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author:("Dong, zhikong")
1.  Xenograft Tumors Vascularized with Murine Blood Vessels May Overestimate the Effect of Anti-Tumor Drugs: A Pilot Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84236.
Recent evidence demonstrated that endothelial cells initiate signaling events that enhance tumor cell survival, proliferation, invasion, and tumor recurrence. Under this new paradigm for cellular crosstalk within the tumor microenvironment, the origin of endothelial cells and tumor cells may have a direct impact on the pathobiology of cancer. The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the effect of endothelial cell species (i.e. murine or human) on xenograft tumor growth and response to therapy. Tumor xenografts vascularized either with human or with murine microvascular endothelial cells were engineered, side-by-side, subcutaneously in the dorsum of immunodefficient mice. When tumors reached 200 mm3, mice were treated for 30 days with either 4 mg/kg cisplatin (i.p.) every 5 days or with 40 mg/kg sunitinib (p.o.) daily. Xenograft human tumors vascularized with human endothelial cells grow faster than xenograft tumors vascularized with mouse endothelial cells (P<0.05). Notably, human tumors vascularized with human endothelial cells exhibited nuclear translocation of p65 (indicative of high NF-kB activity), and were more resistant to treatment with cisplatin or sunitinib than the contralateral tumors vascularized with murine endothelial cells (P<0.05). Collectively, these studies suggest that the species of endothelial cells has a direct impact on xenograft tumor growth and response to treatment with the chemotherapeutic drug cisplatin or with the anti-angiogenic drug sunitinib.
PMCID: PMC3877272  PMID: 24391922
2.  The Unfolded Protein Response Induces the Angiogenic Switch in Human Tumor Cells through the PERK/ATF4 Pathway 
Cancer research  2012;72(20):5396-5406.
Neovascularization is a limiting factor in tumor growth and progression. It is well known that changes in the tumor microenvironment, such as hypoxia and glucose deprivation (GD), can induce VEGF production. However, the mechanism linking GD to tumor growth and angiogenesis is unclear. We hypothesize that GD induces the angiogenic switch in tumors through activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR). We report that UPR activation in human tumors results in elevated expression of proangiogenic mediators and a concomitant decrease in angiogenesis inhibitors. cDNA microarray results showed that GD-induced UPR activation promoted upregulation of a number of proangiogenic mediators (VEGF, FGF2, IL6, etc.) and downregulation of several angiogenic inhibitors (THBS1, CXCL14 and CXCL10). In vitro studies revealed that partially blocking UPR signaling by silencing PERK or ATF4 significantly reduced the production of angiogenesis mediators induced by GD. However, suppressing the alpha subunit of hypoxia-inducible factors had no effect on this process. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed binding of ATF4 to a regulatory site in the VEGF gene. In vivo results confirmed that knockdown of PERK in tumor cells slows down tumor growth and decreases tumor blood vessel density. Collectively, these results demonstrate that the PERK/ATF4 arm of UPR mediates the angiogenic switch and is a potential target for antiangiogenic cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3743425  PMID: 22915762
Glucose deprivation; UPR; angiogenic switch; VEGF; THBS1
3.  Anti-tumor and anti-angiogenic effects of metronomic dosing of BH3-mimetics 
Cancer research  2011;72(3):716-725.
Recent studies have shown that Bcl-2 functions as a pro-angiogenic signaling molecule in addition to its well-known effect as an inhibitor of apoptosis. The discovery of AT101, a BH3-mimetic drug that is effective and well tolerated when administered orally, suggested the possibility of using a molecularly targeted drug in a metronomic regimen. Here, we generated xenograft squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) with humanized vasculature in immunodeficient mice. Mice received taxotere in combination with either daily 10 mg/kg AT101 (metronomic regimen) or weekly 70 mg/kg AT101 (bolus regimen). The effect of single drug AT101 on angiogenesis, and combination AT101/taxotere on the survival of endothelial cells and SCC cells, were also evaluated in vitro. Metronomic AT101 increased mouse survival (p=0.02), decreased tumor mitotic index (p=0.0009), and decreased tumor microvessel density (p=0.0052), as compared to bolus delivery of AT101. Notably, the substantial potentiation of the anti-tumor effect observed in the metronomic AT101 group was achieved using the same amount of drug and without significant changes in systemic toxicities. In vitro, combination of AT101 and taxotere showed additive toxicity for endothelial cells and synergistic or additive toxicity for tumor cells (SCC). Interestingly, low-dose (sub-apoptotic) concentrations of AT101 potently inhibited the angiogenic potential of endothelial cells. Taken together, these data unveiled the benefit of metronomic delivery of a molecularly targeted drug, and suggested that patients with squamous cell carcinomas might benefit from continuous administration of low dose BH3-mimetic drugs.
