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author:("salgiy, Ravi")
1.  Dose-Finding and Pharmacokinetic Study to Optimize the Dosing of Irinotecan According to the UGT1A1 Genotype of Patients With Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2014;32(22):2328-2334.
The risk of severe neutropenia from treatment with irinotecan is related in part to UGT1A1*28, a variant that reduces the elimination of SN-38, the active metabolite of irinotecan. We aimed to identify the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD) and dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) of irinotecan in patients with advanced solid tumors stratified by the *1/*1, *1/*28, and *28/*28 genotypes.
Patients and Methods
Sixty-eight patients received an intravenous flat dose of irinotecan every 3 weeks. Forty-six percent of the patients had the *1/*1 genotype, 41% had the *1/*28 genotype, and 13% had the *28/*28 genotype. The starting dose of irinotecan was 700 mg in patients with the *1/*1 and *1/*28 genotypes and 500 mg in patients with the *28/*28 genotype. Pharmacokinetic evaluation was performed at cycle 1.
In patients with the *1/*1 genotype, the MTD was 850 mg (four DLTs per 16 patients), and 1,000 mg was not tolerated (two DLTs per six patients). In patients with the *1/*28 genotype, the MTD was 700 mg (five DLTs per 22 patients), and 850 mg was not tolerated (four DLTs per six patients). In patients with the *28/*28 genotype, the MTD was 400 mg (one DLT per six patients), and 500 mg was not tolerated (three DLTs per three patients). The DLTs were mainly myelosuppression and diarrhea. Irinotecan clearance followed linear kinetics. At the MTD for each genotype, dosing by genotype resulted in similar SN-38 areas under the curve (AUCs; r2 = 0.0003; P = .97), but the irinotecan AUC was correlated with the actual dose (r2 = 0.39; P < .001). Four of 48 patients with disease known to be responsive to irinotecan achieved partial response.
The UGT1A1*28 genotype can be used to individualize dosing of irinotecan. Additional studies should evaluate the effect of genotype-guided dosing on efficacy in patients receiving irinotecan.
PMCID: PMC4105486  PMID: 24958824
2.  Novel EPHB4 Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Mutations and Kinomic Pathway Analysis in Lung Cancer 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:10641.
Lung cancer outcomes remain poor despite the identification of several potential therapeutic targets. The EPHB4 receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) has recently emerged as an oncogenic factor in many cancers, including lung cancer. Mutations of EPHB4 in lung cancers have previously been identified, though their significance remains unknown. Here, we report the identification of novel EPHB4 mutations that lead to putative structural alterations as well as increased cellular proliferation and motility. We also conducted a bioinformatic analysis of these mutations to demonstrate that they are mutually exclusive from other common RTK variants in lung cancer, that they correspond to analogous sites of other RTKs’ variations in cancers, and that they are predicted to be oncogenic based on biochemical, evolutionary, and domain-function constraints. Finally, we show that EPHB4 mutations can induce broad changes in the kinome signature of lung cancer cells. Taken together, these data illuminate the role of EPHB4 in lung cancer and further identify EPHB4 as a potentially important therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC4466581  PMID: 26073592
3.  Crizotinib in ROS1-Rearranged Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
The New England journal of medicine  2014;371(21):1963-1971.
Chromosomal rearrangements of the gene encoding ROS1 proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase (ROS1) define a distinct molecular subgroup of non–small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) that may be susceptible to therapeutic ROS1 kinase inhibition. Crizotinib is a small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), ROS1, and another proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase, MET.
We enrolled 50 patients with advanced NSCLC who tested positive for ROS1 rearrangement in an expansion cohort of the phase 1 study of crizotinib. Patients were treated with crizotinib at the standard oral dose of 250 mg twice daily and assessed for safety, pharmacokinetics, and response to therapy. ROS1 fusion partners were identified with the use of next-generation sequencing or reverse-transcriptase–polymerase-chain-reaction assays.
The objective response rate was 72% (95% confidence interval [CI], 58 to 84), with 3 complete responses and 33 partial responses. The median duration of response was 17.6 months (95% CI, 14.5 to not reached). Median progression-free survival was 19.2 months (95% CI, 14.4 to not reached), with 25 patients (50%) still in follow-up for progression. Among 30 tumors that were tested, we identified 7 ROS1 fusion partners: 5 known and 2 novel partner genes. No correlation was observed between the type of ROS1 rearrangement and the clinical response to crizotinib. The safety profile of crizotinib was similar to that seen in patients with ALK-rearranged NSCLC.
In this study, crizotinib showed marked antitumor activity in patients with advanced ROS1-rearranged NSCLC. ROS1 rearrangement defines a second molecular subgroup of NSCLC for which crizotinib is highly active.
