Exploitation of the Apoptosis-Primed State of MYCN-Amplified Neuroblastoma to Develop a Potent and Specific Targeted Therapy Combination.
ABSTRACT: Fewer than half of children with high-risk neuroblastoma survive. Many of these tumors harbor high-level amplification of MYCN, which correlates with poor disease outcome. Using data from our large drug screen we predicted, and subsequently demonstrated, that MYCN-amplified neuroblastomas are sensitive to the BCL-2 inhibitor ABT-199. This sensitivity occurs in part through low anti-apoptotic BCL-xL expression, high pro-apoptotic NOXA expression, and paradoxical, MYCN-driven upregulation of NOXA. Screening for enhancers of ABT-199 sensitivity in MYCN-amplified neuroblastomas, we demonstrate that the Aurora Kinase A inhibitor MLN8237 combines with ABT-199 to induce widespread apoptosis. In diverse models of MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma, including a patient-derived xenograft model, this combination uniformly induced tumor shrinkage, and in multiple instances led to complete tumor regression.
Project description:Neuroblastoma is a pediatric malignant tumor arising from the sympathetic nervous system. The patients with high-risk neuroblastomas frequently exhibit amplification and high expression of the MYCN gene, resulting in worse clinical outcomes. Vitamin K3 (VK3) is a synthetic VK-like compound that has been known to have antitumor activity against various types of cancers. In the present study, we have asked whether VK3 and its derivative, VK3-OH, could have the antitumor activity against neuroblastoma-derived cells. Based on our results, VK3-OH strongly inhibited cell proliferation and induced apoptotic cell death compared to VK3. Treatment of MYCN-driven neuroblastoma cells with VK3-OH potentiated tumor suppressor p53 accompanied by downregulation of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 and Mcl-1. Interestingly, VK3-OH also suppressed the MYCN at mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, we found downregulation of LIN28B following VK3-OH treatment in MYCN-amplified and overexpressed neuroblastoma cells. Collectively, our current findings strongly suggest that VK3-OH provides a potential therapeutic strategy for patients with MYCN-driven neuroblastomas.
Project description:Neuroblastoma is a childhood tumor in which transient therapeutic responses are typically followed by recurrence with lethal chemoresistant disease. In this study, we characterized the apoptotic responses in diverse neuroblastomas using an unbiased mitochondrial functional assay. We defined the apoptotic set point of neuroblastomas using responses to distinct BH3 death domains providing a BH3 response profile and directly confirmed survival dependencies. We found that viable neuroblastoma cells and primary tumors are primed for death with tonic sequestration of Bim, a direct activator of apoptosis, by either Bcl-2 or Mcl-1, providing a survival dependency that predicts the activity of Bcl-2 antagonists. The Bcl-2/Bcl-xL/Bcl-w inhibitor ABT-737 showed single-agent activity against only Bim:Bcl-2 primed tumor xenografts. Durable complete regressions were achieved in combination with noncurative chemotherapy even for highest risk molecular subtypes with MYCN amplification and activating ALK mutations. Furthermore, the use of unique isogenic cell lines from patients at diagnosis and at the time of relapse showed that therapy resistance was not mediated by upregulation of Bcl-2 homologues or loss of Bim priming, but by repressed Bak/Bax activation. Together, our findings provide a classification system that identifies tumors with clinical responses to Bcl-2 antagonists, defines Mcl-1 as the principal mediator of Bcl-2 antagonist resistance at diagnosis, and isolates the therapy resistant phenotype to the mitochondria.
