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1.  3-Ketone-4,6-diene ceramide analogs exclusively induce apoptosis in chemo-resistant cancer cells 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2014;22(4):1412-1420.
Multidrug-resistance is a major cause of cancer chemotherapy failure in clinical treatment. Evidence shows that multidrug-resistant cancer cells are as sensitive as corresponding regular cancer cells under the exposure to anticancer ceramide analogs. In this work we designed five new ceramide analogs with different backbones, in order to test the hypothesis that extending the conjugated system in ceramide analogs would lead to an increase of their anticancer activity and selectivity towards resistant cancer cells. The analogs with the 3-ketone-4,6-diene backbone show the highest apoptosis-inducing efficacy. The most potent compound, analog 406, possesses higher pro-apoptotic activity in chemo-resistant cell lines MCF-7TN-R and NCI/ADR-RES than the corresponding chemo-sensitive cell lines MCF-7 and OVCAR-8, respectively. However, this compound shows the same potency in inhibiting the growth of another pair of chemo-sensitive and chemo-resistant cancer cells, MCF-7 and MCF-7/Dox. Mechanism investigations indicate that analog 406 can induce apoptosis in chemo-resistant cancer cells through the mitochondrial pathway. Cellular glucosylceramide synthase assay shows that analog 406 does not interrupt glucosylcer-amide synthase in chemo-resistant cancer cell NCI/ADR-RES. These findings suggest that due to certain intrinsic properties, ceramide analogs’ pro-apoptotic activity is not disrupted by the normal drug-resistance mechanisms, leading to their potential use for overcoming cancer multidrug-resistance.
PMCID: PMC3967587  PMID: 24457089
Ceramide; Glucosylceramide synthase (GCS); P-glycoprotein; Multidrug resistance; Anti-cancer drugs
2.  Preferential Star Strand Biogenesis of Pre-miR-24-2 Targets PKC-alpha and Suppresses Cell Survival in MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells 
Molecular carcinogenesis  2012;53(1):38-48.
microRNAs (miRNA) are regulators of cellular pathways and alterations of normal miRNA expression levels have been shown to increase tumorigenesis. miR-24 has been demonstrated as having both tumor suppressive and oncogenic properties depending on cell context. Here we demonstrate a possible role for pre-miR-24-2 as a tumor suppressor in the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line through the preferential processing of mature miR-24-2* over miR-24. Specifically, we show that the ectopic expression of miR-24-2* in MCF-7 breast cancer cells results in a suppression of cellular survival both in vivo and in vitro. Notably, the overexpression of miR-24-2* results in a dampening of cell survival through the targeted suppression of PKCα. Additionally, a similar biological change is observed in vivo where MCF-7 cells overexpressing pre-miR-24-2 have decreased tumorigenicity and tumor incidence. Taken together our data demonstrate that when overexpressed biogenesis of the pre-miR-24-2 favors miR-24-2* in the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line and suggests a tumor suppressive role for miR-24-2* observed through the inhibition of PKCα-mediated cellular survival.
PMCID: PMC4030540  PMID: 22911661
miRNA maturation; PKCα cellular survival; breast cancer; strand preference; miR-24-2*
3.  Antiestrogenic Activity of Flavonoid Phytochemicals Mediated via the c-Jun N-terminal Protein Kinase Pathway 
Flavonoid phytochemicals act as both agonists and antagonists of the human estrogen receptors (ERs). While a number of these compounds act by directly binding to the ER, certain phytochemicals, such as the flavonoid compounds chalcone and flavone, elicit antagonistic effects on estrogen signaling independent of direct receptor binding. Here we demonstrate both chalcone and flavone function as cell type-specific selective ER modulators. In MCF-7 breast carcinoma cells chalcone and flavone suppress ERα activity through stimulation of the stress-activated members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family: c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)1 and JNK2. The use of dominant-negative mutants of JNK1 or JNK2 in stable transfected cells established that the antiestrogenic effects of chalcone and flavone required intact JNK signaling. We further show that constitutive activation of the JNK pathway partially suppresses estrogen (E2)-mediated gene expression in breast, but not endometrial carcinoma cells. Our results demonstrate a role for stress-activated MAPKs in the cell type-specific regulation of ERα function.
