseases because of its association with circulating autoantibodies reactive against host DNA. The precise role that anti-DNA antibodies play in SLE pathophysiology remains to be elucidated, and potential applications of lupus autoantibodies in cancer therapy have not previously been explored. We report the unexpected finding that a cell-penetrating lupus autoantibody, 3E10, has potential as a targeted therapy for DNA repair-deficient malignancies. We find that 3E10 preferentially binds DNA single-strand tails, inhibits key steps in DNA single-strand and double-strand break repair, and sensitizes cultured tumor cells and human tumor xenografts to DNA-damaging therapy, including doxorubicin and radiation. Moreover, we demonstrate that 3E10 alone is synthetically lethal to BRCA2-deficient human cancer cells and selectively sensitizes such cells to low-dose doxorubicin. Our results establish an approach to cancer therapy that we expect will be particularly applicable to BRCA2-related malignancies such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. In addition, our findings raise the possibility that lupus autoantibodies may be partly responsible for the intrinsic deficiencies in DNA repair and the unexpectedly low rates of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers observed in SLE patients. In summary, this study provides the basis for the potential use of a lupus anti-DNA antibody in cancer therapy and identifies lupus autoantibodies as a potentially rich source of therapeutic agents.
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