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1.  GX15-070 (obatoclax) induces apoptosis and inhibits cathepsin D and L mediated autophagosomal lysis in antiestrogen resistant breast cancer cells 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(4):448-459.
In estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer cells, BCL2 overexpression contributes to antiestrogen resistance. Direct targeting of the antiapoptotic BCL2 members with GX15-070 (GX; obatoclax), a BH3-mimetic currently in clinical development, is an attractive strategy to overcome antiestrogen resistance in some breast cancers. Recently, GX has been shown to induce both apoptosis and autophagy, yet the underlying cell death mechanisms have yet to be elucidated. Here we show that GX is more effective in reducing the cell density of antiestrogen resistant breast cancer cells versus sensitive cells, and that this increased sensitivity of resistant cells to GX correlates with an accumulation of autophagic vacuoles. Formation of autophagosomes in GX-treated cells was verified by changes in expression of the lipidation of microtubule-associated protein-1 light chain-3 and both confocal and transmission electron microscopy. While GX treatment promotes autophagic vacuole and autolysosome formation, p62/SQSTM1, a marker for autophagic degradation, levels accumulate. Moreover, GX exposure leads to a reduction in cathepsin D and L protein expression that would otherwise digest autolysosome cargo. Thus, GX has dual roles in promoting cell death: (1) directly inhibiting antiapoptotic BCL2 family members, thereby inducing apoptosis; and (2) inhibiting downstream cathepsins D and L protein expression to limit the ability of cells to use degraded material to fuel cellular metabolism and restore homeostasis. Our data highlight a new mechanism of GX-induced cell death that could be used to design novel therapeutic interventions for antiestrogen resistant breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3624027  PMID: 23395885
GX15-070; antiestrogen; BCL2 proteins; autophagy; cathepsin
2.  Poly(beta-amino ester) nanoparticle-delivery of p53 has activity against small cell lung cancer in vitro and in vivo 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(4):405-415.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive disease with one of the highest case-fatality rates among cancer. The recommended therapy for SCLC has not changed significantly over the past 30 years; new therapeutic approaches are a critical need. TP53 is mutated in the majority of SCLC cases and its loss is required in transgenic mouse models of the disease. We synthesized an array of biodegradable poly(beta-amino ester) (PBAE) polymers which self-assemble with DNA and assayed for transfection efficiency in the p53-mutant H446 SCLC cell line using high-throughput methodologies. Two of the top candidates were selected for further characterization and TP53 delivery in vitro and in vivo. Nanoparticle delivery of TP53 resulted in expression of exogenous p53, induction of p21, induction of apoptosis and accumulation of cells in sub-G1 consistent with functional p53 activity. Intratumoral injection of subcutaneous H446 xenografts with polymers carrying TP53 caused marked tumor growth inhibition. This is the first demonstration of TP53 gene therapy in SCLC using non-viral polymeric nanoparticles. This technology may have general applicability as a novel anti-cancer strategy based on restoration of tumor suppressor gene function.
PMCID: PMC3624031  PMID: 23364678
p53; PBAE; nanoparticles; gene therapy; SCLC
3.  Tumor Initiating Cells and FZD8 play a major role in drug resistance in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(4):491-498.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) studies have shown that neoadjuvant chemotherapy before surgery was effective in the minority of women, whereas the majority who had residual tumor had a relatively poor outcome. To identify the mechanism by which residual cancer cells survive chemotherapy, we initially performed gene expression profiling using the CRL2335 TNBC cell line derived from a squamous breast carcinoma before and after treatment with cisplatin plus TRAIL. We found a significant increase in the expression of FZD8, one of Wnt receptors, and its downstream targets LEF1 and TCF in residual CRL2335 tumor cells after treatment with cisplatin plus TRAIL. Increased FZD8 levels were further confirmed in other TNBC breast carcinoma cell lines. Inhibition of FZD8 by siRNA in CRL2335 cells in the presence of cisplatin plus TRAIL reduced β-catenin and survivin levels, and increased apoptosis compared to scrambled siRNA-treated cells. In vivo data demonstrate that cisplatin plus TRAIL treatment significantly reduces tumor volume in nod/SCID mice. However, we found that cisplatin plus TRAIL treatment predominantly eliminated non-tumor initiating cells (non-TICs), as demonstrated by whole-body fluorescent imaging of mice injected with mammosphere-forming CRL2335 cells stably transfected with DsRed. This led to TIC enrichment in residual tumors, as confirmed by immunostaining for TIC markers. Moreover, an increase in FZD8 expression was observed in residual tumors treated with cisplatin and TRAIL. Taken together, our findings suggest that FZD8-mediated Wnt-signaling may play a major role in mediating resistance to chemotherapy, making it a potential target to enhance chemotherapeutic efficacy in patients with TNBC.
PMCID: PMC3624033  PMID: 23445611
FZD8; Tumor initiating cells; Triple-negative breast cancer; Cisplatin; TRAIL
4.  A human single-domain antibody elicits potent anti-tumor activity by targeting an epitope in mesothelin close to the cancer cell surface 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(4):416-426.
