Primary and acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs in EGFR mutant lung cancer occurs primarily through secondary mutations in EGFR or Met amplification. Drug resistance can also be mediated by expression of pluripotency transcription factors, such as OCT4, SOX2 and NANOG that decrease terminal differentiation. In this study, we investigated the expression and role of SOX2 in model systems of EGFR mutant tumors.
Materials and Methods
Immunoblotting or immunohistochemistry was used to assess expression of pluripotency transcription factors in lungs of transgenic mice or in human NSCLC cell lines. Expression of SOX2 was reduced by shRNA knockdown, and response to erlotinib and cellular proliferation were assessed.
Results and Conclusion
Induction of mutant EGFR in transgenic CCSP-rtTA/TetO-EGFRL858R/T790M mice correlated with increased OCT4 and SOX2 expression in lung tissue prior to tumor development. Established lung tumors retained SOX2 expression. To assess a role for SOX2 in tumorigenesis, a panel of NSCLC cell lines with activating EGFR mutations was assessed for SOX2 expression. Two of six cell lines with mutant EGFR showed detectable SOX2 levels, suggesting SOX2 expression did not correlate with EGFR mutation status. To assess the role of SOX2 in these cell lines, HCC827 and H1975 cells were infected with lentivirus containing SOX2 shRNA. Knockdown of SOX2 decreased proliferation in both cell lines and increased sensitivity to erlotinib in HCC827 cells. Because constitutive activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway is associated with EGFR TKI resistance, cells were treated with PI3K/AKT inhibitors and expression of SOX2 was examined. PI3K/Akt inhibitors decreased SOX2 expression in a time-dependent manner. These data suggest targeting SOX2 may provide therapeutic benefit in the subset of EGFR-mutant tumors with high constitutive levels of SOX2, and that until more direct means of inhibiting SOX2 are developed, PI3K/Akt inhibitors might be useful to inhibit SOX2 in EGFR TKI resistant tumors.
SOX2; non-small cell lung cancer; EGFR; Akt
Lung cancer in never-smokers is an important disease often characterized by mutations in EGFR, yet risk reduction measures and effective chemopreventive strategies have not been established. We identify mTOR as a new and potentially valuable target for EGFR mutant lung cancer, as mTOR was activated in human lung cancers with EGFR mutations, which increased with acquisition of T790M mutation. In a mouse model of EGFR mutant lung cancer, activation of mTOR was an early event. As a single agent, the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, prevented tumor development, prolonged overall survival, and improved outcomes after treatment with an irreversible EGFR TKI. These studies support clinical testing of mTOR inhibitors to prevent the development and progression of EGFR mutant lung cancers.
Adenomatous tumors in the middle ear and temporal bone are rare but highly morbid because they are difficult to detect prior to the development of audiovestibular dysfunction. Complete resection is often disfiguring and difficult because of location and the late stage at diagnosis, so identification of molecular targets and effective therapies is needed. Here, we describe a new mouse model of aggressive papillary ear tumor that was serendipitously discovered during the generation of a mouse model for mutant EGFR-driven lung cancer. Although these mice did not develop lung tumors, 43% developed head tilt and circling behavior. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans showed bilateral ear tumors located in the tympanic cavity. These tumors expressed mutant EGFR as well as active downstream targets such as Akt, mTOR and ERK1/2. EGFR-directed therapies were highly effective in eradicating the tumors and correcting the vestibular defects, suggesting these tumors are addicted to EGFR. EGFR activation was also observed in human ear neoplasms, which provides clinical relevance for this mouse model and rationale to test EGFR-targeted therapies in these rare neoplasms.
