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Carcinogenesis

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Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is especially deadly due to its recalcitrance to current therapies. One of the unique qualities of PDA that may contribute to this resistance is a striking plasticity of differentiation states starting at tumor formation and continuing throughout tumor progression, including metastasis. Here, we explore the earliest steps of tumor formation and neoplastic progression and how this results in a fascinating cellular heterogeneity that is probably critical for tumor survival and progression. We hypothesize that reinforcing differentiation pathways run awry or targeting morphologically and molecularly distinct tumor stem-like cells may hold promise for future treatments of this deadly disease.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDA) are extremely aggressive cancers and currently available therapies are only minimally effective in treating this disease. Tackling this devastating cancer has been a major challenge to the scientific and medical communities, in part due to its intense therapeutic resistance. One of the aspects of this tumor that contributes to its aggressive behavior is its altered cellular metabolism. Indeed, PDA cells seem to possess the ability to adapt their metabolism to the particular environment to which they are exposed, including utilizing diverse fuel sources depending on their availability. Moreover, PDA tumors are efficient at recycling various metabolic substrates through activation of different salvage pathways such as autophagy and macropinocytosis. Together, these diverse metabolic adaptations allow PDA cells to survive and thrive in harsh environments that may lack nutrients and oxygen. Not surprisingly, given its central role in the pathogenesis of this tumor, oncogenic Kras plays a critical role in much of the metabolic reprogramming seen in PDA. In this review, we discuss the metabolic landscape of PDA tumors, including the molecular underpinnings of the key regulatory nodes, and describe how such pathways can be exploited for future diagnostic and therapeutic approaches


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma co-opts multiple cellular and extracellular mechanisms to create a complex cancer organ with an unusual proclivity for metastasis and resistance to therapy. Cell-autonomous events are essential for the initiation and maintenance of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, but recent studies have implicated critical non-cell autonomous processes within the robust desmoplastic stroma that promote disease pathogenesis and resistance. Thus, non-malignant cells and associated factors are culprits in tumor growth, immunosuppression and invasion. However, even this increasing awareness of non-cell autonomous contributions to disease progression is tempered by the conflicting roles stromal elements can play. A greater understanding of stromal complexity and complicity has been aided in part by studies in highly faithful genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Insights gleaned from such studies are spurring the development of therapies designed to reengineer the pancreas cancer stroma and render it permissive to agents targeting cell-autonomous events or to reinstate immunosurveillance. Integrating conventional and immunological treatments in the context of stromal targeting may provide the key to a durable clinical impact on this formidable disease.


Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is a known carcinogen associated with early-onset hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and is thought to contribute to over half a million new HCCs per year. Although some of the fundamental risk factors are established, the molecular basis of AFB1-induced mutagenesis in primate cells has not been rigorously investigated. To gain insights into genome instability that is produced as a result of replicating DNAs containing AFB1 adducts, site-specific mutagenesis assays were used to establish the mutagenic potential of the persistent ring-opened AFB1 adduct, AFB1-formamidopyrimidine (AFB1-FAPY). This lesion was highly mutagenic, yielding replication error frequencies of 97%, with the predominant base substitution being a G to T transversion. This transversion is consistent with previous mutational data derived from aflatoxin-associated HCCs. In vitro translesion synthesis assays demonstrated that polymerase (pol) was the most likely candidate polymerase that is responsible for the G to T mutations induced by this adduct.


PDCD4 is a tumor suppressor induced by apoptotic stimuli that regulates both translation and transcription. Previously, we showed that overexpression of PDCD4 leads to decreased anchorage-independent growth in glioblastoma (GBM)-derived cell lines and decreased tumor growth in a GBM xenograft model. In inflammatory cells, PDCD4 stimulates tumor necrosis factor-induced activation of the transcription factor NF-B, an oncogenic driver in many cancer sites. However, the effect of PDCD4 on NF-B transcriptional activity in most cancers including GBM is still unknown. We studied the effect of PDCD4 on NF-B-dependent transcriptional activity in GBM by stably overexpressing PDCD4 in U251 and LN229 cells. Stable PDCD4 expression inhibits NF-B transcriptional activation measured by a luciferase reporter. The molecular mechanism by which PDCD4 inhibits NF-B transcriptional activation does not involve inhibited expression of NF-B p65 or p50 proteins. PDCD4 does not inhibit pathways upstream of NF-B including the activation of IKKα and IKKβ kinases or degradation of IBα, events needed for nuclear transport of p65 and p50. PDCD4 overexpression does inhibit localization of p65 but not p50 in the nucleus. PDCD4 protein interacts preferentially with p65 protein as shown by co-immunoprecipitation and confocal imaging. PDCD4 overexpression inhibits the mRNA expression of two NF-B target genes in a p65-dependent manner. These results suggest that PDCD4 can significantly inhibit NF-B activity in GBM cells by a mechanism that involves direct or indirect protein–protein interaction independent of the expected mRNA-selective translational inhibition. These findings offer novel opportunities for NF-B-targeted interventions to prevent or treat cancer.


