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Molecular Cancer Therapeutics

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Molecular Cancer Therapeutics

B-RAF selective inhibitors, including vemurafenib, were recently developed as effective therapies for melanoma patients with B-RAF V600E mutation. However, most patients treated with vemurafenib eventually develop resistance largely due to reactivation of MAPK signaling. Inhibitors of MAPK signaling, including MEK1/2 inhibitor trametinib, failed to show significant clinical benefit in patients with acquired resistance to vemurafenib. Here, we describe that cell lines with acquired resistance to vemurafenib show reactivation of MAPK signaling and upregulation of cyclin D1 and are sensitive to inhibition of LY2835219, a selective inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4/6. LY2835219 was demonstrated to inhibit growth of melanoma A375 tumor xenografts and delay tumor recurrence in combination with vemurafenib. Furthermore, we developed an in vivo vemurafenib-resistant model by continuous administration of vemurafenib in A375 xenografts. Consistently, we found that MAPK is reactivated and cyclin D1 is elevated in vemurafenib-resistant tumors, as well as in the resistant cell lines derived from these tumors. Importantly, LY2835219 exhibited tumor growth regression in a vemurafenib-resistant model. Mechanistic analysis revealed that LY2835219 induced apoptotic cell death in a concentration-dependent manner in vemurafenib-resistant cells whereas it primarily mediated cell-cycle G1 arrest in the parental cells. Similarly, RNAi-mediated knockdown of cyclin D1 induced significantly higher rate of apoptosis in the resistant cells than in parental cells, suggesting that elevated cyclin D1 activity is important for the survival of vemurafenib-resistant cells. Altogether, we propose that targeting cyclin D1–CDK4/6 signaling by LY2835219 is an effective strategy to overcome MAPK-mediated resistance to B-RAF inhibitors in B-RAF V600E melanoma. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2253–63. ©2014 AACR.


Endoglin, a 180-kDa disulfide-linked homodimeric transmembrane receptor protein mostly expressed in tumor-associated endothelial cells, is an endogenous binding partner of GAIP-interacting protein, C terminus (GIPC). Endoglin functions as a coreceptor of TβRII that binds TGFβ and is important for vascular development, and consequently has become a compelling target for antiangiogenic therapies. A few recent studies in gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), breast cancer, and ovarian cancer, however, suggest that endoglin is upregulated in tumor cells and is associated with poor prognosis. These findings indicate a broader role of endoglin in tumor biology, beyond angiogenic effects. The goal of our current study is to evaluate the effects of targeting endoglin in pancreatic cancer both in vitro and in vivo. We analyzed the antiproliferative effect of both RNAi-based and peptide ligand-based inhibition of endoglin in pancreatic cancer cell lines, the latter yielding a GIPC PDZ domain-targeting lipopeptide with notable antiproliferative activity. We further demonstrated that endoglin inhibition induced a differentiation phenotype in the pancreatic cancer cells and sensitized them against conventional chemotherapeutic drug gemcitabine. Most importantly, we have demonstrated the antitumor effect of both RNAi-based and competitive inhibitor–based blocking of endoglin in pancreatic cancer xenograft models in vivo. To our knowledge, this is the first report exploring the effect of targeting endoglin in pancreatic cancer cells. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2264–75. ©2014 AACR.


Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is a rare and therefore often neglected disease. Introduction of the kinase inhibitor imatinib mesylate radically improved the clinical response of patients with GIST; however, its effects are often short-lived, with GISTs demonstrating a median time-to-progression of approximately two years. Although many investigational drugs, approved first for other cancers, have been subsequently evaluated for the management of GIST, few have greatly affected the overall survival of patients with advanced disease. We employed a novel, focused, drug-repurposing effort for GIST, including imatinib mesylate–resistant GIST, evaluating a large library of FDA-approved drugs regardless of current indication. As a result of the drug-repurposing screen, we identified eight FDA-approved drugs, including fludarabine phosphate (F-AMP), that showed synergy with and/or overcame resistance to imatinib mesylate. F-AMP induces DNA damage, Annexin V, and caspase-3/7 activities as the cytotoxic effects on GIST cells, including imatinib mesylate–resistant GIST cells. F-AMP and imatinib mesylate combination treatment showed greater inhibition of GIST cell proliferation when compared with imatinib mesylate and F-AMP alone. Successful in vivo experiments confirmed the combination of imatinib mesylate with F-AMP enhanced the antitumor effects compared with imatinib mesylate alone. Our results identified F-AMP as a promising, repurposed drug therapy for the treatment of GISTs, with potential to be administered in combination with imatinib mesylate or for treatment of imatinib mesylate–refractory tumors. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2276–87. ©2014 AACR.


