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Brendan M. Finnerty, Maureen Moore, Akanksha Verma, Anna Aronova, Shixia Huang, Dean P. Edwards, Zhengming Chen, Marco Seandel, Theresa Scognamiglio, Nancy Du, Olivier Elemento, Rasa Zarnegar, Irene M Min and Thomas J Fahey

Loss of ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCHL1) expression by CpG promoter hypermethylation is associated with metastasis in gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors; however, the mechanism of how UCHL1 loss contributes to metastatic potential remains unclear. In this study, we first confirmed that loss of UCHL1 expression on immunohistochemistry was significantly associated with metastatic tumors in a translational pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET) cohort, with a sensitivity and specificity of 78% and 89%, respectively. To study the mechanism driving this aggressive phenotype, BON and QGP-1 metastatic PNET cell lines, which do not produce UCHL1, were stably transfected to re-express UCHL1. In vitro assays, RNA-sequencing, and reverse-phase protein array (RPPA) analyses were performed comparing empty-vector negative controls and UCHL1-expressing cell lines. UCHL1 re-expression is associated with lower anchorage-independent colony growth in BON cells, lower colony formation in QGP cells, and a higher percentage of cells in the G0/G1 cell-cycle phase in BON and QGP cells. On RPPA proteomic analysis, there was an upregulation of cell-cycle regulatory proteins CHK2 (1.2 fold change, p=0.004) and P21 (1.2 fold change, p=0.023) in BON cells expressing UCHL1; western blot confirmed upregulation of phosphorylated CHK2 and P21. There were no transcriptomic differences detected on RNA-Sequencing between empty-vector negative controls and UCHL1-expressing cell lines. In conclusion, UCHL1 loss correlates with metastatic potential in PNETs and its re-expression induces a less aggressive phenotype in vitro, in part by inducing cell-cycle arrest through post-translational regulation of phosphorylated CHK2. UCHL1 re-expression should be considered as a functional biomarker in detecting PNETs capable of metastasis.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Open access

Martin Ullrich, Josephine Liers, Mirko Peitzsch, Anja Feldmann, Ralf Bergmann, Ulrich Sommer, Susan Richter, Stefan R Bornstein, Michael Bachmann, Graeme Eisenhofer, Christian G Ziegler and Jens Pietzsch

Somatostatin receptor-targeting endoradiotherapy offers potential for treating metastatic pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas, an approach likely to benefit from combination radiosensitization therapy. To provide reliable preclinical in vivo models of metastatic disease, this study characterized the metastatic spread of luciferase-expressing mouse pheochromocytoma (MPC) cells in mouse strains with different immunologic conditions. Bioluminescence imaging showed that, in contrast to subcutaneous non-metastatic engraftment of luciferase-expressing MPC cells in NMRI-nude mice, intravenous cell injection provided only suboptimal metastatic spread in both NMRI-nude mice and hairless SCID (SHO) mice. Treatment of NMRI-nude mice with anti-Asialo GM1 serum enhanced metastatic spread due to substantial depletion of natural killer (NK) cells. However, reproducible metastatic spread was only observed in NK cell-defective SCID/beige mice and in hairless immunocompetent SKH1 mice bearing disseminated or liver metastases, respectively. Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry of urine samples showed that subcutaneous and metastasized tumor models exhibit comparable renal monoamine excretion profiles characterized by increasing urinary dopamine, 3-methoxytyramine, norepinephrine and normetanephrine. Metastases-related epinephrine and metanephrine were only detectable in SCID/beige mice. Positron emission tomography and immunohistochemistry revealed that all metastases maintained somatostatin receptor-specific radiotracer uptake and immunoreactivity, respectively. In conclusion, we demonstrate that intravenous injection of luciferase-expressing MPC cells into SCID/beige and SKH1 mice provides reproducible and clinically relevant spread of catecholamine-producing and somatostatin receptor-positive metastases. These standardized preclinical models allow for precise monitoring of disease progression and should facilitate further investigations on theranostic approaches against metastatic pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

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Yang-Hsiang Lin, Meng-Han Wu, Ya-Hui Huang, Chau-Ting Yeh, Hsiang-Cheng Chi, Chung-Ying Tsai, Wen-Yu Chuang, Chia-Jung Yu, I-Hsiao Chung, Ching-Ying Chen and Kwang-Huei Lin

Thyroid hormone (T3) and its receptor (TR) are involved in cancer progression. While deregulation of long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) expression has been detected in many tumor types, the mechanisms underlying specific involvement of lncRNAs in tumorigenicity remain unclear. Experiments from the current study revealed negative regulation of BC200 expression by T3/TR. BC200 was highly expressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and effective as an independent prognostic marker. BC200 promoted cell growth and tumor sphere formation, which was mediated via regulation of cell cycle-related genes and stemness markers. Moreover, BC200 protected cyclin E2 mRNA from degradation. Cell growth ability was repressed by T3, but partially enhanced upon BC200 overexpression. Mechanistically, BC200 directly interacted with cyclin E2 and promoted CDK2–cyclin E2 complex formation. Upregulation of cell cycle-related genes in hepatoma samples was positively correlated with BC200 expression. Our collective findings support the utility of a potential therapeutic strategy involving targeting of BC200 for the treatment of HCC.

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Sathya Neelature Sriramareddy, Etienne Hamoir, Marcela Chavez, Renaud Louis, Albert Beckers and Luc Willems