Senescence and epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) have opposing roles in tumor progression, in that, one is a barrier against tumorigenesis, whereas the other is required for invasive malignancies. Here, we report that the DNA damage response (DDR) protein hRAD9 contributes to induction of senescence and inhibition of EMT. Our data show that hRAD9 is frequently downregulated in breast and lung cancers. Loss of hRAD9 expression is associated with tumor stage in breast and lung cancers, as well as with acquisition of an invasive phenotype. Ectopic hRAD9 expression in highly invasive cancer cell lines, H1299 and MDA-MB 231, with low endogenous hRAD9 induced senescence by upregulation of nuclear p21, independent of the p53 status. Ectopic expression of hRAD9 also significantly attenuated cellular migration and invasion in vitro and tumor growth in a xenograft mouse model in vivo. In contrast, silencing hRAD9 in lower invasive cancer cell lines, A549 and MCF7, with high endogenous hRAD9 dramatically increased their migration and invasion abilities, and simultaneously activated EMT. Knockdown of hRAD9 increased, whereas ectopic expression of hRAD9 decreased, the expression of Slug. Moreover, hRAD9 directly bound to the promoter region of slug gene and repressed its transcriptional activity. Taken together, these results suggest that hRAD9 is a potential tumor suppressor in breast and lung cancers and that it is likely to function by upregulating p21 and inhibiting Slug to regulate tumorigenesis.


Recent evidence suggests that the expression of brachyury is necessary for chordoma growth. However, the mechanism associated with brachyury-regulated cell growth is poorly understood. Fibroblast growth factor (FGF), a regulator of brachyury expression in normal tissue, may also play an important role in chordoma pathophysiology. Using a panel of chordoma cell lines, we explored the role of FGF signaling and brachyury in cell growth and survival. Western blots showed that all chordoma cell lines expressed fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2), FGFR3, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), whereas no cell lines expressed FGFR1 and FGFR4. Results of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay indicated that chordoma cells produced FGF2. Neutralization of FGF2 inhibited MEK/ERK phosphorylation, decreased brachyury expression and induced apoptosis while reducing cell growth. Activation of the FGFR/MEK/ERK/brachyury pathway by FGF2-initiated phosphorylation of FGFR substrate 2 (FRS2)-α (Tyr196) prevented apoptosis while promoting cell growth and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Immunofluorescence staining showed that FGF2 promoted the translocation of phosphorylated ERK to the nucleus and increased brachyury expression. The selective inhibition of FGFR, MEK and ERK phosphorylation by PD173074, PD0325901 and PD184352, respectively, decreased brachyury expression, induced apoptosis, and inhibited cell growth and EMT. Moreover, knockdown of brachyury by small hairpin RNA reduced FGF2 secretion, inhibited FGFR/MEK/ERK phosphorylation and blocked the effects of FGF2 on cell growth, apoptosis and EMT. Those findings highlight that FGFR/MEK/ERK/brachyury pathway coordinately regulates chordoma cell growth and survival and may represent a novel chemotherapeutic target for chordoma.


