Natural compounds that target microtubules and disrupt the normal function of the mitotic spindle have proven to be one of the best classes of cancer chemotherapeutic drugs available in clinics to date. There is increasing evidence showing that even minor alteration of microtubule dynamics can engage the spindle checkpoint, arresting cell-cycle progression at mitosis and subsequently leading to cell death. Our improved understanding of tumor biology and our continued appreciation for what the microtubule targeting agents (MTAs) can do have helped pave the way for a new era in the treatment of cancer. The effectiveness of these agents for cancer therapy has been impaired, however, by various side effects and drug resistance. Several new MTAs have shown potent activity against the proliferation of various cancer cells, including resistance to the existing MTAs. Sustained investigation of the mechanisms of action of MTAs, development and discovery of new drugs, and exploring new treatment strategies that reduce side effects and circumvent drug resistance could provide more effective therapeutic options for patients with cancer. This review focuses on the successful cancer chemotherapy from natural compounds in clinical settings and the challenges that may abort their usefulness. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 275–84. ©2014 AACR.
Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3), a constitutively active serine/threonine kinase, is a key regulator of numerous cellular processes ranging from glycogen metabolism to cell-cycle regulation and proliferation. Consistent with its involvement in many pathways, it has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of various human diseases, including type II diabetes, Alzheimer disease, bipolar disorder, inflammation, and cancer. Consequently, it is recognized as an attractive target for the development of new drugs. In the present study, we investigated the effect of both pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of GSK-3 in two different renal cancer cell lines. We have shown potent antiproliferative activity of 9-ING-41, a maleimide-based GSK-3 inhibitor. The antiproliferative activity is most likely caused by G0–G1 and G2–M phase arrest as evident from cell-cycle analysis. We have established that inhibition of GSK-3 imparted a differentiated phenotype in renal cancer cells. We have also shown that GSK-3 inhibition induced autophagy, likely as a result of imbalanced energy homeostasis caused by impaired glucose metabolism. In addition, we have demonstrated the antitumor activity of 9-ING-41 in two different subcutaneous xenograft renal cell carcinoma tumor models. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing autophagy induction due to GSK-3 inhibition in renal cancer cells. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 285–96. ©2013 AACR.
Bisphosphonates are used clinically to treat disorders of calcium metabolism and malignant bone disease and are known to inhibit cancer cell growth, adhesion, and invasion. However, clinical use of these agents for the treatment of extraskeletal disease is limited because of low cell permeability. We recently described a bisphosphonamidate prodrug strategy for efficient intracellular release of bisphosphonates, including clodronate (CLO), in non–small cell lung cancer cells. To evaluate anticancer activity of this prodrug class across many cancer cell types, the bisphosphonamidate clodronate prodrug (CLO prodrug) was screened against the NCI-60 cell line panel, and was found to exhibit selectivity toward melanoma cell lines. Here, we confirm efficient cellular uptake and intracellular activation of this prodrug class in melanoma cells. We further demonstrate inhibition of melanoma cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis, and an antitumor effect of CLO prodrug in a xenograft model. These data suggest a novel therapeutic application for the CLO prodrug and potential to selectively target melanoma cells. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 297–306. ©2013 AACR.
Most solid tumors, including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), exhibit structural and numerical chromosome instability (CIN). Although often implicated as a driver of tumor progression and drug resistance, CIN also reduces cell fitness and poses a vulnerability that can be exploited therapeutically. The spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) ensures correct chromosome-microtubule attachment, thereby minimizing chromosome segregation errors. Many tumors exhibit upregulation of SAC components such as MPS1, which may help contain CIN within survivable limits. Prior studies showed that MPS1 inhibition with the small molecule NMS-P715 limits tumor growth in xenograft models. In cancer cell lines, NMS-P715 causes cell death associated with impaired SAC function and increased chromosome missegregation. Although normal cells appeared more resistant, effects on stem cells, which are the dose-limiting toxicity of most chemotherapeutics, were not examined. Elevated expression of 70 genes (CIN70), including MPS1, provides a surrogate measure of CIN and predicts poor patient survival in multiple tumor types. Our new findings show that the degree of CIN70 upregulation varies considerably among PDAC tumors, with higher CIN70 gene expression predictive of poor outcome. We identified a 25 gene subset (PDAC CIN25) whose overexpression was most strongly correlated with poor survival and included MPS1. In vitro, growth of human and murine PDAC cells is inhibited by NMS-P715 treatment, whereas adipose-derived human mesenchymal stem cells are relatively resistant and maintain chromosome stability upon exposure to NMS-P715. These studies suggest that NMS-P715 could have a favorable therapeutic index and warrant further investigation of MPS1 inhibition as a new PDAC treatment strategy. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 307–15. ©2013 AACR.
