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1.  BH3-mimetic small molecule inhibits the growth and recurrence of adenoid cystic carcinoma 
Oral oncology  2015;51(9):839-847.
To evaluate the anti-tumor effect of BM-1197, a new potent and highly specific small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2/Bcl-xL, in preclinical models of human adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC).
Low passage primary human adenoid cystic carcinoma cells (UM-HACC-2A,-2B,-5,-6) and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models (UM-PDX-HACC) were developed from surgical specimens obtained from 4 patients. The effect of BM-1197 on cell viability and cell cycle were evaluated in vitro using this panel of low passage ACC cells. The effect of BM-1197 on tumor growth, recurrence and tumor cell apoptosis in vivo was evaluated with the PDX model of ACC (UM-PDX-HACC-5).
Exposure of low passage primary human ACC cells to BM-1197 mediated an IC50 of 0.92-2.82 μM. This correlated with an increase in the fraction of apoptotic cells (p<0.0001) and an increase in caspase-3 activity (p<0.0001), but no noticeable differences in cell cycle (p>0.05). In vivo, BM-1197 inhibited tumor growth (p=0.0256) and induced tumor cell apoptosis (p=0.0165) without causing significant systemic toxicities, as determined by mouse weight over time. Surprisingly, weekly BM-1197 decreased the incidence of tumor recurrence (p=0.0297), as determined by Kaplan-Meier analysis.
These data demonstrated that single agent BM-1197 induces apoptosis and inhibits tumor growth in preclinical models of adenoid cystic carcinoma. Notably, single agent BM-1197 inhibited tumor recurrence, which is considered a major clinical challenge in the clinical management of adenoid cystic carcinoma. Collectively, these results suggest that patients with adenoid cystic carcinoma might benefit from therapy with a BH3-mimetic small molecule.
PMCID: PMC4532618  PMID: 26121939
Salivary gland cancer; Resistance to therapy; Targeted therapy; Bcl-2; Bcl-xL; Apoptosis; Tumor recurrence
2.  IL-6 Inhibition With MEDI5117 Decreases The Fraction of Head and Neck Cancer Stem Cells and Prevents Tumor Recurrence1,2 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2016;18(5):273-281.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) exhibit a small population of uniquely tumorigenic cancer stem cells (CSC) endowed with self-renewal and multipotency. We have recently shown that IL-6 enhances the survival and tumorigenic potential of head and neck cancer stem cells (i.e. ALDHhighCD44high cells). Here, we characterized the effect of therapeutic inhibition of IL-6 with a novel humanized anti-IL-6 antibody (MEDI5117) using three low-passage patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models of HNSCC. We observed that single agent MEDI5117 inhibited the growth of PDX-SCC-M1 tumors (P < .05). This PDX model was generated from a previously untreated HNSCC. In contrast, MEDI5117 was not effective at reducing overall tumor volume for PDX models representing resistant disease (PDX-SCC-M0, PDX-SCC-M11). Low dose MEDI5117 (3 mg/kg) consistently decreased the fraction of cancer stem cells in PDX models of HNSCC when compared to IgG-treated controls, as follows: PDX-SCC-M0 (P < .001), PDX-SCC-M1 (P < .001), PDX-SCC-M11 (P = .04). Interestingly, high dose MEDI5117 (30 mg/kg) decreased the CSC fraction in the PDX-SCC-M11 model (P = .002), but not in PDX-SCC-M0 and PDX-SCC-M1. MEDI5117 mediated a dose-dependent decrease in the number of orospheres generated by ALDHhighCD44high cells cultured in ultra-low attachment plates (P < .05), supporting an inhibitory effect on head and neck cancer stem cells. Notably, single agent MEDI5117 reduced the overall recurrence rate of PDX-SCC-M0, a PDX generated from the local recurrence of human HNSCC. Collectively, these data demonstrate that therapeutic inhibition of IL-6 with low-dose MEDI5117 decreases the fraction of cancer stem cells, and that adjuvant MEDI5117 inhibits recurrence in preclinical models of HNSCC.
PMCID: PMC4887598  PMID: 27237319
3.  A phase II trial of the BCL-2 homolog domain 3 mimetic AT-101 in combination with docetaxel for recurrent, locally advanced, or metastatic head and neck cancer 
Investigational new drugs  2016;34(4):481-489.