mouse model of adenomatous ear tumor; ear tumorigenesis; EGFR; EGFR-targeted therapy
Nelfinavir (NFV) is an HIV-1 protease inhibitor with demonstrated antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and several other herpesviruses. However, the stages of HSV-1 replication inhibited by NFV have not been explored. In this study, we investigated the effects of NFV on capsid assembly and envelopment. We confirmed the inhibitory effects of NFV on HSV-1 replication by plaque assay and found that treatment with NFV did not affect capsid assembly, activity of the HSV-1 maturational protease, or formation of DNA-containing capsids in the nucleus. Confocal and electron microscopy studies showed that these capsids were transported to the cytoplasm but failed to complete secondary envelopment and subsequent exit from the cell. Consistent with the microscopy results, a light-scattering band corresponding to enveloped virions was not evident following sucrose gradient rate-velocity separation of lysates from drug-treated cells. Evidence of a possibly related effect of NFV on viral glycoprotein maturation was also discovered. NFV also inhibited the replication of an HSV-1 thymidine kinase mutant resistant to nucleoside analogues such as acyclovir. Given that NFV is neither a nucleoside mimic nor a known inhibitor of nucleic acid synthesis, this was expected and suggests its potential as a coinhibitor or alternate antiviral therapeutic agent in cases of resistance.
IMPORTANCE Nelfinavir (NFV) is a clinically important antiviral drug that inhibits production of infectious HIV. It was reported to inhibit herpesviruses in cell culture. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infections are common and often associated with several diseases. The studies we describe here confirm and extend earlier findings by investigating how NFV interferes with HSV-1 replication. We show that early steps in virus formation (e.g., assembly of DNA-containing capsids in the nucleus and their movement into the cytoplasm) appear to be unaffected by NFV, whereas later steps (e.g., final envelopment in the cytoplasm and release of infectious virus from the cell) are severely restricted by the drug. Our findings provide the first insight into how NFV inhibits HSV-1 replication and suggest that this drug may have applications for studying the herpesvirus envelopment process. Additionally, NFV may have therapeutic value alone or in combination with other antivirals in treating herpesvirus infections.
Cowden syndrome (CS) is a hereditary cancer syndrome associated with a germline mutation in PTEN. Patients are predisposed to multiple malignancies including renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
Patients with CS were evaluated as part of a clinical protocol. Those with a history of RCC underwent review of clinical features, tumor characteristics, and family history. Renal tumors were evaluated for loss of heterozygosity (LOH).
Among 24 CS patients, 4 were identified with RCC (16.7%). Three patients had solitary tumors, two with papillary type I histology and one with clear cell histology. The fourth patient had bilateral, synchronous chromophobe tumors. No patients had a prior family history of RCC. All RCC patients had dermatologic manifestations of CS and had macrocephaly. LOH at the PTEN mutation was identified in 4 tumors (80%). No genotype-phenotype association was found, as the same mutation was identified in different RCC histologies.
RCC is an underappreciated feature of CS. As most patients lack a prior family history or a distinctive RCC histology, recognition of the associated non-renal features should target referral for genetic counseling. PTEN LOH is common in CS renal tumors. Because loss of PTEN can activate mTOR and mTOR inhibitors are FDA-approved to treat RCC, these agents have clinical potential in RCC associated with CS.
PTEN; RCC; Cowden syndrome; hereditary; mTOR
Nelfinavir is an HIV protease inhibitor being repurposed as an anti-cancer agent in preclinical models and in small oncology trials, yet the MTD of nelfinavir has not been determined. Therefore, we conducted a Phase Ia study to establish the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) and dose limiting toxicities (DLT) of nelfinavir in subjects with advanced solid tumors. Adults with refractory cancers were given oral nelfinavir twice daily with pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic analyses. Twenty-eight subjects were enrolled. Nelfinavir was generally well tolerated. Common adverse events included diarrhea, anemia, and lymphopenia, which were mostly mild. The DLT was rapid-onset neutropenia that was reversible. The MTD was established at 3125 mg twice daily. In an expansion cohort at the MTD, one of 11 (9%) evaluable subjects had a confirmed partial response. This, plus two minor responses, occurred in subjects with neuroendocrine tumors of the midgut or pancreatic origin. Thirty-six percent of subjects had stable disease for more than 6 months. In peripheral blood mononuclear cells, Nelfinavir inhibited AKT and induced markers of ER stress. In summary, nelfinavir is well tolerated in cancer patients at doses 2.5 times the FDA-approved dose for HIV management and showed preliminary activity in tumors of neuroendocrine origin.
