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1.  Knockout of MDA-9/Syntenin (SDCBP) expression in the microenvironment dampens tumor-supporting inflammation and inhibits melanoma metastasis 
Oncotarget  2016;7(30):46848-46861.
Cancer development and progression to metastasis is a complex process, which largely depends on bidirectional communication between tumor cells and their microenvironment. Melanoma differentiation associated gene-9 (mda-9, also known as Syntenin-1, SDCBP), a gene first cloned by our group, is robustly expressed in multiple cancers including melanoma and contributes to invasion and metastasis in a tumor cell-intrinsic manner. However, the role of MDA-9/Syntenin in the tumor cell-extrinsic microenvironment remains unclear even though MDA-9/Syntenin is ubiquitously expressed in most organs that are active metastatic sites for melanoma, e.g., lung, lymph node, brain, and liver. In this study, we explored the effect of environmental mda-9/syntenin expression on melanoma growth and metastasis using multiple immunocompetent animal models, syngeneic B16 xenograft and intravenous B16 mouse model and a genetically engineered mouse (GEM) model of melanoma. Host-deficient expression of mda-9/syntenin in mice negatively impacted on subcutaneously implanted B16 tumor growth and lung metastasis. Absence of MDA-9/Syntenin in the lung microenvironment suppressed tumor growth by modulating in situ Interleukin 17A (IL17A) expression and impaired the recruitment of myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and Th17 cells as compared to genetically wild type animals. Additionally, loss of mda-9/syntenin expression in a spontaneous melanoma model (melanocyte-specific pten loss and BrafV600E mutation) significantly delayed tumor initiation and suppressed metastasis to the lymph nodes and lungs. The present study highlights a novel role of mda-9/syntenin in tumor-promoting inflammation and immune suppression. These observations along with other documented roles of MDA-9/Syntenin in cancer and metastasis support the potential relevance of MDA-9/Syntenin in the carcinogenic process and as a target for developing improved therapies by using either genetic or pharmacologic approaches to treat and prevent melanoma and other cancers.
PMCID: PMC5216907  PMID: 27341128
melanoma differentiation associated gene-9/syntenin (mda-9/syntenin); syndecan binding protein (SDCBP); tumor microenvironment; myeloid-derived tumor suppressor cells (MDSC); interleukin −17A (IL-17A)
2.  Gene Therapies for Cancer: Strategies, Challenges and Successes 
Journal of cellular physiology  2015;230(2):259-271.
Gene therapy, which involves replacement of a defective gene with a functional, healthy copy of that gene, is a potentially beneficial cancer treatment approach particularly over chemotherapy, which often lacks selectivity and can cause non-specific toxicity. Despite significant progress pre-clinically with respect to both enhanced targeting and expression in a tumor-selective manner several hurdles still prevent success in the clinic, including non-specific expression, low-efficiency delivery and biosafety. Various innovative genetic approaches are under development to reconstruct vectors/transgenes to make them safer and more effective. Utilizing cutting-edge delivery technologies, gene expression can now be targeted in a tissue- and organ-specific manner. With these advances, gene therapy is poised to become amenable for routine cancer therapy with potential to elevate this methodology as a first line therapy for neoplastic diseases. This review discusses recent advances in gene therapy and their impact on a pre-clinical and clinical level.
PMCID: PMC4363073  PMID: 25196387
3.  Targeting the Bcl-2 Family for Cancer Therapy 
Programmed cell death is well-orchestrated process regulated by multiple pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic genes, particularly those of the Bcl-2 gene family. These genes are well documented in cancer with aberrant expression being strongly associated with resistance to chemotherapy and radiation.
Areas covered
This review focuses on the resistance induced by the Bcl-2 family of anti-apoptotic proteins and current therapeutic interventions currently in preclinical or clinical trials that target this pathway. Major resistance mechanisms that are regulated by Bcl-2 family proteins and potential strategies to circumvent resistance are also examined. Although antisense and gene therapy strategies are used to nullify Bcl-2 family proteins, recent approaches use small molecule inhibitors and peptides. Structural similarity of the Bcl-2 family of proteins greatly favors development of inhibitors that target the BH3 domain, called BH3 mimetics.
Expert opinion
Strategies to specifically identify and inhibit critical determinants that promote therapy-resistance and tumor progression represent viable approaches for developing effective cancer therapies. From a clinical perspective, pretreatment with novel, potent Bcl-2 inhibitors either alone or in combination with conventional therapies hold significant promise for providing beneficial clinical outcomes. Identifying small molecule inhibitors with broader and higher affinities for inhibiting all of the Bcl-2 pro-survival proteins will facilitate development of superior cancer therapies.
