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1.  Rethinking glioma treatment strategy 
Oncotarget  2014;5(20):9532-9533.
PMCID: PMC4259417  PMID: 25393981
2.  Mathematical Modeling of PDGF-Driven Glioblastoma Reveals Optimized Radiation Dosing Schedules 
Cell  2014;156(3):603-616.
Glioblastomas (GBMs) are the most common and malignant primary brain tumors and are aggressively treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Despite this treatment, recurrence is inevitable and survival has improved minimally over the last 50 years. Recent studies have suggested that GBMs exhibit both heterogeneity and instability of differentiation states and varying sensitivities of these states to radiation. Here, we employed an iterative combined theoretical and experimental strategy that takes into account tumor cellular heterogeneity and dynamically acquired radioresistance to predict the effectiveness of different radiation schedules. Using this model, we identified two delivery schedules predicted to significantly improve efficacy by taking advantage of the dynamic instability of radioresistance. These schedules led to superior survival in mice. Our interdisciplinary approach may also be applicable to other human cancer types treated with radiotherapy and, hence, may lay the foundation for significantly increasing the effectiveness of a mainstay of oncologic therapy.
PMCID: PMC3923371  PMID: 24485463
3.  MEF promotes stemness in the pathogenesis of gliomas 
Cell stem cell  2012;11(6):10.1016/j.stem.2012.09.012.
High-grade gliomas are aggressive and uniformly fatal tumors, composed of a heterogeneous population of cells that include many with stem cell-like properties. The acquisition of stem-like traits might contribute to glioma initiation, growth and recurrence. Here we investigated the role of the transcription factor myeloid Elf-1 like factor (MEF, also known as ELF4) in glioma. We found that MEF is highly expressed in both human and mouse GBMs and its absence impairs gliomagenesis in a PDGF-driven glioma mouse model. We show that modulation of MEF levels in both mouse neural stem cells and human glioblastoma cells, has a significant impact on neurosphere formation. Moreover, we identify Sox2 as a direct downstream target of MEF. Taken together, our studies implicate MEF as a previously unrecognized gatekeeper gene in gliomagenesis by promoting stem cell characteristics through Sox2 activation.
PMCID: PMC3812924  PMID: 23217424
4.  Low Concentration Microenvironments Enhance the Migration of Neonatal Cells of Glial Lineage 
Cellular and molecular bioengineering  2012;5(2):10.1007/s12195-012-0226-y.
Glial tumors have demonstrated abilities to sustain growth via recruitment of glial progenitor cells (GPCs), which is believed to be driven by chemotactic cues. Previous studies have illustrated that mouse GPCs of different genetic backgrounds are able to replicate the dispersion pattern seen in the human disease. How GPCs with genetic backgrounds transformed by tumor paracrine signaling respond to extracellular cues via migration is largely unexplored, and remains a limiting factor in utilizing GPCs as therapeutic targets. In this study, we utilized a microfluidic device to examine the chemotaxis of three genetically-altered mouse GPC populations towards tumor conditioned media, as well as towards three growth factors known to initiate the chemotaxis of cells excised from glial tumors: Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF), Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-BB (PDGF-BB), and Transforming Growth Factor-α (TGF-α). Our results illustrate that GPC types studied exhibited chemoattraction and chemorepulsion by different concentrations of the same ligand, as well as enhanced migration in the presence of ultra-low ligand concentrations within environments of high concentration gradient. These findings contribute towards our understanding of the causative and supportive roles that GPCs play in tumor growth and reoccurrence, and also point to GPCs as potential therapeutic targets for glioma treatment.
PMCID: PMC3839109  PMID: 24285985
Chemotaxis; TGF-α; Microfluidics; Glial progenitors; Glioma; Concentration gradients; RCAS tv-a
5.  Preclinical evaluation of radiation and perifosine in a genetically and histologically accurate model of brainstem glioma 
Cancer research  2010;70(6):10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-2503.