Project description:Soft tissue sarcomas (STS) are a heterogeneous group of malignancies predominantly affecting children and young adults. Despite improvements in multimodal therapies, 5-year survival rates are only 50% and new treatment options in STS are urgently needed. To develop a rational combination therapy for the treatment of STS we focused on ABT-199 (Venetoclax), a BCL-2 specific BH3-mimetic, in combination with the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (BZB). Simultaneous inhibition of BCL-2 and the proteasome resulted in strongly synergistic apoptosis induction. Mechanistically, ABT-199 mainly affected the multidomain effector BAX by liberating it from BCL-2 inhibition. The combination with BZB additionally resulted in the accumulation of BOK, a BAX/BAK homologue, and of the BH3-only protein NOXA, which inhibits the anti-apoptotic protein MCL-1. Thus, the combination of ABT-199 and BZB sensitizes STS cells to apoptosis by simultaneously releasing several defined apoptotic restraints. This synergistic mechanism of action was verified by CRISPR/Cas9 knock-out, showing that both BAX and NOXA are crucial for ABT-199/BZB-induced apoptosis. Noteworthy, efficient induction of apoptosis by ABT-199/BZB was not affected by the p53 status and invariably detected in cell lines and patient-derived tumor cells of several sarcoma types, including rhabdomyo-, leiomyo-, lipo-, chondro-, osteo-, or synovial sarcomas. Hence, we propose the combination of ABT-199 and BZB as a promising strategy for the treatment of STS, which should warrant further clinical investigation.
Project description:Neuroblastoma is a pediatric solid tumor that originates from embryonic neural crest cells. The MYCN gene locus is frequently amplified in unfavorable neuroblastomas, and the gene product promotes the progression of neuroblastomas. However, the molecular mechanisms by which MYCN amplification contributes to stem cell-like states of neuroblastoma remain elusive. In this study, we show that MYCN and its cis-antisense gene, NCYM, form a positive feedback loop with OCT4, a core regulatory gene maintaining a multipotent state of neural stem cells. We previously reported that NCYM is co-amplified with the MYCN gene in primary human neuroblastomas and that the gene product promotes aggressiveness of neuroblastoma by stabilization of MYCN. In 36 MYCN-amplified primary human neuroblastomas, OCT4 mRNA expression was associated with unfavorable prognosis and was correlated with that of NCYM. The OCT4 protein induced both NCYM and MYCN in human neuroblastoma cells, whereas NCYM stabilized MYCN to induce OCT4 and stem cell-related genes, including NANOG, SOX2, and LIN28. In sharp contrast to MYCN, enforced expression of c-MYC did not enhance OCT4 expression in human neuroblastoma cells. All-trans retinoic acid treatment reduced MYCN, NCYM, and OCT4 expression, accompanied by the decreased amount of OCT4 recruited onto the intron 1 region of MYCN. Knockdown of NCYM or OCT4 inhibited formation of spheres of neuroblastoma cells and promoted asymmetric cell division in MYCN-amplified human neuroblastoma cells. These results suggest that the functional interplay between MYCN, NCYM, and OCT4 contributes to aggressiveness of MYCN-amplified human neuroblastomas.
Project description:Amplified MYCN oncogene resulting in deregulated MYCN transcriptional activity is observed in 20% of neuroblastomas and identifies a highly aggressive subtype. In MYCN single-copy neuroblastomas, elevated MYCN mRNA and protein levels are paradoxically associated with a more favorable clinical phenotype, including disseminated tumors that subsequently regress spontaneously (stage 4s-non-amplified). In this study, we asked whether distinct transcriptional MYCN or c-MYC activities are associated with specific neuroblastoma phenotypes.We defined a core set of direct MYCN/c-MYC target genes by applying gene expression profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP, ChIP-chip) in neuroblastoma cells that allow conditional regulation of MYCN and c-MYC. Their transcript levels were analyzed in 251 primary neuroblastomas. Compared to localized-non-amplified neuroblastomas, MYCN/c-MYC target gene expression gradually increases from stage 4s-non-amplified through stage 4-non-amplified to MYCN amplified tumors. This was associated with MYCN activation in stage 4s-non-amplified and predominantly c-MYC activation in stage 4-non-amplified tumors. A defined set of MYCN/c-MYC target genes was induced in stage 4-non-amplified but not in stage 4s-non-amplified neuroblastomas. In line with this, high expression of a subset of MYCN/c-MYC target genes identifies a patient subtype with poor overall survival independent of the established risk markers amplified MYCN, disease stage, and age at diagnosis.High MYCN/c-MYC target gene expression is a hallmark of malignant neuroblastoma progression, which is predominantly driven by c-MYC in stage 4-non-amplified tumors. In contrast, moderate MYCN function gain in stage 4s-non-amplified tumors induces only a restricted set of target genes that is still compatible with spontaneous regression.