PMCID: PMC3748951  PMID: 22158856
Developmental therapeutics; targeted therapy; angiogenesis; Bcl-2; squamous cell carcinoma
4.  Amino Acid Deprivation Promotes Tumor Angiogenesis through the GCN2/ATF4 Pathway1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2013;15(8):989-997.
As tumors continue to grow and exceed their blood supply, nutrients become limited leading to deficiencies in amino acids (AAD), glucose (GD), and oxygen (hypoxia). These alterations result in significant changes in gene expression. While tumors have been shown to overcome the stress associated with GD or hypoxia by stimulating vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-mediated angiogenesis, the role of AAD in tumor angiogenesis remains to be elucidated. We found that in human tumors, the expression of the general control non-derepressible 2 (GCN2, an AAD sensor) kinase is elevated at both protein and mRNA levels. In vitro studies revealed that VEGF expression is universally induced by AAD treatment in all five cell lines tested (five of five). This is in contrast to two other angiogenesis mediators interleukin-6 (two of five) and fibroblast growth factor 2 (two of five) that have a more restricted expression. Suppressing GCN2 expression significantly decreased AAD-induced VEGF expression. Silencing activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), a downstream transcription factor of the GCN2 signaling pathway, is also associated with strong inhibition of AAD-induced VEGF expression. PKR-like kinase, the key player in GD-induced unfolded protein response is not involved in this process. In vivo xenograft tumor studies in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficient mice confirmed that knockdown of GCN2 in tumor cells retards tumor growth and decreases tumor blood vessel density. Our results reveal that the GCN2/ATF4 pathway promotes tumor growth and angiogenesis through AAD-mediated VEGF expression and, thus, is a potential target in cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3730049  PMID: 23908598
5.  DSP-PP Precursor Protein Cleavage by Tolloid-Related-1 Protein and by Bone Morphogenetic Protein-1 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41110.
Dentin sialoprotein (DSP) and phosphophoryn (PP), acidic proteins critical to dentin mineralization, are translated from a single transcript as a DSP-PP precursor that undergoes specific proteolytic processing to generate DSP and PP. The cleavage mechanism continues to be controversial, in part because of the difficulty of obtaining DSP-PP from mammalian cells and dentin matrix. We have infected Sf9 cells with a recombinant baculovirus to produce large amounts of secreted DSP-PP240, a variant form of rat DSP-PP. Mass spectrometric analysis shows that DSP-PP240 secreted by Sf9 cells undergoes specific cleavage at the site predicted from the N-terminal sequence of PP extracted from dentin matrix: SMQG447↓D448DPN. DSP-PP240 is cleaved after secretion by a zinc-dependent activity secreted by Sf9 cells, generating DSP430 and PP240 products that are stable in the medium. DSP-PP processing activity is constitutively secreted by Sf9 cells, but secretion is diminished 3 days after infection. Using primers corresponding to the highly conserved catalytic domain of Drosophila melanogaster tolloid (a mammalian BMP1 homolog), we isolated a partial cDNA for a Spodopotera frugiperda tolloid-related-1 protein (TLR1) that is 78% identical to Drosophila TLR1 but only 65% identical to Drosophila tolloid. Tlr1 mRNA decreased rapidly in Sf9 cells after baculovirus infection and was undetectable 4d after infection, paralleling the observed decrease in secretion of the DSP-PP240 processing activity after infection. Human BMP1 is more similar to Sf9 and Drosophila TLR1 than to tolloid, and Sf9 TLR1 is more similar to BMP1 than to other mammalian homologs. Recombinant human BMP1 correctly processed baculovirus-expressed DSP-PP240 in a dose-dependent manner. Together, these data suggest that the physiologically accurate cleavage of mammalian DSP-PP240 in the Sf9 cell system represents the action of a conserved processing enzyme and support the proposed role of BMP1 in processing DSP-PP in dentin matrix.
PMCID: PMC3398931  PMID: 22815932
6.  Endothelial cell-initiated signaling promotes the survival and self-renewal of cancer stem cells 
Cancer research  2010;70(23):9969-9978.
