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1.  Cyclin D1 and Cancer Development in Laryngeal Premalignancy Patients 
In a previous trial, we found that combined 13-cis retinoic acid (13-cRA), interferon-α and α-tocopherol more effectively reversed advanced premalignant lesions of the larynx than of the oral cavity and that cyclin D1 (CD1)G/A870 single nucleotide polymorphism correlated with cancer risk. We conducted the present trial primarily to confirm the clinical activity of the combination in advanced laryngeal premalignancy and to confirm and extend our findings on CD1, both genotype and protein expression, in association with cancer risk in this setting. Twenty-seven moderate-to-severe laryngeal dysplasia patients underwent induction with combined 13-cRA daily, α-interferon twice weekly, and α-tocopherol daily for one year; 14 non-progressing patients then were randomized to maintenance fenretinide or placebo for two years. During induction, 2 patients had pathological complete responses, 6 had partial responses (30% overall response rate), and 5 developed laryngeal cancer. There were no significant differences between maintenance fenretinide and placebo in response or cancer rates. Ten patients developed cancer overall. Twenty-four patients were evaluated for the CD1 G/A870 genotype, and 23 for pre- and post-treatment CD1 protein expression. Consistent with our earlier report, shorter cancer-free survival was associated with the CD1 AA/AG genotype (p = 0.05). Extending our earlier work, high CD1 expression was associated with worse cancer-free survival overall (p= 0.04) and within each CD1 genotype group. These findings support CD1 genotype and protein expression as important risk markers for laryngeal cancer and suggest future trials targeting upstream regulators of CD1 transcription.
PMCID: PMC4243520  PMID: 19139013
Premalignant lesions; larynx; biochemoprevention; cyclin D1 genotype; cyclin D1 protein expression
2.  The Functionalized Human Serine Protease Granzyme B/VEGF121 Targets Tumor Vasculature and Ablates Tumor Growth 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(10):2055-2066.
The serine protease granzyme B (GrB) induces apoptosis through both caspase-dependent and caspase-independent multiple-cascade mechanisms. Vascular endothelial growth factor 121 (VEGF121) binds to both VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 receptors. We engineered a unique GrB/VEGF121 fusion protein and characterized its properties in vitro and in vivo. Endothelial and tumor cells lines demonstrated varying levels of sensitivity to GrB/VEGF121 that correlated closely to total VEGFR-2 expression. GrB/VEGF121 localized efficiently into VEGFR-2 expressing cells while the internalization into VEGFR-1 expressing cells was significantly reduced. Treatment of VEGFR-2+ cells caused mitochondrial depolarization in 48% of cells by 48 h. Exposure to GrB/VEGF121 induced apoptosis in VEGFR-2+, but not in VEGFR-1+, cells and rapid caspase activation was observed that could not be inhibited by treatment with a pan-caspase inhibitor. In vivo, GrB/VEGF121 localized in perivascular tumor areas adjacent to microvessels and in other areas in the tumor less well vascularized, while free GrB did not specifically localize to tumor tissue. Administration (i.v.) of GrB/VEGF121 to mice at doses up to 40 mg/kg showed no toxicity. Treatment of mice bearing established PC-3 tumor xenografts with GrB/VEGF121 showed significant antitumor effect vs. treatment with GrB or saline. Treatment with GrB/VEGF121 at 27 mg/kg resulted in the regression of 4 of 5 tumors in this group. Tumors showed a two-fold lower Ki-67 labeling index compared to controls. Our results demonstrate that targeted delivery of granzyme B to tumor vascular endothelial cells or to tumor cells activates apoptotic cascades and this completely human construct may have significant therapeutic potential.
PMCID: PMC3921020  PMID: 23858102
Growth factor receptors and other cell surface molecules as targets for therapy; effectors of apoptosis; VEGF; Granzyme B; vascular targeting
3.  Antitumor Activity of a Humanized, Bivalent Immunotoxin Targeting Fn14-Positive Solid Tumors 
Cancer research  2013;73(14):4439-4450.