Monoclonal antibodies against mesothelin are being evaluated for the treatment of mesothelioma and multiple forms of cancers, and show great promise for clinical development for solid cancers. Antibodies against mesothelin have been shown to act via immunotoxin-based inhibition of tumor growth and induction of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). However, complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC), considered an important additional mechanism of therapeutic antibodies against tumors, is inactive for such antibodies. Here, we used phage display antibody engineering technology and synthetic peptide screening to identify SD1, a human single-domain antibody to mesothelin. SD1 recognizes a conformational epitope at the C-terminal end (residues 539–588) of mesothelin close to the cell surface. To investigate SD1 as a potential therapeutic agent, we generated a recombinant human Fc (SD1-hFc) fusion protein. Interestingly, the SD1-hFc protein exhibits strong CDC activity, in addition to ADCC, against mesothelin-expressing tumor cells. Furthermore, it causes growth inhibition of human tumor xenografts in nude mice as a single agent. SD1 is the first human single-domain antibody targeting mesothelin-expressing tumors, shows potential as a cancer therapeutic candidate, and may improve current antibody therapy targeting mesothelin-expressing tumors.
PMCID: PMC3624043  PMID: 23371858
antibody dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity; complement-dependent cytotoxicity; mesothelin/MSLN; MORAb-009/amatuximab; phage display
5.  Targeting IGF-1R with ganitumab inhibits tumorigenesis and increases durability of response to androgen-deprivation therapy in VCaP prostate cancer xenografts 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(4):394-404.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in men. While tumors initially respond to androgen-deprivation therapy, the standard care for advanced or metastatic disease, tumors eventually recur as castration-resistant prostate cancer. Upregulation of the insulin-like growth factor receptor type 1 (IGF-1R) signaling axis drives growth and progression of prostate cancer by promoting proliferation, survival, and angiogenesis. Ganitumab (formerly AMG 479) is a fully human antibody that inhibits binding of IGF-1 and IGF-2 to IGF-1R. We evaluated the therapeutic value of ganitumab in several pre-clinical settings including androgen-dependent prostate cancer, castration-resistant prostate cancer, and in combination with androgen-deprivation therapy. Ganitumab inhibited IGF-1 induced phosphorylation of the downstream effector AKT and reduced proliferation of multiple androgen-dependent and castration-resistant human prostate cancer cell lines in vitro. Ganitumab inhibited androgen-dependent VCaP xenograft growth and increased tumor doubling time from 2.3±0.4 weeks to 6.4±0.4 weeks. Ganitumab blocked growth of castration-resistant VCaP xenografts for over 11.5 weeks of treatment. In contrast, ganitumab did not have appreciable effects on the castration-resistant CWR-22Rv1 xenograft model. Ganitumab was most potent against VCaP xenografts when combined with complete androgen-deprivation therapy (castration). Tumor volume was reduced by 72% after 4 weeks of treatment and growth suppression was maintained over 16 weeks of treatment. These data suggest that judicious use of ganitumab particularly in conjunction with androgen-deprivation therapy may be beneficial in the treatment of prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3644513  PMID: 23348048
Prostate Cancer; Growth Factors and Receptors; Ganitumab; IGF-1R; androgen-deprivation therapy
6.  Synthetic lethal targeting of PTEN-deficient cancer cells using selective disruption of polynucleotide kinase/phosphatase 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(10):2135-2144.
A recent screen of 6961 siRNAs to discover possible synthetic lethal partners of the DNA repair protein polynucleotide kinase/phosphatase (PNKP) led to the identification of the potent tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN). Here we have confirmed the PNKP/PTEN synthetic lethal partnership in a variety of different cell lines including the PC3 prostate cancer cell line, which is naturally deficient in PTEN. We provide evidence that co-depletion of PTEN and PNKP induces apoptosis. In HCT116 colon cancer cells the loss of PTEN is accompanied by an increased background level of DNA double strand breaks, which accumulate in the presence of an inhibitor of PNKP DNA 3′-phosphatase activity. Complementation of PC3 cells with several well-characterized mutated PTEN cDNAs indicated that the critical function of PTEN required to prevent toxicity induced by an inhibitor of PNKP is most likely associated with its cytoplasmic lipid phosphatase activity. Finally, we show that modest inhibition of PNKP in a PTEN knockout background enhances cellular radiosensitivity, suggesting that such a “synthetic sickness” approach involving the combination of PNKP inhibition with radiotherapy may be applicable to PTEN-deficient tumors.
PMCID: PMC3793902  PMID: 23883586
Synthetic lethality; polynucleotide kinase/phosphatase; PTEN; targeted therapy; synthetic sickness
7.  Smoking Induces Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer through HDAC-Mediated Downregulation of E-cadherin 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;11(11):2362-2372.
