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1.  Notch signaling in lung cancer 
Summary
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the Western world. Lungs can be affected by a number of histologically diverse malignancies. Nonetheless, the vast majority of lung cancers are classified as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Despite extensive research on different therapeutic regimens, the overall 5-year survival of patients diagnosed with NSCLC (all stages) is a dismal 15%. Although strongly correlated with tobacco smoke, there is an increasing NSCLC morbidity in individuals who have never smoked. The pattern of genetic lesions found in NSCLC derived from smokers and never-smokers appears to be different. This fact led to the hypothesis that different, still unidentified carcinogens are responsible for lung cancer onset in never-smokers. All the above considerations compel the scientific community to find novel therapeutic targets to fight such a deadly disease.
In recent years critical pathways governing embryonic development have been increasingly linked to cancer. Here we will focus on the role of Notch signaling in lung cancer. Notch receptors’ activity can be blocked following different strategies, thus representing a promising alternative/complement to the arsenal of therapeutic strategies currently used to treat lung cancer.
doi:10.1586/era.10.158
PMCID: PMC3380361  PMID: 21504320
lung cancer; cancer progenitor cells; Notch signaling; hypoxia; cancer stem cells; Notch signaling inhibition
2.  Multimodality Approaches to Treat Hypoxic Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Microenvironment 
Genes & Cancer  2012;3(2):141-151.
We found both in vitro and in vivo that survival of NSCLC cells in a hypoxic microenvironment requires Notch-1 signaling. A hypoxic tumor environment represents a problem for NSCLC treatment because it plays a critical role in cancer resistance to chemotherapy, tumor recurrence, and metastasis. Here we targeted hypoxic tumor tissue in an orthotopic NSCLC model. We inhibited the Notch-1/IGF-1R/Akt-1 axis using 3 agents: a γ-secretase inhibitor or GSI (MRK-003), a fully humanized antibody against the human IGF-1R (MK-0646), and a pan-Akt inhibitor (MK-2206), alone or in various combinations including therapeutics currently in clinical use. All treatments but Akt inhibition significantly prolonged the median survival of mice compared with controls. GSI treatment caused specific cell death of hypoxic tumors. Tumors excised from mice displayed a significant reduction of markers of hypoxia. Moreover, GSI treatment caused reduced metastasis to the liver and brain. MK-0646 was not specific to a hypoxic tumor environment but substantially increased the median survival of treated mice compared with controls. NSCLC cells evaded MK-0646 treatment by specifically overactivating EGF-R both in vivo and in 5 cell lines in vitro. This phenomenon is achieved at the level of protein stability. MK-0646 treatment caused increased erlotinib sensitivity in NSCLC cells poorly responsive to it. Sequential treatment with MK-0646 followed by erlotinib prolonged median survival of mice significantly. When the 2 drugs were administered simultaneously, no survival benefit was observed, and this combination therapy proved less effective than MK-0646 used as single agent. Our data offer novel information that may provide insights for the planning of clinical trials in humans, likely for maintenance therapy of NSCLC patients.
doi:10.1177/1947601912457025
PMCID: PMC3463922  PMID: 23050046
notch signaling; insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor signaling; tumor hypoxia
3.  Tissue tropism of SV40 transformation of human cells: role of the viral regulatory region and of cellular oncogenes 
Genes & cancer  2010;1(10):1008-1020.
SV40 has been detected prevalently in a limited panel of human tumors: mesothelioma, bone and brain tumors and lymphoma. These are the same tumor types that are specifically induced by SV40 when injected into hamsters, a finding that has raised concerns about the possible pathogenic role of SV40 in humans. Two different SV40 isolates differing in the number of 72 bp elements in the virus regulatory region, archetypal SV40 (1ESV40) which contains one 72 bp and non-archetypal (wtSV40) which contains two 72 bp, have been detected in human tumors. 1ESV40 has been prevalently detected in brain tumors; wtSV40 prevalently in mesothelioma. The apparent different cell tropism could be related to the virus (i.e., possibly to the number of 72 bp elements) and to different expression of cellular genes, known to play a critical role in SV40-mediated transformation of human cells, such as Notch-1 and c-Met. To test for possible differences in tissue tropism, we infected primary human mesothelial cells (HM) and primary human astrocytes (Ast) with 1ESV40 and with wtSV40 from two different SV40 strains, 776 and Baylor. All viruses transformed astrocytes, only wtSV40 transformed HM. Intracellular signaling of c-Met and Notch-1 were differently induced by these two viruses in HM and Ast. Differences in Notch-1 expression and signaling (i.e, downstream effectors, c-Myc, HEY-1, HES-1, and HEY-L) appeared to influence SV40-mediated transformation of primary astrocytes and mesothelial cells. Our results provide a biological rationale to the observation that 1ESV40 is prevalently detected in brain tumors and wtSV40 in mesotheliomas.