The TWEAK (TNFSF12) receptor Fn14 (TNFRSF12A) is expressed at low levels in normal tissues but frequently highly expressed in a wide range of tumor types such as lung, melanoma, and breast and therefore it is a potentially unique therapeutic target for these diverse tumor types. We have generated a recombinant protein containing a humanized, dimeric single-chain anti-Fn14 antibody fused to recombinant gelonin toxin as a potential therapeutic agent (designated hSGZ). The hSGZ immunotoxin is a highly potent and selective agent that kills Fn14-positive tumor cells in vitro. Treatment of cells expressing the multidrug resistance protein MDR1 (ABCB1B) showed no cross-resistance to hSGZ. Induced overexpression of Fn14 levels in MCF7 cells through HER2 (ERBB2) signaling translated to an improved therapeutic index of hSGZ treatment. In combination with trastuzumab, hSGZ demonstrated an additive or synergistic cytotoxic effect on HER2+/Fn14+ breast cancer cell lines. Also, hSGZ treatment inhibited Erb3/Akt signaling in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. Pharmacokinetic studies in mice revealed that hSGZ exhibited a bi-exponential clearance from plasma with a rapid initial clearance (t 1/2 α = 1.26 h) followed by a 7-fold longer plasma half life (t 1/2 β = 7.29 h). At 24, 48 and 72 h after injection, uptake of the hSGZ into tumors was 5.1, 4.8 and 4.7 %ID/g, with a tumor-to-muscle ratio of 5.6, 6.2 and 9.0, respectively. Therapeutic efficacy studies showed significant tumor inhibition effects using an MDA-MB-231/Luc breast cancer xenograft model. Our findings show that hSGZ is an effective anticancer agent and a potential candidate for clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3805367  PMID: 23722548
Fn14; immunotoxin; hSGZ
4.  T-cell-specific deletion of Mof blocks their differentiation and results in genomic instability in mice 
Mutagenesis  2013;28(3):263-270.
Ataxia telangiectasia patients develop lymphoid malignancies of both B- and T-cell origin. Similarly, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (Atm)-deficient mice exhibit severe defects in T-cell maturation and eventually develop thymomas. The function of ATM is known to be influenced by the mammalian orthologue of the Drosophila MOF (males absent on the first) gene. Here, we report the effect of T-cell-specific ablation of the mouse Mof (Mof) gene on leucocyte trafficking and survival. Conditional Mof Flox/Flox (Mof F/F) mice expressing Cre recombinase under control of the T-cell-specific Lck proximal promoter (Mof F/F/Lck-Cre +) display a marked reduction in thymus size compared with Mof F/F/Lck-Cre – mice. In contrast, the spleen size of Mof F/F/Lck-Cre + mice was increased compared with control Mof F/F/Lck-Cre – mice. The thymus of Mof F/F/Lck-Cre + mice contained significantly reduced T cells, whereas thymic B cells were elevated. Within the T-cell population, CD4+CD8+ double-positive T-cell levels were reduced, whereas the immature CD4–CD8– double-negative (DN) population was elevated. Defective T-cell differentiation is also evident as an increased DN3 (CD44–CD25+) population, the cell stage during which T-cell receptor rearrangement takes place. The differentiation defect in T cells and reduced thymus size were not rescued in a p53-deficient background. Splenic B-cell distributions were similar between Mof F/F/Lck-Cre + and Mof F/F/Lck-Cre – mice except for an elevation of the κ light-chain population, suggestive of an abnormal clonal expansion. T cells from Mof F/F/Lck-Cre + mice did not respond to phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) stimulation, whereas LPS-stimulated B cells from Mof F/F/Lck-Cre + mice demonstrated spontaneous genomic instability. Mice with T-cell-specific loss of MOF had shorter lifespans and decreased survival following irradiation than did Mof F/F/Lck-Cre – mice. These observations suggest that Mof plays a critical role in T-cell differentiation and that depletion of Mof in T cells reduces T-cell numbers and, by an undefined mechanism, induces genomic instability in B cells through bystander mechanism. As a result, these mice have a shorter lifespan and reduced survival after irradiation.