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that most cases of lung cancers (85-90%) are directly attributable to tobacco smoking. Although association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is well documented, surprisingly little is known regarding the molecular mechanisms of how smoking is involved in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) through epigenetic changes. Here we show that lung cancer patients with a smoking history have low E-cadherin (E-cadh) levels and loss of E-cadh is a poor prognostic factor in smokers. Moreover, the downregulation of E-cadh correlates with the number of pack-years. In an attempt to determine the role of long-term cigarette smoking on EMT, we have observed that treatment of lung cell lines with cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) induces EMT through downregulation of epithelial markers including E-cadh and upregulation of mesenchymal markers. CSC decreases E-cadh expression at the transcriptional level through upregulation of LEF1 and Slug, and knockdown of these two proteins increases E-cadh expression. Importantly, chromatin immunoprecipitation assays suggest that LEF-1 and Slug binding to E-cadh promoter is important for CSC-mediated downregulation of E-cadh. The histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) MS-275 reverses CSC-induced EMT, migration and invasion through the restoration of E-cadh expression. These results suggest that recruitment of HDACs by transcriptional repressors, LEF-1 and Slug is responsible for E-cadh suppression and EMT in cigarette smokers and provide a potential drug target towards the treatment of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3969334  PMID: 22933707
E-cadherin; cigarette smoking; EMT; HDAC inhibitor; lung cancer
8.  Discovery and Characterization of Novel Mutant FLT3 Kinase Inhibitors 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2010;9(9):2468-2477.
For a subpopulation of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients, the constitutively activated tyrosine kinase, mutant FLT3, has emerged as a promising target for therapy. The development of drug resistance, however, is a growing concern for mutant FLT3 inhibitors, such as PKC412. Potential therapeutic benefit can arise from the combination of two structurally diverse inhibitors that target- but bind differently to- the same protein or from two inhibitors with completely different mechanisms of action. Thus, there is a need for identification and development of novel FLT3 inhibitors that have the ability to positively combine with PKC412 or standard chemotherapeutic agents used to treat AML as a way to suppress the development of drug resistance and consequently prolong disease remission. Here, we report the effects of the novel type II ATP competitive inhibitors, HG-7-85-01 and HG-7-86-01, which potently and selectively target mutant FLT3 protein kinase activity, and inhibit the proliferation of cells harboring FLT3-ITD or FLT3 kinase domain point mutants via induction of apoptosis and cell cycle inhibition. Anti-leukemic activity of HG-7-85-01 was demonstrated in vivo to be comparable to that observed with PKC412 in a bioluminescence assay utilizing NCr nude mice harboring Ba/F3-FLT3-ITD-luc+ cells. HG-7-85-01 was also observed to override PKC412 resistance. Finally, HG-7-85-01 and HG-7-86-01 synergized with PKC412 and standard chemotherapeutic agents against mutant PKC412-sensitive and some PKC412-resistant, FLT3-positive cells. Thus, we present a structurally novel class of FLT3 inhibitors that warrants consideration for clinical testing against drug-resistant disease in AML patients.
PMCID: PMC3967795  PMID: 20807780
9.  Aurora A is a negative prognostic factor and a new therapeutic target in human neuroblastoma 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2009;8(8):2461-2469.
We studied expression of the Aurora A gene and its clinical significance in a cohort of neuroblastoma patients. In addition, we investigated the antitumor activity of MLN8054, a novel small-molecule inhibitor of Aurora A kinase, on cultured NB cell lines in vitro. Aurora A mRNA expression was assessed by quantitative real-time PCR in tumor tissue specimens from 67 patients at diagnosis and in 9 human neuroblastoma cell lines. Western blot assays for Aurora A protein were done on tumor tissue of 53 patients. The results were correlated with various prognostic factors of neuroblastoma. Aurora A mRNA and protein expression were identified in 9 of 9 neuroblastoma cell lines. Overexpression of Aurora A mRNA in neuroblastoma tumor tissue is associated with high risk (P = 0.019), high-stage (International Neuroblastoma Staging System III and IV) tumors (P = 0.007), unfavorable histology (P = 0.007), MYCN amplification (P = 0.017), disease relapse (P = 0.019), and decreased progression-free survival (P < 0.0001) but not correlated with the age at diagnosis (P = 0.877). Similarly, Aurora A protein expression also significantly correlated with high risk (P = 0.011), high stage (P = 0.0028), unfavorable histology (P = 0.0006), MYCN amplification (P = 0.0029), and disease relapse (P = 0.044). Small interfering RNA–mediated knockdown of the endogenous Aurora A gene causes a proliferation defect and enhances chemosensitivity in human neuroblastoma cell lines. In support of these observations, the Aurora A kinase inhibitor, MLN8054, markedly inhibited growth of cultured neuroblastoma cell lines through an apoptosis-dependent pathway. Overexpression of Aurora A is associated with disease progression in neuroblastoma. Inhibition of this kinase is a promising modality for neuroblastoma treatment.
PMCID: PMC3966113  PMID: 19671766
10.  Detection of pancreatic cancer tumours and precursor lesions by cathepsin E activity in mouse models 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(5):654-662.
