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author:("Basu, devra")
1.  IGFBP3 promotes esophageal cancer growth by suppressing oxidative stress in hypoxic tumor microenvironment 
Insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), a hypoxia-inducible gene, regulates a variety of cellular processes including cell proliferation, senescence, apoptosis and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). IGFBP3 has been linked to the pathogenesis of cancers. Most previous studies focus upon proapoptotic tumor suppressor activities of IGFBP3. Nevertheless, IGFBP3 is overexpressed in certain cancers including esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), one of the most aggressive forms of squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). The tumor-promoting activities of IGFBP3 remain poorly understood in part due to a lack of understanding as to how the tumor microenvironment may influence IGFBP3 expression and how IGFBP3 may in turn influence heterogeneous intratumoral cell populations. Here, we show that IGFBP3 overexpression is associated with poor postsurgical prognosis in ESCC patients. In xenograft transplantation models with genetically engineered ESCC cells, IGFBP3 contributes to tumor progression with a concurrent induction of a subset of tumor cells showing high expression of CD44 (CD44H), a major cell surface receptor for hyaluronic acid, implicated in invasion, metastasis and drug resistance. Our gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments reveal that IGFBP3 mediates the induction of intratumoral CD44H cells. IGFBP3 cooperates with hypoxia to mediate the induction of CD44H cells by suppressing reactive oxygen species (ROS) in an insulin-like growth factor-independent fashion. Thus, our study sheds light on the growth stimulatory functions of IGFPB3 in cancer, gaining a novel mechanistic insight into the functional interplay between the tumor microenvironment and IGFBP3.
PMCID: PMC3902230  PMID: 24482736
CD44; esophageal; squamous cell carcinoma; hypoxia; IGFBP3 and reactive oxygen species
2.  Stem-like cells and therapy resistance in squamous cell carcinomas 
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) within squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are hypothesized to contribute to chemotherapy and radiation resistance and represent potentially useful pharmacologic targets. Hallmarks of the stem cell phenotype that may contribute to therapy resistance of CSCs include quiescence, evasion of apoptosis, resistance to DNA damage, and expression of drug transporter pumps. A variety of CSC populations within SCCs of the head and neck and esophagus have been defined tentatively, based on diverse surface markers and functional assays. Stem-like self-renewal and differentiation capacities of these SCC subpopulations are supported by sphere formation and clonogenicity assays in vitro as well as limiting dilution studies in xenograft models. Early evidence supports a role for SCC CSCs in intrinsic therapy resistance, while detailed mechanisms by which these subpopulations evade treatment remain to be defined. Development of novel SCC therapies will be aided by pursuing such mechanisms as well as refining current definitions for CSCs and clarifying their relevance to hierarchical versus dynamic models of stemness.
PMCID: PMC3595160  PMID: 22959028
cancer stem cells; drug resistance; squamous cell carcinoma
3.  A NOTCH3-mediated squamous cell differentiation program limits expansion of EMT competent cells that express the ZEB transcription factors 
Cancer research  2011;71(21):6836-6847.
Zinc finger E-box binding (ZEB) proteins ZEB1 and ZEB2 are transcription factors essential in transforming growth factor (TGF)-β-mediated senescence, epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cancer stem cell function. ZEBs are negatively regulated by members of the miR-200 microRNA family, but precisely how tumor cells expressing ZEBs emerge during invasive growth remains unknown. Here we report that NOTCH3-mediated signaling prevents expansion of a unique subset of ZEB-expressing cells. ZEB expression was associated with the lack of cellular capability of undergoing NOTCH3-mediated squamous differentiation in human esophageal cells. Genetic inhibition of the Notch-mediated transcriptional activity by dominant-negative Mastermind-like1 (DNMAML1) prevented squamous differentiation and induction of Notch target genes including NOTCH3. Moreover, DNMAML1 enriched EMT competent cells exhibited robust upregulation of ZEBs, downregulation of the miR-200 family, and enhanced anchorage independent growth and tumor formation in nude mice. RNA interference (RNAi) experiments suggested the involvement of ZEBs in anchorage independent colony formation, invasion and TGF-β-mediated EMT. Invasive growth and impaired squamous differentiation was recapitulated upon Notch inhibition by DNMAML1 in organotypic 3D culture, a form of human tissue engineering. Together, our findings indicate that NOTCH3 is a key factor limiting the expansion of ZEB-expressing cells, providing novel mechanistic insights into the role of Notch signaling in the cell fate regulation and disease progression of squamous esophageal cancers.