PMCID: PMC3630520  PMID: 23386701
5.  Kub5-Hera, the human Rtt103 homolog, plays dual functional roles in transcription termination and DNA repair 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(8):4996-5006.
Functions of Kub5-Hera (In Greek Mythology Hera controlled Artemis) (K-H), the human homolog of the yeast transcription termination factor Rtt103, remain undefined. Here, we show that K-H has functions in both transcription termination and DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair. K-H forms distinct protein complexes with factors that repair DSBs (e.g. Ku70, Ku86, Artemis) and terminate transcription (e.g. RNA polymerase II). K-H loss resulted in increased basal R-loop levels, DSBs, activated DNA-damage responses and enhanced genomic instability. Significantly lowered Artemis protein levels were detected in K-H knockdown cells, which were restored with specific K-H cDNA re-expression. K-H deficient cells were hypersensitive to cytotoxic agents that induce DSBs, unable to reseal complex DSB ends, and showed significantly delayed γ-H2AX and 53BP1 repair-related foci regression. Artemis re-expression in K-H-deficient cells restored DNA-repair function and resistance to DSB-inducing agents. However, R loops persisted consistent with dual roles of K-H in transcription termination and DSB repair.
PMCID: PMC4005673  PMID: 24589584
6.  The TWEAK Receptor Fn14 is a Novel Therapeutic Target in Melanoma: Immunotoxins Targeting Fn14 Receptor for Malignant Melanoma Treatment 
Fn14, the cell surface receptor for TWEAK, is over-expressed in various human solid tumor types and can be a negative prognostic indicator. We detected Fn14 expression in ~60% of the melanoma cell lines we tested, including both B-Raf WT and B-RafV600E lines. Tumor tissue microarray analysis indicated that Fn14 expression was low in normal skin but elevated in 173/190 (92%) of primary melanoma specimens and in 86/150 (58%) of melanoma metastases tested. We generated both a chemical conjugate composed of the rGel toxin and the anti-Fn14 antibody ITEM-4 (designated ITEM4-rGel) and a humanized, dimeric single-chain antibody of ITEM-4 fused to rGel (designated hSGZ). Both ITEM4-rGel and hSGZ were highly cytotoxic to a panel of different melanoma cell lines. Mechanistic studies showed that both immunotoxins induced melanoma cell necrosis. Also, these immunotoxins could up-regulate the cellular expression of Fn14 and trigger cell signaling events similar to the Fn14 ligand TWEAK. Finally, treatment of mice bearing human melanoma MDA-MB-435 xenografts with either ITEM4-rGel or hSGZ showed significant tumor growth inhibition compared to controls. We conclude that Fn14 is a novel therapeutic target in melanoma and the hSGZ construct appears to warrant further development as a novel therapeutic agent against Fn14-positive melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3600159  PMID: 23190886
Melanoma; Fn14; targeted therapeutics
7.  Multiplexed in situ Immunofluorescence via Dynamic DNA Complexes** 
PMCID: PMC3517005  PMID: 22893271
fluorescent probes; immunochemistry; nucleic acids; strand displacement; DNA nanotechnology
8.  Programming in situ immunofluorescence intensities through interchangeable reactions of dynamic DNA complexes 
The regulation of antibody reporting intensities is critical to various in situ fluorescence imaging analyses. While such control is often necessary to visualize sparse molecular targets, the ability to tune marker intensities is also essential for highly multiplexed imaging strategies where marker reporting levels must be tuned to both optimize dynamic detection ranges and minimize crosstalk between different signals. Existing chemical amplification approaches generally lack such control. Here, we demonstrate that linear and branched DNA complexes can be designed to function as interchangeable building blocks that can be assembled into organized, fluorescence reporting complexes. We show that the ability to program DNA strand displacement reactions between these complexes offer new opportunities to deterministically tune the number of dyes that are coupled to individual antibodies in order to both increase and controllably balance marker levels within fixed cells.