AT-101 is a BCL-2 Homolog domain 3 mimetic previously demonstrated to have tumoricidal effects in advanced solid organ malignancies. Given the evidence of activity in xenograft models, treatment with AT-101 in combination with docetaxel is a therapeutic doublet of interest in metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
Patients and Methods
Patients included in this trial had unresectable, recurrent, or distantly metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (R/M HNSCC) not amenable to curative radiation or surgery. This was an open label randomized, phase II trial in which patients were administered AT-101 in addition to docetaxel. The three treatment arms were docetaxel, docetaxel plus pulse dose AT-101, and docetaxel plus metronomic dose AT-101. The primary endpoint of this trial was overall response rate.
Thirty-five patients were registered and 32 were evaluable for treatment response. Doublet therapy with AT-101 and docetaxel was well tolerated with only 2 patients discontinuing therapy due to treatment related toxicities. The overall response rate was 11% (4 partial responses) with a clinical benefit rate of 74%. Median progression free survival was 4.3 months (range: 0.7–13.7) and overall survival was 5.5 months (range: 0.4–24). No significant differences were noted between dosing strategies.
Although met with a favorable toxicity profile, the addition of AT-101 to docetaxel in R/M HNSCC does not appear to demonstrate evidence of efficacy.
PMCID: PMC5036856  PMID: 27225873
head and neck neoplasms; BH3 mimetic; AT-101; docetaxel; metronomic dosing; gossypol
4.  Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) tumors increase growth rate with time 
Oncotarget  2016;7(7):7993-8005.
Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models are frequently used for translational cancer research, and are assumed to behave consistently as the tumor ages. However, growth rate constancy as a function of time is unclear. Notably, variable PDX growth rates over time might have implications for the interpretation of translational studies. We characterized four PDX models through several in vivo passages from primary human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and salivary gland adenoid cystic carcinoma. We developed a mathematical approach to merge growth data from different passages into a single measure of relative tumor volume normalized to study initiation size. We analyzed log-relative tumor volume increase with linear mixed effect models. Two oral pathologists analyzed the PDX tissues to determine if histopathological feature changes occurred over in vivo passages. Tumor growth rate increased over time. This was determined by repeated measures linear regression statistical analysis in four different PDX models. A quadratic statistical model for the temporal effect predicted the log-relative tumor volume significantly better than a linear time effect model. We found a significant correlation between passage number and histopathological features of higher tumor grade. Our mathematical treatment of PDX data allows statistical analysis of tumor growth data over long periods of time, including over multiple passages. Non-linear tumor growth in our regression models revealed the exponential growth rate increased over time. The dynamic tumor growth rates correlated with quantifiable histopathological changes that related to passage number in multiple types of cancer.
PMCID: PMC4884970  PMID: 26783960
mathematical modeling; tumor growth; mouse models; head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; adenoid cystic carcinoma
5.  The Perivascular Niche and Self-Renewal of Stem Cells 
Postnatal stem cells are typically found in niches that provide signaling cues to maintain their self-renewal and multipotency. While stem cell populations may serve distinct purposes within their tissue of origin, understanding the conserved biology of stem cells and their respective niches provides insights to the behavior of these cells during homeostasis and tissue repair. Here, we discuss perivascular niches of two distinct stem cell populations (i.e., hematopoietic stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells) and explore mechanisms that sustain these stem cells postnatally. We highlight work that demonstrates the impact of cellular crosstalk to stem cell self-renewal and maintenance of functional perivascular niches. We also discuss the importance of the crosstalk within the perivascular niche to the biology of stem cells, and describe the regenerative potential of perivascular cells. We postulate that signaling events that establish and/or stabilize the perivascular niche, particularly through the modulation of self-renewing factors, are key to the long-term success of regenerated tissues.
