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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.  Efficacy of BET bromodomain inhibition in Kras-mutant non-small cell lung cancer 
Amplification of MYC is one of the most common genetic alterations in lung cancer, contributing to a myriad of phenotypes associated with growth, invasion and drug resistance. Murine genetics has established both the centrality of somatic alterations of Kras in lung cancer, as well as the dependency of mutant Kras tumors on MYC function. Unfortunately, drug-like small-molecule inhibitors of KRAS and MYC have yet to be realized. The recent discovery, in hematologic malignancies, that BET bromodomain inhibition impairs MYC expression and MYC transcriptional function established the rationale of targeting KRAS-driven NSCLC with BET inhibition.
Experimental Design
We performed functional assays to evaluate the effects of JQ1 in genetically defined NSCLC cells lines harboring KRAS and/or LKB1 mutations. Furthermore, we evaluated JQ1 in transgenic mouse lung cancer models expressing mutant kras or concurrent mutant kras and lkb1. Effects of bromodomain inhibition on transcriptional pathways were explored and validated by expression analysis.
While JQ1 is broadly active in NSCLC cells, activity of JQ1 in mutant KRAS NSCLC is abrogated by concurrent alteration or genetic knock-down of LKB1. In sensitive NSCLC models, JQ1 treatment results in the coordinate downregulation of the MYC-dependent transcriptional program. We found that JQ1 treatment produces significant tumor regression in mutant kras mice. As predicted, tumors from mutant kras and lkb1 mice did not respond to JQ1.
Bromodomain inhibition comprises a promising therapeutic strategy for KRAS mutant NSCLC with wild-type LKB1, via inhibition of MYC function. Clinical studies of BET bromodomain inhibitors in aggressive NSCLC will be actively pursued.
PMCID: PMC3838895  PMID: 24045185
9.  Contributions of KRAS and RAL in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer growth and progression 
KRAS mutations are poor prognostic markers for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). RALA and RALB GTPases lie downstream of RAS and are implicated in RAS mediated tumorigenesis. However, their biological or prognostic role in the context of KRAS mutation in NSCLC is unclear.
Using expression analysis of human tumors and a panel of cell lines coupled with functional in vivo and in vitro experiments, we evaluated the prognostic and functional importance of RAL in NSCLC and their relationship to KRAS expression and mutation.
Immunohistochemical (N=189) and transcriptomic (N=337) analyses of NSCLC patients revealed high RALA and RALB expression was associated with poor survival. In a panel of 14 human NSCLC cell lines, RALA and RALB had higher expression in KRAS mutant cell lines while RALA but not RALB activity was higher in KRAS mutant cell lines. Depletion of RAL paralogs identified cell lines that are dependent on RAL expression for proliferation and anchorage independent growth. Overall, growth of NSCLC cell lines which carry a glycine to cystine (G12C) KRAS mutation were more sensitive to RAL depletion than those with wild-type KRAS. Using gene expression and outcome data from 337 human tumors, RAL-KRAS interaction analysis revealed that KRAS and RAL paralog expression jointly impact patient prognosis.
RAL GTPase expression carries important additional prognostic information to KRAS status in NSCLC patients. Simultaneously targeting RAL may provide a novel therapeutic approach in NSCLC patients harboring G12C KRAS mutations.
PMCID: PMC3934792  PMID: 24389431
RAL; RAS; non-small cell lung cancer; GTPase; prognosis
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  MUC1-C confers EMT and KRAS independence in mutant KRAS lung cancer cells 
Oncotarget  2014;5(19):8893-8905.
Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) that harbor an oncogenic KRAS mutation are often associated with resistance to targeted therapies. The MUC1-C transmembrane protein is aberrantly overexpressed in NSCLCs and confers a poor outcome; however, the functional role for MUC1-C in mutant KRAS NSCLC cells has remained unclear. The present studies demonstrate that silencing MUC1-C in A549/KRAS(G12S) and H460/KRAS(Q61H) NSCLC cells is associated with downregulation of AKT signaling and inhibition of growth. Overexpression of a MUC1-C(CQC→AQA) mutant, which inhibits MUC1-C homodimerization and function, suppressed both AKT and MEK activation. Moreover, treatment with GO-203, an inhibitor of MUC1-C homodimerization, blocked AKT and MEK signaling and decreased cell survival. The results further demonstrate that targeting MUC1-C suppresses expression of the ZEB1 transcriptional repressor by an AKT-mediated mechanism, and in turn induces miR-200c. In concert with these effects on the ZEB1/miR-200c regulatory loop, targeting MUC1-C was associated with reversal of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and inhibition of self-renewal capacity. Loss of MUC1-C function also attenuated KRAS independence and inhibited growth of KRAS mutant NSCLC cells as tumors in mice. These findings support a model in which targeting MUC1-C inhibits mutant KRAS signaling in NSCLC cells and thereby reverses the EMT phenotype and decreases self-renewal.
PMCID: PMC4253405  PMID: 25245423
KRAS; NSCLC; MUC1-C; AKT; ZEB1; EMT; self-renewal
15.  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
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Detecting the spectrum of multigene mutations in non-small cell lung cancer by Snapshot assay 
Chinese Journal of Cancer  2014;33(7):346-350.
