Blockade of CDK7 Reverses Endocrine Therapy Resistance in Breast Cancer.
ABSTRACT: Cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-7 inhibitors are emerging as promising drugs for the treatment of different types of cancer that show chemotherapy resistance. Evaluation of the effects of CDK7 inhibitor, THZ1, alone and combined with tamoxifen is of paramount importance. Thus, in the current work, we assessed the effects of THZ1 and/or tamoxifen in two estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer cell lines (MCF7) and its tamoxifen resistant counterpart (LCC2) in vitro and in xenograft mouse models of breast cancer. Furthermore, we evaluated the expression of CDK7 in clinical samples from breast cancer patients. Cell viability, apoptosis, and genes involved in cell cycle regulation and tamoxifen resistance were determined. Tumor volume and weight, proliferation marker (Ki67), angiogenic marker (CD31), and apoptotic markers were assayed. Bioinformatic data indicated CDK7 expression was associated with negative prognosis, enhanced pro-oncogenic pathways, and decreased response to tamoxifen. Treatment with THZ1 enhanced tamoxifen-induced cytotoxicity, while it inhibited genes involved in tumor progression in MCF-7 and LCC2 cells. In vivo, THZ1 boosted the effect of tamoxifen on tumor weight and tumor volume, reduced Ki67 and CD31 expression, and increased apoptotic cell death. Our findings identify CDK7 as a possible therapeutic target for breast cancer whether it is sensitive or resistant to tamoxifen therapy.
Project description:CDK7, a transcriptional cyclin-dependent kinase, is emerging as a novel cancer target. Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) but not estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers have been reported to be uniquely sensitive to the CDK7 inhibitor THZ1 due to the inhibition of a cluster of TNBC-specific genes. However, bioinformatic analysis indicates that CDK7 RNA expression is associated with negative prognosis in all the major subtypes of breast cancer. To further elucidate the effects of CDK7 inhibition in breast cancer, we profiled a panel of cell lines representing different breast cancer subtypes. THZ1 inhibited cell growth in all subtypes (TNBC, HER2+, ER+, and HER2+/ER+) with no apparent subtype selectivity. THZ1 inhibited CDK7 activity and induced G1 arrest and apoptosis in all the tested cell lines, but THZ1 sensitivity did not correlate with CDK7 inhibition or CDK7 expression levels. THZ1 sensitivity across the cell line panel did not correlate with TNBC-specific gene expression but it was found to correlate with the differential inhibition of three genes: CDKN1B, MYC and transcriptional coregulator CITED2. Response to THZ1 also correlated with basal CITED2 protein expression, a potential marker of CDK7 inhibitor sensitivity. Furthermore, all of the THZ1-inhibited genes examined were inducible by EGF but THZ1 prevented this induction. THZ1 had synergistic or additive effects when combined with the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib, with no outward selectivity for a particular subtype of breast cancer. These results suggest a potential broad utility for CDK7 inhibitors in breast cancer therapy and the potential for combining CDK7 and EGFR inhibitors.
Project description:Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that exhibits extremely high levels of genetic complexity and yet a relatively uniform transcriptional program. We postulate that TNBC might be highly dependent on uninterrupted transcription of a key set of genes within this gene expression program and might therefore be exceptionally sensitive to inhibitors of transcription. Utilizing a novel kinase inhibitor and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing, we show here that triple-negative but not ER/PR+ breast cancer cells are exceptionally dependent on CDK7, a transcriptional cyclin-dependent kinase. TNBC cells are unique in their dependence on this transcriptional CDK and suffer apoptotic cell death upon CDK7 inhibition. An “Achilles cluster” of TNBC-specific genes are extremely sensitive to CDK7 inhibition and frequently associated with super-enhancers. We conclude that CDK7 mediates transcriptional addiction to a vital cluster of genes in TNBC and CDK7 inhibition may be useful therapy for this challenging cancer. Expression microarrays in H3K27ac in triple-negative breast cancer +/- treatment with covalent CDK7 inhibitor THZ1 treatment
Project description:Resistance of breast cancer to human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) inhibitors involves reprogramming of the kinome through HER2/HER3 signaling via the activation of multiple tyrosine kinases and transcriptional upregulation. The heterogeneity of induced kinases prevents kinase targeting by a single kinase inhibitor and presents a major challenge to the treatment of therapeutically recalcitrant HER2-positive breast cancers (HER2+ BCs). As a result, there is a critical need for effective treatment that attacks the aberrant kinome activation associated with resistance to HER2-targeted therapy. Here, we describe a novel treatment strategy that targets cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) in HER2 inhibitor-resistant (HER2iR) breast cancer. We show that both HER2 inhibitor-sensitive (HER2iS) and HER2iR breast cancer cell lines exhibit high sensitivity to THZ1, a newly identified covalent inhibitor of the transcription regulatory kinase CDK7. CDK7 promotes cell cycle progression through inhibition of transcription, rather than via direct phosphorylation of classical CDK targets. The transcriptional kinase activity of CDK7 is regulated by HER2, and by the receptor tyrosine kinases activated in response to HER2 inhibition, as well as by the downstream SHP2 and PI3K/AKT pathways. A low dose of THZ1 displayed potent synergy with the HER2 inhibitor lapatinib in HER2iR BC cells in vitro. Dual HER2 and CDK7 inhibition induced tumor regression in two HER2iR BC xenograft models in vivo. Our data support the utilization of CDK7 inhibition as an additional therapeutic avenue that blocks the activation of genes engaged by multiple HER2iR kinases.