PMCID: PMC3955095  PMID: 23173842
BH3 domain; apoptosis; Mcl-1; radiation resistance; chemotherapy resistance
4.  Novel therapy of prostate cancer employing a combination of viral-based immunotherapy and a small molecule BH3 mimetic 
Oncoimmunology  2015;5(3):e1078059.
Cancer-selective viral replication and delivery of a therapeutic immunomodulating, cancer-selective killing cytokine (mda-7/IL-24) by means of a new Cancer Terminator Virus (CTV) combined with a small molecule BH3 mimetic holds promise for treating both primary and metastatic hormone refractory prostate cancer (CaP).
PMCID: PMC4839355  PMID: 27141334
Cancer Terminator Virus (CTV); MDA-7/IL-24; Sabutoclax; Primary and Metastatic Prostate Cancer; Tumor-Specific Apoptosis; Immunotherapy; Ultrasound-Targeted Microbubble-Destruction (UTMD)
5.  Examination of Epigenetic and other Molecular Factors Associated with mda-9/Syntenin Dysregulation in Cancer Through Integrated Analyses of Public Genomic Datasets 
Advances in cancer research  2015;127:49-121.
mda-9/Syntenin (melanoma differentiation-associated gene 9) is a PDZ domain-containing, cancer invasion-related protein. In this study, we employed multiple integrated bioinformatic approaches to identify the probable epigenetic factors, molecular pathways, and functionalities associated with mda-9 dysregulation during cancer progression. Analyses of publicly available genomic data (e.g., expression, copy number, methylation) from TCGA, GEO, ENCODE, and Human Protein Atlas projects led to the following observations: a) mda-9 expression correlates with both copy number and methylation level of an intronic CpG site (cg17197774) located downstream of the CpG island, b) cg17197774 methylation is a likely prognostic marker in glioma, c) Among 22 cancer types, melanoma exhibits the highest mda-9 level, and lowest level of methylation at cg17197774, d) cg17197774 hypomehtylation is also associated with histone modifications (at the mda-9 locus) indicative of more active transcription, e) Using Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA), and the VIGOR (Virtual Gene Over-expression or Repression ) analytical scheme, we were able to predict mda-9’s association with extracellular matrix organization (e.g., MMPs, collagen, integrins), IGFBP2 and NF-κB signaling pathways, phospholipid metabolism, cytokines (e.g., interleukins), CTLA-4, and components of complement cascade pathways. Indeed, previous publications have shown that many of the aforementioned genes and pathways are associated with mda-9’s functionality.
PMCID: PMC4985442  PMID: 26093898
MDA-9; Syntenin; SDCBP; TCGA; GEO; ENCODE; epigenetics; glioma; melanoma; VIGOR
6.  Human Polynucleotide Phosphorylase (hPNPaseold-35): An evolutionary conserved gene with an expanding repertoire of RNA degradation functions 
Oncogene  2010;30(15):1733-1743.
Human polynucleotide phosphorylase (hPNPaseold-35) is an evolutionary conserved RNA processing enzyme with expanding roles in regulating cellular physiology. hPNPaseold-35 was cloned using an innovative “overlapping pathway screening” strategy designed to identify genes coordinately regulated during the processes of cellular differentiation and senescence. Although hPNPaseold-35 structurally and biochemically resembles PNPase of other species, overexpression and inhibition studies reveal that hPNPaseold-35 has evolved to serve more specialized and diversified functions in humans. Targeting specific mRNA or non-coding small microRNA (miRNA), hPNPaseold-35 modulates gene expression that in turn plays a pivotal role in regulating normal physiological and pathological processes. In these contexts, targeted overexpression of hPNPaseold-35 represents a novel strategy to selectively downregulate RNA expression and consequently intervene in a variety of pathophysiological conditions.
PMCID: PMC4955827  PMID: 21151174
hPNPaseold-35; Senescence; RNA degradation; c-myc; miRNA
7.  Pancreatic cancer combination therapy using a BH3 mimetic and a synthetic tetracycline 
Cancer research  2015;75(11):2305-2315.
