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1.  Effect of KRAS Oncogene Substitutions on Protein Behavior: Implications for Signaling and Clinical Outcome 
Mutations in the v-Ki-ras2 Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS) play a critical role in cancer cell growth and resistance to therapy. Most mutations occur at codons 12 and 13. In colorectal cancer, the presence of any mutant KRas amino acid substitution is a negative predictor of patient response to targeted therapy. However, in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the evidence that KRAS mutation is a predictive factor is conflicting.
We used data from a molecularly targeted clinical trial for 215 patients with tissues available out of 268 evaluable patients with refractory NSCLC to examine associations between specific mutant KRas proteins and progression-free survival and tumor gene expression. Transcriptome microarray studies of patient tumor samples and reverse-phase protein array studies of a panel of 67 NSCLC cell lines with known substitutions in KRas and in immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells stably expressing different mutant KRas proteins were used to investigate signaling pathway activation. Molecular modeling was used to study the conformations of wild-type and mutant KRas proteins. Kaplan–Meier curves and Cox regression were used to analyze survival data. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Patients whose tumors had either mutant KRas-Gly12Cys or mutant KRas-Gly12Val had worse progression-free survival compared with patients whose tumors had other mutant KRas proteins or wild-type KRas (P = .046, median survival = 1.84 months) compared with all other mutant KRas (median survival = 3.35 months) or wild-type KRas (median survival = 1.95 months). NSCLC cell lines with mutant KRas-Gly12Asp had activated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI-3-K) and mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase (MEK) signaling, whereas those with mutant KRas-Gly12Cys or mutant KRas-Gly12Val had activated Ral signaling and decreased growth factor–dependent Akt activation. Molecular modeling studies showed that different conformations imposed by mutant KRas may lead to altered association with downstream signaling transducers.
Not all mutant KRas proteins affect patient survival or downstream signaling in a similar way. The heterogeneous behavior of mutant KRas proteins implies that therapeutic interventions may need to take into account the specific mutant KRas expressed by the tumor.
PMCID: PMC3274509  PMID: 22247021
2.  Ras Effector Mutant Expression Suggest a Negative Regulator Inhibits Lung Tumor Formation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84745.
Lung cancer is currently the most deadly malignancy in industrialized countries and accounts for 18% of all cancer-related deaths worldwide. Over 70% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are diagnosed at a late stage, with a 5-year survival below 10%. KRAS and the EGFR are frequently mutated in NSCLC and while targeted therapies for patients with EGFR mutations exist, oncogenic KRAS is thus far not druggable. KRAS activates multiple signalling pathways, including the PI3K/Akt pathway, the Raf-Mek-Erk pathway and the RalGDS/Ral pathway. Lung-specific expression of BrafV600E, the most prevalent BRAF mutation found in human tumors, results in Raf-Mek-Erk pathway activation and in the formation of benign adenomas that undergo widespread senescence in a Cre-activated Braf mouse model (BrafCA). However, oncogenic KRAS expression in mice induces adenocarcinomas, suggesting additional KRAS-activated pathways cooperate with sustained RAF-MEK-ERK signalling to bypass the oncogene-induced senescence proliferation arrest.
To determine which KRAS effectors were responsible for tumor progression, we created four effector domain mutants (S35, G37, E38 and C40) in G12V-activated KRAS and expressed these alone or with BrafV600E in mouse lungs… The S35 and E38 mutants bind to Raf proteins but not PI3K or RalGDS; the G37 mutant binds to RalGDS and not Raf or PI3K and the C40 mutant is specific to PI3K. We designed lentiviral vectors to code for Cre recombinase along with KRAS mutants (V12, V12/S35, V12/G37, V12/E38 or V12/C40) or EGFP as a negative control.. These lentiviruses were used to infect BrafCA and wild-type mice. Surprisingly there was a significant decrease in tumor number and penetrance with each KRAS effector domain mutant relative to controls, suggesting that KRAS directly activates effectors with tumor suppressive functions.
PMCID: PMC3904846  PMID: 24489653
3.  Oncogenic KRAS-induced interleukin-8 overexpression promotes cell growth and migration and contributes to aggressive phenotypes of non-small cell lung cancer 
The CXC chemokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) is an angiogenic growth factor that is overexpressed in various cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Previously, IL-8 was shown as a transcriptional target of RAS signaling, raising the possibility of its role in oncogenic KRAS-driven NSCLC. Using microarray analysis, we identified IL-8 as the most downregulated gene by shRNA-mediated KRAS knockdown in NCI-H1792 NSCLC cells where IL-8 is overexpressed. NSCLC cell lines harboring KRAS or EGFR mutations overexpressed IL-8, while IL-8 levels were more prominent in KRAS mutants compared to EGFR mutants. IL-8 expression was downregulated by shRNA-mediated KRAS knockdown in KRAS mutants or by treatment with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors and EGFR siRNAs in EGFR mutants. In our analysis of the relationship of IL-8 expression with clinical parameters and mutation status of KRAS or EGFR in 89 NSCLC surgical specimens, IL-8 expression was shown to be significantly higher in NSCLCs of males, smokers, and elderly patients and those with pleural involvement and KRAS mutated adenocarcinomas. In KRAS mutant cells, the MEK inhibitor markedly decreased IL-8 expression, while the p38 inhibitor increased IL-8 expression. Attenuation of IL-8 function by siRNAs or a neutralizing antibody inhibited cell proliferation and migration of KRAS mutant/IL-8 overexpressing NSCLC cells. These results indicate that activating mutations of KRAS or EGFR upregulate IL-8 expression in NSCLC; IL-8 is highly expressed in NSCLCs from males, smokers, elderly patients, NSCLCs with pleural involvement, and KRAS-mutated adenocarcinomas; and IL-8 plays a role in cell growth and migration in oncogenic KRAS-driven NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3374723  PMID: 21544811
non-small cell lung cancer; KRAS; interleukin-8; molecular target
4.  A novel method, digital genome scanning detects KRAS gene amplification in gastric cancers: involvement of overexpressed wild-type KRAS in downstream signaling and cancer cell growth 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:198.
Gastric cancer is the third most common malignancy affecting the general population worldwide. Aberrant activation of KRAS is a key factor in the development of many types of tumor, however, oncogenic mutations of KRAS are infrequent in gastric cancer. We have developed a novel quantitative method of analysis of DNA copy number, termed digital genome scanning (DGS), which is based on the enumeration of short restriction fragments, and does not involve PCR or hybridization. In the current study, we used DGS to survey copy-number alterations in gastric cancer cells.