PMCID: PMC4083692  PMID: 22634477
flavonoids; phytoestrogens; estrogen receptor; mitogen-activated protein kinase; antiestrogens; c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)
4.  Dual inhibition of sphingosine kinase isoforms ablates TNF-induced drug resistance 
Oncology reports  2012;27(6):1779-1786.
Recent research has demonstrated that aberrant sphingolipid signaling is an important mechanism of chemo-resistance in solid tumors. Sphingosine kinase (Sphk), the primary enzyme metabolizing the sphingolipid ceramide into sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), is a primary mediator of breast cancer promotion, survival and chemoresistance. However, to date the mechanism of Sphk-mediated drug resistance is poorly understood. Using the dual sphingosine kinase isozyme inhibitor, SKI-II (4-[4-(4-chloro-phenyl)-thiazol-2-ylamino]-phenol), we explored the effects of sphingosine kinase inhibition on multi-drug-resistant breast cancer cells. We demonstrate that SKI-II alters endogenous sphingolipid signaling and decreases cancer proliferation, survival and viability. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of Sphk1/2 induced intrinsic apoptosis in these cells through modulation of the NF-κB pathway. SKI-II decreases NF-κB transcriptional activity through altered phosphorylation of the p65 subunit. Taken together, these results suggest that Sphk may be a promising therapeutic target in chemoresistant cancers.
PMCID: PMC4028227  PMID: 22469881
sphingolipids; chemoresistance; sphingosine kinase; NF-κB; breast cancer; ceramide; experimental therapeutics; sphingosine-1-phosphate
5.  Pharmacological inhibition of sphingosine kinase isoforms alters estrogen receptor signaling in human breast cancer 
Recently, crosstalk between sphingolipid signaling pathways and steroid hormones has been illuminated as a possible therapeutic target. Sphingosine kinase (SK), the key enzyme metabolizing pro-apoptotic ceramide to pro-survival sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), is a promising therapeutic target for solid tumor cancers. In this study, we examined the ability of pharmacological inhibition of S1P formation to block estrogen signaling as a targeted breast cancer therapy. We found that the Sphk1/2 selective inhibitor (SK inhibitor (SKI))-II, blocked breast cancer viability, clonogenic survival and proliferation. Furthermore, SKI-II dose-dependently decreased estrogen-stimulated estrogen response element transcriptional activity and diminished mRNA levels of the estrogen receptor (ER)-regulated genes progesterone receptor and steroid derived factor-1. This inhibitor binds the ER directly in the antagonist ligand-binding domain. Taken together, our results suggest that SKIs have the ability to act as novel ER signaling inhibitors in breast carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC4007162  PMID: 21321095
6.  Sphingosine Kinase Isoforms as a Therapeutic Target in Endocrine Therapy Resistant Luminal and Basal-A Breast Cancer 
Sphingosine kinase signaling has become of increasing interest as a cancer target in recent years. Two sphingosine kinase inhibitors, SKI-II and ABC294640, are promising as potential breast cancer therapies. However, evidence for their therapeutic properties in specific breast cancer subtypes is currently lacking. In this study, we characterize these drugs in luminal, endocrine resistant (MDA-MB-361) and Basal-A, triple negative (MDA-MB-468) breast cancer cells and compare them with previously published data in other breast cancer cell models. Both SKI-II and ABC294640 demonstrated greater efficacy in Basal-A compared to luminal breast cancer. ABC294640, in particular, induced apoptosis and blocked proliferation both in vitro and in vivo in this triple negative breast cancer system. Furthermore, Sphk expression promotes survival and endocrine therapy resistance in previously sensitive breast cancer cells. Taken together, these results characterize sphingosine kinase inhibitors across breast cancer cell systems and demonstrate their therapeutic potential as anti-cancer agents.
PMCID: PMC3954577  PMID: 22859737
sphingolipids; chemoresistance; sphingosine kinase; breast cancer; ceramide; experimental therapeutics; sphingosine-1-phosphate
7.  Inhibition of p38-MAPK alters SRC coactivation and estrogen receptor phosphorylation 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2012;13(11):1026-1033.