PMCID: PMC3715551  PMID: 23165916
antibodies; immunofluorescence; DNA strand displacement; dynamic DNA; multiplexed detection
9.  Prevention of Paclitaxel-Induced Neuropathy Through Activation of the Central Cannabinoid Type 2 Receptor System 
Anesthesia and Analgesia  2012;114(5):1104-1120.
Peripheral neuropathy is a major dose-limiting toxicity of chemotherapy, especially after multiple courses of paclitaxel. The development of paclitaxel-induced neuropathy is associated with the activation of microglia followed by the activation and proliferation of astrocytes, and the expression and release of proinflammatory cytokines in the spinal dorsal horn. Cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors are expressed in the microglia in neurodegenerative disease models.
To explore the potential of CB2 agonists for preventing paclitaxel-induced neuropathy, we designed and synthesized a novel CB2-selective agonist, namely MDA7. The effect of MDA7 in preventing paclitaxel-induced allodynia was assessed in rats and in CB2+/+ and CB2–/– mice. We hypothesize that the CB2 receptor functions in a negative-feedback loop and that early MDA7 administration can blunt the neuroinflammatory response to paclitaxel and prevent mechanical allodynia through interference with specific signaling pathways.
We found that MDA7 prevents paclitaxel-induced mechanical allodynia in rats and mice in a dose- and time-dependent manner without compromising paclitaxel's antineoplastic effect. MDA7's neuroprotective effect was absent in CB2-/- mice and was blocked by CB2 antagonists, suggesting that MDA7's action directly involves CB2 receptor activation. MDA7 treatment was found to interfere with early events in the paclitaxel-induced neuroinflammatory response as evidenced by relatively reduced Toll-like receptor and CB2 expression in the lumbar spinal cord, reduced levels of extracellular signal regulated kinase 1/2 activity, reduced numbers of activated microglia and astrocytes, and reduced secretion of proinflammatory mediators in vivo and in in vitro models.
Our findings suggest an innovative therapeutic approach to prevent chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and may permit more aggressive use of active chemotherapeutic regimens with reduced long-term sequelae.
PMCID: PMC3334436  PMID: 22392969
10.  Development and Characterization of a Potent Immunoconjugate Targeting the Fn14 Receptor on Solid Tumor Cells 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;10(7):1276-1288.
TNF-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-inducible 14 (Fn14) are a TNF superfamily ligand–receptor pair involved in many cellular processes including proliferation, migration, differentiation, inflammation, and angiogenesis. The Fn14 receptor is expressed at relatively low levels in normal tissues, but it is known to be dramatically elevated in a number of tumor types, including brain and breast tumors. Thus, it seems to be an excellent candidate for therapeutic intervention. We first analyzed Fn14 expression in human tumor cell lines. Fn14 was expressed in a variety of lines including breast, brain, bladder, skin, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, colon, prostate, and cervical cancer cell lines. We then developed an immunoconjugate containing a high-affinity anti-Fn14 monoclonal antibody (ITEM-4) conjugated to recombinant gelonin (rGel), a highly cytotoxic ribosome-inactivating N-glycosidase. Both ITEM-4 and the conjugate were found to bind to cells to an equivalent extent. Confocal microscopic analysis showed that ITEM4-rGel specifically and rapidly (within 2 hours) internalized into Fn14-positive T-24 bladder cancer cells but not into Fn14-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Cytotoxicity studies against 22 different tumor cell lines showed that ITEM4-rGel was highly cytotoxic to Fn14-expressing cells and was 8- to 8 × 104-fold more potent than free rGel. ITEM4-rGel was found to kill cells by inducing apoptosis with high-mobility group box 1 protein release. Finally, ITEM4-rGel immunoconjugate administration promoted long-term tumor growth suppression in nude mice bearing T-24 human bladder cancer cell xenografts. Our data support the use of an antibody–drug conjugate approach to selectively target and inhibit the growth of Fn14-expressing tumors.
