Ras pathway activation in hepatocellular carcinoma and anti-tumoral effect of combined sorafenib and rapamycin in vivo.
ABSTRACT: The success of sorafenib in the treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has focused interest on the role of Ras signaling in this malignancy. We investigated the molecular alterations of the Ras pathway in HCC and the antineoplastic effects of sorafenib in combination with rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTOR pathway, in experimental models.Gene expression (qRT-PCR, oligonucleotide microarray), DNA copy number changes (SNP-array), methylation of tumor suppressor genes (methylation-specific PCR) and protein activation (immunohistochemistry) were analysed in 351 samples. Anti-tumoral effects of combined therapy targeting the Ras and mTOR pathways were evaluated in cell lines and HCC xenografts.Different mechanisms accounted for Ras pathway activation in HCC. H-ras was up-regulated during different steps of hepatocarcinogenesis. B-raf was overexpressed in advanced tumors and its expression was associated with genomic amplification. Partial methylation of RASSF1A and NORE1A was detected in 89% and 44% of tumors respectively, and complete methylation was found in 11 and 4% of HCCs. Activation of the pathway (pERK immunostaining) was identified in 10.3% of HCC. Blockade of Ras and mTOR pathways with sorafenib and rapamycin reduced cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in cell lines. In vivo, the combination of both compounds enhanced tumor necrosis and ulceration when compared with sorafenib alone.Ras activation results from several molecular alterations, such as methylation of tumor suppressors and amplification of oncogenes (B-raf). Sorafenib blocks signaling and synergizes with rapamycin in vivo, preventing tumor progression. These data provide the rationale for testing this combination in clinical studies.
Project description:Sorafenib is currently used to treat advanced and/or unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the increase of the median survival was only 3 months. Moreover, sorafenib has severe side effects and patients develop resistance quickly. Epigenetic alterations such as DNA methylation play a decisive role in the development and progression of HCC. To our knowledge, there are no studies that analysed the global DNA methylation changes in HCC cells treated with sorafenib. Using MeDip-chip technologies, we found 1230 differentially methylated genes in HA22T/VGH cells treated with sorafenib compared to untreated cells. Gene ontology and pathway analysis allowed identifying several enriched signaling pathways involved in tumorigenesis and cancer progression. Among the genes differentially methylated we found genes related to apoptosis, angiogenesis and invasion, and genes belonging to pathways known to be deregulated in HCC such as RAF/MEK/ERK, JAK-STAT, PI3K/AKT/mTOR and NF-?B. Generally, we found that oncogenes tended to be hypermethylated and the tumor suppressor genes tended to be hypomethylated after sorafenib treatment. Finally, we validated MeDip-chip results for several genes found differentially methylated such as BIRC3, FOXO3, MAPK3, SMAD2 and TSC2, using both COBRA assay and direct bisulfite sequencing and we evaluated their mRNA expression. Our findings suggest that sorafenib could affect the methylation level of genes associated to cancer-related processes and pathways in HCC cells, some of which have been previously described to be directly targeted by sorafenib.
Project description:Differentiated thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer tumors frequently have activation of the ras/raf /MAPK kinase (MEK)/ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI-3K)/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathways.The objective of the study was to investigate the efficacy of MEK and mTOR inhibitors in preclinical thyroid cancer treatment models with defined mutation status.The MEK inhibitor AZD6244 (ARRY-142886) and mTOR inhibitor rapamycin were tested separately and in combination in 10 differentiated thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer cell lines and in a xenograft model for evidence of pathway inhibition, growth inhibition, apoptosis, and long-range adaptation and resistance.Seven of 10 tested lines had evidence of significant basal activity of the PI-3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, with elevated phosphorylated AKT and phosphorylated p70 S6 kinase. Activation of ras/RAF/MEK/ERK was equally common in this panel. All 10 lines exhibited better than 60% growth inhibition with combined MEK and mTOR inhibition, including lines with BRAF, Ret-PTC, ras, and PTEN mutations. Rapamycin or AZD6244 alone achieved this threshold in six and two lines, respectively. Dual-pathway inhibition in the Ret-PTC mutant cell line TPC1 caused an intense G(1) arrest in cell culture and reversible cytostatic inhibition in a xenograft model. We did not observe significant feedback up-regulation of AKT activation in either acute or prolonged exposures.These preclinical results support the inclusion of thyroid cancer patients in early-phase clinical trials combining RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR pathway inhibition.