Background and Aims
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the USA. Surgical resection is the only effective treatment; however, only 20% of patients are candidates for surgery. The ability to detect early PDAC would increase the availability of surgery and improve patient survival. This study assessed the feasibility of using the enzymatic activity of cathepsin E (Cath E), a protease highly and specifically expressed in PDAC, as a novel biomarker for the detection of pancreas-bearing pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions and PDAC.
Pancreas from normal, chronic pancreatitis and PDAC patients was assessed for Cath E expression by quantitative real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. Human PDAC xenografts and genetically engineered mouse models (GEMM) of PDAC were injected with a Cath E activity selective fluorescent probe and imaged using an optical imaging system.
The specificity of Cath E expression in PDAC patients and GEMM of pancreatic cancer was confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. The novel probe for Cath E activity specifically detected PDAC in both human xenografts and GEMM in vivo. The Cath E sensitive probe was also able to detect pancreas with PanIN lesions in GEMM before tumour formation.
The elevated Cath E expression in PanIN and pancreatic tumours allowed in-vivo detection of human PDAC xenografts and imaging of pancreas with PanIN and PDAC tumours in GEMM. Our results support the usefulness of Cath E activity as a potential molecular target for PDAC and early detection imaging.
PMCID: PMC3966516  PMID: 23303403
11.  Therapeutic Potential of the Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitor Rucaparib for the Treatment of Sporadic Human Ovarian Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(6):1002-1015.
Here, we investigate the potential role of the PARP inhibitor rucaparib (CO-338, formerly known as AG014699 and PF-01367338) for the treatment of sporadic ovarian cancer. We studied the growth inhibitory effects of rucaparib in a panel of 39 ovarian cancer cell lines that were each characterized for mutation and methylation status of BRCA1/2, baseline gene expression signatures, copy number variations of selected genes, PTEN status, and sensitivity to platinum-based chemotherapy. To study interactions with chemotherapy, we used multiple drug effect analyses and assessed apoptosis, DNA fragmentation, and γ H2AX formation. Concentration-dependent antiproliferative effects of rucaparib were seen in 26 of 39 (67%) cell lines and were not restricted to cell lines with BRCA1/2 mutations. Low expression of other genes involved in homologous repair (e.g., BCCIP, BRCC3, ATM, RAD51L1), amplification of AURKA or EMSY, and response to platinum-based chemotherapy was associated with sensitivity to rucaparib. Drug interactions with rucaparib were synergistic for topotecan, synergistic, or additive for carboplatin, doxorubicin or paclitaxel, and additive for gemcitabine. Synergy was most pronounced when rucaparib was combined with topotecan, which resulted in enhanced apoptosis, DNA fragmentation, and γH2AX formation. Importantly, rucaparib potentiated chemotherapy independent of its activity as a single agent. PARP inhibition may be a useful therapeutic strategy for a wider range of ovarian cancers bearing deficiencies in the homologous recombination pathway other than just BRCA1/2 mutations. These results support further clinical evaluation of rucaparib either as a single agent or as an adjunct to chemotherapy for the treatment of sporadic ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC3963026  PMID: 23729402
12.  Sym004, a novel anti-EGFR antibody mixture augments radiation response in human lung and head and neck cancers 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(12):2772-2781.
Sym004 represents a novel EGFR targeting approach comprised of a mixture of two anti-EGFR antibodies directed against distinct epitopes of EGFR. In contrast to single anti-EGFR antibodies, Sym004 induces rapid and highly efficient degradation of EGFR. In the current study, we examine the capacity of Sym004 to augment radiation response in lung cancer and head and neck (H&N) cancer model systems. We first examined the anti-proliferative effect of Sym004 and confirmed 40∼60% growth inhibition by Sym004. Using clonogenic survival analysis, we identified that Sym004 potently increased cell kill by up to 10-fold following radiation exposure. A significant increase of γH2AX foci resulting from DNA double strand breaks was observed in Sym004-treated cells following exposure to radiation. Mechanistic studies further demonstrated that Sym004 enhanced radiation response via induction of cell cycle arrest followed by induction of apoptosis and cell death reflecting inhibitory effects on DNA damage repair. The expression of several critical molecules involved in radiation-induced DNA damage repair were significantly inhibited by Sym004, including DNAPK, NBS1, RAD50, and BRCA1. Using single and fractionated radiation in human tumor xenograft models, we confirmed that the combination of Sym004 and radiation resulted in significant tumor regrowth delay and superior anti-tumor effects compared to treatment with Sym004 or radiation alone. Taken together, these data reveal the strong capacity of Sym004 to augment radiation response in lung and H&N cancers. The unique action mechanism of Sym004 warrants further investigation as a promising EGFR targeting agent combined with radiotherapy in cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3960925  PMID: 24130052
Sym004; EGFR; Antibody; Radiation; Repair
13.  Autophagy inhibition synergistically enhances anti-cancer efficacy of RAMBA, VN/12-1 in SKBR-3 cells and tumor xenografts 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;11(4):898-908.