PMCID: PMC4264527  PMID: 25264305
4.  Nuclear Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor is a Functional Molecular Target in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2014;13(5):1356-1368.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a subclass of breast cancers (i.e. estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, and HER2 negative) that have poor prognosis and very few identified molecular targets. Strikingly, a high percentage of TNBC’s overexpress the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), yet EGFR inhibition has yielded little clinical benefit. Over the last decade, advances in EGFR biology have established that EGFR functions in two distinct signaling pathways: 1) classical membrane-bound signaling, and 2) nuclear signaling. Previous studies have demonstrated that nuclear EGFR (nEGFR) can enhance resistance to anti-EGFR therapies and is correlated with poor overall survival in breast cancer. Based on these findings we hypothesized that nEGFR may promote intrinsic resistance to cetuximab in TNBC. To examine this question, a battery of TNBC cell lines and human tumors were screened and found to express nEGFR. Knockdown of EGFR expression demonstrated that TNBC cell lines retained dependency on EGFR for proliferation, yet all cell lines were resistant to cetuximab. Further, Src Family Kinases (SFKs) influenced nEGFR translocation in TNBC cell lines and in vivo tumor models, where inhibition of SFK activity led to potent reductions in nEGFR expression. Inhibition of nEGFR translocation led to a subsequent accumulation of EGFR on the plasma membrane, which greatly enhanced sensitivity of TNBC cells to cetuximab. Collectively, these data suggest that targeting both the nEGFR signaling pathway, through the inhibition of its nuclear transport, and the classical EGFR signaling pathway with cetuximab may be a viable approach for the treatment of TNBC patients.
PMCID: PMC4013210  PMID: 24634415
triple-negative breast cancer; nuclear EGFR; cetuximab; resistance
5.  Novel Role of the Mu Opioid Receptor in Lung Cancer Progression: A Laboratory Study 
Anesthesia and analgesia  2010;112(3):558-567.
The possibility that mu opioid agonists can influence cancer recurrence is a subject of recent interest. Epidemiologic studies suggested that there were differences in cancer recurrence in breast and prostate cancer contingent on anesthetic regimens. In this study, we identify a possible mechanism for these epidemiologic findings based on mu opioid receptor (MOR) regulation of Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) tumorigenicity in cell and animal models.
We utilized human lung tissue and human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and evaluated MOR expression using immunoblot and immunohistochemical analysis. LLC cells were treated with the peripheral opioid antagonist methylnalnaltrexone (MNTX) or MOR shRNA and evaluated for proliferation, invasion and soft agar colony formation in vitro and primary tumor growth and lung metastasis in C57BL/6 and MOR knockout mice using Visen FMT imaging and immunohistochemical analysis.
We provide several lines of evidence that the MOR may be a potential target for lung cancer, a disease with high mortality and few treatment options. We first observed that there is ~5 to 10 fold increase in MOR expression in lung samples from patients with NSCLC and in several human NSCLC cell lines. The MOR agonists morphine and DAMGO increased in vitro LLC cell growth. Treatment with MNTX or silencing MOR expression inhibited LLC invasion and anchorage-independent growth by 50–80%. Injection of MOR silenced LLC lead to a ~65% reduction in mouse lung metastasis. In addition, MOR knockout mice do not develop significant tumors when injected with LLC as compared to wildtype controls. Finally, continuous infusion of the peripheral opioid antagonist methylnaltrexone attenuates primary LLC tumor growth and reduces lung metastasis.
Taken together, our data suggests a possible direct effect of opiates on lung cancer progression, and provides a plausible explanation for the epidemiologic findings. Our observations further suggest a possible therapeutic role for opioid antagonists.
PMCID: PMC4327979  PMID: 21156980
6.  Multiple Endocrine Disruption by the MET/ALK Inhibitor Crizotinib in Patients With Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer 
American journal of clinical oncology  2013;10.1097/COC.0b013e3182a46896.
Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a heterogenous group of disorders that can be subclassified based upon molecular characterization. Anaplastic lymphoma kinase translocation and MET aberrations occur in a subset of NSCLC. Anaplastic lymphoma kinase/ MET have been shown to be inhibited by the small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor crizotinib. Recently, crizotinib was shown to decrease testosterone in males. Herein, we describe the effects of crizotinib on multiple hormonal axes.
Materials and Methods
Seven consecutive patients with NSCLC who were receiving crizotinib as part of their standard care were evaluated for hormonal disruptions.
Primary hypogonadism was detected in 4/5 of males, whereas mildly elevated prolactin was observed in 4/7 patients. Hypocalcemia was observed in 3/7 patients. Interestingly, 5/7 patients had elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels, and the remaining 2 individuals had levels that were near the upper limits of the normal range.