Brainstem gliomas (BSGs) are a rare group of CNS tumors that arise mostly in children and usually portend a particularly poor prognosis. We report the development of a genetically engineered mouse model of BSG using the RCAS/tv-a system and its implementation in preclinical trials. Using immunohistochemistry we found that PDGFRα is overexpressed in 67% of pediatric BSGs. Based on this observation, we induced low-grade BSGs by overexpressing PDGF-B in the posterior fossa of neonatal Nestin tv-a mice. To generate high-grade BSGs, we overexpressed PDGF-B in combination with Ink4a-ARF loss, given that this locus is commonly lost in high-grade pediatric BSGs. We show that the likely cells-of-origin for these mouse BSGs exist on the floor of the 4th ventricle and cerebral aqueduct. Irradiation of these high-grade BSGs shows that while 2, 6, and 10 Gy single doses significantly increased the percent of TUNEL-positive nuclei, only 6, and 10 Gy significantly induces cell-cycle arrest. Perifosine, an inhibitor of AKT signaling significantly induced TUNEL-positive nuclei in this high-grade BSG model, but in combination with 10 Gy, it did not significantly increase the percent of TUNEL-positive nuclei relative to 10 Gy alone at 6, 24, and 72 hours. Survival analysis demonstrated that a single dose of 10 Gy significantly prolonged survival by 27% (p=0.0002) but perifosine did not (p=0.92). Perifosine + 10Gy did not result in a significantly increased survival relative to 10Gy alone (p=0.23). This PDGF-induced BSG model can serve as a preclinical tool for the testing of novel agents.
PMCID: PMC3831613  PMID: 20197468
Brainstem glioma; DIPG; perifosine; radiation
6.  Perivascular Nitric Oxide Activates Notch Signaling and Promotes Stem-like Character in PDGF-induced Glioma Cells 
Cell stem cell  2010;6(2):10.1016/j.stem.2010.01.001.
eNOS expression is elevated in human glioblastomas and correlated with increased tumor growth and aggressive character. We investigated the potential role of nitric oxide (NO) activity in the perivascular niche (PVN) using a genetic engineered mouse model of PDGF-induced gliomas. eNOS expression is highly elevated in tumor vascular endothelium adjacent to perivascular glioma cells expressing Nestin, Notch, and the NO receptor, sGC. In addition, the NO/cGMP/PKG pathway drives Notch signaling in PDGF-induced gliomas in vitro, and induces the side population phenotype in primary glioma cell cultures. NO also increases neurosphere forming capacity of PDGF-driven glioma primary cultures, and enhances their tumorigenic capacity in vivo. Loss of NO activity in these tumors suppresses Notch signaling in-vivo, and prolongs survival of mice. This mechanism is conserved in human PDGFR amplified gliomas. The NO/cGMP/PKG pathway’s promotion of stem cell-like character in the tumor PVN may identify therapeutic targets for this subset of gliomas.
PMCID: PMC3818090  PMID: 20144787
Nitric oxide; Notch; Glioma; Perivascular niche
7.  53BP1 is a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor and protects cells from radiation response in glioma 
Cancer research  2012;72(20):5250-5260.
The DNA-damage response (DDR) plays a crucial role in tumor development in different tissues. Here we show that p53-binding protein 1 (53BP1), a key element of the DDR, is heterozygously lost in approximately 20% of human glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) specimens, primarily of the Proneural subtype, and low 53BP1 expression levels are associated with worse prognosis. We present evidence that 53BP1 behaves as haploinsufficient tumor suppressor in a mouse model of PDGF-induced gliomagenesis. We also show that very low level of 53BP1 as found in 53BP1 null gliomas or robust 53BP1 gene silencing in glioma cell lines (but not 53BP1 heterozygous tumors or partial gene knock-down) sensitizes glioma cells to ionizing radiation (IR), both in vitro and in vivo. We further demonstrate the 53BP1 gene silencing induces defects in the nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) DNA repair pathway. These deficiencies lead to a failure to fully repair the damaged DNA upon exposure of glioma cells to IR with a consequent prolonged cell-cycle arrest and increased apoptosis. Our data suggest that either 53BP1 or other NHEJ components may be critical molecules to be pharmacologically-targeted in GBM in combination with standard therapies.
