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Open access

Paula Sommer, Rachel L Cowen, Andrew Berry, Ann Cookson, Brian A Telfer, Kaye J Williams, Ian J Stratford, Paul Kay, Anne White, and David W Ray

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive tumor, associated with ectopic ACTH syndrome. We have shown that SCLC cells are glucocorticoid receptor (GR) deficient, and that restoration of GR expression confers glucocorticoid sensitivity and induces apoptosis in vitro. To determine the effects of GR expression in vivo, we characterized a mouse SCLC xenograft model that secretes ACTH precursor peptides, and so drives high circulating corticosterone concentrations (analogous to the ectopic ACTH syndrome). Infection of SCLC xenografts with GR-expressing adenovirus significantly slowed tumor growth compared with control virus infection. Time to fourfold initial tumor volume increased from a median of 9 days to 16 days (P=0.05; n=7 per group). Post-mortem analysis of GR-expressing tumors revealed a threefold increase in apoptotic (TUNEL positive) cells (P<0.01). Infection with the GR-expressing adenovirus caused a significant reduction in Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL transcripts. Furthermore, in both the GR-expressing adenovirus-infected cells and tumors, a significant number of uninfected cells underwent apoptosis, supporting a bystander cell killing effect. Therefore, GR expression is pro-apoptotic for human SCLCs in vivo, as well as in vitro, suggesting that loss of GR confers a survival advantage to SCLCs.

Open access

Frédéric R Santer, Kamilla Malinowska, Zoran Culig, and Ilaria T Cavarretta

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is suggested to have a pathogenic role in the progression of prostate cancer (PC), therefore representing an attractive target for new therapies. However, due to the pleiotropy of this cytokine, targeting IL-6 results in different and unpredictable responses. In order to better understand the mechanisms underlying the different responses to the cytokine, we focused our attention on IL-6 receptors (IL-6Rs) that represent the first element in the cascade of cytokine-activated signalling pathways. IL-6 signal transduction may indeed occur through the membrane IL-6R (classical signalling) and/or through the less studied soluble IL-6R (sIL-6R; IL-6 trans-signalling (IL-6TS)). We provide the first evidence how responses to IL-6 may depend on the different content of IL-6Rs in PC. In particular, the studies of 3H-thymidine incorporation and exploitation of different approaches (i.e. activation or inhibition of IL-6TS in sIL-6R-negative and -positive cell lines and transfection of IL-6R siRNA) allowed us to demonstrate that IL-6TS specifically accounts for an anti-proliferative effect of the cytokine in three PC cell lines that are known to respond differently to IL-6. Additionally, by applying migration-, scratch- and adhesion assays, we show that IL-6TS increases motility and migration and decreases adhesion of prostate cells facilitating thereby processes that determine metastasis initiation and spread. Finally, by western analyses, we uncovered an IL-6- and sIL-6R-dependent downregulation of the tumour suppressor maspin. Collectively, these data suggest that selective targeting of IL-6TS might allow to refine the currently available experimental anti-IL-6 therapies against PC.

Open access

I Ben-Batalla, S Seoane, M Macia, T Garcia-Caballero, L O Gonzalez, F Vizoso, and R Perez-Fernandez

The transcription factor Pit-1/Pou1f1 regulates GH and prolactin (PRL) secretion in the pituitary gland. Pit-1 expression and GH regulation by Pit-1 have also been demonstrated in mammary gland. However, no data are available on the role of Pit-1 on breast PRL. To evaluate this role, several human breast cancer cell lines were transfected with either the Pit-1 expression vector or a Pit-1 small interference RNA construct, followed by PRL mRNA and protein evaluation. In addition, transient transfection of MCF-7 cells by a reporter construct containing the proximal PRL promoter, and ChIP assays were performed. Our data indicate that Pit-1 regulates mammary PRL at transcriptional level by binding to the proximal PRL promoter. We also found that Pit-1 raises cyclin D1 expression before increasing PRL levels, suggesting a PRL-independent effect of Pit-1 on cell proliferation. By using immunohistochemistry, we found a significant correlation between Pit-1 and PRL expression in 94 human breast invasive ductal carcinomas. Considering the possible role of PRL in breast cancer disorders, the function of Pit-1 in breast should be the focus of further research.