Because of cellular cross-talk between MET and IGF-1 signaling, elevated IGF-1 levels induced by crizotinib treatment may have implications for long-term drug efficacy. Furthermore, this finding suggests a potential avenue of therapeutic synergy, namely coordinate inhibition of the MET and IGF-1 signaling pathways. Finally, as crizotinib has been recently approved, it is prudent to check hormone and calcium biomarkers and correct noted deficiencies for improved outcomes and quality of life.
PMCID: PMC4055562  PMID: 23934135
anaplastic lymphoma kinase; crizotinib; hypocalcemia; hypogonadism; insulin-like growth factor-1; MET; non–small cell lung carcinoma
7.  Combination MET inhibition and Topoisomerase I inhibition block cell growth of Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;13(3):576-584.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a devastating disease, and current therapies have not greatly improved the 5-year survival rates. Topoisomerase (Top) inhibition is a treatment modality for SCLC; however, the response is short lived. Consequently, our research has focused on improving SCLC therapeutics through the identification of novel targets. Previously, we identified MNNG HOS transforming gene (MET) to be overexpressed and functional in SCLC. Herein, we investigated the therapeutic potential of combinatorial targeting of MET using SU11274 and Top1 using 7-ethyl-10-hydroxycamptothecin (SN-38). MET and TOP1 gene copy numbers and protein expression were determined in 29 patients with limited (n = 11) and extensive (n = 18) disease. MET gene copy number was significantly increased (>6 copies) in extensive disease compared with limited disease (P = 0.015). Similar TOP1 gene copy numbers were detected in limited and extensive disease. Immunohistochemical staining revealed a significantly higher Top1 nuclear expression in extensive (0.93) versus limited (0.15) disease (P = 0.04). Interestingly, a significant positive correlation was detected between MET gene copy number and Top1 nuclear expression (r = 0.5). In vitro stimulation of H82 cells revealed hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)–induced nuclear colocalization of p-MET and Top1. Furthermore, activation of the HGF/MET axis enhanced Top1 activity, which was abrogated by SU11274. Combination of SN-38 with SU11274 dramatically decreased SCLC growth as compared with either drug alone. Collectively, these findings suggest that the combinatorial inhibition of MET and Top1 is a potentially efficacious treatment strategy for SCLC.
PMCID: PMC4286701  PMID: 24327519
small cell lung cancer; MET; topoisomerase-I; SU11274; SN-38
8.  Expression of the EPHB4 receptor tyrosine kinase in head and neck and renal malignancies—implications for solid tumors and potential for therapeutic inhibition 
Solid malignancies are often characterized by overexpression of various receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) against which many targeted therapies are currently in use and in active development. EPHB4 has recently emerged as a frequently overexpressed RTK in many types of cancer. Here, we demonstrate expression patterns of EPHB4 in two solid malignancies, squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) and renal cell carcinoma (RCC), by immunohistochemical analysis. We demonstrate the first association between EPHB4 expression and progression of HNSCC from normal tissue to dysplasia and to cancer. Interestingly, most RCC subtypes exhibited expression patterns that were opposite from that found in HNSCC, possibly owing to their unique biology and high degree of organ and tumor vasculature. Taken together, these results suggest a possible role for EPHB4 as a therapeutic target in these malignancies.
PMCID: PMC4278660  PMID: 25391996
EphB4; receptor tyrosine kinase; head and neck cancer; renal cell carcinoma
9.  Unique metastases of ALK mutated lung cancer activated to the adnexa of the uterus 
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusion positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a relatively novel molecular subtype in lung cancer. ALK targeted therapies such as crizotinib increase survival benefit in this patient population. However, further understanding of the disease subtype including patterns of metastasis and pathways of treatment resistance are needed. We describe a 50 year-old-woman diagnosed with stage IV NSCLC, T2N3M1b, ALK fusion positive disease. Although her initial sites of metastasis included the liver and bone, her story is notable for crizotinib resistant growth of a metastatic lesion to her adnexa. This report brings to attention unique mechanisms of metastasis in ALK positive patients.
PMCID: PMC4274795  PMID: 25541622
Non-small cell lung cancer; Adnexa; Metastasis; Anaplastic lymphoma kinase
10.  Overcoming acquired resistance to cetuximab by dual targeting HER family receptors with antibody-based therapy 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13:242.
Cetuximab, an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody, is used to treat several cancers. However, many patients who initially respond to cetuximab acquire resistance. To examine mechanisms of acquired resistance, we developed a series of cetuximab-resistant (CtxR) clones derived from the cetuximab sensitive (CtxS) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line H226. Previous studies characterizing this model revealed that: 1) EGFR was robustly overexpressed in CtxR clones due to decreased EGFR ubiquitination and degradation and 2) CtxR clones expressed increased HER2 and HER3 activation resulting in constitutive activation of the PI3K/AKT signaling axis. These findings suggest that dual targeting HER family receptors would be highly beneficial in the CtxR setting.
