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1.  MALT1 Small Molecule Inhibitors Specifically Suppress ABC-DLBCL In Vitro and In Vivo 
Cancer cell  2012;22(6):812-824.
MALT1 cleavage activity is linked to the pathogenesis of activated B cell-like diffuse large B cell lymphoma (ABC-DLBCL), a chemoresistant form of DLBCL. We developed a MALT1 activity assay and identified chemically diverse MALT1 inhibitors. A selected lead compound, MI-2, featured direct binding to MALT1 and suppression of its protease function. MI-2 concentrated within human ABC-DLBCL cells and irreversibly inhibited cleavage of MALT1 substrates. This was accompanied by NF-κB reporter activity suppression, c-REL nuclear localization inhibition, and NF-κB target gene downregulation. Most notably, MI-2 was nontoxic to mice, and displayed selective activity against ABC-DLBCL cell lines in vitro and xenotransplanted ABC-DLBCL tumors in vivo. The compound was also effective against primary human non-germinal center B cell-like DLBCLs ex vivo.
PMCID: PMC3984478  PMID: 23238016
2.  A NIK-IKKα Module Expands ErbB2-Induced Tumor-Initiating Cells by Stimulating Nuclear Export of p27/Kip1 
Cancer cell  2013;23(5):647-659.
IκB kinase α (IKKα) activity is required for ErbB2-induced mammary tumorigenesis. Here, we show that IKKα and its activator, NF-κB-inducing kinase (NIK), support the expansion of tumor-initiating cells (TICs) that copurify with a CD24medCD49fhi population from premalignant ErbB2-expressing mammary glands. Upon activation, IKKα enters the nucleus, phosphorylates the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor p27/Kip1, and stimulates its nuclear export or exclusion. Reduced p27 expression rescues mammary tumorigenesis in mice deficient in IKKα kinase activity and restores TIC self-renewal. IKKα is also likely to be involved in human breast cancer, where its expression shows an inverse correlation with metastasis-free survival, and its presence in the nucleus of invasive ductal carcinomas (IDCs) is associated with decreased nuclear p27 abundance.
PMCID: PMC3981467  PMID: 23602409
3.  Coordinated Silencing of Myc-Mediated miR-29 by HDAC3 and EZH2 As a Therapeutic Target of Histone Modification in Aggressive B-Cell Lymphomas 
Cancer cell  2012;22(4):506-523.
We investigated the transcriptional and epigenetic repression of miR-29 by Myc, HDAC3, and EZH2 in mantle cell lymphoma and other Myc-associated lymphomas. We demonstrate that miR-29 is repressed by Myc through a co-repressor complex with HDAC3 and EZH2. Myc contributes to EZH2 upregulation via repression of the EZH2 targeting miR-26a, and EZH2 induces Myc via inhibition of the Myc targeting miR-494 to create positive feedback. Combined inhibition of HDAC3 and EZH2 cooperatively disrupted the Myc-EZH2-miR-29 axis, resulting in restoration of miR-29 expression, down-regulation of miR-29 targeted genes, and lymphoma growth suppression in vitro and in vivo. These findings define a Myc-mediated miRNA repression mechanism, shed light on Myc lymphomagenesis mechanisms and reveals promising therapeutic targets for aggressive B-cell malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3973134  PMID: 23079660
4.  Interweaving the strands: β-Catenin, an HIV Co-Receptor, and Schwann Cell Tumors 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):269-271.
WNT/β– catenin signaling is critical to development of many cancer types. A paper in a recent issue of Cell shows that autocrine CXCL12/CXCR4 chemokine signaling activates β–catenin signaling in a rare peripheral nerve sarcoma. Together with the availability of small molecules targeting CXCR4, this finding suggests new avenues for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3635484  PMID: 23518344
5.  Oncogenic BRAF regulates oxidative metabolism via PGC1α and MITF 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):302-315.