Nelfinavir; phase I clinical trial; AKT; endoplasmic reticulum stress; neuroendocrine
Metformin is the most commonly prescribed drug for type II diabetes and is associated with decreased cancer risk. Previously, we showed that metformin prevented tobacco carcinogen (NNK)-induced lung tumorigenesis in a non-diabetic mouse model, which was associated with decreased IGF-I/insulin receptor signaling but not activation of AMPK in lung tissues, as well as decreased circulating levels of IGF-1 and insulin. Here, we used liver-IGF-1-deficient (LID) mice to determine the importance of IGF-1 in NNK-induced lung tumorigenesis and chemoprevention by metformin. LID mice had decreased lung tumor multiplicity and burden compared to WT mice. Metformin further decreased lung tumorigenesis in LID mice without affecting IGF-1 levels, suggesting that metformin can act through IGF-1-independent mechanisms. In lung tissues, metformin decreased phosphorylation of multiple receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) as well as levels of GTP-bound Ras independently of AMPK. Metformin also diminished plasma levels of several cognate ligands for these RTKs. Tissue distribution studies using [14C]-metformin showed that uptake of metformin was high in liver but 4 fold lower in lungs, suggesting that the suppression of RTK activation by metformin occurs predominantly via systemic, indirect effects. Systemic inhibition of circulating growth factors and local RTK signaling are new AMPK-independent mechanisms of action of metformin that could underlie its ability to prevent tobacco carcinogen-induced lung tumorigenesis.
Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Both histologically and molecularly lung cancer is heterogeneous. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the pathways involved in the various types of lung cancer with an emphasis on the clinical implications of the increasing number of actionable molecular targets. It describes the major pathways and molecular alterations implicated in the development and progression of non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma and squamous cancer), and of small cell carcinoma, emphasizing the molecular alterations comprising the specific blueprints in each group. The approved and investigational targeted therapies as well as the immune therapies, and clinical trials exploring the variety of targeted approaches to treatment of lung cancer are the main focus of this review.
lung cancer; targeted therapy; immune therapy
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for 80–85% of lung cancer cases, and almost half of newly diagnosed patients have metastatic disease. Pemetrexed is a widely used drug for NSCLC and inhibits several folate-dependent enzymes including thymidylate synthase (TS). Increased expression of TS confers resistance to pemetrexed in vitro and predicts poor response to pemetrexed. Rapamycin is an mTOR inhibitor and suppresses cap-dependent synthesis of specific mRNA species. Here, we show that the combination of rapamycin and pemetrexed synergistically inhibits proliferation of NSCLC cells. Although pemetrexed as a single agent induced TS, pretreatment with rapamycin suppressed pemetrexed-induced TS expression. In vivo, the combination of rapamycin and pemetrexed inhibited growth of NSCLC xenografts, which correlated with decreased mTOR activity and suppression of pemetrexed-induced TS expression. The ability of rapamycin to enhance the efficacy of pemetrexed and prevent TS expression has implications for the design of Phase I and/or Phase II NSCLC clinical trials with mTOR inhibitors in combination with pemetrexed.
Rapamycin; Pemetrexed; Drug synergy; mTOR; Thymidylate Synthase; Lung Cancer
Cowden syndrome is an autosomal-dominant condition associated with mutations in the tumor suppressor gene PTEN. Gynecologic malignancies are common with a 5–10% risk of endometrial cancer and 25–50% risk of breast cancer.
A 37-year-old woman with a history of breast cancer, other neoplasms, and multiple skin lesions was diagnosed with Cowden syndrome after a germline PTEN mutation was identified. The endometrium had high glucose uptake on positron emission tomography scan and was irregularly thickened on ultrasonography; biopsy revealed endometrial polyps and simple hyperplasia. Fifteen months later, hysteroscopy again confirmed numerous benign endometrial polyps.
Recurrent, multiple endometrial polyps portend a high risk of endometrial cancer in women with Cowden syndrome. Monitoring for malignancy and consideration of hysterectomy after childbearing is completed is warranted.
Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is a rare dominantly inherited cancer predisposition syndrome that was first described in 1969. In most families, it is caused by germline mutations in the TP53 gene and is characterized by early onset of multiple specific cancers and very high lifetime cumulative cancer risk. Despite significant progress in understanding the molecular biology of TP53, the optimal clinical management of this syndrome is poorly defined. We convened a workshop on November 2, 2010, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, bringing together clinicians and scientists, as well as individuals from families with LFS, to review the state of the science, address clinical management issues, stimulate collaborative research, and engage the LFS family community. This workshop also led to the creation of the Li-Fraumeni Exploration (LiFE) Research Consortium.