PMCID: PMC3771704  PMID: 22915756
53BP1; DDR; GBM; Ionizing radiation; NHEJ
8.  PTEN/PI3K/Akt pathway regulates the side population phenotype and ABCG2 activity in glioma tumor stem-like cells 
Cell stem cell  2009;4(3):226-235.
In normal brain, the side population (SP) phenotype is generated by ABC transporter activity and identifies stem cell and endothelial cell sub-populations by dye exclusion. By drug efflux, the ABCG2 transporter provides chemoresistance in stem cells and contributes to the blood brain barrier (BBB) when active in endothelial cells. We investigated the SP phenotype of mouse and human gliomas. In glioma endothelial cells, ABC transporter function is impaired, corresponding to disruption of the BBB in these tumors. By contrast, the SP phenotype is increased in non-endothelial cells that form neurospheres and are highly tumorigenic. In this cell population, Akt, but not its downstream target mTOR, regulates ABCG2 activity, and loss of PTEN increases the SP. This Akt-induced ABCG2 activation results from its transport to the plasma membrane. Temozolomide, the standard treatment of gliomas, although not an ABCG2 substrate, increases the SP in glioma cells, especially in cells missing PTEN.
PMCID: PMC3688060  PMID: 19265662
Side Population; PTEN/Akt; Glioma; ABCG2
9.  TRIM3, a tumor suppressor linked to regulation of p21Waf1/Cip1 
Oncogene  2013;33(3):308-315.
The TRIM family of genes is largely studied because of their roles in development, differentiation and host cell anti-viral defenses; however, roles in cancer biology are emerging. Loss of heterozygosity of the TRIM3 locus in approximately 20% of human glioblastomas raised the possibility that this NHL containing member of the TRIM gene family might be a mammalian tumor suppressor. Consistent with this, reducing TRIM3 expression increased the incidence of and accelerated the development of PDGF-induced glioma in mice. Furthermore, TRIM3 can bind to the cdk inhibitor p21WAF1/CIP1. Thus, we conclude that TRIM3 is a tumor suppressor mapping to chromosome 11p15.5 and that it can block tumor growth by sequestering p21 and preventing it from facilitating the accumulation of cyclin D1-cdk4.
PMCID: PMC3928554  PMID: 23318451
glioma; p21; PDGF; stem/progenitor; TRIM3
10.  Genetic modeling of gliomas in mice: new tools to tackle old problems 
Glia  2011;59(8):1155-1168.
The recently published comprehensive profiles of genomic alterations in glioma have led to a refinement in our understanding of the molecular events that underlie this cancer. Using state-of-the-art genomic tools, several laboratories have created and characterized accurate genetically engineered mouse models of glioma based on specific genetic alterations observed in human tumors. These in vivo brain tumor models faithfully recapitulate the histopathology, etiology, and biology of gliomas and provide an exceptional experimental system to discover novel therapeutic targets and test therapeutic agents. This review focuses on mouse models of glioma with a special emphasis on genetically engineered models developed around key genetic glioma signature mutations in the PDGFR, EGFR and NF1 genes and pathways. The resulting animal models have provided insight into many fundamental and mechanistic facets of tumor initiation, maintenance and resistance to therapeutic intervention and will continue to do so in the future.
PMCID: PMC3619979  PMID: 21305617
11.  Somatic mutations of the Parkinson's disease–associated gene PARK2 in glioblastoma and other human malignancies 
Nature genetics  2009;42(1):77-82.
