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Open access

Kate M Warde, Erik Schoenmakers, Eduardo Ribes Martinez, Yi Jan Lim, Maeve Leonard, Sarah J Lawless, Paula O’Shea, Krishna V Chatterjee, Mark Gurnell, Constanze Hantel, and Michael Conall Dennedy

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare aggressive malignancy with a poor outcome largely due to limited treatment options. Here, we propose a novel therapeutic approach through modulating intracellular free cholesterol via the liver X receptor alpha (LXRα) in combination with current first-line pharmacotherapy, mitotane. H295R and MUC-1 ACC cell lines were pretreated with LXRα inhibitors in combination with mitotane. In H295R, mitotane (20, 40 and 50 µM) induced dose-dependent cell death; however, in MUC-1, this only occurred at a supratherapeutic concentration (200 µM). LXRα inhibition potentiated mitotane-induced cytotoxicity in both cell lines. This was confirmed through use of the CompuSyn model which showed moderate pharmacological synergism and was indicative of apoptotic cell death via an increase in annexinV and cleaved-caspase 3 expression. Inhibition of LXRα was confirmed through downregulation of cholesterol efflux pumps ABCA1 and ABCG1; however, combination treatment with mitotane attenuated this effect. Intracellular free-cholesterol levels were associated with increased cytotoxicity in H295R (r 2 = 0.5210) and MUC-1 (r 2 = 0.9299) cells. While both cell lines exhibited similar levels of free cholesterol at baseline, H295R were cholesterol ester rich, whereas MUC-1 were cholesterol ester poor. We highlight the importance of LXRα mediated cholesterol metabolism in the management of ACC, drawing attention to its role in the therapeutics of mitotane sensitive tumours. We also demonstrate significant differences in cholesterol storage between mitotane sensitive and resistant disease.

Open access

James F Powers, Brent Cochran, James D Baleja, Hadley D Sikes, Andrew D Pattison, Xue Zhang, Inna Lomakin, Annette Shepard-Barry, Karel Pacak, Sun Jin Moon, Troy F Langford, Kassi Taylor Stein, Richard W Tothill, Yingbin Ouyang, and Arthur S Tischler

Tumors caused by loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding TCA cycle enzymes have been recently discovered and are now of great interest. Mutations in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) subunits cause pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PCPG) and syndromically associated tumors, which differ phenotypically and clinically from more common SDH-intact tumors of the same types. Consequences of SDH deficiency include rewired metabolism, pseudohypoxic signaling and altered redox balance. PCPG with SDHB mutations are particularly aggressive, and development of treatments has been hampered by lack of valid experimental models. Attempts to develop mouse models have been unsuccessful. Using a new strategy, we developed a xenograft and cell line model of SDH-deficient pheochromocytoma from rats with a heterozygous germline Sdhb mutation. The genome, transcriptome and metabolome of this model, called RS0, closely resemble those of SDHB-mutated human PCPGs, making it the most valid model now available. Strategies employed to develop RS0 may be broadly applicable to other SDH-deficient tumors.

Open access

Johan O Paulsson, Na Wang, Jiwei Gao, Adam Stenman, Jan Zedenius, Ninni Mu, Weng-Onn Lui, Catharina Larsson, and C Christofer Juhlin

Mutations in the miRNA enzyme gene DICER1 have been reported in several endocrine malignancies and is associated with the rare tumour-predisposing DICER1 syndrome. DICER1 mutations have been reported in subsets of follicular thyroid carcinoma (FTC), but the role of DICER1 in follicular thyroid tumorigenesis has not been extensively studied. In this study, we investigate the role of DICER1 in 168 follicular thyroid tumours and in an FTC cell line. We found rare DICER1 mutations in paediatric FTC cases and a general DICER1 down-regulation in FTCs visualized both on mRNA and protein level, especially pronounced in Hürthle cell carcinoma (HuCC). The down-regulation was also evident in follicular thyroid adenomas (FTAs), suggesting a potential early step in tumorigenesis. The expression of DICER1 was lower in FTCs of older patients in which TERT promoter mutations are more frequent. In FTCs, DICER1 down-regulation was not caused by gene copy number loss but significantly correlated to expression of the transcription factor GABPA in clinical cases. GABPA was found to bind to the DICER1 promoter and regulate DICER1 expression in vitro, as GABPA depletion in FTC cell lines reduced DICER1 expression. This in turn stimulated cell proliferation and affected the miRNA machinery, evident by altered miRNA expression. To conclude, we show that GABPA directly regulates DICER1 in FTC, acting as a tumour suppressor and displaying down-regulation in clinical samples. We also show reduced expression of DICER1 in benign and malignant follicular thyroid tumours, suggesting a potentially early tumorigenic role of this gene aberrancy.