The mouse double minute 4 (MDM4) oncoprotein may inhibit tumorigenesis by regulating the apoptotic mediator p53. Ubiquitin-specific protease 2a (USP2a) is a deubiquitinating enzyme that protects MDM4 against degradation, so USP2–MDM4 interaction may be a key determinant of the malignant potential of human cancers. MDM4 and USP2a, as well as the MDM4–USP2a complex, were more highly expressed in glioblastoma multiforme tissue samples from patients with good prognosis compared with patients with poor prognosis. Analysis of the prognostic parameters indicated that MDM4 expression was positively correlated with an increased likelihood for survival. Compared with the poor prognosis patients, mitochondria from good prognosis glioma patients contained higher levels of both MDM4 and the proapoptotic protein p53Ser46P. In U87MG glioma cell line, the overexpression of MDM4 enhanced ultraviolet (UV)-induced cytochrome c release and apoptosis. In contrast, MDM4 knockdown decreased mitochondrial p53Ser46P levels and rescued cells from UV-induced apoptosis. The expression of MDM4 and USP2a were positively correlated with each other. MDM4–USP2a complexes were found only in the cytoplasmic fraction, whereas the mitochondrial fraction contained MDM4–p53Ser46P and MDM4–Bcl-2 complexes. Overexpression of USP2a increased p53 and p53Ser46P levels in the mitochondria, whereas simultaneous MDM4 knockdown completely reversed this effect. UV-induced apoptosis was reduced by USP2a knockdown but restored by the simultaneous overexpression of MDM4. This apoptotic response was reduced by knockdown of p53 but not p21. Our results suggest that USP2a binds to and stabilizes MDM4; thus in turn, it enhances the mitochondrial localization of p53 and promotes apoptosis in glioma cells.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the main causes of death of neoplasia. Demand for predictive and prognostic markers to reverse this trend is increasing. Long non-coding RNA HOTAIR (Homeobox Transcript Antisense Intergenic RNA) overexpression in tumors was previously associated with poor prognosis and higher mortality in different carcinomas. We analyzed HOTAIR expression levels in tumor and blood of incident sporadic CRC patients in relation to their overall survival with the aim to evaluate surrogate prognostic marker for CRC. Tissue donor group consisted of 73 CRC patients sampled for tumor and normal tissue. Blood donor group was represented by 84 CRC patients compared with 40 healthy controls. Patients were characterized for tumor-node-metastasis stage, tumor grade, microsatellite instability and tumor penetration by stromal cells. HOTAIR levels were assessed by real-time quantitative PCR. CRC patients had higher HOTAIR expression in blood than healthy controls (P = 0.0001), whereas there was no difference in HOTAIR levels between tumor and adjacent mucosa of CRC patients. HOTAIR levels positively correlated between blood and tumor (R = 0.43, P = 0.03). High HOTAIR levels in tumors were associated with higher mortality of patients [Cox’s proportional hazard, hazard ratio = 4.4, 95% confidence interval: 1.0–19.2, P = 0.046]. The hazard ratio was even higher when blood HOTAIR levels were taken into account (hazard ratio = 5.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.3–26.1, P = 0.019). Upregulated HOTAIR relative expression in primary tumors and in blood of CRC patients is associated with unfavorable prognosis. Our data suggest that HOTAIR blood levels may serve as potential surrogate prognostic marker in sporadic CRC.


Colorectal cancer is not strictly considered a tobacco-related malignancy, but modest associations have emerged from large meta-analyses. Most studies, however, use self-reported data, which are subject to misclassification. Biomarkers of tobacco exposure may reduce misclassification and provide insight into metabolic variability that potentially influences carcinogenesis. Our aim was to identify metabolites that represent smoking habits and individual variation in tobacco metabolism, and investigate their association with colorectal cancer. In a nested case-control study of 255 colorectal cancers and 254 matched controls identified in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian cancer screening trial, baseline serum was used to identify metabolites by ultra-high-performance liquid-phase chromatography and mass spectrometry, as well as gas chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by logistic regression. Self-reported current smoking was associated with serum cotinine, O-cresol sulfate and hydroxycotinine. Self-reported current smoking of any tobacco (OR = 1.90, 95% CI: 1.02–3.54) and current cigarette smoking (OR = 1.51, 95% CI: 0.75–3.04) were associated with elevated colorectal cancer risks, although the latter was not statistically significant. Individuals with detectable levels of hydroxycotinine had an increased colorectal cancer risk compared with those with undetectable levels (OR = 2.68, 95% CI: 1.33–5.40). Although those with detectable levels of cotinine had a suggestive elevated risk of this malignancy (OR = 1.81, 95% CI: 0.98–3.33), those with detectable levels of O-cresol sulfate did not (OR = 1.16, 95% CI: 0.57–2.37). Biomarkers capturing smoking behavior and metabolic variation exhibit stronger associations with colorectal cancer than self-report, providing additional evidence for a role for tobacco in this malignancy.


