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Cancer Research

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Cancer Research


Personalized cancer medicine is becoming increasingly important in colorectal cancer treatment. Especially for targeted therapies, large variations between individual treatment responses exist. Predicting therapy response is of utmost significance, as it prevents overtreatment and adverse effects in patients. For EGFR-targeted therapy, many mechanisms of resistance have been uncovered, for example, mutations in KRAS and BRAF, and upregulation of alternative receptors. Currently, routine testing for all known modifiers of response is unpractical, and as a result, decision-making for anti-EGFR therapy is still largely based on assessing the mutation status of an individual gene (KRAS). Recently, comprehensive classifications of colorectal cancer have been presented that integrate many of the (epi-)genetic and microenvironmental factors that contribute to colorectal cancer heterogeneity. These classification systems are not only of prognostic value but also predict therapy efficacy, including the response to anti-EGFR agents. Therefore, molecular subtype–based stratification to guide therapeutic decisions is a promising new strategy that might overcome the shortcomings of single gene testing in colorectal cancer as well as in other malignancies. Furthermore, the development of new agents in a disease subtype–specific fashion has the potential to transform drug-discovery studies and generate novel, more effective therapies. Cancer Res; 75(2); 245–9. ©2014 AACR.

Elevated protein synthesis is an important feature of many cancer cells and often arises as a consequence of increased signaling flux channeled to eukaryotic initiation factor 4F (eIF4F), the key regulator of the mRNA–ribosome recruitment phase of translation initiation. In many cellular and preclinical models of cancer, eIF4F deregulation results in changes in translational efficiency of specific mRNA classes. Importantly, many of these mRNAs code for proteins that potently regulate critical cellular processes, such as cell growth and proliferation, enhanced cell survival and cell migration that ultimately impinge on several hallmarks of cancer, including increased angiogenesis, deregulated growth control, enhanced cellular survival, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, invasion, and metastasis. By being positioned as the molecular nexus downstream of key oncogenic signaling pathways (e.g., Ras, PI3K/AKT/TOR, and MYC), eIF4F serves as a direct link between important steps in cancer development and translation initiation. Identification of mRNAs particularly responsive to elevated eIF4F activity that typifies tumorigenesis underscores the critical role of eIF4F in cancer and raises the exciting possibility of developing new-in-class small molecules targeting translation initiation as antineoplastic agents. Cancer Res; 75(2); 250–63. ©2014 AACR.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive neoplasm associated with asbestos exposure. Although previous studies based on candidate gene approaches have identified important common somatic mutations in MPM, these studies have focused on small sets of genes and have provided a limited view of the genetic alterations underlying this disease. Here, we performed whole-exome sequencing on DNA from 22 MPMs and matched blood samples, and identified 517 somatic mutations across 490 mutated genes. Integrative analysis of mutations and somatic copy-number alterations revealed frequent genetic alterations in BAP1, NF2, CDKN2A, and CUL1. Our study presents the first unbiased view of the genomic basis of MPM. Cancer Res; 75(2); 264–9. ©2014 AACR.

