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.
The PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway is a prototypic survival pathway that is constitutively activated in many types of cancer. Mechanisms for pathway activation include loss of tumor suppressor PTEN function, amplification or mutation of PI3K, amplification or mutation of Akt, activation of growth factor receptors, and exposure to carcinogens. Once activated, signaling through Akt can be propagated to a diverse array of substrates, including mTOR, a key regulator of protein translation. This pathway is an attractive therapeutic target in cancer because it serves as a convergence point for many growth stimuli, and through its downstream substrates, controls cellular processes that contribute to the initiation and maintenance of cancer. Moreover, activation of the Akt/mTOR pathway confers resistance to many types of cancer therapy, and is a poor prognostic factor for many types of cancers. This review will provide an update on the clinical progress of various agents that target the pathway, such as the Akt inhibitors perifosine and PX-866 and mTOR inhibitors (rapamycin, CCI-779, RAD-001) and discuss strategies to combine these pathway inhibitors with conventional chemotherapy, radiotherapy, as well as newer targeted agents. We will also discuss how the complex regulation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway poses practical issues concerning the design of clinical trials, potential toxicities and criteria for patient selection.
PI3 kinase; Akt; combination; chemotherapy; cancer; wortmannin; PX-866; perfosine; mTOR inhibitors; rapamycin; RAD-001; PI-103; triciribine (API-2)
Pten is a negative regulator of the Akt pathway, and its inactivation is believed to be an etiological factor in many tumor types. Pten+/- mice are susceptible to a variety of spontaneous tumor types, depending on strain background. Pten+/- mice, in lung tumor-sensitive and -resistant background strains, were treated with a tobacco carcinogen, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), to determine whether allelic Pten deletion can cooperate with NNK in carcinogenesis in lung or other tissues. In lung tumor-resistant C57BL/6 Pten+/- or +/+ mice, NNK treatment did not lead to any lung tumors and did not increase the incidence or severity of tumors previously reported for this strain. In contrast, in a lung tumor-susceptible pseudo-A/J strain, there was a dose-dependent increase in lung tumor size in Pten+/- compared with +/+ mice, although there was no increase in multiplicity. No other tumor types were observed in pseudo-A/J Pten+/- mice regardless of NNK treatment. Lung tumors from these Pten+/- mice had K-ras mutations, retained Pten expression and had similar Akt pathway activation as lung tumors from +/+ mice. Therefore, deletion of a single copy of Pten does not substantially add to the lung tumor phenotype conferred by mutation of K-ras by NNK, and there is likely no selective advantage for loss of the second Pten allele in lung tumor initiation.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related mortality in the world. BAC is a subset of NSCLC that has recently gained attention because of distinct biologic and clinical features, increased incidence, and enhanced responsiveness to new therapies such as epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs). However, prognostic features for BAC have not been well defined. Because activation of Akt is highly prevalent and a poor prognostic factor for other types of NSCLC, we assessed the prognostic significance of clinical features and Akt activation in patients with BAC.
46 cases of BAC in Iceland were classified according to WHO 1999 criteria. Akt activation was assessed using two phospho-specific antibodies against Akt (S473 and T308) in immunohistochemical analysis. Associations between ordered Akt levels and other dichotomous parameters were evaluated using an exact Cochran-Armitage test for trend. Survival was analyzed by the Kaplan-Meier method and log-rank test, with hazard ratios (HR) determined by Cox proportional hazard models. The Cox model was also used to assess the joint effect of multiple factors on survival when they are considered simultaneously.
Age and histology (mucinous vs. non-mucinous) were not associated with survival. Activation of Akt was highly prevalent in BAC, with only 2 out of 46 patients exhibiting negative staining with either antibody. Moderate to high Akt activation was observed in 63% of cases and was associated with non-mucinous histology. Akt activation was not associated with differences in survival or smoking status. In contrast, Cox model analysis revealed that male gender (HR 2.24, 95% CI 1.07-4.71, p=0.032), advanced stage (III or IV) (HR 2.17, 95% CI 1.004-4.71, p=0.049), and smoking status (HR 6.89, 95% CI 1.49-31.88, p=0.013) were associated with a worse prognosis.
Male gender, advanced stage, and especially smoking status (but not Akt activation) are potentially important prognostic features for BAC. These features should be considered in the design and interpretation of clinical trials that enroll BAC patients.
bronchioloalveolar carcinoma; prognostic factor; NSCLC; Akt; smoking
Human melanoma cells frequently express CC chemokine receptor (CCR)10, a receptor whose ligand (CCL27) is constitutively produced by keratinocytes. Compared with B16 murine melanoma, cells rendered more immunogenic via overexpression of luciferase, B16 cells that overexpressed both luciferase and CCR10 resisted host immune responses and readily formed tumors. In vitro, exposure of tumor cells to CCL27 led to rapid activation of Akt, resistance to cell death induced by melanoma antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells, and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)–dependent protection from apoptosis induced by Fas cross-linking. In vivo, cutaneous injection of neutralizing antibodies to endogenous CCL27 blocked growth of CCR10-expressing melanoma cells. We propose that CCR10 engagement by locally produced CCL27 allows melanoma cells to escape host immune antitumor killing mechanisms (possibly through activation of PI3K/Akt), thereby providing a means for tumor progression.
metastasis; chemokine receptor; cancer; cell signaling
Tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer cause over 4.2 million deaths annually, with approximately 400,000 deaths per year occurring in the US. Genotoxic effects of tobacco components have been described, but effects on signaling pathways in normal cells have not been described. Here, we show activation of the serine/threonine kinase Akt in nonimmortalized human airway epithelial cells in vitro by two components of cigarette smoke, nicotine and the tobacco-specific carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK). Activation of Akt by nicotine or NNK occurred within minutes at concentrations achievable by smokers and depended upon α3-/α4-containing or α7-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, respectively. Activated Akt increased phosphorylation of downstream substrates such as GSK-3, p70S6K, 4EBP-1, and FKHR. Treatment with nicotine or NNK attenuated apoptosis caused by etoposide, ultraviolet irradiation, or hydrogen peroxide and partially induced a transformed phenotype manifest as loss of contact inhibition and loss of dependence on exogenous growth factors or adherence to ECM. In vivo, active Akt was detected in airway epithelial cells and lung tumors from NNK-treated A/J mice, and in human lung cancers derived from smokers. Redundant Akt activation by nicotine and NNK could contribute to tobacco-related carcinogenesis by regulating two processes critical for tumorigenesis, cell growth and apoptosis.