DNA repair pathways are good candidates for upper aerodigestive tract cancer susceptibility because of their critical role in maintaining genome integrity. We have selected 13 pathways involved in DNA repair representing 212 autosomal genes. To assess the role of these pathways and their associated genes, two European data sets from the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology consortium were pooled, totaling 1954 cases and 3121 controls, with documented demographic, lifetime alcohol and tobacco consumption information. We applied an innovative approach that tests single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-sets within DNA repair pathways and then within genes belonging to the significant pathways. We showed an association between the polymerase pathway and oral cavity/pharynx cancers (P-corrected = 4.45 x 10 2), explained entirely by the association with one SNP, rs1494961 (P = 2.65 x 10 4), a missense mutation V306I in the second exon of HELQ gene. We also found an association between the cell cycle regulation pathway and esophagus cancer (P-corrected = 1.48 x 10 2), explained by three SNPs located within or near CSNK1E gene: rs1534891 (P = 1.27 x 10 4), rs7289981 (P = 3.37 x 10 3) and rs13054361 (P = 4.09 x 10 3). As a first attempt to investigate pathway-level associations, our results suggest a role of specific DNA repair genes/pathways in specific upper aerodigestive tract cancer sites.


Tobacco smoke is the major environmental risk factor underlying lung carcinogenesis. However, approximately one-tenth smokers develop lung cancer in their lifetime indicating there is significant individual variation in susceptibility to lung cancer. And, the reasons for this are largely unknown. In particular, the genetic variants discovered in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) account for only a small fraction of the phenotypic variations for lung cancer, and gene–environment interactions are thought to explain the missing fraction of disease heritability. The ability to identify smokers at high risk of developing cancer has substantial preventive implications. Thus, we undertook a gene–smoking interaction analysis in a GWAS of lung cancer in Han Chinese population using a two-phase designed case–control study. In the discovery phase, we evaluated all pair-wise (591 370) gene–smoking interactions in 5408 subjects (2331 cases and 3077 controls) using a logistic regression model with covariate adjustment. In the replication phase, promising interactions were validated in an independent population of 3023 subjects (1534 cases and 1489 controls). We identified interactions between two single nucleotide polymorphisms and smoking. The interaction P values are 6.73 x 10 6 and 3.84 x 10 6 for rs1316298 and rs4589502, respectively, in the combined dataset from the two phases. An antagonistic interaction (rs1316298–smoking) and a synergetic interaction (rs4589502–smoking) were observed. The two interactions identified in our study may help explain some of the missing heritability in lung cancer susceptibility and present strong evidence for further study of these gene–smoking interactions, which are benefit to intensive screening and smoking cessation interventions.


Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) is deeply involved in colorectal cancer development and the disruption of the TGF-β signaling in dysplastic cells is required for tumor to grow. Nevertheless, tumor cells express TGF-β to escape the immune surveillance mediated by T cells. T-cell expression of Smad7, an intracellular inhibitor of the TGF-β signaling, protects against colitis-associated colorectal cancer. However, whether Smad7 in T cells might influence colorectal cancer growth independently of chronic inflammation and which T-cell subset is involved in this process is unknown. To address this issue, T-cell-specific Smad7 transgenic mice and wild-type (WT) littermates were subcutaneously transplanted with syngenic MC38 colon carcinoma cells. Smad7Tg mice were resistant to tumor development compared with WT mice and protection was dependent on CD4+ T cells. Smad7 expression in T cells increased the number of tumor-infiltrating Tbet/ROR--t double-positive CD4 T cells characterized by the expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interferon-gamma but lower IL17A. The low expression of IL17A caused by the Smad7 expression in tumor-infiltrating CD4+ T cells enabled the TNF-α-mediated killing of cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo, thus indicating that the Smad7-mediated plastic effect on T-cell phenotype induces protection against colorectal cancer.


Epidemiological studies indicate that statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, prevent aggressive prostate cancer and other types of cancer. Employing essentially non-prostate cell lines, we previously showed that statins rapidly downregulate nuclear levels of phosphorylated Akt via P2X7, a purinergic receptor recently implicated in invasive growth. Here, we present studies on phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN)-positive prostatic cells. We document an involvement of EH domain-binding protein 1 (EHBP1), previously associated with aggressive prostate cancer and insulin-stimulated trafficking and cell migration, in P2X7 signaling. We also show that EHBP1 is essential for an anti-invasive effect of atorvastatin. Furthermore, EHBP1 interacted with P-Rex1, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor previously implicated in invasive growth. Mevalonate did not prevent this anti-invasive effect of atorvastatin. These data indicate that atorvastatin modulates invasiveness via P2X7, EHBP1 and P-Rex1. Interestingly, the interaction between EHBP1 and P-Rex1 was not induced by extracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the endogenous P2X7 ligand, and statins counteracted invasiveness stimulated by extracellular ATP. In support of these experimental data, a population-based genetic analysis showed that a loss of function allele in the P2X7 gene (rs3751143) associated with non-aggressive cancer, and the common allele with aggressive cancer. Our data indicate a novel signaling pathway that inhibits invasiveness and that is druggable. Statins may reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer via P2X7 and by counteracting invasive effects of extracellular ATP.