Mutation of the gene PARK2, which encodes an E3 ubiquitin ligase, is the most common cause of early-onset Parkinson's disease1, 2, 3. In a search for multisite tumor suppressors, we identified PARK2 as a frequently targeted gene on chromosome 6q25.2–q27 in cancer. Here we describe inactivating somatic mutations and frequent intragenic deletions of PARK2 in human malignancies. The PARK2 mutations in cancer occur in the same domains, and sometimes at the same residues, as the germline mutations causing familial Parkinson's disease. Cancer-specific mutations abrogate the growth-suppressive effects of the PARK2 protein. PARK2 mutations in cancer decrease PARK2's E3 ligase activity, compromising its ability to ubiquitinate cyclin E and resulting in mitotic instability. These data strongly point to PARK2 as a tumor suppressor on 6q25.2–q27. Thus, PARK2, a gene that causes neuronal dysfunction when mutated in the germline, may instead contribute to oncogenesis when altered in non-neuronal somatic cells.
PMCID: PMC4002225  PMID: 19946270
12.  CSF-1R inhibition alters macrophage polarization and blocks glioma progression 
Nature medicine  2013;19(10):10.1038/nm.3337.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) comprises several molecular subtypes including proneural GBM. Most therapeutic approaches targeting glioma cells have failed. An alternative strategy is to target cells in the glioma microenvironment, such as tumor-associated macrophages and microglia (TAMs). Macrophages depend upon colony stimulating factor (CSF)-1 for differentiation and survival. A CSF-1R inhibitor was used to target TAMs in a mouse proneural GBM model, which dramatically increased survival, and regressed established tumors. CSF-1R blockade additionally slowed intracranial growth of patient-derived glioma xenografts. Surprisingly, TAMs were not depleted in treated mice. Instead, glioma-secreted factors including GM-CSF and IFN-γ facilitated TAM survival in the context of CSF-1R inhibition. Alternatively activated/ M2 macrophage markers decreased in surviving TAMs, consistent with impaired tumor-promoting functions. These gene signatures were associated with enhanced survival in proneural GBM patients. Our results identify TAMs as a promising therapeutic target for proneural gliomas, and establish the translational potential of CSF-1R inhibition for GBM.
PMCID: PMC3840724  PMID: 24056773
13.  PDGF in gliomas: more than just a growth factor? 
Platelet-derived growth factor B (PDGF-B) is a growth factor promoting and regulating cell migration, proliferation, and differentiation, involved in both developmental processes and in maintaining tissue homeostasis under strict regulation. What are the implications of prolonged or uncontrolled growth factor signaling in vivo, and when does a growth factor such as PDGF-B become an oncogene? Under experimental conditions, PDGF-B induces proliferation and causes tumor induction. It is not known whether these tumors are strictly a PDGF-B-driven proliferation of cells or associated with secondary genetic events such as acquired mutations or methylation-mediated gene silencing promoting neoplasia. If PDGF-B-driven tumorigenesis was only cellular proliferation, associated changes in gene expression would thus be correlated with proliferation and not associated with secondary events involved in tumorigenesis and neoplastic transformation such as cycle delay, DNA damage response, and cell death. Changes in gene expression might be expected to be reversible, as is PDGF-B-driven proliferation under normal circumstances. Since PDGF signaling is involved in oligodendrocyte progenitor cell differentiation and maintenance, it is likely that PDGF-B stimulates proliferation of a pool of cells with that phenotype, and inhibition of PDGF-B signaling would result in reduced expression of oligodendrocyte-associated genes. More importantly, inhibition of PDGF signaling would be expected to result in reversion of genes induced by PDGF-B accompanied by a decrease in proliferation. However, if PDGF-B-driven tumorigenesis is more than simply a proliferation of cells, inhibition of PDGF signaling may not reverse gene expression or halt proliferation. These fundamental questions concerning PDGF-B as a potential oncogene have not been resolved.
PMCID: PMC3339541  PMID: 22376240
Glioma; growth factor; oncogene; oncogenic stress; PDGF-B
14.  The perivascular niche microenvironment in brain tumor progression 
Cell Cycle  2010;9(15):3012-3021.
