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1.  Cytomegalovirus in human brain tumors: Role in pathogenesis and potential treatment options 
During the last years increasing evidence implies that human cytomegalovirus (CMV) can be attributed to human malignancies arising from numerous tissues. In this perspective, we will review and discuss the potential mechanisms through which CMV infection may contribute to brain tumors by affecting tumor cell initiation, progression and metastasis formation. Recent evidence also suggests that anti-CMV treatment results in impaired tumor growth of CMV positive xenografts in animal models and potentially increased survival in CMV positive glioblastoma patients. Based on these observations and the high tumor promoting capacity of this virus, the classical and novel antiviral therapies against CMV should be revisited as they may represent a great promise for halting tumor progression and lower cancer deaths.
PMCID: PMC4308527
Cytomegalovirus; Oncovirus; Glioblastoma; Medulloblastoma; Brain tumor
2.  Detection of human cytomegalovirus in medulloblastomas reveals a potential therapeutic target 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(10):4043-4055.
Medulloblastomas are the most common malignant brain tumors in children. They express high levels of COX-2 and produce PGE2, which stimulates tumor cell proliferation. Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is prevalent in the human population and encodes proteins that provide immune evasion strategies and promote oncogenic transformation and oncomodulation. In particular, HCMV induces COX-2 expression; STAT3 phosphorylation; production of PGE2, vascular endothelial growth factor, and IL-6; and tumor formation in vivo. Here, we show that a large proportion of primary medulloblastomas and medulloblastoma cell lines are infected with HCMV and that COX-2 expression, along with PGE2 levels, in tumors is directly modulated by the virus. Our analysis indicated that both HCMV immediate-early proteins and late proteins are expressed in the majority of primary medulloblastomas. Remarkably, all of the human medulloblastoma cell lines that we analyzed contained HCMV DNA and RNA and expressed HCMV proteins at various levels in vitro. When engrafted into immunocompromised mice, human medulloblastoma cells induced expression of HCMV proteins. HCMV and COX-2 expression correlated in primary tumors, cell lines, and medulloblastoma xenografts. The antiviral drug valganciclovir and the specific COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib prevented HCMV replication in vitro and inhibited PGE2 production and reduced medulloblastoma tumor cell growth both in vitro and in vivo. Ganciclovir did not affect the growth of HCMV-negative tumor cell lines. These findings imply an important role for HCMV in medulloblastoma and suggest HCMV as a novel therapeutic target for this tumor.
PMCID: PMC3195466  PMID: 21946257
3.  Quantitative global and gene-specific promoter methylation in relation to biological properties of neuroblastomas 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:83.
In this study we aimed to quantify tumor suppressor gene (TSG) promoter methylation densities levels in primary neuroblastoma tumors and cell lines. A subset of these TSGs is associated with a CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) in other tumor types.
The study panel consisted of 38 primary tumors, 7 established cell lines and 4 healthy references. Promoter methylation was determined by bisulphate Pyrosequencing for 14 TSGs; and LINE-1 repeat element methylation was used as an indicator of global methylation levels.
Overall mean TSG Z-scores were significantly increased in cases with adverse outcome, but were unrelated to global LINE-1 methylation. CIMP with hypermethylation of three or more gene promoters was observed in 6/38 tumors and 7/7 cell lines. Hypermethylation of one or more TSG (comprising TSGs BLU, CASP8, DCR2, CDH1, RASSF1A and RASSF2) was evident in 30/38 tumors. By contrast only very low levels of promoter methylation were recorded for APC, DAPK1, NORE1A, P14, P16, TP73, PTEN and RARB. Similar involvements of methylation instability were revealed between cell line models and neuroblastoma tumors. Separate analysis of two proposed CASP8 regulatory regions revealed frequent and significant involvement of CpG sites between exon 4 and 5, but modest involvement of the exon 1 region.
The results highlight the involvement of TSG methylation instability in neuroblastoma tumors and cell lines using quantitative methods, support the use of DNA methylation analyses as a prognostic tool for this tumor type, and underscore the relevance of developing demethylating therapies for its treatment.
PMCID: PMC3495052  PMID: 22984959
Neuroblastoma; Pyrosequencing; CIMP; BLU; CASP8; DCR2; CDH1; RASSF1A; RASSF2
4.  Is human cytomegalovirus a target in cancer therapy? 
Oncotarget  2011;2(12):1329-1338.