Improved treatments for pancreatic cancer remain a clinical imperative. Sabutoclax, a small molecule BH3 mimetic, inhibits the function of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins. Minocycline, a synthetic tetracycline, displays antitumor activity. Here we offer evidence of the combinatorial antitumor potency of these agents in several preclinical models of pancreatic cancer. Sabutoclax induced growth arrest and apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells and synergized with Minocycline to yield a robust mitochondria-mediated caspase-dependent cytotoxicity. This combinatorial property relied upon loss of phosphorylated Stat3 insofar as reintroduction of activated Stat3 rescued cells from toxicity. Tumor growth was inhibited potently in both immune-deficient and immune-competent models with evidence of extended survival. Overall, our results showed that that the combination of Sabutoclax and Minocycline was highly cytotoxic to pancreatic cancer cells and safely efficacious in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4453003  PMID: 26032425
Pancreatic Cancer; Sabutoclax; BH3 mimetic; Minocycline
8.  Therapy of pancreatic cancer via an EphA2 receptor-targeted delivery of gemcitabine 
Oncotarget  2016;7(13):17103-17110.
First line treatment for pancreatic cancer consists of surgical resection, if possible, and a subsequent course of chemotherapy using the nucleoside analogue gemcitabine. In some patients, an active transport mechanism allows gemcitabine to enter efficiently into the tumor cells, resulting in a significant clinical benefit. However, in most patients, low expression of gemcitabine transporters limits the efficacy of the drug to marginal levels, and patients need frequent administration of the drug at high doses, significantly increasing systemic drug toxicity. In this article we focus on a novel targeted delivery approach for gemcitabine consisting of conjugating the drug with an EphA2 targeting agent. We show that the EphA2 receptor is highly expressed in pancreatic cancers, and accordingly, the drug-conjugate is more effective than gemcitabine alone in targeting pancreatic tumors. Our preliminary observations suggest that this approach may provide a general benefit to pancreatic cancer patients and offers a comprehensive strategy for enhancing delivery of diverse therapeutic agents to a wide range of cancers overexpressing EphA2, thereby potentially reducing toxicity while enhancing therapeutic efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4941374  PMID: 26959746
123B9; EphA2; targeted delivery; drug-conjugates; gemcitabine
9.  Suppression of miR-184 in malignant gliomas upregulates SND1 and promotes tumor aggressiveness 
Neuro-Oncology  2014;17(3):419-429.
Malignant glioma is an aggressive cancer requiring new therapeutic targets. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression post transcriptionally and are implicated in cancer development and progression. Deregulated expressions of several miRNAs, specifically hsa-miR-184, correlate with glioma development.
Bioinformatic approaches were used to identify potential miR-184-regulated target genes involved in malignant glioma progression. This strategy identified a multifunctional nuclease, SND1, known to be overexpressed in multiple cancers, including breast, colon, and hepatocellular carcinoma, as a putative direct miR-184 target gene. SND1 levels were evaluated in patient tumor samples and human-derived cell lines. We analyzed invasion and signaling in vitro through SND1 gain-of-function and loss-of-function. An orthotopic xenograft model with primary glioma cells demonstrated a role of miR-184/SND1 in glioma pathogenesis in vivo.
SND1 is highly expressed in human glioma tissue and inversely correlated with miR-184 expression. Transfection of glioma cells with a miR-184 mimic inhibited invasion, suppressed colony formation, and reduced anchorage-independent growth in soft agar. Similar phenotypes were evident when SND1 was knocked down with siRNA. Additionally, knockdown (KD) of SND1 induced senescence and improved the chemoresistant properties of malignant glioma cells. In an orthotopic xenograft model, KD of SND1 or transfection with a miR-184 mimic induced a less invasive tumor phenotype and significantly improved survival of tumor bearing mice.
Our study is the first to show a novel regulatory role of SND1, a direct target of miR-184, in glioma progression, suggesting that the miR-184/SND1 axis may be a useful diagnostic and therapeutic tool for malignant glioma.
PMCID: PMC4483100  PMID: 25216670
intracranial injection; invasion; malignant glioma; miR-184; SND1
10.  AEG-1–AKT2: A novel complex controlling the aggressiveness of glioblastoma 
Molecular & Cellular Oncology  2015;2(3):e995008.
Expression of AEG-1 (also known as MTDH or LYRIC) is elevated in many cancers including glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), in which it functions as an oncogene. AEG-1 activates AKT signaling and physically interacts with AKT2 in GBM. Disruption of this interaction reduces glioma cell survival and invasion, uncovering a novel potential target for development of an effective therapy against GBM.