Activating mutations in BRAF are the most common genetic alterations in melanoma. Inhibition of BRAF by small molecule inhibitors leads to cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. We show here that BRAF inhibition also induces an oxidative phosphorylation gene program, mitochondrial biogenesis, and the increased expression of the mitochondrial master regulator, PGC1α. We further show that a target of BRAF, the melanocyte lineage factor MITF, directly regulates the expression of PGC1α. Melanomas with activation of the BRAF/MAPK pathway have suppressed levels of MITF and PGC1α, and decreased oxidative metabolism. Conversely, treatment of BRAF mutated melanomas with BRAF inhibitors renders them addicted to oxidative phosphorylation. Our data thus identify an adaptive metabolic program that limits the efficacy of BRAF inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3635826  PMID: 23477830
BRAF; melanoma; vemurafenib; metabolism
6.  SnapShot: Pancreatic Cancer 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):424-424.e1.
PMCID: PMC3638898  PMID: 23518352
7.  R-2-hydroxyglutarate as the key effector of IDH mutations promoting oncogenesis 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):274-276.
The tumor-associated isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) mutants are unique in that they have lost their normal catalytic activity and gained a novel function to produce R-2-hydroxyglutarate (R-2-HG). A recent study now shows that R-2-HG can reversibly promote leukemogenesis in vitro, suggesting a therapeutic potential of targeting mutant IDH1 and IDH2.
PMCID: PMC3652525  PMID: 23518346
8.  Loss of FBP1 by Snail-mediated Repression Provides Metabolic Advantages in Basal-like Breast Cancer 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):316-331.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) enhances invasiveness and confers tumor cells with cancer stem cell (CSC)-like characteristics. We showed that the Snail-G9a-Dnmt1 complex, which is critical for E-cadherin promoter silencing, is also required for the promoter methylation of fructose-1,6-biphosphatase (FBP1) in basal-like breast cancer (BLBC). Loss of FBP1 induces glycolysis and results in increased glucose uptake, macromolecules biosynthesis, formation of tetrameric PKM2, and maintenance of ATP production under hypoxia. Loss of FBP1 also inhibits oxygen consumption and ROS production by suppressing mitochondrial complex I activity; this metabolic reprogramming results in an increased CSC-like property and tumorigenicity by enhancing the interaction of β-catenin with TCF. Our study indicates that the loss of FBP1 is a critical oncogenic event in EMT and BLBC.
PMCID: PMC3703516  PMID: 23453623
9.  PGC1α Expression Defines a Subset of Human Melanoma Tumors with Increased Mitochondrial Capacity and Resistance to Oxidative Stress 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):287-301.
Cancer cells reprogram their metabolism using different strategies to meet energy and anabolic demands to maintain growth and survival. Understanding the molecular and genetic determinants of these metabolic programs is critical to successfully exploit them for therapy. Here, we report that the oncogenic melanocyte lineage-specification transcription factor MITF drives PGC1α (PPARGC1A) overexpression in a subset of human melanomas and derived cell lines. Functionally, PGC1α positive melanoma cells exhibit increased mitochondrial energy metabolism and ROS detoxification capacities that enables survival under oxidative stress conditions. Conversely, PGC1α negative melanoma cells are more glycolytic and sensitive to ROS-inducing drugs. These results demonstrate that differences in PGC1α levels in melanoma tumors have a profound impact in their metabolism, biology and drug sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC3708305  PMID: 23416000
10.  Complementary Genomic Screens Identify SERCA as a Therapeutic Target in NOTCH1 Mutated Cancer 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):390-405.
Notch1 is a rational therapeutic target in several human cancers, but as a transcriptional regulator, it poses a drug discovery challenge. To identify Notch1 modulators, we performed two cell-based, high-throughput screens for small-molecule inhibitors and cDNA enhancers of a NOTCH1 allele bearing a leukemia-associated mutation. SERCA calcium channels emerged at the intersection of these complementary screens. SERCA inhibition preferentially impairs the maturation and activity of mutated Notch1 receptors and induces a G0/G1 arrest in NOTCH1-mutated human leukemia cells. A small-molecule SERCA inhibitor has on-target activity in two mouse models of human leukemia and interferes with Notch signaling in Drosophila. These studies “credential” SERCA as a therapeutic target in cancers associated with NOTCH1 mutations.
PMCID: PMC3709972  PMID: 23434461
11.  The E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Siah2 Contributes to Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer by Regulation of Androgen Receptor Transcriptional Activity 
Cancer cell  2013;23(3):332-346.