Li-Fraumeni syndrome; hereditary cancer predisposition syndrome; TP53 mutations
Myoinositol is an isomer of glucose that has chemopreventive activity in animal models of cancer. In a recent phase I clinical trial, myoinositol administration correlated with a statistically significant regression of preexisting bronchial dysplastic lesions in heavy smokers. To shed light on the potential mechanisms involved, activation of Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), two kinases that control cellular proliferation and survival, was assessed in 206 paired bronchial biopsies from 21 patients who participated in this clinical trial. Before myoinositol treatment, strongly positive staining for activation of Akt was detected in 27% of hyperplastic/metaplastic lesions and 58% of dysplastic lesions (P = 0.05, χ2 test). There was also a trend toward increased activation of ERK (28% in regions of hyperplasia/metaplasia to 42% of dysplastic lesions). Following myoinositol treatment, significant decreases in Akt and ERK phosphorylation were observed in dysplastic (P < 0.01 and 0.05, respectively) but not hyperplastic/metaplastic lesions (P > 0.05). In vitro, myoinositol decreased endogenous and tobacco carcinogen–induced activation of Akt and ERK in immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells, which decreased cell proliferation and induced a G1-S cell cycle arrest. These results show that the phenotypic progression of premalignant bronchial lesions from smokers correlates with increased activation of Akt and ERK and that these kinases are targets of myoinositol. Moreover, they suggest that myoinositol might cause regression of bronchial dysplastic lesions through inhibition of active Akt and ERK.
Loss of function of the tumor suppressor LKB1 occurs in 30% to 50% of lung adenocarcinomas. Because LKB1 activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which can negatively regulate mTOR, AMPK activation might be desirable for cancer therapy. However, no known compounds activate AMPK independently of LKB1 in vivo, and the usefulness of activating AMPK in LKB1-mutant cancers is unknown. Here, we show that lipid-based Akt inhibitors, phosphatidylinositol ether lipid analogues (PIA), activate AMPK independently of LKB1. PIAs activated AMPK in LKB1-mutant non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines with similar concentration dependence as that required to inhibit Akt. However, AMPK activation was independent of Akt inhibition. AMPK activation was a major mechanism of mTOR inhibition. To assess whether another kinase capable of activating AMPK, CaMKKβ, contributed to PIA-induced AMPK activation, we used an inhibitor of CaMKK, STO-609. STO-609 inhibited PIA-induced AMPK activation in LKB1-mutant NSCLC cells, and delayed AMPK activation in wild-type LKB1 NSCLC cells. In addition, AMPK activation was not observed in NSCLC cells with mutant CaMKKβ, suggesting that CaMKKβ contributes to PIA-induced AMPK activation in cells. AMPK activation promoted PIA-induced cytotoxicity because PIAs were less cytotoxic in AMPKα−/− murine embryonic fibroblasts or LKB1-mutant NSCLC cells transfected with mutant AMPK. This mechanism was also relevant in vivo. Treatment of LKB1-mutant NSCLC xenografts with PIA decreased tumor volume by ∼50% and activated AMPK. These studies show that PIAs recapitulate the activity of two tumor suppressors (PTEN and LKB1) that converge on mTOR. Moreover, they suggest that PIAs might have utility in the treatment of LKB1-mutant lung adenocarcinomas.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cancer deaths in the United States. Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) have been developed to aid in smoking cessation, which decreases lung cancer incidence. However, the safety of NRT is controversial because numerous preclinical studies have shown that nicotine enhances tumor cell growth in vitro and in vivo. We modeled NRT in mice to determine the effects of physiological levels of nicotine on lung tumor formation, tumor growth or metastasis. Nicotine administered in drinking water did not enhance lung tumorigenesis after treatment with the tobacco carcinogen, NNK. Tumors that develop in this model have mutations in K-ras, which is a commonly observed in smoking-related, human lung adenocarcinomas. In a transgenic model of mutant K-ras-driven lung cancer, nicotine did not increase tumor number or size, and did not affect overall survival. Likewise, in a syngeneic model of lung cancer cell lines derived from NNK-treated mice, oral nicotine did not enhance tumor growth or metastasis. These data show that nicotine does not enhance lung tumorigenesis when given to achieve levels comparable to those of NRT, suggesting that nicotine has a dose threshold, below which it has no appreciable effect. These studies are consistent with epidemiological data showing that NRT does not enhance lung cancer risk in former smokers.