Glioblastoma, the most frequent and aggressive malignant brain tumor, has a very poor prognosis of approximately 1-year. The associated aggressive phenotype and therapeutic resistance of glioblastoma is postulated to be due to putative brain tumor stem-like cells (BTSC). The best hope for improved therapy lies in the ability to understand the molecular biology that controls BTSC behavior. The tumor vascular microenvironment of brain tumors has emerged as important regulators of BTSC behavior. Emerging data have identified the vascular microenvironment as home to a multitude of cell types engaged in various signaling that work collectively to foster a supportive environment for BTSCs. Characterization of the signaling pathways and intercellular communication between resident cell types in the microvascular niche of brain tumors is critical to the identification of potential BTSC-specific targets for therapy.
PMCID: PMC3040926  PMID: 20714216
glioblastoma; perivascular niche; brain tumor; cancer stem-like cells; microenvironment
15.  Loss of ATM/Chk2/p53 pathway components accelerates tumor development and contributes to radiation resistance in gliomas 
Cancer cell  2010;18(6):10.1016/j.ccr.2010.10.034.
Maintenance of genomic integrity is essential for adult tissue homeostasis and defects in the DNA-damage response (DDR) machinery are linked to numerous pathologies including, cancer. Here we present evidence that the DDR exerts tumor suppressor activity in gliomas. We show that genes encoding components of the DDR pathway are frequently altered in human gliomas and that loss of elements of the ATM/Chk2/p53 cascade accelerates tumor formation in a glioma mouse model. We demonstrate that Chk2 is required for glioma response to ionizing radiation in vivo and is necessary for DNA-damage checkpoints in the neuronal stem cell compartment. Finally, we observed that the DDR is constitutively activated in a subset of human GBMs, and such activation correlates with regions of hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC3818087  PMID: 21156285
GBM; DDR; Chk2; ATM; Ionizing radiation
16.  Candidate pathways for promoting differentiation or quiescence of oligodendrocyte progenitor-like cells in glioma 
Cancer research  2012;72(18):4856-4868.
Platelet derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRA)-positive oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPC) located within the mature central nervous system may remain quiescent, proliferate, or differentiate into oligodendrocytes. Human glioblastoma multiforme tumors (GBM) often contain rapidly proliferating oligodendrocyte lineage transcription factor 2 (Olig2)-positive cells that resemble OPCs. In this study, we sought to identify candidate pathways that promote OPC differentiation or quiescence rather than proliferation. Gene expression profiling performed in both normal murine OPCs and highly proliferative Olig2-positive glioma cells identified all the transcripts associated with the highly proliferative state of these cells and demonstrated that, among the various cell types found within the brain, Olig2-positive tumor cells are most similar to OPCs. We then subtracted OPC transcripts found in tumor samples from those found in normal brain samples and identified 28 OPC transcripts as candidates for promoting differentiation or quiescence. Systematic analysis of human glioma data revealed that these genes have similar expression profiles in human tumors, and were significantly enriched in genomic deletions, suggesting an anti-proliferative role. Treatment of primary murine glioblastoma cells with agonists of one candidate gene, Gpr17, resulted in a decreased number of neurospheres. Together, our findings demonstrate that comparison of the molecular phenotype of progenitor cells in tumors to the equivalent cells in the normal brain represents a novel approach for the identification of targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3543775  PMID: 22865458
oliogdendrocyte progenitor; human glioblastoma; translational profiling; molecular targeting; pro-differentiation genes
17.  Sonic Hedgehog Pathway Activation Is Induced by Acute Brain Injury and Regulated by Injury-Related Inflammation 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2009;29(33):10299-10308.