Adiposity is an established risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer. Recent data suggest that high insulin levels in overweight women may play a major role in this relationship, due to insulin's mitogenic/antiapoptotic activity. However, whether overweight women who are metabolically healthy (i.e., normal insulin sensitivity) have elevated risk of breast cancer is unknown. We investigated whether overweight women with normal insulin sensitivity [i.e., homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index, or fasting insulin level, within the lowest quartile (q1)] have increased breast cancer risk. Subjects were incident breast cancer cases (N = 497) and a subcohort (N = 2,830) of Women's Health Initiative (WHI) participants with available fasting insulin and glucose levels. In multivariate Cox models, metabolically healthy overweight women, defined using HOMA-IR, were not at elevated risk of breast cancer compared with metabolically healthy normal weight women [HRHOMA-IR, 0.96; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.64–1.42]. In contrast, the risk among women with high (q3-4) HOMA-IRs was elevated whether they were overweight (HRHOMA-IR, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.19-2.60) or normal weight (HRHOMA-IR, 1.80; 95% CI, 0.88–3.70). Similarly, using fasting insulin to define metabolic health, metabolically unhealthy women (insulin q3-4) were at higher risk of breast cancer regardless of whether they were normal weight (HRinsulin, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.01–4.22) or overweight (HRinsulin, 2.01; 95% CI, 1.35–2.99), whereas metabolically healthy overweight women did not have significantly increased risk of breast cancer (HRinsulin, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.64–1.42) relative to metabolically healthy normal weight women. Metabolic health (e.g., HOMA-IR or fasting insulin) may be more biologically relevant and more useful for breast cancer risk stratification than adiposity per se. Cancer Res; 75(2); 270–4. ©2014 AACR.

Enzymatic depletion of the nonessential amino acid l-Arginine (l-Arg) in patients with cancer by the administration of a pegylated form of the catabolic enzyme arginase I (peg-Arg I) has shown some promise as a therapeutic approach. However, l-Arg deprivation also suppresses T-cell responses in tumors. In this study, we sought to reconcile these observations by conducting a detailed analysis of the effects of peg-Arg I on normal T cells. Strikingly, we found that peg-Arg I blocked proliferation and cell-cycle progression in normal activated T cells without triggering apoptosis or blunting T-cell activation. These effects were associated with an inhibition of aerobic glycolysis in activated T cells, but not with significant alterations in mitochondrial oxidative respiration, which thereby regulated survival of T cells exposed to peg-Arg I. Further mechanistic investigations showed that the addition of citrulline, a metabolic precursor for l-Arg, rescued the antiproliferative effects of peg-Arg I on T cells in vitro. Moreover, serum levels of citrulline increased after in vivo administration of peg-Arg I. In support of the hypothesis that peg-Arg I acted indirectly to block T-cell responses in vivo, peg-Arg I inhibited T-cell proliferation in mice by inducing accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC). MDSC induction by peg-Arg I occurred through the general control nonrepressed-2 eIF2α kinase. Moreover, we found that peg-Arg I enhanced the growth of tumors in mice in a manner that correlated with higher MDSC numbers. Taken together, our results highlight the risks of the l-Arg–depleting therapy for cancer treatment and suggest a need for cotargeting MDSC in such therapeutic settings. Cancer Res; 75(2); 275–83. ©2014 AACR.

Crosstalk between tumor and stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment alter its properties in ways that facilitate the invasive behavior of tumor cells. Here, we demonstrate that cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) increase the stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and promote anisotropic fiber orientation, two mechanical signals generated through a Snail1/RhoA/αSMA–dependent mechanism that sustains oriented tumor cell migration and invasiveness. Snail1-depleted CAF failed to acquire myofibroblastic traits in response to TGFβ, including RhoA activation, αSMA-positive stress fibers, increased fibronectin fibrillogenesis, and production of a stiff ECM with oriented fibers. Snail1 expression in human tumor–derived CAF was associated with an ability to organize the ECM. In coculture, a relatively smaller number of Snail1-expressing CAF were capable of imposing an anisotropic ECM architecture, compared with nonactivated fibroblasts. Pathologically, human breast cancers with Snail1+ CAF tended to exhibit desmoplastic areas with anisotropic fibers, lymph node involvement, and poorer outcomes. Snail1 involvement in driving an ordered ECM was further confirmed in wound-healing experiments in mice, with Snail1 depletion preventing the anisotropic organization of granulation tissue and delaying wound healing. Overall, our results showed that inhibiting Snail1 function in CAF could prevent tumor-driven ECM reorganization and cancer invasion. Cancer Res; 75(2); 284–95. ©2014 AACR.