Since HER3 has been implicated in resistance to EGFR inhibitors, the efficacy of dually targeting both EGFR and HER3 in CtxR models was evaluated. First, EGFR and HER3 expression were knocked down with siRNAs. Compared to the CtxS parental cell line (HP), all CtxR clones exhibited robust decreases in cell proliferation upon dual knockdown. Analysis of CtxR clones indicated that neuregulin-1 was highly overexpressed compared to HP cells. Incubation of HP cells with neuregulin-1 rendered them resistant to cetuximab. Next, dual treatment of CtxR clones with cetuximab and the HER3 neutralizing monoclonal antibody (mAb) U3-1287 led to potent anti-proliferative effects. Blockade of EGFR with cetuximab resulted in inactivation of MAPK, while blockade of HER3 with U3-1287 resulted in the inactivation of AKT. Treatment with both mAbs resulted in knockdown of both signaling pathways simultaneously. HER2 was also strongly inactivated upon dual mAb therapy, suggesting that this treatment regimen can diminish signaling from three HER family receptors. De novo CtxR H226 mouse xenografts were established to determine if dual therapy could overcome acquired resistance to cetuximab in vivo. Tumors that had acquired resistance to cetuximab were significantly growth delayed upon dual treatment of U3-1287 and cetuximab compared to those continued on cetuximab only. Combinatorial-treated xenograft tumors expressed decreased Ki67 and increased cleaved caspase-3 levels compared to tumors treated with either monotherapy.
These studies demonstrate that dually targeting HER family receptors with antibody-based therapies can overcome acquired resistance to cetuximab.
PMCID: PMC4283113  PMID: 25344208
EGFR; HER3; U3-1287; Cetuximab; Acquired cetuximab-resistance; Non-small cell lung cancer; MAPK; AKT
11.  MET and PI3K/mTOR as a Potential Combinatorial Therapeutic Target in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e105919.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive disease with a poor prognosis. Studies have shown that both MET and its key downstream intracellular signaling partners, PI3K and mTOR, are overexpressed in MPM. Here we determined the combinatorial therapeutic efficacy of a new generation small molecule inhibitor of MET, ARQ 197, and dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitors NVP-BEZ235 and GDC-0980 in mesothelioma cell and mouse xenograft models. Cell viability results show that mesothelioma cell lines were sensitive to ARQ 197, NVP-BEZ235 and GDC-0980 inhibitors. The combined use of ARQ 197 with either NVP-BEZ235 or GDC-0980, was synergistic (CI<1). Significant delay in wound healing was observed with ARQ 197 (p<0.001) with no added advantage of combining it with either NVP-BEZ235 or GDC-0980. ARQ 197 alone mainly induced apoptosis (20±2.36%) that was preceded by suppression of MAPK activity, while all the three suppressed cell cycle progression. Both GDC-0980 and NVP-BEZ235 strongly inhibited activities of PI3K and mTOR as evidenced from the phosphorylation status of AKT and S6 kinase. The above observation was further substantiated by the finding that a majority of the MPM archival samples tested revealed highly active AKT. While the single use of ARQ 197 and GDC-0980 inhibited significantly the growth of MPM xenografts (p<0.05, p<0.001 respectively) in mice, the combination of the above two drugs was highly synergistic (p<0.001). Our results suggest that the combined use of ARQ 197/NVP-BEZ235 and ARQ 197/GDC-0980 is far more effective than the use of the drugs singly in suppressing MPM tumor growth and motility and therefore merit further translational studies.
PMCID: PMC4164360  PMID: 25221930
12.  NADPH oxidases regulate cell growth and migration in myeloid cells transformed by oncogenic tyrosine kinases 
Leukemia  2010;25(2):281-289.
Transformation by tyrosine kinase oncogenes in myeloid malignancies, including BCR-ABL in chronic myeloid leukemia, FLT3ITD in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or JAK2V617F in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), is associated with increased growth and cytoskeletal abnormalities. Using targeted approaches against components of the superoxide-producing NADPH-oxidases, including NOX2, NOX4 and the common p22phox subunit of NOX1-4, myeloid cells were found to display reduced cell growth and spontaneous migration. Consistent with a role of NOX as regulators of membrane proximal signaling events in non-phagocytic cells, NOX2 and NOX4 were not involved in the excess production of intracellular reactive oxygen species and did not significantly increase oxygen consumption. All NOX family members are controlled in part through levels of the rate-limiting substrate NADPH, which was found to be significantly elevated in tyrosine kinase oncogene transformed cells. Also, reduced phosphorylation of the actin filament crosslinking protein MARCKS in response to suppression of p22phox hints at a novel effector of NOX signaling. MARCKS was also found to be required for increased migration. Overall, these data suggest a model whereby NOX links metabolic NADPH production to cellular events that directly contribute to transformation.