The p38 mitogen activated protein kinase pathway (MAPK) is known to promote cell survival, endocrine therapy resistance and hormone independent breast cancer cell proliferation. Therefore, we utilized the novel p38 inhibitor RWJ67657 to investigate the relevance of targeting this pathway in the ER+ breast cancer cell line MCF-7. Our results show that RWJ67657 inhibits both basal and estrogen stimulated phosphorylation of p38α, resulting in decreased activation of the downstream p38α targets hsp27 and MAPAPK. Furthermore, inhibition of p38α by RWJ67657 blocks clonogenic survival of MCF-7 cells with little effect on non-cancerous breast epithelial cells. Even though p38α is known to phosphorylate ERα at residue within ER’s hinge region at Thr311, resulting in increased ERα transcriptional activation, our results suggest RWJ67657 inhibits the p38α-induced activation of ER by targeting both the AF-1 and AF-2 activation domains within ERα. We further show that RWJ67657 decreases the transcriptional activity of the ER coactivators SRC-1, SRC-2 and SRC-3. Taken together, our results strongly suggest that in addition to phosphorylating Thr311 within ERα, p38α indirectly activates the ER by phosphorylation and stimulation of the known ERα coactivators, SRC-1, -2 and-3. Overall, our data underscore the therapeutic potential of targeting the p38 MAPK pathway in the treatment of ER+ breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3461809  PMID: 22825349
p38; mitogen-activated protein kinase; estrogen receptor; breast cancer; SRC; drug discovery
8.  MEK5/ERK5 Signaling Suppresses Estrogen Receptor Expression and Promotes Hormone-Independent Tumorigenesis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69291.
Endocrine resistance and metastatic progression are primary causes of treatment failure in breast cancer. While mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are known to promote ligand-independent cell growth, the role of the MEK5-ERK5 pathway in the progression of clinical breast carcinoma remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrated increased ERK5 activation in 30 of 39 (76.9%) clinical tumor samples, as well as across breast cancer cell systems. Overexpression of MEK5 in MCF-7 cells promoted both hormone-dependent and hormone-independent tumorigenesis in vitro and in vivo and conferred endocrine therapy resistance to previously sensitive breast cancer cells. Expression of MEK5 suppressed estrogen receptor (ER)α, but not ER-β protein levels, and abrogated downstream estrogen response element (ERE) transcriptional activity and ER-mediated gene transcription. Global gene expression changes associated with upregulation of MEK5 included increased activation of ER-α independent growth signaling pathways and promotion of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers. Taken together, our findings show that the MEK5-ERK5 pathway mediates progression to an ER(−), mesenchymal and endocrine therapy resistant phenotype. Given the need for new clinical therapeutic targets, our results demonstrate the therapeutic potential of targeting the MEK5-ERK5 pathway in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3739787  PMID: 23950888
9.  Gαo potentiates estrogen receptor α activity via the ERK signaling pathway 
The Journal of endocrinology  2012;214(1):45-54.
The estrogen receptor α (ERα) is a transcription factor that mediates the biological effects of 17β-estradiol (E2). ERα transcriptional activity is also regulated by cytoplasmic signaling cascades. Here, several Gα protein subunits were tested for their ability to regulate ERα activity. Reporter assays revealed that overexpression of a constitutively active Gαo protein subunit potentiated ERα activity in the absence and presence of E2. Transient transfection of the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 showed that Gαo augments the transcription of several ERα-regulated genes. Western blots of HEK293T cells transfected with ER±Gαo revealed that Gαo stimulated phosphorylation of ERK 1/2 and subsequently increased the phosphorylation of ERα on serine 118. In summary, our results show that Gαo, through activation of the MAPK pathway, plays a role in the regulation of ERα activity.
PMCID: PMC3614348  PMID: 22562654
10.  Inhibition of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase alters microRNA expression and reverses epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition 
International Journal of Oncology  2013;42(4):1139-1150.
Acquired chemoresistance and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) are hallmarks of cancer progression and of increasing clinical relevance. We investigated the role of miRNA and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling in the progression of breast cancer to a drug-resistant and mesenchymal phenotype. We demonstrate that acquired death receptor resistance results in increased hormone-independent tumorigenesis compared to hormone-sensitive parental cells. Utilizing global miRNA gene expression profiling, we identified miRNA alterations associated with the development of death receptor resistance and EMT progression. We further investigated the role of p38 MAPK in this process, showing dose-dependent inactivation of p38 by its inhibitor RWJ67657 and decreased downstream ATF and NF-κB signaling. Pharmacological inhibition of p38 also decreased chemoresistant cancer tumor growth in xenograft animal models. Interestingly, inhibition of p38 partially reversed the EMT changes found in this cell system, as illustrated by decreased gene expression of the EMT markers Twist, Snail, Slug and ZEB and protein and mRNA levels of Twist, a known EMT promoter, concomitant with decreased N-cadherin protein. RWJ67657 treatment also altered the expression of several miRNAs known to promote therapeutic resistance, including miR-200, miR-303, miR-302, miR-199 and miR-328. Taken together, our results demonstrate the roles of multiple microRNAs and p38 signaling in the progression of cancer and demonstrate the therapeutic potential of targeting the p38 MAPK pathway for reversing EMT in an advanced tumor phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3622654  PMID: 23403951
p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase; epithelial-tomesenchymal transition; breast cancer; drug discovery
12.  Pharmacology and anti-tumor activity of RWJ67657, a novel inhibitor of p38 mitogen activated protein kinase 
Endocrine therapy resistance is a primary cause of clinical breast cancer treatment failure. The p38 mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway is known to promote ligand independent tumor growth and resistance to endocrine therapy. In this study, we investigated the therapeutic potential of the p38 inhibitor RWJ67657 in the treatment of tamoxifen resistant MDA-MB-361 cells. RWJ67657 dose-dependently decreased both basal and stimulated activation of p38 MAPK signaling in this drug resistant cell system. Decreased activation of p38 by RWJ67657 resulted in inhibition of the downstream p38 targets hsp27 and MAPKAPK. Diminished p38 signaling resulted in inhibition of p38-medated gene transcription. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of p38 by RWJ67657 decreased biological effects of p38, including ER-mediated gene expression and clonogenic survival in a dose-dependent manner. Animal studies revealed significantly decreased p38 signaling in vivo following exposure to RWJ67657. Treatment with the inhibitor markedly decreased phosphorylation of p38 in MDA-MB-361 tumors, leading to decreased transcription of both Fra-1 and progesterone receptor. Utilizing well-established xenograft tumor models, we demonstrated that RWJ67657 exhibits potent anti-tumor properties. Treatment with RWJ67657 markedly decreased tamoxifen resistant tumor growth, both in the presence and absence of estrogen. Taken together, our findings demonstrate the therapeutic potential of targeting the p38-MAPK signaling cascade in the treatment of endocrine resistant breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3410584  PMID: 22860234
p38; mitogen-activated protein kinase; endocrine resistance; breast cancer; drug discovery; cancer biology; hormone independence; kinase inhibitors; estrogen receptor; gene transcription
13.  Targeting NFκB mediated breast cancer chemoresistance through selective inhibition of sphingosine kinase-2 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2011;11(7):678-689.
Resistance to chemotherapy remains a significant obstacle in the treatment of hormone-independent breast cancer. Recent evidence suggests that altered sphingolipid signaling through increased sphingosine kinase activity may be an important mediator of breast cancer drug resistance. Sphingosine kinase-1 (Sphk1) is a proposed key regulator of breast cancer tumorigenesis, proliferation and resistance. There is, however, conflicting data on the role of sphingosine kinase-2 (Sphk2) in cancer biology and resistance, with some suggesting that Sphk2 has an opposing role to that of Sphk1. Here, we studied the effects of the novel selective Sphk2 inhibitor, ABC294640 (3-(4-chlorophenyl)-adamantane-1-carboxylic acid (pyridin-4-ylmethyl) amide), on human breast cancer. ABC294640 blocked both viability and survival at low micromolar IC50 concentrations in the endocrine therapy-resistant MDA-MB-231 and chemoresistant MCF-7TN-R cell systems. Treatment with the inhibitor significantly reduced proliferation, as seen in immunofluorescence staining of Ki-67 in vitro. Interestingly, pharmacological inhibition of Sphk2 induced apoptosis through the intrinsic programmed cell death pathway. Furthermore, ABC294640 also diminished NFκB survival signaling, through decreased activation of the Ser536 phosphorylation site on the p65 subunit. Xenografts of MCF-7TN-R cells growing in immunocompromised mice were utilized to validate the therapeutic efficacy of the sphingosine kinase-2 inhibitor. Treatment with 50 mg of ABC294640/kg completely blocked tumor volume in this model. These results indicate that pharmacological inhibition of Sphk2 with the orally bioavailable selective inhibitor, ABC294640, has therapeutic potential in the treatment of chemoand endocrine therapy-resistant breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3084971  PMID: 21307639
sphingolipids; chemoresistance; sphingosine kinase; NFkappaB; breast cancer; ceramide; TNF; sphingosine-1-phosphate
14.  Corticosteroids in the Treatment of Alcohol-Induced Rhabdomyolysis 
Mayo Clinic Proceedings  2011;86(10):1005-1007.