Open access

Emanuel Christ, Kwadwo Antwi, Melpomeni Fani, and Damian Wild

Receptors for the incretin glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1R) have been found overexpressed in selected types of human tumors and may, therefore, play an increasingly important role in endocrine gastrointestinal tumor management. In particular, virtually all benign insulinomas express GLP-1R in high density. Targeting GLP-1R with indium-111, technetium-99m or gallium-68-labeled exendin-4 offers a new approach that permits the successful localization of small benign insulinomas. It is likely that this new non-invasive technique has the potential to replace the invasive localization of insulinomas by selective arterial stimulation and venous sampling. In contrast to benign insulinomas, malignant insulin-secreting neuroendocrine tumors express GLP-1R in only one-third of the cases, while they more often express the somatostatin subtype 2 receptors. Importantly, one of the two receptors appears to be always overexpressed. In special cases of endogenous hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia (EHH), that is, in the context of MEN-1 or adult nesidioblastosis GLP-1R imaging is useful whereas in postprandial hypoglycemia in the context of bariatric surgery, GLP-1R imaging is probably not helpful. This review focuses on the potential use of GLP-1R imaging in the differential diagnosis of EHH.

Open access

K E Lines, P Filippakopoulos, M Stevenson, S Müller, H E Lockstone, B Wright, S Knapp, D Buck, C Bountra, and R V Thakker

Medical treatments for corticotrophinomas are limited, and we therefore investigated the effects of epigenetic modulators, a new class of anti-tumour drugs, on the murine adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting corticotrophinoma cell line AtT20. We found that AtT20 cells express members of the bromo and extra-terminal (BET) protein family, which bind acetylated histones, and therefore, studied the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of two BET inhibitors, referred to as (+)-JQ1 (JQ1) and PFI-1, using CellTiter Blue and Caspase Glo assays, respectively. JQ1 and PFI-1 significantly decreased proliferation by 95% (P < 0.0005) and 43% (P < 0.0005), respectively, but only JQ1 significantly increased apoptosis by >50-fold (P < 0.0005), when compared to untreated control cells. The anti-proliferative effects of JQ1 and PFI-1 remained for 96 h after removal of the respective compound. JQ1, but not PFI-1, affected the cell cycle, as assessed by propidium iodide staining and flow cytometry, and resulted in a higher number of AtT20 cells in the sub G1 phase. RNA-sequence analysis, which was confirmed by qRT-PCR and Western blot analyses, revealed that JQ1 treatment significantly altered expression of genes involved in apoptosis, such as NFκB, and the somatostatin receptor 2 (SSTR2) anti-proliferative signalling pathway, including SSTR2. JQ1 treatment also significantly reduced transcription and protein expression of the ACTH precursor pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and ACTH secretion by AtT20 cells. Thus, JQ1 treatment has anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects on AtT20 cells and reduces ACTH secretion, thereby indicating that BET inhibition may provide a novel approach for treatment of corticotrophinomas.

Open access

Jesús Morillo-Bernal, Lara P Fernández, and Pilar Santisteban

FOXE1 is a thyroid-specific transcription factor essential for thyroid gland development and maintenance of the differentiated state. Interestingly, a strong association has been recently described between FOXE1 expression and susceptibility to thyroid cancer, but little is known about the mechanisms underlying FOXE1-induced thyroid tumorigenesis. Here, we used a panel of human thyroid cancer-derived cell lines covering the spectrum of thyroid cancer phenotypes to examine FOXE1 expression and to test for correlations between FOXE1 expression, the allele frequency of two SNPs and a length polymorphism in or near the FOXE1 locus associated with cancer susceptibility, and the migration ability of thyroid cancer cell lines. Results showed that FOXE1 expression correlated with differentiation status according to histological sub-type, but not with SNP genotype or cell migration ability. However, loss-and-gain-of-function experiments revealed that FOXE1 modulates cell migration, suggesting a role in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Our previous genome-wide expression analysis identified Zeb1, a major EMT inducer, as a putative Foxe1 target gene. Indeed, gene silencing of FOXE1 decreased ZEB1 expression, whereas its overexpression increased ZEB1 transcriptional activity. FOXE1 was found to directly interact with the ZEB1 promoter. Lastly, ZEB1 silencing decreased the ability of thyroid tumoral cells to migrate and invade, pointing to its importance in thyroid tumor mestastases. In conclusion, we have identified ZEB1 as a bona fide target of FOXE1 in thyroid cancer cells, which provides new insights into the role of FOXE1 in regulating cell migration and invasion in thyroid cancer.

Open access

Martina Gruber, Lavinia Ferrone, Martin Puhr, Frédéric R Santer, Tobias Furlan, Iris E Eder, Natalie Sampson, Georg Schäfer, Florian Handle, and Zoran Culig

Administration of the microtubule inhibitor docetaxel is a common treatment for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) and results in prolonged patient overall survival. Usually, after a short period of time chemotherapy resistance emerges and there is urgent need to find new therapeutic targets to overcome therapy resistance. The lysine-acetyltransferase p300 has been correlated to prostate cancer (PCa) progression. Here, we aimed to clarify a possible function of p300 in chemotherapy resistance and verify p300 as a target in chemoresistant PCa. Immunohistochemistry staining of tissue samples revealed significantly higher p300 protein expression in patients who received docetaxel as a neoadjuvant therapy compared to control patients. Elevated p300 expression was confirmed by analysis of publicly available patient data, where significantly higher p300 mRNA expression was found in tissue of mCRPC tumors of docetaxel-treated patients. Consistently, docetaxel-resistant PCa cells showed increased p300 protein expression compared to docetaxel-sensitive counterparts. Docetaxel treatment of PCa cells for 72 h resulted in elevated p300 expression. shRNA-mediated p300 knockdown did not alter colony formation efficiency in docetaxel-sensitive cells, but significantly reduced clonogenic potential of docetaxel-resistant cells. Downregulation of p300 in docetaxel-resistant cells also impaired cell migration and invasion. Taken together, we showed that p300 is upregulated by docetaxel, and our findings suggest that p300 is a possible co-target in treatment of chemoresistant PCa.