DGS of gastric cancer cell lines was performed using the sequences of 5000 to 15000 restriction fragments. We screened 20 gastric cancer cell lines and 86 primary gastric tumors for KRAS amplification by quantitative PCR, and investigated KRAS amplification at the DNA, mRNA and protein levels by mutational analysis, real-time PCR, immunoblot analysis, GTP-RAS pull-down assay and immunohistochemical analysis. The effect of KRAS knock-down on the activation of p44/42 MAP kinase and AKT and on cell growth were examined by immunoblot and colorimetric assay, respectively.
DGS analysis of the HSC45 gastric cancer cell line revealed the amplification of a 500-kb region on chromosome 12p12.1, which contains the KRAS gene locus. Amplification of the KRAS locus was detected in 15% (3/20) of gastric cancer cell lines (8–18-fold amplification) and 4.7% (4/86) of primary gastric tumors (8–50-fold amplification). KRAS mutations were identified in two of the three cell lines in which KRAS was amplified, but were not detected in any of the primary tumors. Overexpression of KRAS protein correlated directly with increased KRAS copy number. The level of GTP-bound KRAS was elevated following serum stimulation in cells with amplified wild-type KRAS, but not in cells with amplified mutant KRAS. Knock-down of KRAS in gastric cancer cells that carried amplified wild-type KRAS resulted in the inhibition of cell growth and suppression of p44/42 MAP kinase and AKT activity.
Our study highlights the utility of DGS for identification of copy-number alterations. Using DGS, we identified KRAS as a gene that is amplified in human gastric cancer. We demonstrated that gene amplification likely forms the molecular basis of overactivation of KRAS in gastric cancer. Additional studies using a larger cohort of gastric cancer specimens are required to determine the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of KRAS amplification and overexpression.
PMCID: PMC2717977  PMID: 19545448
5.  PIK3CA Mutations Frequently Coexist with EGFR/KRAS Mutations in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Suggest Poor Prognosis in EGFR/KRAS Wildtype Subgroup 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88291.
PIK3CA gene encoding a catalytic subunit of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) is mutated and/or amplified in various neoplasia, including lung cancer. Here we investigated PIK3CA gene alterations, the expression of core components of PI3K pathway, and evaluated their clinical importance in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Materials and methods
Oncogenic mutations/rearrangements in PIK3CA, EGFR, KRAS, HER2, BRAF, AKT1 and ALK genes were detected in tumors from 1117 patients with NSCLC. PIK3CA gene copy number was examined by fluorescent in situ hybridization and the expression of PI3K p110 subunit alpha (PI3K p110α), p-Akt, mTOR, PTEN was determined by immunohistochemistry in PIK3CA mutant cases and 108 patients without PIK3CA mutation.
PIK3CA mutation was found in 3.9% of squamous cell carcinoma and 2.7% of adenocarcinoma. Among 34 PIK3CA mutant cases, 17 tumors harbored concurrent EGFR mutations and 4 had KRAS mutations. PIK3CA mutation was significantly associated with high expression of PI3K p110α (p<0.0001), p-Akt (p = 0.024) and mTOR (p = 0.001), but not correlated with PIK3CA amplification (p = 0.463). Patients with single PIK3CA mutation had shorter overall survival than those with PIK3CA-EGFR/KRAS co-mutation or wildtype PIK3CA (p = 0.004). A significantly worse survival was also found in patients with PIK3CA mutations than those without PIK3CA mutations in the EGFR/KRAS wildtype subgroup (p = 0.043)
PIK3CA mutations frequently coexist with EGFR/KRAS mutations. The poor prognosis of patients with single PIK3CA mutation in NSCLC and the prognostic value of PIK3CA mutation in EGFR/KRAS wildtype subgroup suggest the distinct mutation status of PIK3CA gene should be determined for individual therapeutic strategies in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3922761  PMID: 24533074
6.  Knockdown of Oncogenic KRAS in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers Suppresses Tumor Growth and Sensitizes Tumor Cells to Targeted Therapy 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;10(2):336-346.
Oncogenic KRAS is found in >25% of lung adenocarcinomas, the major histologic subtype of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and is an important target for drug development. To this end, we generated four NSCLC lines with stable knockdown selective for oncogenic KRAS. As expected, stable knockdown of oncogenic KRAS led to inhibition of in vitro and in vivo tumor growth in the KRAS mutant NSCLC cells, but not in NSCLC cells that have wild-type KRAS (but mutant NRAS). Surprisingly, we did not see large-scale induction of cell death and the growth inhibitory effect was not complete. To further understand the ability of NSCLCs to grow despite selective removal of mutant KRAS expression, we performed microarray expression profiling of NSCLC cell lines with or without mutant KRAS knockdown and isogenic human bronchial epithelial cell lines (HBECs) with and without oncogenic KRAS. We found that while the MAPK pathway is significantly down-regulated after mutant KRAS knockdown, these NSCLCs showed increased levels of phospho-STAT3 and phospho-EGFR, and variable changes in phospho-Akt. In addition, mutant KRAS knockdown sensitized the NSCLCs to p38 and EGFR inhibitors. Our findings suggest that targeting oncogenic KRAS by itself will not be sufficient treatment but may offer possibilities of combining anti-KRAS strategies with other targeted drugs.
PMCID: PMC3061393  PMID: 21306997
7.  KRAS Testing for Anti-EGFR Therapy in Advanced Colorectal Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: or at
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis.
The objective of this systematic review is to determine the predictive value of KRAS testing in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) with two anti-EGFR agents, cetuximab and panitumumab. Economic analyses are also being conducted to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of KRAS testing.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) is usually defined as stage IV disease according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer tumour node metastasis (TNM) system or stage D in the Duke’s classification system. Patients with advanced colorectal cancer (mCRC) either present with metastatic disease or develop it through disease progression.
KRAS (Kristen-RAS, a member of the rat sarcoma virus (ras) gene family of oncogenes) is frequently mutated in epithelial cancers such as colorectal cancer, with mutations occurring in mutational hotspots (codons 12 and 13) of the KRAS protein. Involved in EGFR-mediated signalling of cellular processes such as cell proliferation, resistance to apoptosis, enhanced cell motility and neoangiogenesis, a mutation in the KRAS gene is believed to be involved in cancer pathogenesis. Such a mutation is also hypothesized to be involved in resistance to targeted anti-EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor with tyrosine kinase activity) treatments such as cetuximab and panitumumab, hence, the important in evaluating the evidence on the predictive value of KRAS testing in this context.