Adoptive cell therapy (ACT) using autologous tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) results in complete regression of advanced cancer in some patients, but the efficacy of this potentially curative therapy may be limited by poor persistence of TIL after adoptive transfer. Pharmacologic inhibition of the serine/threonine kinase Akt has recently been shown to promote immunologic memory in virus-specific murine models, but whether this approach enhances features of memory (e.g., long-term persistence) in TIL that are characteristically exhausted and senescent is not established. Here, we show that pharmacologic inhibition of Akt enables expansion of TIL with the transcriptional, metabolic, and functional properties characteristic of memory T cells. Consequently, Akt inhibition results in enhanced persistence of TIL after adoptive transfer into an immunodeficient animal model and augments antitumor immunity of CD8 T cells in a mouse model of cell-based immunotherapy. Pharmacologic inhibition of Akt represents a novel immunometabolomic approach to enhance the persistence of antitumor T cells and improve the efficacy of cell-based immunotherapy for metastatic cancer. Cancer Res; 75(2); 296–305. ©2014 AACR.

Cancer metastasis can occur at early stages of tumor development due to facilitative alterations in the tumor microenvironment. Although imaging techniques have considerably improved our understanding of metastasis, early events remain challenging to study due to the small numbers of malignant cells involved that are often undetectable. Using a novel zebrafish model to investigate this process, we discovered that tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) acted to facilitate metastasis by binding tumor cells and mediating their intravasation. Mechanistic investigations revealed that IL6 and TNFα promoted the ability of macrophages to mediate this step. M2 macrophages were particularly potent when induced by IL4, IL10, and TGFβ. In contrast, IFNγ-lipopolysaccharide–induced M1 macrophages lacked the capability to function in the same way in the model. Confirming these observations, we found that human TAM isolated from primary breast, lung, colorectal, and endometrial cancers exhibited a similar capability in invasion and metastasis. Taken together, our work shows how zebrafish can be used to study how host contributions can facilitate metastasis at its earliest stages, and they reveal a new macrophage-dependent mechanism of metastasis with possible prognostic implications. Cancer Res; 75(2); 306–15. ©2014 AACR.

Clear-cell renal cell cancer (CRCC) is initiated typically by loss of the tumor-suppressor VHL, driving constitutive activation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF1) and HIF2. However, whereas HIF1 has a tumor-suppressor role, HIF2 plays a distinct role in driving CRCC. In this study, we show that the HIF1α E3 ligase hypoxia-associated factor (HAF) complexes with HIF2α at DNA to promote HIF2-dependent transcription through a mechanism relying upon HAF SUMOylation. HAF SUMOylation was induced by hypoxia, whereas HAF-mediated HIF1α degradation was SUMOylation independent. HAF overexpression in mice increased CRCC growth and metastasis. Clinically, HAF overexpression was associated with poor prognosis. Taken together, our results show that HAF is a specific mediator of HIF2 activation that is critical for CRCC development and morbidity. Cancer Res; 75(2); 316–29. ©2014 AACR.

Beta human papillomaviruses (HPV) have been suspected to be carcinogenic in nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC), but the basis for potential viral contributions to these cancers is poorly understood. In particular, it is unresolved how HPV-infected keratinocytes escape cell-cycle control and whether their cross-talk with immune cells is critical for tumorigenesis. In nonviral preclinical models, the angiogenic cytokine VEGF-A has been identified as a critical regulator of NMSC. In this study, we dissected the contribution of epidermal versus myeloid cell–derived VEGF-A in HPV-mediated skin cancer by interbreeding an HPV8 transgenic mouse model with a conditional disruption of VEGF-A restricted to either epidermal or myeloid cells. Although only epidermal-derived VEGF-A was essential for initiation of skin tumor development, both spontaneously and UV-light triggered, both epidermal and myeloid cell–derived VEGF-A contributed to regeneration-induced tumorigenesis upon HPV8 overexpression, partly not only through a paracrine effect on endothelial cells, but also most probably through an additional autocrine effect on epidermal cells. Our findings offer new mechanistic insights into distinct functions of epidermal versus myeloid cell–derived VEGF-A during HPV-mediated tumorigenesis, with possible implications for preventing this disease. Cancer Res; 75(2); 330–43. ©2014 AACR.