Nicotine; NNK; K-ras; nicotine replacement therapy
Strong epidemiologic evidence links smoking and cancer. An increased understanding of the molecular biology of tobacco-related cancers could advance progress toward improving smoking cessation and patient management. Knowledge gaps between tobacco addiction, tumorigenesis, and cancer brought an interdisciplinary group of investigators together to discuss “The Biology of Nicotine and Tobacco: Bench to Bedside.” Presentations on the signaling pathways and pathogenesis in tobacco-related cancers, mouse models of addiction, imaging and regulation of nicotinic receptors, the genetic basis for tobacco carcinogenesis and development of lung cancer, and molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis were heard. Importantly, new opportunities to use molecular biology to identify and abrogate tobacco-mediated carcinogenesis and to identify high-risk individuals were recognized.
Lung tumors from smokers as well as lung tumors from mice exposed to tobacco carcinogens such as 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), often carry mutations in K-ras, which activates downstream-signaling pathways such as PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway. Mice with genetic deletion of one of three isoforms of AKT were used to investigate the role of AKT in mutant K-ras-induced lung tumorigenesis in mice. Although deletion of Akt1 or Akt2 decreased NNK-induced lung tumor formation by 90%, deletion of Akt2 failed to decrease lung tumorigenesis in two other mouse models driven by mutant K-ras. Genetic mapping showed that Akt2 was tightly linked to the cytochrome P450 Cyp2a locus on chromosome 7. Consequently, targeted deletion of Akt2 created linkage to a strain-specific Cyp2a5 polymorphism that decreased activation of NNK in vitro. Mice with this Cyp2a5 polymorphism had decreased NNK-induced DNA adduct formation in vivo and decreased NNK-induced lung tumorigenesis. These studies support human epidemiological studies linking CYP2A polymorphisms with lung cancer risk in humans and highlight the need to confirm phenotypes of genetically engineered mice in multiple mouse strains.
Activation of the serine/threonine kinase Akt contributes to the formation, maintenance, and therapeutic resistance of cancer, which is driving development of compounds that inhibit Akt. Phosphatidylinositol ether lipid analogues (PIAs) are analogues of the products of PI3K that inhibit Akt activation, translocation, and the proliferation of a broad spectrum of cancer cell types. To gain insight into the mechanism of PIAs, time-dependent transcriptional profiling of 5 active PIAs and the PI3K inhibitor LY294002 (LY) was performed in NSCLC cells using high-density oligonucleotide arrays. Gene ontology analysis revealed genes involved in apoptosis, wounding response, and angiogenesis were upregulated by PIAs, while genes involved in DNA replication, repair and mitosis were suppressed. Genes that exhibited early differential expression were partitioned into 3 groups; those induced by PIAs only (DUSP1, KLF6, CENTD2, BHLHB2, PREX1), those commonly induced by PIAs and LY (TRIB1, KLF2, RHOB and CDKN1A), and those commonly suppressed by PIAs and LY (IGFBP3, PCNA, PRIM1, MCM3 and HSPA1B). Increased expression of the tumor suppressors RHOB (RhoB), KLF6 (COPEB) and CDKN1A (p21Cip1/Waf1) was validated as an Akt-independent effect that contributed to PIA-induced cytotoxicity. Despite some overlap with LY, active PIAs have a distinct expression signature that contributes to their enhanced cytotoxicity.