KRAS Mutation Testing in Advanced Colorectal Cancer
Both cetuximab and panitumumab are indicated by Health Canada in the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer whose tumours are WT for the KRAS gene. Cetuximab may be offered as monotherapy in patients intolerant to irinotecan-based chemotherapy or in patients who have failed both irinotecan and oxaliplatin-based regimens and who received a fluoropyrimidine. It can also be administered in combination with irinotecan in patients refractory to other irinotecan-based chemotherapy regimens. Panitumumab is only indicated as a single agent after failure of fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and irinotecan-containing chemotherapy regimens.
In Ontario, patients with advanced colorectal cancer who are refractory to chemotherapy may be offered the targeted anti-EGFR treatments cetuximab or panitumumab. Eligibility for these treatments is based on the KRAS status of their tumour, derived from tissue collected from surgical or biopsy specimens. It is believed that KRAS status is not affected by treatments, therefore, for patients for whom surgical tissue is available for KRAS testing, additional biopsies prior to treatment with these targeted agents is not necessary. For patients that have not undergone surgery or for whom surgical tissue is not available, a biopsy of either the primary or metastatic site is required to determine their KRAS status. This is possible as status at the metastatic and primary tumour sites is considered to be similar.
Research Question
To determine if there is predictive value of KRAS testing in guiding treatment decisions with anti-EGFR targeted therapies in advanced colorectal cancer patients refractory to chemotherapy.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and on May 18, 2010, searched the following electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment database.
The subject headings and keywords searched included colorectal cancer, cetuximab, panitumumab, and KRAS testing. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between January 1, 2009 and May 18, 2010 resulting in 1335 articles for review. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters. Studies published from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2008 were identified in a health technology assessment conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), published in 2010. In total, 14 observational studies were identified for inclusion in this EBA: 4 for cetuximab monotherapy, 7 for the cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy, and 3 to be included in the review for panitumumab monotherapy
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English or French-language HTAs published from January 2005 to May 2010, inclusive.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or observational studies, including single arm treatment studies that include KRAS testing.
Studies with data on main outcomes of interest, overall and progression-free survival.
Studies of third line treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab in patients with advanced colorectal cancer refractory to chemotherapy.
For the cetuximab-irinotecan evaluation, studies in which at least 70% of patients in the study received this combination therapy.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies whose entire sample was included in subsequent publications which have been included in this EBA.
Studies in pediatric populations.
Case reports, comments, editorials, or letters.
Outcomes of Interest
Overall survival (OS), median
Progression-free-survival (PFS), median.
Response rates.
Adverse event rates.
Quality of life (QOL).
Summary of Findings of Systematic Review
Cetuximab or Panitumumab Monotherapy
Based on moderate GRADE observational evidence, there is improvement in PFS and OS favouring patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
Cetuximab-Irinotecan Combination Therapy
There is low GRADE evidence that testing for KRAS may optimize survival benefits in patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
However, cetuximab-irinotecan combination treatments based on KRAS status discount any effect of cetuximab in possibly reversing resistance to irinotecan in patients with the mutation, as observed effects were lower than for patients without the mutation. Clinical experts have raised concerns about the biological plausibility of this observation and this conclusion would, therefore, be regarded as hypothesis generating.
Economic Analysis
Cost-effectiveness and budget impact analyses were conducted incorporating estimates of effectiveness from this systematic review. Evaluation of relative cost-effectiveness, based on a decision-analytic cost-utility analysis, assessed testing for KRAS genetic mutations versus no testing in the context of treatment with cetuximab monotherapy, panitumumab monotherapy, cetuximab in combination with irinotecan, and best supportive care.
Of importance to note is that the cost-effectiveness analysis focused on the impact of testing for KRAS mutations compared to no testing in the context of different treatment options, and does not assess the cost-effectiveness of the drug treatments alone.
KRAS status is predictive of outcomes in cetuximab and panitumumab monotherapy, and in cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy.
While KRAS testing is cost-effective for all strategies considered, it is not equally cost-effective for all treatment options.
PMCID: PMC3377508  PMID: 23074403
8.  A gene expression signature of RAS pathway dependence predicts response to PI3K and RAS pathway inhibitors and expands the population of RAS pathway activated tumors 
BMC Medical Genomics  2010;3:26.
Hyperactivation of the Ras signaling pathway is a driver of many cancers, and RAS pathway activation can predict response to targeted therapies. Therefore, optimal methods for measuring Ras pathway activation are critical. The main focus of our work was to develop a gene expression signature that is predictive of RAS pathway dependence.
We used the coherent expression of RAS pathway-related genes across multiple datasets to derive a RAS pathway gene expression signature and generate RAS pathway activation scores in pre-clinical cancer models and human tumors. We then related this signature to KRAS mutation status and drug response data in pre-clinical and clinical datasets.
The RAS signature score is predictive of KRAS mutation status in lung tumors and cell lines with high (> 90%) sensitivity but relatively low (50%) specificity due to samples that have apparent RAS pathway activation in the absence of a KRAS mutation. In lung and breast cancer cell line panels, the RAS pathway signature score correlates with pMEK and pERK expression, and predicts resistance to AKT inhibition and sensitivity to MEK inhibition within both KRAS mutant and KRAS wild-type groups. The RAS pathway signature is upregulated in breast cancer cell lines that have acquired resistance to AKT inhibition, and is downregulated by inhibition of MEK. In lung cancer cell lines knockdown of KRAS using siRNA demonstrates that the RAS pathway signature is a better measure of dependence on RAS compared to KRAS mutation status. In human tumors, the RAS pathway signature is elevated in ER negative breast tumors and lung adenocarcinomas, and predicts resistance to cetuximab in metastatic colorectal cancer.
These data demonstrate that the RAS pathway signature is superior to KRAS mutation status for the prediction of dependence on RAS signaling, can predict response to PI3K and RAS pathway inhibitors, and is likely to have the most clinical utility in lung and breast tumors.
PMCID: PMC2911390  PMID: 20591134
9.  Protein Kinase Cδ is a downstream effector of oncogenic KRAS in lung tumors1 
Cancer Research  2011;71(6):2087-2097.
Oncogenic activation of KRAS occurs commonly in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but strategies to therapeutically target this pathway have been challenging to develop. Information about downstream effectors of KRAS remains incomplete and tractable targets are yet to be defined. In this study we investigated the role of Protein Kinase C delta (PKCδ) in KRAS dependent lung tumorigenesis using a mouse carcinogen model and human NSCLC cells. The incidence of urethane-induced lung tumors was decreased by 69% in PKCδ deficient (δKO) mice compared to wild type (δWT) mice. δKO tumors are smaller and showed reduced proliferation. DNA sequencing indicated that all δWT tumors had activating mutations in KRAS, whereas only 69% of δKO tumors did, suggesting that PKCδ acts as a tumor promoter downstream of oncogenic KRAS, while acting as a tumor suppressor in other oncogenic contexts. Similar results were obtained in a panel of NSCLC cell lines with oncogenic KRAS, but which differ in their dependence on KRAS for survival. RNAi-mediated attenuation of PKCδ inhibited anchorage-independent growth, invasion, migration and tumorigenesis in KRAS-dependent cells. These effects were associated with suppression of MAPK pathway activation. In contrast, PKCδ attenuation enhanced anchorage-independent growth, invasion and migration in NSCLC cells that were either KRAS-independent or that had wild-type KRAS. Unexpectedly, our studies indicate that the function of PKCδ in tumor cells depends on a specific oncogenic context, as loss of PKCδ in NSCLC cells suppressed transformed growth only in cells dependent upon oncogenic KRAS for proliferation and survival.