PMCID: PMC3523329  PMID: 21586630
11.  Proliferative Changes in the Bronchial Epithelium of Former Smokers Treated With Retinoids 
Retinoids have shown antiproliferative and chemopreventive activity. We analyzed data from a randomized, placebo-controlled chemoprevention trial to determine whether a 3-month treatment with either 9-cis-retinoic acid (RA) or 13-cis-RA and α-tocopherol reduced Ki-67, a proliferation biomarker, in the bronchial epithelium.
Former smokers (n = 225) were randomly assigned to receive 3 months of daily oral 9-cis-RA (100 mg), 13-cis-RA (1 mg/kg) and α-tocopherol (1200 IU), or placebo. Bronchoscopic biopsy specimens obtained before and after treatment were immunohistochemically assessed for changes in the Ki-67 proliferative index (i.e., percentage of cells with Ki-67–positive nuclear staining) in the basal and parabasal layers of the bronchial epithelium. Per-subject and per–biopsy site analyses were conducted. Multicovariable analyses, including a mixed-effects model and a generalized estimating equations model, were used to investigate the treatment effect (Ki-67 labeling index and percentage of bronchial epithelial biopsy sites with a Ki-67 index ≥ 5%) with adjustment for multiple covariates, such as smoking history and metaplasia. Coefficient estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were obtained from the models. All statistical tests were two-sided.
In per-subject analyses, Ki-67 labeling in the basal layer was not changed by any treatment; the percentage of subjects with a high Ki-67 labeling in the parabasal layer dropped statistically significantly after treatment with 13-cis-RA and α-tocopherol treatment (P = .04) compared with placebo, but the drop was not statistically significant after 9-cis-RA treatment (P = .17). A similar effect was observed in the parabasal layer in a per-site analysis; the percentage of sites with high Ki-67 labeling dropped statistically significantly after 9-cis-RA treatment (coefficient estimate = −0.72, 95% CI = −1.24 to −0.20; P = .007) compared with placebo, and after 13-cis-RA and α-tocopherol treatment (coefficient estimate = −0.66, 95% CI = −1.15 to −0.17; P = .008).
In per-subject analyses, treatment with 13-cis-RA and α-tocopherol, compared with placebo, was statistically significantly associated with reduced bronchial epithelial cell proliferation; treatment with 9-cis-RA was not. In per-site analyses, statistically significant associations were obtained with both treatments.
PMCID: PMC3441140  PMID: 17971525
12.  Prevention of Bronchial Hyperplasia by EGFR Pathway Inhibitors in an Organotypic Culture Model 
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Early detection or prevention strategies are urgently needed to increase survival. Hyperplasia is the first morphologic change that occurs in the bronchial epithelium during lung cancer development, followed by squamous metaplasia, dysplasia, carcinoma in situ, and invasive tumor. The current study was designed to determine the molecular mechanisms that control bronchial epithelium hyperplasia. Using primary normal human tracheobronchial epithelial (NHTBE) cells cultured using the 3-dimensional organotypic method, we found that the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) ligands EGF, transforming growth factor-alpha, and amphiregulin induced hyperplasia, as determined by cell proliferation and multilayered epithelium formation. We also found that EGF induced increased cyclin D1 expression, which plays a critical role in bronchial hyperplasia; this overexpression was mediated by activating the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway but not the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt signaling pathway. Erlotinib, an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, and U0126, a MEK inhibitor, completely inhibited EGF-induced hyperplasia. Furthermore, a promoter analysis revealed that the activator protein-1 transcription factor regulates EGF-induced cyclin D1 overexpression. Activator protein-1 depletion using siRNA targeting its c-Jun component completely abrogated EGF-induced cyclin D1 expression. In conclusion, we demonstrated that bronchial hyperplasia can be modeled in vitro using primary NHTBE cells maintained in a 3-dimensional (3-D) organotypic culture. EGFR and MEK inhibitors completely blocked EGF-induced bronchial hyperplasia, suggesting that they have a chemopreventive role.
PMCID: PMC3151315  PMID: 21505178
NHBE; bronchial hyperplasia; dysplasia; erlotinib; MEK inhibitor
13.  Configuring robust DNA strand displacement reactions for in situ molecular analyses 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(7):3289-3298.
