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Shikha Saini, Lakshmi Sripada, Kiara Tulla, Guilin Qiao, Nicholas Kunda, Ajay V Maker and Bellur S Prabhakar

ATC is an aggressive disease with limited therapeutic options due to drug resistance. TRAIL is an attractive anti-cancer therapy that can trigger apoptosis in a cancer cell-selective manner. However, TRAIL resistance is a major clinical obstacle for its use as a therapeutic drug. Previously, we demonstrated that MADD is a cancer cell pro-survival factor that can modulate TRAIL resistance. However, its role, if any, in overcoming TRAIL resistance in ATC is unknown. First, we characterized ATC cell lines as either TRAIL resistant, TRAIL sensitive or moderately TRAIL sensitive and evaluated MADD expression/cellular localization. We determined the effect of MADD siRNA on cellular growth and investigated its effect on TRAIL treatment. We assessed the effect of combination treatment (MADD siRNA and TRAIL) on mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. The effect of combination treatment on tumor growth was assessed in vivo. We found increased levels of MADD in ATC cells relative to Nthy-ori 3-1. MADD protein localizes in the cytosol (endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi body) and membrane. MADD knockdown resulted in spontaneous cell death that was synergistically enhanced when combined with TRAIL treatment in otherwise resistant ATC cells. Combination treatment resulted in a significant reduction in MMP and enhanced generation of ROS indicating the putative mechanism of action. In an orthotopic mouse model of TRAIL-resistant ATC, treatment with MADD siRNA alone reduced tumor growth that, when combined with TRAIL, resulted in significant tumor regressions. We demonstrated the potential clinical utility of MADD knockdown in sensitizing cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis in ATC.

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Phungern Khongthong, Antonia K Roseweir and Joanne Edwards

Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease, which over time acquires various adaptive changes leading to more aggressive biological characteristics and development of treatment resistance. Several mechanisms of resistance have been established; however, due to the complexity of oestrogen receptor (ER) signalling and its crosstalk with other signalling networks, various areas still need to be investigated. This article focusses on the role of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-KB) as a key link between inflammation and cancer and addresses its emerging role as a key player in endocrine therapy resistance. Understanding the precise mechanism of NF-KB-driven endocrine therapy resistance provides a possible opportunity for therapeutic intervention.

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Kensey Bergdorf, Donna C Ferguson, Mitra Mehrad, Kim Ely, Thomas Stricker and Vivian L Weiss

The prevalence of thyroid carcinoma is increasing and represents the most common endocrine malignancy, with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) being the most frequent subtype. The genetic alterations identified in PTCs fail to distinguish tumors with different clinical behaviors, such as extra-thyroidal extension and lymph node metastasis. We hypothesize that the immune microenvironment may play a critical role in tumor invasion and metastasis. Computational immunogenomic analysis was performed on 568 PTC samples in The Cancer Genome Atlas using CIBERSORT, TIMER and TIDE deconvolution analytic tools for characterizing immune cell composition. Immune cell infiltrates were correlated with histologic type, mutational type, tumor pathologic T stage and lymph node N stage. Dendritic cells (DCs) are highly associated with more locally advanced tumor T stage (T3/T4, odds ratio (OR) = 2.6, CI = 1.4–4.5, P = 5.4 × 10−4). Increased dendritic cells (OR = 3.4, CI = 1.9–6.3, P = 5.5 × 10−5) and neutrophils (OR = 10.5, CI = 2.7–44, P = 8.7 × 10−4) significantly correlate with lymph node metastasis. In addition, dendritic cells positively correlate with tall cell morphology (OR = 4.5, CI = 1.6–13, P = 4.9 × 10−3) and neutrophils negatively correlate with follicular morphology (OR = 1.3 × 10−3, CI = 5.3 × 10−5–0.031, P = 4.1 × 10−5). TIDE analysis indicates an immune-exclusive phenotype that may be mediated by increased galectin-3 found in PTCs. Thus, characterization of the PTC immune microenvironment using three computational platforms shows that specific immune cells correlate with mutational type, histologic type, local tumor extent and lymph node metastasis. Immunologic evaluation of PTCs may provide a better indication of biologic behavior, resulting in the improved diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer.