KAP1 (TRIM28) is a transcriptional regulator in embryonic development that controls stem cell self-renewal, chromatin organization, and the DNA damage response, acting as an essential corepressor for KRAB family zinc finger proteins (KRAB-ZNF). To gain insight into the function of this large gene family, we developed an antibody that recognizes the conserved zinc fingers linker region (ZnFL) in multiple KRAB-ZNF. Here, we report that the expression of many KRAB-ZNF along with active SUMOlyated KAP1 is elevated widely in human breast cancers. KAP1 silencing in breast cancer cells reduced proliferation and inhibited the growth and metastasis of tumor xenografts. Conversely, KAP1 overexpression stimulated cell proliferation and tumor growth. In cells where KAP1 was silenced, we identified multiple downregulated genes linked to tumor progression and metastasis, including EREG/epiregulin, PTGS2/COX2, MMP1, MMP2, and CD44, along with downregulation of multiple KRAB-ZNF proteins. KAP1-dependent stabilization of KRAB-ZNF required direct interactions with KAP1. Together, our results show that KAP1-mediated stimulation of multiple KRAB-ZNF contributes to the growth and metastasis of breast cancer. Cancer Res; 75(2); 344–55. ©2014 AACR.

Agr2 is a disulfide isomerase residing in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which physiologically regulates protein folding and mediates resistance to ER stress. Agr2 is overexpressed in adenocarcinomas of various organs, where it participates in neoplastic transformation and metastasis, therefore acts as a pro-oncogenic protein. Besides its normal localization in the ER, Agr2 is also found in the serum and urine of cancer patients, although the physiological significance of extracellular Agr2 is poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrated that extracellular Agr2 can activate stromal fibroblasts and promote fibroblast-associated cancer invasion in gastric signet-ring cell carcinoma (SRCC), where Agr2 is highly expressed. Agr2 secreted from SRCC cells was incorporated by the surrounding gastric fibroblasts and promoted invasion by these cells. In turn, activated fibroblasts coordinated the invasive behavior of fibroblasts and cancer cells. Our findings suggested that Agr2 drives progression of gastric SRCC by exerting paracrine effects on fibroblasts in the tumor microenvironment, acting also to increase the growth and resistance of SRCC cells to oxidative and hypoxic stress as cell autonomous effects. Cancer Res; 75(2); 356–66. ©2014 AACR.

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is one of the most lethal human malignancies, but its genetic drivers remain little understood. In this study, we report losses in expression of the miRNA miR30a, which is downregulated in ATC compared with differentiated thyroid cancer and normal tissue. miR30a downregulation was associated with advanced differentiated thyroid cancer and higher mortality. Mechanistically, we found miR30a decreased cellular invasion and migration, epithelial–mesenchymal transition marker levels, lysyl oxidase (LOX) expression, and metastatic capacity. LOX was identified as a direct target of miR30a that was overexpressed in ATC and associated with advanced differentiated thyroid cancer and higher mortality rate. Consistent with its role in other cancers, we found that LOX inhibited cell proliferation, cellular invasion, and migration and metastasis in vitro and in vivo. Together, our findings establish a critical functional role for miR30a downregulation in mediating LOX upregulation and thyroid cancer progression, with implications for LOX targeting as a rational therapeutic strategy in ATC. Cancer Res; 75(2); 367–77. ©2014 AACR.