Understanding the mechanism underlying the regulation of the androgen receptor (AR), a central player in the development of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), holds promise for overcoming the challenge of treating CRPC. We demonstrate that the ubiquitin ligase Siah2 targets a select pool of NCOR1-bound, transcriptionally-inactive AR for ubiquitin-dependent degradation, thereby promoting expression of select AR target genes implicated in lipid metabolism, cell motility, and proliferation. Siah2 is required for prostate cancer cell growth under androgen-deprivation conditions in vitro and in vivo, and Siah2 inhibition promotes prostate cancer regression upon castration. Notably, Siah2 expression is markedly increased in human CRPCs. Collectively, we find that selective regulation of AR transcriptional activity by the ubiquitin ligase Siah2 is important for CRPC development.
PMCID: PMC3750989  PMID: 23518348
12.  Mutant p53 in Cancer: New Functions and Therapeutic Opportunities 
Cancer Cell  2014;25(3):304-317.
Many different types of cancer show a high incidence of TP53 mutations, leading to the expression of mutant p53 proteins. There is growing evidence that these mutant p53s have both lost wild-type p53 tumor suppressor activity and gained functions that help to contribute to malignant progression. Understanding the functions of mutant p53 will help in the development of new therapeutic approaches that may be useful in a broad range of cancer types.
PMCID: PMC3970583  PMID: 24651012
13.  SIK2 is a centrosome kinase required for bipolar mitotic spindle formation that provides a potential target for therapy in ovarian cancer 
Cancer cell  2010;18(2):109-121.
Regulators of mitosis have been successfully targeted to enhance response to taxane chemotherapy. Here, we show that the Salt Inducible Kinase 2 (SIK2) localizes at the centrosome, plays a key role in the initiation of mitosis and regulates the localization of the centrosome linker protein, C-Nap1, through S2392 phosphorylation. Interference with the known SIK2 inhibitor PKA induced SIK2-dependent centrosome splitting in interphase while SIK2 depletion blocked centrosome separation in mitosis, sensitizing ovarian cancers to paclitaxel in culture and in xenografts. Depletion of SIK2 also delayed G1/S transition and reduced AKT phosphorylation. Higher expression of SIK2 significantly correlated with poor survival in patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancers. These data identify SIK2 as a plausible target for therapy in ovarian cancers.
PMCID: PMC3954541  PMID: 20708153
14.  NEK2 Induces Drug-resistance Mainly through Activation of Efflux Drug Pumps and Is Associated with Poor Prognosis in Myeloma and Other Cancers 
Cancer cell  2013;23(1):48-62.
Using sequential gene expression profiling (GEP) samples, we defined a major functional group related to drug resistance that contains chromosomal instability (CIN) genes. One CIN gene in particular, NEK2, was highly correlated with drug resistance, rapid relapse, and poor outcome in multiple cancers. Over-expressing NEK2 in cancer cells resulted in enhanced CIN, cell proliferation and drug resistance, while targeting NEK2 by NEK2 shRNA overcame cancer cell drug resistance and induced apoptosis in vitro and in a xenograft myeloma mouse model. High expression of NEK2 induced drug resistance mainly through activation of the efflux pumps. Thus, NEK2 represents a strong predictor for drug resistance and poor prognosis in cancer and could be an important target for cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3954609  PMID: 23328480
15.  A Distinct Replication Fork Protection Pathway Connects Fanconi Anemia Tumor Suppressors to RAD51-BRCA1/2 
Cancer cell  2012;22(1):106-116.
Genes mutated in patients with Fanconi anemia (FA) interact with the DNA repair genes BRCA1 and BRCA2/FANCD1 to suppress tumorigenesis, but the molecular functions ascribed to them cannot fully explain all of their cellular roles. Here, we show a repair-independent requirement for FA genes, including FANCD2, and BRCA1 in protecting stalled replication forks from degradation. Fork protection is surprisingly rescued in FANCD2-deficient cells by elevated RAD51 levels or stabilized RAD51 filaments. Moreover, FANCD2-mediated fork protection is epistatic with RAD51 functions, revealing an unanticipated fork protection pathway that connects FA genes to RAD51 and the BRCA1/2 breast cancer suppressors. Collective results imply a unified molecular mechanism for repair-independent functions of FA, RAD51, and BRCA1/2 proteins in preventing genomic instability and suppressing tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3954744  PMID: 22789542
16.  Cell of origin in AML: Susceptibility to MN1-induced transformation is regulated by the MEIS1/AbdB-like HOX protein complex 
Cancer cell  2011;20(1):39-52.