PMCID: PMC4667083  PMID: 26696901
regenerative endodontics; perivascular niche; inflammation; wound healing; tissue engineering
6.  Endothelial Interleukin-6 defines the tumorigenic potential of primary human cancer stem cells 
Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)  2014;32(11):2845-2857.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) contain a small sub-population of stem cells endowed with unique capacity to generate tumors. These cancer stem cells (CSC) are localized in perivascular niches and rely on crosstalk with endothelial cells for survival and self-renewal, but the mechanisms involved are unknown. Here, we report that stromal interleukin (IL)-6 defines the tumorigenic capacity of CSC sorted from primary human HNSCC and transplanted into mice. In search for the cellular source of IL-6, we observed a direct correlation between IL-6 levels in tumor-associated endothelial cells and the tumorigenicity of CSC. In vitro, endothelial cell-IL-6 enhanced orosphere formation, p-STAT3 activation, survival and self-renewal of human CSC. Notably, a humanized anti-IL-6R antibody (tocilizumab) inhibited primary human CSC-mediated tumor initiation. Collectively, these data demonstrate that endothelial cell-secreted IL-6 defines the tumorigenic potential of CSC, and suggest that HNSCC patients might benefit from therapeutic inhibition of IL-6/IL-6R signaling.
PMCID: PMC4198458  PMID: 25078284
Perivascular niche; Self-renewal; Survival; Squamous cell carcinoma; Angiogenesis
7.  ALDH/CD44 identifies uniquely tumorigenic cancer stem cells in salivary gland mucoepidermoid carcinomas 
Oncotarget  2015;6(29):26633-26650.
A small sub-population of cells characterized by increased tumorigenic potential, ability to self-renew and to differentiate into cells that make up the tumor bulk, has been characterized in some (but not all) tumor types. These unique cells, namedcancer stem cells, are considered drivers of tumor progression in these tumors. The purpose of this work is to understand if cancer stem cells play a functional role in the tumorigenesis of salivary gland mucoepidermoid carcinomas. Here, we investigated the expression of putative cancer stem cell markers (ALDH, CD10, CD24, CD44) in primary human mucoepidermoid carcinomas by immunofluorescence, in vitro salisphere assays, and in vivo tumorigenicity assays in immunodeficient mice. Human mucoepidermoid carcinoma cells (UM-HMC-1, UM-HMC-3A, UM-HMC-3B) sorted for high levels of ALDH activity and CD44 expression (ALDHhighCD44high) consistently formed primary and secondary salispheres in vitro, and showed enhanced tumorigenic potential in vivo (defined as time to tumor palpability, tumor growth after palpability), when compared to ALDHlowCD44low cells. Cells sorted for CD10/CD24, and CD10/CD44 showed varying trends of salisphere formation, but consistently low in vivo tumorigenic potential. And finally, cells sorted for CD44/CD24 showed inconsistent results in salisphere formation and tumorigenic potential assays when different cell lines were evaluated. Collectively, these data demonstrate that salivary gland mucoepidermoid carcinomas contain a small population of cancer stem cells with enhanced tumorigenic potential and that are characterized by high ALDH activity and CD44 expression. These results suggest that patients with mucoepidermoid carcinoma might benefit from therapies that ablate these highly tumorigenic cells.
PMCID: PMC4694941  PMID: 26449187
salivary gland cancer; tumorigenesis; self-renewal; multipotency; tumor initiating cells
8.  Sensitizing mucoepidermoid carcinomas to chemotherapy by targeted disruption of cancer stem cells 
Oncotarget  2016;7(27):42447-42460.
Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) is the most common malignancy of salivary glands. The response of MEC to chemotherapy is unpredictable, and recent advances in cancer biology suggest the involvement of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in tumor progression and chemoresistance and radioresistance phenotype. We found that histone acetyltransferase inhibitors (HDACi) were capable of disrupting CSCs in MEC. Furthermore, administration of HDACi prior to Cisplatin (two-hit approach) disrupts CSCs and sensitizes tumor cells to Cisplatin. Our findings corroborate to emerging evidence that CSCs play a key role in tumor resistance to chemotherapy, and highlights a pharmacological two-hit approach that disrupts tumor resistance to conventional therapy.
PMCID: PMC5173147  PMID: 27285758
salivary cancer; epigenetic; histone modifications; histone acetylation; cancer initiating cells
9.  Anti-tumor effect of inhibition of IL-6 signaling in mucoepidermoid carcinoma 
Oncotarget  2015;6(26):22822-22835.
Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) is the most frequent malignant salivary gland cancer. Response to chemoradiotherapy is modest, and therefore radical surgery remains the standard-of-care. Emerging evidence suggests that Interleukin (IL)-6 signaling correlates with the survival of cancer stem cells and resistance to therapy. Here, we investigated whether inhibition of IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) signaling with tocilizumab (humanized anti-human IL-6R antibody) sensitizes MEC to chemotherapy using human mucoepidermoid carcinoma cell lines (UM-HMC) and correspondent xenograft models. In vitro, we observed that tocilizumab inhibited STAT3 phosphorylation but had no measurable effect in MEC cell viability (UM-HMC-1,-3A,-3B). In contrast, the anti-tumor effect of single agent tocilizumab on MEC xenografts was comparable to paclitaxel or cisplatin. Combination of tocilizumab with cisplatin or paclitaxel enhanced the inhibitory effect of chemotherapy on xenograft growth (P < 0.05), time to failure (P < 0.01), decreased vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression and tumor microvessel density (P < 0.05) without added systemic toxicities. Notably, tocilizumab decreased the fraction of MEC cancer stem cells (ALDHhighCD44high) in vitro, and prevented paclitaxel-induced increase in the fraction of cancer stem cells in vivo (P < 0.05). Collectively, these findings demonstrate that tocilizumab enhances the anti-tumor effect of conventional chemotherapy in preclinical models of mucoepidermoid carcinoma, and suggest that patients might benefit from combination therapy with an inhibitor of IL-6R signaling and chemotherapeutic agent such as paclitaxel.
PMCID: PMC4673202  PMID: 26287605
salivary gland cancer; tumorigenesis; tocilizumab; IL-6R; tumor initiating cells
10.  Pluripotency of Stem Cells from Human Exfoliated Deciduous Teeth for Tissue Engineering 
Stem Cells International  2016;2016:5957806.
Stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth (SHED) are highly proliferative pluripotent cells that can be retrieved from primary teeth. Although SHED are isolated from the dental pulp, their differentiation potential is not limited to odontoblasts only. In fact, SHED can differentiate into several cell types including neurons, osteoblasts, adipocytes, and endothelial cells. The high plasticity makes SHED an interesting stem cell model for research in several biomedical areas. This review will discuss key findings about the characterization and differentiation of SHED into odontoblasts, neurons, and hormone secreting cells (e.g., hepatocytes and islet-like cell aggregates). The outcomes of the studies presented here support the multipotency of SHED and their potential to be used for tissue engineering-based therapies.
PMCID: PMC4904107  PMID: 27313627
11.  Endothelial cell-secreted EGF induces epithelial to mesenchymal transition and endows head and neck cancer cells with stem-like phenotype 
Cancer research  2014;74(10):2869-2881.
Emerging evidence suggests that endothelial cell-secreted factors contribute to the pathobiology of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by enhancing invasive migration and resistance to anoikis. Here we report that SCC cells within the perivascular niche have undergone epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in a primary human SCC of a patient that developed distant metastases. Endothelial cell-secreted EGF induced EMT of human SCC cells in vitro and also induced acquisition of a stem-like phenotype. In vivo, tumor xenografts vascularized with EGF-silenced endothelial cells exhibited a smaller fraction of cancer stem-like cells (ALDH+CD44+) and were less invasive than tumors vascularized with control endothelial cells. Collectively, these results demonstrated that endothelial cell-EGF induces EMT and an acquisition of stem-like properties by head and neck tumor cells. On this basis, we suggest that vascular endothelial cells contribute to tumor dissemination by secreting factors that endow carcinoma cells with enhanced motility and stemness.
PMCID: PMC4028029  PMID: 24686166
Epithelial mesenchymal transition; Cancer stem cells; Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; Angiogenesis; Perivascular niche
12.  Functionalized scaffolds to control dental pulp stem cell fate 
Journal of endodontics  2014;40(4 0):S33-S40.