PMCID: PMC4905313  PMID: 27308476
AEG-1; AKT2; glioblastoma; MTDH
11.  Targeting tumor invasion: the roles of MDA-9/Syntenin 
Melanoma differentiation-associated gene – 9 (MDA-9)/Syntenin has become an increasingly popular focus for investigation in numerous cancertypes. Originally implicated in melanoma metastasis, it has diverse cellular roles and is consistently identified as a regulator of tumor invasion and angiogenesis. As a potential target for inhibiting some of the most lethal aspects of cancer progression, further insight into the function of MDA-9/Syntenin is mandatory.
Areas covered
Recent literature and seminal articles were reviewed to summarize the latest collective understanding of MDA-9/Syntenin’s role in normal and cancerous settings. Insights into its participation in developmental processes are included, as is the functional significance of the N- and C-terminals and PDZ domains of MDA-9/Syntenin. Current reports highlight the clinical significance of MDA-9/Syntenin expression level in a variety of cancers, often correlating directly with reduced patient survival. Also presented are assessments of roles of MDA-9/Syntenin in cancer progression as well as its functions as an intracellular adapter molecule.
Expert opinion
Multiple studies demonstrate the importance of MDA-9/ Syntenin in tumor invasion and progression. Through the use of novel drug design approaches, this protein may provide a worthwhile therapeutic target. As many conventional therapies do not address, or even enhance, tumor invasion, an anti-invasive approach would be a worthwhile addition in cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC4632993  PMID: 25219541
angiogenesis; breast cancer; c-Src; EGFR; exosomes; glioblastoma; glioma; integrin; invasion; melanoma; melanoma differentiation-associated gene – 9; metastasis; PDZ; small cell lung carcinoma; syndecan binding protein; syntenin; urothelial cell carcinoma; uveal melanoma
12.  Astrocyte elevated gene-1 (AEG-1) interacts with Akt isoform 2 to control glioma growth, survival and pathogenesis 
Cancer research  2014;74(24):7321-7332.
The oncogene AEG-1 (MTDH) is highly expressed in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and many other types of cancer, where it activates multiple signaling pathways that drive proliferation, invasion, angiogenesis, chemoresistance, radioresistance and metastasis. AEG-1 activates the Akt signaling pathway and Akt and c-Myc are positive regulators of AEG-1 transcription, generating a positive feedback loop between AEG-1 and Akt in regulating tumorigenesis. Here we describe in GBM cells a direct interaction between an internal domain of AEG-1 and the PH domain of Akt2, a major driver in GBM. Expression and interaction of AEG-1 and Akt2 are elevated in GBM and contribute to tumor cell survival, proliferation and invasion. Clinically, in silico gene expression and immunohistochemical analyses of patient specimens showed that AEG-1 and Akt2 expression correlated with GBM progression and reduced patient survival. AEG-1-Akt2 interaction prolonged stabilization of Akt2 phosphorylation at S474, regulating downstream signaling cascades which enable cell proliferation and survival. Disrupting AEG-1-Akt2 interaction by competitive binding of the Akt2-PH domain led to reduced cell viability and invasion. When combined with AEG-1 silencing, conditional expression of Akt2-PH markedly increased survival in an orthotopic mouse model of human GBM. Our study uncovers a novel molecular mechanism by which AEG-1 augments glioma progression and offers a rationale to block AEG-1-Akt2 signaling function as a novel GBM treatment.
PMCID: PMC4268375  PMID: 25304263
Glioblastoma; AEG-1; Akt2
13.  Analysis of global changes in gene expression induced by human polynucleotide phosphorylase (hPNPaseold-35) 
Journal of cellular physiology  2014;229(12):1952-1962.
As a strategy to identify gene expression changes affected by human polynucleotide phosphorylase (hPNPaseold-35), we performed gene expression analysis of HeLa cells in which hPNPaseold-35 was overexpressed. The observed changes were then compared to those of HO-1 melanoma cells in which hPNPaseold-35 was stably knocked down. Through this analysis, 90 transcripts, which positively or negatively correlated with hPNPaseold-35 expression, were identified. The majority of these genes were associated with cell communication, cell cycle and chromosomal organization gene ontology categories. For a number of these genes, the positive or negative correlations with hPNPaseold-35 expression were consistent with transcriptional data extracted from the TCGA (The Cancer Genome Atlas) expression datasets for colon adenocarcinoma (COAD), skin cutaneous melanoma (SKCM), ovarian serous cyst adenocarcinoma (OV), and prostate adenocarcinoma (PRAD). Further analysis comparing the gene expression changes between Ad.hPNPaseold-35 infected HO-1 melanoma cells and HeLa cells overexpressing hPNPaseold-35 under the control of a doxycycline-inducible promoter, revealed global changes in genes involved in cell cycle and mitosis. Overall, this study provides further evidence that hPNPaseold-35 is associated with global changes in cell cycle-associated genes and identifies potential gene targets for future investigation.