BRCA1 expression is lost frequently in breast cancers in which it promotes malignant development. In the present study, we performed a global expression analysis of breast cancer cells in which the tumor-suppressor candidate gene TUSC4 was silenced to gain insights into its function. TUSC4 silencing affected genes involved in cell cycle and cell death, which have broad reaching influence on cancer development. Most importantly, we found a cluster pattern of gene-expression profiles in TUSC4-silenced cells that defined a homologous recombination (HR) repair defect signature. Mechanistic investigations indicated that TUSC4 protein could physically interact with the E3 ligase Herc2, which prevents BRCA1 degradation through the ubiquitination pathway. TUSC4 silencing enhanced BRCA1 polyubiquitination, leading to its degradation and a marked reduction in HR repair efficiency. Notably, ectopic expression of TUSC4 suppressed the proliferation, invasion, and colony formation of breast cancer cells in vitro and tumorigenesis in vivo. Furthermore, TUSC4 silencing was sufficient to transform normal mammary epithelial cells and to enhance sensitivity to PARP inhibitors. Our results provide a set of genetic and biologic proofs that TUSC4 functions as a bona fide tumor suppressor by regulating the protein stability and function of BRCA1 in breast cancer. Cancer Res; 75(2); 378–86. ©2014 AACR.

The bradykinin receptor B1R is overexpressed in many human cancers where it might be used as a general target for cancer imaging. In this study, we evaluated the feasibility of using radiolabeled kallidin derivatives to visualize B1R expression in a preclinical model of B1R-positive tumors. Three synthetic derivatives were evaluated in vitro and in vivo for receptor binding and their ability to visualize tumors by PET. Enalaprilat and phosphoramidon were used to evaluate the impact of peptidases on tumor visualization. While we found that radiolabeled peptides based on the native kallidin sequence were ineffective at visualizing B1R-positive tumors, peptidase inhibition with phosphoramidon greatly enhanced B1R visualization in vivo. Two stabilized derivatives incorporating unnatural amino acids (68Ga-SH01078 and 68Ga-P03034) maintained receptor-binding affinities that were effective, allowing excellent tumor visualization, minimal accumulation in normal tissues, and rapid renal clearance. Tumor uptake was blocked in the presence of excess competitor, confirming that the specificity of tumor accumulation was receptor mediated. Our results offer a preclinical proof of concept for noninvasive B1R detection by PET imaging as a general tool to visualize many human cancers. Cancer Res; 75(2); 387–93. ©2014 AACR.

EGFR is the most common genetically altered oncogene in glioblastoma (GBM), but small-molecule EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) have failed to yield durable clinical benefit. Here, we show that in two novel model systems of acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs, elevated expression of urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) drives signaling through the MAPK pathway, which results in suppression of the proapoptotic BCL2-family member protein BIM (BCL2L11). In patient-derived GBM cells and genetic GBM models, uPA is shown to suppress BIM levels through ERK1/2 phosphorylation, which can be reversed by siRNA-mediated knockdown of uPA. TKI-resistant GBMs are resensitized to EGFR TKIs by pharmacologic inhibition of MEK or a BH3 mimetic drug to replace BIM function. A link between the uPA–uPAR–ERK1/2 pathway and BIM has not been previously demonstrated in GBM, and involvement of this signaling axis in resistance provides rationale for a new strategy to target EGFR TKI-resistant GBM. Cancer Res; 75(2); 394–404. ©2014 AACR.