Open access

D Alwyn Dart, Bradley Spencer-Dene, Simon C Gamble, Jonathan Waxman, and Charlotte L Bevan

Current hormonal therapies for prostate cancer are effective initially, but inevitably tumours progress to an advanced, metastatic stage, often referred to as ‘androgen independent’. However, the androgen receptor (AR) signalling pathway is still key for their growth. It is speculated that tumours escape hormonal control via reduction in corepressor proteins. Manipulating such proteins is thus a potential therapeutic strategy to halt or even reverse tumour progression. We aimed to elucidate the effects of altering levels of the AR corepressor and androgen-target protein prohibitin (PHB) on prostate tumour growth. Prostate cancer cells incorporating an integrated androgen-responsive reporter gene and stably expressing vectors to inducibly overexpress or knockdown PHB were generated and used to assess effects on androgen signalling (by real time imaging) and tumour growth both in culture and in vivo. PHB overexpression inhibited AR activity and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) expression as well as androgen-dependent growth of cells, inducing rapid accumulation in G0/G1. Conversely, reduction in PHB increased AR activity, PSA expression, androgen-mediated growth and S-phase entry. In vivo, doxycycline-induced PHB regulation resulted in marked changes in AR activity, and showed significant effects upon tumour growth. Overexpression led to tumour growth arrest and protection from hormonal starvation, whereas RNAi knockdown resulted in accelerated tumour growth, even in castrated mice. This study provides proof of principle that i) reduction in PHB promotes both androgen-dependent and ‘androgen-independent’ tumour growth, and ii) altering AR activity via increasing levels or activity of corepressors is a valid therapeutic strategy for advanced prostate cancer.

Open access

Marc Sinotte, François Rousseau, Pierre Ayotte, Eric Dewailly, Caroline Diorio, Yves Giguère, Sylvie Bérubé, and Jacques Brisson

Vitamin D has been associated with reduced breast cancer risk. We studied the association of two vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene single nucleotide polymorphisms restriction enzyme detecting SNP of VDR (FokI and BsmI) with breast cancer risk in two independent case–control studies carried out in the same population. The modifying effect of family history of breast cancer on this relationship was also evaluated. The first and second studies included respectively 718 (255 cases/463 controls) and 1596 (622 cases/974 controls) women recruited in Quebec City, Canada. FokI and BsmI genotypes were assessed. Relative risks of breast cancer were estimated by multivariate logistic regression. Compared with homozygotes for the common F allele (FF genotype), FokI ff homozygotes had a higher breast cancer risk (study 1: odds ratio (OR)=1.22, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.76–1.95; study 2: OR=1.44, 95% CI=1.05–1.99; and combined studies: OR=1.33, 95% CI=1.03–1.73). Significant interactions were observed between FokI and family history of breast cancer in the two studies as well as in the combined analysis (P interaction=0.031, 0.050 and 0.0059 respectively). Among women without family history, odds ratios were 1.00, 1.27 (95% CI=1.02–1.58) and 1.57 (95% CI=1.18–2.10) respectively for FF, Ff and ff carriers (P trend=0.0013). BsmI Bb+bb genotypes were associated with a weak non-significant increased risk in the two studies (combined OR=1.22, 95% CI=0.95–1.57) without interaction with family history. Results support the idea that vitamin D, through its signalling pathway, can affect breast cancer risk. They also suggest that variability in observed associations between VDR FokI and breast cancer from different studies may partly be explained by the proportion of study subjects with a family history of breast cancer.

Open access

Caroline D E Margetts, Mark Morris, Dewi Astuti, Dean C Gentle, Alberto Cascon, Fiona E McRonald, Daniel Catchpoole, Mercedes Robledo, Hartmut P H Neumann, Farida Latif, and Eamonn R Maher

The molecular genetics of inherited phaeochromocytoma have received considerable attention, but the somatic genetic and epigenetic events that characterise tumourigenesis in sporadic phaeochromocytomas are less well defined. Previously, we found considerable overlap between patterns of promoter region tumour suppressor gene (TSG) hypermethylation in two neural crest tumours, neuroblastoma and phaeochromocytoma. In order to identify candidate biomarkers and epigenetically inactivated TSGs in phaeochromocytoma and neuroblastoma, we characterised changes in gene expression in three neuroblastoma cell lines after treatment with the demethylating agent 5-azacytidine. Promoter region methylation status was then determined for 28 genes that demonstrated increased expression after demethylation. Three genes HSP47, homeobox A9 (HOXA9) and opioid binding protein (OPCML) were methylated in >10% of phaeochromocytomas (52, 17 and 12% respectively). Two of the genes, epithelial membrane protein 3 (EMP3) and HSP47, demonstrated significantly more frequent methylation in neuroblastoma than phaeochromocytoma. These findings extend epigenotype of phaeochromocytoma and identify candidate genes implicated in sporadic phaeochromocytoma tumourigenesis.