The type I EGF receptor (EGFR or ErbB1) and insulin-like growth factor–binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) are highly expressed in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a particularly aggressive disease that cannot be treated with conventional therapies targeting the estrogen or progesterone receptors (ER and PR), or HER2. We have shown previously in normal breast epithelial cells that IGFBP-3 potentiates growth-stimulatory signaling transduced by EGFR, and this is mediated by the sphingosine kinase-1 (SphK1)/sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) system. In this study, we investigated whether cotargeting the EGFR and SphK1/S1P pathways in TNBC cells results in greater growth inhibition compared with blocking either alone, and might therefore have novel therapeutic potential in TNBC. In four TNBC cell lines, exogenous IGFBP-3 enhanced ligand-stimulated EGFR activation, associated with increased SphK1 localization to the plasma membrane. The effect of exogenous IGFBP-3 on EGFR activation was blocked by pharmacologic inhibition or siRNA-mediated silencing of SphK1, and silencing of endogenous IGFBP-3 also suppressed EGF-stimulated EGFR activation. Real-time analysis of cell proliferation revealed a combined effect of EGFR inhibition by gefitinib and SphK1 inhibition using SKi-II. Growth of MDA-MB-468 xenograft tumors in mice was significantly inhibited by SKi-II and gefitinib when used in combination, but not as single agents. We conclude that IGFBP-3 promotes growth of TNBC cells by increasing EGFR signaling, that this is mediated by SphK1, and that combined inhibition of EGFR and SphK1 has potential as an anticancer therapy in TNBC in which EGFR and IGFBP-3 expression is high. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 316–28. ©2013 AACR.
Activation of anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK) is involved in the pathogenesis of several carcinomas, including non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Echinoderm microtubule–associated protein like 4 (EML4)-ALK, which is derived from the rearrangement of ALK and EML4 genes, has been validated as a therapeutic target in a subset of patients with NSCLC. Here, we investigated the effects of ASP3026, a novel small-molecule ALK inhibitor, against ALK-driven NSCLC. ASP3026 inhibited ALK activity in an ATP-competitive manner and had an inhibitory spectrum that differed from that of crizotinib, a dual ALK/MET inhibitor. In mice xenografted with NCI-H2228 cells expressing EML4-ALK, orally administered ASP3026 was well absorbed in tumor tissues, reaching concentrations >10-fold higher than those in plasma, and induced tumor regression with a wide therapeutic margin between efficacious and toxic doses. In the same mouse model, ASP3026 enhanced the antitumor activities of paclitaxel and pemetrexed without affecting body weight. ASP3026 also showed potent antitumor activities, including tumor shrinkage to a nondetectable level, in hEML4-ALK transgenic mice and prolonged survival in mice with intrapleural NCI-H2228 xenografts. In an intrahepatic xenograft model using NCI-H2228 cells, ASP3026 induced continuous tumor regression, whereas mice treated with crizotinib showed tumor relapse after an initial response. Finally, ASP3026 exhibited potent antitumor activity against cells expressing EML4-ALK with a mutation in the gatekeeper position (L1196M) that confers crizotinib resistance. Taken together, these findings indicate that ASP3026 has potential efficacy for NSCLC and is expected to improve the therapeutic outcomes of patients with cancer with ALK abnormality. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 329–40. ©2014 AACR.
Continued reliance on androgen receptor (AR) signaling is a hallmark of prostate cancer, including the development of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), making it an attractive therapeutic target for prostate cancer treatment. Mahanine is a novel carbazole alkaloid derived from the leaves of Murraya koenigii, commonly known as the curry leaf plant, which grows widely across East-Asia. We show here that mahanine possesses the ability to inhibit ligand-dependent and -independent AR transactivation, leading to a prominent decline in AR target gene expression. Mahanine treatment causes a time- and dose-dependent decline in AR protein levels, including truncated AR splice variants, in a panel of androgen-responsive and -independent prostate cancer cells. The decrease in AR levels induced by mahanine occurs posttranslationally by proteasomal degradation, without any change in the AR gene expression. Mahanine treatment induces an outward movement of the AR from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, leading to an initial increase in cytoplasmic AR levels, followed by a gradual decline in the AR levels in both cellular compartments. Ligand-induced AR phosphorylation at Ser-81, a phospho-site associated with prostate cancer cell growth and AR transactivity, is greatly diminished in the presence of mahanine. The decline in AR phosphorylation at Ser-81 by mahanine occurs via the inactivation of mitotic kinase CDK1. Collectively, our data demonstrate that mahanine strongly disrupts AR signaling and inhibits the growth of androgen-dependent and -independent prostate cancer cells, thereby implicating a therapeutic role of mahanine in prostate cancer treatment. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 341–52. ©2013 AACR.