doi:10.1177/1947601910395580
PMCID: PMC3092263  PMID: 21779427
SV40; 72 bp elements; mesothelial cells; astrocytes; Notch-1
4.  Notch-1 stimulates survival of lung adenocarcinoma cells during hypoxia by activating the IGF-1R pathway 
Oncogene  2010;29(17):2488-2498.
Hypoxic microenvironment supports cancer stem cell survival, causes poor response to anticancer therapy and tumor recurrence. Inhibition of Notch-1 signaling in adenocarcinoma of the lung (ACL) cells causes apoptosis specifically under hypoxia. Here we found that Akt-1 activation is a key mediator of Notch-1 pro-survival effects under hypoxia. Notch-1 activates Akt-1 through repression of phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) expression and induction of the Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 Receptor (IGF-1R). The latter seems to be the major determinant of Akt-1 stimulation, since Notch-1 signaling affects Akt-1 activation in PTEN−/− ACL cells. Both downregulation of Insulin Receptor Substrate 1 (IRS-1) and dominant-negative IGF-1R sensitized ACL cells to γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI)-induced apoptosis. Conversely, overexpression of IGF-1R protected ACL cells from GSI toxicity. Inhibition of Notch-1 caused reduced IGF-1R expression, while forced Notch-1 expression yielded opposite effects. ChIP experiments suggested Notch-1 direct regulation of the IGF-1R promoter. Experiments in which human ACL cells were injected in mice confirmed elevated and specific co-expression of Notch-1IC, IGF-1R and pAkt-1 in hypoxic tumor areas.
Our data provide a mechanistic explanation for Notch-1 mediated pro-survival function in hypoxic ACL tumor microenvironment. The results identify additional targets that may synergize with Notch-1 inhibition for ACL treatment.
doi:10.1038/onc.2010.7
PMCID: PMC2861728  PMID: 20154720
Notch signaling; lung cancer; hypoxia; IGF-1R; cancer cell survival
5.  Tissue Tropism of SV40 Transformation of Human Cells 
Genes & Cancer  2010;1(10):1008-1020.
SV40 has been detected prevalently in a limited panel of human tumors: mesothelioma, bone and brain tumors, and lymphoma. These are the same tumor types that are specifically induced by SV40 when injected into hamsters, a finding that has raised concerns about the possible pathogenic role of SV40 in humans. Two different SV40 isolates differing in the number of 72-bp elements in the virus regulatory region, archetypal SV40 (1ESV40), which contains one 72 bp, and nonarchetypal SV40 (wtSV40), which contains two 72 bp, have been detected in human tumors. 1ESV40 has been prevalently detected in brain tumors, with wtSV40 prevalently in mesothelioma. The apparent different cell tropism could be related to the virus (i.e., possibly to the number of 72-bp elements) and to different expression of cellular genes, known to play a critical role in SV40-mediated transformation of human cells, such as Notch-1 and c-Met. To test for possible differences in tissue tropism, we infected primary human mesothelial cells (HM) and primary human astrocytes (Ast) with 1ESV40 and with wtSV40 from 2 different SV40 strains, 776 and Baylor. All viruses transformed astrocytes; only wtSV40 transformed HM. Intracellular signaling of c-Met and Notch-1 was differently induced by these 2 viruses in HM and Ast. Differences in Notch-1 expression and signaling (i.e., downstream effectors, c-Myc, HEY-1, HES-1, and HEY-L) appeared to influence SV40-mediated transformation of primary astrocytes and mesothelial cells. Our results provide a biological rationale to the observation that 1ESV40 is prevalently detected in brain tumors and wtSV40 in mesotheliomas.
doi:10.1177/1947601910395580
PMCID: PMC3092263  PMID: 21779427
SV40; 72-bp elements; mesothelial cells; astrocytes; Notch-1
6.  A novel mechanism of late gene silencing drives Simian virus 40 transformation of human mesothelial cells 
Cancer research  2008;68(22):9488-9496.
