Because of their low asparagine synthetase (ASNS) expression and asparagine biosynthesis, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells are exquisitely sensitive to asparagine depletion. Consequently, asparaginase is a major component of ALL therapy, but the mechanisms regulating the susceptibility of leukemic cells to this agent are unclear. In 288 children with ALL, cellular ASNS expression was more likely to be high in T-lineage ALL and low in B-lineage ALL with TEL-AML1 or hyperdiploidy. However, ASNS expression levels in bone marrow–derived mesenchymal cells (MSCs), which form the microenvironment where leukemic cells grow, were on average 20 times higher than those in ALL cells. MSCs protected ALL cells from asparaginase cytotoxicity in coculture experiments. This protective effect correlated with levels of ASNS expression: downregulation by RNA interference decreased the capacity of MSCs to protect ALL cells from asparaginase, whereas enforced ASNS expression conferred enhanced protection. Asparagine secretion by MSCs was directly related to their ASNS expression levels, suggesting a mechanism — increased concentrations of asparagine in the leukemic cell microenvironment — for the protective effects we observed. These results provide what we believe to be a new basis for understanding asparaginase resistance in ALL and indicate that MSC niches in the bone marrow can form a safe haven for leukemic cells.
Shotaro Iwamoto, Keichiro Mihara, James R. Downing, Ching-Hon Pui, Dario Campana
Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiologic agent for primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), a non–Hodgkin type lymphoma manifesting as an effusion malignancy in the affected individual. Although KSHV has been recognized as a tumor virus for over a decade, the pathways for its tumorigenic conversion are incompletely understood, which has greatly hampered the development of efficient therapies for KSHV-induced malignancies like PEL and Kaposi’s sarcoma. There are no current therapies effective against the aggressive, KSHV-induced PEL. Here we demonstrate that activation of the p53 pathway using murine double minute 2 (MDM2) inhibitor Nutlin-3a conveyed specific and highly potent activation of PEL cell killing. Our results demonstrated that the KSHV latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) bound to both p53 and MDM2 and that the MDM2 inhibitor Nutlin-3a disrupted the p53-MDM2-LANA complex and selectively induced massive apoptosis in PEL cells. Together with our results indicating that KSHV-infection activated DNA damage signaling, these findings contribute to the specificity of the cytotoxic effects of Nutlin-3a in KSHV-infected cells. Moreover, we showed that Nutlin-3a had striking antitumor activity in vivo in a mouse xenograft model. Our results therefore present new options for exploiting reactivation of p53 as what we believe to be a novel and highly selective treatment modality for this virally induced lymphoma.
Grzegorz Sarek, Sari Kurki, Juulia Enbäck, Guergana Iotzova, Juergen Haas, Pirjo Laakkonen, Marikki Laiho, Päivi M. Ojala
Peripheral T cell lymphoma, unspecified (PTCL/U), the most common form of PTCL, displays heterogeneous morphology and phenotype, poor response to treatment, and poor prognosis. We demonstrate that PTCL/U shows a gene expression profile clearly distinct from that of normal T cells. Comparison with the profiles of purified T cell subpopulations (CD4+, CD8+, resting [HLA-DR–], and activated [HLA-DR+]) reveals that PTCLs/U are most closely related to activated peripheral T lymphocytes, either CD4+ or CD8+. Interestingly, the global gene expression profile cannot be surrogated by routine CD4/CD8 immunohistochemistry. When compared with normal T cells, PTCLs/U display deregulation of functional programs often involved in tumorigenesis (e.g., apoptosis, proliferation, cell adhesion, and matrix remodeling). Products of deregulated genes can be detected in PTCLs/U by immunohistochemistry with an ectopic, paraphysiologic, or stromal location. PTCLs/U aberrantly express, among others, PDGFRα, a tyrosine-kinase receptor, whose deregulation is often related to a malignant phenotype. Notably, both phosphorylation of PDGFRα and sensitivity of cultured PTCL cells to imatinib (as well as to an inhibitor of histone deacetylase) were found. These results, which might be extended to other more rare PTCL categories, provide insight into tumor pathogenesis and clinical management of PTCL/U.