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Marijn A Vermeulen, Carolien H M van Deurzen, Shusma C Doebar, Wendy W J de Leng, John W M Martens, Paul J van Diest and Cathy B Moelans

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the male breast is very rare and has hardly been studied molecularly. In males, we compared methylation status of 25 breast cancer-related genes in pure DCIS (n = 18) and invasive breast carcinoma (IBC) with adjacent DCIS (DCIS-AIC) (n = 44) using methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification. Results were compared to female breast cancer (BC). There were no significant differences in methylation features between male pure DCIS, DCIS-AIC and IBC after correction for multiple comparisons. In paired analysis of IBC and adjacent DCIS, CADM1 showed a significantly higher absolute methylation percentage in DCIS (P = 0.002). In cluster analysis, two clusters stood out with respectively infrequent and frequent methylation (GATA5, KLLN, PAX6, PAX5, CDH13, MSH6 and WT1 were frequently methylated). Compared to female DCIS, methylation was in general much less common in male DCIS, especially for VHL, ESR1, CDKN2A, CD44, CHFR, BRCA2, RB1 and STK11. In contrast, THBS1 and GATA5 were more frequently methylated in male DCIS. In conclusion, there is frequent methylation of GATA5, KLLN, PAX6, PAX5, CDH13, MSH6 and WT1 in male DCIS. Since there was little change in the methylation status for the studied genes from pure male DCIS to DCIS-AIC and IBC, methylation of these seven genes is more likely to occur early in male breast carcinogenesis. Based on the current markers male DCIS seems to be an epigenetically more advanced precursor of male BC, although in comparison to its female counterpart it appears that fewer loci harbor methylation, pointing to differences between male and female breast carcinogenesis with regard to the studied loci.

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Miguel A Zaballos, Adrián Acuña-Ruiz, Marta Morante, Piero Crespo and Pilar Santisteban

Thyroid cancer is mostly an ERK-driven carcinoma, as up to 70% of thyroid carcinomas are caused by mutations that activate the RAS/ERK mitogenic signaling pathway. The incidence of thyroid cancer has been steadily increasing for the last four decades; yet, there is still no effective treatment for advanced thyroid carcinomas. Current research efforts are focused on impairing ERK signaling with small-molecule inhibitors, mainly at the level of BRAF and MEK. However, despite initial promising results in animal models, the clinical success of these inhibitors has been limited by the emergence of tumor resistance and relapse. The RAS/ERK pathway is an extremely complex signaling cascade with multiple points of control, offering many potential therapeutic targets: from the modulatory proteins regulating the activation state of RAS proteins to the scaffolding proteins of the pathway that provide spatial specificity to the signals, and finally, the negative feedbacks and phosphatases responsible for inactivating the pathway. The aim of this review is to give an overview of the biology of RAS/ERK regulators in human cancer highlighting relevant information on thyroid cancer and future areas of research.

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Robert Clarke, John J Tyson, Ming Tan, William T Baumann, Lu Jin, Jianhua Xuan and Yue Wang

Drawing on concepts from experimental biology, computer science, informatics, mathematics and statistics, systems biologists integrate data across diverse platforms and scales of time and space to create computational and mathematical models of the integrative, holistic functions of living systems. Endocrine-related cancers are well suited to study from a systems perspective because of the signaling complexities arising from the roles of growth factors, hormones and their receptors as critical regulators of cancer cell biology and from the interactions among cancer cells, normal cells and signaling molecules in the tumor microenvironment. Moreover, growth factors, hormones and their receptors are often effective targets for therapeutic intervention, such as estrogen biosynthesis, estrogen receptors or HER2 in breast cancer and androgen receptors in prostate cancer. Given the complexity underlying the molecular control networks in these cancers, a simple, intuitive understanding of how endocrine-related cancers respond to therapeutic protocols has proved incomplete and unsatisfactory. Systems biology offers an alternative paradigm for understanding these cancers and their treatment. To correctly interpret the results of systems-based studies requires some knowledge of how in silico models are built, and how they are used to describe a system and to predict the effects of perturbations on system function. In this review, we provide a general perspective on the field of cancer systems biology, and we explore some of the advantages, limitations and pitfalls associated with using predictive multiscale modeling to study endocrine-related cancers.

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Kathrin A Schmohl, Peter J Nelson and Christine Spitzweg

The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 have emerged as pro-angiogenic hormones with important implications for cancer management. Endogenous circulating hormone levels may help stimulate cancer progression and limit the effectiveness of anticancer therapy, though clinical data remain inconclusive. The capacity of thyroid hormones to modulate angiogenesis is mediated through non-canonical mechanisms initiated at the cell surface receptor integrin αvβ3. This integrin is predominantly expressed on tumour cells, proliferating endothelial cells and tumour stroma-associated cells, emphasising its potential relevance in angiogenesis and tumour biology. Thyroid hormone/integrin αvβ3 signalling results in the activation of intracellular pathways that are commonly associated with angiogenesis and are mediated through classical pro-angiogenic molecules such as vascular endothelial growth factor. The naturally occurring T4 analogue tetrac blocks the pro-angiogenic actions of thyroid hormones at the integrin receptor, in addition to agonist-independent anti-angiogenic effects. Tetrac reduces endothelial cell proliferation, migration and tube formation through a reduction in the transcription of vascular growth factors/growth factor receptors, hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, pro-angiogenic cytokines and a number of other pro-angiogenic genes, while at the same time stimulating the expression of endogenous angiogenesis inhibitors. It further modulates vascular growth factor activity by disrupting the crosstalk between integrin αvβ3 and adjacent growth factor receptors. Moreover, tetrac disrupts thyroid hormone-stimulated tumour recruitment, differentiation and the pro-angiogenic signalling of tumour stroma-associated mesenchymal stem cells. Tetrac affects tumour-associated angiogenesis via multiple mechanisms and interferes with other cancer cell survival pathways. In conjunction with its low toxicity and high tissue selectivity, tetrac is a promising candidate for clinical application.