Activating BRAF kinase mutations serve as oncogenic drivers in over half of all melanomas, a feature that has been exploited in the development of new molecularly targeted approaches to treat this disease. Selective BRAFV600E inhibitors, such as vemurafenib, typically induce initial, profound tumor regressions within this group of patients; however, durable responses have been hampered by the emergence of drug resistance. Here, we examined the activity of ganetespib, a small-molecule inhibitor of Hsp90, in melanoma lines harboring the BRAFV600E mutation. Ganetespib exposure resulted in the loss of mutant BRAF expression and depletion of mitogen-activated protein kinase and AKT signaling, resulting in greater in vitro potency and antitumor efficacy compared with targeted BRAF and MAP–ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitors. Dual targeting of Hsp90 and BRAFV600E provided combinatorial benefit in vemurafenib-sensitive melanoma cells in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, ganetespib overcame mechanisms of intrinsic and acquired resistance to vemurafenib, the latter of which was characterized by reactivation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling. Continued suppression of BRAFV600E by vemurafenib potentiated sensitivity to MEK inhibitors after acquired resistance had been established. Ganetespib treatment reduced, but not abolished, elevations in steady-state ERK activity. Profiling studies revealed that the addition of a MEK inhibitor could completely abrogate ERK reactivation in the resistant phenotype, with ganetespib displaying superior combinatorial activity over vemurafenib. Moreover, ganetespib plus the MEK inhibitor TAK-733 induced tumor regressions in vemurafenib-resistant xenografts. Overall these data highlight the potential of ganetespib as a single-agent or combination treatment in BRAFV600E-driven melanoma, particularly as a strategy to overcome acquired resistance to selective BRAF inhibitors. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 353–63. ©2014 AACR.
p38α mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is activated in cancer cells in response to environmental factors, oncogenic stress, radiation, and chemotherapy. p38α MAPK phosphorylates a number of substrates, including MAPKAP-K2 (MK2), and regulates the production of cytokines in the tumor microenvironment, such as TNF-α, interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and CXCL8 (IL-8). p38α MAPK is highly expressed in human cancers and may play a role in tumor growth, invasion, metastasis, and drug resistance. LY2228820 dimesylate (hereafter LY2228820), a trisubstituted imidazole derivative, is a potent and selective, ATP-competitive inhibitor of the α- and β-isoforms of p38 MAPK in vitro (IC50 = 5.3 and 3.2 nmol/L, respectively). In cell-based assays, LY2228820 potently and selectively inhibited phosphorylation of MK2 (Thr334) in anisomycin-stimulated HeLa cells (at 9.8 nmol/L by Western blot analysis) and anisomycin-induced mouse RAW264.7 macrophages (IC50 = 35.3 nmol/L) with no changes in phosphorylation of p38α MAPK, JNK, ERK1/2, c-Jun, ATF2, or c-Myc ≤ 10 μmol/L. LY2228820 also reduced TNF-α secretion by lipopolysaccharide/IFN-–stimulated macrophages (IC50 = 6.3 nmol/L). In mice transplanted with B16-F10 melanoma, tumor phospho-MK2 (p-MK2) was inhibited by LY2228820 in a dose-dependent manner [threshold effective dose (TED)70 = 11.2 mg/kg]. Significant target inhibition (>40% reduction in p-MK2) was maintained for 4 to 8 hours following a single 10 mg/kg oral dose. LY2228820 produced significant tumor growth delay in multiple in vivo cancer models (melanoma, non–small cell lung cancer, ovarian, glioma, myeloma, breast). In summary, LY2228820 is a p38 MAPK inhibitor, which has been optimized for potency, selectivity, drug-like properties (such as oral bioavailability), and efficacy in animal models of human cancer. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 364–74. ©2013 AACR.
Fusion toxins used for cancer-related therapy have demonstrated short circulation half-lives, which impairs tumor localization and, hence, efficacy. Here, we demonstrate that the pharmacokinetics of a fusion toxin composed of a designed ankyrin repeat protein (DARPin) and domain I–truncated Pseudomonas Exotoxin A (PE40/ETA'') can be significantly improved by facile bioorthogonal conjugation with a polyethylene glycol (PEG) polymer at a unique position. Fusion of the anti-EpCAM DARPin Ec1 to ETA'' and expression in methionine-auxotrophic E. coli enabled introduction of the nonnatural amino acid azidohomoalanine (Aha) at position 1 for strain-promoted click PEGylation. PEGylated Ec1-ETA'' was characterized by detailed biochemical analysis, and its potential for tumor targeting was assessed using carcinoma cell lines of various histotypes in vitro, and subcutaneous and orthotopic tumor xenografts in vivo. The mild click reaction resulted in a well-defined mono-PEGylated product, which could be readily purified to homogeneity. Despite an increased hydrodynamic radius resulting from the polymer, the fusion toxin demonstrated high EpCAM-binding activity and retained cytotoxicity in the femtomolar range. Pharmacologic analysis in mice unveiled an almost 6-fold increase in the elimination half-life (14 vs. 82 minutes) and a more than 7-fold increase in the area under the curve (AUC) compared with non-PEGylated Ec1-ETA'', which directly translated in increased and longer-lasting effects on established tumor xenografts. Our data underline the great potential of combining the inherent advantages of the DARPin format with bioorthogonal click chemistry to overcome the limitations of engineering fusion toxins with enhanced efficacy for cancer-related therapy. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 375–85. ©2013 AACR.