Open access

Frances Collins, Nozomi Itani, Arantza Esnal-Zufiaurre, Douglas A Gibson, Carol Fitzgerald, and Philippa T K Saunders

Endometrial cancer is a common gynaeological malignancy: life time exposure to oestrogen is a key risk factor. Oestrogen action is mediated by receptors encoded by ESR1 (ERα) and ESR2 (ERβ): ERα plays a key role in regulating endometrial cell proliferation. A truncated splice variant isoform (ERβ5) encoded by ESR2 is highly expressed in cancers. This study explored whether ERβ5 alters oestrogen responsiveness of endometrial epithelial cells. Immunhistochemistry profiling of human endometrial cancer tissue biopsies identified epithelial cells co-expressing ERβ5 and ERα in stage I endometrial adenocarcinomas and post menopausal endometrium. Induced co-expression of ERβ5 in ERαpos endometrial cancer cells (Ishikawa) significantly increased ligand-dependent activation of an ERE-luciferase reporter stimulated by either E2 or the ERα-selective agonist 1,3,5-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-4-propyl-1H-pyrazole (PPT) compared to untransfected cells. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) analysis of tagged yellow fluorescent protein (YFP)-ERβ5 transfected into Ishikawa cells revealed that incubation with E2 induced a transient reduction in intra-nuclear mobility characterised by punctate protein redistribution which phenocopied the behaviour of ERα following ligand activation with E2. In ERαneg MDA-MD-231 breast cancer cells, there was no E2-dependent change in mobility of YFP-ERβ5 and no activation of the ERE reporter in cells expressing ERβ5. In conclusion, we demonstrate that ERβ5 can act as heterodimeric partner to ERα in Ishikawa cells and increases their sensitivity to E2. We speculate that expression of ERβ5 in endometrial epithelial cells may increase the risk of malignant transformation and suggest that immunostaining for ERβ5 should be included in diagnostic assessment of women with early grade cancers.

Open access

Jonathan Wesley Nyce

We have recently described in this journal our detection of an anthropoid primate-specific, adrenal androgen-dependent, p53-mediated, ‘kill switch’ tumor suppression mechanism that reached its fullest expression only in humans, as a result of human-specific exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons caused by the harnessing of fire – but which has components reaching all the way back to the origin of the primate lineage. We proposed that species-specific mechanisms of tumor suppression are a generalized requirement for vertebrate species to increase in body size or lifespan beyond those of species basal to their lineage or to exploit environmental niches which increase exposure to carcinogenic substances. Using empirical dynamic modeling, we have also reported our detection of a relationship between body size, lifespan, and species-specific mechanism of tumor suppression (and here add carcinogen exposure), such that a change in any one of these variables requires an equilibrating change in one or more of the others in order to maintain lifetime cancer risk at a value of about 4%, as observed in virtually all larger, longer-lived species under natural conditions. Here we show how this relationship, which we refer to as the lex naturalis of vertebrate speciation, elucidates the evolutionary steps underlying an adrenal androgen-dependent, human-specific ‘kill switch’ tumor suppression mechanism; and further, how it prescribes a solution to ‘normalize’ lifetime cancer risk in our species from its current aberrant 40% to the 4% that characterized primitive humans. We further argue that this prescription writ by the lex naturalis represents the only tenable strategy for meaningful suppression of the accelerating impact of cancer upon our species.

Open access

Rajeev Mishra, Subhash Haldar, Surabhi Suchanti, and Neil A Bhowmick

Genomic changes that drive cancer initiation and progression contribute to the co-evolution of the adjacent stroma. The nature of the stromal reprogramming involves differential DNA methylation patterns and levels that change in response to the tumor and systemic therapeutic intervention. Epigenetic reprogramming in carcinoma-associated fibroblasts are robust biomarkers for cancer progression and have a transcriptional impact that support cancer epithelial progression in a paracrine manner. For prostate cancer, promoter hypermethylation and silencing of the RasGAP, RASAL3 that resulted in the activation of Ras signaling in carcinoma-associated fibroblasts. Stromal Ras activity initiated a process of macropinocytosis that provided prostate cancer epithelia with abundant glutamine for metabolic conversion to fuel its proliferation and a signal to transdifferentiate into a neuroendocrine phenotype. This epigenetic oncogenic metabolic/signaling axis seemed to be further potentiated by androgen receptor signaling antagonists and contributed to therapeutic resistance. Intervention of stromal signaling may complement conventional therapies targeting the cancer cell.