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Gabriela Carreno, Jessica K.r. Boult, John R Apps, Jose Mario Gonzalez-Meljem, Scott Haston, Romain Guiho, Christina Stache, Laura S. Danielson, Alexander Koers, Laura S. Smith, Alex Virasami, Leonidas Panousopoulos, Michael Buchfelder, Thomas S Jacques, Louis Chesler, Simon Robinson and Juan Pedro Martinez-Barbera

Pharmacological inhibition of the sonic hedgehog (SHH) pathway can be beneficial against certain cancers but detrimental in others. Adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma (ACP) is a relevant pituitary tumour, affecting children and adults, that is associated with high morbidity and increased mortality in long-term follow up. We have previously demonstrated overactivation of the SHH pathway in both human and mouse ACP. Here, we show that this activation is ligand dependent and induced by the expression of SHH protein in a small proportion of tumour cells. We investigate the functional relevance of SHH signalling in ACP through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -guided preclinical studies using an ACP mouse model. Treatment with vismodegib, a clinically approved SHH pathway inhibitor, results in a significant reduction in median survival due to premature development of highly proliferative and vascularised undifferentiated tumours. Reinforcing the mouse data, SHH pathway inhibition in human ACP leads to a significant increase in tumour cell proliferation both ex vivo, in explant cultures, and in vivo, in a patient-derived xenograft model. Together, our results demonstrate a protumourigenic effect of vismodegib-mediated SHH pathway inhibition in ACP.

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Fei Han, Wen-bin Liu, Jian-jun Li, Ming-qian Zhang, Jun-tang Yang, Xi Zhang, Xiang-lin Hao, Li Yin, Cheng-yi Mao, Xiao Jiang, Jia Cao and Jin-yi Liu

New potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for ovarian cancer should be identified. The amplification in chromosomal region 5q31-5q35.3 exhibits the strongest correlation with overall survival (OS) of ovarian cancer. SOX30 coincidentally located at this chromosomal region has been determined as a new important tumor-suppressor. However, the prognostic value, role and mechanism of SOX30 in ovarian cancer are unexplored. Here, we revea1 that SOX30 is frequently over-expressed in ovarian cancer tissues, and is associated with clinical-stage and metastasis of ovarian cancer patients. High SOX30 expression predicts better OS and acts as an independent prognostic factor in advanced-stage patients, but is not associated with OS in early-stage patients. Based on the survival analyses, the advanced-stage patients with high SOX30 expression can receive the platin and/or taxol based chemotherapy, whereas should not receive chemotherapy containing gemcitabine or topotecan. Functionally, SOX30 strongly inhibits tumor cell migration and invasion in intro, and suppresses tumor metastasis in vivo. SOX30 regulates markers (E-cadherin, Fibronectin, N-cadherin and Vimentin) and prevents the characteristics of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). SOX30 transcriptionally regulates the expression of E-cadherin, Fibronectin and N-cadherin by binding to their promoters. Restoration of E-cadherin and/or N-cadherin when over-expressing SOX30 significantly reduces the anti-metastatic role of SOX30. Indeed, chemotherapy treatment containing platin or gemcitabine combined with SOX30 expression influences tumor cell metastasis and the survival of nude mice differently, which is closely associated with EMT. In conclusion, SOX30 antagonizes tumor metastasis via preventing EMT process that can be used to predict survival and incorporated into chemotherapeutics of advanced-stage ovarian cancer patients.

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Wei-Jun Wei, Heather Hardin and Quan-Yong Luo

Thyroid cancer is one of the most common endocrine malignancies. Although the prognosis for the majority of thyroid cancers is relatively good, patients with metastatic, radioiodine-refractory or anaplastic thyroid cancers have an unfavorable outcome. With the gradual understanding of the oncogenic events in thyroid cancers, molecularly targeted therapy using tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) is greatly changing the therapeutic landscape of radioiodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancers (RR-DTCs), but intrinsic and acquired drug resistance, as well as adverse effects, may limit their clinical efficacy and use. In this setting, development of synergistic treatment options is of clinical significance, which may enhance the therapeutic effect of current TKIs and further overcome the resultant drug resistance. Autophagy is a critical cellular process involved not only in protecting cells and organisms from stressors but also in the maintenance and development of various kinds of cancers. Substantial studies have explored the complex role of autophagy in thyroid cancers. Specifically, autophagy plays important roles in mediating the drug resistance of small-molecular therapeutics, in regulating the dedifferentiation process of thyroid cancers, and also in affecting the treatment outcome of radioiodine therapy. Exploring how autophagy intertwines in the development and dedifferentiation process of thyroid cancers is essential, which will enable a more profound understanding of the physiopathology of thyroid cancers. More importantly, these advances may fuel future development of autophagy-targeted therapeutic strategies for patients with thyroid cancers. Herein, we summarize the most recent evidence uncovering the role of autophagy in thyroid cancers, and highlight future research perspectives in this regard.