It is well recognized that early detection and cancer prevention are significant armaments in the ‘war against cancer’. Changes in lifestyle and diet have significant impact on the global incidence of cancer. For over 30 years, many investigators have studied the concept of chemoprevention. More recently, with the demonstration that antiangiogenic activity reduces tumor growth, the concept of angioprevention has emerged as a novel strategy in the deterrence of cancer development (carcinogenesis). In this study, we utilized a fast growing, highly aggressive murine Lewis lung cancer model to examine the in vivo antitumor effects of a novel, dietary supplement, known as plant phospholipid/lipid conjugate (pPLC). Our goal was to determine if pPLC possessed direct antitumor activity with relatively little toxicity that could be developed as a chemoprevention therapy. We used pPLC directly in this in vivo model due to the lack of aqueous solubility of this novel formulation, which precludes in vitro experimentation. pPLC contains known antioxidants, ferulic acid and lipoic acid, as well as soy sterols, formulated in a unique aqueous-insoluble matrix. The pPLC dietary supplement was shown to suppress in vivo growth of this tumor model by 30%. We also demonstrated a significant decrease in tumor angiogenesis accompanied by increased apoptosis and present preliminary evidence of enhanced expression of the hypoxia-related genes pentraxin-3 and metallothionein-3, by 24.9-fold and 10.9-fold, respectively, compared with vehicle control. These findings lead us to propose using this plant phosolipid/lipid conjugate as a dietary supplement that may be useful in cancer prevention.


The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling cascade is a key regulatory pathway controlling initiation of messenger RNA in mammalian cells. Although dysregulation of mTOR signaling has been reported earlier in cancers, there is paucity of data about mTOR expression in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Therefore, in this study, we investigated the presence of mTORC2 and mTORC1 complexes in a large cohort of >500 PTC samples. Our clinical data showed the presence of active mTORC1 and mTORC2 in 81 and 39% of PTC samples, respectively. Interestingly, coexpression of mTORC1 and mTORC2 activity was seen in a 32.5% (164/504) of the PTC studied and this association was statistically significant (P = 0.0244). mTOR signaling complex was also found to be associated with activated AKT and 4E-BP1. In vitro, using Torin2, a second-generation mTOR inhibitor or gene silencing of mTOR expression prevented mTORC1 and mTORC2 activity leading to inactivation of P70S6, 4E-BP1, AKT and Bad. Inhibition of mTOR activity led to downregulation of cyclin D1, a gene regulated by messenger RNA translation via phosphorylation of 4E-BP1. Torin2 treatment also inhibited cell viability and induced caspase-dependent apoptosis via activation of mitochondrial apoptotic pathway in PTC cells. Finally, Torin2 treatment induces anticancer effect on PTC xenograft tumor growth in nude mice via inhibition of mTORC1 and mTORC2 and its associated pathways. Our results suggest that coexpression of mTORC1 and mTORC2 is seen frequently in the clinical PTC samples and dual targeting of mTORC1 and mTORC2 activity may be an attractive therapeutic target for treatment of PTC.


Ovarian cancer-associated antigen 66 (OVA66), also known as CML66 (GenBank Accession No. AF283301), was first identified in an ovarian carcinoma complementary DNA (cDNA) expression library and was shown to play a role in tumorigenesis. Here, we find that OVA66 influences tumorigenesis by regulating the type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-1R) signaling pathway. Stable knockdown of OVA66 in cancer cells attenuated phosphorylation of IGF-1R and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2)–Hsp27; similarly, a higher level of p-IGF-1R and ERK1/2–Hsp27 signaling was also detected after OVA66 overexpression in HO8910 cells. In vivo knockdown of OVA66 both reduced tumor burden in nude mice and decreased phosphorylation of IGF-1R, ERK1/2 and hsp27. We blocked IGF-1R function both by small interfering RNA (siRNA) and with the chemical inhibitor Linsitinib (OSI-906). By either method, tumorigenesis was inhibited regardless of OVA66 expression; thus, mechanistically, IGF-1R, probably, lies downstream of OVA66 in cancer cells. We also found that OVA66 regulates expression of murine double minute 2 (MDM2); this attenuates ubiquitination of IGF-1R in response to IGF-1 stimulation and promotes active ERK1/2 signaling. Thus, we propose that combined overexpression of OVA66 and MDM2 promotes oncogenesis by enhancing activation of the IGF-1R–ERK1/2 signaling pathway.