Emerging understanding about interactions between stem cells, scaffolds and morphogenic factors has accelerated translational research in the field of dental pulp tissue engineering. Dental pulp stem cells constitute a sub-population of cells endowed with self-renewal and multipotency. Dental pulp stem cells seeded in biodegradable scaffolds and exposed to dentin-derived morphogenic signals give rise to a pulp-like tissue capable of generating new dentin. Notably, dentin-derived proteins are sufficient to induce dental pulp stem cell differentiation into odontoblasts. Ongoing work is focused on developing ways of mobilizing dentin-derived proteins and disinfecting the root canal of necrotic teeth without compromising the morphogenic potential of these signaling molecules. On the other hand, dentin by itself does not appear to be capable of inducing endothelial differentiation of dental pulp stem cells, despite the well known presence of angiogenic factors in dentin. This is particularly relevant in the context of dental pulp tissue engineering in full root canals, where access to blood supply is limited to the apical foramina. To address this challenge, scientists are looking at ways to use the scaffold as a controlled release device for angiogenic factors. The aim of this manuscript is to present and discuss current strategies to functionalize injectable scaffolds and customize them for dental pulp tissue engineering. The long-term goal of this work is to develop stem cell-based therapies that enable the engineering of functional dental pulps capable of generating new tubular dentin in humans.
PMCID: PMC4034046  PMID: 24698691
Tissue engineering; Regenerative Endodontics; Pulp biology; Dental pulp stem cells; Morphogenic signals; Angiogenesis; Dentin
13.  Characterization of tumorigenic cell lines from the recurrence and lymph node metastasis of a human salivary mucoepidermoid carcinoma 
Oral oncology  2013;49(11):10.1016/j.oraloncology.2013.08.004.
The long-term outcome of patients with mucoepidermoid carcinoma is poor. Limited availability of cell lines and lack of xenograft models is considered a major barrier to improved mechanistic understanding of this disease and development of effective therapies.
To generate and characterize human mucoepidermoid carcinoma cell lines and xenograft models suitable for mechanistic and translational studies.
Five human mucoepidermoid carcinoma specimens were available for generation of cell lines. Cell line tumorigenic potential was assessed by transplantation and serial in vivo passaging in immunodeficient mice, and cell line authenticity verified by short tandem repeat (STR) profiling.
A unique pair of mucoepidermoid carcinoma cell lines was established from a local recurrence (UM-HMC-3A) and from the metastatic lymph node (UM-HMC-3B) of the same patient, 4 years after surgical removal of the primary tumor. These cell lines retained epithelial-like morphology through 100 passages in vitro, contain the Crtc1-Maml2 fusion oncogene (characteristic of mucoepidermoid carcinomas), and express the prototypic target of this fusion (NR4A2). Both cell lines generated xenograft tumors when transplanted into immunodeficient mice. Notably, the xenografts exhibited histological features and Periodic Acid Schiff (PAS) staining patterns that closely resembled those found in human tumors. STR profiling confirmed the origin and authenticity of these cell lines.
These data demonstrate the generation and characterization of a pair of tumorigenic salivary mucoepidermoid carcinoma cell lines representative of recurrence and lymph node metastasis. Such models are useful for mechanistic and translational studies that might contribute to the discovery of new therapies for mucoepidermoid carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3821871  PMID: 24035723
Mouse models; Salivary gland cancer; Xenograft; Oral cancer; Crtc1-Maml2; Tumor recurrence; Metastasis
14.  Perivascular stem cell niche in head and neck cancer 
Cancer letters  2012;338(1):41-46.
Cancers may contain a small sub-population of uniquely tumorigenic cells that exhibit self-renewal and multipotency, i.e. cancer stem cells (CSC). These cells reside in invasive fronts in close proximity to blood vessels in many tumors, including head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). Recent evidence suggests that CSC resist chemotherapy and “drive” local recurrence and metastatic spread. Notably, endothelial cell-initiated signaling is critical for the survival and self-renewal of CSC and may play a role in resistance to therapy. Therefore, patients with head and neck cancer might benefit from therapies that target the CSC directly or their supportive perivascular niche.
PMCID: PMC3500571  PMID: 22842095
Tumorigenesis; Angiogenesis; Stemness; Oral cancer; Tumor initiation; Tumor microenvironment
15.  Salivary Gland Cancer Stem Cells 
Oral oncology  2013;49(9):845-853.