Estrogen receptor (ER) α–positive breast cancers initially respond to antiestrogens but eventually become estrogen independent and recur. ER+ breast cancer cells resistant to long-term estrogen deprivation (LTED) exhibit hormone-independent ER transcriptional activity and growth. A kinome-wide siRNA screen using a library targeting 720 kinases identified Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) as one of the top genes whose downregulation resulted in inhibition of estrogen-independent ER transcriptional activity and growth of LTED cells. High PLK1 mRNA and protein correlated with a high Ki-67 score in primary ER+ breast cancers after treatment with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole. RNAi-mediated knockdown of PLK1 inhibited ER expression, estrogen-independent growth, and ER transcription in MCF7 and HCC1428 LTED cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of PLK1 with volasertib, a small-molecule ATP-competitive PLK1 inhibitor, decreased LTED cell growth, ER transcriptional activity, and ER expression. Volasertib in combination with the ER antagonist, fulvestrant, decreased MCF7 xenograft growth in ovariectomized mice more potently than each drug alone. JUNB, a component of the AP-1 complex, was expressed 16-fold higher in MCF7/LTED compared with parental MCF7 cells. Furthermore, JUNB and BCL2L1 (which encodes antiapoptotic BCL-xL) mRNA levels were markedly reduced upon volasertib treatment in MCF7/LTED cells, while they were increased in parental MCF7 cells. Finally, JUNB knockdown decreased ER expression and transcriptional activity in MCF7/LTED cells, suggesting that PLK1 drives ER expression and estrogen-independent growth via JUNB. These data support a critical role of PLK1 in acquired hormone-independent growth of ER+ human breast cancer and is therefore a promising target in tumors that have escaped estrogen deprivation therapy. Cancer Res; 75(2); 405–14. ©2014 AACR.

βIII-tubulin (encoded by TUBB3) expression is associated with therapeutic resistance and aggressive disease in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but the basis for its pathogenic influence is not understood. Functional and differential proteomics revealed that βIII-tubulin regulates expression of proteins associated with malignant growth and metastases. In particular, the adhesion-associated tumor suppressor maspin was differentially regulated by βIII-tubulin. Functionally, βIII-tubulin suppression altered cell morphology, reduced tumor spheroid outgrowth, and increased sensitivity to anoikis. Mechanistically, the PTEN/AKT signaling axis was defined as a critical pathway regulated by βIII-tubulin in NSCLC cells. βIII-Tubulin blockage in vivo reduced tumor incidence and growth. Overall, our findings revealed how βIII-tubulin influences tumor growth in NSCLC, defining new biologic functions and mechanism of action of βIII-tubulin in tumorigenesis. Cancer Res; 75(2); 415–25. ©2014 AACR.

Soluble growth factors and cytokines within the tumor microenvironment aid in the induction of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Although EMT promotes the development of cancer-initiating cells (CIC), cellular mechanisms by which cancer cells maintain mesenchymal phenotypes remain poorly understood. Work presented here indicates that induction of EMT stimulates non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to secrete soluble factors that function in an autocrine fashion. Using gene expression profiling of all annotated and predicted secreted gene products, we find that NF-κB activity is required to upregulate INHBA/Activin, a morphogen in the TGFβ superfamily. INHBA is capable of inducing and maintaining mesenchymal phenotypes, including the expression of EMT master-switch regulators and self-renewal factors that sustain CIC phenotypes and promote lung metastasis. Our work demonstrates that INHBA mRNA and protein expression are commonly elevated in primary human NSCLC and provide evidence that INHBA is a critical autocrine factor that maintains mesenchymal properties of CICs to promote metastasis in NSCLC. Cancer Res; 75(2); 426–35. ©2014 AACR.

Among the genes regulated by estrogen receptor (ER) are miRNAs that play a role in breast cancer signaling pathways. To determine whether miRNAs are involved in ER-positive breast cancer progression to hormone independence, we profiled the expression of 800 miRNAs in the estrogen-dependent human breast cancer cell line MCF7 and its estrogen-independent derivative MCF7:2A (MCF7:2A) using NanoString. We found 78 miRNAs differentially expressed between the two cell lines, including a cluster comprising let-7c, miR99a, and miR125b, which is encoded in an intron of the long noncoding RNA LINC00478. These miRNAs are ER targets in MCF7 cells, and nearby ER binding and their expression are significantly decreased in MCF7:2A cells. The expression of these miRNAs was interrogated in patient samples profiled in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Among luminal tumors, these miRNAs are expressed at higher levels in luminal A versus B tumors. Although their expression is uniformly low in luminal B tumors, they are lost only in a subset of luminal A patients. Interestingly, this subset with low expression of these miRNAs had worse overall survival compared with luminal A patients with high expression. We confirmed that miR125b directly targets HER2 and that let-7c also regulates HER2 protein expression. In addition, HER2 protein expression and activity are negatively correlated with let-7c expression in TCGA. In summary, we identified an ER-regulated miRNA cluster that regulates HER2, is lost with progression to estrogen independence, and may serve as a biomarker of poor outcome in ER+ luminal A breast cancer patients. Cancer Res; 75(2); 436–45. ©2014 AACR.