The number of distinct biomolecules that can be visualized within individual cells and tissue sections via fluorescence microscopy is limited by the spectral overlap of the fluorescent dye molecules that are coupled permanently to their targets. This issue prohibits characterization of important functional relationships between different molecular pathway components in cells. Yet, recent improved understandings of DNA strand displacement reactions now provides opportunities to create programmable labeling and detection approaches that operate through controlled transient interactions between different dynamic DNA complexes. We examined whether erasable molecular imaging probes could be created that harness this mechanism to couple and then remove fluorophore-bearing oligonucleotides to and from DNA-tagged protein markers within fixed cell samples. We show that the efficiency of marker erasing via strand displacement can be limited by non-toehold mediated stand exchange processes that lower the rates that fluorophore-bearing strands diffuse out of cells. Two probe constructions are described that avoid this problem and allow efficient fluorophore removal from their targets. With these modifications, we show one can at least double the number of proteins that can be visualized on the same cells via reiterative in situ labeling and erasing of markers on cells.
PMCID: PMC3326323  PMID: 22156404
14.  Cytotoxicity of VEGF121/rGel on vascular endothelial cells resulting in inhibition of angiogenesis is mediated via VEGFR-2 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:358.
The fusion protein VEGF121/rGel composed of the growth factor VEGF121 and the plant toxin gelonin targets the tumor neovasculature and exerts impressive anti-vascular effects. We have previously shown that VEGF121/rGel is cytotoxic to endothelial cells overexpressing VEGFR-2 but not to endothelial cells overexpressing VEGFR-1. In this study, we examined the basis for the specific toxicity of this construct and assessed its intracellular effects in vitro and in vivo.
We investigated the binding, cytotoxicity and internalization profile of VEGF121/rGel on endothelial cells expressing VEGFR-1 or VEGFR-2, identified its effects on angiogenesis models in vitro and ex vivo, and explored its intracellular effects on a number of molecular pathways using microarray analysis.
Incubation of PAE/VEGFR-2 and PAE/VEGFR-1 cells with 125I-VEGF121/rGel demonstrated binding specificity that was competed with unlabeled VEGF121/rGel but not with unlabeled gelonin. Assessment of the effect of VEGF121/rGel on blocking tube formation in vitro revealed a 100-fold difference in IC50 levels between PAE/VEGFR-2 (1 nM) and PAE/VEGFR-1 (100 nM) cells. VEGF121/rGel entered PAE/VEGFR-2 cells within one hour of treatment but was not detected in PAE/VEGFR-1 cells up to 24 hours after treatment. In vascularization studies using chicken chorioallantoic membranes, 1 nM VEGF121/rGel completely inhibited bFGF-stimulated neovascular growth. The cytotoxic effects of VEGF121/rGel were not apoptotic since treated cells were TUNEL-negative with no evidence of PARP cleavage or alteration in the protein levels of select apoptotic markers. Microarray analysis of VEGF121/rGel-treated HUVECs revealed the upregulation of a unique "fingerprint" profile of 22 genes that control cell adhesion, apoptosis, transcription regulation, chemotaxis, and inflammatory response.
Taken together, these data confirm the selectivity of VEGF121/rGel for VEGFR-2-overexpressing endothelial cells and represent the first analysis of genes governing intoxication of mammalian endothelial cells by a gelonin-based targeted therapeutic agent.
PMCID: PMC3176242  PMID: 21849059
15.  Are cancer stem cells radioresistant? 
Future oncology (London, England)  2010;6(10):1563-1576.
Based on findings that cancer cell clonogens exhibit stem cell features, it has been suggested that cancer stem-like cells are relatively radioresistant owing to different intrinsic and extrinsic factors, including quiescence, activated radiation response mechanisms (e.g., enhanced DNA repair, upregulated cell cycle control mechanisms and increased free-radical scavengers) and a surrounding microenvironment that enhances cell survival mechanisms (e.g., hypoxia and interaction with stromal elements). However, these radiosensitivity features are probably dynamic in nature and come into play at different times during the course of chemo/radiotherapy. Therefore, different molecularly targeted radiosensitization strategies may be needed at different stages of therapy. This article describes potential sensitization approaches based on the dynamics and changing properties of cancer stem-like cells during therapy.