The adult mammalian brain responds to injury by activating a program of cell proliferation during which many oligodendrocyte precursors, microglia, and some astrocytes proliferate. Another common response to brain injury is the induction of reactive gliosis, a process whereby dormant astrocytes undergo morphological changes and alter their transcriptional profiles. Although brain injury-induced reactive gliosis is concurrent with the proliferation of surrounding cells, a functional relationship between reactive gliosis and this cell proliferation has not been clearly demonstrated. Here, we show that the mitogen sonic hedgehog (SHH) is produced in reactive astrocytes after injury to the cerebral cortex and participates in regulating the proliferation of Olig2-expressing (Olig2+) cells after brain injury. Using a cortical freeze injury to induce reactive gliosis in a Gli–luciferase reporter mouse, we show that the SHH pathway is maximally active 3 d after brain injury and returns to baseline levels by 14 d. SHH expression parallels Gli activation and localizes to glial fibrillary acidic protein-expressing reactive astrocytes. Inhibition of the SHH pathway with cyclopamine blocks the Gli response and significantly reduces both the proliferating and overall number of Olig2+ cells in the injured cortex. To provide mechanistic insight into SHH pathway activation in astrocytes, we show that proinflammatory stimuli activate SHH-expressing reactive astrocytes, whereas inhibition of inflammation-induced reactive gliosis by macrophage depletion abolishes SHH activation after brain injury and dampens cell proliferation after injury. Our data describes a unique reactive astrocyte-based, SHH-expressing niche formed in response to injury and inflammation that regulates the proliferation of Olig2+ cells.
PMCID: PMC3849831  PMID: 19692604
18.  Genetically Engineered Mouse Models of Brain Cancer and the Promise of Preclinical Testing 
Recent improvements in the understanding of brain tumor biology have opened the door to a number of rational therapeutic strategies targeting distinct oncogenic pathways. The successful translation of such “designer drugs” to clinical application depends heavily on effective and expeditious screening methods in relevant disease models. By recapitulating both the underlying genetics and the characteristic tumor-stroma microenvironment of brain cancer, genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs) may offer distinct advantages over cell culture and xenograft systems in the preclinical testing of promising therapies. This review focuses on recently developed GEMMs for both glioma and medulloblastoma, and discusses their potential use in preclinical trials. Examples showcasing the use of GEMMs in the testing of molecularly targeted therapeutics are given, and relevant topics, such as stem cell biology, in vivo imaging technology and radiotherapy, are also addressed.
PMCID: PMC2659383  PMID: 19076778
glioma; medulloblastoma; clinical trials; targeted therapy; murine model
19.  Constitutive Activation of Raf-1 Induces Glioma Formation in Mice1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2008;10(5):501-510.
In human glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), RAS activity is upregulated in the majority of the tumors. Furthermore, the levels of phospho-mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal regulated kinase (MAPK/ERK), a downstream effector of RAS, are also increased. In mice, activated KRas cooperates with the loss of INK4a-ARF locus or with activated Akt to induce gliomas, confirming an important role for this pathway in glioma biology. However, to correctly target therapies against the RAS signaling pathway, it is necessary to identify the effectors that contribute to RAS-mediated gliomagenesis. In this study, we investigated the contribution of RAF signaling in glioma oncogenesis. We find that the levels of RAF-1 and BRAF proteins and RAF kinase activity are increased in human GBM samples. We confirm the importance of this finding by demonstrating a causal role for a constitutively active Raf-1 mutant in glioma formation in mice. Specifically, we find that activated Raf-1 cooperates with Arf loss or Akt activation to generate gliomas similar to activated KRas under the same conditions. Our study suggests that the oncogenic effect of KRas in glioma formation may be transduced at least in part through Raf signaling and that therapeutic targeting of this pathway may be beneficial in glioma treatment.
PMCID: PMC2373912  PMID: 18472967
20.  Overexpression of c-MYC promotes an undifferentiated phenotype in cultured astrocytes and allows elevated Ras and Akt signaling to induce gliomas from GFAP-expressing cells in mice 
Neuron glia biology  2004;1(2):157-163.