PMCID: PMC4149605  PMID: 24729470
14.  MDA-7/IL-24 functions as a tumor suppressor gene in vivo in transgenic mouse models of breast cancer 
Oncotarget  2015;6(35):36928-36942.
Melanoma differentiation associated gene-7/Interleukin-24 (MDA-7/IL-24) is a novel member of the IL-10 gene family that selectively induces apoptosis and toxic autophagy in a broad spectrum of human cancers, including breast cancer, without harming normal cells or tissues. The ability to investigate the critical events underlying cancer initiation and progression, as well as the capacity to test the efficacy of novel therapeutics, has been significantly advanced by the development of genetically engineered mice (GEMs) that accurately recapitulate specific human cancers. We utilized three transgenic mouse models to better comprehend the in vivo role of MDA-7/IL-24 in breast cancer. Using the MMTV-PyMT spontaneous mammary tumor model, we confirmed that exogenously introducing MDA-7/IL-24 using a Cancer Terminator Virus caused a reduction in tumor burden and also produced an antitumor “bystander” effect. Next we performed xenograft studies in a newly created MMTV-MDA-7 transgenic model that over-expresses MDA-7/IL-24 in the mammary glands during pregnancy and lactation, and found that MDA-7/IL-24 overexpression delayed tumor growth following orthotopic injection of a murine PDX tumor cell line (mPDX) derived from a tumor formed in an MMTV-PyMT mouse. We also crossed the MMTV-MDA-7 line to MMTV-Erbb2 transgenic mice and found that MDA-7/IL-24 overexpression delayed the onset of mammary tumor development in this model of spontaneous mammary tumorigenesis as well. Finally, we assessed the role of MDA-7/IL-24 in immune regulation, which can potentially contribute to tumor suppression in vivo. Our findings provide further direct in vivo evidence for the role of MDA-7/IL-24 in tumor suppression in breast cancer in immune-competent transgenic mice.
PMCID: PMC4741906  PMID: 26474456
melanoma differentiation associated gene-7/interleukin-24 (MDA-7/IL-24); MMTV-PyMT mice; MMTV-MDA-7 mice; MMTV-MDA-7/MMTV-Erbb2 mice; transgenic mice
15.  Suppression of Her2/Neu mammary tumor development in mda-7/IL-24 transgenic mice 
Oncotarget  2015;6(35):36943-36954.
Melanoma differentiation associated gene-7/interleukin-24 (mda-7/IL-24) encodes a tumor suppressor gene implicated in the growth of various tumor types including breast cancer. We previously demonstrated that recombinant adenovirus-mediated mda-7/IL-24 expression in the mammary glands of carcinogen-treated (methylnitrosourea, MNU) rats suppressed mammary tumor development. Since most MNU-induced tumors in rats contain activating mutations in Ha-ras, which arenot frequently detected in humans, we presently examined the effect of MDA-7/IL-24 on Her2/Neu-induced mammary tumors, in which the RAS pathway is induced. We generated tet-inducible MDA-7/IL-24 transgenic mice and crossed them with Her2/Neu transgenic mice. Triple compound transgenic mice treated with doxycycline exhibited a strong inhibition of tumor development, demonstrating tumor suppressor activity by MDA-7/IL-24 in immune-competent mice. MDA-7/IL-24 induction also inhibited growth of tumors generated following injection of Her2/Neu tumor cells isolated from triple compound transgenic mice that had not been treated with doxycycline, into the mammary fat pads of isogenic FVB mice. Despite initial growth suppression, tumors in triple compound transgenic mice lost mda-7/IL-24 expression and grew, albeit after longer latency, indicating that continuous presence of this cytokine within tumor microenvironment is crucial to sustain tumor inhibitory activity. Mechanistically, MDA-7/IL-24 exerted its tumor suppression effect on HER2+ breast cancer cells, at least in part, through PERP, a member of PMP-22 family with growth arrest and apoptosis-inducing capacity. Overall, our results establish mda-7/IL-24 as a suppressor of mammary tumor development and provide a rationale for using this cytokine in the prevention/treatment of human breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4741907  PMID: 26460950
mda-7/IL-24; HER2; breast cancer; prevention; mouse model
16.  MDA-7/IL-24: Multifunctional Cancer Killing Cytokine 
First identified almost two decades ago as a novel gene differentially expressed in human melanoma cells induced to terminally differentiate, MDA-7/IL-24 has since shown great potential as an anti-cancer gene. MDA-7/IL24, a secreted protein of the IL-10 family, functions as a cytokine at normal physiological levels and is expressed in tissues of the immune system. At supra-physiological levels, MDA-7/IL-24 plays a prominent role in inhibiting tumor growth, invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis and was recently shown to target tumor stem/initiating cells for death. Much of the attention focused on MDA-7/IL-24 originated from the fact that it can selectively induce cell death in cancer cells without affecting normal cells. Thus, this gene originally shown to be associated with melanoma cell differentiation has now proven to be a multi-functional protein affecting a broad array of cancers. Moreover, MDA-7/IL-24 has proven efficacious in a Phase I/II clinical trial in humans with multiple advanced cancers. As research in the field progresses, we will unravel more of the functions of MDA-7/IL-24 and define novel ways to utilize MDA-7/IL-24 in the treatment of cancer.