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a herpesvirus that is prevalent in the human population. HCMV has recently been implicated in different cancer forms where it may provide mechanisms for oncogenic transformation, oncomodulation and tumour cell immune evasion. Moreover, antiviral treatment against HCMV has been shown to inhibit tumour growth in preclinical models. Here we describe the possible involvement of HCMV in cancer and discuss the potential molecular impact expression of HCMV proteins have on tumour cells and the surrounding tumour microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3282090  PMID: 22246171
cancer; human cytomegalovirus
5.  Sunitinib Suppress Neuroblastoma Growth through Degradation of MYCN and Inhibition of Angiogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95628.
Neuroblastoma, a tumor of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system, is the most common and deadly extracranial tumor of childhood. The majority of high-risk neuroblastoma exhibit amplification of the MYCN proto-oncogene and increased neoangiogenesis. Both MYCN protein stabilization and angiogenesis are regulated by signaling through receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). Therefore, inhibitors of RTKs have a potential as a treatment option for high-risk neuroblastoma. We used receptor tyrosine kinase antibody arrays to profile the activity of membrane-bound RTKs in neuroblastoma and found the multi-RTK inhibitor sunitinib to tailor the activation of RTKs in neuroblastoma cells. Sunitinib inhibited several RTKs and demonstrated potent antitumor activity on neuroblastoma cells, through induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Treatment with sunitinib decreased MYCN protein levels by inhibition of PI3K/AKT signaling and GSK3β. This effect correlates with a decrease in VEGF secretion in neuroblastoma cells with MYCN amplification. Sunitinib significantly inhibited the growth of established, subcutaneous MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma xenografts in nude mice and demonstrated an anti-angiogenic effect in vivo with a reduction of tumor vasculature and a decrease of MYCN expression. These results suggest that sunitinib should be tested as a treatment option for high risk neuroblastoma patients.
PMCID: PMC3997473  PMID: 24759734
6.  Tumor Development, Growth Characteristics and Spectrum of Genetic Aberrations in the TH-MYCN Mouse Model of Neuroblastoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51297.
The TH-MYCN transgenic neuroblastoma model, with targeted MYCN expression to the developing neural crest, has been used to study neuroblastoma development and evaluate novel targeted tumor therapies.
We followed tumor development in 395 TH-MYCN (129X1/SvJ) mice (125 negative, 206 hemizygous and 64 homozygous mice) by abdominal palpations up to 40 weeks of age. DNA sequencing of MYCN in the original plasmid construct and mouse genomic DNA was done to verify the accuracy. Copy number analysis with Affymetrix® Mouse Diversity Genotyping Arrays was used to characterize acquired genetic aberrations.
DNA sequencing confirmed presence of human MYCN cDNA in genomic TH-MYCN DNA corresponding to the original plasmid construct. Tumor incidence and growth correlated significantly to transgene status with event-free survival for hemizygous mice at 50%, and 0% for homozygous mice. Hemizygous mice developed tumors at 5.6–19 weeks (median 9.1) and homozygous mice at 4.0–6.9 weeks (5.4). The mean treatment window, time from palpable tumor to sacrifice, for hemizygous and homozygous mice was 15 and 5.2 days, respectively. Hemizygous mice developing tumors as early as homozygous mice had a longer treatment window. Age at tumor development did not influence treatment window for hemizygous mice, whereas treatment window in homozygous mice decreased significantly with increasing age. Seven out of 10 analysed tumors had a flat DNA profile with neither segmental nor numerical chromosomal aberrations. Only three tumors from hemizygous mice showed acquired genetic features with one or more numerical aberrations. Of these, one event corresponded to gain on the mouse equivalent of human chromosome 17.
Hemizygous and homozygous TH-MYCN mice have significantly different neuroblastoma incidence, tumor growth characteristics and treatment windows but overlap in age at tumor development making correct early genotyping essential to evaluate therapeutic interventions. Contrasting previous studies, our data show that TH-MYCN tumors have few genetic aberrations.
PMCID: PMC3524187  PMID: 23284678
7.  Cytomegalovirus infection in brain tumors 
Oncoimmunology  2012;1(5):739-740.
