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1.  RAIN-Droplet: A Novel 3-D in vitro Angiogenesis Model 
Angiogenesis is fundamentally required for the initialization, development and metastatic spread of cancer. A rapidly expanding number of new experimental, chemical modulators of endothelial cell function have been described for the therapeutic inhibition of angiogenesis in cancer. Despite this expansion there has been very limited parallel growth of in vitro angiogenesis models or experimental tools. Here we present the Responsive Angiogenic Implanted Network (RAIN)-Droplet model and novel angiogenesis assay using an endothelial cell culture model of microvascular endothelial cells encapsulated in a spontaneously self-assembling, toroidal hydrogel droplet uniquely yielding discrete, pre-formed, angiogenic networks that may be embedded in 3-D matrices. On embedding, radial growth of capillary-like sprouts and cell invasion was observed. The sprouts formed as both outgrowths from endothelial cells on the surface of the droplets but also, uniquely, from the pre-formed network structures within the droplet. We demonstrate proof-of-principle for the utility of the model showing significant inhibition of sprout formation (p<0.001) in the presence of bevacizumab, an anti-angiogenic antibody. Using the RAIN-Droplet assay we also demonstrate a novel dose dependent pro-angiogenic function for the characteristically anti-angiogenic multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib. Exposure of endothelial cells in 3-D culture to low, non-lethal doses (<1 μM) of sorafenib after initiation of sprouting resulted in the formation of significantly (p<0.05) more endothelial sprouts compared to controls over a 48-hour period. Higher doses of sorafenib (5 μM) resulted in a significant (p<0.05) reduction of sprouting over the same time period. The RAIN-Droplet model is a highly versatile and simply constructed 3-D focal sprouting approach well suited for the study of vascular morphogenesis and for preclinical testing of drugs. Furthermore, the RAIN-Droplet model has facilitated the discovery of a novel pro-angiogenic capacity for sorafenib which may impact the clinical application and dosing regimen of that drug.
doi:10.1038/labinvest.2012.77
PMCID: PMC4043634  PMID: 22565576
Endothelial; microvascular; puramatrix; 3-D cell-culture; drug screen; capillary formation assay; sorafenib; bevacizumab
2.  A Hydrogel Scaffold That Maintains Viability and Supports Differentiation of Dental Pulp Stem Cells 
Objectives
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Significance
Collectively, these data suggest that self-assembling peptide hydrogels might be useful injectable scaffolds for stem cell-based Regenerative Endodontics.
doi:10.1016/j.dental.2012.08.002
PMCID: PMC3515741  PMID: 22901827
Tissue engineering; Hydrogel; Dental pulp; Regenerative Endodontics; Odontoblast; Stem cells
3.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084236
PMCID: PMC3877272  PMID: 24391922
5.  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.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-2873
PMCID: PMC3748951  PMID: 22158856
Developmental therapeutics; targeted therapy; angiogenesis; Bcl-2; squamous cell carcinoma
6.  Metronomic small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2 (TW-37) is anti-angiogenic and potentiates the anti-tumor effect of ionizing radiation 
Purpose
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1016/j.ijrobp.2010.04.024
PMCID: PMC2946486  PMID: 20675079
Developmental therapeutics; Radiotherapy; Head and Neck Cancer; Apoptosis; Neovascularization
7.  Inhibition of VEGFR1/Wnt/B-catenin Crosstalk Leads to Tumor Cell Death 
Summary
Two genes are considered synthetic lethal if mutation of either alone allows cell viability, while simultaneous mutation leads to cell death. A synthetic lethal screen unveiled the dependency of Wnt/B-catenin-addicted colorectal cancer cells on vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 kinase activity and suggested a novel therapeutic approach for this malignancy.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-2578
PMCID: PMC2796551  PMID: 20008844
Synthetic lethality; Cell signaling; Receptor Tyrosine Kinase; Developmental Therapeutics; Gene Silencing
8.  TW-37, a small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2, mediates S phase cell cycle arrest and suppresses head and neck tumor angiogenesis 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2009;8(4):893-903.
Members of the Bcl-2 family play a major role in the pathobiology of head and neck cancer. We have shown that Bcl-2 orchestrates a crosstalk between tumor cells and endothelial cells that have a direct impact on the progression of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Notably, Bcl-2 is significantly upregulated in the tumor associated endothelial cells as compared to the endothelial cells of normal oral mucosa in patients with HNSCC. Here, we evaluated the effect of TW-37, a small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2, on the cell cycle and survival of endothelial cells and HNSCC and on the progression of xenografted tumors. TW-37 has an IC50 of 1.1 µM for primary human endothelial cells and averaged 0.3 µM for head and neck cancer cells (OSCC3, UM-SCC-1, UM-SCC-74A). Combination of TW-37 and cisplatin showed enhanced cytotoxic effects for endothelial cells and HNSCC in vitro, as compared with single drug treatment . Notably, while cisplatin led to an expected G2/M cell cycle arrest, TW-37 mediated an “S” phase cell cycle arrest in endothelial cells and in HNSCC. In vivo, TW-37 inhibited tumor angiogenesis and induced tumor apoptosis without significant systemic toxicities. Combination of TW-37 and cisplatin enhanced the time to tumor failure (i.e. 4-fold increase in tumor volume), as compared to either drug given separately. Collectively, these data reveal that therapeutic inhibition of Bcl-2 function with TW-37 is sufficient to arrest endothelial cells and HNSCC in the “S” phase of cell cycle, and to inhibit head and neck tumor angiogenesis.
doi:10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-08-1078
PMCID: PMC2709836  PMID: 19372562
apoptosis; neovascularization; cisplatin; cancer
9.  Expanding Circle of Inhibition: Small-Molecule Inhibitors of Bcl-2 as Anticancer Cell and Antiangiogenic Agents 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2008;26(25):4180-4188.