PMCID: PMC4633013  PMID: 25001534
MDA-7; IL-24; Cytokine; Cancer; Apoptosis; Autophagy; Bystander antitumor activity; Cancer terminator virus
17.  Pancreatic cancer-specific cell death induced in vivo by cytoplasmic-delivered polyinosine-polycytidylic acid 
Cancer research  2014;74(21):6224-6235.
Polyinosine-polycytidylic acid (pIC) is a synthetic dsRNA that acts as an immune agonist of TLR3 and RLR to activate dendritic and NK cells that can kill tumor cells. pIC can also trigger apoptosis in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells but its mechanism of action is obscure. In this study, we investigated the potential therapeutic activity of a formulation of pIC with polyethylenimine ([pIC]PEI) in PDAC and investigated its mechanism of action. [pIC]PEI stimulated apoptosis in PDAC cells without affecting normal pancreatic epithelial cells. Mechanistically, [pIC]PEI repressed XIAP and survivin expression and activated an immune response by inducing MDA-5, RIG-I and NOXA. Phosphorylation of AKT was inhibited by [pIC]PEI in PDAC and this event was critical for stimulating apoptosis through XIAP and survivin degradation. In vivo administration of [pIC]PEI inhibited tumor growth via AKT-mediated XIAP degradation in both subcutaneous and quasi-orthotopic-models of PDAC. Taken together, these results offer a preclinical proof-of-concept for the evaluation of [pIC]PEI as an immunochemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC4216760  PMID: 25205107
[pI:C]; [pIC]PEI; jetPEI; Pancreatic cancer; PDAC; AKT; XIAP
18.  Characterization of the canine mda-7 gene, transcripts and expression patterns 
Gene  2014;547(1):23-33.
Human melanoma differentiation associated gene-7/interleukin-24 (mda-7/IL-24) displays potent growth suppressing and cell killing activity against a wide variety of human and rodent cancer cells. In this study, we identified a canine ortholog of the human mda-7/IL-24 gene located within a cluster of IL-10 family members on chromosome 7. The full-length mRNA sequence of canine mda-7 was determined, which encodes a 186-amino acid protein that has 66% similarity to human MDA-7/IL-24. Canine MDA-7 is constitutively expressed in cultured normal canine epidermal keratinocytes (NCEKs), and its expression levels are increased after lipopolysaccharide stimulation. In cultured NCEKs, the canine mda-7 pre-mRNA is differentially spliced, via exon skipping and alternate 5′-splice donor sites, to yield five splice variants (canine mda-7sv1, canine mda-7sv2, canine mda-7sv3, canine mda-7sv4 and canine mda-7sv5) that encode four protein isoforms of the canine MDA-7 protein. These protein isoforms have a conserved N-terminus (signal peptide sequence) and are dissimilar in amino acid sequences at their C-terminus. Canine MDA-7 is not expressed in primary canine tumor samples, and most tumor derived cancer cell lines tested, like its human counterpart. Unlike human MDA-7/IL-24, canine mda-7 mRNA is not expressed in unstimulated or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), concanavalin A (ConA) or phytohemagglutinin (PHA) stimulated canine peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Furthermore, in-silico analysis revealed that canonical canine MDA-7 has a potential 28 amino acid signal peptide sequence that can target it for active secretion. This data suggests that canine mda-7 is indeed an ortholog of human mda-7/IL-24, its protein product has high amino acid similarity to human MDA-7/IL-24 protein and it may possess similar biological properties to human MDA-7/IL-24, but its expression pattern is more restricted than its human ortholog.