Open access

Naomi E Allen, Timothy J Key, Laure Dossus, Sabina Rinaldi, Anne Cust, Annekatrin Lukanova, Petra H Peeters, N Charlotte Onland-Moret, Petra H Lahmann, Franco Berrino, Salvatore Panico, Nerea Larrañaga, Guillem Pera, Maria-José Tormo, Maria-José Sánchez, J Ramón Quirós, Eva Ardanaz, Anne Tjønneland, Anja Olsen, Jenny Chang-Claude, Jakob Linseisen, Mandy Schulz, Heiner Boeing, Eva Lundin, Domenico Palli, Kim Overvad, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault, Sheila Bingham, Kay-Tee Khaw, H Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Antonia Trichopoulou, Dimitiros Trichopoulos, Androniki Naska, Rosario Tumino, Elio Riboli, and Rudolf Kaaks

Epidemiological data show that reproductive and hormonal factors are involved in the etiology of endometrial cancer, but there is little data on the association with endogenous sex hormone levels. We analyzed the association between prediagnostic serum concentrations of sex steroids and endometrial cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition using a nested case–control design of 247 incident endometrial cancer cases and 481 controls, matched on center, menopausal status, age, variables relating to blood collection, and, for premenopausal women, phase of menstrual cycle. Using conditional regression analysis, endometrial cancer risk among postmenopausal women was positively associated with increasing levels of total testosterone, free testosterone, estrone, total estradiol, and free estradiol. The odds ratios (ORs) for the highest versus lowest tertile were 2.66 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.50–4.72; P=0.002 for a continuous linear trend) for estrone, 2.07 (95% CI 1.20–3.60; P=0.001) for estradiol, and 1.66 (95% CI 0.98–2.82; P=0.001) for free estradiol. For total and free testosterone, ORs for the highest versus lowest tertile were 1.44 (95% CI 0.88–2.36; P=0.05) and 2.05 (95% CI 1.23–3.42; P=0.005) respectively. Androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate were not associated with risk. Sex hormone-binding globulin was significantly inversely associated with risk (OR for the highest versus lowest tertile was 0.57, 95% CI 0.34–0.95; P=0.004). In premenopausal women, serum sex hormone concentrations were not clearly associated with endometrial cancer risk, but numbers were too small to draw firm conclusions. In conclusion, relatively high blood concentrations of estrogens and free testosterone are associated with an increased endometrial cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

Open access

WenQi Yuan, WeiQinq Wang, Bin Cui, TingWei Su, Yan Ge, Lei Jiang, WeiWei Zhou, and Guang Ning

To analyze the genetic alterations of pheochromocytomas and evaluate the difference among malignant, extra-adrenal, and benign pheochromocytomas. Forty-three tumor samples were tested for genetic changes using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification. Among them, 39 samples were available for protein expression analysis by immunohistochemistry (IHC). All 43 patients (24 women and 19 men; mean age 44.6±13.6 years; range 18–75 years; 9 with malignant, 7 extra-adrenal, and 27 benign) showed multiple copy number losses or gains. The average copy number change was 13.10 in malignant, 13.93 in benign, and 13.47 in paraganglioma patients. There is no significant difference among the three groups of pheochromocytomas. However, we discovered that in the malignant pheochromocytomas, 6 of the 9 patients (67%) showed erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog 2 (ERBB-2) oncogene gain, whereas only 12 of the 34 (35%) identified change in the benign and extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas. Further, IHC confirmed that ERBB-2-positive staining was more frequent and stronger in malignant pheochromocytomas than in benign and extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas. Our study illustrates the chromosomal changes of the whole genome of Chinese pheochromocytoma patients. The results suggest that there may be certain progression of genetic events that involves chromosomes 1p, 3p, 6p, 11q, 12q, 17q, and 19q in the development of pheochromocytomas, and the activation of ERBB-2 located on chromosome 17q is an important and early event in the malignancy development of these tumor types. The overexpression of ERBB-2 identified by IHC suggested that this oncogene could be associated with the malignancy of pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.