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Xi Wei, Shang Cai, Rebecca J Boohaker, Joshua Fried, Ying Li, Linfei Hu, Yi Pan, Ruifen Cheng, Sheng Zhang, Ye Tian, Ming Gao and Bo Xu

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is an aggressive cancer with poor clinical prognosis. However, mechanisms driving ATC aggressiveness is not well known. Components of the DNA damage response (DDR) are frequently found mutated or aberrantly expressed in ATC. The goal of this study is to establish the functional link between histone acetyltransferase lysine (K) acetyltransferase 5 (KAT5, a critical DDR protein) and ATC invasiveness using clinical, in vitro and in vivo models. We analyzed the expression of KAT5 by immunohistochemistry and assessed its relationship with metastasis and overall survival in 82 ATC patients. Using cellular models, we established functional connection of KAT5 expression and C-MYC stabilization. We then studied the impact of genetically modified KAT5 expression on ATC metastasis in nude mice. In clinical samples, there is a strong correlation of KAT5 expression with ATC metastasis (P = 0.0009) and overall survival (P = 0.0017). At the cellular level, upregulation of KAT5 significantly promotes thyroid cancer cell proliferation and invasion. We also find that KAT5 enhances the C-MYC protein level by inhibiting ubiquitin-mediated degradation. Further evidence reveals that KAT5 acetylates and stabilizes C-MYC. Finally, we prove that altered KAT5 expression influences ATC lung metastases in vivo. KAT5 promotes ATC invasion and metastases through stabilization of C-MYC, demonstrating it as a new biomarker and therapeutic target for ATC.

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Xiao-hui Luo, Jian-zhou Liu, Bo Wang, Qun-li Men, Yu-quan Ju, Feng-yan Yin, Chao Zheng and Wei Li

Insights into the mechanisms by which key factors stimulate cell growth under androgen-depleted conditions is a premise to the development of effective treatments with clinically significant activity in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Herein, we report that, the expression of Krüppel-like factor 14 (KLF14), a master transcription factor in the regulation of lipid metabolism, was significantly induced in castration-insensitive PCa cells and tumor tissues from a mouse xenograft model of CRPC. KLF14 upregulation in PCa cells, which was stimulated upstream by oxidative stress, was dependent on multiple pathways including PI3K/AKT, p42/p44 MAPK, AMPK and PKC pathways. By means of ectopic overexpression and genetic inactivation, we further show that KLF14 promoted cell growth via positive regulation of the antioxidant response under androgen-depleted conditions. Mechanistically, KLF14 coupled to p300 and CBP to enhance the transcriptional activation of HMOX1, the gene encoding the antioxidative enzyme heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) that is one of the most important mechanisms of cell adaptation to stress. Transient knockdown of HMOX1 is sufficient to overcome KLF14 overexpression-potentiated PCa cell growth under androgen-depleted conditions. From a pharmacological standpoint, in vivo administration of ZnPPIX (a specific inhibitor of HO-1) effectively attenuates castration-resistant progression in the mouse xenograft model, without changing KLF14 level. Together, these results provide comprehensive insight into the KLF14-dependent regulation of antioxidant response and subsequent pathogenesis of castration resistance and indicate that interventions targeting the KLF14/HO-1 adaptive mechanism should be further explored for CRPC treatment.

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Eva Baxter, Karolina Windloch, Greg Kelly, Jason S Lee, Frank Gannon and Donal J Brennan

Up to 80% of endometrial and breast cancers express oestrogen receptor alpha (ERα). Unlike breast cancer, anti-oestrogen therapy has had limited success in endometrial cancer, raising the possibility that oestrogen has different effects in both cancers. We investigated the role of oestrogen in endometrial and breast cancers using data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) in conjunction with cell line studies. Using phosphorylation of ERα (ERα-pSer118) as a marker of transcriptional activation of ERα in TCGA datasets, we found that genes associated with ERα-pSer118 were predominantly unique between tumour types and have distinct regulators. We present data on the alternative and novel roles played by SMAD3, CREB-pSer133 and particularly XBP1 in oestrogen signalling in endometrial and breast cancer.

Open access

Paraskevi Xekouki, Emily J Lodge, Jakob Matschke, Alice Santambrogio, John R Apps, Ariane Sharif, Thomas S Jacques, Simon Aylwin, Vincent Prevot, Ran Li, Jörg Flitsch, Stefan R Bornstein, Marily Theodoropoulou and Cynthia L Andoniadou