PMCID: PMC3271733  PMID: 21335545
PKC delta; K-Ras; lung cancer; transformation
10.  Atorvastatin overcomes gefitinib resistance in KRAS mutant human non-small cell lung carcinoma cells 
Chen, J | Bi, H | Hou, J | Zhang, X | Zhang, C | Yue, L | Wen, X | Liu, D | Shi, H | Yuan, J | Liu, J | Liu, B
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(9):e814-.
The exact influence of statins on gefitinib resistance in human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells with KRAS mutation alone or KRAS/PIK3CA and KRAS/PTEN comutations remains unclear. This work found that transfection of mutant KRAS plasmids significantly suppressed the gefitinib cytotoxicity in Calu3 cells (wild-type KRAS). Gefitinib disrupted the Kras/PI3K and Kras/Raf complexes in Calu3 cells, whereas not in Calu3 KRAS mutant cells. These trends were corresponding to the expression of pAKT and pERK in gefitinib treatment. Atorvastatin (1 μM) plus gefitinib treatment inhibited proliferation, promoted cell apoptosis, and reduced the AKT activity in KRAS mutant NSCLC cells compared with gefitinib alone. Atorvastatin (5 μM) further enhanced the gefitinib cytotoxicity through concomitant inhibition of AKT and ERK activity. Atorvastatin could interrupt Kras/PI3K and Kras/Raf complexes, leading to suppression of AKT and ERK activity. Similar results were also obtained in comutant KRAS/PTEN or KRAS/PIK3CA NSCLC cells. Furthermore, mevalonate administration reversed the effects of atorvastatin on the Kras/Raf and Kras/PI3K complexes, as well as AKT and ERK activity in both A549 and Calu1 cells. The in vivo results were similar to those obtained in vitro. Therefore, mutant KRAS-mediated gefitinib insensitivity is mainly derived from failure to disrupt the Kras/Raf and Kras/PI3K complexes in KRAS mutant NSCLC cells. Atorvastatin overcomes gefitinib resistance in KRAS mutant NSCLC cells irrespective of PIK3CA and PTEN statuses through inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase-dependent disruption of the Kras/Raf and Kras/PI3K complexes.
PMCID: PMC3789171  PMID: 24071646
gefitinib; atorvastatin; mutant KRAS; NSCLC
11.  Assessing the Radiation Response of Lung Cancer with Different Gene Mutations Using Genetically Engineered Mice 
Purpose: Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) are a heterogeneous group of carcinomas harboring a variety of different gene mutations. We have utilized two distinct genetically engineered mouse models of human NSCLC (adenocarcinoma) to investigate how genetic factors within tumor parenchymal cells influence the in vivo tumor growth delay after one or two fractions of radiation therapy (RT).
Materials and Methods: Primary lung adenocarcinomas were generated in vivo in mice by intranasal delivery of an adenovirus expressing Cre-recombinase. Lung cancers expressed oncogenic KrasG12D and were also deficient in one of two tumor suppressor genes: p53 or Ink4a/ARF. Mice received no radiation treatment or whole lung irradiation in a single fraction (11.6 Gy) or in two 7.3 Gy fractions (14.6 Gy total) separated by 24 h. In each case, the biologically effective dose (BED) equaled 25 Gy10. Response to RT was assessed by micro-CT 2 weeks after treatment. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and immunohistochemical staining were performed to assess the integrity of the p53 pathway, the G1 cell-cycle checkpoint, and apoptosis.
Results: Tumor growth rates prior to RT were similar for the two genetic variants of lung adenocarcinoma. Lung cancers with wild-type (WT) p53 (LSL-Kras; Ink4a/ARFFL/FL mice) responded better to two daily fractions of 7.3 Gy compared to a single fraction of 11.6 Gy (P = 0.002). There was no statistically significant difference in the response of lung cancers deficient in p53 (LSL-Kras; p53FL/FL mice) to a single fraction (11.6 Gy) compared to 7.3 Gy × 2 (P = 0.23). Expression of the p53 target genes p21 and PUMA were higher and bromodeoxyuridine uptake was lower after RT in tumors with WT p53.
Conclusion: Using an in vivo model of malignant lung cancer in mice, we demonstrate that the response of primary lung cancers to one or two fractions of RT can be influenced by specific gene mutations.
PMCID: PMC3613757  PMID: 23565506
tumor cell biology; genetically engineered mouse models; fractionation; p53
12.  High resolution melting analysis of KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA in KRAS exon 2 wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:169.
KRAS is an EGFR effector in the RAS/RAF/ERK cascade that is mutated in about 40% of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Activating mutations in codons 12 and 13 of the KRAS gene are the only established negative predictors of response to anti-EGFR therapy and patients whose tumors harbor such mutations are not candidates for therapy. However, 40 to 60% of wild-type cases do not respond to anti-EGFR therapy, suggesting the involvement of other genes that act downstream of EGFR in the RAS-RAF-MAPK and PI3K-AKT pathways or activating KRAS mutations at other locations of the gene.
DNA was obtained from a consecutive series of 201 mCRC cases (FFPE tissue), wild-type for KRAS exon 2 (codons 12 and 13). Mutational analysis of KRAS (exons 3 and 4), BRAF (exons 11 and 15), and PIK3CA (exons 9 and 20) was performed by high resolution melting (HRM) and positive cases were then sequenced.
One mutation was present in 23.4% (47/201) of the cases and 3.0% additional cases (6/201) had two concomitant mutations. A total of 53 cases showed 59 mutations, with the following distribution: 44.1% (26/59) in KRAS (13 in exon 3 and 13 in exon 4), 18.6% (11/59) in BRAF (two in exon 11 and nine in exon 15) and 37.3% (22/59) in PIK3CA (16 in exon 9 and six in exon 20). In total, 26.4% (53/201) of the cases had at least one mutation and the remaining 73.6% (148/201) were wild-type for all regions studied. Five of the mutations we report, four in KRAS and one in BRAF, have not previously been described in CRC. BRAF and PIK3CA mutations were more frequent in the colon than in the sigmoid or rectum: 20.8% vs. 1.6% vs. 0.0% (P=0.000) for BRAF and 23.4% vs. 12.1% vs. 5.4% (P=0.011) for PIK3CA mutations.