The specific targeting of diseases, particularly cancer, is a primary aim in drug development, as specificity reduces unwelcome effects on healthy tissue and increases drug efficacy at the target site. Drug specificity can be increased by improving the delivery system or by selecting drugs with affinity for a molecular ligand specific to the disease state. The role of the prosurvival Bcl-2 protein in maintaining the normal balance between apoptosis and cellular survival has been recognized for more than a decade. Bcl-2 is vital during development, much less so in adults. It has also been noted that some cancers evade apoptosis and obtain a survival advantage through aberrant expression of Bcl-2. The new and remarkably diverse class of drugs, small-molecule inhibitors of Bcl-2 (molecular weight approximately 400 to 800 Daltons), is examined herein. We present the activities of these compounds along with clinical observations, where available. The effects of Bcl-2 inhibition on attenuation of tumor cell growth are discussed, as are studies revealing the potential for Bcl-2 inhibitors as antiangiogenic agents. Despite an enormous body of work published for the Bcl-2 family of proteins, we are still learning exactly how this group of molecules interacts and indeed what they do. The small-molecule inhibitors of Bcl-2, in addition to their therapeutic potential, are proving to be an important investigative tool for understanding the function of Bcl-2.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.15.7693
PMCID: PMC2654265  PMID: 18757333
10.  An expanding circle of inhibition: Small molecule inhibitors of Bcl-2 as anti-cancer cell and anti-angiogenic agents 
The specific targeting of diseases, particularly cancer, is a primary aim in drug development, as specificity reduces unwelcome effects on healthy tissue and increases drug efficacy at the target site. Drug specificity can be increased by improving the delivery system or by selecting drugs with affinity for a molecular ligand specific to the disease state. The role of the pro-survival Bcl-2 protein in maintaining the normal balance between apoptosis and cellular survival has been recognized for over a decade. Bcl-2 is vital during development, much less so in adults. It has also been noted that some cancers evade apoptosis and obtain a survival advantage through aberrant expression of Bcl-2. The new and remarkably diverse class of drugs, small molecule inhibitors of Bcl-2 (mw ~400–800), is examined herein. We present the activities of these compounds along with clinical observations, where available. The effects of Bcl-2 inhibition on attenuation of tumor cell growth are discussed, as are studies revealing the potential for Bcl-2 inhibitors as anti-angiogenic agents. Despite an enormous body of work published for the Bcl-2 family of proteins, we are still learning exactly how this group of molecules interacts and indeed what they do. The small molecule inhibitors of Bcl-2, in addition to their therapeutic potential, are proving to be an important investigative tool for understanding the function of Bcl-2.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.15.7693
PMCID: PMC2654265  PMID: 18757333
Developmental therapeutics; Tumor; Neovascularization; Pharmacology
11.  Enzastaurin, an inhibitor of PKCβ, Enhances Antiangiogenic Effects and Cytotoxicity of Radiation against Endothelial Cells1,2 
Translational Oncology  2008;1(4):195-201.
PURPOSE: Angiogenesis plays an important role in pancreas cancer pathobiology. Pancreatic tumor cells secrete vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), activating endothelial cell protein kinase C beta (PKCβ) that phosphorylates GSK3β to suppress apoptosis and promote endothelial cell proliferation and microvessel formation. We used Enzastaurin (Enz) to test the hypothesis that inhibition of PKCβ results in radiosensitization of endothelial cells in culture and in vivo. MATERIALS/METHODS: We measured PKCβ phosphorylation, VEGF pathway signaling, colony formation, and capillary sprout formation in primary human dermal microvessel endothelial cells (HDMECs) after Enz or radiation (RT) treatment. Microvessel density and tumor volume of human pancreatic cancer xenografts in nude mice were measured after treatment with Enz, RT, or both. RESULTS: Enz inhibited PKCβ and radiosensitized HDMEC with an enhancement ratio of 1.31 ± 0.05. Enz combined with RT reduced HDMEC capillary sprouting to a greater extent than either agent alone. Enz prevented radiation-induced GSK3β phosphorylation of serine 9 while having no direct effect on VEGFR phosphorylation. Treatment of xenografts with Enz and radiation produced greater reductions in microvessel density than either treatment alone. The reduction in microvessel density corresponded with increased tumor growth delay. CONCLUSIONS: Enz-induced PKCβ inhibition radiosensitizes human endothelial cells and enhances the antiangiogenic effects of RT. The combination of Enz and RT reduced microvessel density and resulted in increased growth delay in pancreatic cancer xenografts, without increase in toxicity. These results provide the rationale for combining PKCβ inhibition with radiation and further investigating such regimens in pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC2582168  PMID: 19043530
12.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.yexcr.2007.07.023
PMCID: PMC2080879  PMID: 17720154

Results 1-12 (12)