Docetaxel chemotherapy remains a standard of care for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Docetaxel modestly increases survival, yet results in frequent occurrence of side effects and resistant disease. An alternate chemotherapy with greater efficacy and minimal side effects is needed. Acquisition of metabolic aberrations promoting increased survival and metastasis in CRPC cells includes constitutive activation of Akt, loss of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity due to Ser-485/491 phosphorylation, and overexpression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl–Coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoAR). We report that combination of simvastatin and metformin, within pharmacologic dose range (500 nmol/L to 4 μmol/L simvastatin and 250 μmol/L to 2 mmol/L metformin), significantly and synergistically reduces C4-2B3/B4 CRPC cell viability and metastatic properties, with minimal adverse effects on normal prostate epithelial cells. Combination of simvastatin and metformin decreased Akt Ser-473 and Thr-308 phosphorylation and AMPKα Ser-485/491 phosphorylation; increased Thr-172 phosphorylation and AMPKα activity, as assessed by increased Ser-79 and Ser-872 phosphorylation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and HMG-CoAR, respectively; decreased HMG-CoAR activity; and reduced total cellular cholesterol and its synthesis in both cell lines. Studies of C4-2B4 orthotopic NCr-nu/nu mice further demonstrated that combination of simvastatin and metformin (3.5–7.0 μg/g body weight simvastatin and 175–350 μg/g body weight metformin) daily by oral gavage over a 9-week period significantly inhibited primary ventral prostate tumor formation, cachexia, bone metastasis, and biochemical failure more effectively than 24 μg/g body weight docetaxel intraperitoneally injected every 3 weeks, 7.0 μg/g/day simvastatin, or 350 μg/g/day metformin treatment alone, with significantly less toxicity and mortality than docetaxel, establishing combination of simvastatin and metformin as a promising chemotherapeutic alternative for metastatic CRPC. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2288–302. ©2014 AACR.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly lethal cancer due in part to a lack of highly robust cytotoxic or molecular-based therapies. Recent studies investigating ligand-mediated Wnt/β-catenin signaling have highlighted its importance in pancreatic cancer initiation and progression, as well as its potential as a therapeutic target in PDAC. The small-molecule ICG-001 binds cAMP-responsive element binding (CREB)-binding protein (CBP) to disrupt its interaction with β-catenin and inhibit CBP function as a coactivator of Wnt/β-catenin–mediated transcription. Given its ability to inhibit Wnt/β-catenin–mediated transcription in vitro and in vivo, as well as its efficacy in preclinical models of colorectal cancer and other Wnt-driven diseases, we examined ICG-001 and its potential role as a therapeutic in PDAC. ICG-001 alone significantly inhibited anchorage-dependent and -independent growth of multiple PDAC lines, and augmented in vitro growth inhibition when used in combination with gemcitabine. ICG-001 had only variable modest effects on PDAC apoptosis and instead mediated PDAC growth inhibition primarily through robust induction of G1 cell-cycle arrest. These effects, however, seemed decoupled from its inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin–mediated transcription. DNA microarrays performed on PDAC cells in the context of ICG-001 treatment revealed ICG-001 altered the expression of several genes with well-established roles in DNA replication and cell-cycle progression, including direct actions on SKP2 and CDKN1A. ICG-001 also significantly prolonged survival in an in vivo orthotopic xenograft model of PDAC, indicating ICG-001 or derived compounds that disrupt CBP activity are potentially useful small-molecule therapeutics for pancreatic cancer. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2303–14. ©2014 AACR.