Akt; microarray; PIA; RhoB; NSCLC
The remarkably heterogeneous nature of lung cancer has become more apparent over the last decade. In general, advanced lung cancer is an aggressive malignancy with a poor prognosis. The discovery of multiple molecular mechanisms underlying the development, progression, and prognosis of lung cancer, however, has created new opportunities for targeted therapy and improved outcome. In this paper, we define “molecular subtypes” of lung cancer based on specific actionable genetic aberrations. Each subtype is associated with molecular tests that define the subtype and drugs that may potentially treat it. We hope this paper will be a useful guide to clinicians and researchers alike by assisting in therapy decision making and acting as a platform for further study. In this new era of cancer treatment, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ paradigm is being forcibly pushed aside—allowing for more effective, personalized oncologic care to emerge.
Activation of the mTOR pathway is an important and early event in tobacco carcinogen-induced lung tumorigenesis, and therapies that target mTOR could be effective in the prevention or treatment of lung cancer. The biguanide metformin, which is widely prescribed for the treatment of type II diabetes, might be a good candidate for lung cancer chemoprevention because it activates AMPK, which can inhibit the mTOR pathway. To test this, A/J mice were treated with oral metformin after exposure to the tobacco carcinogen NNK. Metformin reduced lung tumor burden by up to 53% at steady-state plasma concentrations that are achievable in humans. mTOR was inhibited in lung tumors but only modestly. To test whether intraperitoneal administration of metformin might improve mTOR inhibition, we injected mice and assessed biomarkers in liver and lung tissues. Plasma levels of metformin were significantly higher after injection than oral administration. In liver tissue, metformin activated AMPK and inhibited mTOR. In lung tissue, metformin did not activate AMPK but inhibited phosphorylation of IGF-IR/IR, Akt, ERK, and mTOR. This suggested that metformin indirectly inhibited mTOR in lung tissue by decreasing activation of IGF-1R/IR and Akt upstream of mTOR. Based on these data, we repeated the NNK-induced lung tumorigenesis study using intraperitoneal administration of metformin. Metformin decreased tumor burden by 72%, which correlated with decreased cellular proliferation and marked inhibition of mTOR in tumors. These studies show that metformin prevents tobacco carcinogen-induced lung tumorigenesis, and support clinical testing of metformin as a chemopreventive agent.
metformin; AMPK; mTOR; chemoprevention; lung cancer
The dismal lethality of lung cancer is due to late stage at diagnosis and inherent therapeutic resistance. The incorporation of targeted therapies has modestly improved clinical outcomes, but the identification of new targets could further improve clinical outcomes by guiding stratification of poor-risk early stage patients and individualizing therapeutic choices. We hypothesized that a sequential, combined microarray approach would be valuable to identify and validate new targets in lung cancer. We profiled gene expression signatures during lung epithelial cell immortalization and transformation, and showed that genes involved in mitosis were progressively enhanced in carcinogenesis. 28 genes were validated by immunoblotting and 4 genes were further evaluated in non-small cell lung cancer tissue microarrays. Although CDK1 was highly expressed in tumor tissues, its loss from the cytoplasm unexpectedly predicted poor survival and conferred resistance to chemotherapy in multiple cell lines, especially microtubule-directed agents. An analysis of expression of CDK1 and CDK1-associated genes in the NCI60 cell line database confirmed the broad association of these genes with chemotherapeutic responsiveness. These results have implications for personalizing lung cancer therapy and highlight the potential of combined approaches for biomarker discovery.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, and 85–90% of lung cancer cases are associated with tobacco use. Tobacco components promote lung tumorigenesis through genotoxic effects, as well as through biochemical modulation of signaling pathways such as the Akt/mTOR pathway that regulate cell proliferation and survival. This review will describe cell surface receptors and other upstream components required for tobacco-carcinogen induced activation of Akt and mTOR. Preclinical studies demonstrate that inhibitors of the Akt/mTOR pathway inhibit tumor formation in mouse models of carcinogen-induced lung tumorigenesis. Some of these inhibitors will be highlighted, and their clinical potential for the treatment and prevention of lung cancer will be discussed.