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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.

Free access

Iuri Martin Goemann, Vicente Rodrigues Marczyk, Mirian Romitti, Simone Magagnin Wajner and Ana Luiza Maia

Thyroid hormones (THs) are essential for the regulation of several metabolic processes and the energy consumption of the organism. Their action is exerted primarily through interaction with nuclear receptors controlling the transcription of thyroid hormone-responsive genes. Proper regulation of TH levels in different tissues is extremely important for the equilibrium between normal cellular proliferation and differentiation. The iodothyronine deiodinases types 1, 2 and 3 are key enzymes that perform activation and inactivation of THs, thus controlling TH homeostasis in a cell-specific manner. As THs seem to exert their effects in all hallmarks of the neoplastic process, dysregulation of deiodinases in the tumoral context can be critical to the neoplastic development. Here, we aim at reviewing the deiodinases expression in different neoplasias and exploit the mechanisms by which they play an essential role in human carcinogenesis. TH modulation by deiodinases and other classical pathways may represent important targets with the potential to oppose the neoplastic process.

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Sahar J Alothman, Weisheng Wang, Shan Chao, Bhaskar V Kallakury, Edgar S Díaz-Cruz and Priscilla A Furth

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Mieke E R Henfling, Aurel A Perren, Anja M Schmitt, Christiane M Saddig, Achim A Starke, Robert G Riedl, Yvonne M H Versleijen-Jonkers, Diana M Sprij-Mooij, Frans C S Ramaekers, Leo J Hofland and Ernst-Jan M Speel

Clinical and molecular studies have implicated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), insulin-like growth factor (IGF) and target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathways in the regulation of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PanNET) growth. Interpretation and comparison of these studies is complex due to clinical and molecular tumor heterogeneity. We therefore focused in this study on insulinomas, which we examined for mRNA and protein expression of EGFR, IGF and mTOR signaling pathway components by quantitative real-time PCR (n = 48) and immunohistochemistry (n = 86). Findings were compared with normal pancreatic islets and correlated with histopathological data and clinical outcome. Insulinomas showed low EGFR and high IGF2 expression. IGFBP2, IGFBP3 and IGFBP6 mRNA levels were 2- to 4-folds higher than those in islets. High protein expression of IGF2, IGF1R and INSR (in 51–92% of the tumors) and low-to-moderate expression of mTORC1 pathway proteins p-S6k and p-4EBP1 (7–28% of the tumors) were observed. Correlations were found between (1) ERK1 mRNA expression and that of numerous IGF pathway genes, (2) p-ERK and IGF1R protein expression and (3) decrease of IGF pathway components and both metastatic disease and shorter 10-year disease-free survival. In conclusion, our observations suggest that high expression of IGF signaling pathway components is a hallmark of insulinomas, but does not necessarily lead to increased mTOR signaling. Reduced expression of IGF pathway components may be an adverse prognostic factor in insulinomas.

Free access

Mona Alharbi, Felipe Zuñiga, Omar Elfeky, Dominic Guanzon, Andrew Lai, Gregory E Rice, Lewis Perrin, John Hooper and Carlos Salomon

Chemoresistance is one of the major obstacles in the treatment of cancer patients. It poses a fundamental challenge to the effectiveness of chemotherapy and is often linked to relapse in patients. Chemoresistant cells can be identified in different types of cancers; however, ovarian cancer has one of the highest rates of chemoresistance-related relapse (50% of patients within 5 years). Resistance in cells can either develop through prolonged cycles of treatment or through intrinsic pathways. Mechanistically, the problem of drug resistance is complex mainly because numerous factors are involved, such as overexpression of drug efflux pumps, drug inactivation, DNA repair mechanisms and alterations to and/or mutations in the drug target. Additionally, there is strong evidence that circulating miRNAs participate in the development of chemoresistance. Recently, miRNAs have been identified in exosomes, where they are encapsulated and hence protected from degradation. These miRNAs within exosomes (exo-miRNAs) can regulate the gene expression of target cells both locally and systemically. Exo-miRNAs play an important role in disease progression and can potentially facilitate chemoresistance in cancer cells. In addition, and from a diagnostic perspective, exo-miRNAs profiles may contribute to the development of predictive models to identify responder and non-responder chemotherapy. Such model may also be used for monitoring treatment response and disease progression. Exo-miRNAs may ultimately serve as both a predictive biomarker for cancer response to therapy and as a prognostic marker for the development of chemotherapy resistance. Therefore, this review examines the potential role of exo-miRNAs in chemotherapy in ovarian cancer.