The hedgehog pathway has been implicated in the tumorigenesis, tumor progression, and metastasis of numerous human cancers. We generated the first fully human hedgehog antibody MEDI-5304 and characterized its antitumor activity and preclinical toxicology. MEDI-5304 bound sonic hedgehog (SHH) and Indian hedgehog (IHH) with low picomolar affinity and neutralized SHH and IHH activity in cellular mGLI1 reporter assays. The antibody inhibited transcription of hedgehog target genes and osteoblast differentiation of C3H10T1/2 cells. We evaluated the activity of MEDI-5304 in vivo in model systems that allowed us to evaluate two primary hypotheses of hedgehog function in human cancer, paracrine signaling between tumor and stromal cells and cancer stem cell (CSC) self-renewal. MEDI-5304 displayed robust pharmacodynamic effects in stromal cells that translated to antitumor efficacy as a single agent in an HT-29/MEF coimplantation model of paracrine hedgehog signaling. MEDI-5304 also improved responses to carboplatin in the HT-29/MEF model. The antibody, however, had no effect as a single agent or in combination with gemcitabine on the CSC frequency or growth of several primary pancreatic cancer explant models. These findings support the conclusion that hedgehog contributes to tumor biology via paracrine tumor-stromal signaling but not via CSC maintenance or propagation. Finally, the only safety study finding associated with MEDI-5304 was ondontodysplasia in rats. Thus, MEDI-5304 represents a potent dual hedgehog inhibitor suitable for continued development to evaluate efficacy and safety in human patients with tumors harboring elevated levels of SHH or IHH. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 386–98. ©2013 AACR.
Insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling is thought to play a role in the development and progression of multiple cancer types. To date, therapeutic strategies aimed at disrupting IGF signaling have largely focused on antibodies that target the IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR). Here, we describe the pharmacologic profile of BI 836845, a fully human monoclonal antibody that utilizes an alternative approach to IGF signaling inhibition by selectively neutralizing the bioactivity of IGF ligands. Biochemical analyses of BI 836845 demonstrated high affinity to human IGF-I and IGF-II, resulting in effective inhibition of IGF-induced activation of both IGF-IR and IR-A in vitro. Cross-reactivity to rodent IGFs has enabled rigorous assessment of the pharmacologic activity of BI 836845 in preclinical models. Pharmacodynamic studies in rats showed potent reduction of serum IGF bioactivity in the absence of metabolic adverse effects, leading to growth inhibition as evidenced by reduced body weight gain and tail length. Moreover, BI 836845 reduced the proliferation of human cell lines derived from different cancer types and enhanced the antitumor efficacy of rapamycin by blocking a rapamycin-induced increase in upstream signaling in vitro as well as in human tumor xenograft models in nude mice. Our data suggest that BI 836845 represents a potentially more effective and tolerable approach to the inhibition of IGF signaling compared with agents that target the IGF-I receptor directly, with potential for rational combinations with other targeted agents in clinical studies. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 399–409. ©2013 AACR.
Although inhibition of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling pathway was expected to eliminate a key resistance mechanism for EGF receptor (EGFR)-driven cancers, the effectiveness of IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR) inhibitors in clinical trials has been limited. A multiplicity of survival mechanisms are available to cancer cells. Both IGF-IR and the ErbB3 receptor activate the PI3K/AKT/mTOR axis, but ErbB3 has only recently been pursued as a therapeutic target. We show that coactivation of the ErbB3 pathway is prevalent in a majority of cell lines responsive to IGF ligands and antagonizes IGF-IR–mediated growth inhibition. Blockade of the redundant IGF-IR and ErbB3 survival pathways and downstream resistance mechanisms was achieved with MM-141, a tetravalent bispecific antibody antagonist of IGF-IR and ErbB3. MM-141 potency was superior to monospecific and combination antibody therapies and was insensitive to variation in the ratio of IGF-IR and ErbB3 receptors. MM-141 enhanced the biologic impact of receptor inhibition in vivo as a monotherapy and in combination with the mTOR inhibitor everolimus, gemcitabine, or docetaxel, through blockade of IGF-IR and ErbB3 signaling and prevention of PI3K/AKT/mTOR network adaptation. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 410–25. ©2013 AACR.