Emerging evidence suggests the existence of a tumorigenic population of cancer cells that demonstrate stem cell-like properties such as self-renewal and multipotency. These cells, termed cancer stem cells (CSC), are able to both initiate and maintain tumor formation and progression. Studies have shown that CSC are resistant to traditional chemotherapy treatments preventing complete eradication of the tumor cell population. Following treatment, CSC are able to re-initiate tumor growth leading to patient relapse. Salivary gland cancers are relatively rare but constitute a highly significant public health issue due to the lack of effective treatments. In particular, patients with mucoepidermoid carcinoma or adenoid cystic carcinoma, the two most common salivary malignancies, have low long-term survival rates due to the lack of response to current therapies. Considering the role of CSC in resistance to therapy in other tumor types, it is possible that this unique sub-population of cells is involved in resistance of salivary gland tumors to treatment. Characterization of CSC can lead to better understanding of the pathobiology of salivary gland malignancies as well as to the development of more effective therapies. Here, we make a brief overview of the state-of-the-science in salivary gland cancer, and discuss possible implications of the cancer stem cell hypothesis to the treatment of salivary gland malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3744607  PMID: 23810400
Mucoepidermoid carcinoma; Adenoid cystic carcinoma; Perivascular niche; Chemoresistance; Tumor initiating cells
16.  Orosphere Assay: A method for propagation of head and neck cancer stem cells 
Head & neck  2012;35(7):10.1002/hed.23076.
Recent evidence suggests that head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) harbor a small sub-population of highly tumorigenic cells, named cancer stem cells. A limiting factor in cancer stem cell research is the intrinsic difficulty of expanding cells in an undifferentiated state in vitro.
Here, we describe the development of the orosphere assay, a method for the study of putative head and neck cancer stem cells. An orosphere is defined as a non-adherent colony of cells sorted from primary HNSCC or from HNSCC cell lines and cultured in 3-D soft agar or ultra-low attachment plates. Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity and CD44 expression were used here as stem cell markers.
This assay allowed for the propagation of head and neck cancer cells that retained stemness and self-renewal.
The orosphere assay is well suited for studies designed to understand the pathobiology of head and neck cancer stem cells.
PMCID: PMC3887391  PMID: 22791367
Squamous cell carcinoma; suspension culture; sphere; self-renewal; stemness
17.  Cisplatin Induces Bmi-1 and Enhances the Stem Cell Fraction in Head and Neck Cancer12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2014;16(2):137-146.
Recent evidence has unveiled a subpopulation of highly tumorigenic, multipotent cells capable of self-renewal in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs). These unique cells, named here cancer stem cells (CSCs), proliferate slowly and might be involved in resistance to conventional chemotherapy. We have shown that CSCs are found in perivascular niches and rely on endothelial cell-secreted factors [particularly interleukin-6 (IL-6)] for their survival and self-renewal in HNSCC. Here, we hypothesized that cisplatin enhances the stem cell fraction in HNSCC. To address this hypothesis, we generated xenograft HNSCC tumors with University of Michigan-squamous cell carcinoma 22B (UM-SCC-22B) cells and observed that cisplatin treatment increased (P = .0013) the fraction of CSCs [i.e., aldehyde dehydrogenase activity high and cluster of differentiation 44 high (ALDHhighCD44high)]. Cisplatin promoted self-renewal and survival of CSCs in vitro, as seen by an increase in the number of orospheres in ultralow attachment plates and induction in B lymphoma Mo-MLV insertion region 1 homolog (Bmi-1) and octamer-binding transcription factor 4 expression. Cisplatin-resistant cells expressed more Bmi-1 than cisplatinsensitive cells. IL-6 potentiated cisplatin-induced orosphere formation generated when primary human HNSCC cells were sorted for ALDHhighCD44high immediately after surgery and plated onto ultralow attachment plates. IL-6-induced signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) phosphorylation (indicative of stemness) was unaffected by treatment with cisplatin in UM-SCC-22B cells, whereas IL-6-induced extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation (indicative of differentiation processes) was partially inhibited by cisplatin. Notably, cisplatin-induced Bmi-1 was inhibited by interleukin-6 receptor blockade in parental and cisplatin-resistant cells. Taken together, these results demonstrate that cisplatin enhances the fraction of CSCs and suggest a mechanism for resistance to cisplatin therapy in head and neck cancer.