PMCID: PMC4078661  PMID: 21072051
Myeloid neoplasia; tyrosine kinase oncogene; signal transduction; NADPH oxidase; migration
Nuclear EGFR (nEGFR) has been identified in various human tumor tissues, including cancers of the breast, ovary, oropharynx, and esophagus, and has predicted poor patient outcomes. We sought to determine if protein expression of nEGFR is prognostic in early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Resected stage I and II NSCLC specimens were evaluated for nEGFR protein expression using immunohistochemistry (IHC). Cases with at least one replicate core containing ≥5% of tumor cells demonstrating strong dot-like nucleolar EGFR expression were scored as nEGFR positive.
Twenty-three (26.1% of the population) of 88 resected specimens stained positively for nEGFR. Nuclear EGFR protein expression was associated with higher disease stage (45.5% of stage II vs. 14.5% of stage I; p=0.023), histology (41.7% in squamous cell carcinoma vs. 17.1% in adenocarcinoma; p=0.028), shorter progression-free survival (PFS) (median PFS 8.7 months [95% CI 5.1–10.7 mo] for nEGFR positive vs. 14.5 months [95% CI 9.5–17.4 mo] for nEGFR negative; hazard ratio (HR) of 1.89 [95% CI 1.15–3.10]; p=0.011), and shorter overall survival (OS) (median OS 14.1 months [95% CI 10.3–22.7 mo] for nEGFR positive vs. 23.4 months [95% CI 20.1–29.4 mo] for nEGFR negative; HR of 1.83 [95% CI 1.12–2.99]; p=0.014).
Expression of nEGFR protein was associated with higher stage and squamous cell histology, and predicted shorter PFS and OS, in this patient cohort. Nuclear EGFR serves as a useful independent prognostic variable and as a potential therapeutic target in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3679338  PMID: 23628526
non-small cell lung cancer; nuclear; epidermal growth factor receptor; prognosis; biomarker; survival analysis
15.  Fibroblast growth factor signaling and inhibition in non-small cell lung cancer and their role in squamous cell tumors 
Cancer Medicine  2014;3(3):681-692.
With the introduction of targeted agents primarily applicable to non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) of adenocarcinoma histology, there is a heightened unmet need in the squamous cell carcinoma population. Targeting the angiogenic fibroblast growth factor (FGF)/FGF receptor (FGFR) signaling pathway is among the strategies being explored in squamous NSCLC; these efforts are supported by growth-promoting effects of FGF signaling in preclinical studies (including interactions with other pathways) and observations suggesting that FGF/FGFR-related aberrations may be more common in squamous versus adenocarcinoma and other histologies. A number of different anti-FGF/FGFR approaches have shown promise in preclinical studies. Clinical trials of two multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors are restricting enrollment to patients with squamous NSCLC: a phase I/II trial of nintedanib added to first-line gemcitabine/cisplatin and a phase II trial of ponatinib for previously treated advanced disease, with the latter requiring not only squamous disease but also a confirmed FGFR kinase amplification or mutation. There are several ongoing clinical trials of multitargeted agents in general NSCLC populations, including but not limited to patients with squamous disease. Other FGF/FGFR-targeted agents are in earlier clinical development. While results are awaited from these clinical investigations in squamous NSCLC and other disease settings, additional research is needed to elucidate the role of FGF/FGFR signaling in the biology of NSCLC of different histologies.
PMCID: PMC4101760  PMID: 24711160
Angiogenesis inhibitors; fibroblast growth factors; non-small cell lung cancer; squamous cell carcinoma
16.  TLR3 Agonists and Proinflammatory Antitumor Activities 
Although tumor growth leads to inflammatory responses, the immune system develops tolerance to cancer. One way to break host tolerance to tumors is to activate key immune effector activities. Toward this end, various adjuvants are under investigation in an effort to harness the immune system to overcome tolerance to tumor associated self-antigens. There is enthusiasm for the use of specific ligands for toll-like 3 receptors (TLR3) that play a key role in the innate immune system. TLR3 agonists serve as immune adjuvants because they potently induce innate immune responses by activating dendritic cell (DC) maturation and inflammatory cytokine secretion. These activities facilitate the bridge between the innate and adaptive immune systems promoting the expansion of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) that destroy cancer cells. TLR3 agonists either alone or in combination with tumor antigens have shown success in terms of enhancing immune responses and eliciting antitumor activity in preclinical models. However, TLR3 agonists can also impact regulatory cells that dampen immune responses. Thus, immune strategies that utilize TLR3 agonists should consider the relative induction of suppressive as well as beneficial anti tumor immune activities. Herein, we summarize the TLR3 agonists that will hopefully come to clinical fruition.
PMCID: PMC3758767  PMID: 23506058
TLR3 Agonists; Immune therapy; Immune Suppression; Cancer
17.  Targeting myeloid-derived suppressor cells augments antitumor activity against lung cancer 
ImmunoTargets and therapy  2012;2012(1):7-12.