Suppression of the late gene expression, usually by integration of the viral DNA into the host genome, is a critical step in DNA tumor viruses carcinogenesis. Simian virus 40 (SV40) induces high rates of transformation in infected primary human mesothelial cells (S-HM) in tissue culture, leading to the formation of immortal cell lines (S-HML). The studies described here were designed to elucidate the unusual susceptibility of primary human mesothelial cells (HM) to SV40 carcinogenesis.
We found that S-HML contained wild-type, mostly episomal SV40 DNA. In these cells the early genes that code for the viral oncogenes are expressed, at he same time, the synthesis of the late genes capsid proteins is suppressed and S-HML are not lysed. Late genes suppression is achieved through the production of antisense RNA molecules. These antisense RNA molecules originate in the early region of the SV40 circular chromosome and proceed in antisense orientation into the late gene region, leading to the formation of highly unstable double strand RNA that is rapidly degraded. Our results reveal a novel biological mechanism responsible for the suppression of late viral gene products, an important step in viral carcinogenesis in humans.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2332
PMCID: PMC2666620  PMID: 19010924
7.  Cellular and Molecular Parameters of Mesothelioma 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2006;98(4):723-734.
Malignant mesotheliomas (MM) are neoplasms arising from mesothelial cells that line the body cavities, most commonly the pleural and peritoneal cavities. Although traditionally recognized as associated with occupational asbestos exposures, MMs can appear in individuals with no documented exposures to asbestos fibers, and emerging data suggest that genetic susceptibility and simian virus 40 (SV40) infections also facilitate the development of MMs. Both asbestos exposure and transfection of human mesothelial cells with SV40 large and small antigens (Tag, tag) cause genetic modifications and cell signaling events, most notably the induction of cell survival pathways and activation of receptors, and other proteins that favor the growth and establishment of MMs as well as their resistance to chemotherapy. Recent advances in high-throughput technologies documenting gene and protein expression in patients and animal models of MMs can now be validated in human MM tissue arrays. These have revealed expression profiles that allow more accurate diagnosis and prognosis of MMs. More importantly, serum proteomics has revealed two new candidates (osteopontin and serum mesothelin-related protein or SMRP) potentially useful in screening individuals for MMs. These mechanistic approaches offer new hope for early detection and treatment of these devastating tumors.
doi:10.1002/jcb.20828
PMCID: PMC2766267  PMID: 16795078
asbestos; mesothelioma; cancer; SV40
8.  Genetically distant American Canine distemper virus lineages have recently caused epizootics with somewhat different characteristics in raccoons living around a large suburban zoo in the USA 
Virology Journal  2004;1:2.
Background
Mortality rates have differed during distemper outbreaks among free-ranging raccoons (Procyon lotor) living around a large Chicago-area zoo, and appeared higher in year 2001 than in 1998 and 2000. We hypothesized that a more lethal variant of the local Canine distemper virus (CDV) lineage had emerged in 2001, and sought the genetic basis that led to increased virulence. However, a more complex model surfaced during preliminary analyses of CDV genomic sequences in infected tissues and of virus isolated in vitro from the raccoons.
Results
Phylogenetic analyses of subgenomic CDV fusion (F) -, phosphoprotein (P) -, and complete hemagglutinin (H) – gene sequences indicated that distinct American CDV lineages caused the distemper epizootics. The 1998 outbreak was caused by viruses that are likely from an old CDV lineage that includes CDV Snyder Hill and Lederle, which are CDV strains from the early 1950's. The 2000 and 2001 viruses appear to stem from the lineage of CDV A75/17, which was isolated in the mid 1970's. Only the 2001 viruses formed large syncytia in brain and/or lung tissue, and during primary isolation in-vitro in Vero cells, demonstrating at least one phenotypic property by which they differed from the other viruses.
Conclusions
Two different American CDV lineages caused the raccoon distemper outbreaks. The 1998 viruses are genetically distant to the 2000/2001 viruses. Since CDV does not cause persistent infections, the cycling of different CDV lineages within the same locale suggests multiple reintroductions of the virus to area raccoons. Our findings establish a precedent for determining whether the perceived differences in mortality rates are actual and attributable in part to inherent differences between CDV strains arising from different CDV lineages.
doi:10.1186/1743-422X-1-2
PMCID: PMC524033  PMID: 15507154

Results 1-8 (8)