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S Latteyer, S Christoph, S Theurer, G S Hönes, K W Schmid, D Führer and L C Moeller

Thyroid hormones are important for physiology and homeostasis. In addition to nuclear thyroid hormone receptors, the plasma membrane protein integrin αvβ3 has been recognized as a receptor for both thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Here, we studied whether thyroid hormone promotes growth of murine lung cancer via αvβ3 in vivo. Murine Lewis lung carcinoma cells (3LL), stably transfected with luciferase, were injected into mouse lungs. Tumor growth in untreated mice was compared to hypothyroid mice and hypothyroid mice treated with T3 or T4 with or without the αvβ3 inhibitor 3,5,3′,5′-tetraiodothyroacetic acid (Tetrac). Tumor progression was determined by serial in vivo imaging of bioluminescence emitted from the tumor. Tumor weight was recorded at the end of the experiment. Neoangiogenesis was determined by immunohistochemistry for CD31. Tumor growth was reduced in hypothyroidism and increased by T4 treatment. Strikingly, only T4 but not T3 treatment promoted tumor growth. This T4 effect was abrogated by the αvβ3 inhibitor Tetrac. Tumor weight and neoangiogenesis were also significantly increased only in T4-treated mice. The T4 effect on tumor weight and neoangiogenesis was abolished by Tetrac. In vitro, T4 did not stimulate 3LL cell proliferation or signaling pathway activation. We conclude that T4 promotes lung cancer growth in this orthotopic mouse model. The tumor-promoting effect is mediated via the plasma membrane integrin αvβ3 and increased neoangiogenesis rather than direct stimulation of 3LL cells. These data suggest that such effects of levothyroxine may need to be considered in cancer patients on T4 substitution.

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Suzan Stelloo, Andries M Bergman and Wilbert Zwart

The androgen receptor (AR) is commonly known as a key transcription factor in prostate cancer development, progression and therapy resistance. Genome-wide chromatin association studies revealed that transcriptional regulation by AR mainly depends on binding to distal regulatory enhancer elements that control gene expression through chromatin looping to gene promoters. Changes in the chromatin epigenetic landscape and DNA sequence can locally alter AR-DNA-binding capacity and consequently impact transcriptional output and disease outcome. The vast majority of reports describing AR chromatin interactions have been limited to cell lines, identifying numerous other factors and interacting transcription factors that impact AR chromatin interactions. Do these factors also impact AR cistromics – the genome-wide chromatin-binding landscape of AR – in vivo? Recent technological advances now enable researchers to identify AR chromatin-binding sites and their target genes in human specimens. In this review, we provide an overview of the different factors that influence AR chromatin binding in prostate cancer specimens, which is complemented with knowledge from cell line studies. Finally, we discuss novel perspectives on studying AR cistromics in clinical samples.

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Grant D Foglesong, Nicholas J Queen, Wei Huang, Kyle J Widstrom and Lei Cao

Obesity is becoming a global epidemic and is a risk factor for breast cancer. Environmental enrichment (EE), a model recapitulating an active lifestyle, leads to leanness, resistance to diet-induced obesity (DIO) and cancer. One mechanism is the activation of the hypothalamic–sympathoneural–adipocyte (HSA) axis. This results in the release of norepinephrine onto adipose tissue inducing a drop of leptin. This study aimed to test the effects of EE on breast cancer onset and progression while considering the effect of leptin by utilizing the transgenic MMTV-PyMT model as well as several models of varied leptin signaling. EE was highly effective at reducing weight gain, regardless of the presence of leptin. However, the effects of EE on tumor progression were dependent on leptin signaling. EE decreased leptin and reduced mammary tumor growth rate in MMTV-PyMT spontaneous and DIO transplantation models; in contrast, the absence of leptin in ob/ob mice resulted in increased tumor growth likely due to elevated norepinephrine levels. Our results suggest that the microenvironment is critical in breast tumorigenesis and that the drop in leptin is an important peripheral mediator of the EE anti-breast cancer effects, offsetting the potential pro-tumorigenic effects of norepinephrine responding to a complex environment.