Lung cancer evades host immune surveillance by dysregulating inflammation. Tumors and their surrounding stromata produce growth factors, cytokines, and chemokines that recruit, expand, and/or activate myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). MDSCs regulate immune responses and are frequently found in malignancy. In this review the authors discuss tumor-MDSC interactions that suppress host antitumor activities and the authors’ recent findings regarding MDSC depletion that led to improved therapeutic vaccination responses against lung cancer. Despite the identification of a repertoire of tumor antigens, hurdles persist for immune-based anticancer therapies. It is likely that combined therapies that address the multiple immune deficits in cancer patients will be required for effective therapy. MDSCs play a major role in the suppression of T-cell activation and they sustain tumor growth, proliferation, and metastases. Regulation of MDSC recruitment, differentiation or expansion, and inhibition of the MDSC suppressive function with pharmacologic agents will be useful in the control of cancer growth and progression. Pharmacologic agents that regulate MDSCs may be more effective when combined with immunotherapies. Optimization of combined approaches that simultaneously downregulate MDSC suppressor pathways, restore APC immune-stimulating activity, and expand tumor-reactive T cells will be useful in improving therapy.
PMCID: PMC4004632  PMID: 24791250
MDSCs; antigen-presenting cells; natural killer cell activation; T-cell activation; immunotherapy
18.  The Mu Opioid Receptor Promotes Opioid and Growth Factor-Induced Proliferation, Migration and Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) in Human Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91577.
Recent epidemiologic studies implying differences in cancer recurrence based on anesthetic regimens raise the possibility that the mu opioid receptor (MOR) can influence cancer progression. Based on our previous observations that overexpression of MOR in human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells increased tumor growth and metastasis, this study examined whether MOR regulates growth factor receptor signaling and epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) in human NSCLC cells. We utilized specific siRNA, shRNA, chemical inhibitors and overexpression vectors in human H358 NSCLC cells that were either untreated or treated with various concentrations of DAMGO, morphine, fentanyl, EGF or IGF. Cell function assays, immunoblot and immunoprecipitation assays were then performed. Our results indicate MOR regulates opioid and growth factor-induced EGF receptor signaling (Src, Gab-1, PI3K, Akt and STAT3 activation) which is crucial for consequent human NSCLC cell proliferation and migration. In addition, human NSCLC cells treated with opioids, growth factors or MOR overexpression exhibited an increase in snail, slug and vimentin and decrease ZO-1 and claudin-1 protein levels, results consistent with an EMT phenotype. Further, these effects were reversed with silencing (shRNA) or chemical inhibition of MOR, Src, Gab-1, PI3K, Akt and STAT3 (p<0.05). Our data suggest a possible direct effect of MOR on opioid and growth factor-signaling and consequent proliferation, migration and EMT transition during lung cancer progression. Such an effect provides a plausible explanation for the epidemiologic findings.
PMCID: PMC3963855  PMID: 24662916
19.  Role of PAX8 in the regulation of MET and RON receptor tyrosine kinases in non-small cell lung cancer 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:185.
Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) are highly heterogeneous at the molecular level and comprise 75% of all lung tumors. We have previously shown that the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) MET frequently suffers gain-of-function mutations that significantly promote lung tumorigenesis. Subsequent studies from our lab also revealed that PAX5 transcription factor is preferentially expressed in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and promotes MET transcription. PAX8, however, is also expressed in NSCLC cell lines. We therefore investigated the role of PAX8 in NSCLC.
Using IHC analysis, PAX8 protein expression was determined in archival NSCLC tumor tissues (n = 254). In order to study the effects of PAX8 knockdown on NSCLC cellular functions such as apoptosis and motility, siRNA against PAX8 was used. Confocal fluorescence microscopy was used to monitor the localization of MET, RON and PAX8. The combinatorial effect of PAX8 knockdown and MET inhibition using SU11274 was investigated in NSCLC cell viability assay.
Relative levels of PAX8 protein were elevated (≥ + 2 on a scale of 0–3) in adenocarcinoma (58/94), large cell carcinoma (50/85), squamous cell carcinoma (28/47), and metastatic NSCLC (17/28; lymph node). Utilizing early progenitors isolated from NSCLC cell lines and fresh tumor tissues, we observed robust overexpression of PAX8, MET, and RON. PAX8 knockdown A549 cells revealed abrogated PAX8 expression with a concomitant loss in MET and the related RON kinase expression. A dramatic colocalization between the active form of MET (also RON) and PAX8 upon challenging A549 cells with HGF was visualized. A similar colocalization of MET and EGL5 (PAX8 ortholog) proteins was found in embryos of C. elegans. Most importantly, knockdown of PAX8 in A549 cells resulted in enhanced apoptosis (~6 fold) and decreased cell motility (~45%), thereby making PAX8 a potential therapeutic target. However, the combinatorial approach of PAX8 knockdown and treatment with MET inhibitor, SU11274, had marginal additive effect on loss of NSCLC cell viability.