In general, de novo solid tumors are composed of phenotypically and functionally heterogeneous malignant cells. This heterogeneity interferes with the effectiveness of targeted molecular cancer therapies. Even if most of the tumor is killed by a targeted treatment, recurrences are common and can be lethal. In this study, a mixed tumor model, which is predominantly a population of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-positive A431 cells combined with a smaller population of EGFR-negative Balb3T3/DsRed cells, was established. This mixed tumor was then treated with photoimmunotherapy, a newly developed target-cell–selective cancer therapy using a monoclonal antibody (mAb)–photosensitizer (IR700 fluorescence dye) conjugate and exposure of near-infrared light. Although photoimmunotherapy successfully treated EGFR-positive A431 cells in the mixed tumor, EGFR-negative Balb/DsRed cells were not responsive. However, photoimmunotherapy also induced a large increase in tumor permeability, known as the super-enhanced permeability and retention (SUPR) effect, which allowed a 5-fold increase in the accumulation of a liposomal chemotherapy (DaunoXome) and resulted in more effective therapy than either photoimmunotherapy or liposomal daunorubicin alone. The liposomal daunorubicin, administered 1 hour after EGFR-targeted photoimmunotherapy, was homogeneously distributed, allowing delivery to tiny surviving nests of EGFR-negative Balb3T3/DsRed cells, resulting in prolonged survival of mice. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 426–32. ©2013 AACR.
Anti-PARP drugs were initially developed as catalytic inhibitors to block the repair of DNA single-strand breaks. We recently reported that several PARP inhibitors have an additional cytotoxic mechanism by trapping PARP–DNA complexes, and that both olaparib and niraparib act as PARP poisons at pharmacologic concentrations. Therefore, we have proposed that PARP inhibitors should be evaluated based both on catalytic PARP inhibition and PARP–DNA trapping. Here, we evaluated the novel PARP inhibitor, BMN 673, and compared its effects on PARP1 and PARP2 with two other clinical PARP inhibitors, olaparib and rucaparib, using biochemical and cellular assays in genetically modified chicken DT40 and human cancer cell lines. Although BMN 673, olaparib, and rucaparib are comparable at inhibiting PARP catalytic activity, BMN 673 is ~100-fold more potent at trapping PARP–DNA complexes and more cytotoxic as single agent than olaparib, whereas olaparib and rucaparib show similar potencies in trapping PARP–DNA complexes. The high level of resistance of PARP1/2 knockout cells to BMN 673 demonstrates the selectivity of BMN 673 for PARP1/2. Moreover, we show that BMN 673 acts by stereospecific binding to PARP1 as its enantiomer, LT674, is several orders of magnitude less efficient. BMN 673 is also approximately 100-fold more cytotoxic than olaparib and rucaparib in combination with the DNA alkylating agents methyl methane sulfonate (MMS) and temozolomide. Our study demonstrates that BMN 673 is the most potent clinical PARP inhibitor tested to date with the highest efficiency at trapping PARP–DNA complexes. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 433–43. ©2013 AACR.
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) has recently been recognized as a key element of cell invasion, migration, metastasis, and drug resistance in several types of cancer, including non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Our aim was to clarify microRNA (miRNA)-related mechanisms underlying EMT followed by acquired resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI) in NSCLC. miRNA expression profiles were examined before and after transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) exposure in four human adenocarcinoma cell lines with or without EMT. Correlation between expressions of EMT-related miRNAs and resistance to EGFR-TKI gefitinib was evaluated. miRNA array and real-time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) revealed that TGF-β1 significantly induced overexpression of miR-134, miR-487b, and miR-655, which belong to the same cluster located on chromosome 14q32, in lung adenocarcinoma cells with EMT. MAGI2 (membrane-associated guanylate kinase, WW, and PDZ domain–containing protein 2), a predicted target of these miRNAs and a scaffold protein required for PTEN, was diminished in A549 cells with EMT after the TGF-β1 stimulation. Overexpression of miR-134 and miR-487b promoted the EMT phenomenon and affected the drug resistance to gefitinib, whereas knockdown of these miRNAs inhibited the EMT process and reversed TGF-β1–induced resistance to gefitinib. Our study demonstrated that the miR-134/487b/655 cluster contributed to the TGF-β1–induced EMT phenomenon and affected the resistance to gefitinib by directly targeting MAGI2, in which suppression subsequently caused loss of PTEN stability in lung cancer cells. The miR-134/miR-487b/miR-655 cluster may be a new therapeutic target in patients with advanced lung adenocarcinoma, depending on the EMT phenomenon. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 444–53. ©2013 AACR.