As molecular targets continue to be identified and more targeted inhibitors are developed for personalized treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), multigene mutation determination will be needed for routine oncology practice and for clinical trials. In this study, we evaluated the sensitivity and specificity of multigene mutation testing by using the Snapshot assay in NSCLC. We retrospectively reviewed a cohort of 110 consecutive NSCLC specimens for which epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation testing was performed between November 2011 and December 2011 using Sanger sequencing. Using the Snapshot assay, mutation statuses were detected for EGFR, Kirsten rate sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS), phosphoinositide-3-kinase catalytic alpha polypeptide (PIK3CA), v-Raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1 (BRAF), v-ras neuroblastoma viral oncogene homolog (NRAS), dual specificity mitogen activated protein kinase kinase 1 (MEK1), phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) in patient specimens and cell line DNA. Snapshot data were compared to Sanger sequencing data. Of the 110 samples, 51 (46.4%) harbored at least one mutation. The mutation frequency in adenocarcinoma specimens was 55.6%, and the frequencies of EGFR, KRAS, PIK3CA, PTEN, and MEK1 mutations were 35.5%, 9.1%, 3.6%, 0.9%, and 0.9%, respectively. No mutation was found in the HER2, NRAS, or BRAF genes. Three of the 51 mutant samples harbored double mutations: two PIK3CA mutations coexisted with KRAS or EGFR mutations, and another KRAS mutation coexisted with a PTEN mutation. Among the 110 samples, 47 were surgical specimens, 60 were biopsy specimens, and 3 were cytological specimens; the corresponding mutation frequencies were 51.1%, 41.7%, and 66.7%, respectively (P = 0.532). Compared to Sanger sequencing, Snapshot specificity was 98.4% and sensitivity was 100% (positive predictive value, 97.9%; negative predictive value, 100%). The Snapshot assay is a sensitive and easily customized assay for multigene mutation testing in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC4110467  PMID: 24823994
Non-small cell lung cancer; multigene mutation; Snapshot assay; Sanger sequencing
19.  Prognostic Value Analysis of Mutational and Clinicopathological Factors in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107276.
Targeting activating oncogenic driver mutations in lung adenocarcinoma has led to prolonged survival in patients harboring these specific genetic alterations. The prognostic value of these mutations has not yet been elucidated. The prevalence of recently uncovered non-coding somatic mutation in promoter region of TERT gene is also to be validated in lung cancer. The purpose of this study is to show the prevalence, association with clinicalpathological features and prognostic value of these factors.
In a cohort of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (n = 174, including 107 lung adenocarcinoma and 67 lung squamous cell carcinoma), EGFR, KRAS, HER2 and BRAF were directly sequenced in lung adeoncarcinoma, ALK fusions were screened using FISH (Fluorescence in situ Hybridization).TERT promoter region was sequenced in all of the 174 NSCLC samples. Associations of these somatic mutations and clinicopathological features, as well as prognostic factors were evaluated.
EGFR, KRAS, HER2, BRAF mutation and ALK fusion were mutated in 25.2%, 6.5%, 1.9%, 0.9% and 3.7% of lung adenocarcinomas. No TERT promoter mutation was validated by reverse-sided sequencing. Lung adenocarcinoma with EGFR and KRAS mutations showed no significant difference in Disease-free Survival (DFS) and Overall Survival (OS). Cox Multi-variate analysis revealed that only N stage and HER2 mutation were independent predictors of worse overall survival (HR = 1.653, 95% CI 1.219–2.241, P = 0.001; HR = 12.344, 95% CI 2.615–58.275, P = 0.002).
We have further confirmed that TERT promoter mutation may only exist in a very small fraction of NSCLCs. These results indicate that dividing lung adenocarcinoma into molecular subtypes according to oncogenic driver mutations doesn't predict survival difference of the disease.
PMCID: PMC4157862  PMID: 25198510
20.  Downstream of Mutant KRAS, the Transcription Regulator YAP Is Essential for Neoplastic Progression to Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma 
Science signaling  2014;7(324):ra42.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive cancer with poor survival rates and frequently carries oncogenic KRAS mutation. However, KRAS has thus far not been a viable therapeutic target. We found that the abundance of YAP mRNA, which encodes Yes-associated protein (YAP), a protein regulated by the Hippo pathway during tissue development and homeostasis, was increased in human PDAC tissue compared with that in normal pancreatic epithelia. In genetically engineered KrasG12D and KrasG12D: Trp53R172H mouse models, pancreas-specific deletion of Yap halted the progression of early neoplastic lesions to PDAC without affecting normal pancreatic development and endocrine function. Although Yap was dispensable for acinar to ductal metaplasia (ADM), an initial step in the progression to PDAC, Yap was critically required for the proliferation of mutant Kras or Kras:Trp53 neoplastic pancreatic ductal cells in culture and for their growth and progression to invasive PDAC in mice. Yap functioned as a critical transcriptional switch downstream of the oncogenic KRAS–mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, promoting the expression of genes encoding secretory factors that cumulatively sustained neoplastic proliferation, a tumorigenic stromal response in the tumor microenvironment, and PDAC progression in Kras and Kras: Trp53 mutant pancreas tissue. Together, our findings identified Yap as a critical oncogenic KRAS effector and a promising therapeutic target for PDAC and possibly other types of KRAS-mutant cancers.
PMCID: PMC4175524  PMID: 24803537
21.  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
22.  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
23.  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
24.  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)
25.  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

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