PAX8 provides signals for growth and motility of NSCLC cells and is necessary for MET and RON expression. Further investigations are necessary to investigate the therapeutic potential of PA8 in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3995599  PMID: 24628993
20.  MET As a Possible Target for Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2013;31(8):1089-1096.
Lung cancer is a heterogeneous group of disorders that is now being subdivided into molecular subtypes with dedicated targeted therapies. The MET receptor tyrosine kinase has been identified as aberrantly overexpressed, potentially having activating mutations, and amplified in certain subsets of lung cancers. The ligand hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) can also be overexpressed in lung cancer or expressed in stroma, and both the MET receptor and the HGF ligand can be targets for therapeutics, especially in lung cancer. Activation of MET leads to a plethora of biochemical and biologic changes both in normal and cancerous cells. Preclinically, it has been shown that silencing or inactivating MET leads to decreased viability of cancer cells. There are a number of compounds against MET/HGF in clinical trials that have been shown to be active in lung cancers. This review will summarize the biology of MET as well as its therapeutic inhibition in lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3589702  PMID: 23401458
21.  Activating the Expression of Human K-rasG12D Stimulates Oncogenic Transformation in Transgenic Goat Fetal Fibroblast Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90059.
Humane use of preclinical large animal cancer models plays a critical role in understanding cancer biology and developing therapeutic treatments. Among the large animal candidates, goats have great potentials as sustainable sources for large animal cancer model development. Goats are easier to handle and cheaper to raise. The genome of the goats has been sequenced recently. It has been known that goats develop skin, adrenal cortex, breast and other types of cancers. Technically, goats are subject to somatic cell nuclear transfer more efficiently and exhibit better viability through the cloning process. Towards the development of a goat cancer model, we created a transgenic goat fetal fibroblast (GFF) cell as the donor cell for SCNT. Human mutated K-ras (hK-rasG12D) was chosen as the transgene, as it is present in 20% of cancers. Both hK-rasG12D and a herpes simplex viral thymidine kinase (HSV1-tk) reporter genes, flanked by a pair of LoxP sites, were knocked in the GFF endogenous K-ras locus through homologous recombination. Following Cre-mediated activation (with a 95% activation efficiency), hK-rasG12D and HSV1-tk were expressed in the transgenic GFF cells, evidently through the presence of corresponding mRNAs, and confirmed by HSV1-tk protein function assay. The hK-rasG12D expressing GFF cells exhibited enhanced proliferation rates and an anchorage-independent growth behavior. They were able to initiate tumor growth in athymic nude mice. In conclusion, after activating hK-rasG12D gene expression, hK-rasG12D transgenic GFF cells were transformed into tumorgenesis cells. Transgenic goats via SCNT using the above-motioned cells as the donor cells have been established.
PMCID: PMC3942380  PMID: 24594684
22.  Molecular pathways and therapeutic targets in lung cancer 
Oncotarget  2014;5(6):1392-1433.
Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Both histologically and molecularly lung cancer is heterogeneous. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the pathways involved in the various types of lung cancer with an emphasis on the clinical implications of the increasing number of actionable molecular targets. It describes the major pathways and molecular alterations implicated in the development and progression of non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma and squamous cancer), and of small cell carcinoma, emphasizing the molecular alterations comprising the specific blueprints in each group. The approved and investigational targeted therapies as well as the immune therapies, and clinical trials exploring the variety of targeted approaches to treatment of lung cancer are the main focus of this review.
PMCID: PMC4039220  PMID: 24722523
lung cancer; targeted therapy; immune therapy
23.  Activity and safety of crizotinib in patients with ALK-positive non-small-cell lung cancer: updated results from a phase 1 study 
The lancet oncology  2012;13(10):1011-1019.
ALK fusion genes occur in a subset of non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs). We assessed the tolerability and activity of crizotinib in patients with NSCLC who were prospectively identified to have an ALK fusion within the first-in-man phase 1 crizotinib study.
In this phase 1 study, patients with ALK-positive stage III or IV NSCLC received oral crizotinib 250 mg twice daily in 28-day cycles. Endpoints included tumour responses, duration of response, time to tumour response, progression-free survival (PFS), overall survival at 6 and 12 months, and determination of the safety and tolerability and characterisation of the plasma pharmacokinetic profile of crizotinib after oral administration. Responses were analysed in evaluable patients and PFS and safety were analysed in all patients. This study is registered with, number NCT00585195.