VN/12-1 is a novel retinoic acid metabolism blocking agent (RAMBA) discovered in our laboratory. The purpose of the study was to elucidate the molecular mechanism of VN/12-1’s anticancer activity in breast cancer cell lines and in tumor xenografts. We investigated the effects of VN/12-1 on induction of autophagy andapoptosis in SKBR-3 cells. Further, we also examined the impact of pharmacological and genomic inhibition of autophagy on VN/12-1’s anti-cancer activity. Finally, the anti-tumor activity of VN/12-1 was evaluated as a single agent and in combination with autophagy inhibitor chloroquine (CHL) in an SKBR-3 mouse xenograft model. Short exposure of low dose (< 10 µM) of VN/12-1 induced endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS), autophagy and inhibits G1-S phase transition and caused a protective response. However, higher dose of VN/12-1 initiates apoptosis in vitro. Inhibition of autophagy using either pharmacological inhibitors or RNA interference of Beclin-1 enhanced anti-cancer activity induced by VN/12-1 in SKBR-3 cells by triggering apoptosis. Importantly, VN/12-1 (5 mg/kg twice weekly) and the combination of VN/12-1 (5 mg/kg twice weekly) + chloroquine (50 mg/kg twice weekly) significantly suppressed established SKBR-3 tumor growth by 81.4% (p < 0.001 vs. control) and 96.2% (p < 0.001 vs. control), respectively. Our novel findings suggest that VN/12-1 may be useful as a single agent or in combination with autophagy inhibitors for treating human breast cancers. Our data provides a strong rationale for clinical evaluation of VN/12-1 as single agent or in combination with autophagy inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3959769  PMID: 22334589
14.  Quantitative Proteomic profiling identifies protein correlates to EGFR kinase inhibition 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;11(5):1071-1081.
Clinical oncology is hampered by a lack of tools to accurately assess a patient’s response to pathway-targeted therapies. Serum and tumor cell surface proteins whose abundance, or change in abundance in response to therapy, differentiates patients responding to a therapy from patients not-responding to a therapy could be usefully incorporated into tools for monitoring response. Here we posit and then verify that proteomic discovery in in vitro tissue culture models can identify proteins with concordant in vivo behavior and further, can be a valuable approach for identifying tumor-derived serum proteins. In this study we use Stable Isotope Labeling of Amino acids in Culture (SILAC) with proteomic technologies to quantitatively analyze the gefitinib-related protein changes in a model system for sensitivity to EGFR targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors. We identified 3,707 intracellular proteins, 1,276 cell surface proteins, and 879 shed proteins. More than 75% of the proteins identified had quantitative information and a subset consisting of [400] proteins showed a statistically significant change in abundance following gefitinib treatment. We validated the change in expression profile in vitro and screened our panel of response markers in an in vivo isogenic resistant model and demonstrated that these were markers of gefitinib response and not simply markers of phospho-EGFR downregulation. In doing so, we also were able to identify which proteins might be useful as markers for monitoring response and which proteins might be useful as markers for a priori prediction of response.
PMCID: PMC3959865  PMID: 22411897
NSCLC; EGFR; Gefitinib; Proteomics; SILAC
15.  NF-κB2/p52 Induces Resistance to Enzalutamide in Prostate Cancer: Role of Androgen Receptor and Its Variants 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(8):1629-1637.
Resistance of prostate cancer cells to the next-generation antiandrogen enzalutamide may be mediated by a multitude of survival signaling pathways. In this study, we tested whether increased expression of NF-κB2/p52 induces prostate cancer cell resistance to enzalutamide and whether this response is mediated by aberrant androgen receptor (AR) activation and AR splice variant production. LNCaP cells stably expressing NF-κB2/p52 exhibited higher survival rates than controls when treated with enzalutamide. C4-2B and CWR22Rv1 cells chronically treated with enzalutamide were found to express higher levels of NF-κB2/p52. Downregulation of NF-κB2/p52 in CWR22Rv1 cells chronically treated with enzalutamide rendered them more sensitive to cell growth inhibition by enzalutamide. Analysis of the expression levels of AR splice variants by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and Western blotting revealed that LNCaP cells expressing p52 exhibit higher expression of AR splice variants. Downregulation of expression of NF-κB2/p52 in VCaP and CWR22Rv1 cells by short hairpin RNA abolished expression of splice variants. Downregulation of expression of either full-length AR or the splice variant AR-V7 led to an increase in sensitivity of prostate cancer cells to enzalutamide. These results collectively demonstrate that resistance to enzalutamide may be mediated by NF-κB2/p52 via activation of AR and its splice variants.
PMCID: PMC3941973  PMID: 23699654
16.  Tumor suppressor microRNA-493 decreases cell motility and migration ability in human bladder cancer cells by down-regulating RhoC and FZD4 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;11(1):244-253.