Neuroblastoma is an embryonal tumor accounting for approximately 15% of childhood cancer deaths. There exists a clinical need to identify novel therapeutic targets, particularly for treatment-resistant forms of neuroblastoma. Therefore, we investigated the role of the neuronal master regulator GSK3 in controlling neuroblastoma cell fate. We identified novel GSK3-mediated regulation of MYC (c-MYC and MYCN) mRNA levels, which may have implications for numerous MYC-driven cancers. In addition, we showed that certain GSK3 inhibitors induced large-scale cell death in neuroblastoma cells, primarily through activating apoptosis. mRNA-seq of GSK3 inhibitor–treated cells was performed and subsequent pathway analysis revealed that multiple signaling pathways contributed to the loss of neuroblastoma cell viability. The contribution of two of the signaling pathways highlighted by the mRNA-seq analysis was functionally validated. Inhibition of the p53 tumor suppressor partly rescued the cell death phenotype, whereas activation of canonical Wnt signaling contributed to the loss of viability, in a p53-independent manner. Two GSK3 inhibitors (BIO-acetoxime and LiCl) and one small-molecule Wnt agonist (Wnt Agonist 1) demonstrated therapeutic potential for neuroblastoma treatment. These inhibitors reduced the viability of numerous neuroblastoma cell lines, even those derived from high-risk MYCN-amplified metastatic tumors, for which effective therapeutics are currently lacking. Furthermore, although LiCl was lethal to neuroblastoma cells, it did not reduce the viability of differentiated neurons. Taken together our data suggest that these small molecules may hold potential as effective therapeutic agents for the treatment of neuroblastoma and other MYC-driven cancers. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 454–67. ©2013 AACR.
Aberrant activation of the latent transcription factor STAT3 and its downstream targets is a common feature of epithelial-derived human cancers, including those of the gastrointestinal tract. Mouse models of gastrointestinal malignancy implicate Stat3 as a key mediator of inflammatory-driven tumorigenesis, in which its cytokine/gp130/Janus kinase (Jak)–dependent activation provides a functional link through which the microenvironment sustains tumor promotion. Although therapeutic targeting of STAT3 is highly desirable, such molecules are not available for immediate clinical assessment. Here, we investigated whether the small-molecule Jak1/2 inhibitor AZD1480 confers therapeutic benefits in two mouse models of inflammation-associated gastrointestinal cancer, which are strictly dependent of excessive Stat3 activation. We confirm genetically that Cre-mediated, tumor cell–specific reduction of Stat3 expression arrests the growth of intestinal-type gastric tumors in gp130F/F mice. We find that systemic administration of AZD1480 readily replicates this effect, which is associated with reduced Stat3 activation and correlates with diminished tumor cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. Likewise, AZD1480 therapy also conferred a cytostatic effect on established tumors in a colitis-associated colon cancer model in wild-type mice. As predicted from our genetic observations in gp130F/F mice, the therapeutic effect of AZD1480 remains fully reversible upon cessation of compound administration. Collectively, our results provide the first evidence that pharmacologic targeting of excessively activated wild-type Jak kinases affords therapeutic suppression of inflammation-associated gastrointestinal cancers progression in vivo. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 468–74. ©2014 AACR.
The treatment of non–small cell lung cancer has evolved dramatically over the past decade with the adoption of widespread use of effective targeted therapies in patients with distinct molecular alterations. In lung squamous cell carcinoma (lung SqCC), recent studies have suggested that DDR2 mutations are a biomarker for therapeutic response to dasatinib and clinical trials are underway testing this hypothesis. Although targeted therapeutics are typically quite effective as initial therapy for patients with lung cancer, nearly all patients develop resistance with long-term exposure to targeted drugs. Here, we use DDR2-dependent lung cancer cell lines to model acquired resistance to dasatinib therapy. We perform targeted exome sequencing to identify two distinct mechanisms of acquired resistance: acquisition of the T654I gatekeeper mutation in DDR2 and loss of NF1. We show that NF1 loss activates a bypass pathway, which confers ERK dependency downstream of RAS activation. These results indicate that acquired resistance to dasatinib can occur via both second-site mutations in DDR2 and by activation of bypass pathways. These data may help to anticipate mechanisms of resistance that may be identified in upcoming clinical trials of anti-DDR2 therapy in lung cancer and suggest strategies to overcome resistance. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 475–82. ©2013 AACR.