The c-MYC protooncogene is overexpressed in the most malignant primary brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), and has been correlated with the undifferentiated character of several cell types. However, the role of Myc activity in the generation of GBMs is not known. In this report, we show that gene transfer of c-MYC to GFAP-expressing astrocytes in vitro promotes the outgrowth of GFAP-negative, nestin-expressing cells with progenitor-like morphology, growth characteristics and gene-expression pattern. In addition, gene transfer of c-MYC to GFAP-expressing astrocytes in vivo induces GBMs when co-expressed with activated Ras and Akt. Without c-MYC, Ras+Akt induces GBMs from nestin-expressing CNS progenitors but is insufficient in GFAP-expressing differentiated astrocytes. The ability of Myc activity to enhance the oncogenic effects of Ras+Akt appears to be limited to GFAP-expressing astrocytes because nestin-expressing progenitors show no increase in GBM formation with the addition of MYC to Ras+Akt. These studies indicate that one role of MYC activity in the formation of gliomas might be to either promote or reinforce an undifferentiated phenotype required for glioma cells to respond to the oncogenic effects of elevated Ras and Akt activity.
PMCID: PMC1615889  PMID: 17047730
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM); brain tumor; mouse model; oncogene; RCAS/tv-a
21.  DW-MRI as a Predictive Biomarker of Radiosensitization of GBM through Targeted Inhibition of Checkpoint Kinases1 
Translational Oncology  2013;6(2):133-142.
PURPOSE: The inherent treatment resistance of glioblastoma (GBM) can involve multiple mechanisms including checkpoint kinase (Chk1/2)-mediated increased DNA repair capability, which can attenuate the effects of genotoxic chemotherapies and radiation. The goal of this study was to evaluate diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) as a biomarker for Chk1/2 inhibitors in combination with radiation for enhancement of treatment efficacy in GBM. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We evaluated a specific small molecule inhibitor of Chk1/2, AZD7762, in combination with radiation using in vitro human cell lines and in vivo using a genetically engineered GBM mouse model. DW-MRI and T1-contrast MRI were used to follow treatment effects on intracranial tumor cellularity and growth rates, respectively. RESULTS: AZD7762 inhibited clonal proliferation in a panel of GBM cell lines and increased radiosensitivity in p53-mutated GBM cell lines to a greater extent compared to p53 wild-type cells. In vivo efficacy of AZD7762 demonstrated a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on GBM tumor growth rate and a reduction in tumor cellularity based on DW-MRI scans along with enhancement of radiation efficacy. CONCLUSION: DW-MRI was found to be a useful imaging biomarker for the detection of radiosensitization through inhibition of checkpoint kinases. Chk1/2 inhibition resulted in antiproliferative activity, prevention of DNA damage-induced repair, and radiosensitization in preclinical GBM tumor models, both in vitro and in vivo. The effects were found to be maximal in p53-mutated GBM cells. These results provide the rationale for integration of DW-MRI in clinical translation of Chk1/2 inhibition with radiation for the treatment of GBM.
PMCID: PMC3610547  PMID: 23544166
22.  Oncogenic YAP promotes radioresistance and genomic instability in medulloblastoma through IGF2-mediated Akt activation 
Oncogene  2011;31(15):1923-1937.
Radiation therapy remains the standard of care for many cancers, including the malignant pediatric brain tumor medulloblastoma. Radiation leads to long-term side effects, while radio-resistance contributes to tumor recurrence. Radio-resistant medulloblastoma cells occupy the peri-vascular niche. They express Yes-associated protein (YAP), a Sonic hedgehog (Shh) target markedly elevated in Shh-driven medulloblastomas. Here we report that YAP accelerates tumor growth and confers radio-resistance, promoting ongoing proliferation after radiation. YAP activity enables cells to enter mitosis with un-repaired DNA through driving IGF2 expression and Akt activation, resulting in ATM/Chk2 inactivation and abrogation of cell cycle checkpoints. Our results establish a central role for YAP in counteracting radiation-based therapies and driving genomic instability, and indicate the YAP/IGF2/Akt axis as a therapeutic target in medulloblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3583298  PMID: 21874045
23.  Notch Signaling Enhances Nestin Expression in Gliomas1* 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2006;8(12):1072-1082.