The purpose of this study was to identify new tumor suppressor microRNAs (miRs) in bladder cancer, carry out functional analysis of their suppressive role and identify their specific target genes. To explore tumor suppressor miRs in bladder cancer, miR microarray was performed using SV-HUC-1, T24, J82 and TCCSUP cells. Expression of miR-493 in bladder cancer (T24, J82 and TCCSUP) cells was down-regulated compared to normal SV-HUC-1 cells. Also the expression of miR-493 was significantly lower in bladder cancer tissues than in their corresponding non-cancerous tissues. Transfection of miR-493 into T24 or J82 cells decreased their cell growth and migration abilities. On the basis of this result, to identify potential miR-493 target genes, we used target scan algorithms to identify target oncogenes related to invasion and migration. MiR-493 decreased 3′UTR luciferase activity and protein expression of FZD4 and RhoC. MiR-493 also decreased binding of RhoC and Rock-1. MiR-493 is a new tumor suppressor microRNA in bladder cancer and inhibits cell motility through down-regulation of RhoC and FZD4.
PMCID: PMC3940358  PMID: 22057916
urothelial carcinoma; miR-493; RhoC; FZD4
17.  YM-155 potentiates the effect of ABT-737 in malignant human glioma cells via survivin and Mcl-1 downregulation in an EGFR-dependent context 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(3):326-338.
Antiapoptotic proteins are commonly overexpressed in gliomas, contributing to therapeutic resistance. We recently reported that clinically achievable concentrations of the Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor ABT-737 failed to induce apoptosis in glioma cells, with persistent expression of survivin and Mcl-1. To address the role of these mediators in glioma apoptosis resistance, we analyzed the effects of YM-155, a survivin suppressant, on survival on a panel of glioma cell lines. YM-155 inhibited growth, and downregulated survivin and Mcl-1 in a dose- and cell line-dependent manner. Whereas U373, LN18, LNZ428, T98G, LN229, and LNZ308 cells exhibited an IC50 of 10–75 nM, A172 cells were resistant (IC50 ~ 250 nM). No correlation was found between sensitivity to YM-155 and baseline expression of survivin or cIAP-1/cIAP-2/XIAP. However, strong correlation was observed between EGFR activation levels and YM-155 response, which was confirmed using EGFR-transduced versus wild-type cells. Because we postulated that decreasing Mcl-1 expression may enhance glioma sensitivity to ABT-737, we examined whether cotreatment with YM-155 promoted ABT-737 efficacy. YM-155 synergistically enhanced ABT-737-induced cytotoxicity and caspase-dependent apoptosis. Down-regulation of Mcl-1 using shRNA also enhanced ABT-737-inducing killing, confirming an important role for Mcl-1 in mediating synergism between ABT-737 and YM-155. As with YM-155 alone, sensitivity to YM-155 and ABT-737 inversely correlated with EGFR activation status. However, sensitivity could be restored in highly resistant U87-EGFRvIII cells by inhibition of EGFR or its downstream pathways, highlighting the impact of EGFR signaling on Mcl-1 expression and the relevance of combined targeted therapies to overcome the multiple resistance mechanisms of these aggressive tumors.
PMCID: PMC3596447  PMID: 23325792
YM-155; ABT-737; EGFR activation; glioma; synergy; apoptosis
18.  FOX(M1) NEWS – it is cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(3):245-254.
FOXM1 is an oncogenic transcription factor of the Forkhead family and it has a well-defined role in cell proliferation and cell cycle progression. Expression of FOXM1 is excluded in quiescent or differentiated cells, but its level is highly elevated in proliferating and malignant cells. Overexpression of FOXM1 has been reported in more than 20 types of human cancer. In recent years, FOXM1 has been implicated in diverse cellular processes and also a growing body of experimental data has underlined the relevance of FOXM1 in tumorigenesis. Although FOXM1 is under the control of three major tumor suppressors (RB, p53, p19ARF), it is still active in the majority of human cancers. The oncogenic potential of FOXM1 is mainly based on its ability to transcriptionally activate genes that are involved in different facets of cancer development. In this review, the contribution of FOXM1 to each of the hallmarks of cancer will be summarized and discussed.
PMCID: PMC3596487  PMID: 23443798
FOXM1; tumorigenesis; cancer; apoptosis; proliferation
19.  AZD3514: a small molecule that modulates androgen receptor signaling and function in vitro and in vivo 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(9):1715-1727.
Continued androgen receptor (AR) expression and signaling is a key driver in castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) after classical androgen ablation therapies have failed, and therefore remains a target for the treatment of progressive disease. Here we describe the biological characterization of AZD3514, an orally bioavailable drug that inhibits androgen-dependent and–independent AR signaling. AZD3514 modulates AR signaling through two distinct mechanisms, an inhibition of ligand driven nuclear translocation of AR and a down-regulation of receptor levels, both of which were observed in vitro and in vivo. AZD3514 inhibited testosterone-driven seminal vesicle development in juvenile male rats and the growth of androgen-dependent Dunning R3327H prostate tumors in adult rats. Furthermore, this class of compound demonstrated anti-tumor activity in the HID28 mouse model of CRPC in vivo. AZD3514 is currently in Phase I clinical evaluation.
PMCID: PMC3769207  PMID: 23861347
20.  An autocrine loop between TGF-β1 and the transcription factor Brachyury controls the transition of human carcinoma cells into a mesenchymal phenotype 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(9):10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-1007.
