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Sunmi Park, Mark C Willingham, Jun Qi and Sheue-Yann Cheng

Compelling epidemiological evidence shows a strong positive correlation of obesity with thyroid cancer. In vivo studies have provided molecular evidence that high-fat-diet-induced obesity promotes thyroid cancer progression by aberrantly activating leptin-JAK2-STAT3 signaling in a mouse model of thyroid cancer (Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice). The Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mouse expresses a dominantly negative thyroid hormone receptor β (denoted as PV) and a deletion of one single allele of the Pten gene. The Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mouse spontaneously develops follicular thyroid cancer, which allows its use as a preclinical mouse model to test potential therapeutics. We recently showed that inhibition of STAT3 activity by a specific inhibitor markedly delays thyroid cancer progression in high-fat-diet-induced obese Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice (HFD-Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice). Further, metformin, a widely used antidiabetic drug, blocks invasion and metastasis, but not thyroid tumor growth in HFD-Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ mice. To improve efficacy in reducing thyroid tumor growth, we treated HFD-Thrb PV/PV Pten +/ with JQ1, a potent inhibitor of the activity of bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) and with metformin. We found that the combined treatment synergistically suppressed thyroid tumor growth by attenuating STAT3 and ERK signaling, resulting in decreased anti-apoptotic key regulators such as Mcl-1, Bcl-2 and survivin and increased pro-apoptotic regulators such as Bim, BAD and cleave caspase 3. Furthermore, combined treatment of JQ1 and metformin reduced cMyc protein levels to suppress vascular invasion, anaplasia and lung metastasis. These findings indicate that combined treatment is more effective than metformin alone and suggest a novel treatment modality for obesity-activated thyroid cancer.

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Benjamin Boyerinas, Sun-Mi Park, Annika Hau, Andrea E Murmann and Marcus E Peter

MicroRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) are small noncoding RNAs capable of regulating gene expression at the translational level. Current evidence suggests that a significant portion of the human genome is regulated by microRNAs, and many reports have demonstrated that microRNA expression is deregulated in human cancer. The let-7 family of microRNAs, first discovered in Caenorhabditis elegans, is functionally conserved from worms to humans. The human let-7 family contains 13 members located on nine different chromosomes, and many human cancers have deregulated let-7 expression. A growing body of evidence suggests that restoration of let-7 expression may be a useful therapeutic option in cancers, where its expression has been lost. In this review, we discuss the role of let-7 in normal development and differentiation, and provide an overview of the relationship between deregulated let-7 expression and tumorigenesis. The regulation of let-7 expression, cancer-relevant let-7 targets, and the relationship between let-7 and drug sensitivity are highlighted.