Recent findings suggest that Notch signaling is active in brain tumors and stem cells and that stem cells or cells with progenitor characteristics contribute to brain tumor formation. These stem cells are marked by expression of several markers including nestin, an intermediate filament protein. We have studied how the Notch signaling pathway affects nestin expression in brain tumors. We find that Notch receptors and ligands are expressed in vitro and in human samples of glioblastomas, the highest grade of malignant gliomas. In culture, Notch activity activates the nestin promoter. Activation of the Notch pathway also occurs in a glioblastoma multiforme mouse model induced by Kras, with translational regulation playing a role in Notch expression. Combined activation of Notch and Kras in wild-type nestin-expressing cells leads to their expansion within the subventricular zone and retention of proliferation and nestin expression. However, activation of Notch alone is unable to induce this cellular expansion. These data suggest that Notch may have a contributing role in the stem-like character of glioma cells.
PMCID: PMC1790729  PMID: 17217625
Glioma; nestin; mouse model; Notch; stem cell
24.  mTOR Promotes Survival and Astrocytic Characteristics Induced by Pten/Akt Signaling in Glioblastoma1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2005;7(4):356-368.
Combined activation of Ras and Akt leads to the formation of astrocytic glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in mice. In human GBMs, AKT is not mutated but is activated in approximately 70% of these tumors, in association with loss of PTEN and/or activation of receptor tyrosine kinases. Mechanistic justification for the therapeutic blockade of targets downstream of AKT, such as mTOR, in these cancers requires demonstration that the oncogenic effect of PTEN loss is through elevated AKT activity. We demonstrate here that loss of Pten is similar to Akt activation in the context of glioma formation in mice. We further delineate the role of mTOR activity downstream of Akt in the maintenance of Akt+KRas-induced GBMs. Blockade of mTOR results in regional apoptosis in these tumors and conversion in the character of surviving tumor cells from astrocytoma to oligodendroglioma. These data suggest that mTOR activity is required for the survival of some cells within these GBMs, and mTOR appears required for the maintenance of astrocytic character in the surviving cells. Furthermore, our study provides the first example of conversion between two distinct tumor types usually thought of as belonging to specific lineages, and provides evidence for signal transduction-mediated transdifferentiation between glioma subtypes.
PMCID: PMC1501155  PMID: 15967113
Pten; Akt; mTOR; glioblastoma; survival
25.  The Characteristics of Astrocytomas and Oligodendrogliomas Are Caused by Two Distinct and Interchangeable Signaling Formats1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2005;7(4):397-406.
Chronic platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) signaling in glial progenitors leads to the formation of oligodendrogliomas in mice, whereas chronic combined Ras and Akt signaling leads to astrocytomas. Different histologies of these tumors imply that the pathways activated by these two oncogenic stimulations are different, and that the apparent lineage of the tumor cells may result from specific signaling activity. Therefore, we have investigated the signaling effects of PDGF in culture and in gliomas in vivo. In culture, PDGF transiently activates ERK1/2 and Akt, and subsequently elevates p21 and PCNA expression similar to chronic PDGF autocrine signaling in cultured astrocytes and PDGF-induced oligodendrogliomas in vivo. Culture experiments show that autocrine PDGF stimulation, and combined active Ras and Akt generate signaling patterns that are in some ways mutually exclusive. Furthermore, forced Akt activity in the context of chronic PDGF stimulation results in cells with an astrocytic differentiation pattern both in culture and in vivo. These data imply that these two interconvertible signaling motifs are distinct in mice and lead to gliomas resembling the two major glioma histologies found in humans. The ability of signaling activity to convert tumor cells from one lineage to another presents a mechanism for the development of tumors apparently comprised of cells from multiple lineages.
PMCID: PMC1501153  PMID: 15967117
Glioma histology; PDGF; Ras; Akt; mouse model

Results 1-25 (52)