The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process associated with the metastasis of solid tumors as well as with the acquisition of resistance to standard anti-cancer modalities. A major initiator of EMT in carcinoma cells is TGF-β, which has been shown to induce the expression of several transcription factors ultimately responsible for initiating and maintaining the EMT program. We have previously identified Brachyury, a T-box transcription factor, as an inducer of mesenchymal features in human carcinoma cells. In this study, a potential link between Brachyury and TGF-β signaling has been investigated. The results demonstrate for the first time that Brachyury expression is enhanced during TGF-β1-induced EMT in various human cancer cell lines, and that a positive feedback loop is established between Brachyury and TGF-β1 in mesenchymal-like tumor cells. In this context, Brachyury overexpression is shown to promote upregulation of TGF-β1 at the mRNA and protein levels, an effect mediated by activation of the TGF-β1 promoter in the presence of high levels of Brachyury. Furthermore, inhibition of TGF-β1 signaling by a small molecule inhibitor of TGF-β receptor type I decreases Brachyury expression, induces a mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, and renders cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy. This study thus has implications for the future development of clinical trials using TGF-β inhibitors in combination with other anti-cancer agents.
PMCID: PMC3815539  PMID: 23783250
Brachyury; TGF-β; EMT; chemotherapy resistance; cytokine loops
21.  Identification of Predictive Markers of Response to the MEK1/2 Inhibitor Selumetinib (AZD6244) in K-ras–Mutated Colorectal Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2010;9(12):3351-3362.
Mutant K-ras activity leads to the activation of the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway in approximately 44% of colorectal cancer (CRC) tumors. Accordingly, several inhibitors of the MEK pathway are under clinical evaluation in several malignancies including CRC. The aim of this study was to develop and characterize predictive biomarkers of response to the MEK1/2 inhibitor AZD6244 in CRC in order to maximize the clinical utility of this agent. Twenty-seven human CRC cell lines were exposed to AZD6244 and classified according to the IC50 value as sensitive (≤0.1 µmol/L) or resistant (>1 µmol/L). All cell lines were subjected to immunoblotting for effector proteins, K-ras/BRAF mutation status, and baseline gene array analysis. Further testing was done in cell line xenografts and K-ras mutant CRC human explants models to develop a predictive genomic classifier for AZD6244. The most sensitive and resistant cell lines were subjected to differential gene array and pathway analyses. Members of the Wnt signaling pathway were highly overexpressed in cell lines resistant to AZD6244 and seem to be functionally involved in mediating resistance by shRNA knockdown studies. Baseline gene array data from CRC cell lines and xenografts were used to develop a k-top scoring pair (k-TSP) classifier, which predicted with 71% accuracy which of a test set of patient-derived K-ras mutant CRC explants would respond to AZD6244, providing the basis for a patient-selective clinical trial. These results also indicate that resistance to AZD6244 may be mediated, in part, by the upregulation of the Wnt pathway, suggesting potential rational combination partners for AZD6244 in CRC.
PMCID: PMC3931013  PMID: 20923857
22.  Re-expression of tumor suppressor, sFRP1, leads to antitumor synergy of combined HDAC and methyltransferase inhibitors in chemoresistant cancers 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;11(10):2105-2115.
Metastatic solid tumors are aggressive and mostly drug resistant leading to few treatment options and poor prognosis as seen with clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Therefore the identification of new therapeutic regimes for the treatment of metastatic disease is desirable. ccRCC and TNBC cell lines were treated with the HDAC inhibitor romidepsin and the methyltransferase inhibitor decitabine, two epigenetic modifying drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of various hematologic malignancies. Cell proliferation analysis, flow cytometry, quantitative PCR and immuno-blotting techniques were utilized to evaluate the antitumor synergy of this drug combination and identify the re-expression of epigenetically silenced tumor suppressor genes. Combinatorial treatment of metastatic TNBC and stage 4 ccRCC cell lines with romidepsin/decitabine leads to synergistic inhibition of cell growth and induction of apoptosis above levels of individual drug treatments alone. Synergistic re-expression of the tumor suppressor gene secreted frizzled-related protein one (sFRP1) was observed in combinatorial drug treated groups. Silencing sFRP1 (shRNA) prior to combinatorial drug treatment demonstrated that sFRP1 mediates the growth inhibitory and apoptotic activity of combined romidepsin/decitabine. Furthermore, addition of recombinant sFRP1 to ccRCC or TNBC cells inhibits cell growth in a dose-dependent manner through the induction of apoptosis identifying that epigenetic silencing of sFRP1 contributes to renal and breast cancer cell survival. Combinatorial treatment with romidepsin and decitabine in drug resistant tumors is a promising treatment strategy. Moreover, recombinant sFRP1 may be a novel therapeutic strategy for cancers with suppressed sFRP1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3928542  PMID: 22826467
Triple negative breast cancer; clear cell renal cell carcinoma; methyltransferase inhibitor; histone deacetylase inhibitor; secreted frizzled-related protein 1
23.  Pharmacological blockade of FAK autophosphorylation decreases human glioblastoma tumor growth and synergizes with temozolomide 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;12(2):162-172.
