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  • Author: Christoph J Auernhammer x
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Kathrin Zitzmann, George Vlotides, Stephan Brand, Harald Lahm, Gerald Spöttl, Burkhard Göke and Christoph J Auernhammer

The majority of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) of the gastroenteropancreatic system show aberrant Akt activity. Several inhibitors of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI(3)K)–Akt–mTOR signaling pathway are currently being evaluated in clinical phase II and III studies for the treatment of NETs with promising results. However, the molecular mechanisms and particularly the role of different Akt isoforms in NET signaling are not fully understood. In this study, we examine the effect of Akt inhibition on NET cells of heterogeneous origin. We show that the Akt inhibitor perifosine effectively inhibits Akt phosphorylation and cell viability in human pancreatic (BON1), bronchus (NCI-H727), and midgut (GOT1) NET cells. Perifosine treatment suppressed the phosphorylation of Akt downstream targets such as GSK3α/β, MDM2, and p70S6K and induced apoptosis. To further investigate the role of individual Akt isoforms for NET cell function, we specifically blocked Akt1, Akt2, and Akt3 via siRNA transfection. In contrast to Akt2 knockdown, knockdown of Akt isoforms 1 and 3 decreased phosphorylation levels of GSK3α/β, MDM2, and p70S6K and suppressed NET cell viability and colony-forming capacity. The inhibitory effect of simultaneous downregulation of Akt1 and Akt3 on tumor cell viability was significantly stronger than that caused by downregulation of all Akt isoforms, suggesting a particular role for Akt1 and Akt3 in NET signaling. Akt3 siRNA-induced apoptosis while all three isoform-specific siRNAs impaired BON1 cell invasion. Together, our data demonstrate potent antitumor effects of the pan-Akt inhibitor perifosine on NET cells in vitro and suggest that selective targeting of Akt1 and/or Akt3 might improve the therapeutic potential of Akt inhibition in NET disease.

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Kathrin Zitzmann, Enrico de Toni, Janina von Rüden, Stephan Brand, Burkhard Göke, Rüdiger P Laubender and Christoph J Auernhammer

The tumour-selective death receptor ligand tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a promising agent for the treatment of human cancer. However, many tumours have evolved mechanisms to resist TRAIL-induced apoptosis. A number of studies have demonstrated that aberrant PI(3)K–Akt–mTOR survival signalling may confer TRAIL resistance by altering the balance between pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins. Here, we show that neuroendocrine tumour (NET) cell lines of heterogeneous origin exhibit a range of TRAIL sensitivities and that TRAIL sensitivity correlates with the expression of FLIPS, caspase-8, and Bcl-2. Neither single mTOR inhibition by everolimus nor dual mTOR/PI(3)K inhibition by NVP-BEZ235 was able to enhance TRAIL susceptibility in any of the tested cell lines. In contrast, dual PI(3)K–Akt–mTOR and Raf–MEK–Erk pathway inhibition by the IGF-1R inhibitor NVP-AEW541 effectively restored TRAIL sensitivity in NCI-H727 bronchus carcinoid cells. Furthermore, blocking Raf–MEK–Erk signalling by the novel Raf inhibitor Raf265 significantly enhanced TRAIL sensitivity in NCI-H727 and CM insulinoma cells. While having no effect on FLIPS or caspase-8 expression, Raf265 strongly decreased Bcl-2 levels in those cell lines susceptible to its TRAIL-sensitizing action. Taken together, our findings suggest that combinations of Raf–MEK–Erk pathway inhibitors and TRAIL might offer a novel therapeutic strategy in NET disease.

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Florian Bösch, Katharina Brüwer, Annelore Altendorf-Hofmann, Christoph J Auernhammer, Christine Spitzweg, C Benedikt Westphalen, Stefan Boeck, Gabriele Schubert-Fritschle, Jens Werner, Volker Heinemann, Thomas Kirchner, Martin Angele and Thomas Knösel

Cancer immunotherapy has evolved major breakthroughs in the last years. The cell-surface receptor programmed death-1 (PD-1) and its ligand, programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1), have been detected in various cancer types. However, the analysis on gastroenteropancreatic neoplasia (GEP-NENs) is limited. Therefore, the aim of this study was to characterize GEP-NENs with regard to PD-1/PD-L1 pathway and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). On protein level, we examined TILs, PD-1 and PD-L1 expression in tumor tissue of 244 GEP-NENs using immunohistochemistry. Expression levels were correlated with clinicopathological parameters including long-term survival in an observational study. In total, 244 patients could be included. Most of the patients had a NEN of the small intestine (52.5%) or the pancreas (29.5%). All tumors could be graded by their morphology and Ki67 index, with 57.8% G1, 34% G2 and 8.2% G3 tumors. High TILs (19.6%) and high PD-1 (16.1%) expression showed a significant correlation with shorter patient survival (P < 0.05) and with a higher grading. Furthermore, expression of PD-L1 (8.7%) showed a trend to shorter patient survival. High TILs and PD-1 expression are significantly associated with shorter patient survival and higher grading in GEP-NENs. PD-L1 expression showed a trend to shorter patient survival. Immunotherapy might be a promising therapeutic approach in GEP-NENs especially in tumors with high TILs.

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Elke Tatjana Aristizabal Prada, Vera Heinzle, Thomas Knösel, Svenja Nölting, Gerald Spöttl, Julian Maurer, Christine Spitzweg, Martin Angele, Nina Schmidt, Felix Beuschlein, Günter K Stalla, Rainer Blaser, Klaus A Kuhn and Christoph J Auernhammer

Tropomyosin receptor kinase (Trk) inhibitors are investigated as a novel targeted therapy in various cancers. We investigated the in vitro effects of the pan-Trk inhibitor GNF-5837 in human neuroendocrine tumor (NET) cells. The human neuroendocrine pancreatic BON1, bronchopulmonary NCI-H727 and ileal GOT1 cell lines were treated with GNF-5837 alone and in combination with everolimus. Cell viability decreased in a time- and dose-dependent manner in GOT1 cells in response to GNF-5837 treatment, while treatment in BON1 and NCI-H727 cells showed no effect on cellular viability. Trk receptor expression determined GNF-5837 sensitivity. GNF-5837 caused downregulation of PI3K-Akt-mTOR signaling, Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK signaling, the cell cycle and increased apoptotic cell death. The combinational treatment of GNF-5837 with everolimus showed a significant enhancement in inhibition of cell viability vs single substance treatments, due to a cooperative PI3K-Akt-mTOR and Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK pathway downregulation, as well as an enhanced cell cycle component downregulation. Immunohistochemical staining for Trk receptors were performed using a tissue microarray containing 107 tumor samples of gastroenteropancreatic NETs. Immunohistochemical staining with TrkA receptor and pan-Trk receptor antibodies revealed a positive staining in pancreatic NETs in 24.2% (8/33) and 33.3% (11/33), respectively. We demonstrated that the pan-Trk inhibitor GNF-5837 has promising anti-tumoral properties in human NET cell lines expressing the TrkA receptor. Immunohistochemical or molecular screening for Trk expression particularly in pancreatic NETs might serve as predictive marker for molecular targeted therapy with Trk inhibitors.