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1.  AKT/FOXO Signaling Enforces Reversible Differentiation Blockade in Myeloid Leukemias 
Cell  2011;146(5):10.1016/j.cell.2011.07.032.
SUMMARY
AKT activation is associated with many malignancies, where AKT acts, in part, by inhibiting FOXO tumor suppressors. We show a converse role for AKT/FOXOs in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Rather than decreased FOXO activity, we observed that FOXOs are active in ∼40% of AML patient samples regardless of genetic subtype. We also observe this activity in human MLL-AF9 leukemia allele-induced AML in mice, where either activation of Akt or compound deletion of FoxO1/3/4 reduced leukemic cell growth, with the latter markedly diminishing leukemia-initiating cell (LIC) function in vivo and improving animal survival. FOXO inhibition resulted in myeloid maturation and subsequent AML cell death. FOXO activation inversely correlated with JNK/c-JUN signaling, and leukemic cells resistant to FOXO inhibition responded to JNK inhibition. These data reveal a molecular role for AKT/FOXO and JNK/c-JUN in maintaining a differentiation blockade that can be targeted to inhibit leukemias with a range of genetic lesions.
doi:10.1016/j.cell.2011.07.032
PMCID: PMC3826540  PMID: 21884932
3.  CDX2-driven leukemogenesis involves KLF4 repression and deregulated PPARγ signaling 
Aberrant expression of the homeodomain transcription factor CDX2 occurs in most cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and promotes leukemogenesis, making CDX2, in principle, an attractive therapeutic target. Conversely, CDX2 acts as a tumor suppressor in colonic epithelium. The effectors mediating the leukemogenic activity of CDX2 and the mechanism underlying its context-dependent properties are poorly characterized, and strategies for interfering with CDX2 function in AML remain elusive. We report data implicating repression of the transcription factor KLF4 as important for the oncogenic activity of CDX2, and demonstrate that CDX2 differentially regulates KLF4 in AML versus colon cancer cells through a mechanism that involves tissue-specific patterns of promoter binding and epigenetic modifications. Furthermore, we identified deregulation of the PPARγ signaling pathway as a feature of CDX2-associated AML and observed that PPARγ agonists derepressed KLF4 and were preferentially toxic to CDX2+ leukemic cells. These data delineate transcriptional programs associated with CDX2 expression in hematopoietic cells, provide insight into the antagonistic duality of CDX2 function in AML versus colon cancer, and suggest reactivation of KLF4 expression, through modulation of PPARγ signaling, as a therapeutic modality in a large proportion of AML patients.
doi:10.1172/JCI64745
PMCID: PMC3533294  PMID: 23202735
4.  Targeting of KRAS mutant tumors by HSP90 inhibitors involves degradation of STK33 
HSP90 inhibition depletes STK33 in KRAS mutant tumors.
Previous efforts to develop drugs that directly inhibit the activity of mutant KRAS, the most commonly mutated human oncogene, have not been successful. Cancer cells driven by mutant KRAS require expression of the serine/threonine kinase STK33 for their viability and proliferation, identifying STK33 as a context-dependent therapeutic target. However, specific strategies for interfering with the critical functions of STK33 are not yet available. Here, using a mass spectrometry-based screen for STK33 protein interaction partners, we report that the HSP90/CDC37 chaperone complex binds to and stabilizes STK33 in human cancer cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of HSP90, using structurally divergent small molecules currently in clinical development, induced proteasome-mediated degradation of STK33 in human cancer cells of various tissue origin in vitro and in vivo, and triggered apoptosis preferentially in KRAS mutant cells in an STK33-dependent manner. Furthermore, HSP90 inhibitor treatment impaired sphere formation and viability of primary human colon tumor-initiating cells harboring mutant KRAS. These findings provide mechanistic insight into the activity of HSP90 inhibitors in KRAS mutant cancer cells, indicate that the enhanced requirement for STK33 can be exploited to target mutant KRAS-driven tumors, and identify STK33 depletion through HSP90 inhibition as a biomarker-guided therapeutic strategy with immediate translational potential.
doi:10.1084/jem.20111910
PMCID: PMC3328372  PMID: 22451720
5.  Musashi-2 regulates normal hematopoiesis and promotes aggressive myeloid leukemia 
Nature medicine  2010;16(8):903-908.
RNA-binding proteins of the Musashi (Msi) family are expressed in stem cell compartments and in aggressive tumors, but they have not yet been widely explored in the blood. Here we demonstrate that Msi2 is the predominant form expressed in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), and its knockdown leads to reduced engraftment and depletion of HSCs in vivo. Overexpression of human MSI2 in a mouse model increases HSC cell cycle progression and cooperates with the chronic myeloid leukemia–associated BCR-ABL1 oncoprotein to induce an aggressive leukemia. MSI2 is overexpressed in human myeloid leukemia cell lines, and its depletion leads to decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis. Expression levels in human myeloid leukemia directly correlate with decreased survival in patients with the disease, thereby defining MSI2 expression as a new prognostic marker and as a new target for therapy in acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
doi:10.1038/nm.2187
PMCID: PMC3090658  PMID: 20616797
6.  Systematic RNA interference reveals that oncogenic KRAS-driven cancers require TBK1 
Nature  2009;462(7269):108-112.