Project description:Sorafenib is a RAF inhibitor approved for several cancers, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Inhibition of RAF kinases can induce a dose-dependent "paradoxical" upregulation of the downstream mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway in cancer cells. It is unknown whether "paradoxical" ERK activation occurs after sorafenib therapy in HCC, and if so, if it impacts the therapeutic efficacy. Here, we demonstrate that RAF inhibition by sorafenib rapidly leads to RAF dimerization and ERK activation in HCCs, which contributes to treatment evasion. The transactivation of RAF dimers and ERK signaling promotes HCC cell survival, prevents apoptosis via downregulation of BIM and achieves immunosuppression by MAPK/NF-kB-dependent activation of PD-L1 gene expression. To overcome treatment evasion and reduce systemic effects, we developed CXCR4-targeted nanoparticles to co-deliver sorafenib with the MEK inhibitor AZD6244 in HCC. Using this approach, we preferentially and efficiently inactivated RAF/ERK, upregulated BIM and down-regulated PD-L1 expression in HCC, and facilitated intra-tumoral infiltration of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. These effects resulted in a profound delay in tumor growth. Thus, this nano-delivery strategy to selectively target tumors and prevent the paradoxical ERK activation could increase the feasibility of dual RAF/MEK inhibition to overcome sorafenib treatment escape in HCC.
Project description:Sorafenib is the only and standard systematic chemotherapy drug for treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) at the current stage. Although sorafenib showed survival benefits in large randomized phase III studies, its clinical benefits remain modest and most often consist of temporary tumor stabilization, indicating that more effective first-line treatment regimens or second-line salvage therapies are required. The molecular pathogenesis of HCC is very complex, involving hyperactivated signal transduction pathways such as RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK and PI3K/AKT/mTOR and aberrant expression of molecules such as receptor tyrosine kinases and histone deacetylases. Simultaneous or sequential abrogation of these critical pathways or the functions of these key molecules involved in angiogenesis, proliferation, and apoptosis may yield major improvements in the management of HCC. In this review, we summarize the emerging sorafenib-based combined molecule targeting for HCC treatment and analyze the rationales of these combinations.
Project description:<h4>Simple Summary</h4> Novel approaches to target RAS-signaling have led to the so called “RAS renaissance”. In HCC, it was demonstrated that wild-type RAS-RAF-ERK-signaling strongly contributes to HCC progression and drug resistance. In this context, microRNA-622 has emerged as one of the most promising tumorsuppressive microRNAs, targeting RAS-signaling in HCC. However, the majority of microRNA-622 target genes remained elusive. Moreover, limited chemoresponse of HCC was demonstrated by activation of MAPK14-ATF2-signaling which represents a RAS-collateral-pathway, but the expression and regulation of both MAPK14 and ATF2 remained to be clarified. In this study, we demonstrated co-overexpression of MAPK14 and ATF2 in HCC in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, in contrast to “one-microRNA-one-target” interactions, we identified common binding sites for microRNA-622 in both synergistic drug resistance-associated genes–MAPK14 and ATF2. Our data revealed that microRNA-622 functions as a superior pathway regulator inducing de-repression of the MAPK14-ATF2-axis in HCC. <h4>Abstract</h4> Chemoresistance is a major hallmark driving the progression and poor prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Limited chemoresponse of HCC was demonstrated to be mediated by mitogen-activated protein kinase 14 (MAPK14) and activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2). Recently, we have demonstrated loss of control of RAS-RAF-ERK-signaling as a consequence of miR-622 downregulation in HCC. However, the majority of target genes of this potent tumorsuppressive microRNA had remained elusive. The MAPK14-ATF2-axis represents a collateral pathway ensuring persisting ERK-activation in the presence of sorafenib-mediated RAF-inhibition. In contrast to the function of the MAPK14-ATF2-axis, both the expression and regulation of MAPK14 and ATF2 in human HCC remained to be clarified. We found combined overexpression of MAPK14 and ATF2 in human HCC cells, tissues and in sorafenib resistant cell lines. High expression of MAPK14 and ATF2 was associated with reduced overall survival in HCC patients. Deciphering the molecular mechanism promoting combined upregulation of MAPK14 and ATF2 in HCC, we revealed that miR-622 directly targets both genes, resulting in combined de-repression of the MAPK14-ATF2-axis. Together, miR-622 represents a superior regulator of both RAS-RAF-ERK as well as MAPK14-ATF2-signaling pathways in liver cancer.
Project description:The Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK and PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR cascades are often activated by genetic alterations in upstream signaling molecules such as receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK). Targeting these pathways is often complex and can result in pathway activation depending on the presence of upstream mutations (e.g., Raf inhibitors induce Raf activation in cells with wild type (WT) RAF in the presence of mutant, activated RAS) and rapamycin can induce Akt activation. Targeting with inhibitors directed at two constituents of the same pathway or two different signaling pathways may be a more effective approach. This review will first evaluate potential uses of Raf, MEK, PI3K, Akt and mTOR inhibitors that have been investigated in pre-clinical and clinical investigations and then discuss how cancers can become insensitive to various inhibitors and potential strategies to overcome this resistance.