Tumours of the anterior pituitary can manifest from all endocrine cell types but the mechanisms for determining their specification are not known. The Hippo kinase cascade is a crucial signalling pathway regulating growth and cell fate in numerous organs. There is mounting evidence implicating this in tumour formation, where it is emerging as an anti-cancer target. We previously demonstrated activity of the Hippo kinase cascade in the mouse pituitary and nuclear association of its effectors YAP/TAZ with SOX2-expressing pituitary stem cells. Here, we sought to investigate whether these components are expressed in the human pituitary and if they are deregulated in human pituitary tumours. Analysis of pathway components by immunofluorescence reveals pathway activity during normal human pituitary development and in the adult gland. Poorly differentiated pituitary tumours (null-cell adenomas, adamantinomatous craniopharyngiomas (ACPs) and papillary craniopharyngiomas (PCPs)), displayed enhanced expression of pathway effectors YAP/TAZ. In contrast, differentiated adenomas displayed lower or absent levels. Knockdown of the kinase-encoding Lats1 in GH3 rat mammosomatotropinoma cells suppressed Prl and Gh promoter activity following an increase in YAP/TAZ levels. In conclusion, we have demonstrated activity of the Hippo kinase cascade in the human pituitary and association of high YAP/TAZ with repression of the differentiated state both in vitro and in vivo. Characterisation of this pathway in pituitary tumours is of potential prognostic value, opening up putative avenues for treatments.

Open access

Samuel M O’Toole, David S Watson, Tatiana V Novoselova, Lisa E L Romano, Peter J King, Teisha Y Bradshaw, Clare L Thompson, Martin M Knight, Tyson V Sharp, Michael R Barnes, Umasuthan Srirangalingam, William M Drake and J Paul Chapple

Primary cilia are sensory organelles involved in regulation of cellular signaling. Cilia loss is frequently observed in tumors; yet, the responsible mechanisms and consequences for tumorigenesis remain unclear. We demonstrate that cilia structure and function is disrupted in human pheochromocytomas – endocrine tumors of the adrenal medulla. This is concomitant with transcriptional changes within cilia-mediated signaling pathways that are associated with tumorigenesis generally and pheochromocytomas specifically. Importantly, cilia loss was most dramatic in patients with germline mutations in the pseudohypoxia-linked genes SDHx and VHL. Using a pheochromocytoma cell line derived from rat, we show that hypoxia and oncometabolite-induced pseudohypoxia are key drivers of cilia loss and identify that this is dependent on activation of an Aurora-A/HDAC6 cilia resorption pathway. We also show cilia loss drives dramatic transcriptional changes associated with proliferation and tumorigenesis. Our data provide evidence for primary cilia dysfunction contributing to pathogenesis of pheochromocytoma by a hypoxic/pseudohypoxic mechanism and implicates oncometabolites as ciliary regulators. This is important as pheochromocytomas can cause mortality by mechanisms including catecholamine production and malignant transformation, while hypoxia is a general feature of solid tumors. Moreover, pseudohypoxia-induced cilia resorption can be pharmacologically inhibited, suggesting potential for therapeutic intervention.

Free access

Matthew Saldana, Kacey VanderVorst, Anastasia L Berg, Hyun Lee and Kermit L Carraway III

The ubiquitin system regulates diverse biological processes, many involved in cancer pathogenesis, by altering the ubiquitination state of protein substrates. This is accomplished by ubiquitin ligases and deubiquitinases (DUBs), which respectively add or remove ubiquitin from substrates to alter their stability, activity, localization and interactions. While lack of catalytic activity makes therapeutic targeting of ubiquitin ligases difficult, DUB inhibitors represent an active area of research and the identification of cancer-associated DUBs may lead to the development of novel therapeutics. A growing body of literature demonstrates that the DUB Otubain 1 (OTUB1) regulates many cancer-associated signaling pathways including MAPK, ERa, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), RHOa, mTORC1, FOXM1 and P53 to promote tumor cell survival, proliferation, invasiveness and therapeutic resistance. In addition, clinical studies have associated elevated OTUB1 expression with high grade, invasiveness and metastasis in several tumor types including lung, breast, ovarian, glioma, colon and gastric. Interestingly, in addition to catalytic DUB activity, OTUB1 displays a catalytic-independent, non-canonical activity where it inhibits the transfer of ubiquitin onto protein substrates by sequestration of E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes. The aim of this review is to describe the canonical and non-canonical activities of OTUB1, summarize roles for OTUB1 in cancer-associated pathways and discuss its potential therapeutic targeting.

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Neil Portman, Sarah Alexandrou, Emma Carson, Shudong Wang, Elgene Lim and C Elizabeth Caldon

Three inhibitors of CDK4/6 kinases were recently FDA approved for use in combination with endocrine therapy, and they significantly increase the progression-free survival of patients with advanced estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer in the first-line treatment setting. As the new standard of care in some countries, there is the clinical emergence of patients with breast cancer that is both CDK4/6 inhibitor and endocrine therapy resistant. The strategies to combat these cancers with resistance to multiple treatments are not yet defined and represent the next major clinical challenge in ER+ breast cancer. In this review, we discuss how the molecular landscape of endocrine therapy resistance may affect the response to CDK4/6 inhibitors, and how this intersects with biomarkers of intrinsic insensitivity. We identify the handful of pre-clinical models of acquired resistance to CDK4/6 inhibitors and discuss whether the molecular changes in these models are likely to be relevant or modified in the context of endocrine therapy resistance. Finally, we consider the crucial question of how some of these changes are potentially amenable to therapy.