Pier Paolo Piccaluga, Claudio Agostinelli, Andrea Califano, Maura Rossi, Katia Basso, Simonetta Zupo, Philip Went, Ulf Klein, Pier Luigi Zinzani, Michele Baccarani, Riccardo Dalla Favera, Stefano A. Pileri
The receptor tyrosine kinase/PI3K/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (RTK/PI3K/Akt/mTOR) pathway is frequently altered in tumors. Inactivating mutations of either the TSC1 or the TSC2 tumor-suppressor genes cause tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a benign tumor syndrome in which there is both hyperactivation of mTOR and inhibition of RTK/PI3K/Akt signaling, partially due to reduced PDGFR expression. We report here that activation of PI3K or Akt, or deletion of phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) also suppresses PDGFR expression. This was a direct effect of mTOR activation, since rapamycin restored PDGFR expression and PDGF-sensitive Akt activation in Tsc1–/– and Tsc2–/– cells. Akt activation in response to EGF in Tsc2–/– cells was also reduced. Furthermore, Akt activation in response to each of EGF, IGF, and PMA was reduced in cells lacking both PDGFRα and PDGFRβ, implying a role for PDGFR in transmission of growth signals downstream of these stimuli. Consistent with the reduction in PI3K/Akt signaling, in a nude mouse model both Tsc1–/– and Tsc2–/– cells had reduced tumorigenic potential in comparison to control cells, which was enhanced by expression of either active Akt or PDGFRβ. In conclusion, PDGFR is a major target of negative feedback regulation in cells with activated mTOR, which limits the growth potential of TSC tumors.
Hongbing Zhang, Natalia Bajraszewski, Erxi Wu, Hongwei Wang, Annie P. Moseman, Sandra L. Dabora, James D. Griffin, David J. Kwiatkowski
High-mobility group A1 (HMGA1) overexpression and gene rearrangement are frequent events in human cancer, but the molecular basis of HMGA1 oncogenic activity remains unclear. Here we describe a mechanism through which HMGA1 inhibits p53-mediated apoptosis by counteracting the p53 proapoptotic activator homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2 (HIPK2). We found that HMGA1 overexpression promoted HIPK2 relocalization in the cytoplasm and inhibition of p53 apoptotic function, while HIPK2 overexpression reestablished HIPK2 nuclear localization and sensitivity to apoptosis. HIPK2 depletion by RNA interference suppressed the antiapoptotic effect of HMGA1, which indicates that HIPK2 is the target required for HMGA1 to repress the apoptotic activity of p53. Consistent with this process, a strong correlation among HMGA1 overexpression, HIPK2 cytoplasmic localization, and low spontaneous apoptosis index (comparable to that observed in mutant p53–carrying tumors) was observed in WT p53–expressing human breast carcinomas. Hence, cytoplasmic relocalization of HIPK2 induced by HMGA1 overexpression is a mechanism of inactivation of p53 apoptotic function that we believe to be novel.
Giovanna Maria Pierantoni, Cinzia Rinaldo, Marcella Mottolese, Anna Di Benedetto, Francesco Esposito, Silvia Soddu, Alfredo Fusco
Melanoma is the cancer with the highest increase in incidence, and transformation of radial growth to vertical growth (i.e., noninvasive to invasive) melanoma is required for invasive disease and metastasis. We have previously shown that p42/p44 MAP kinase is activated in radial growth melanoma, suggesting that further signaling events are required for vertical growth melanoma. The molecular events that accompany this transformation are not well understood. Akt, a signaling molecule downstream of PI3K, was introduced into the radial growth WM35 melanoma in order to test whether Akt overexpression is sufficient to accomplish this transformation. Overexpression of Akt led to upregulation of VEGF, increased production of superoxide ROS, and the switch to a more pronounced glycolytic metabolism. Subcutaneous implantation of WM35 cells overexpressing Akt led to rapidly growing tumors in vivo, while vector control cells did not form tumors. We demonstrated that Akt was associated with malignant transformation of melanoma through at least 2 mechanisms. First, Akt may stabilize cells with extensive mitochondrial DNA mutation, which can generate ROS. Second, Akt can induce expression of the ROS-generating enzyme NOX4. Akt thus serves as a molecular switch that increases angiogenesis and the generation of superoxide, fostering more aggressive tumor behavior. Targeting Akt and ROS may be of therapeutic importance in treatment of advanced melanoma.
Baskaran Govindarajan, James E. Sligh, Bethaney J. Vincent, Meiling Li, Jeffrey A. Canter, Brian J. Nickoloff, Richard J. Rodenburg, Jan A. Smeitink, Larry Oberley, Yuping Zhang, Joyce Slingerland, Rebecca S. Arnold, J. David Lambeth, Cynthia Cohen, Lu Hilenski, Kathy Griendling, Marta Martínez-Diez, José M. Cuezva, Jack L. Arbiser
Autophagy is a lysosome-dependent degradative pathway frequently activated in tumor cells treated with chemotherapy or radiation. Whether autophagy observed in treated cancer cells represents a mechanism that allows tumor cells to survive therapy or a mechanism for initiating a nonapoptotic form of programmed cell death remains controversial. To address this issue, the role of autophagy in a Myc-induced model of lymphoma generated from cells derived from p53ERTAM/p53ERTAM mice (with ER denoting estrogen receptor) was examined. Such tumors are resistant to apoptosis due to a lack of nuclear p53. Systemic administration of tamoxifen led to p53 activation and tumor regression followed by tumor recurrence. Activation of p53 was associated with the rapid appearance of apoptotic cells and the induction of autophagy in surviving cells. Inhibition of autophagy with either chloroquine or ATG5 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) enhanced the ability of either p53 activation or alkylating drug therapy to induce tumor cell death. These studies provide evidence that autophagy serves as a survival pathway in tumor cells treated with apoptosis activators and a rationale for the use of autophagy inhibitors such as chloroquine in combination with therapies designed to induce apoptosis in human cancers.