PMCID: PMC3059151  PMID: 21062156
cancer cell clonogen; cancer stem-like cell; cancer stem-like cell dynamics; radioresistance determinant; therapeutic strategy
16.  Characterization and Mechanistic Studies of a Novel Melanoma-Targeting Construct Containing IκBa for Specific Inhibition of Nuclear Factor-κB Activity12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2010;12(10):766-777.
The transcription factor nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is a central mediator of growth and homeostasis for both normal and neoplastic cells. IκBα is the natural intracellular inhibitor of NF-κB and can effectively complex with and thereby inhibit the biologic activity and translocation of NF-κB to the nucleus. We designed a fusion protein designated IκBα/scFvMEL composing of human IκBα and the single-chain antibody scFvMEL, targets melanoma gp240 antigen. Cells treated with IκBα/scFvMEL before irradiation showed specifically inhibition of both constitutive and radiation-induced NF-κB activity on gp240 antigen-positive A375M cells. Pretreatment of A375M cells with IκBα/scFvMEL significantly sensitized melanoma cells to ionizing radiation assessed using a clonogenic survival assay. Mechanistic studies showed that IκBα/scFvMEL, when exogenously added to A375M cells, could be coimmunoprecipitated with the p65 subunit of NF-κB. IκBα/scFvMEL inhibited in a time and/or dose-dependent manner of tumor necrosis factor α- or radiation-induced NF-κB activity in vitro. IκBα/scFvMEL was also shown to specifically inhibit the translocation of the NF-κB p65 subunit to the cell nucleus and NF-κB-mediated gene transcription. Further, initial studies showed that mice bearing well-established A375M xenografts were treated (intravenously) with IκBα/scFvMEL and showed a significant suppression of tumor growth. We also observed a decrease in levels of Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL signaling events downstream of NF-κB in the tumor model. These studies demonstrate for the first time that tumor cell-targeted delivery of IκBα may be beneficial for the treatment of melanoma when combined with standard anticancer therapies such as radiation.
PMCID: PMC2950326  PMID: 20927315
17.  14-3-3ζ Overexpression Defines High Risk for Breast Cancer Recurrence and Promotes Cancer Cell Survival 
Cancer research  2009;69(8):3425-3432.
The ubiquitously expressed 14-3-3 proteins are involved in numerous important cellular functions. The loss of 14-3-3σ is a common event in breast cancer; however, the role of other 14-3-3s in breast cancer is unclear. Recently, we found that 14-3-3ζ overexpression occurs in early stage breast diseases and contributes to transformation of human mammary epithelial cells. Here, we show that 14-3-3ζ overexpression also persisted in invasive ductal carcinoma and contributed to the further progression of breast cancer. To examine the clinical impact of 14-3-3ζ overexpression in advanced stage breast cancer, we performed immunohistochemical analysis of 14-3-3ζ expression in primary breast carcinomas. 14-3-3ζ overexpression occurred in 42% of breast tumors and was determined to be an independent prognostic factor for reduced disease-free survival. 14-3-3ζ overexpression combined with ErbB2 overexpression and positive lymph node status identified a subgroup of patients at high risk for developing distant metastasis. To investigate whether 14-3-3ζ overexpression causally promotes breast cancer progression, we overexpressed 14-3-3ζ by stable transfection or reduced 14-3-3ζ expression by siRNA in cancer cell lines. Increased 14-3-3ζ expression enhanced anchorage independent growth and inhibited stress-induced apoptosis, whereas downregulation of 14-3-3ζ reduced anchorage independent growth and sensitized cells to stress-induced apoptosis via the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Transient blockade of 14-3-3ζ expression by siRNA in cancer cells effectively reduced the onset and growth of tumor xenografts in vivo. Therefore, 14-3-3ζ overexpression is a novel molecular marker for disease recurrence in breast cancer patients and may serve as an effective therapeutic target in patients whose tumors overexpress 14-3-3ζ.