PMCID: PMC3206139  PMID: 21890822
Notch; EMT; squamous cell differentiation; ZEB1; miR-200
4.  Detecting and targeting mesenchymal-like subpopulations within squamous cell carcinomas 
Cell Cycle  2011;10(12):2008-2016.
Curative eradication of all cells within carcinomas is seldom achievable with chemotherapy alone. This limitation may be partially attributable to tumor cell subpopulations with intrinsic resistance to current drugs. Within squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cell lines, we previously characterized a subpopulation of mesenchymal-like cells displaying phenotypic plasticity and increased resistance to both cytotoxic and targeted agents. These mesenchymal-like (Ecad-lo) cells are separable from epithelial-like (Ecad-hi) cells based on loss of surface E-cadherin and expression of vimentin. Despite their long-term plasticity, both Ecad-lo and Ecad-hi subsets in short-term culture maintained nearly uniform phenotypes after purification. This stability allowed testing of segregated subpopulations for relative sensitivity to the cytotoxic agent cisplatin in comparison to salinomycin, a compound with reported activity against CD44+CD24− stem-like cells in breast carcinomas. Salinomycin showed comparable efficacy against both Ecad-hi and Ecad-lo cells in contrast to cisplatin, which selectively depleted Ecad-hi cells. An in vivo correlate of these mesenchymal-like Ecad-lo cells was identified by immunohistochemical detection of vimentin-positive malignant subsets across a part of direct tumor xenografts (DTXs) of advanced stage SCC patient samples. Cisplatin treatment of mice with established DTXs caused enrichment of vimentin-positive malignant cells in residual tumors, but salinomycin depleted the same subpopulation. These results demonstrate that mesenchymal-like SCC cells, which resist current chemotherapies, respond to a treatment strategy developed against a stem-like subset in breast carcinoma. Further, they provide evidence of mesenchymal-like subsets being well-represented across advanced stage SCCs, suggesting that intrinsic drug resistance in this subpopulation has high clinical relevance.
PMCID: PMC3154419  PMID: 21558812
EMT; squamous cell carcinoma; head and neck cancer; esophageal cancer; chemotherapy resistance; salinomycin; tumor heterogeneity
5.  A temporarily distinct subpopulation of slow-cycling melanoma cells is required for continuous tumor growth 
Cell  2010;141(4):583-594.
Melanomas are highly heterogeneous tumors, but the biological significance of their different subpopulations is not clear. Using the H3K4 demethylase JARID1B (KDM5B/PLU-1/RBP2-H1) as a biomarker, we have characterized a small subpopulation of slow-cycling melanoma cells that cycle with doubling times of >4 weeks within the rapidly proliferating main population. Isolated JARID1B-positive melanoma cells give rise to a highly proliferative progeny. Knock-down of JARID1B leads to an initial acceleration of tumor growth followed by exhaustion which suggests that the JARID1B-positive subpopulation is essential for continuous tumor growth. Expression of JARID1B is dynamically regulated and does not follow a hierarchical cancer stem cell model because JARID1B-negative cells can become positive and even single melanoma cells irrespective of selection are tumorigenic. These results suggest a new understanding of melanoma heterogeneity with tumor maintenance as a dynamic process mediated by a temporarily distinct subpopulation.
PMCID: PMC2882693  PMID: 20478252
Oncogene  2010;29(29):4170-4182.
Variable drug responses among malignant cells within individual tumors may represent a barrier to their eradication using chemotherapy. Carcinoma cells expressing mesenchymal markers resist conventional and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeted chemotherapy. Here we evaluated whether mesenchymal-like subpopulations within human squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) with predominantly epithelial features contribute to overall therapy resistance. We identified a mesenchymal-like subset expressing low E-cadherin (Ecad-lo) and high vimentin (Vim-hi) within upper aerodigestive tract SCCs. This subset was both isolated from cell lines and identified in xenografts and primary clinical specimens. The Ecad-lo subset contained more low-turnover cells, correlating with resistance to the conventional chemotherapeutic paclitaxel in vitro. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) induced less stimulation of the MAP kinase and PI3-kinase pathways in Ecad-lo cells, which was likely due to lower EGFR expression in this subset and correlated with in vivo resistance to the EGFR-targeted antibody cetuximab. The Ecad-lo and high E-cadherin (Ecad-hi) subsets were dynamic in phenotype, showing the capacity to repopulate each other from single cell clones. Taken together, these results provide evidence for a low-turnover, mesenchymal-like subpopulation in SCCs with diminished EGFR pathway function and intrinsic resistance to conventional and EGFR-targeted chemotherapies.
PMCID: PMC3039880  PMID: 20498638
EMT; squamous cell carcinoma; head and neck; chemotherapy resistance; tumor heterogeneity

Results 1-6 (6)