Akt; mTOR; tobacco carcinogens; lung cancer
The protein kinase mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) is a critical regulator of cellular metabolism, growth, and proliferation. These processes contribute to tumor formation, and many cancers are characterized by aberrant activation of mTOR. Although activating mutations in mTOR itself have not been identified, deregulation of upstream components that regulate mTOR are prevalent in cancer. The prototypic mechanism of mTOR regulation in cells is through activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway, but mTOR receives input from multiple signaling pathways. This review will discuss Akt-dependent and independent mechanisms of mTOR regulation in response to mitogenic signals, as well as its regulation in response to energy and nutrient-sensing pathways. Preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that tumors bearing genetic alterations that activate mTOR are sensitive to pharmacologic inhibition of mTOR. Elucidation of novel pathways that regulate mTOR may help identify predictive factors for sensitivity to mTOR inhibitors and could provide new therapeutic targets for inhibiting the mTOR pathway in cancer. This review will also highlight pharmacologic approaches that inhibit mTOR via activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an important inhibitor of the mTOR pathway and an emerging target in cancer.
mTOR; cancer; Akt; AMPK
Purpose of review
Though designed to target only the HIV protease, HIV protease inhibitors (PIs) induce toxicities in patients such as insulin resistance and lipodystrophy that suggest that PIs have other targets in mammalian cells. Akt controls insulin signaling and is an important target in cancer, but no Akt inhibitors are approved as cancer therapeutics. These observations have prompted study of HIV protease inhibitors as inhibitors of Akt and possible cancer therapeutics. This review will highlight the latest advances in repositioning HIV PIs as cancer therapeutics.
Although PIs can inhibit Akt activation and inhibit the proliferation of over 60 cancer cell lines, as well as improve sensitivity to radiation or chemotherapy, these effects do not always correlate with Akt inhibition. Other important processes such as the induction of endoplasmic reticulum stress appear critical to the biological activity of PIs. These impressive and surprising preclinical data have prompted clinical testing of nelfinavir as a lead HIV PI in cancer patients.
While mechanism of actions for the anti-tumor effects of HIV PIs are complex, their broad spectrum of activity, minimal toxicity, and wide availability make PIs ideal candidates for repositioning as cancer therapeutics.
protease inhibitors; Akt; apoptosis; ER stress; autophagy
K-Ras mutations are characteristic of human lung adenocarcinomas and occur almost exclusively in smokers. In preclinical models, K-Ras mutations are necessary for tobacco carcinogen-driven lung tumorigenesis and are sufficient to cause lung adenocarcinomas in transgenic mice. Because these mutations confer resistance to commonly used cytotoxic chemotherapies and targeted agents, effective therapies that target K-Ras are needed. Inhibitors of mTOR such as rapamycin can prevent K-Ras-driven lung tumorigenesis and alter the proportion of cytotoxic and Foxp3+ regulatory T cells, suggesting that lung-associated T cells might be important for tumorigenesis.
Lung tumorigenesis was studied in three murine models that depend on mutant K-Ras; a tobacco carcinogen-driven model, a syngeneic inoculation model, and a transgenic model. Splenic and lung-associated T cells were studied using flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. Foxp3+ cells were depleted using rapamycin, an antibody, or genetic ablation.
Exposure of A/J mice to a tobacco carcinogen tripled lung-associated Foxp3+ cells prior to tumor development. At clinically relevant concentrations, rapamycin prevented this induction and reduced lung tumors by 90%. In A/J mice inoculated with lung adenocarcinoma cells resistant to rapamycin, antibody-mediated depletion of Foxp3+ cells reduced lung tumorigenesis by 80%. Likewise, mutant K-Ras transgenic mice lacking Foxp3+ cells developed 75% fewer lung tumors than littermates with Foxp3+ cells.
Foxp3+ regulatory T cells are required for K-Ras-mediated lung tumorigenesis in mice. These studies support clinical testing of rapamycin or other agents that target Treg in K-Ras driven human lung cancer.
Research in autophagy continues to accelerate,1 and as a result many new scientists are entering the field. Accordingly, it is important to establish a standard set of criteria for monitoring macroautophagy in different organisms. Recent reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose.2,3 There are many useful and convenient methods that can be used to monitor macroautophagy in yeast, but relatively few in other model systems, and there is much confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure macroautophagy in higher eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers of autophagosomes versus those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway; thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from fully functional autophagy that includes delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of the methods that can be used by investigators who are attempting to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as by reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that investigate these processes. This set of guidelines is not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to verify an autophagic response.
autolysosome; autophagosome; flux; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole