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Ta-Chun Yuan, Suresh Veeramani and Ming-Fong Lin

Neuroendocrine (NE) cells represent a minor cell population in the epithelial compartment of normal prostate glands and may play a role in regulating the growth and differentiation of normal prostate epithelia. In prostate tumor lesions, the population of NE-like cells, i.e., cells exhibiting NE phenotypes and expressing NE markers, is increased that correlates with tumor progression, poor prognosis, and the androgen-independent state. However, the origin of those NE-like cells in prostate cancer (PCa) lesions and the underlying molecular mechanism of enrichment remain an enigma. In this review, we focus on discussing the distinction between NE-like PCa and normal NE cells, the potential origin of NE-like PCa cells, and in vitro and in vivo studies related to the molecular mechanism of NE transdifferentiation of PCa cells. The data together suggest that PCa cells undergo a transdifferentiation process to become NE-like cells, which acquire the NE phenotype and express NE markers. Thus, we propose that those NE-like cells in PCa lesions were originated from cancerous epithelial cells, but not from normal NE cells, and should be defined as ‘NE-like PCa cells’. We further describe the biochemical properties of newly established, stable NE-like lymph node carcinoma of the prostate (LNCaP) cell lines, transdifferentiated from androgen-sensitive LNCaP cells under androgen-deprived conditions. Knowledge of understanding NE-like PCa cells will help us to explore new therapeutic strategies for treating PCa.

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Ssu-Ming Huang, Chingju Lin, Hsiao-Yun Lin, Chien-Ming Chiu, Chia-Wei Fang, Kuan-Fu Liao, Dar-Ren Chen and Wei-Lan Yeh

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a potent neurotrophic factor that has been shown to affect cancer cell metastasis and migration. In the present study, we investigated the mechanisms of BDNF-induced cell migration in colon cancer cells. The migratory activities of two colon cancer cell lines, HCT116 and SW480, were found to be increased in the presence of human BDNF. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO)-1 is known to be involved in the development and progression of tumors. However, the molecular mechanisms that underlie HO-1 in the regulation of colon cancer cell migration remain unclear. Expression of HO-1 protein and mRNA increased in response to BDNF stimulation. The BDNF-induced increase in cell migration was antagonized by a HO-1 inhibitor and HO-1 siRNA. Furthermore, the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) also increased in response to BDNF stimulation, as did VEGF mRNA expression and transcriptional activity. The increase in BDNF-induced cancer cell migration was antagonized by a VEGF-neutralizing antibody. Moreover, transfection with HO-1 siRNA effectively reduced the increased VEGF expression induced by BDNF. The BDNF-induced cell migration was regulated by the ERK, p38, and Akt signaling pathways. Furthermore, BDNF-increased HO-1 and VEGF promoter transcriptional activity were inhibited by ERK, p38, and AKT pharmacological inhibitors and dominant-negative mutants in colon cancer cells. These results indicate that BDNF increases the migration of colon cancer cells by regulating VEGF/HO-1 activation through the ERK, p38, and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways. The results of this study may provide a relevant contribution to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which BDNF promotes colon cancer cell motility.

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Syed Mahfuzul Alam, Mythilypriya Rajendran, Shouqiang Ouyang, Suresh Veeramani, Li Zhang and Ming-Fong Lin

Tyrosine phosphorylation plays a critical role in growth regulation, and its aberrant regulation can be involved in carcinogenesis. The association of Shc (Src homolog and collagen homolog) adaptor protein family members in tyrosine phosphorylation signaling pathway is well recognized. Shc adaptor proteins transmit activated tyrosine phosphorylation signaling that suggest their plausible role in growth regulation including carcinogenesis and metastasis. In parallel, by sharing a similar mechanism of carcinogenesis, the steroids are involved in the early stage of carcinogenesis as well as the regulation of cancer progression and metastatic processes. Recent evidence indicates a cross-talk between tyrosine phosphorylation signaling and steroid hormone action in epithelial cells, including prostate and breast cancer cells. Therefore, the members of Shc proteins may function as mediators between tyrosine phosphorylation and steroid signaling in steroid-regulated cell proliferation and carcinogenesis. In this communication, we discuss the novel roles of Shc proteins, specifically p52Shc and p66Shc, in steroid hormone-regulated cancers and a novel molecular mechanism by which redox signaling induced by p66Shc mediates steroid action via a non-genomic pathway. The p66Shc protein may serve as an effective biomarker for predicting cancer prognosis as well as a useful target for treatment.