PMCID: PMC2671640  PMID: 19318578
14-3-3ζ; breast cancer; apoptosis resistance; disease recurrence; prognostic marker
18.  Evaluating Quality in Clinical Cancer Research: The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Experience 
Oncology  2009;77(2):75-81.
Despite the unquestionable importance of clinically oriented research designed to test the safety and efficacy of new therapies in patients with malignant disease, there is limited information regarding strategies to evaluate the quality of such efforts at academic institutions.
To address this issue, a committee of senior faculty at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center established specific criteria by which investigators from all departments engaged in clinical research could be formally evaluated. Scoring criteria were established and revised based on the results of a pilot study. Beginning in January 2004, the committee evaluated all faculty involved in clinical research within 35 departments. Scores for individual faculty members were assigned on a scale of 1 (outstanding) to 5; a score of 3 was set as the standard for the institution. Each department also received a score. The results of the evaluation were shared with departmental chairs and the Chief Academic Officer.
392 faculty were evaluated. The median score was 3. Full professors more frequently received a score of 1, but all faculty ranks received scores of 4 and 5. As a group, tenure/tenure track faculty achieved superior scores compared to nontenure track faculty.
Based on our experience, we believe it is possible to conduct a rigorous consensus-based evaluation of the quality of clinical cancer research being conducted at an academic medical center. It is reasonable to suggest such evaluations can be used as a management tool and may lead to higher-quality clinical research.
PMCID: PMC2790774  PMID: 19571599
Cancer centers; Academic medical centers; Clinical trials
19.  hSnm1 Colocalizes and Physically Associates with 53BP1 before and after DNA Damage 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(24):8635-8647.
snm1 mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae have been shown to be specifically sensitive to DNA interstrand crosslinking agents but not sensitive to monofunctional alkylating agents, UV, or ionizing radiation. Five homologs of SNM1 have been identified in the mammalian genome and are termed SNM1, SNM1B, Artemis, ELAC2, and CPSF73. To explore the functional role of human Snm1 in response to DNA damage, we characterized the cellular distribution and dynamics of human Snm1 before and after exposure to DNA-damaging agents. Human Snm1 was found to localize to the cell nucleus in three distinct patterns. A particular cell showed diffuse nuclear staining, multiple nuclear foci, or one or two larger bodies confined to the nucleus. Upon exposure to ionizing radiation or an interstrand crosslinking agent, the number of cells exhibiting Snm1 bodies was reduced, while the population of cells with foci increased dramatically. Indirect immunofluorescence studies also indicated that the human Snm1 protein colocalized with 53BP1 before and after exposure to ionizing radiation, and a physical interaction was confirmed by coimmunoprecipitation assays. Furthermore, human Snm1 foci formed after ionizing radiation were largely coincident with foci formed by human Mre11 and to a lesser extent with those formed by BRCA1, but not with those formed by human Rad51. Finally, we mapped a region of human Snm1 of approximately 220 amino acids that was sufficient for focus formation when attached to a nuclear localization signal. Our results indicate a novel function for human Snm1 in the cellular response to double-strand breaks formed by ionizing radiation.
PMCID: PMC139863  PMID: 12446782
20.  Multiplexed and Reiterative Fluorescence Labeling via DNA Circuitry 
Bioconjugate Chemistry  2010;21(12):2327-2331.
A class of reactive DNA circuits was adapted as erasable molecular imaging probes that allow fluorescent reporting complexes to be assembled and disassembled on a biological specimen. Circuit reactions are sequence-dependent and therefore facilitate multiplexed (multicolor) detection. Yet, the ability to disassemble reporting complexes also allows fluorophores to be removed and new circuit complexes to be used to label additional markers. Thus, these probes present opportunities to increase the total number of molecular targets that can be visualized on a biological sample by allowing multiple rounds of fluorescence microscopy to be performed.
PMCID: PMC3002180  PMID: 21080622

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