Project description:Background:CNS tumors, including medulloblastoma and pediatric glioblastoma (pGBM) account for the majority of solid pediatric malignancies. There remains an unmet need to identify novel treatment approaches in poor prognosis and relapsed pediatric brain tumors, where therapeutic options are limited. Small-molecule B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) family inhibitors may enhance tumor cell killing when combined with conventional and targeted chemotherapeutic agents. We investigated the effect of disrupting BCL-2 and B cell lymphoma-extra large (BCL-XL) protein function using ABT-263, ABT-199 and WEHI-539 in medulloblastoma and pGBM cells following treatment with MLN8237, an Aurora kinase inhibitor under investigation as a novel agent for the treatment of malignant brain tumors. Methods:Tumor cell growth and viability were determined by MTT/WST-1 assays and flow cytometry. Effects on cell phenotype, cell cycle progression, and ploidy were determined by live cell imaging and DNA content analysis. Apoptosis was determined by annexin V/propidium iodide staining and time-lapse microscopy and confirmed by measuring caspase-3/7 activity and western blotting and by short interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of BCL-2 associated X protein/BCL-2 antagonist killer (BAX/BAK). Results:ABT-263, in combination with MLN8237, reduced mitotic slippage and polyploidy and promoted the elimination of mitotically defective cells via a BAX/BAK-dependent, caspase-mediated apoptotic pathway. The BCL-XL antagonist, WEHI-539, significantly augmented tumor cell killing when used in combination with MLN8237, as well as sensitized resistant brain tumor cells to a novel BAX activator, SMBA1. In addition, siRNA-mediated knockdown of BCL-XL sensitized pGBM and medulloblastoma cells to MLN8237 and mimicked the effect of combination drug treatment. Conclusion:Selective small-molecule inhibitors of BCL-XL may enhance the efficacy of MLN8237 and other targeted chemotherapeutic agents.
Project description:MLN4924 (pevonedistat), an inhibitor of the Nedd8 activating enzyme (NAE), has exhibited promising clinical activity in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Here we demonstrate that MLN4924 induces apoptosis in AML cell lines and clinical samples via a mechanism distinct from those observed in other malignancies. Inactivation of E3 cullin ring ligases (CRLs) through NAE inhibition causes accumulation of the CRL substrate c-Myc, which transactivates the PMAIP1 gene encoding Noxa, leading to increased Noxa protein, Bax and Bak activation, and subsequent apoptotic changes. Importantly, c-Myc knockdown diminishes Noxa induction; and Noxa siRNA diminishes MLN4924-induced killing. Because Noxa also neutralizes Mcl-1, an anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 paralog often upregulated in resistant AML, further experiments have examined the effect of combining MLN4924 with BH3 mimetics that target other anti-apoptotic proteins. In combination with ABT-199 or ABT-263 (navitoclax), MLN4924 exerts a synergistic cytotoxic effect. Collectively, these results provide new insight into MLN4924-induced engagement of the apoptotic machinery that could help guide further exploration of MLN4924 for AML.