Malignant gliomas are characterized by aggressive tumor growth with a mean survival of 15–18 months and frequently developed resistance to temozolomide. Therefore, strategies that sensitize glioma cells to temozolomide have a high translational impact. We have studied focal adhesion kinase (FAK), a tyrosine kinase and emerging therapeutic target that is known to be highly expressed and activated in glioma. In this report we tested the FAK autophosphorylation inhibitor, Y15 in DBTRG and U87 glioblastoma cells. Y15 significantly decreased viability and clonogenicity in a dose-dependent manner, increased detachment in a dose and time-dependent manner, caused apoptosis and inhibited cell invasion in both cell lines. In addition, Y15 treatment decreased autophosphorylation of FAK in a dose-dependent manner and changed cell morphology by causing cell rounding in DBTRG and U87 cells. Administration of Y15 significantly decreased subcutaneous DBTRG tumor growth with decreased Y397-FAK autophosphorylation, activated caspase-3 and PARP. Y15 was administered in an orthotopic glioma model, leading to an increase in mouse survival. The combination of Y15 with temozolomide was more effective than either agent alone in decreasing viability and activating caspase-8 in DBTRG and U87 cells in vitro. In addition, the combination of Y15 and temozolomide synergistically blocked U87 brain tumor growth in vivo. Thus, pharmacologic blockade of FAK autophosphorylation with the oral administration of a small molecule inhibitor Y15 has a potential to be an effective therapy approach for glioblastoma either alone or in combination with chemotherapy agents such as temozolomide.
PMCID: PMC3570595  PMID: 23243059
Focal Adhesion Kinase; Y397 site; autophosphorylation; brain; glioblastoma
24.  Triptolide inhibits MDM2 and induces apoptosis in acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells through a p53-independent pathway 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;12(2):184-194.
Triptolide, a natural product derived from the Chinese plant Tripterygium wilfordii, is reported to exhibit antitumor effects in a broad range of cancers. The antitumor activity of triptolide is associated with its biological activities, as it inhibits various pro-proliferative or anti-apoptotic factors that are dominantly expressed in given types of cancer cells. Herein, we demonstrate that triptolide induced apoptosis in a subgroup of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells overexpressing the MDM2 oncoprotein, by inhibiting MDM2 expression. More specifically, we found that triptolide inhibited MDM2 at the transcriptional level by suppressing its mRNA synthesis. This MDM2 inhibition led in turn to increased levels of p53 protein; however, p53 functionality was not activated, due to the fact that triptolide-treated cells lacked induction of p21 and PUMA as well as in G1 cell-cycle arrest. Triptolide-mediated downregulation of MDM2 increased inhibition of XIAP, its translational target, in a manner distinct from reactions to cellular stress and DNA-damaging agent ionizing radiation (IR) that induce XIAP due to p53-activated MDM2. These results suggest that increased inhibition of XIAP due to downregulation of MDM2 may play a critical role in triptolide-induced apoptosis in MDM2-overexpressing cancers.
PMCID: PMC3570632  PMID: 23243057
25.  EGFR Exon 20 Insertion Mutations in Lung Adenocarcinomas: Prevalence, Molecular Heterogeneity, and Clinicopathologic Characteristics 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(2):220-229.
In contrast to other primary EGFR mutations in lung adenocarcinomas, insertions in exon 20 of EGFR have been generally associated with resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Their molecular spectrum, clinicopathologic characteristics and prevalence are not well established. Tumors harboring EGFR exon 20 insertions were identified through an algorithmic screen of 1500 lung adenocarcinomas. Cases were first tested for common mutations in EGFR (exons 19 and 21) and KRAS (exon 2) and, if negative, further analyzed for EGFR exon 20 insertions. All samples underwent extended genotyping for other driver mutations in EGFR, KRAS, BRAF, NRAS, PIK3CA, MEK1 and AKT by mass spectrometry; a subset was evaluated for ALK rearrangements. We identified 33 EGFR exon 20 insertion cases (2.2%, 95% CI 1.6 to 3.1%), all mutually exclusive with mutations in the other genes tested (except PIK3CA). They were more common among never-smokers (p<0.0001). There was no association with age, sex, race, or stage. Morphologically, tumors were similar to those with common EGFR mutations, but with frequent solid histology. Insertions were highly variable in position and size, ranging from 3 to 12bp, resulting in 13 different insertions which, by molecular modeling, are predicted to have potentially different effects on erlotinib binding. EGFR exon 20 insertion testing identifies a distinct subset of lung adenocarcinomas, accounting for at least 9% of all EGFR mutated cases, representing the third most common type of EGFR mutation after exon 19 deletions and L858R. Insertions are structurally heterogeneous with potential implications for response to EGFR inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3714231  PMID: 23371856
EGFR exon 20; EGFR; epidermal growth factor receptor; lung adenocarcinoma; driver oncogenes

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