Ravi K. Amaravadi, Duonan Yu, Julian J. Lum, Thi Bui, Maria A. Christophorou, Gerard I. Evan, Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, Craig B. Thompson
The ability to proliferate independently of signals from other cell types is a fundamental characteristic of tumor cells. Using a 3D culture model of human breast cancer progression, we have delineated a protease-dependent autocrine loop that provides an oncogenic stimulus in the absence of proto-oncogene mutation. Targeting this protease, TNF-α–converting enzyme (TACE; also referred to as a disintegrin and metalloproteinase 17 [ADAM17]), with small molecular inhibitors or siRNAs reverted the malignant phenotype in a breast cancer cell line by preventing mobilization of 2 crucial growth factors, TGF-α and amphiregulin. We show that TACE-dependent ligand shedding was prevalent in a series of additional breast cancer cell lines and, in all cases examined, was amenable to inhibition. Using existing patient outcome data, we demonstrated a strong correlation between TACE and TGFA expression in human breast cancers that was predictive of poor prognosis. Tumors resulting from inappropriate activation of the EGFR were common in multiple tissues and were, for the most part, refractory to current targeted therapies. The data presented here delineate the molecular mechanism by which constitutive EGFR activity may be achieved in tumor progression without mutation of the EGFR itself or downstream pathway components and suggest that this important oncogenic pathway might usefully be targeted upstream of the receptor.
Paraic A. Kenny, Mina J. Bissell
Although ras is a potent mitogenic oncogene, its tumorigenicity depends on cellular context and cooperative events. Here we show that low-level expression of a constitutively active Ha-ras in mouse urothelium induces simple urothelial hyperplasia that is resistant to progression to full-fledged bladder tumors even in the absence of Ink4a/Arf. In stark contrast, doubling of the gene dosage of the activated Ha-ras triggered early-onset, rapidly growing, and 100% penetrant tumors throughout the urinary tract. Tumor initiation required superseding a rate-limiting step between simple and nodular hyperplasia, the latter of which is marked by the emergence of mesenchymal components and the coactivation of AKT and STAT pathways as well as PTEN inactivation. These results indicate that overactivation of Ha-ras is both necessary and sufficient to induce bladder tumors along a low-grade, noninvasive papillary pathway, and they shed light on the recent findings that ras activation, via point mutation, overexpression, or intensified signaling from FGF receptor 3, occurs in 70%–90% of these tumors in humans. Our results highlight the critical importance of the dosage/strength of Ha-ras activation in dictating its tumorigenicity — a mechanism of oncogene activation not fully appreciated to date. Finally, our results have clinical implications, as inhibiting ras and/or its downstream effectors, such as AKT and STAT3/5, could provide alternative means to treat low-grade, superficial papillary bladder tumors, the most common tumor in the urinary system.
Lan Mo, Xiaoyong Zheng, Hong-Ying Huang, Ellen Shapiro, Herbert Lepor, Carlos Cordon-Cardo, Tung-Tien Sun, Xue-Ru Wu
Activating EGFR mutations occur in human non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), with 5% of human lung squamous cell carcinomas having EGFRvIII mutations and approximately 10%–30% of lung adenocarcinomas having EGFR kinase domain mutations. An EGFR-targeting monoclonal antibody, mAb806, recognizes a conformational epitope of WT EGFR as well as the truncated EGFRvIII mutant. To explore the anticancer spectrum of this antibody for EGFR targeted cancer therapy, mAb806 was used to treat genetically engineered mice with lung tumors that were driven by either EGFRvIII or EGFR kinase domain mutations. Our results demonstrate that mAb806 is remarkably effective in blocking EGFRvIII signaling and inducing tumor cell apoptosis, resulting in dramatic tumor regression in the EGFRvIII-driven murine lung cancers. Another EGFR-targeting antibody, cetuximab, failed to show activity in these lung tumors. Furthermore, treatment of murine lung tumors driven by the EGFR kinase domain mutation with mAb806 also induced significant tumor regression, albeit to a less degree than that observed in EGFRvIII-driven tumors. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that mAb806 may lead to significant advancements in the treatment of the population of NSCLC patients with these 2 classes of EGFR mutations.
Danan Li, Hongbin Ji, Sara Zaghlul, Kate McNamara, Mei-Chih Liang, Takeshi Shimamura, Shigeto Kubo, Masaya Takahashi, Lucian R. Chirieac, Robert F. Padera, Andrew M. Scott, Achim A. Jungbluth, Webster K. Cavenee, Lloyd J. Old, George D. Demetri, Kwok-Kin Wong