Malignant transformation of gastric epithelial cells by chronic Helicobacter pylori infection is caused by several mechanisms including attraction of reactive oxygen species (ROS)-producing neutrophils and cytotoxin-associated antigen A-mediated dysplastic alterations. Here we show that H.pylori protects transformed cells from ROS-mediated intercellular induction of apoptosis. This potential control step in oncogenesis depends on the HOCl and NO/peroxynitrite (PON) signaling pathways. Helicobacter pylori-associated catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) efficiently cooperate in the inhibition of HOCl and the NO/PON signaling pathways. Helicobacter pylori catalase prevents HOCl synthesis through decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. Helicobacter pylori-associated SOD interferes with the crucial interactions between superoxide anions and HOCl, as well as superoxide anions and NO. The ratio of bacteria to malignant cells is critical for sufficient protection of transformed cells. Low concentrations of H.pylori more efficiently inhibited ROS-mediated destruction of transformed cells when compared with high concentrations of bacteria. Our data demonstrate the critical role of H.pylori antioxidant enzymes in the survival of transformed cells, modulating an early step of oncogenesis that is distinct from the transformation process per se.


Recently, migration and invasion of breast cancer cells have been linked with dysregulated mitochondrial dynamics. Mitochondria are essential cellular organelles that undergo continuous dynamic cycles of fission and fusion. It has been proposed that a delicate balance between these two processes is important for many pathophysiological outcomes including cancer. Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is a gamma herpesvirus that is associated with various lymphoid and epithelial malignancies. The viral latent membrane protein 2A (LMP2A) has been shown to increase the invasive ability and induce epithelial–mesenchymal transition in nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Our present study reveals that mitochondrial dynamics also plays a critical role in Epstein–Barr virus-associated epithelial cancers. Our data indicate that viral LMP2A causes an elevated mitochondrial fission in gastric and breast cancer cells, which is manifested by elevated fission protein dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1). Furthermore, LMP2A-mediated Notch pathway is responsible for this enhanced fission since inhibitors of the pathway decrease the expression of Drp1.


Whether peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor β/ (PPARβ/) reduces skin tumorigenesis by altering aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR)-dependent activities was examined. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) increased expression of cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1), CYP1B1 and phase II xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes in wild-type skin and keratinocytes. Surprisingly, this effect was not found in Pparβ/-null skin and keratinocytes. Pparβ/-null keratinocytes exhibited decreased AHR occupancy and histone acetylation on the Cyp1a1 promoter in response to a PAH compared with wild-type keratinocytes. Bisulfite sequencing of the Cyp1a1 promoter and studies using a DNA methylation inhibitor suggest that PPARβ/ promotes demethylation of the Cyp1a1 promoter. Experiments with human HaCaT keratinocytes stably expressing shRNA against PPARβ/ also support this conclusion. Consistent with the lower AHR-dependent activities in Pparβ/-null mice compared with wild-type mice, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced skin tumorigenesis was inhibited in Pparβ/-null mice compared with wild-type. Results from these studies demonstrate that PPARβ/ is required to mediate complete carcinogenesis by DMBA. The mechanisms underlying this PPARβ/-dependent reduction of AHR signaling by PAH are not due to alterations in the expression of AHR auxiliary proteins, ligand binding or AHR nuclear translocation between genotypes, but are likely influenced by PPARβ/-dependent demethylation of AHR target gene promoters including Cyp1a1 that reduces AHR accessibility as shown by reduced promoter occupancy. This PPARβ//AHR crosstalk is unique to keratinocytes and conserved between mice and humans.


The promotion and progression of carcinogenesis are susceptible to nutritional interventions aimed at counteracting cancer development. Lipid metabolism is essential in the onset and progression of tumors and for cancer cell survival. In this study, we tested the effects of diets enriched with natural compounds, such as olive oil and salmon oil, in mice that spontaneously develop intestinal polyps (ApcMin/+ mice). For this purpose, we evaluated polyp number and volume, intestinal mucosa proliferation/apoptosis, estrogen receptors (ERs) expression, fatty acid synthase and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMGCoA) reductase gene expression and enzymatic activity. Compared with the standard diet, the salmon oil-enriched diet, containing a high percentage of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and, to a lesser extent, olive oil-enriched diet reduced polyp number and volume through a reduction of proliferation and a marked proapoptotic effect. These biological effects were mediated by an inhibition of fatty acid synthase and HMGCoA reductase gene expression and activity and an increase of ERβ/ERα ratio. Our findings suggest that a proper dietary lifestyle could contribute to primary cancer prevention.


Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is a classic example of inflammation-associated cancer, which develops through GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)-Barrett’s esophagus (BE)-dysplasia-adenocarcinoma sequence. The incidence of EAC has been rising rapidly in the USA and Western countries during the last few decades. The functions of glutathione peroxidase 7 (GPX7), an antioxidant enzyme frequently silenced during Barrett’s tumorigenesis, remain largely uncharacterized. In this study, we investigated the potential role of GPX7 in regulating nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-B) activity in esophageal cells. Western blot analysis, immunofluorescence and luciferase reporter assay data indicated that reconstitution of GPX7 expression in CP-A (non-dysplastic BE cells) and FLO-1 (EAC cells) abrogated tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)-induced NF-B transcriptional activity (P < 0.01) and nuclear translocation of NF-B-p65 (P = 0.01). In addition, we detected a marked reduction in phosphorylation levels of components of NF-B signaling pathway, p-p65 (S536), p-IB-α (S32) and p-IKKα/β (S176/180), as well as significant suppression in induction of NF-B target genes [TNF-α, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, IL-1β, CXCL-1 and CXCL-2] following treatment with TNF-α in GPX7-expressing FLO-1 cells as compared with control cells. We validated these effects by knockdown of GPX7 expression in HET1A (normal esophageal squamous cells). We found that GPX7-mediated suppression of NF-B is independent of reactive oxygen species level and GPX7 antioxidant function. Further mechanistic investigations demonstrated that GPX7 promotes protein degradation of TNF-receptor 1 (TNFR1) and TNF receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2), suggesting that GPX7 modulates critical upstream regulators of NF-B. We concluded that the loss of GPX7 expression is a critical step in promoting the TNF-α-induced activation of proinflammatory NF-B signaling, a major player in GERD-associated Barrett’s carcinogenesis.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of short non-coding, single-stranded RNAs, which perform posttranscriptional regulatory functions as tumor suppressors or oncogenes. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in microRNAs (miRNAs) genes are currently being identified for contributing to cancer risk, prognosis and survival. We investigated whether genetic variations of miRNAs were associated with the risk and prognosis of renal cell carcinoma (RCC). We genotyped four common miRNA SNPs (i.e. miR-146a rs2910164, miR-149 rs2292832, miR-196a2 rs11614913 and miR-499 rs3746444) to assess their associations with RCC risk in a two-stage case–control study (355 cases and 362 controls in discovery set, meanwhile 647 cases and 660 controls in validation set), as well as RCC survival in 311 patients. We found that the miR-196a2 SNP rs11614913 was associated with RCC susceptibility in recessive model [CC versus TT/TC, adjusted odds ratio = 0.65, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.52–0.83] and with survival of RCC in dominant model (TC/CC versus TT, adjusted hazard ratio = 0.40, 95% CI = 0.18–0.89). Meanwhile, the rs11614913 CC genotype was associated with the significantly decreased expression of miR-196a-5p in 26 renal cancer tissues (P = 0.018). Moreover, luciferase reporter assays revealed the potential effect of rs11614913 SNP on the binding of miR-196a-3p to its targets. These results suggested that the miR-196a2 rs11614913 may contribute to the genetic susceptibility and prognosis for RCC, which may act as a biomarker for RCC occurrence and prognosis.


Recently, SOX2 has been identified as a potential lineage-specific oncogene in lung squamous cell carcinomas. Since head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are morphologically and clinically highly related to lung squamous cell carcinomas, we hypothesized that SOX2 also plays an oncogenic role in this tumor entity. We assembled a cohort of 496 patients with HNSCC, including 253 metastases and 135 recurrences. SOX2 amplification (FISH) and SOX2 protein expression (immunohistochemistry) were correlated with molecular and clinicopathological parameters. In order to investigate the functional role of SOX2 in human HNSCC, SOX2 knockdown and overexpression in SCC-25 cells were generated by lentiviral constructs and subjected to cell cycle analysis, proliferation and apoptosis assays. Furthermore, SOX2 expression was correlated with the expression of proliferation and apoptosis-related proteins in primary HNSCC samples. SOX2 amplification was detected in 21% of primary HNSCC and mostly observed in a concordant manner between primary tumors and corresponding metastatic tissues. Overall, SOX2 amplification resulted in protein overexpression and was mutually exclusive with human papillomavirus infection. SOX2 protein overexpression was associated with clinicopathological parameters of worse outcome. Functionally, SOX2 induced the expression of the antiapoptotic protein BCL-2 and enhanced resistance to apoptosis-inducing agents including cisplatin, indicating SOX2 as a mediator of therapy resistance in human HNSCC. Targeting SOX2 and related molecular downstream pathways such as BCL-2 may enhance therapy efficacy in SOX2-expressing HNSCC.