PMCID: PMC4131717  PMID: 24865935
19.  Novel ZnO hollow-nanocarriers containing paclitaxel targeting folate-receptors in a malignant pH-microenvironment for effective monitoring and promoting breast tumor regression 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:11760.
Low pH in the tumor micromilieu is a recognized pathological feature of cancer. This attribute of cancerous cells has been targeted herein for the controlled release of chemotherapeutics at the tumour site, while sparing healthy tissues. To this end, pH-sensitive, hollow ZnO-nanocarriers loaded with paclitaxel were synthesized and their efficacy studied in breast cancer in vitro and in vivo. The nanocarriers were surface functionalized with folate using click-chemistry to improve targeted uptake by the malignant cells that over-express folate-receptors. The nanocarriers released ~75% of the paclitaxel payload within six hours in acidic pH, which was accompanied by switching of fluorescence from blue to green and a 10-fold increase in the fluorescence intensity. The fluorescence-switching phenomenon is due to structural collapse of the nanocarriers in the endolysosome. Energy dispersion X-ray mapping and whole animal fluorescent imaging studies were carried out to show that combined pH and folate-receptor targeting reduces off-target accumulation of the nanocarriers. Further, a dual cell-specific and pH-sensitive nanocarrier greatly improved the efficacy of paclitaxel to regress subcutaneous tumors in vivo. These nanocarriers could improve chemotherapy tolerance and increase anti-tumor efficacy, while also providing a novel diagnostic read-out through fluorescent switching that is proportional to drug release in malignant tissues.
PMCID: PMC4491843  PMID: 26145450
20.  Design, Synthesis and Bio-evaluation of an EphA2-based Targeted Delivery System 
ChemMedChem  2014;9(7):1403-1412.
We recently described a new targeted delivery system based on specific EphA2 receptor targeting peptides conjugated with the chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel. In this manuscript we investigate the chemical determinants responsible for the stability and degradation of these agents in plasma. Introducing modifications in both the peptide and the linker between the peptide and paclitaxel, resulted in drug conjugates that are both long-lived in rat plasma and that markedly reduced tumor size in a prostate cancer xenograft model compared to paclitaxel alone treatment. These studies identify critical rate-limiting degradation sites on the peptide-drug conjugates, enabling the design of agents with increased stability and efficacy. These results provide support for our central hypothesis that peptide-drug conjugates targeting the EphA2 receptor represent an innovative and potentially effective strategy to selectively deliver cytotoxic drugs to cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC4082471  PMID: 24677792
Targeted delivery; drug discovery; EphA2; ephrin; chemotherapy
21.  Mcl-1 is an important therapeutic target for oral squamous cell carcinomas 
Oncotarget  2015;6(18):16623-16637.
Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are the sixth most common cancers worldwide. Despite intensive investigation, oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC) represent a clinical challenge resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Resistance to cell death is common in OSCC and is often mediated by the Bcl-2 family proteins. Among all anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members, Mcl-1 functions as a major survival factor, particularly in solid cancers. Despite the confirmed importance of Mcl-1 in several neoplasms, the role of Mcl-1 in OSCC survival has yet to be explored. In this study, we found that knocking down Mcl-1 sensitized OSCC cells to ABT-737, which binds to Bcl-2/Bcl-xL but not Mcl-1. We report for the first time that a BH3 mimetic, Sabutoclax, which functions as an inhibitor of all anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins, induced cancer-specific cell death in an Mcl-1-dependent manner through both apoptosis and toxic mitophagy. In vivo studies demonstrated that Sabutoclax alone decreased tumor growth in a carcinogen-induced tongue OSCC mouse model. In a combination regimen, Sabutoclax and COX-2 inhibitor, Celecoxib, synergistically inhibited the growth of OSCC in vitro and also significantly reduced OSCC tumor growth in vivo. Overall, these results identify Mcl-1 as a therapeutic prospective target in OSCC.
PMCID: PMC4599294  PMID: 26009874
Mcl-1; OSCC; mitophagy; sabutoclax; 4-NQO
22.  Therapy of prostate cancer using a novel cancer terminator virus and a small molecule BH-3 mimetic 
Oncotarget  2015;6(13):10712-10727.