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Christina Schug, Sarah Urnauer, Carsten Jaeckel, Kathrin A Schmohl, Mariella Tutter, Katja Steiger, Nathalie Schwenk, Markus Schwaiger, Ernst Wagner, Peter J Nelson and Christine Spitzweg

Based on their excellent tumor-homing capacity, genetically engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are under investigation as tumor-selective gene delivery vehicles. Transgenic expression of the sodium iodide symporter (NIS) in genetically engineered MSCs allows noninvasive tracking of MSC homing by imaging of functional NIS expression as well as therapeutic application of 131I. The use of tumor stroma-activated promoters can improve tumor-specific MSC-mediated transgene delivery. The essential role of transforming growth factor B1 (TGFB1) and the SMAD downstream target in the signaling between tumor and the surrounding stroma makes the biology of this pathway a potential option to better control NIS expression within the tumor milieu. Bone marrow-derived MSCs were stably transfected with a NIS-expressing plasmid driven by a synthetic SMAD-responsive promoter (SMAD-NIS-MSCs). Radioiodide uptake assays revealed a 4.9-fold increase in NIS-mediated perchlorate-sensitive iodide uptake in SMAD-NIS-MSCs after TGFB1 stimulation compared to unstimulated cells demonstrating the successful establishment of MSCs, which induce NIS expression in response to activation of TGFB1 signaling using a SMAD-responsive promoter. 123I-scintigraphy revealed significant tumor-specific radioiodide accumulation and thus NIS expression after systemic application of SMAD-NIS-MSCs into mice harboring subcutaneous tumors derived from the human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell line HuH7, which express TGFB1. 131I therapy in SMAD-NIS-MSCs-treated mice demonstrated a significant delay in tumor growth and prolonged survival. Making use of the tumoral TGFB1 signaling network in the context of MSC-mediated NIS gene delivery is a promising approach to foster tumor stroma-selectivity of NIS transgene expression and tailor NIS-based gene therapy to TGFB1-rich tumor environments.

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Emma Rewcastle, Anne Elin Varhaugvik, Einar Gudlaugsson, Anita Steinbakk, Ivar Skaland, Bianca van Diermen, Jan P Baak and Emiel A M Janssen

In order to avoid the consequences of over- and under-treatment of endometrial hyperplasia, diagnostic accuracy and progression risk assessment must be improved. The aim of this study was to assess whether PAX2 or PTEN expression could predict progression-free survival in endometrial intraepithelial neoplasia (EIN) and endometrial endometrioid carcinoma (EEC). Immunohistochemistry for detection of PAX2 and PTEN was performed on 348 endometrial samples; 75 proliferative endometrium (PE), 36 EIN and 237 EEC. Cases classified as PTEN null (1 or more glands negatively stained) were more prevalent in EEC than in PE and EIN (64% EEC vs 11% PE/EIN). A progressive decrease in PAX2 expression was observed from PE to EIN to EEC. Long-term clinical follow-up (6–310 months, median: 126) was available for 62 PE cases, all 36 EIN cases and 178 EEC cases. No patients with PE demonstrated progression to EIN or EEC. Progression of disease was observed in 10 (28%) EIN patients. These patients had significantly lower PAX2 expression than those that regressed (P = 0.005). Progression-free survival analysis revealed that EIN patients with a high-risk PAX2 expression score (H-score ≤75) had a higher probability of progression of disease in comparison to those with a low-risk score (H-score >75). PAX2 expression was not prognostic in EEC nor was PTEN status of prognostic value in either EIN or EEC. PAX2 expression analysis by means of H-score has prognostic potential for the identification of high-risk progression cases in EIN but needs to be validated in a larger cohort.

Free access

Caroline A Lamb, Victoria T Fabris, Britta M Jacobsen, Alfredo Molinolo and Claudia Lanari

There is a consensus that progestins and thus their cognate receptor molecules, the progesterone receptors (PRs), are essential in the development of the adult mammary gland and regulators of proliferation and lactation. However, a role for natural progestins in breast carcinogenesis remains poorly understood. A hint to that possible role came from studies in which the synthetic progestin medroxyprogesterone acetate was associated with an increased breast cancer risk in women under hormone replacement therapy. However, progestins have also been used for breast cancer treatment and to inhibit the growth of several experimental breast cancer models. More recently, PRs have been shown to be regulators of estrogen receptor signaling. With all this information, the question is how can we target PR, and if so, which patients may benefit from such an approach? PRs are not single unique molecules. Two main PR isoforms have been characterized, PRA and PRB, which exert different functions and the relative abundance of one isoform with respect to the other determines the response of PR agonists and antagonists. Immunohistochemistry with standard antibodies against PR do not discriminate between isoforms. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the expression of both PR isoforms in mammary glands, in experimental models of breast cancer and in breast cancer patients, to better understand how the PRA/PRB ratio can be exploited therapeutically to design personalized therapeutic strategies.