The proto-oncogene KRAS is mutated in a wide array of human cancers, most of which are aggressive and respond poorly to standard therapies. Although the identification of specific oncogenes has led to the development of clinically effective, molecularly targeted therapies in some cases, KRAS has remained refractory to this approach. A complementary strategy for targeting KRAS is to identify gene products that, when inhibited, result in cell death only in the presence of an oncogenic allele1,2. Here we have used systematic RNA interference (RNAi) to detect synthetic lethal partners of oncogenic KRAS and found that the non-canonical IκB kinase, TBK1, was selectively essential in cells that harbor mutant KRAS. Suppression of TBK1 induced apoptosis specifically in human cancer cell lines that depend on oncogenic KRAS expression. In these cells, TBK1 activated NF-κB anti-apoptotic signals involving cREL and BCL-XL that were essential for survival, providing mechanistic insights into this synthetic lethal interaction. These observations identify TBK1 and NF-κB signaling as essential in KRAS mutant tumors and establish a general approach for the rational identification of co-dependent pathways in cancer.
doi:10.1038/nature08460
PMCID: PMC2783335  PMID: 19847166
7.  Activating mutations in ALK provide a therapeutic target in neuroblastoma 
Nature  2008;455(7215):975-978.
Neuroblastoma, an embryonal tumor of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system, accounts for approximately 15% of all deaths due to childhood cancer1. High-risk neuroblastomas, prevalent in the majority of patients, are rapidly progressive; even with intensive myeloablative chemotherapy, relapse is common and almost uniformly fatal2,3. Here we report the detection of previously unknown mutations in the ALK gene, which encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase, in 8% of primary neuroblastomas. Five non-synonymous sequence variations were identified in the kinase domain of ALK, of which three were somatic and two were germline. The most frequent mutation, F1174L, was also identified in three different neuroblastoma cell lines. ALK cDNAs encoding the F1174L and R1275Q variants, but not the wild-type ALK cDNA, transformed IL-3-dependent murine hematopoietic Ba/F3 cells to cytokine-independent growth. Ba/F3 cells expressing these mutations were sensitive to a small-molecule inhibitor of ALK, TAE6844. Furthermore, two human neuroblastoma cell lines harboring the F1174L mutation were sensitive to the inhibitor. Cytotoxicity was associated with increased levels of apoptosis as measured by TUNEL-labeling. shRNA-mediated knockdown of ALK expression in neuroblastoma cell lines with the F1174L mutation also resulted in apoptosis and impaired cell proliferation. Thus, activating alleles of the ALK receptor tyrosine kinase are present in primary neuroblastoma tumors and in established neuroblastoma cell lines, and confer sensitivity to ALK inhibition with small molecules, providing a molecular rationale for targeted therapy of this disease.
doi:10.1038/nature07397
PMCID: PMC2587486  PMID: 18923525
8.  FLT3 mutations confer enhanced proliferation and survival properties to multipotent progenitors in a murine model of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia 
Cancer cell  2007;12(4):367-380.
SUMMARY
Despite their known transforming properties, the effects of leukemogenic FLT3-ITD mutations on hematopoietic stem and multipotent progenitor cells and on hematopoietic differentiation are not well understood. We report a mouse model harboring an ITD in the murine Flt3 locus that develops myeloproliferative disease resembling CMML and further identified FLT3-ITD mutations in a subset of human CMML. These findings correlated with an increase in number, cell cycling and survival of multipotent stem and progenitor cells in an ITD dose-dependent manner in animals that exhibited alterations within their myeloid progenitor compartments and a block in normal B-cell development. This model provides insights into the consequences of constitutive signaling by an oncogenic tyrosine kinase on hematopoietic progenitor quiescence, function, and cell fate.
SIGNIFICANCE
Activating FLT3 mutations are among the most common genetic events in AML and confer a poor clinical prognosis. Essential to our understanding of how these lesions contribute to myeloid leukemia is the development of a Flt3-ITD ‘knock-in’ murine model that has allowed examination of the consequences of constitutive FLT3 signaling on primitive hematopoietic progenitors when expressed at appropriate physiologic levels. These animals informed us to the existence of FLT3-ITD-positive human CMML, which has clinical importance given the availability of FLT3 small molecule inhibitors. This model will not only serve as a powerful biological tool to identify mutations that cooperate with FLT3 in leukemogenesis, but also to assess molecular therapies that target either FLT3 or components of its signaling pathways.
doi:10.1016/j.ccr.2007.08.031
PMCID: PMC2104473  PMID: 17936561
9.  The homeobox gene CDX2 is aberrantly expressed in most cases of acute myeloid leukemia and promotes leukemogenesis  
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(4):1037-1048.
The homeobox transcription factor CDX2 plays an important role in embryonic development and regulates the proliferation and differentiation of intestinal epithelial cells in the adult. We have found that CDX2 is expressed in leukemic cells of 90% of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) but not in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells derived from normal individuals. Stable knockdown of CDX2 expression by RNA interference inhibited the proliferation of various human AML cell lines and strongly reduced their clonogenic potential in vitro. Primary murine hematopoietic progenitor cells transduced with Cdx2 acquired serial replating activity, were able to be continuously propagated in liquid culture, generated fully penetrant and transplantable AML in BM transplant recipients, and displayed dysregulated expression of Hox family members in vitro and in vivo. These results demonstrate that aberrant expression of the developmental regulatory gene CDX2 in the adult hematopoietic compartment is a frequent event in the pathogenesis of AML; suggest a role for CDX2 as part of a common effector pathway that promotes the proliferative capacity and self-renewal potential of myeloid progenitor cells; and support the hypothesis that CDX2 is responsible, in part, for the altered HOX gene expression that is observed in most cases of AML.
doi:10.1172/JCI30182
PMCID: PMC1810574  PMID: 17347684

Results 1-9 (9)