Despite recent advances, treatment options for advanced prostate cancer (CaP) remain limited. We are pioneering approaches to treat advanced CaP that employ conditionally replication-competent oncolytic adenoviruses that simultaneously produce a systemically active cancer-specific therapeutic cytokine, mda-7/IL-24, Cancer Terminator Viruses (CTV). A truncated version of the CCN1/CYR61 gene promoter, tCCN1-Prom, was more active than progression elevated gene-3 promoter (PEG-Prom) in regulating transformation-selective transgene expression in CaP and oncogene-transformed rat embryo cells. Accordingly, we developed a new CTV, Ad.tCCN1-CTV-m7, which displayed dose-dependent killing of CaP without harming normal prostate epithelial cells in vitro with significant anti-cancer activity in vivo in both nude mouse CaP xenograft and transgenic Hi-Myc mice (using ultrasound-targeted microbubble (MB)-destruction, UTMD, with decorated MBs). Resistance to mda-7/IL-24-induced cell deathcorrelated with overexpression of Bcl-2 family proteins. Inhibiting Mcl-1 using an enhanced BH3 mimetic, BI-97D6, sensitized CaP cell lines to mda-7/IL-24-induced apoptosis. Combining BI-97D6 with Ads expressing mda-7/IL-24promoted ER stress, decreased anti-apoptotic Mcl-1 expression and enhanced mda-7/IL-24expression through mRNA stabilization selectively in CaP cells. In Hi-myc mice, the combination induced enhanced apoptosis and tumor growth suppression. These studies highlight therapeutic efficacy of combining a BH3 mimetic with a novel CTV, supporting potential clinical applications for treating advanced CaP.
PMCID: PMC4484414  PMID: 25926554
BH3 mimetic; cancer terminator virus (CTV; prostate cancer (CaP); truncated CCN1 (tCCN1)-Prom; PEG-Prom
23.  Autophagy: Cancer’s Friend or Foe? 
Advances in cancer research  2013;118:61-95.
The functional relevance of autophagy in tumor formation and progression remains controversial. Autophagy can promote tumor suppression during cancer initiation and protect tumors during progression. Autophagy-associated cell death may act as a tumor suppressor, with several autophagy-related genes deleted in cancers. Loss of autophagy induces genomic instability and necrosis with inflammation in mouse tumor models. Conversely, autophagy enhances survival of tumor cells subjected to metabolic stress and may promote metastasis by enhancing tumor cell survival under environmental stress. Unraveling the complex molecular regulation and multiple diverse roles of autophagy is pivotal in guiding development of rational and novel cancer therapies.
PMCID: PMC4349374  PMID: 23768510
24.  Genetically Engineered Mice as Experimental Tools to Dissect the Critical Events in Breast Cancer 
Advances in cancer research  2014;121:331-382.
Elucidating the mechanism of pathogenesis of breast cancer has greatly benefited from breakthrough advances in both genetically engineered mouse (GEM) models and xenograft transplantation technologies. The vast array of breast cancer mouse models currently available is testimony to the complexity of mammary tumorigenesis and attempts by investigators to accurately portray the heterogeneity and intricacies of this disease. Distinct molecular changes that drive various aspects of tumorigenesis, such as alterations in tumor cell proliferation and apoptosis, invasion and metastasis, angiogenesis, and drug resistance have been evaluated using the currently available GEM breast cancer models. GEM breast cancer models are also being exploited to evaluate and validate the efficacy of novel therapeutics, vaccines, and imaging modalities for potential use in the clinic. This review provides a synopsis of the various GEM models that are expanding our knowledge of the nuances of breast cancer development and progression and can be instrumental in the development of novel prevention and therapeutic approaches for this disease.
PMCID: PMC4349377  PMID: 24889535
25.  Cancer Terminator Viruses and Approaches for Enhancing Therapeutic Outcomes 
No single or combinatorial therapeutic approach has proven effective in decreasing morbidity or engendering a cure of metastatic cancer. In principle, conditionally replication-competent adenoviruses that induce tumor oncolysis through cancer-specific replication hold promise for cancer therapy. However, a single-agent approach may not be adequate to completely eradicate cancer in a patient because most cancers arise from abnormalities in multiple genetic and signal transduction pathways and targeting disseminated metastases is difficult to achieve. Based on these considerations, a novel class of cancer destroying adenoviruses have been produced, cancer terminator viruses (CTVs), in which cancer-specific replication is controlled by the progression-elevated gene-3 promoter and replicating viruses produce a second transgene encoding an apoptosis-inducing and immunomodulatory cytokine, either melanoma differentiation-associated gene-7/interleukin-24 (mda-7/IL-24) or interferon-γ. This review focuses on these viruses and ways to improve their delivery systemically and enhance their therapeutic efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4348031  PMID: 23021240

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