Recently, treatment with bromodomain and extraterminal protein antagonist (BA) such as JQ1 has been shown to inhibit growth and induce apoptosis of human acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cells, including those expressing FLT3-ITD. Here, we demonstrate that cotreatment with JQ1 and the FLT3 tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) ponatinib or AC220 synergistically induce apoptosis of cultured and primary CD34+ human AML blast progenitor cells (BPC) expressing FLT3-ITD. Concomitantly, as compared with each agent alone, cotreatment with JQ1 and the FLT3-TKI caused greater attenuation of c-MYC, BCL2, and CDK4/6. Simultaneously, cotreatment with JQ1 and the FLT3-TKI increased the levels of p21, BIM, and cleaved PARP, as well as mediated marked attenuation of p-STAT5, p-AKT, and p-ERK1/2 levels in AML BPCs. Conversely, cotreatment with JQ1 and FLT3-TKI was significantly less active against CD34+ normal bone marrow progenitor cells. Knockdown of BRD4 by short hairpin RNA also sensitized AML cells to FLT3-TKI. JQ1 treatment induced apoptosis of mouse Ba/F3 cells ectopically expressing FLT3-ITD with or without FLT3-TKI–resistant mutations F691L and D835V. Compared with the parental human AML FLT3-ITD–expressing MOLM13, MOLM13-TKIR cells resistant to AC220 were markedly more sensitive to JQ1-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, cotreatment with JQ1 and the pan-histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDI) panobinostat synergistically induced apoptosis of FLT3-TKI–resistant MOLM13-TKIR and MV4-11-TKIR cells. Collectively, these findings support the rationale for determining the in vivo activity of combined therapy with BA and FLT3-TKI against human AML cells expressing FLT3-ITD or with BA and HDI against AML cells resistant to FLT3-TKI. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2315–27. ©2014 AACR.


Malignant melanoma is a difficult cancer to treat due to the rapid development of resistance to drugs targeting single proteins. One response to this observation is to identify single pharmacologic agents that, due to a unique mechanism of action, simultaneously target multiple key pathways involved in melanoma development. Leelamine has been identified as functioning in this manner but has poor bioavailability in animals and causes lethality when administered intravenously. Therefore, a nanoliposomal-based delivery system has been developed, called Nanolipolee-007, which stably loads 60% of the compound. The nanoparticle was as effective at killing melanoma cells as leelamine dissolved in DMSO and was more effective at killing cultured melanoma compared with normal cells. Mechanistically, Nanolipolee-007 inhibited PI3K/Akt, STAT3, and MAPK signaling mediated through inhibition of cholesterol transport. Nanolipolee-007 inhibited the growth of preexisting xenografted melanoma tumors by an average of 64% by decreasing cellular proliferation, reducing tumor vascularization, and increasing cellular apoptosis, with negligible toxicity. Thus, a unique clinically viable nanoparticle-based drug has been developed containing leelamine for the treatment of melanoma that acts by inhibiting the activity of major signaling pathways regulating the development of this disease. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2328–40. ©2014 AACR.


Trop-2 has limited presence on normal tissues but is highly expressed in diverse epithelial cancers. (E1)-3s is a T-cell–redirecting trivalent bispecific antibody (bsAb), comprising an anti-CD3 scFv covalently linked to a stabilized dimer of a Trop-2–targeting Fab using Dock-and-Lock. We show for the first time that bsAb-mediated bidirectional trogocytosis occurs between target and T cells and involves immunologic synapses. We studied the effects of interferon-α (INFα) on (E1)-3s–mediated T-cell killing of human gastric and pancreatic cancer cell lines. T-cell activation, cytokine induction, and cytotoxicity were evaluated ex vivo using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) or T cells with NCI-N87 gastric cancer as target cells. In vivo activity was assayed with NCI-N87 and Capan-1 (pancreatic) xenografts. In the presence of target cells and PBMCs, (E1)-3s did not cause excess cytokine production. When combined with (E1)-3s, peginterferonalfa-2a—which alone did not increase T-cell activation or raise cytokine levels over baseline—increased CD69 expression but did not significantly increase cytokine induction. (E1) 3s mediated a highly potent T-cell lysis of NCI-N87 target cells in vitro. Inclusion of peginterferonalfa-2a or a more potent form of INFα, 20*-2b, significantly potentiated the activity of (E1)-3s by more than 2.5- or 7-fold, respectively. In vivo, combining peginterferonalfa-2a with (E1)-3s delayed Capan-1 growth longer than each single agent. Similarly, combination therapy delayed tumor proliferation of NCI-N87 compared with (E1)-3s or peginterferonalfa-2a single-treatment groups. (E1)-3s effectively induced T-cell–mediated killing of Trop-2–expressing pancreatic and gastric cancers, which was enhanced with INFα. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2341–51. ©2014 AACR.


miR34a is a tumor-suppressor miRNA that functions within the p53 pathway to regulate cell-cycle progression and apoptosis. With apparent roles in metastasis and cancer stem cell development, miR34a provides an interesting opportunity for therapeutic development. A mimic of miR34a was complexed with an amphoteric liposomal formulation and tested in two different orthotopic models of liver cancer. Systemic dosing of the formulated miR34a mimic increased the levels of miR34a in tumors by approximately 1,000-fold and caused statistically significant decreases in the mRNA levels of several miR34a targets. The administration of the formulated miR34a mimic caused significant tumor growth inhibition in both models of liver cancer, and tumor regression was observed in more than one third of the animals. The antitumor activity was observed in the absence of any immunostimulatory effects or dose-limiting toxicities. Accumulation of the formulated miR34a mimic was also noted in the spleen, lung, and kidney, suggesting the potential for therapeutic use in other cancers. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2352–60. ©2014 AACR.


Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy among Western men and accounts for the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly and recent studies suggest that it relies on lipid fuel more than on aerobic glycolysis. However, the biochemical mechanisms governing the relationships between lipid synthesis, lipid utilization, and cancer growth remain unknown. To address the role of lipid metabolism in prostate cancer, we have used etomoxir and orlistat, clinically safe drugs that block lipid oxidation and lipid synthesis/lipolysis, respectively. Etomoxir is an irreversible inhibitor of the carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT1) enzyme that decreases β oxidation in the mitochondria. Combinatorial treatments using etomoxir and orlistat resulted in synergistic decreased viability in LNCaP, VCaP, and patient-derived benign and prostate cancer cells. These effects were associated with decreased androgen receptor expression, decreased mTOR signaling, and increased caspase-3 activation. Knockdown of CPT1A enzyme in LNCaP cells resulted in decreased palmitate oxidation but increased sensitivity to etomoxir, with inactivation of AKT kinase and activation of caspase-3. Systemic treatment with etomoxir in nude mice resulted in decreased xenograft growth over 21 days, underscoring the therapeutic potential of blocking lipid catabolism to decrease prostate cancer tumor growth. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2361–71. ©2014 AACR.


PTTG1 protein, the human securin, has a central role in sister chromatid separation during mitosis, and its altered expression has been reported in many tumor types. Paclitaxel is a widely used chemotherapeutic drug, whose mechanism of action is related to its ability to arrest cells in mitosis and the subsequent induction of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. By using two prostate cancer cell lines with different responses to paclitaxel treatment, we have identified two situations in which PTTG1 influences cell fate differentially. In slippage-prone PC3 cells, both PTTG1 downregulation and overexpression induce an increase in mitotic cells that is associated with diminished apoptosis after paclitaxel treatment. In LNCaP cells, however, PTTG1 downregulation prevents mitotic entry and, subsequently, inhibits mitosis-associated, paclitaxel-induced apoptosis. In contrast, PTTG1 overexpression induces an increase in mitotic cells and apoptosis after paclitaxel treatment. We have also identified a role for Mcl-1 protein in preventing apoptosis during mitosis in PC3 cells, as simultaneous PTTG1 and Mcl-1 silencing enhances mitosis-associated apoptosis after paclitaxel treatment. The finding that a more efficient mitotic arrest alone in PC3 cells is not enough to increase apoptosis was also confirmed with the observation that a selected paclitaxel-resistant PC3 cell line showed an apoptosis-resistant phenotype associated with increased mitosis upon paclitaxel treatment. These findings could contribute to identify putative responsive and nonresponsive cells and help us to approach incomplete responses to paclitaxel in the clinical setting. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2372–83. ©2014 AACR.


The present studies examined the toxic interaction between the non-coxib celecoxib derivative OSU-03012 and phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors, and also determined the roles of endoplasmic reticulum stress response regulators in cell survival. PDE5 inhibitors interacted in a greater than additive fashion with OSU-03012 to kill parental glioma and stem-like glioma cells. Knockdown of the endoplasmic reticulum stress response proteins IRE1 or XBP1 enhanced the lethality of OSU-03012, and of [OSU-03012 + PDE5 inhibitor] treatment. Pan-caspase and caspase-9 inhibition did not alter OSU-03012 lethality but did abolish enhanced killing in the absence of IRE1 or XBP1. Expression of the mitochondrial protective protein BCL-XL or the caspase-8 inhibitor c-FLIP-s, or knockdown of death receptor CD95 or the death receptor caspase-8 linker protein FADD, suppressed killing by [OSU-03012 + PDE5 inhibitor] treatment. CD95 activation was blocked by the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor L-NAME. Knockdown of the autophagy regulatory proteins Beclin1 or ATG5 protected the cells from OSU-03012 and from [OSU-03012 + PDE5 inhibitor] toxicity. Knockdown of IRE1 enhanced OSU-03012/[OSU-03012 + PDE5 inhibitor]–induced JNK activation, and inhibition of JNK suppressed the elevated killing caused by IRE1 knockdown. Knockdown of CD95 blunted JNK activation. Collectively, our data demonstrate that PDE5 inhibitors recruit death receptor signaling to enhance OSU-03012 toxicity in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cells. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2384–98. ©2014 AACR.