Project description:Elastase-mediated cleavage of cyclin E generates low molecular weight cyclin E (LMW-E) isoforms exhibiting enhanced CDK2-associated kinase activity and resistance to inhibition by CDK inhibitors p21 and p27. Approximately 27% of breast cancers express high LMW-E protein levels, which significantly correlates with poor survival. The objective of this study was to identify the signaling pathway(s) deregulated by LMW-E expression in breast cancer patients and to identify pharmaceutical agents to effectively target this pathway. Ectopic LMW-E expression in nontumorigenic human mammary epithelial cells (hMECs) was sufficient to generate xenografts with greater tumorigenic potential than full-length cyclin E, and the tumorigenicity was augmented by in vivo passaging. However, cyclin E mutants unable to interact with CDK2 protected hMECs from tumor development. When hMECs were cultured on Matrigel, LMW-E mediated aberrant acinar morphogenesis, including enlargement of acinar structures and formation of multi-acinar complexes, as denoted by reduced BIM and elevated Ki67 expression. Similarly, inducible expression of LMW-E in transgenic mice generated hyper-proliferative terminal end buds resulting in enhanced mammary tumor development. Reverse-phase protein array assay of 276 breast tumor patient samples and cells cultured on monolayer and in three-dimensional Matrigel demonstrated that, in terms of protein expression profile, hMECs cultured in Matrigel more closely resembled patient tissues than did cells cultured on monolayer. Additionally, the b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR pathway was activated in LMW-E-expressing patient samples, and activation of this pathway was associated with poor disease-specific survival. Combination treatment using roscovitine (CDK inhibitor) plus either rapamycin (mTOR inhibitor) or sorafenib (a pan kinase inhibitor targeting b-Raf) effectively prevented aberrant acinar formation in LMW-E-expressing cells by inducing G1/S cell cycle arrest. LMW-E requires CDK2-associated kinase activity to induce mammary tumor formation by disrupting acinar development. The b-Raf-ERK1/2-mTOR signaling pathway is aberrantly activated in breast cancer and can be suppressed by combination treatment with roscovitine plus either rapamycin or sorafenib.
Project description:Atk can be activated by two independent phosphorylation events. Growth factor-dependent phosphorylation of threonine 308 (Akt-308) by phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-dependent PDK1 leads to activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTor) complex 1 (TORC1) and stimulation of protein synthesis. Phosphorylation on serine 473 (Akt-473) is catalyzed by mTor in a second complex (TORC2), and Akt-473 phosphorylates Foxo3a to inhibit apoptosis. Accumulation of both phosphorylated forms of Akt is frequent in cancer, and TORC2 activity is required for progression to prostate cancer with Pten mutation. Here, we link Akt-473 to the Rb1 pathway and show that mTor is overexpressed with loss of the Rb1 family pathway. This leads to constitutive Akt-473 and, in turn, phosphorylation of Foxo3a and resistance to cell adhesion-dependent apoptosis (anoikis). Additionally, Akt-473 accumulation blocks c-Raf activation, thereby preventing downstream Erk activation. This block cannot be overcome by constitutively active Ras, and it also prevents induction of the Arf tumor suppressor by Ras. These studies link inactivation of the Rb1 pathway, a hallmark of cancer, to accumulation of Akt-473, resistance to anoikis, and a block in c-Raf/Erk activation.
Project description:Sorafenib is a multi-kinase inhibitor that has been proven effective for the treatment of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, its precise mechanisms of action and resistance have not been well established. We have developed high-density fluorescence reverse-phase protein arrays and used them to determine the status of 180 phosphorylation sites of signaling molecules in the 120 pathways registered in the NCI-Nature curated database in 23 HCC cell lines. Among the 180 signaling nodes, we found that the level of ribosomal protein S6 phosphorylated at serine residue 235/236 (p-RPS6 S235/236) was most significantly correlated with the resistance of HCC cells to sorafenib. The high expression of p-RPS6 S235/236 was confirmed immunohistochemically in biopsy samples obtained from HCC patients who responded poorly to sorafenib. Sorafenib-resistant HCC cells showed constitutive activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, but whole-exon sequencing of kinase genes revealed no evident alteration in the pathway. p-RPS6 S235/236 is a potential biomarker that predicts unresponsiveness of HCC to sorafenib. The use of mTOR inhibitors may be considered for the treatment of such tumors.