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1.  Functions and Therapeutic Roles of Exosomes in Cancer 
Frontiers in Oncology  2014;4:127.
The role of exosomes in cancer development has become the focus of much research, due to the many emerging roles possessed by exosomes. These micro-vesicles that are ubiquitously released in to the extracellular milieu, have been found to regulate immune system function, particularly in tumorigenesis, as well as conditioning future metastatic sites for the attachment and growth of tumor tissue. Through an interaction with a range of host tissue, exosomes are able to generate a pro-tumor environment that is essential for carcinogenesis. Herein, we discuss the contents of exosomes and their contribution to tumorigenesis, as well as their role in chemotherapeutic resistance and the development of novel cancer treatments and the identification of cancer biomarkers.
doi:10.3389/fonc.2014.00127
PMCID: PMC4034415  PMID: 24904836
exosome; cancer; metastatic niche; chemotherapeutic resistance; biomarker
2.  Vascular endothelial growth factor is an autocrine growth factor, signaling through neuropilin-1 in non-small cell lung cancer 
Molecular Cancer  2015;14:45.
Background
The VEGF pathway has become an important therapeutic target in lung cancer, where VEGF has long been established as a potent pro-angiogenic growth factor expressed by many types of tumors. While Bevacizumab (Avastin) has proven successful in increasing the objective tumor response rate and in prolonging progression and overall survival in patients with NSCLC, the survival benefit is however relatively short and the majority of patients eventually relapse. The current use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors alone and in combination with chemotherapy has been underwhelming, highlighting an urgent need for new targeted therapies. In this study, we examined the mechanisms of VEGF-mediated survival in NSCLC cells and the role of the Neuropilin receptors in this process.
Methods
NSCLC cells were screened for expression of VEGF and its receptors. The effects of recombinant VEGF and its blockade on lung tumor cell proliferation and cell cycle were examined. Phosphorylation of Akt and Erk1/2 proteins was examined by high content analysis and confocal microscopy. The effects of silencing VEGF on cell proliferation and survival signaling were also assessed. A Neuropilin-1 stable-transfected cell line was generated. Cell growth characteristics in addition to pAkt and pErk1/2 signaling were studied in response to VEGF and its blockade. Tumor growth studies were carried out in nude mice following subcutaneous injection of NP1 over-expressing cells.
Results
Inhibition of the VEGF pathway with anti-VEGF and anti-VEGFR-2 antibodies or siRNA to VEGF, NP1 and NP2 resulted in growth inhibition of NP1 positive tumor cell lines associated with down-regulation of PI3K and MAPK kinase signaling. Stable transfection of NP1 negative cells with NP1 induced proliferation in vitro, which was further enhanced by exogenous VEGF. In vivo, NP1 over-expressing cells significantly increased tumor growth in xenografts compared to controls.
Conclusions
Our data demonstrate that VEGF is an autocrine growth factor in NSCLC signaling, at least in part, through NP1. Targeting this VEGF receptor may offer potential as a novel therapeutic approach and also support the evaluation of the role of NP1 as a biomarker predicting sensitivity or resistance to VEGF and VEGFR-targeted therapies in the clinical arena.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12943-015-0310-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12943-015-0310-8
PMCID: PMC4392793  PMID: 25889301
NSCLC; VEGF; Neuropilins; Survival; Cell signaling
3.  Néstor-Guillermo Progeria Syndrome: a biochemical insight into Barrier-to-Autointegration Factor 1, alanine 12 threonine mutation 
BMC Molecular Biology  2014;15:27.
Background
Premature aging syndromes recapitulate many aspects of natural aging and provide an insight into this phenomenon at a molecular and cellular level. The progeria syndromes appear to cause rapid aging through disruption of normal nuclear structure. Recently, a coding mutation (c.34G > A [p.A12T]) in the Barrier to Autointegration Factor 1 (BANF1) gene was identified as the genetic basis of Néstor-Guillermo Progeria syndrome (NGPS). This mutation was described to cause instability in the BANF1 protein, causing a disruption of the nuclear envelope structure.
Results
Here we demonstrate that the BANF1 A12T protein is indeed correctly folded, stable and that the observed phenotype, is likely due to the disruption of the DNA binding surface of the A12T mutant. We demonstrate, using biochemical assays, that the BANF1 A12T protein is impaired in its ability to bind DNA while its interaction with nuclear envelope proteins is unperturbed. Consistent with this, we demonstrate that ectopic expression of the mutant protein induces the NGPS cellular phenotype, while the protein localizes normally to the nuclear envelope.
Conclusions
Our study clarifies the role of the A12T mutation in NGPS patients, which will be of importance for understanding the development of the disease.
doi:10.1186/s12867-014-0027-z
PMCID: PMC4266902  PMID: 25495845
Progeria; Nuclear envelope; Aging
4.  Chemotherapeutic Compounds Targeting the DNA Double-Strand Break Repair Pathways: The Good, the Bad, and the Promising 
The repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is a critical cellular mechanism that exists to ensure genomic stability. DNA DSBs are the most deleterious type of insult to a cell’s genetic material and can lead to genomic instability, apoptosis, or senescence. Incorrectly repaired DNA DSBs have the potential to produce chromosomal translocations and genomic instability, potentially leading to cancer. The prevalence of DNA DSBs in cancer due to unregulated growth and errors in repair opens up a potential therapeutic window in the treatment of cancers. The cellular response to DNA DSBs is comprised of two pathways to ensure DNA breaks are repaired: homologous recombination and non-homologous end joining. Identifying chemotherapeutic compounds targeting proteins involved in these DNA repair pathways has shown promise as a cancer therapy for patients, either as a monotherapy or in combination with genotoxic drugs. From the beginning, there have been a number of chemotherapeutic compounds that have yielded successful responses in the clinic, a number that have failed (CGK-733 and iniparib), and a number of promising targets for future studies identified. This review looks in detail at how the cell responds to these DNA DSBs and investigates the chemotherapeutic avenues that have been and are currently being explored to target this repair process.
doi:10.3389/fonc.2014.00086
PMCID: PMC4001069  PMID: 24795863
DNA damage repair; chemotherapeutic compounds; DNA damage response; cancer; radiosensitize; radioprotective; DNA double-strand break
5.  Genome Stability Pathways in Head and Neck Cancers 
Genomic instability underlies the transformation of host cells toward malignancy, promotes development of invasion and metastasis and shapes the response of established cancer to treatment. In this review, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of genomic stability in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC), with an emphasis on DNA repair pathways. HNSCC is characterized by distinct profiles in genome stability between similarly staged cancers that are reflected in risk, treatment response and outcomes. Defective DNA repair generates chromosomal derangement that can cause subsequent alterations in gene expression, and is a hallmark of progression toward carcinoma. Variable functionality of an increasing spectrum of repair gene polymorphisms is associated with increased cancer risk, while aetiological factors such as human papillomavirus, tobacco and alcohol induce significantly different behaviour in induced malignancy, underpinned by differences in genomic stability. Targeted inhibition of signalling receptors has proven to be a clinically-validated therapy, and protein expression of other DNA repair and signalling molecules associated with cancer behaviour could potentially provide a more refined clinical model for prognosis and treatment prediction. Development and expansion of current genomic stability models is furthering our understanding of HNSCC pathophysiology and uncovering new, promising treatment strategies.
doi:10.1155/2013/464720
PMCID: PMC3834617  PMID: 24364026
6.  Long Non Coding RNAs (lncRNAs) Are Dysregulated in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70940.
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive cancer that is often diagnosed at an advanced stage and is characterized by a long latency period (20–40 years between initial exposure and diagnosis) and prior exposure to asbestos. Currently accurate diagnosis of MPM is difficult due to the lack of sensitive biomarkers and despite minor improvements in treatment, median survival rates do not exceed 12 months. Accumulating evidence suggests that aberrant expression of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) play an important functional role in cancer biology. LncRNAs are a class of recently discovered non-protein coding RNAs >200 nucleotides in length with a role in regulating transcription. Here we used NCode long noncoding microarrays to identify differentially expressed lncRNAs potentially involved in MPM pathogenesis. High priority candidate lncRNAs were selected on the basis of statistical (P<0.05) and biological significance (>3-fold difference). Expression levels of 9 candidate lncRNAs were technically validated using RT-qPCR, and biologically validated in three independent test sets: (1) 57 archived MPM tissues obtained from extrapleural pneumonectomy patients, (2) 15 cryopreserved MPM and 3 benign pleura, and (3) an extended panel of 10 MPM cell lines. RT-qPCR analysis demonstrated consistent up-regulation of these lncRNAs in independent datasets. ROC curve analysis showed that two candidates were able to separate benign pleura and MPM with high sensitivity and specificity, and were associated with nodal metastases and survival following induction chemotherapy. These results suggest that lncRNAs have potential to serve as biomarkers in MPM.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070940
PMCID: PMC3747266  PMID: 23976967
7.  Human single-stranded DNA binding proteins are essential for maintaining genomic stability 
The double-stranded conformation of cellular DNA is a central aspect of DNA stabilisation and protection. The helix preserves the genetic code against chemical and enzymatic degradation, metabolic activation, and formation of secondary structures. However, there are various instances where single-stranded DNA is exposed, such as during replication or transcription, in the synthesis of chromosome ends, and following DNA damage. In these instances, single-stranded DNA binding proteins are essential for the sequestration and processing of single-stranded DNA. In order to bind single-stranded DNA, these proteins utilise a characteristic and evolutionary conserved single-stranded DNA-binding domain, the oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide-binding (OB)-fold. In the current review we discuss a subset of these proteins involved in the direct maintenance of genomic stability, an important cellular process in the conservation of cellular viability and prevention of malignant transformation. We discuss the central roles of single-stranded DNA binding proteins from the OB-fold domain family in DNA replication, the restart of stalled replication forks, DNA damage repair, cell cycle-checkpoint activation, and telomere maintenance.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-14-9
PMCID: PMC3626794  PMID: 23548139
Single-stranded DNA binding proteins (SSBs); Oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide binding (OB)-fold; Double-strand DNA break (DSB) repair; Homology-directed repair (HDR); Translesion synthesis; Nucleotide excision repair (NER); Replication fork restart; Cell cycle checkpoint activation; Telomere maintenance
8.  Generation and Characterisation of Cisplatin-Resistant Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cell Lines Displaying a Stem-Like Signature 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54193.
Introduction
Inherent and acquired cisplatin resistance reduces the effectiveness of this agent in the management of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying this process may result in the development of novel agents to enhance the sensitivity of cisplatin.
Methods
An isogenic model of cisplatin resistance was generated in a panel of NSCLC cell lines (A549, SKMES-1, MOR, H460). Over a period of twelve months, cisplatin resistant (CisR) cell lines were derived from original, age-matched parent cells (PT) and subsequently characterized. Proliferation (MTT) and clonogenic survival assays (crystal violet) were carried out between PT and CisR cells. Cellular response to cisplatin-induced apoptosis and cell cycle distribution were examined by FACS analysis. A panel of cancer stem cell and pluripotent markers was examined in addition to the EMT proteins, c-Met and β-catenin. Cisplatin-DNA adduct formation, DNA damage (γH2AX) and cellular platinum uptake (ICP-MS) was also assessed.
Results
Characterisation studies demonstrated a decreased proliferative capacity of lung tumour cells in response to cisplatin, increased resistance to cisplatin-induced cell death, accumulation of resistant cells in the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle and enhanced clonogenic survival ability. Moreover, resistant cells displayed a putative stem-like signature with increased expression of CD133+/CD44+cells and increased ALDH activity relative to their corresponding parental cells. The stem cell markers, Nanog, Oct-4 and SOX-2, were significantly upregulated as were the EMT markers, c-Met and β-catenin. While resistant sublines demonstrated decreased uptake of cisplatin in response to treatment, reduced cisplatin-GpG DNA adduct formation and significantly decreased γH2AX foci were observed compared to parental cell lines.
Conclusion
Our results identified cisplatin resistant subpopulations of NSCLC cells with a putative stem-like signature, providing a further understanding of the cellular events associated with the cisplatin resistance phenotype in lung cancer.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054193
PMCID: PMC3547914  PMID: 23349823
9.  IL-23R is Epigenetically Regulated and Modulated by Chemotherapy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Frontiers in Oncology  2013;3:162.
The Interleukin-23 (IL-23)/IL-23R signaling axis is an important inflammatory pathway, involved in the stimulation and regulation of the T helper (Th) 17 lymphocytes, resulting in the production of IL-17. Aside from auto-immunity, this cytokine has also been linked to carcinogenesis and polymorphisms in the IL-23R gene are associated with an increased risk for the development of a number of different cancers. Activation of the IL-23 pathway results in the up-regulation of STAT3 and it is thought that the pathological consequences associated with this are in part due to the production of IL-17. We have previously identified IL-23A as pro-proliferative and epigenetically regulated in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The current study aims to evaluate IL-23R in greater detail in NSCLC. We demonstrate that IL-23R is expressed and epigenetically regulated in NSCLC through histone post-translation modifications and CpG island methylation. In addition, Gemcitabine treatment, a chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of NSCLC, resulted in the up-regulation of the IL-23R. Furthermore, Apilimod (STA 5326), a small molecule which blocks the expression of IL-23 and IL-12, reduced the proliferative capacity of NSCLC cells, particularly in the adenocarcinoma (A549) sub-type. Apilimod is currently undergoing investigation in a number of clinical trials for the treatment of auto-immune conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Our results may have implications for treating NSCLC patients with Gemcitabine or epigenetic targeted therapies. However, Apilimod may possibly provide a new treatment avenue for NSCLC patients. Work is currently ongoing to further delineate the IL-23/IL-23R axis in this disease.
doi:10.3389/fonc.2013.00162
PMCID: PMC3685824  PMID: 23802098
IL-23R; non-small cell lung cancer; epigenetics; acetylation; methylation; apilimod
10.  An Extracellular Signal–Regulated Kinase 2 Survival Pathway Mediates Resistance of Human Mesothelioma Cells to Asbestos-Induced Injury 
We hypothesized that normal human mesothelial cells acquire resistance to asbestos-induced toxicity via induction of one or more epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–linked survival pathways (phosphoinositol-3-kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin and extracellular signal–regulated kinase [ERK] 1/2) during simian virus 40 (SV40) transformation and carcinogenesis. Both isolated HKNM-2 mesothelial cells and a telomerase-immortalized mesothelial line (LP9/TERT-1) were more sensitive to crocidolite asbestos toxicity than an SV40 Tag-immortalized mesothelial line (MET5A) and malignant mesothelioma cell lines (HMESO and PPM Mill). Whereas increases in phosphorylation of AKT (pAKT) were observed in MET5A cells in response to asbestos, LP9/TERT-1 cells exhibited dose-related decreases in pAKT levels. Pretreatment with an EGFR phosphorylation or mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1/2 inhibitor abrogated asbestos-induced phosphorylated ERK (pERK) 1/2 levels in both LP9/TERT-1 and MET5A cells as well as increases in pAKT levels in MET5A cells. Transient transfection of small interfering RNAs targeting ERK1, ERK2, or AKT revealed that ERK1/2 pathways were involved in cell death by asbestos in both cell lines. Asbestos-resistant HMESO or PPM Mill cells with high endogenous levels of ERKs or AKT did not show dose-responsive increases in pERK1/ERK1, pERK2/ERK2, or pAKT/AKT levels by asbestos. However, small hairpin ERK2 stable cell lines created from both malignant mesothelioma lines were more sensitive to asbestos toxicity than shERK1 and shControl lines, and exhibited unique, tumor-specific changes in endogenous cell death–related gene expression. Our results suggest that EGFR phosphorylation is causally linked to pERK and pAKT activation by asbestos in normal and SV40 Tag–immortalized human mesothelial cells. They also indicate that ERK2 plays a role in modulating asbestos toxicity by regulating genes critical to cell injury and survival that are differentially expressed in human mesotheliomas.
doi:10.1165/rcmb.2010-0282OC
PMCID: PMC3262687  PMID: 21454801
mesothelioma; asbestos; toxicity; epidermal growth factor receptor; protein kinase B/AKT
11.  Epigenetic Regulation of Glucose Transporters in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Cancers  2011;3(2):1550-1565.
Due to their inherently hypoxic environment, cancer cells often resort to glycolysis, or the anaerobic breakdown of glucose to form ATP to provide for their energy needs, known as the Warburg effect. At the same time, overexpression of the insulin receptor in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is associated with an increased risk of metastasis and decreased survival. The uptake of glucose into cells is carried out via glucose transporters or GLUTs. Of these, GLUT-4 is essential for insulin-stimulated glucose uptake. Following treatment with the epigenetic targeting agents histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi), GLUT-3 and GLUT-4 expression were found to be induced in NSCLC cell lines, with minimal responses in transformed normal human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs). Similar results for GLUT-4 were observed in cells derived from liver, muscle, kidney and pre-adipocytes. Bioinformatic analysis of the promoter for GLUT-4 indicates that it may also be regulated by several chromatin binding factors or complexes including CTCF, SP1 and SMYD3. Chromatin immunoprecipitation studies demonstrate that the promoter for GLUT-4 is dynamically remodeled in response to HDACi. Overall, these results may have value within the clinical setting as (a) it may be possible to use this to enhance fluorodeoxyglucose (18F) positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) imaging sensitivity; (b) it may be possible to target NSCLC through the use of HDACi and insulin mediated uptake of the metabolic targeting drugs such as 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG); or (c) enhance or sensitize NSCLC to chemotherapy.
doi:10.3390/cancers3021550
PMCID: PMC3757377  PMID: 24212773
NSCLC; Glucose transporter; epigenetics
12.  The Role of Epigenetics in Resistance to Cisplatin Chemotherapy in Lung Cancer 
Cancers  2011;3(1):1426-1453.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common cause of cancer related death in the world. Cisplatin and carboplatin are the most commonly used cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents to treat the disease. These agents, usually combined with drugs such as gemcitabine or pemetrexed, induce objective tumor responses in only 20–30% of patients. Aberrant epigenetic regulation of gene expression is a frequent event in NSCLC. In this article we review the emerging evidence that epigenetics and the cellular machinery involved with this type of regulation may be key elements in the development of cisplatin resistance in NSCLC.
doi:10.3390/cancers3011426
PMCID: PMC3756421  PMID: 24212667
epigenetics; histone; post-translational modification; DNA methylation; epigenetic modifiers; cisplatin; NSCLC
13.  Examination of thromboxane synthase as a prognostic factor and therapeutic target in non-small cell lung cancer 
Molecular Cancer  2011;10:25.
Background
Thromboxane synthase (TXS) metabolises prostaglandin H2 into thromboxanes, which are biologically active on cancer cells. TXS over-expression has been reported in a range of cancers, and associated with a poor prognosis. TXS inhibition induces cell death in-vitro, providing a rationale for therapeutic intervention. We aimed to determine the expression profile of TXS in NSCLC and if it is prognostic and/or a survival factor in the disease.
Methods
TXS expression was examined in human NSCLC and matched controls by western analysis and IHC. TXS metabolite (TXB2) levels were measured by EIA. A 204-patient NSCLC TMA was stained for COX-2 and downstream TXS expression. TXS tissue expression was correlated with clinical parameters, including overall survival. Cell proliferation/survival and invasion was examined in NSCLC cells following both selective TXS inhibition and stable TXS over-expression.
Results
TXS was over-expressed in human NSCLC samples, relative to matched normal controls. TXS and TXB2 levels were increased in protein (p < 0.05) and plasma (p < 0.01) NSCLC samples respectively. TXS tissue expression was higher in adenocarcinoma (p < 0.001) and female patients (p < 0.05). No significant correlation with patient survival was observed. Selective TXS inhibition significantly reduced tumour cell growth and increased apoptosis, while TXS over-expression stimulated cell proliferation and invasiveness, and was protective against apoptosis.
Conclusion
TXS is over-expressed in NSCLC, particularly in the adenocarcinoma subtype. Inhibition of this enzyme inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis. Targeting thromboxane synthase alone, or in combination with conventional chemotherapy is a potential therapeutic strategy for NSCLC.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-10-25
PMCID: PMC3074522  PMID: 21388528
14.  Epigenetics Underpinning the Regulation of the CXC (ELR+) Chemokines in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14593.
Background
Angiogenesis may play a role in the pathogenesis of Non-Small Cell Lung cancer (NSCLC). The CXC (ELR+) chemokine family are powerful promoters of the angiogenic response.
Methods
The expression of the CXC (ELR+) family members (CXCL1-3/GROα-γ, CXCL8/IL-8, CXCR1/2) was examined in a series of resected fresh frozen NSCLC tumours. Additionally, the expression and epigenetic regulation of these chemokines was examined in normal bronchial epithelial and NSCLC cell lines.
Results
Overall, expression of the chemokine ligands (CXCL1, 2, 8) and their receptors (CXCR1/2) were down regulated in tumour samples compared with normal, with the exception of CXCL3. CXCL8 and CXCR1/2 were found to be epigenetically regulated by histone post-translational modifications. Recombinant CXCL8 did not stimulate cell growth in either a normal bronchial epithelial or a squamous carcinoma cell line (SKMES-1). However, an increase was observed at 72 hours post treatment in an adenocarcinoma cell line.
Conclusions
CXC (ELR+) chemokines are dysregulated in NSCLC. The balance of these chemokines may be critical in the tumour microenvironment and requires further elucidation. It remains to be seen if epigenetic targeting of these pathways is a viable therapeutic option in lung cancer treatment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014593
PMCID: PMC3029265  PMID: 21298036
15.  Oxidative stress induced lung cancer and COPD: opportunities for epigenetic therapy 
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) form as a natural by-product of the normal metabolism of oxygen and play important roles within the cell. Under normal circumstances the cell is able to maintain an adequate homeostasis between the formation of ROS and its removal through particular enzymatic pathways or via antioxidants. If however, this balance is disturbed a situation called oxidative stress occurs. Critically, oxidative stress plays important roles in the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cancer. Epigenetics is a process where gene expression is regulated by heritable mechanisms that do not cause any direct changes to the DNA sequence itself, and disruption of epigenetic mechanisms has important implications in disease. Evidence is emerging that histone deacetylases (HDACs) play decisive roles in regulating important cellular oxidative stress pathways including those involved with sensing oxidative stress and those involved with regulating the cellular response to oxidative stress. In particular aberrant regulation of these pathways by HDACs may play critical roles in cancer progression. In this review we discuss the current evidence linking epigenetics and oxidative stress and cancer, using chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and non-small cell lung cancer to illustrate the importance of epigenetics on these pathways within these disease settings.
doi:10.1111/j.1582-4934.2009.00845.x
PMCID: PMC4498937  PMID: 19602054
epigenetics; chromatin; oxidative stress; COPD; NSCLC

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