About one fourth of mCRC cases wild-type for KRAS codons 12 and 13 present other mutations either in KRAS, BRAF, or PIK3CA, many of which may explain the lack of response to anti-EGFR therapy observed in a significant proportion of these patients.
PMCID: PMC3623853  PMID: 23548132
13.  Oncogene Mutations, Copy Number Gains and Mutant Allele Specific Imbalance (MASI) Frequently Occur Together in Tumor Cells 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7464.
Activating mutations in one allele of an oncogene (heterozygous mutations) are widely believed to be sufficient for tumorigenesis. However, mutant allele specific imbalance (MASI) has been observed in tumors and cell lines harboring mutations of oncogenes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We determined 1) mutational status, 2) copy number gains (CNGs) and 3) relative ratio between mutant and wild type alleles of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA and EGFR genes by direct sequencing and quantitative PCR assay in over 400 human tumors, cell lines, and xenografts of lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. Examination of a public database indicated that homozygous mutations of five oncogenes were frequent (20%) in 833 cell lines of 12 tumor types. Our data indicated two major forms of MASI: 1) MASI with CNG, either complete or partial; and 2) MASI without CNG (uniparental disomy; UPD), due to complete loss of wild type allele. MASI was a frequent event in mutant EGFR (75%) and was due mainly to CNGs, while MASI, also frequent in mutant KRAS (58%), was mainly due to UPD. Mutant: wild type allelic ratios at the genomic level were precisely maintained after transcription. KRAS mutations or CNGs were significantly associated with increased ras GTPase activity, as measured by ELISA, and the two molecular changes were synergistic. Of 237 lung adenocarcinoma tumors, the small number with both KRAS mutation and CNG were associated with shortened survival.
MASI is frequently present in mutant EGFR and KRAS tumor cells, and is associated with increased mutant allele transcription and gene activity. The frequent finding of mutations, CNGs and MASI occurring together in tumor cells indicates that these three genetic alterations, acting together, may have a greater role in the development or maintenance of the malignant phenotype than any individual alteration.
PMCID: PMC2757721  PMID: 19826477
14.  Maintenance of Acinar Cell Organization is Critical to Preventing Kras-Induced Acinar-Ductal Metaplasia 
Oncogene  2012;32(15):1950-1958.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most lethal cancers owing to a number of characteristics including difficulty in establishing early diagnosis and the absence of effective therapeutic regimens. A large number of genetic alterations have been ascribed to PDAC with mutations in the KRAS2 proto-oncogene thought to be an early event in the progression of disease. Recent lineage-tracing studies have shown that acinar cells expressing mutant KrasG12D are induced to transdifferentiate, generating duct-like cells through a process known as acinar-ductal metaplasia (ADM). ADM lesions then convert to precancerous pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) that progresses to PDAC over time. Thus, understanding the earliest events involved in ADM/PanIN formation would provide much needed information on the molecular pathways that are instrumental in initiating this disease. Since studying the transition of acinar cells to metaplastic ductal cells in vivo is complicated by analysis of the entire organ, an in vitro 3D culture system was employed to model ADM outside the animal. KrasG12D-expressing acinar cells rapidly underwent ADM in 3D culture, forming ductal cysts that silenced acinar genes and activated duct genes, characteristics associated with in vivo ADM/PanIN lesions. Analysis of downstream KRAS signaling events established a critical importance for the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway in ADM induction. Additionally, forced expression of the acinar-restricted transcription factor Mist1, which is critical to acinar cell organization, significantly attenuated KrasG12D-induced ADM/PanIN formation. These results suggest that maintaining MIST1 activity in KrasG12D-expressing acinar cells can partially mitigate the transformation activity of oncogenic KRAS. Future therapeutics that target both the MAPK pathway and Mist1 transcriptional networks may show promising efficacy in combating this deadly disease.
PMCID: PMC3435479  PMID: 22665051
Mist1; pancreatic cancer; lineage-tracing; signaling pathways; 3D tissue culture
15.  Identification of somatic mutations in EGFR/KRAS/ALK-negative lung adenocarcinoma in never-smokers 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(2):18.
Lung adenocarcinoma is a highly heterogeneous disease with various etiologies, prognoses, and responses to therapy. Although genome-scale characterization of lung adenocarcinoma has been performed, a comprehensive somatic mutation analysis of EGFR/KRAS/ALK-negative lung adenocarcinoma in never-smokers has not been conducted.
We analyzed whole exome sequencing data from 16 EGFR/KRAS/ALK-negative lung adenocarcinomas and additional 54 tumors in two expansion cohort sets. Candidate loci were validated by target capture and Sanger sequencing. Gene set analysis was performed using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis.
We identified 27 genes potentially implicated in the pathogenesis of lung adenocarcinoma. These included targetable genes involved in PI3K/mTOR signaling (TSC1, PIK3CA, AKT2) and receptor tyrosine kinase signaling (ERBB4) and genes not previously highlighted in lung adenocarcinomas, such as SETD2 and PBRM1 (chromatin remodeling), CHEK2 and CDC27 (cell cycle), CUL3 and SOD2 (oxidative stress), and CSMD3 and TFG (immune response). In the expansion cohort (N = 70), TP53 was the most frequently altered gene (11%), followed by SETD2 (6%), CSMD3 (6%), ERBB2 (6%), and CDH10 (4%). In pathway analysis, the majority of altered genes were involved in cell cycle/DNA repair (P <0.001) and cAMP-dependent protein kinase signaling (P <0.001).
The genomic makeup of EGFR/KRAS/ALK-negative lung adenocarcinomas in never-smokers is remarkably diverse. Genes involved in cell cycle regulation/DNA repair are implicated in tumorigenesis and represent potential therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC3979047  PMID: 24576404
16.  IKK is a therapeutic target in KRAS-Induced lung cancer with disrupted p53 activity 
Genes & Cancer  2014;5(1-2):41-55.