Emerging evidence demonstrate a high prevalence of cytomegalovirus (CMV) proteins and nucleic acids in different tumors. CMV is confined to tumor cells and non-cancer cells in close proximity to tumors are consistently virus negative. CMV confers both oncogenic and oncomodulatory mechanisms, and may therefore provide a novel target in cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3429578  PMID: 22934266
cytomegalovirus; immunotherapy; cancer; COX-2; brain tumor; anti-viral treatment
8.  Autocrine Prostaglandin E2 Signaling Promotes Tumor Cell Survival and Proliferation in Childhood Neuroblastoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29331.
Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) is an important mediator in tumor-promoting inflammation. High expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) has been detected in the embryonic childhood tumor neuroblastoma, and treatment with COX inhibitors significantly reduces tumor growth. Here, we have investigated the significance of a high COX-2 expression in neuroblastoma by analysis of PGE2 production, the expression pattern and localization of PGE2 receptors and intracellular signal transduction pathways activated by PGE2.
Principal Findings
A high expression of the PGE2 receptors, EP1, EP2, EP3 and EP4 in primary neuroblastomas, independent of biological and clinical characteristics, was detected using immunohistochemistry. In addition, mRNA and protein corresponding to each of the receptors were detected in neuroblastoma cell lines. Immunofluorescent staining revealed localization of the receptors to the cellular membrane, in the cytoplasm, and in the nuclear compartment. Neuroblastoma cells produced PGE2 and stimulation of serum-starved neuroblastoma cells with PGE2 increased the intracellular concentration of calcium and cyclic AMP with subsequent phosphorylation of Akt. Addition of 16,16-dimethyl PGE2 (dmPGE2) increased cell viability in a time, dose- and cell line-dependent manner. Treatment of neuroblastoma cells with a COX-2 inhibitor resulted in a diminished cell growth and viability that was reversed by the addition of dmPGE2. Similarly, PGE2 receptor antagonists caused a decrease in neuroblastoma cell viability in a dose-dependent manner.
These findings demonstrate that PGE2 acts as an autocrine and/or paracrine survival factor for neuroblastoma cells. Hence, specific targeting of PGE2 signaling provides a novel strategy for the treatment of childhood neuroblastoma through the inhibition of important mediators of tumor-promoting inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3261878  PMID: 22276108
9.  Tumor-growth–promoting cyclooxygenase-2 prostaglandin E2 pathway provides medulloblastoma therapeutic targets 
Neuro-Oncology  2008;10(5):661-674.
Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) has been shown to play important roles in several aspects of tumor development and progression. PGE2 is synthesized from arachidonic acid by cyclooxygenases (COX) and prostaglandin E synthases (PGES) and mediates its biological activity through binding to the four prostanoid receptors EP1 through EP4. In this study, we show for the first time that medulloblastoma (MB), the most common malignant childhood brain tumor, expresses high levels of COX-2, microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1, and EP1 through EP4 and secretes PGE2. PGE2 and the EP2 receptor agonist butaprost stimulated MB cell proliferation. Treatment of MB cells with COX inhibitors suppressed PGE2 production and induced caspase-dependent apoptosis. Similarly, specific COX-2 silencing by small interfering RNA inhibited MB cell growth. EP1 and EP3 receptor antagonists ONO-8713 and ONO-AE3-240, but not the EP4 antagonists ONO-AE3-208 and AH 23848, inhibited tumor cell proliferation, indicating the significance of EP1 and EP3 but not EP4 for MB growth. Administration of COX inhibitors at clinically achievable nontoxic concentrations significantly inhibited growth of established human MB xenografts. Apoptosis was increased, proliferation was reduced, and angiogenesis was inhibited in MBs treated with COX inhibitors. This study suggests that PGE2 is important for MB growth and that therapies targeting the prostanoid metabolic pathway are potentially beneficial and should be tested in clinical settings for treatment of children with MB.
PMCID: PMC2666243  PMID: 18715952
angiogenesis; apoptosis; cyclooxygenase-2; in vivo treatment; medulloblastoma; microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1; primitive neuroectodermal tumors; proliferation; prostaglandin E2; prostanoid receptors

Results 1-9 (9)