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Shih-Ping Cheng, Chien-Liang Liu, Ming-Jen Chen, Ming-Nan Chien, Ching-Hsiang Leung, Chi-Hsin Lin, Yi-Chiung Hsu and Jie-Jen Lee

CD74, the invariant chain of major histocompatibility complex class II, is also a receptor for macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). CD74 and MIF have been associated with tumor progression and metastasis in hematologic and solid tumors. In this study, we found that 60 and 65% of papillary thyroid cancers were positive for CD74 and MIF immunohistochemical staining respectively. Anaplastic thyroid cancer was negative for MIF, but mostly positive for CD74 expression. Normal thyroid tissue and follicular adenomas were negative for CD74 expression. CD74 expression in papillary thyroid cancer was associated with larger tumor size (P=0.043), extrathyroidal invasion (P=0.021), advanced TNM stage (P=0.006), and higher MACIS score (P=0.026). No clinicopathological parameter was associated with MIF expression. Treatment with anti-CD74 antibody in thyroid cancer cells inhibited cell growth, colony formation, cell migration and invasion, and vascular endothelial growth factor secretion. In contrast, treatment with recombinant MIF induced an increase in cell invasion. Anti-CD74 treatment reduced AKT phosphorylation and stimulated AMPK activation. Our findings suggest that CD74 overexpression in thyroid cancer is associated with advanced tumor stage and may serve as a therapeutic target.

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Suresh Veeramani, Ta-Chun Yuan, Siu-Ju Chen, Fen-Fen Lin, Juliette E Petersen, Syed Shaheduzzaman, Shiv Srivastava, Richard G MacDonald and Ming-Fong Lin

Human prostatic acid phosphatase (PAcP) was used as a valuable surrogate marker for monitoring prostate cancer prior to the availability of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Even though the level of PAcP is increased in the circulation of prostate cancer patients, its intracellular level and activity are greatly diminished in prostate cancer cells. Recent advances in understanding the function of the cellular form of PAcP (cPAcP) have shed some light on its role in prostate carcinogenesis, which may have potential applications for prostate cancer therapy. It is now evident that cPAcP functions as a neutral protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) in prostate cancer cells and dephosphorylates HER-2/ErbB-2/Neu (HER-2: human epidermal growth factor receptor-2) at the phosphotyrosine (p-Tyr) residues. Dephosphorylation of HER-2 at its p-Tyr residues results in the down-regulation of its specific activity, which leads to decreases in growth and tumorigenicity of those cancer cells. Conversely, decreased cPAcP expression correlates with hyperphosphorylation of HER-2 at tyrosine residues and activation of downstream extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling, which results in prostate cancer progression as well as androgen-independent growth of prostate cancer cells. These in vitro results on the effect of cPAcP on androgen-independent growth of prostate cancer cells corroborate the clinical findings that cPAcP level is greatly decreased in advanced prostate cancer and provide insights into one of the molecular mechanisms involved in prostate cancer progression. Results from experiments using xenograft animal models further indicate a novel role of cPAcP as a tumor suppressor. Future studies are warranted to clarify the use of cPAcP as a therapeutic agent in human prostate cancer patients.