Activating mutations in KRAS are prevalent in cancer, but therapies targeted to oncogenic RAS have been ineffective to date. These results argue that targeting downstream effectors of RAS will be an alternative route for blocking RAS-driven oncogenic pathways. We and others have shown that oncogenic RAS activates the NF-κB transcription factor pathway and that KRAS-induced lung tumorigenesis is suppressed by expression of a degradation-resistant form of the IκBα inhibitor or by genetic deletion of IKKβ or the RELA/p65 subunit of NF-κB. Here, genetic and pharmacological approaches were utilized to inactivate IKK in human primary lung epithelial cells transformed by KRAS, as well as KRAS mutant lung cancer cell lines. Administration of the highly specific IKKβ inhibitor Compound A (CmpdA) led to NF-κB inhibition in different KRAS mutant lung cells and siRNA-mediated knockdown of IKKα or IKKβ reduced activity of the NF-κB canonical pathway. Next, we determined that both IKKα and IKKβ contribute to oncogenic properties of KRAS mutant lung cells, particularly when p53 activity is disrupted. Based on these results, CmpdA was tested for potential therapeutic intervention in the Kras-induced lung cancer mouse model (LSL-KrasG12D) combined with loss of p53 (LSL-KrasG12D/p53fl/fl). CmpdA treatment was well tolerated and mice treated with this IKKβ inhibitor presented smaller and lower grade tumors than mice treated with placebo. Additionally, IKKβ inhibition reduced inflammation and angiogenesis. These results support the concept of targeting IKK as a therapeutic approach for oncogenic RAS-driven tumors with altered p53 activity.
PMCID: PMC4063255  PMID: 24955217
Lung cancer; KRAS; NF-κB; IKK; p53
17.  KRASness and PIK3CAness in Patients with Advanced Colorectal Cancer: Outcome after Treatment with Early-Phase Trials with Targeted Pathway Inhibitors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38033.
To evaluate clinicopathologic and molecular features of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and their outcomes in early-phase trials using pathway-targeting agents.
Patients and Methods
We analyzed characteristics of 238 patients with mCRC referred to the phase 1 trials unit at MD Anderson Cancer Center. KRAS, PIK3CA and BRAF status were tested using PCR-based DNA sequencing.
Fifty-one percent of patients harbored KRAS mutations; 15% had PIK3CA mutations. In the multivariate regression model for clinical characteristics KRAS mutations were associated with an increased incidence of lung and bone metastases and decreased incidence of adrenal metastases; PIK3CA mutations were marginally correlated with mucinous tumors (p = 0.05). In the univariate analysis, KRAS and PIK3CA mutations were strongly associated. Advanced Duke's stage (p<0.0001) and KRAS mutations (p = 0.01) were the only significant independent predictors of poor survival (Cox proportional hazards model). Patients with PIK3CA mutations had a trend toward shorter progression-free survival when treated with anti-EGFR therapies (p = 0.07). Eighteen of 78 assessable patients (23%) treated with PI3K/Akt/mTOR axis inhibitors achieved stable disease [SD] ≥6 months or complete response/partial response (CR/PR), only one of whom were in the subgroup (N = 15) with PIK3CA mutations, perhaps because 10 of these 15 patients (67%) had coexisting KRAS mutations. No SD ≥6 months/CR/PR was observed in the 10 patients treated with mitogen-activating protein kinase (MAPK) pathway targeting drugs.
KRAS and PIK3CA mutations frequently coexist in patients with colorectal cancer, and are associated with clinical characteristics and outcome. Overcoming resistance may require targeting both pathways.
PMCID: PMC3364990  PMID: 22675430
18.  Clinical Implications of KRAS Mutations in Lung Cancer Patients Treated with Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors: An Important Role for Mutations in Minor Clones1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2009;11(10):1084-1092.
Mutations inducing resistance to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) therapy may have a clinical impact even if present in minor cell clones which could expand during treatment. We tested this hypothesis in lung cancer patients treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Eighty-three patients with lung adenocarcinoma treated with erlotinib or gefitinib were included in this study. The mutational status of KRAS and EGFR was investigated by direct sequencing (DS). KRAS mutations were also assessed by mutant-enriched sequencing (ME-sequencing). DS detected KRAS mutations in 16 (19%) of 83 tumors; ME-sequencing identified all the mutations detected by DS but also mutations in minor clones of 14 additional tumors, for a total of 30 (36%) of 83. KRAS mutations assessed by DS and ME-sequencing significantly correlated with resistance to TKIs (P = .04 and P = .004, respectively) and significantly affected progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). However, the predictive power of mutations assessed by ME-sequencing was higher than that obtained by DS (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.82, P = .0001 vs HR = 1.98, P = .04, respectively, for OS; HR = 2.52, P = .0005 vs HR = 2.21, P = .007, respectively, for PFS). Survival outcome of patients harboring KRAS mutations in minor clones, detected only by ME-sequencing, did not differ from that of patients with KRAS mutations detected by DS. Only KRAS mutations assessed by ME-sequencing remained an independent predictive factor at multivariate analysis. KRAS mutations in minor clones have an important impact on response and survival of patients with lung adenocarcinoma treated with EGFR-TKI. The use of sensitive detection methods could allow to more effectively identify treatment-resistant patients.
PMCID: PMC2745674  PMID: 19794967
19.  Protein kinase Cα suppresses Kras-mediated lung tumor formation through activation of a p38 MAPK-TGFβ signaling axis 
Oncogene  2013;33(16):2134-2144.
Protein kinase C alpha (PKCα) can activate both pro- and anti-tumorigenic signaling depending upon cellular context. Here, we investigated the role of PKCα in lung tumorigenesis in vivo. Gene expression data sets revealed that primary human non-small lung cancers (NSCLC) express significantly decreased PKCα levels, indicating that loss of PKCα expression is a recurrent event in NSCLC. We evaluated the functional relevance of PKCα loss during lung tumorigenesis in three murine lung adenocarcinoma models (LSL-Kras, LA2-Kras and urethane exposure). Genetic deletion of PKCα resulted in a significant increase in lung tumor number, size, burden and grade, bypass of oncogene-induced senescence, progression from adenoma to carcinoma and a significant decrease in survival in vivo. The tumor promoting effect of PKCα loss was reflected in enhanced Kras-mediated expansion of bronchio-alveolar stem cells (BASCs), putative tumor-initiating cells, both in vitro and in vivo. LSL-Kras/Prkca−/− mice exhibited a decrease in phospho-p38 MAPK in BASCs in vitro and in tumors in vivo, and treatment of LSL-Kras BASCs with a p38 inhibitor resulted in increased colony size indistinguishable from that observed in LSL-Kras/Prkca−/− BASCs. In addition, LSL-Kras/Prkca−/− BASCs exhibited a modest but reproducible increase in TGFβ1 mRNA, and addition of exogenous TGFβ1 to LSL-Kras BASCs results in enhanced growth similar to untreated BASCs from LSL-Kras/Prkca−/− mice. Conversely, a TGFβR1 inhibitor reversed the effects of PKCα loss in LSL-Kras/Prkca−/−BASCs. Finally, we identified the inhibitors of DNA binding (Id) Id1–3 and the Wilm’s Tumor 1 as potential downstream targets of PKCα-dependent tumor suppressor activity in vitro and in vivo. We conclude that PKCα suppresses tumor initiation and progression, at least in part, through a PKCα-p38MAPK-TGFβ signaling axis that regulates tumor cell proliferation and Kras-induced senescence. Our results provide the first direct evidence that PKCα exhibits tumor suppressor activity in the lung in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3895109  PMID: 23604119
tumor suppressor; lung adenocarcinoma; bronchio-alveolar stem cells; p38 MAPK; Wilm’s Tumor 1 gene; inhibitors of DNA Binding (Id)
20.  The proto-oncogene KRAS is targeted by miR-200c 
Oncotarget  2013;5(1):185-195.