Bone marrow cells (BMC) are critical to the expansion of the tumor vessel network that supports Ewing sarcoma growth. BMCs migrate to the tumor and differentiate into endothelial cells and pericytes. We recently demonstrated that stromal-derived growth factor 1α (SDF-1α) regulates platelet-derived growth factor B (PDGF-B) and that this pathway plays a critical role in bone marrow–derived pericyte differentiation in vitro. We investigated the role of SDF-1α/PDGF-B in the tumor microenvironment in vivo in promoting bone marrow–derived pericyte differentiation in Ewing tumors. The CXCR4 antagonist AMD 3100 was used to disrupt the SDF-1α/CXCR4 axis in vivo in two xenograft Ewing tumor models. BMCs from GFP+ transgenic mice were transplanted into lethally irradiated nude mice to track BMC migration to the tumor site. Following BMC engraftment, tumor-bearing mice received daily subcutaneous injections of either PBS or AMD 3100 for 3 weeks. Tumors were resected and tumor sections were analyzed by immunohistochemistry. AMD 3100 inhibited BMC differentiation into desmin+ and NG2+ pericytes, affected the morphology of the tumor vasculature, decreased perfusion, and increased tumor cell apoptosis. We observed smaller vessels with tiny lumens and a decrease in the microvessel density. AMD 3100 also inhibited PDGF-B protein expression in vitro and in vivo. SDF-1α in the tumor microenvironment plays a critical role in promoting pericyte formation and Ewing sarcoma tumor neovascularization by regulating PDGF-B expression. Interfering with this pathway affects tumor vascular morphology and expansion. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 483–91. ©2013 AACR.
Organic anion-transporting polypeptides (OATP) mediate the hepatic uptake of many drugs, thus codetermining their clearance. Impaired hepatic clearance due to low-activity polymorphisms in human OATP1B1 may increase systemic exposure to SN-38, the active and toxic metabolite of the anticancer prodrug irinotecan. We investigated the pharmacokinetics and toxicity of irinotecan and SN-38 in Oatp1a/1b-null mice: Plasma exposure of irinotecan and SN-38 was increased 2 to 3-fold after irinotecan dosing (10 mg/kg, i.v.) compared with wild-type mice. Also, liver-to-plasma ratios were significantly reduced, suggesting impaired hepatic uptake of both compounds. After 6 daily doses of irinotecan, Oatp1a/1b-null mice suffered from increased toxicity. However, Oatp1a/1b-null mice had increased levels of carboxylesterase (Ces) enzymes, which caused higher conversion of irinotecan to SN-38 in plasma, potentially complicating pharmacokinetic analyses. Ces inhibitors blocked this increased conversion. Interestingly, liver-specific humanized OATP1B1 and OATP1B3 transgenic mice had normalized hepatic expression of Ces1 genes. While irinotecan liver-to-plasma ratios in these humanized mice were similar to those in Oatp1a/1b-null mice, SN-38 liver-to-plasma ratios returned to wild-type levels, suggesting that human OATP1B proteins mediate SN-38, but not irinotecan uptake in vivo. Upon direct administration of SN-38 (1 mg/kg, i.v.), Oatp1a/1b-null mice had increased SN-38 plasma levels, lower liver concentrations, and decreased cumulative biliary excretion of SN-38. Mouse Oatp1a/1b transporters have a role in the plasma clearance of irinotecan and SN-38, whereas human OATP1B transporters may only affect SN-38 disposition. Oatp1a/1b-null mice have increased expression and activity of Ces1 enzymes, whereas humanized mice provide a rescue of this phenotype. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 492–503. ©2013 AACR.
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a serine/threonine kinase that regulates cell growth, proliferation, metabolism, and cell survival, and plays those roles by forming two functionally distinct multiprotein complexes: mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2). Deregulation of the mTOR pathway has been found in different cancers, including multiple myeloma. Agents acting on mTORC1, such as rapamycin and derivatives, are being explored as antitumoral strategies. However, whether targeting mTOR would be a more effective antimyeloma strategy than exclusively acting on the mTORC1 branch remains to be established. In this report, we explored the activation status of mTOR routes in malignant plasma cells, and analyzed the contribution of mTOR and its two signaling branches to the proliferation of myeloma cells. Gene expression profiling demonstrated deregulation of mTOR pathway–related genes in myeloma plasma cells from patients. Activation of the mTOR pathway in myelomatous plasma cells was corroborated by flow cytometric analyses. RNA interference (RNAi) experiments indicated that mTORC1 predominated over mTORC2 in the control of myeloma cell proliferation. However, mTOR knockdown had a superior antiproliferative effect than acting only on mTORC1 or mTORC2. Pharmacologic studies corroborated that the neutralization of mTOR has a stronger antimyeloma effect than the individual inhibition of mTORC1 or mTORC2. Together, our data support the clinical development of agents that widely target mTOR, instead of agents, such as rapamycin or its derivatives, that solely act on mTORC1. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 504–16. ©2014 AACR.