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Ta-Chun Yuan, Suresh Veeramani, Fen-Fen Lin, Dmitry Kondrikou, Stanislav Zelivianski, Tsukasa Igawa, Dev Karan, Surinder K. Batra and Ming-Fong Lin

Neuroendocrine (NE) cells are the minor cell populations in normal prostate epithelial compartments. During prostate carcinogenesis, the number of NE cells in malignant lesions increases, correlating with its tumorigenicity and hormone-refractory growth. It is thus proposed that cancerous NE cells promote prostate cancer (PCa) cell progression and its androgen-independent proliferation, although the origin of the cancerous NE cells is not clear. To investigate the role of cancerous NE cells in prostate carcinogenesis, we characterized three NE subclone cell lines–NE-1.3, NE-1.8 and NE-1.9, which were transdifferentiated from androgen-sensitive human PCa LNCaP cells by culturing in an androgen-depleted environment, resembling clinical androgen-ablation therapy. These subclone cells acquire many features of NE cells seen in clinical prostate carcinomas, for example exhibiting a neuronal morphology and expressing multiple NE markers, including neuron-specific enolase, chromogranin B, neurotensin, parathyroid hormone-related peptide, and to a lesser degree for chromogranin A, while lacking androgen receptor (AR) or prostate specific antigen (PSA) expression. These cells represent terminally differentiated stable cells because after 3 months of re-culturing in a medium containing androgenic activity, they still retained the NE phenotype and expressed NE markers. Despite these NE cells having a slow growth rate, they readily developed xenograft tumors. Furthermore, media conditioned by these NE cells exhibited a stimulatory effect on proliferation and PSA secretion by LNCaP cells in androgen-deprived conditions. Additionally, we found that receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase α plays a role in upregulating multiple NE markers and acquiring the NE phenotype. These NE cells thus represent cancerous NE cells and could serve as a useful cell model system for investigating the role of cancerous NE cells in hormone-refractory proliferation of PCa cells.

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Dannah R Miller, Matthew A Ingersoll and Ming-Fong Lin

Currently, prostate cancer (PCa) remains the most commonly diagnosed solid tumor and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in US men. Most of these deaths are attributed to the development of castration-resistant (CR) PCa. ErbB-2 and ErbB family members have been demonstrated to contribute to the progression of this lethal disease. In this review, we focus on updating the role of ErbB-2 in advanced PCa progression and its regulation, including its regulation via ligand activation, miRNAs and protein phosphorylation. We also discuss its downstream signaling pathways, including AKT, ERK1/2 and STATs, involved in advanced PCa progression. Additionally, we evaluate the potential of ErbB-2, focusing on its protein hyper-phosphorylation status, as a biomarker for aggressive PCa as well as the effectiveness of ErbB-2 as a target for the treatment of CR PCa via a multitude of approaches, including orally available inhibitors, intratumoral expression of cPAcP, vaccination and immunotherapy.

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Chen-Hsin Liao, Shih-Chi Yeh, Ya-Hui Huang, Ruey-Nan Chen, Ming-Ming Tsai, Wei-Jan Chen, Hsiang-Cheng Chi, Pei-Ju Tai, Chia-Jung Liao, Sheng-Ming Wu, Wan-Li Cheng, Li-Mei Pai and Kwang-Huei Lin

The thyroid hormone 3,3′,5-triiodo-l-thyronine (T3) regulates growth, development, and differentiation processes in animals. These activities are mediated by the nuclear thyroid hormone receptors (TRs). Microarray analyses were performed previously to study the mechanism of regulation triggered by T3 treatment in hepatoma cell lines. The results showed that spondin 2 was regulated positively by T3. However, the underlying mechanism and the physiological role of T3 in the regulation of spondin 2 are not clear. To verify the microarray results, spondin 2 was further investigated using semi-quantitative reverse transcription-PCR and western blotting. After 48 h of T3 treatment in the HepG2–TRα1#1 cell line, spondin 2 mRNA and protein levels increased by 3.9- to 5.7-fold. Similar results were observed in thyroidectomized rats. To localize the regulatory region in spondin 2, we performed serial deletions of the promoter and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. The T3 response element on the spondin 2 promoter was localized in the −1104/−1034 or −984/−925 regions. To explore the effect of spondin 2 on cellular function, spondin 2 knockdown cell lines were established from Huh7 cells. Knockdown cells had higher migration ability and invasiveness compared with control cells. Conversely, spondin 2 overexpression in J7 cells led to lower migration ability and invasiveness compared with control cells. Furthermore, this study demonstrated that spondin 2 overexpression in some types of hepatocellular carcinomas is TR dependent. Together, these experimental findings suggest that spondin 2, which is regulated by T3, has an important role in cell invasion, cell migration, and tumor progression.