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) commonly resists the frontline chemotherapy treatment temozolomide. The multidrug resistance gene (MDR1) and its protein, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), are associated with chemoresistance. This study investigated the mechanisms underlying MDR1-mediated resistance by GBM to temozolomide. P-gp trafficking was studied by flow cytometry and Western blot analysis. MDR1 expression was analyzed by real-time PCR and reporter gene assays. AP-1 interaction with MDR1 was studied by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. EGF production was analyzed by ELISA, EGFR signaling was determined by Western blot analysis, and in vivo response to erlotinib and/or temozolomide was studied in nude mice. During the early phase of temozolomide treatment, intracellular P-gp was trafficked to the cell membrane, followed by conformational change into active P-gp. At the later phase, gene transcription of MDR1 was induced by temozolomide-mediated production of EGF. EGF activated ERK1/2-JNK-AP-1 cofactors (c-jun and c-fos). An inhibitor of EGFR kinase (erlotinib) given to nude mice with GBM prevented temozolomide-induced resistance. The results identified an essential role for activated EGFR in the resistance of GBM to temozolomide. Temozolomide resistance occurred through a biphasic response; first, by a conformational change in P-gp into the active form and, second, by releasing EGF, which caused autocrine stimulation of GBM cells to induce MDR1. Pharmacologic inhibition of EGFR kinase blunted the ability of GBM cells to resist temozolomide. These findings may explain reports on the common occurrence of mutant EGFR (EGFRvIII) and EGFR expansion in the resistance of GBM cells. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2399–411. ©2014 AACR.


Replication inhibitors cause replication fork stalling and double-strand breaks (DSB) that result from processing of stalled forks. During recovery from replication blocks, the homologous recombination (HR) factor RAD51 mediates fork restart and DSB repair. HR defects therefore sensitize cells to replication inhibitors, with clear implications for cancer therapy. Gemcitabine is a potent replication inhibitor used to treat cancers with mutations in HR genes such as BRCA2. Here, we investigate why, paradoxically, mutations in HR genes protect cells from killing by gemcitabine. Using DNA replication and DNA damage assays in mammalian cells, we show that even short gemcitabine treatments cause persistent replication inhibition. BRCA2 and RAD51 are recruited to chromatin early after removal of the drug, actively inhibit replication fork progression, and promote the formation of MUS81- and XPF-dependent DSBs that remain unrepaired. Our data suggest that HR intermediates formed at gemcitabine-stalled forks are converted into DSBs and thus contribute to gemcitabine-induced cell death, which could have implications for the treatment response of HR-deficient tumors. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2412–21. ©2014 AACR.


Recently, two different reports appeared in prominent journals suggesting a mechanism by which piperlongumine, a pyridine alkaloid, mediates anticancer effects. In the current report, we describe another novel mechanism by which this alkaloid mediates its anticancer effects. We found that piperlongumine blocked NF-B activated by TNFα and various other cancer promoters. This downregulation was accompanied by inhibition of phosphorylation and degradation of IBα. Further investigation revealed that this pyridine alkaloid directly interacts with IBα kinase (IKK) and inhibits its activity. Inhibition of IKK occurred through interaction with its cysteine 179 as the mutation of this residue to alanine abolished the activity of piperlongumine. Inhibition in NF-B activity downregulated the expression of proteins involved in cell survival (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, c-IAP-1, c-IAP-2, survivin), proliferation (c-Myc, cyclin D1), inflammation (COX-2, IL6), and invasion (ICAM-1, -9, CXCR-4, VEGF). Overall, our results reveal a novel mechanism by which piperlongumine can exhibit antitumor activity through downmodulation of proinflammatory pathway. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2422–35. ©2014 AACR.