The GTPase K-ras is involved in a variety of cellular processes such as differentiation, proliferation and survival. However, activating mutations, which frequently occur in many types of cancer, turn KRAS into one of the most prominent oncogenes. Likewise, miR-200c is a key player in tumorigenesis functioning as a molecular switch between an epithelial, non-migratory, chemosensitive and a mesenchymal, migratory, chemoresistant state. While it has been reported that KRAS is modulated by several tumor suppressor miRNAs, this is the first report on the regulation of KRAS by miR-200c, both playing a pivotal role in oncogenesis. We show that KRAS is a predicted target of miR-200c and that the protein expression of KRAS inversely correlates with the miR-200c expression in a panel of human breast cancer cell lines. KRAS was experimentally validated as a target of miR-200c by Western blot analyses and luciferase reporter assays. Furthermore, the inhibitory rffect of miR-200c-dependent KRAS silencing on proliferation and cell cycle was demonstrated in dfferent breast and lung cancer cell lines. Thereby, the particular role of KRAS was dissected from the role of all the other miR-200c targets by specific knockdown experiments using siRNA against KRAS. Cell lines harboring an activating KRAS mutation were similarly affected by miR-200c as well as by the siRNA against KRAS. However, in a cell line with wild-type KRAS only miR-200c was able to change proliferation and cell cycle. Our findings suggest that miR-200c is a potent inhibitor of tumor progression and therapy resistance, by regulating a multitude of oncogenic pathways including the RAS pathway. Thus, miR-200c may cause stronger anti-tumor efffects than a specific siRNA against KRAS, emphasizing the potential role of miR-200c as tumor suppressive miRNA
PMCID: PMC3960200  PMID: 24368337
breast cancer; lung cancer; miRNA; K-ras; cell cycle; proliferation
21.  A KRAS-directed transcriptional silencing pathway that mediates the CpG island methylator phenotype 
eLife  2014;3:e02313.
Approximately 70% of KRAS-positive colorectal cancers (CRCs) have a CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) characterized by aberrant DNA hypermethylation and transcriptional silencing of many genes. The factors involved in, and the mechanistic basis of, CIMP is not understood. Among the CIMP genes are the tumor suppressors p14ARF, p15INK4B, and p16INK4A, encoded by the INK4-ARF locus. In this study, we perform an RNA interference screen and identify ZNF304, a zinc-finger DNA-binding protein, as the pivotal factor required for INK4-ARF silencing and CIMP in CRCs containing activated KRAS. In KRAS-positive human CRC cell lines and tumors, ZNF304 is bound at the promoters of INK4-ARF and other CIMP genes. Promoter-bound ZNF304 recruits a corepressor complex that includes the DNA methyltransferase DNMT1, resulting in DNA hypermethylation and transcriptional silencing. KRAS promotes silencing through upregulation of ZNF304, which drives DNA binding. Finally, we show that ZNF304 also directs transcriptional silencing of INK4-ARF in human embryonic stem cells.
eLife digest
Colorectal cancer, which affects the large intestine, is a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, ranking fourth after cancers of the lung, stomach, and liver. Like these other cancers, this disease is caused by mutations to genes that allow cells to multiply in an out of control manner. Mutations that change the gene encoding a protein called KRAS are found in many different types of cancer. Moreover, about 70% of colorectal cancers with a KRAS mutation also have an excess of small chemical marks on other genes, some of which are known to suppress the growth of tumors. These marks ‘switch off’ these genes, and although the identities of the enzymes that typically leave these marks on DNA are known, the link between these enzymes and the KRAS protein is unknown.
Now Serra, Fang et al. have identified a protein, called ZNF304, that is required by KRAS to switch off a large number of genes, including multiple tumor suppressors. In the absence of ZNF304, these tumor suppressor genes remained switched on in cancer cells with the KRAS mutation, so the growth of the tumor was slowed down. ZNF304 is a protein that binds to stretches of DNA, including regions of DNA at the start of several tumor suppressor genes, and it recruits the enzymes that add the chemical marks that switch off these genes.
Serra, Fang et al. found that the levels of ZNF304 protein were elevated in colorectal cancer cells with the mutated KRAS, and showed that this was due to the combined activities of two other proteins that prevented ZNF304 from being broken down in the cell. Mutant KRAS caused an increase in the levels of these two proteins, which in turn caused the elevated ZNF304 levels and the excessive marking of the DNA in the tumor suppressor genes.
Furthermore, some of these same tumor suppressor genes are switched off in the earliest cells in a human embryo—which have the potential to become any of 200 or so cell types in the human body. In these embryonic stem cells, Serra, Fang et al. showed that ZNF304, but not KRAS, was also involved in keeping these genes switched off until the stem cells started changing into specific types of cells.
Since they are a crucial part of the pathway linking a cancer-causing mutation to increased tumor growth, the proteins identified by Serra, Fang et al. could represent promising targets for the development of new anti-cancer drugs.
PMCID: PMC3949416  PMID: 24623306
CpG island methylator phenotype; INK4-ARF; colorectal cancer; ZNF304; KRAS; DNMT1; human; mouse
22.  Inhibition of TWIST1 Leads to Activation of Oncogene-Induced Senescence in Oncogene Driven Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2013;11(4):329-338.