Between Aug 27, 2008, and June 1, 2011, 149 ALK-positive patients were enrolled, 143 of whom were included in the response-evaluable population. 87 of 143 patients had an objective response (60·8%, 95% CI 52·3–68·9), including three complete responses and 84 partial responses. Median time to first documented objective response was 7·9 weeks (range 2·1–39·6) and median duration of response was 49·1 weeks (95% CI 39·3–75·4). The response rate seemed to be largely independent of age, sex, performance status, or line of treatment. Median PFS was 9·7 months (95% CI 7·7–12·8). Median overall survival data are not yet mature, but estimated overall survival at 6 and 12 months was 87·9% (95% CI 81·3–92·3) and 74·8% (66·4–81·5), respectively. 39 patients continued to receive crizotinib for more than 2 weeks after progression because of perceived ongoing clinical benefit from the drug (12 for at least 6 months from the time of their initial investigator-defined disease progression). Overall, 144 (97%) of 149 patients experienced treatment-related adverse events, which were mostly grade 1 or 2. The most common adverse events were visual effects, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, and peripheral oedema. The most common treatment-related grade 3 or 4 adverse events were neutropenia (n=9), raised alanine aminotransferase (n=6), hypophosphataemia (n=6), and lymphopenia (n=6).
Crizotinib is well tolerated with rapid, durable responses in patients with ALK-positive NSCLC. There seems to be potential for ongoing benefit after initial disease progression in this population, but a more formal definition of ongoing benefit in this context is needed.
PMCID: PMC3936578  PMID: 22954507
24.  Evaluation of a novel rash scale and a serum proteomic predictor in a randomized phase II trial of sequential or concurrent cetuximab and pemetrexed in previously treated non-small cell lung cancer 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:5.
Candidate predictive biomarkers for epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors (EGFRi), skin rash and serum proteomic assays, require further qualification to improve EGFRi therapy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In a phase II trial that was closed to accrual because of changes in clinical practice we examined the relationships among candidate biomarkers, quantitative changes in tumor size, progression-free and overall survival.
55 patients with progressive NSCLC after platinum therapy were randomized to receive (Arm A) cetuximab, followed by pemetrexed at progression, or (Arm B) concurrent cetuximab and pemetrexed. All received cetuximab monotherapy for the first 14 days. Pre-treatment serum and weekly rash assessments by standard and EGFRi-induced rash (EIR) scales were collected.
43 patients (20-Arm A, 23-Arm B) completed the 14-day run-in. Median survival was 9.1 months. Arm B had better median overall (Arm B = 10.3 [95% CI 7.5, 16.8]; Arm A = 3.5 [2.8, 11.7] months P = 0.046) and progression-free survival (Arm B = 2.3 [1.6, 3.1]; Arm A = 1.6 [0.9, 1.9] months P = 0.11). The EIR scale distributed ratings among 6 rather than 3 categories but ordinal scale rash severity did not predict outcomes. The serum proteomic classifier and absence of rash after 21 days of cetuximab did.
Absence of rash after 21 days of cetuximab therapy and the serum proteomic classifier, but not ordinal rash severity, were associated with NSCLC outcomes. Although in a small study, these observations were consistent with results from larger retrospective analyses.
Trial registration Identifier NCT00203931
PMCID: PMC3893521  PMID: 24386952
Pemetrexed; Lung Cancer; Cetuximab; Rash; EGFR; Proteomics
25.  A Multicenter Phase II Study of Ganetespib Monotherapy in Patients with Genotypically Defined Advanced Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Ganetespib is a novel inhibitor of the heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90), a chaperone protein critical to tumor growth and proliferation. In this phase II study, we evaluated the activity and tolerability of ganetespib in previously treated patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Experimental Design
Patients were enrolled into cohort A (mutant EGFR), B (mutant KRAS), or C (no EGFR or KRAS mutations). Patients were treated with 200 mg/m2 ganetespib by intravenous infusion once weekly for 3 weeks followed by 1 week of rest, until disease progression. The primary endpoint was progression-free survival (PFS) at 16 weeks. Secondary endpoints included objective response (ORR), duration of treatment, tolerability, median PFS, overall survival (OS), and correlative studies.
Ninety-nine patients with a median of 2 prior systemic therapies were enrolled; 98 were assigned to cohort A (n = 15), B (n = 17), or C (n = 66), with PFS rates at 16 weeks of 13.3%, 5.9%, and 19.7%, respectively. Four patients (4%) achieved partial response (PR); all had disease that harbored anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangement, retrospectively detected by FISH (n = 1) or PCR-based assays (n = 3), in crizotinib-naïve patients enrolled to cohort C. Eight patients (8.1%) experienced treatment-related serious adverse events (AE); 2 of these (cardiac arrest and renal failure) resulted in death. The most common AEs were diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, and anorexia.
Ganetespib monotherapy showed a manageable side effect profile as well as clinical activity in heavily pretreated patients with advanced NSCLCs, particularly in patients with tumors harboring ALK gene rearrangement.
PMCID: PMC3874465  PMID: 23553849

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