Cancer stem cells (CSC) have been implicated in disease recurrence, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance, but effective targeting strategies for these cells are still wanting. VS-5584 is a potent and selective dual inhibitor of mTORC1/2 and class I PI 3-kinases. Here, we report that VS-5584 is up to 30-fold more potent in inhibiting the proliferation and survival of CSC compared with non-CSC in solid tumor cell populations. VS-5584 preferentially diminished CSC levels in multiple mouse xenograft models of human cancer, as evidenced by marked reduction of tumor-initiating capacity in limiting dilution assays. Likewise, VS-5584 treatment ex vivo preferentially reduced CSC in surgically resected breast and ovarian patient tumors. In contrast, chemotherapeutics such as paclitaxel and cisplatin were less effective in targeting CSC than bulk tumor cells. Mechanistic investigations revealed that preferential targeting of CSC required inhibition of multiple components of the PI3K–mTOR pathway: coordinate RNAi-mediated silencing of PI3Kα, PI3Kβ, and mTOR phenocopied the effect of VS-5584, exhibiting the strongest preferential targeting of CSC, while silencing of individual PI3K isoforms or mTOR failed to replicate the effect of VS-5584. Consistent with CSC ablation, VS-5584 delayed tumor regrowth following chemotherapy in xenograft models of small-cell lung cancer. Taken together, the preferential targeting of CSC prompts a new paradigm for clinical testing of VS-5584: clinical trials designed with CSC-directed endpoints may facilitate demonstration of the therapeutic benefit of VS-5584. We suggest that combining VS-5584 with classic chemotherapy that debulks tumors may engender a more effective strategy to achieve durable remissions in patients with cancer. Cancer Res; 75(2); 446–55. ©2014 AACR.

Omental adipose stromal cells (O-ASC) are a multipotent population of mesenchymal stem cells contained in the omentum tissue that promote endometrial and ovarian tumor proliferation, migration, and drug resistance. The mechanistic underpinnings of O-ASCs' role in tumor progression and growth are unclear. Here, we propose a novel nitric oxide (NO)–mediated metabolic coupling between O-ASCs and gynecologic cancer cells in which O-ASCs support NO homeostasis in malignant cells. NO is synthesized endogenously by the conversion of l-arginine into citrulline through nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Through arginine depletion in the media using l-arginase and NOS inhibition in cancer cells using NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (l-NAME), we demonstrate that patient-derived O-ASCs increase NO levels in ovarian and endometrial cancer cells and promote proliferation in these cells. O-ASCs and cancer cell cocultures revealed that cancer cells use O-ASC–secreted arginine and in turn secrete citrulline in the microenvironment. Interestingly, citrulline increased adipogenesis potential of the O-ASCs. Furthermore, we found that O-ASCs increased NO synthesis in cancer cells, leading to decrease in mitochondrial respiration in these cells. Our findings suggest that O-ASCs upregulate glycolysis and reduce oxidative stress in cancer cells by increasing NO levels through paracrine metabolite secretion. Significantly, we found that O-ASC–mediated chemoresistance in cancer cells can be deregulated by altering NO homeostasis. A combined approach of targeting secreted arginine through l-arginase, along with targeting microenvironment-secreted factors using l-NAME, may be a viable therapeutic approach for targeting ovarian and endometrial cancers. Cancer Res; 75(2); 456–71. ©2014 AACR.