Pathways defining susceptibility of normal cells to oncogenic transformation may be valuable therapeutic targets. We characterized the cell of origin and its critical pathways in MN1-induced leukemias. Common myeloid (CMP), but not granulocyte-macrophage progenitors (GMP) could be transformed by MN1. Complementation studies of CMP-signature genes in GMPs demonstrated that MN1-leukemogenicity required the MEIS1/AbdB-like HOX-protein complex. ChIP-sequencing identified common target genes of MN1 and MEIS1, and demonstrated identical binding sites for a large proportion of their chromatin targets. Transcriptional repression of MEIS1 targets in established MN1 leukemias demonstrated antileukemic activity. As MN1 relies on but cannot activate expression of MEIS1/AbdB-like HOX proteins, transcriptional activity of these genes determines cellular susceptibility to MN1-induced transformation, and may represent a promising therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3951989  PMID: 21741595 CAMSID: cams3759
17.  Nilotinib and MEK inhibitors induce synthetic lethality through paradoxical activation of RAF in drug-resistant chronic myeloid leukemia 
Cancer cell  2011;20(6):715-727.
We show that imatinib, nilotinib and dasatinib possess weak off-target activity against RAF and therefore drive paradoxical activation of BRAF and CRAF in a RAS-dependent manner. Critically, since RAS is activated by BCR-ABL, in drug-resistant chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) cells RAS activity persists in the presence of these drugs, driving paradoxical activation of BRAF, CRAF, MEK and ERK, and leading to an unexpected dependency on the pathway. Consequently, nilotinib synergizes with MEK inhibitors to kill drug-resistant CML cells and block tumor growth in mice. Thus, we show that imatinib, nilotinib and dasatinib drive paradoxical RAF/MEK/ERK pathway activation and have uncovered a synthetic lethal interaction that can be used to kill drug-resistant CML cell in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3951999  PMID: 22169110
Chronic myeloid leukemia; BCR-ABLT315I; BRAF; CRAF; synthetic lethality
18.  Grappling with the androgen receptor—a new approach for treating advanced prostate cancer 
Cancer cell  2010;17(6):525-526.
In this issue of Cancer Cell, Andersen et al report on a small molecule that interacts with and blocks transactivation of the androgen receptor amino-terminal domain. This agent can overcome the shortcomings of clinically used antiandrogens, an important advance in the development of effective therapy for advanced prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3929402  PMID: 20541694
19.  The EphA2 Receptor Drives Self-Renewal and Tumorigenicity in Stem-Like Tumor-Propagating Cells from Human Glioblastomas 
Cancer cell  2012;22(6):765-780.
In human glioblastomas (hGBMs), tumor-propagating cells with stem-like characteristics (TPCs) represent a key therapeutic target. We found that the EphA2 receptor tyrosine kinase is overexpressed in hGBM TPCs. Cytofluorimetric sorting into EphA2High and EphA2Low populations demonstrated that EphA2 expression correlates with the size and tumor-propagating ability of the TPC pool in hGBMs. Both, ephrinA1-Fc, which caused EphA2 downregulation in TPCs, and siRNA-mediated knockdown of EPHA2 expression suppressed TPCs self-renewal ex vivo and intracranial tumorigenicity, pointing to EphA2 downregulation as a causal event in the loss of TPCs tumorigenicity. Infusion of ephrinA1-Fc into intracranial xenografts elicited strong tumor-suppressing effects, suggestive of therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3922047  PMID: 23238013
20.  Englerin A stimulates PKCθ to inhibit insulin signaling and simultaneously activate HSF1: An example of pharmacologically induced synthetic lethality 
Cancer cell  2013;23(2):228-237.
The natural product englerin A (EA) binds to and activates protein kinase C-θ (PKCθ). EA-dependent activation of PKCθ induces an insulin resistant phenotype, limiting the access of tumor cells to glucose. At the same time, EA causes PKCθ-mediated phosphorylation and activation of the transcription factor heat shock factor 1, an inducer of glucose dependence. By promoting glucose addiction while simultaneously starving cells of glucose, EA proves to be synthetically lethal to highly glycolytic tumors.
PMCID: PMC3574184  PMID: 23352416
HSF1; englerin A; renal cell cancer; PKCθ; insulin resistance
21.  Endothelial Cells Promote the Colorectal Cancer Stem Cell Phenotype Through a Soluble Form of Jagged-1 
Cancer cell  2013;23(2):171-185.