PMCID: PMC3978394  PMID: 24709421
18.  A Hydrogel Scaffold That Maintains Viability and Supports Differentiation of Dental Pulp Stem Cells 
The clinical translation of stem cell-based Regenerative Endodontics demands further development of suitable injectable scaffolds. Puramatrix™ is a defined, self-assembling peptide hydrogel which instantaneously polymerizes under normal physiological conditions. Here, we assessed the compatibility of Puramatrix™ with dental pulp stem cell (DPSC) growth and differentiation.
DPSC cells were grown in 0.05 to 0.25% Puramatrix™. Cell viability was measured colorimetrically using the WST-1 assay. Cell morphology was observed in 3-D modeling using confocal microscopy. In addition, we used the human tooth slice model with Puramatrix™ to verify DPSC differentiation into odontoblast-like cells, as measured by expression of DSPP and DMP-1.
DPSC survived and proliferated in Puramatrix™ for at least three weeks in culture. Confocal microscopy revealed that cells seeded in Puramatrix™ presented morphological features of healthy cells, and some cells exhibited cytoplasmic elongations. Notably, after 21 days in tooth slices containing Puramatrix™, DPSC cells expressed DMP-1 and DSPP, putative markers of odontoblastic differentiation.
Collectively, these data suggest that self-assembling peptide hydrogels might be useful injectable scaffolds for stem cell-based Regenerative Endodontics.
PMCID: PMC3515741  PMID: 22901827
Tissue engineering; Hydrogel; Dental pulp; Regenerative Endodontics; Odontoblast; Stem cells
19.  The Effectiveness of Propolis on Gingivitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
Background: A randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of a propolis rinse on induced gingivitis by using the co-twin study design.
Methods: Twenty-one twin pairs (n=42) were enrolled in a gingivitis study with oral hygiene promotion (14 days) and gingivitis induction (21 days). During the gingivitis induction phase, one member of the twin pair was randomly assigned to a 2% typified propolis rinse, and the other was assigned a color-matched 0.05% sodium fluoride plus 0.05% cetylpyridinium chloride rinse (positive control). Patients rinsed twice daily with 20 mL for 30 seconds for 21 days. Gingivitis was measured on days −14 (baseline), 0 (after hygiene phase), and 21 (after no-hygiene phase) by using the Papillary Bleeding Score (PBS) and by standard digital imaging of the gum tissues (G-parameter).
Results: The 38 persons who completed the study (age 13–22 years) were well balanced according to PBS at baseline and G-parameter after the initial hygiene phase. After 21 days without oral hygiene, the propolis rinse and positive control rinse groups did not differ significantly for average PBS measurements or G-parameter.
Conclusions: Use of a 2% typified propolis rinse was equivalent to a positive control rinse during a 21-day no-hygiene period.
PMCID: PMC4270157  PMID: 25380344
20.  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
21.  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
22.  Regenerative Endodontics in light of the stem cell paradigm 
International dental journal  2011;61(0 1):23-28.
Stem cells play a critical role in development and in tissue regeneration. The dental pulp contains a small sub-population of stem cells that are involved in the response of the pulp to caries progression. Specifically, stem cells replace odontoblasts that have undergone cell death as a consequence of the cariogenic challenge. Stem cells also secrete factors that have the potential to enhance pulp vascularization and provide the oxygen and nutrients required for the dentinogenic response that is typically observed in teeth with deep caries. However, the same angiogenic factors that are required for dentin regeneration may ultimately contribute to the demise of the pulp by enhancing vascular permeability and interstitial pressure. Recent studies focused on the biology of dental pulp stem cells revealed that the multipotency and angiogenic capacity of these cells could be exploited therapeutically in dental pulp tissue engineering. Collectively, these findings suggest new treatment paradigms in the field of Endodontics. The goal of this review is to discuss the potential impact of dental pulp stem cells to Regenerative Endodontics.
PMCID: PMC3721644  PMID: 21726222
Tissue Engineering; Dental pulp; Odontoblasts; Angiogenesis; Differentiation
23.  Endothelial cell Bcl-2 and lymph node metastasis in patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma 
Loco-regional spread of disease causes high morbidity and is associated with the poor prognosis of malignant oral tumors. Better understanding of mechanisms underlying the establishment of lymph node metastasis is necessary for the development of more effective therapies for patients with oral cancer. The aims of this work were to evaluate a possible correlation between endothelial cell Bcl-2 and lymph node metastasis in patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), and to study signaling pathways that regulate Bcl-2 expression in lymphatic endothelial cells.