Recent studies have demonstrated that cancer stem cells play an important role in the pathobiology of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). However, little is known about functional interactions between head and neck cancer stem-like cells (CSC) and surrounding stromal cells. Here, we used Aldehyde Dehydrogenase activity and CD44 expression to sort putative stem cells from primary human HNSCC. Implantation of 1,000 CSC (ALDH+CD44+Lin−) led to tumors in 13 (out of 15) mice, while 10,000 non-cancer stem cells (NCSC; ALDH−CD44−Lin−) resulted in 2 tumors in 15 mice. These data demonstrated that ALDH and CD44 select a sub-population of cells that are highly tumorigenic. The ability to self-renew was confirmed by the observation that ALDH+CD44+Lin− cells sorted from human HNSCC formed more spheroids (orospheres) in 3-D agarose matrices or ultra-low attachment plates than controls and were serially passaged in vivo. We observed that approximately 80% of the CSC were located in close proximity (within 100-µm radius) of blood vessels in human tumors, suggesting the existence of perivascular niches in HNSCC. In vitro studies demonstrated that endothelial cell-secreted factors promoted self-renewal of CSC, as demonstrated by the upregulation of Bmi-1 expression and the increase in the number of orospheres as compared to controls. Notably, selective ablation of tumor-associated endothelial cells stably transduced with a caspase-based artificial death switch (iCaspase-9) caused a marked reduction in the fraction of CSC in xenograft tumors. Collectively, these findings indicate that endothelial cell-initiated signaling can enhance the survival and self-renewal of head and neck cancer stem cells.
PMCID: PMC3058885  PMID: 21098716
Tumor microenvironment; perivascular niche; anti-angiogenic therapy; squamous cell carcinoma; stemness
7.  Metronomic small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2 (TW-37) is anti-angiogenic and potentiates the anti-tumor effect of ionizing radiation 
To investigate the effect of a metronomic (low dose, high frequency) small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2 (TW-37) in combination with radiotherapy on microvascular endothelial cells in vitro and in tumor angiogenesis in vivo.
Methods and materials
Primary human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMEC) were exposed to ionizing radiation and/or TW-37, and colony formation as well as capillary sprouting in 3-D collagen matrices, was evaluated. Xenografts vascularized with human blood vessels were engineered by co-transplantation of human squamous cell carcinoma cells (OSCC3) and HDMEC seeded in highly porous biodegradable scaffolds into the subcutaneous space of immunodeficient mice. Mice were treated with metronomic TW-37 and/or radiation, and tumor growth was evaluated.
Low dose TW-37 sensitized primary endothelial cells to radiation-induced inhibition of colony formation. Low dose TW-37 or radiation partially inhibited endothelial cell sprout formation, while in combination these therapies abrogated new sprouting. Combination of metronomic TW-37 and low dose radiation inhibited tumor growth and resulted in significant increase in time to failure as compared to controls, whereas single agents did not. Notably, histopathological analysis revealed that tumors treated with TW-37 (with or without radiation) are more differentiated and showed more cohesive invasive fronts, which is consistent with less aggressive phenotype.
These results demonstrate that metronomic TW-37 potentiates the anti-tumor effects of radiotherapy, and suggest that patients with head and neck cancer might benefit from the combination of small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2 and radiation therapy.
PMCID: PMC2946486  PMID: 20675079
Developmental therapeutics; Radiotherapy; Head and Neck Cancer; Apoptosis; Neovascularization
8.  Transcriptional targeting of tumor endothelial cells for gene therapy 
Advanced drug delivery reviews  2009;61(7-8):542-553.
It is well known that angiogenesis plays a critical role in the pathobiology of tumors. Recent clinical trials have shown that inhibition of angiogenesis can be an effective therapeutic strategy for patients with cancer. However, one of the outstanding issues in anti-angiogenic treatment for cancer is the development of toxicities related to off-target effects of drugs. Transcriptional targeting of tumor endothelial cells involves the use of specific promoters for selective expression of therapeutic genes in the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels of tumors. Recently, several genes that are expressed specifically in tumor-associated endothelial cells have been identified and characterized. These discoveries have enhanced the prospectus of transcriptionaly targeting tumor endothelial cells for cancer gene therapy. In this manuscript, we review the promoters, vectors, and therapeutic genes that have been used for transcriptional targeting of tumor endothelial cells, and discuss the prospects of such approaches for cancer gene therapy.
PMCID: PMC2727054  PMID: 19393703
Cancer; angiogenesis; promoter; tumor microenvironment; review
9.  Cancer gene therapy with iCaspase-9 transcriptionally targeted to tumor endothelial cells 
Cancer gene therapy  2008;15(10):667-675.