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Ssu-Ming Huang, Tzu-Sheng Chen, Chien-Ming Chiu, Leang-Kai Chang, Kuan-Fu Liao, Hsiao-Ming Tan, Wei-Lan Yeh, Gary Ro-Lin Chang, Min-Ying Wang and Dah-Yuu Lu

Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a potent neurotrophic factor, has been shown to affect cancer cell metastasis and invasion. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying GDNF-induced colon cancer cell migration remain unclear. GDNF is found to be positively correlated with malignancy in human colon cancer patients. The migratory activities of two human colon cancer cell lines, HCT116 and SW480, were found to be enhanced in the presence of human GDNF. The expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was also increased in response to GDNF stimulation, along with VEGF mRNA expression and transcriptional activity. The enhancement of GDNF-induced cancer cell migration was antagonized by a VEGF-neutralizing antibody. Our results also showed that the expression of VEGF receptor 1 (VEGFR1) was increased in response to GDNF stimulation, whereas GDNF-induced cancer cell migration was reduced by a VEGFR inhibitor. The GDNF-induced VEGF expression was regulated by the p38 and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways. Treatment with GDNF increased nuclear hypoxia-inducible factor 1 α (HIF1α) accumulation and its transcriptional activity in a time-dependent manner. Moreover, GDNF increased hypoxia responsive element (HRE)-containing VEGF promoter transcriptional activity but not that of the HRE-deletion VEGF promoter construct. Inhibition of HIF1α by a pharmacological inhibitor or dominant-negative mutant reduced the GDNF-induced migratory activity in human colon cancer cells. These results indicate that GDNF enhances the migration of colon cancer cells by increasing VEGF–VEGFR interaction, which is mainly regulated by the p38, PI3K/Akt, and HIF1α signaling pathways.

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Yu-Li Chen, Cheng-Yang Chou, Ming-Cheng Chang, Han-Wei Lin, Ching-Ting Huang, Shu-Feng Hsieh, Chi-An Chen and Wen-Fang Cheng

Aside from tumor cells, ovarian cancer-related ascites contains the immune components. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether a combination of clinical and immunological parameters can predict survival in patients with ovarian cancer. Ascites specimens and medical records from 144 ovarian cancer patients at our hospital were used as the derivation group to select target clinical and immunological factors to generate a risk-scoring system to predict patient survival. Eighty-two cases from another hospital were used as the validation group to evaluate this system. The surgical status and expression levels of interleukin 17a (IL17a) and IL21 in ascites were selected for the risk-scoring system in the derivation group. The areas under the receiver operating characteristic (AUROC) curves of the overall score for disease-free survival (DFS) of the ovarian cancer patients were 0.84 in the derivation group, 0.85 in the validation group, and 0.84 for all the patients. The AUROC curves of the overall score for overall survival (OS) of cases were 0.78 in the derivation group, 0.76 in the validation group, and 0.76 for all the studied patients. Good correlations between overall risk score and survival of the ovarian cancer patients were demonstrated by sub-grouping all participants into four groups (P for trend <0.001 for DFS and OS). Therefore, acombination of clinical and immunological parameters can provide a practical scoring system to predict the survival of patients with ovarian carcinoma. IL17a and IL21 can potentially be used as prognostic and therapeutic biomarkers.