A large fraction of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) are dependent on defined oncogenic driver mutations. Although targeted agents exist for EGFR- and EML4-ALK-driven NSCLC, no therapies target the most frequently found driver mutation, KRAS. Furthermore, acquired resistance to the currently targetable driver mutations is nearly universally observed. Clearly a novel therapeutic approach is needed to target oncogene driven NSCLC. We recently demonstrated that the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor Twist1 cooperates with mutant Kras to induce lung adenocarcinoma in transgenic mouse models and that inhibition of Twist1 in these models led to Kras-induced senescence. In the current study, we examine the role of TWIST1 in oncogene driven human NSCLC. Silencing of TWIST1 in KRAS mutant human NSCLC cell lines resulted in dramatic growth inhibition and either activation of a latent oncogene-induced senescence program or in some cases, apoptosis. Similar effects were observed in EGFR mutation driven and c-Met amplified NSCLC cell lines. Growth inhibition by silencing of TWIST1 was independent of p53 or p16 mutational status and did not require previously defined mediators of senescence, p21 and p27, nor could this phenotype be rescued by overexpression of SKP2. In xenograft models, silencing of TWIST1 resulted in significant growth inhibition of KRAS mutant, EGFR mutant and c-Met amplified NSCLC. Remarkably, inducible silencing of TWIST1 resulted in significant growth inhibition of established KRAS mutant tumors. Together these findings suggest that silencing of TWIST1 in oncogene driver dependent NSCLC represents a novel and promising therapeutic strategy.
PMCID: PMC3631276  PMID: 23364532
23.  Characterization of KRAS Rearrangements in Metastatic Prostate Cancer 
Cancer discovery  2011;1(1):35-43.
Using an integrative genomics approach called Amplification Breakpoint Ranking and Assembly (ABRA) analysis, we nominated KRAS as a gene fusion with the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBE2L3 in the DU145 cell line, originally derived from prostate cancer metastasis to the brain. Interestingly, analysis of tissues revealed that 2 of 62 metastatic prostate cancers harbored aberrations at the KRAS locus. In DU145 cells, UBE2L3-KRAS produces a fusion protein, specific knock-down of which, attenuates cell invasion and xenograft growth. Ectopic expression of the UBE2L3-KRAS fusion protein exhibits transforming activity in NIH 3T3 fibroblasts and RWPE prostate epithelial cells in vitro and in vivo. In NIH 3T3 cells, UBE2L3-KRAS attenuates MEK/ERK signaling, commonly engaged by oncogenic mutant KRAS, and instead signals via AKT and p38 MAPK pathways. This is the first report of a gene fusion involving Ras family suggesting that this aberration may drive metastatic progression in a rare subset of prostate cancers.
PMCID: PMC3227139  PMID: 22140652
KRAS; gene fusion; prostate cancer; genomic amplification; bioinformatics
24.  KRAS mutations are associated with solid growth pattern and tumor-infiltrating leukocytes in lung adenocarcinoma 
KRAS mutations define a clinically-distinct subgroup of lung adenocarcinoma patients, characterized by smoking history, resistance to EGFR-targeted therapies, and adverse prognosis. Whether KRAS- mutated lung adenocarcinomas also have distinct histopathologic features is not well established. We tested 180 resected lung adenocarcinomas for KRAS and EGFR mutations by high-sensitivity mass spectrometry-based genotyping (Sequenom) and PCR-based sizing assays. All tumors were assessed for the proportion of standard histologic patterns (lepidic, acinar, papillary, micropapillary, solid and mucinous), several other histologic and clinical parameters, and TTF-1 expression by immunohistochemistry. Among 180 carcinomas, 63 (35%) had KRAS mutations (KRAS+), 35 (19%) had EGFR mutations (EGFR+), and 82 (46%) had neither mutation (KRAS-/EGFR-). Solid growth pattern was significantly over-represented in KRAS+ carcinomas: the mean ± standard deviation for the amount of solid pattern in KRAS+ carcinomas was 27 ± 34% compared to 3 ± 10% in EGFR+ (P<0.001) and 15 ± 27% in KRAS-/EGFR- (P=0.033) tumors. Furthermore, at least focal (>20%) solid component was more common in KRAS+ (28/63; 44%) compared to EGFR+ (2/35; 6%; P<0.001) and KRAS-/EGFR- (21/82; 26%; P=0.012) carcinomas. KRAS mutations were also over-represented in mucinous carcinomas, and were significantly associated with the presence of tumor-infiltrating leukocytes and heavier smoking history. EGFR mutations were associated with non-mucinous non-solid patterns, particularly lepidic and papillary, lack of necrosis, lack of cytologic atypia, hobnail cytology, TTF-1 expression, and never/light smoking history. In conclusion, extended molecular and clinicopathologic analysis of lung adenocarcinomas reveals a novel association of KRAS mutations with solid histology and tumor-infiltrating inflammatory cells, and expands on several previously recognized morphologic and clinical associations of KRAS and EGFR mutations. Solid growth pattern was recently shown to be a strong predictor of aggressive behavior in lung adenocarcinomas, which may underlie the unfavorable prognosis associated with KRAS mutations in these tumors.
PMCID: PMC3732528  PMID: 23619604
KRAS; EGFR; lung; adenocarcinoma; TTF-1
25.  Mutational Analysis of EGFR and Related Signaling Pathway Genes in Lung Adenocarcinomas Identifies a Novel Somatic Kinase Domain Mutation in FGFR4 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(5):e426.
Fifty percent of lung adenocarcinomas harbor somatic mutations in six genes that encode proteins in the EGFR signaling pathway, i.e., EGFR, HER2/ERBB2, HER4/ERBB4, PIK3CA, BRAF, and KRAS. We performed mutational profiling of a large cohort of lung adenocarcinomas to uncover other potential somatic mutations in genes of this signaling pathway that could contribute to lung tumorigenesis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We analyzed genomic DNA from a total of 261 resected, clinically annotated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) specimens. The coding sequences of 39 genes were screened for somatic mutations via high-throughput dideoxynucleotide sequencing of PCR-amplified gene products. Mutations were considered to be somatic only if they were found in an independent tumor-derived PCR product but not in matched normal tissue. Sequencing of 9MB of tumor sequence identified 239 putative genetic variants. We further examined 22 variants found in RAS family genes and 135 variants localized to exons encoding the kinase domain of respective proteins. We identified a total of 37 non-synonymous somatic mutations; 36 were found collectively in EGFR, KRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA. One somatic mutation was a previously unreported mutation in the kinase domain (exon 16) of FGFR4 (Glu681Lys), identified in 1 of 158 tumors. The FGFR4 mutation is analogous to a reported tumor-specific somatic mutation in ERBB2 and is located in the same exon as a previously reported kinase domain mutation in FGFR4 (Pro712Thr) in a lung adenocarcinoma cell line.
This study is one of the first comprehensive mutational analyses of major genes in a specific signaling pathway in a sizeable cohort of lung adenocarcinomas. Our results suggest the majority of gain-of-function mutations within kinase genes in the EGFR signaling pathway have already been identified. Our findings also implicate FGFR4 in the pathogenesis of a subset of lung adenocarcinomas.
PMCID: PMC1855985  PMID: 17487277

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