Endothelial cells were selectively retrieved from paraffin-embedded tissue sections of primary human OSCC from patients with or without lymph node metastasis by laser capture microdissection (LCM). RT-PCR was used to evaluate Bcl-2 expression in tumor-associated endothelial cells and in tumor cells. In vitro, mechanistic studies were performed to examine the effect of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-C on the expression of Bcl-2 in primary human lymphatic endothelial cells.
We observed that Bcl-2 expression is upregulated in the endothelial cells of human oral tumors with lymph node metastasis as compared to endothelial cells from stage-matched tumors without metastasis. VEGF-C induced Bcl-2 expression in lymphatic endothelial cells via VEGFR-3 and PI3k/Akt signaling. Notably, OSCC cells express VEGF-C and induce Bcl-2 in lymphatic endothelial cells.
Collectively, this work unveiled a mechanism for the induction of Bcl-2 in lymphatic endothelial cells, and suggested that endothelial cell Bcl-2 contributes to lymph node metastasis in patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3246528  PMID: 21936874
Oral cancer; Angiogenesis; Lymphangiogenesis; Biomarkers; VEGF; Head and Neck Cancer
24.  Endothelial derived factors inhibit anoikis of head and neck cancer stem cells 
Oral Oncology  2011;48(1):26-32.
Recent evidence demonstrated that cancer stem cells reside in close proximity to blood vessels in human head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). These findings suggest the existence of a supporting perivascular niche for cancer stem cells.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of endothelial cell-secreted factors on the behavior of head and neck cancer stem-like cells (HNCSC).
Materials and methods
HNCSC were identified by sorting UM-SCC-22A (cell line derived from a primary squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx) and UM-SCC-22B (derived from the metastatic lymph node of the same patient) for CD44 expression and ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) activity. HNCSC (ALDH+CD44+) and control (ALDH−CD44−) cells were cultured in ultra-low attachment plates in presence of conditioned medium from primary human endothelial cells.
ALDH+CD44+ generated more orospheres than control cells when cultured in suspension. The growth factor milieu secreted by endothelial cells protected HNCSC against anoikis. Mechanistic studies revealed that endothelial cell-secreted vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induces proliferation of HNCSC derived from primary UM-SCC-22A, but not from the metastatic UM-SCC-22B. Likewise, blockade of VEGF abrogated endothelial cell-induced Akt phosphorylation in HNCSC derived from UM-SCC-22A while it had a modest effect in Akt phosphorylation in HNCSC from UM-SCC-22B.
This study revealed that endothelial cells initiate a crosstalk that protect head and neck cancer stem cells against anoikis, and suggest that therapeutic interference with this crosstalk might be beneficial for patients with head and neck cancer.
PMCID: PMC3261237  PMID: 22014666
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; Perivascular niche; Angiogenesis; Tumor microenvironment; Metastasis
25.  The biology of head and neck cancer stem cells 
Oral Oncology  2011;48(1):1-9.
Emerging evidence indicates that a small population of cancer cells is highly tumorigenic, endowed with self-renewal, and has the ability to differentiate into cells that constitute the bulk of tumors. These cells are considered the “drivers” of the tumorigenic process in some tumor types, and have been named cancer stem cells. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) appears to be involved in the process leading to the acquisition of stemness by epithelial tumor cells. Through this process, cells acquire an invasive phenotype that may contribute to tumor recurrence and metastasis. Cancer stem cells have been identified in human head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) using markers such as CD133 and CD44 expression, and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity. The head and neck cancer stem cells reside primarily in perivascular niches in the invasive front where endothelial-cell initiated events contribute to their survival and function. In this review, we discuss the state-of-the-knowledge on the pathobiology of cancer stem cells, with a focus on the impact of these cells to head and neck tumor progression.
PMCID: PMC3261238  PMID: 22070916
Oral cancer; Tumorigenesis; Epithelial-mesenchymal transition; EMT; Self-renewal; Stemness; Perivascular niche; Squamous cell carcinoma; Angiogenesis

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