We report a paracrine effect whereby endothelial cells (ECs) promote the cancer stem cell (CSC) phenotype of human colorectal cancer (CRC) cells. We showed that, without direct cell-cell contact, ECs secrete factors that promoted the CSC phenotype in CRC cells via Notch activation. In human CRC specimens, CD133 and Notch intracellular domain-positive cells co-localized with CRC cells in perivascular regions. An EC-derived, soluble form of Jagged-1, via ADAM17 proteolytic activity, led to Notch activation in CRC cells in a paracrine manner; these effects were blocked by immunodepletion of Jagged-1 in EC conditioned medium or blockade of ADAM17 activity. ECs play an active role in promoting Notch signaling and the CSC phenotype by secreting soluble Jagged-1.
PMCID: PMC3574187  PMID: 23375636
22.  LKB1 inactivation dictates therapeutic response of non-small cell lung cancer to the metabolism drug phenformin 
Cancer cell  2013;23(2):143-158.
The LKB1 (also called STK11) tumor suppressor is mutationally inactivated in ~20% of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). LKB1 is the major upstream kinase activating the energy-sensing kinase AMPK, making LKB1-deficient cells unable to appropriately sense metabolic stress. We tested the therapeutic potential of metabolic drugs in NSCLC and identified phenformin, a mitochondrial inhibitor and analog of the diabetes therapeutic metformin, as selectively inducing apoptosis in LKB1-deficient NSCLC cells. Therapeutic trials in Kras-dependent mouse models of NSCLC revealed that tumors with Kras and Lkb1 mutations, but not those with Kras and p53 mutations showed selective response to phenformin as a single agent, resulting in prolonged survival. This study suggests phenformin as a cancer metabolism-based therapeutic to selectively target LKB1-deficient tumors.
PMCID: PMC3579627  PMID: 23352126
23.  Growth factor independence-1 antagonizes a p53-induced DNA damage response pathway in lymphoblastic leukemia 
Cancer cell  2013;23(2):200-214.
Most patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) fail current treatments highlighting the need for better therapies. Since oncogenic signaling activates a p53-dependent DNA-damage response and apoptosis, leukemic cells must devise appropriate countermeasures. We show here that growth factor independence 1 (Gfi1) can serve such a function, since Gfi1 ablation exacerbates p53 responses, and lowers the threshold for p53-induced cell death. Specifically, Gfi1 restricts p53 activity and expression of pro-apoptotic p53 targets such as Bax, Noxa (Pmaip1) and Puma (Bbc3). Subsequently, Gfi1 ablation cures mice from leukemia and limits the expansion of primary human T-ALL xenografts in mice. This suggests that targeting Gfi1 could improve the prognosis of patients with T-ALL or other lymphoid leukemias.
PMCID: PMC3597385  PMID: 23410974
24.  Integrated analyses identify a master microRNA regulatory network for the mesenchymal subtype in serous ovarian cancer 
Cancer cell  2013;23(2):186-199.
Integrated genomic analyses revealed a miRNA-regulatory network, which further defined a robust integrated mesenchymal subtype associated with poor overall survival in 459 cases of serous ovarian cancer (OvCa) from The Cancer Genome Atlas and 560 cases from independent cohorts. Eight key miRNAs, including miR-506, miR-141 and miR-200a, were predicted to regulate 89% of the targets in this network. Follow-up functional experiments illustrate that miR-506 augmented E-cadherin expression, inhibited cell migration and invasion, and prevented TGFβ-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) by targeting SNAI2, a transcriptional repressor of E-cadherin. In human OvCa, miR-506 expression was correlated with decreased SNAI2 and VIM, elevated E-cadherin, and beneficial prognosis. Nanoparticle delivery of miR-506 in orthotopic OvCa mouse models led to E-cadherin induction and reduced tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC3603369  PMID: 23410973
25.  Molecular Archeology: Unearthing Androgen Induced Structural Rearrangements in Prostate Cancer Genomes 
Cancer cell  2013;23(2):133-135.
In this issue of Cancer Cell, Weischenfeldt et al. report on whole genome sequencing of 11 early onset prostate cancers. Compared to elderly onset prostate cancer, these tumors demonstrate enrichment for androgen driven structural rearrangements involving ETS family genes. This study confirms observations that prostate cancer manifests discrete genomic subclasses.
PMCID: PMC3630373  PMID: 23410968

Results 1-25 (452)