Neurotrophin receptor-interacting melanoma antigen-encoding gene homolog (NRAGE) is generally recognized as a tumor suppressor as it induces cell apoptosis and suppresses cell metastasis. However, it has recently been reported that NRAGE is overexpressed in lung cancer, melanoma and colon cancer, implicating a complicated role of NRAGE as we have expected. In the study, we aim to elucidate the functional roles and molecular mechanisms of NRAGE in esophageal carcinoma. We found that both NRAGE mRNA and protein were significantly overexpressed in esophageal tumor tissues. Consistently, both in vivo and in vitro analyses demonstrated that knockdown of NRAGE apparently inhibited cell growth, and cell cycle analysis further demonstrated that NRAGE knockdown cells were mainly arrested in G2M cell phase, accompanied with an apparent reduction of S phase. In the process of exploring molecular mechanisms, we found that either knockdown in vitro or knockout in vivo of NRAGE reduced proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) protein, expression of which could completely rescue the inhibited proliferation in NRAGE defective cells. Furthermore, NRAGE physically interacted with PCNA in esophageal cancer cells through DNA polymerase III subunit, and knockdown of NRAGE facilitated PCNA K48-linked polyubiquitination, leading PCNA to the proteasome-dependent degradation and a ubiquitin-specific protease USP10 was identified to be a key regulator in the process of K48 polyubiquitination in NRAGE-deleted cells. In conclusion, our study highlights a unique role of NRAGE and implies that NRAGE is likely to be an attractive oncotarget in developing novel genetic anticancer therapeutic strategies for esophageal squamous cell carcinomas.


The assessment of the biological activity of capsaicin, the compound responsible for the spicy flavor of chili pepper, produced controversial results, showing either carcinogenicity or cancer prevention. The innate immune system plays a pivotal role in cancer pathology and prevention; yet, the effect of capsaicin on natural killer (NK) cells, which function in cancer surveillance, is unclear. This study found that capsaicin inhibited NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity and cytokine production (interferon- and tumor necrosis factor-α). Capsaicin impaired the cytotoxicity of NK cells, thereby inhibiting lysis of standard target cells and gastric cancer cells by modulating calcium mobilization in NK cells. Capsaicin also induced apoptosis in gastric cancer cells, but that effect required higher concentrations and longer exposure times than those required to trigger NK cell dysfunction. Furthermore, capsaicin inhibited the cytotoxicity of isolated NK cells and of an NK cell line, suggesting a direct effect on NK cells. Antagonists of transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily member 1 (TRPV1), a cognate capsaicin receptor, or deficiency in TRPV1 expression failed to prevent the defects induced by capsaicin in NK cells expressing functional TRPV1. Thus, the mechanism of action of capsaicin on NK cells is largely independent of TRPV1. Taken together, capsaicin may have chemotherapeutic potential but may impair NK cell function, which plays a central role in tumor surveillance.


Recent evidence has been suggesting the important roles of endothelial cells (ECs) involved in the pathogenesis of several cancers, including colorectal carcinomas (CRCs), but the underlying mechanism remains elusive. We have demonstrated previously that CRC-derived fibronectin extra domain A (EDA) promotes vasculogenesis, tumorigenesis and metastasis of CRCs. At the current study, we showed that EC-secreted EDA promotes the metastatic capacity CRC cells via inducing an epithelial–mesenchymal transition. In vitro and in vivo experiments showed that EC-secreted EDA, via the interaction with integrin α9β1 on neighboring CRC cells, leads to the activation of focal adhesion kinase as well as Rac signalings, thus strengthens the polarity of cytoskeleton and promotes the invasion capacity of CRC cells. Furthermore, Erk signaling pathway was revealed to critically mediate the effect of EC-derived EDA on CRC cells. Our findings reveal a novel oncogenic role of ECs in promoting CRC malignancy through secreting EDA.