Rhabdomyolysis is a common condition with potentially devastating complications, including acute renal failure, arrhythmias, and death. The standard of care is to use supportive measures such as aggressive fluid repletion to prevent kidney injury and attenuate clinical symptoms. Besides fluid management, few therapeutic options are available for the treatment of acute rhabdomyolysis. As a result, acute and refractory cases remain difficult to manage. We report a case of alcohol-induced rhabdomyolysis that responded dramatically to high-dose corticosteroids. A 55-year-old man presented to the emergency department for evaluation of diffuse muscle pain, weakness, and darkening urine. On admission, his creatine kinase (CK) level was 50,022 U/L. Despite aggressive fluid repletion, his CK level continued to increase, peaking at 401,280 U/L with a concomitant increase in muscle pain and urine darkening. On administration of high-dose corticosteroids, clinical symptoms and CK levels improved dramatically, and the patient was discharged 36 hours later with complete resolution of muscle pain and weakness. Given their low toxicity profile, short-term high-dose corticosteroids may be a valid treatment option for recurrent rhabdomyolysis unresponsive to fluid repletion.
PMCID: PMC3184031  PMID: 21964178
15.  Effects of human mesenchymal stem cells on ER-positive human breast carcinoma cells mediated through ER-SDF-1/CXCR4 crosstalk 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:295.
Adult human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) have been shown to home to sites of carcinoma and affect biological processes, including tumour growth and metastasis. Previous findings have been conflicting and a clear understanding of the effects of hMSCs on cancer remains to be established. Therefore, we set out to investigate the impact of hMSCs on the oestrogen receptor positive, hormone-dependent breast carcinoma cell line MCF-7.
In this study, we show the effects of hMSCs on cancer cells are mediated through a secreted factor(s) which are enhanced by cancer cell-hMSC contact/communication. In addition to enhanced proliferation when in co-culture with hMSCs, MCF-7 cells were found to have increased migration potential in vitro. Inhibition of ER signalling by the pure anti-oestrogen ICI 182,780 decreased the effect of hMSCs on MCF-7 cell proliferation and migration supporting a role for ER signalling in the hMSC/MCF-7 cell interaction. Additionally, hMSCs have been shown to secrete a wide variety of growth factors and chemokines including stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1). This coupled with the knowledge that SDF-1 is an ER-mediated gene linked with hormone-independence and metastasis led to the investigation of the SDF-1/CXCR4 signalling axis in hMSC-MCF-7 cell interaction. Experiments revealed an increase in SDF-1 gene expression both in vivo and in vitro when MCF-7 cells were cultured with hMSCs. SDF-1 treatment of MCF-7 cells alone increased proliferation to just below that seen with hMSC co-culture. Additionally, blocking SDF-1 signalling using a CXCR4-specific inhibitor decreased hMSC induced proliferation and migration of MCF-7. However, the combined treatment of ICI and AMD3100 reduced MCF-7 cell proliferation and migration below control levels, indicating targeting both the ER and CXCR4 pathways is effective in decreasing the hMSCs induction of MCF-7 cell proliferation and migration.
The sum of these data reveals the relationship between tumour microenvironment and tumour growth and progression. Better understanding of the mechanisms involved in this tumour stroma cell interaction may provide novel targets for the development of treatment strategies for oestrogen receptor positive, hormone-independent, and endocrine-resistant breast carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC2998478  PMID: 21087507

Results 1-15 (15)