Antiangiogenic therapies have shown varying results partly because each tumor type secretes a distinct panel of angiogenic factors to sustain its own microvascular network. In addition, recent evidence demonstrated that tumors develop resistance to antiangiogenic therapy by turning on alternate angiogenic pathways when one pathway is therapeutically inhibited. Here, we test the hypothesis that expression of a caspase-based artificial death switch in tumor-associated endothelial cells will disrupt tumor blood vessels and slowdown tumor progression irrespective of tumor type. Adenoviral vectors expressing inducible Caspase-9 (iCaspase-9) under transcriptional regulation with the endothelial cell specific VEGFR2 promoter (Ad-hVEGFR2-iCaspase-9) induced apoptosis of proliferating human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMEC), but not human tumor cells (UM-SCC-17B, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; HepG2, hepatocellular carcinoma; PC-3, prostate adenocarcinoma; SLK, Kaposi’s sarcoma; MCF-7, breast adenocarcinoma). Notably, apoptosis was dependent upon activation of iCaspase-9 with the dimerizer drug AP20187. Local delivery of Ad-hVEGFR2-iCaspase-9 followed by intraperitoneal injection of AP20187 ablated tumor microvessels and inhibited xenografted tumor growth in all tumor models evaluated here. We conclude that a cancer gene therapy strategy based on a transcriptionally targeted viral vector expressing an inducible caspase allows for selective and controlled ablation of microvessels of histopathologically diverse tumor types.
PMCID: PMC2665693  PMID: 18566614
angiogenesis; neovascularization; apoptosis; suicide gene
10.  Level of Endothelial Cell Apoptosis Required for a Significant Decrease in Microvessel Density 
Experimental cell research  2007;313(16):3645-3657.
Endothelial cell apoptosis plays a critical role in the disruption of blood vessels mediated by natural inhibitors of angiogenesis and by anti-vascular drugs. However, the proportion of endothelial cells required to mediate a significant decrease in microvessel density is unknown. A system based on an inducible caspase (iCaspase-9) offers a unique opportunity to address this question. The dimerizer drug AP20187 induces apoptosis of human dermal microvascular endothelial cells stably transduced with iCaspase-9 (HDMEC-iCaspase-9), but not control cells (HDMEC-LXSN). Here, we generated blood vessels containing several HDMEC-iCaspase-9:HDMEC-LXSN ratios, and developed a mathematical modeling involving a system of differential equations to evaluate experimentally inaccessible ratios. A significant decrease in capillary sprouts was observed when at least 17% of the endothelial cells underwent apoptosis in vitro. Exposure to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF165) did not prevent apoptosis of HDMEC-iCaspase-9, but increased the apoptotic requirement for sprout disruption. In vivo experiments showed the requirement of at least 22% apoptotic endothelial cells for a significant decrease in microvascular density. The combined use of biological experimentation with mathematical modeling allowed us to conclude that apoptosis of a relatively small proportion of endothelial cells is sufficient to mediate a significant decrease in microvessel density.
PMCID: PMC2080879  PMID: 17720154
11.  Abnormal Mammary Gland Development and Growth Retardation in Female Mice and MCF7 Breast Cancer Cells Lacking Androgen Receptor 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2003;198(12):1899-1908.
Phenotype analysis of female mice lacking androgen receptor (AR) deficient (AR−/−) indicates that the development of mammary glands is retarded with reduced ductal branching in the prepubertal stages, and fewer Cap cells in the terminal end buds, as well as decreased lobuloalveolar development in adult females, and fewer milk-producing alveoli in the lactating glands. The defective development of AR−/− mammary glands involves the defects of insulin-like growth factor I–insulin-like growth factor I receptor and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signals as well as estrogen receptor (ER) activity. Similar growth retardation and defects in growth factor–mediated Ras/Raf/MAPK cascade and ER signaling are also found in AR−/− MCF7 breast cancer cells. The restoration assays show that AR NH2-terminal/DNA-binding domain, but not the ligand-binding domain, is essential for normal MAPK function in MCF7 cells, and an AR mutant (R608K), found in male breast cancer, is associated with the excessive activation of MAPK. Together, our data provide the first in vivo evidence showing that AR-mediated MAPK and ER activation may play important roles for mammary gland development and MCF7 breast cancer cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC2194158  PMID: 14676301
androgen receptor; knockout mice; mammary gland; breast cancer; MAPK

Results 1-11 (11)