NVP-BEZ235 is a newly developed dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor, being tested in multiple clinical trials, including breast cancer. NVP-BEZ235 selectively induces cell growth inhibition in a subset, but not all, breast cancer cell lines. However, it remains a challenge to distinguish between sensitive and resistant tumors, particularly in the pretreatment setting. Here, we used ten breast cancer cell lines to compare NVP-BEZ235 sensitivity and in the context of androgen receptor (AR) activation during NVP-BEZ235 treatment. We also used female SCID mice bearing breast tumor xenografts to investigate the beneficial effect of dihydrotestosterone/NVP-BEZ235 combination treatment compared with each alone. We found that AR-positive breast cancer cell lines are much more sensitive to NVP-BEZ235 compared with AR-negative cells, regardless of PTEN or PI3KCA status. Reintroducing AR expression in NVP-BEZ235 nonresponsive AR-negative cells restored the response. DHT/NVP-BEZ235 combination not only resulted in a more significant growth inhibition than either drug alone, but also achieved tumor regression and complete responses for AR+/ER+ tumors. This beneficial effect was mediated by dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-induced PTEN and KLLN expression. Furthermore, DHT could also reverse NVP-BEZ235–induced side effects such as skin rash and weight loss. Our data suggest that AR expression may be an independent predictive biomarker for response to NVP-BEZ235. AR induction could add benefit during NVP-BEZ235 treatment in patients, especially with AR+/ER+ breast carcinomas. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 517–27. ©2013 AACR.
Tumor recurrence after curative resection remains a major problem in patients with locally advanced colorectal cancer treated with adjuvant chemotherapy. Genetic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) may serve as useful molecular markers to predict clinical outcomes in these patients and identify targets for future drug development. Recent in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated that the plastin genes PLS3 and LCP1 are overexpressed in colon cancer cells and play an important role in tumor cell invasion, adhesion, and migration. Hence, we hypothesized that functional genetic variations of plastin may have direct effects on the progression and prognosis of locally advanced colorectal cancer. We tested whether functional tagging polymorphisms of PLS3 and LCP1 predict time to tumor recurrence (TTR) in 732 patients (training set, 234; validation set, 498) with stage II/III colorectal cancer. The PLS3 rs11342 and LCP1 rs4941543 polymorphisms were associated with a significantly increased risk for recurrence in the training set. PLS3 rs6643869 showed a consistent association with TTR in the training and validation set, when stratified by gender and tumor location. Female patients with the PLS3 rs6643869 AA genotype had the shortest median TTR compared with those with any G allele in the training set [1.7 vs. 9.4 years; HR, 2.84; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.32–6.1; P = 0.005] and validation set (3.3 vs. 13.7 years; HR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.09–3.91; P = 0.021). Our findings suggest that several SNPs of the PLS3 and LCP1 genes could serve as gender- and/or stage-specific molecular predictors of tumor recurrence in stage II/III patients with colorectal cancer as well as potential therapeutic targets. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 528–39. ©2013 AACR.
Onartuzumab, a humanized, monovalent monoclonal anti-MET antibody, antagonizes MET signaling by inhibiting binding of its ligand, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). We investigated the effects of onartuzumab on cell-associated and circulating (shed) MET (sMET) and circulating HGF in vitro and nonclinically to determine their utility as pharmacodynamic biomarkers for onartuzumab. Effects of onartuzumab on cell-associated MET were assessed by flow cytometry and immunofluorescence. sMET and HGF were measured in cell supernatants and in serum or plasma from multiple species (mouse, cynomolgus monkey, and human) using plate-based immunoassays. Unlike bivalent anti-MET antibodies, onartuzumab stably associates with MET on the surface of cells without inducing MET internalization or shedding. Onartuzumab delayed the clearance of human xenograft tumor-produced sMET from the circulation of mice, and endogenous sMET in cynomolgus monkeys. In mice harboring MET-expressing xenograft tumors, in the absence of onartuzumab, levels of human sMET correlated with tumor size, and may be predictive of MET-expressing tumor burden. Because binding of sMET to onartuzumab in circulation resulted in increasing sMET serum concentrations due to reduced clearance, this likely renders sMET unsuitable as a pharmacodynamic biomarker for onartuzumab. There was no observed effect of onartuzumab on circulating HGF levels in xenograft tumor-bearing mice or endogenous HGF in cynomolgus monkeys. Although sMET and HGF may serve as predictive biomarkers for MET therapeutics, these data do not support their use as pharmacodynamic biomarkers for onartuzumab. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(2); 540–52. ©2013 AACR.
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