Project description:Neuroblastomas with a high mitosis-karyorrhexis index (High-MKI) are often associated with MYCN amplification, MYCN protein overexpression and adverse clinical outcome. However, the prognostic effect of MYC-family protein expression on these neuroblastomas is less understood, especially when MYCN is not amplified. To address this, MYCN and MYC protein expression in High-MKI cases (120 MYCN amplified and 121 non-MYCN amplified) was examined by immunohistochemistry. The majority (101) of MYCN-amplified High-MKI tumors were MYCN(+), leaving one MYC(+), 2 both(+), and 16 both(-)/(+/-), whereas non-MYCN-amplified cases appeared heterogeneous, including 7 MYCN(+), 36 MYC(+), 3 both(+), and 75 both(-)/(+/-) tumors. These MYC-family proteins(+), or MYC-family driven tumors, were most likely to have prominent nucleolar (PN) formation (indicative of augmented rRNA synthesis). High-MKI neuroblastoma patients showed a poor survival irrespective of MYCN amplification. However, patients with MYC-family driven High-MKI neuroblastomas had significantly lower survival than those with non-MYC-family driven tumors. MYCN(+), MYC-family protein(+), PN(+), and clinical stage independently predicted poor survival. Specific inhibition of hyperactive rRNA synthesis and protein translation was shown to be an effective way to suppress MYC/MYCN protein expression and neuroblastoma growth. Together, MYC-family protein overexpression and PN formation should be included in new neuroblastoma risk stratification and considered for potential therapeutic targets.
Project description:Pharmacologically difficult targets, such as MYC transcription factors, represent a major challenge in cancer therapy. For the childhood cancer neuroblastoma, amplification of the oncogene MYCN is associated with high-risk disease and poor prognosis. Here, we deployed genome-scale CRISPR-Cas9 screening of MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma and found a preferential dependency on genes encoding the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) components EZH2, EED, and SUZ12. Genetic and pharmacological suppression of EZH2 inhibited neuroblastoma growth in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, compared with neuroblastomas without MYCN amplification, MYCN-amplified neuroblastomas expressed higher levels of EZH2. ChIP analysis showed that MYCN binds at the EZH2 promoter, thereby directly driving expression. Transcriptomic and epigenetic analysis, as well as genetic rescue experiments, revealed that EZH2 represses neuronal differentiation in neuroblastoma in a PRC2-dependent manner. Moreover, MYCN-amplified and high-risk primary tumors from patients with neuroblastoma exhibited strong repression of EZH2-regulated genes. Additionally, overexpression of IGFBP3, a direct EZH2 target, suppressed neuroblastoma growth in vitro and in vivo. We further observed strong synergy between histone deacetylase inhibitors and EZH2 inhibitors. Together, these observations demonstrate that MYCN upregulates EZH2, leading to inactivation of a tumor suppressor program in neuroblastoma, and support testing EZH2 inhibitors in patients with MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma.
Project description:In human neuroblastoma, amplification of the MYCN gene predicts poor prognosis and resistance to therapy. Because hypoxia contributes to aggressive tumor phenotypes, predominantly via two structurally related hypoxia inducible factors, HIF-1? and HIF-2?, we examined hypoxia responses in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells. We demonstrate here that HIF-1?, but not HIF-2?, is preferentially expressed in both MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells and primary tumors in comparison to samples without MYCN amplification. Our results showed that interplay between N-Myc and HIF-1? plays critical roles in neuroblastoma. For example, high levels of N-Myc override HIF-1? inhibition of cell cycle progression, enabling continued proliferation under hypoxia. Furthermore, both HIF-1? and N-Myc are essential for the Warburg effect (aerobic glycolysis) in neuroblastomas by activating the transcription of multiple glycolytic genes. Of note, expressions of Phosphoglycerate Kinase 1 (PGK1), Hexokinase 2 (HK2), and Lactate Dehydrogenase A (LDHA) were each significantly higher in MYCN-amplified neuroblastomas than in tumors without MYCN amplification. Interestingly, MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells are "addicted" to LDHA enzymatic activity, as its depletion completely inhibits tumorigenesis in vivo. Thus, our results provide mechanistic insights explaining how MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells contend with hypoxic stress and paradoxically how hypoxia contributes to neuroblastoma aggressiveness through combinatorial effects of N-Myc and HIF-1?. These results also suggest that LDHA represents a novel, pharmacologically tractable target for neuroblastoma therapeutics.