On the basis of enhanced tumor accumulation and bone affinity, gallium compounds are under development as anticancer and antimetastatic agents. In this study, we analyzed molecular targets of one of the lead anticancer gallium complexes [KP46, Tris(8-quinolinolato)gallium(III)] focusing on colon and lung cancer. Within a few hours, KP46 treatment at low micromolar concentrations induced cell body contraction and loss of adhesion followed by prompt cell decomposition. This rapid KP46-induced cell death lacked classic apoptotic features and was insensitive toward a pan–caspase inhibitor. Surprisingly, however, it was accompanied by upregulation of proapoptotic Bcl-2 family members. Furthermore, a Bax- but not a p53-knockout HCT-116 subline exhibited significant KP46 resistance. Rapid KP46-induced detachment was accompanied by downregulation of focal adhesion proteins, including several integrin subunits. Loss of integrin-β1 and talin plasma membrane localization corresponded to reduced binding of RGD (Arg–Gly–Asp) peptides to KP46-treated cells. Accordingly, KP46-induced cell death and destabilization of integrins were enhanced by culture on collagen type I, a major integrin ligand. In contrast, KP46-mediated adhesion defects were partially rescued by Mg2+ ions, promoting integrin-mediated cell adhesion. Focal adhesion dynamics are regulated by calpains via cleavage of multiple cell adhesion molecules. Cotreatment with the cell-permeable calpain inhibitor PD150606 diminished KP46-mediated integrin destabilization and rapid cell death induction. KP46 treatment distinctly inhibited HCT-116 colon cancer xenograft in vivo by causing reduced integrin plasma membrane localization, tissue disintegration, and intense tumor necrosis. This study identifies integrin deregulation via a calpain-mediated mechanism as a novel mode of action for the anticancer gallium compound KP46. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2436–49. ©2014 AACR.


The growth of new lymphatic vessels (lymphangiogenesis) in tumors is an integral step in the metastatic spread of tumor cells, first to the sentinel lymph nodes that surround the tumor and then elsewhere in the body. Currently, no selective agents designed to prevent lymphatic vessel growth have been approved for clinical use, and there is an important potential clinical niche for antilymphangiogenic agents. Using a zebrafish phenotype-based chemical screen, we have identified drug compounds, previously approved for human use, that have antilymphatic activity. These include kaempferol, a natural product found in plants; leflunomide, an inhibitor of pyrimidine biosynthesis; and cinnarizine and flunarizine, members of the type IV class of calcium channel antagonists. Antilymphatic activity was confirmed in a murine in vivo lymphangiogenesis Matrigel plug assay, in which kaempferol, leflunomide, and flunarizine prevented lymphatic growth. We show that kaempferol is a novel inhibitor of VEGFR2/3 kinase activity and is able to reduce the density of tumor-associated lymphatic vessels as well as the incidence of lymph node metastases in a metastatic breast cancer xenograft model. However, in this model, kaempferol administration was also associated with tumor deposits in the pancreas and diaphragm, and flunarizine was found to be tumorigenic. Although this screen revealed that zebrafish is a viable platform for the identification and development of mammalian antilymphatic compounds, it also highlights the need for focused secondary screens to ensure appropriate efficacy of hits in a tumor context. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2450–62. ©2014 AACR.


The recent proliferation of data on large collections of well-characterized cancer cell lines linked to therapeutic drug responses has made it possible to identify lineage- and mutation-specific transcriptional markers that can help optimize implementation of anticancer agents. Here, we leverage these resources to systematically investigate the presence of mutation-specific transcription markers in a wide variety of cancer lineages and genotypes. Sensitivity and specificity of potential transcriptional biomarkers were simultaneously analyzed in 19 cell lineages grouped into 228 categories based on the mutational genotypes of 12 cancer-related genes. Among a total of 1,455 category-specific expression patterns, the expression of cAMP phosphodiesterase-4D (PDE4D) with 11 isoforms, one of the PDE4(A-D) subfamilies, was predicted to be regulated by a mutant form of serine/threonine kinase 11 (STK11)/liver kinase B1 (LKB1) present in lung cancer. STK11/LKB1 is the primary upstream kinase of adenine monophosphate–activated protein kinase (AMPK). Subsequently, we found that the knockdown of PDE4D gene expression inhibited proliferation of STK11-mutated lung cancer lines. Furthermore, challenge with a panel of PDE4-specific inhibitors was shown to selectively reduce the growth of STK11-mutated lung cancer lines. Thus, we show that multidimensional analysis of a well-characterized large-scale panel of cancer cell lines provides unprecedented opportunities for the identification of unexpected oncogenic mechanisms and mutation-specific drug targets. Mol Cancer Ther; 13(10); 2463–73. ©2014 AACR.