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) subunit of TFIIH regulates RNA polymerase-II-based transcription and promotes tumor progression. However, the mechanisms involved in CDK7-mediated immune evasion are unclear in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). METHODS:RNA silencing and pharmacologic inhibitors were used to evaluate the functions of CDK7/p38?/MYC/PD-L1 axis in cancer cell proliferation and antiPD-1 therapy resistance. Flow cytometry was performed to detect the status of the immune microenvironment after CDK7 inhibition and antiPD-1 therapy in vivo. CD8 depletion antibodies were used to assess the role of CD8+ T cells in combined CDK7 and PD-1 blockade. The associations among CDK7, p38?, MYC, PD-L1, infiltrating T cells, and survival outcomes were validated in two tissue microarrays and public transcriptomic data of NSCLC. RESULTS:High CDK7 mRNA and protein levels were identified to be associated with poor prognosis in NSCLC. CDK7 silencing and CDK7 inhibitor THZ1 elicited apoptosis and suppressed tumor growth. Moreover, CDK7 ablation specifically suppressed p38?/MYC-associated genes, and THZ1 inhibited MYC transcriptional activity through downregulating p38?. CDK7 inhibition sensitized NSCLC to p38? inhibitor. Further, THZ1 suppressed PD-L1 expression by inhibiting MYC activity. THZ1 boosted antitumor immunity by recruiting infiltrating CD8+ T cells and synergized with antiPD-1 therapy. The CDK7/MYC/PD-L1 signature and infiltrating T cell status collectively stratified NSCLC patients into different risk groups. CONCLUSION:These data suggest that the combined CDK7 inhibitor THZ1 and antiPD-1 therapy can be an effective treatment in NSCLC.
Project description:Tamoxifen resistance is often observed in the majority of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers and it remains as a serious clinical problem in breast cancer management. Increased aerobic glycolysis has been proposed as one of the mechanisms for acquired resistance to chemotherapeutic agents in breast cancer cells such as adriamycin. Herein, we report that the glycolysis rates in LCC2 and LCC9--tamoxifen-resistant human breast cancer cell lines derived from MCF7--are higher than those in MCF7S, which is the parent MCF7 subline. Inhibition of key glycolytic enzyme such as hexokinase-2 resulted in cell growth retardation at higher degree in LCC2 and LCC9 than that in MCF7S. This implies that increased aerobic glycolysis even under O2-rich conditions, a phenomenon known as the Warburg effect, is closely associated with tamoxifen resistance. We found that HIF-1? is activated via an Akt/mTOR signaling pathway in LCC2 and LCC9 cells without hypoxic condition. Importantly, specific inhibition of hexokinase-2 suppressed the activity of Akt/mTOR/HIF-1? axis in LCC2 and LCC9 cells. In addition, the phosphorylated AMPK which is a negative regulator of mTOR was decreased in LCC2 and LCC9 cells compared to MCF7S. Interestingly, either the inhibition of mTOR activity or increase in AMPK activity induced a reduction in lactate accumulation and cell survival in the LCC2 and LCC9 cells. Taken together, our data provide evidence that development of tamoxifen resistance may be driven by HIF-1? hyperactivation via modulation of Akt/mTOR and/or AMPK signaling pathways. Therefore, we suggest that the HIF-1? hyperactivation is a critical marker of increased aerobic glycolysis in accordance with tamoxifen resistance and thus restoration of aerobic glycolysis may be novel therapeutic target for treatment of tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer.
Project description:Curcumin, a principal component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), has potential therapeutic activities against breast cancer through multiple signaling pathways. Increasing evidence indicates that curcumin reverses chemo-resistance and sensitizes cancer cells to chemotherapy and targeted therapy in breast cancer. To date, few studies have explored its potential antiproliferation effects and resistance reversal in antiestrogen-resistant breast cancer. In this study, we therefore investigated the efficacy of curcumin alone and in combination with tamoxifen in the established antiestrogen-resistant breast cancer cell lines MCF-7/LCC2 and MCF-7/LCC9. We discovered that curcumin treatment displayed anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities and induced cell cycle arrest at G2/M phase. Of note, the combination of curcumin and tamoxifen resulted in a synergistic survival inhibition in MCF-7/LCC2 and MCF-7/LCC9 cells. Moreover, we found that curcumin targeted multiple signals involved in growth maintenance and resistance acquisition in endocrine resistant cells. In our cell models, curcumin could suppress expression of pro-growth and anti-apoptosis molecules, induce inactivation of NF-?B, Src and Akt/mTOR pathways and downregulate the key epigenetic modifier EZH2. The above findings suggested that curcumin alone and combinations of curcumin with endocrine therapy may be of therapeutic benefit for endocrine-resistant breast cancer.
Project description:Covalent CDK7 inhibitor THZ1 is a newly discovered anti-tumor drug.THZ1 affects the function of transcription factor TFIIH by inhibiting CDK7, which in turn affects RNA polymerase II, and ultimately affects transcription initiation. Study found that THZ1 could inhibit proliferation and promote apoptosis of several tumor cell lines. However, there is no report of the potential side effect of THZ1 in normal tissues. In the course of cancer, the muscle consumption of cachexia needs to be supplemented by the differentiation of muscle cells. However, the effect of THZ1 on myogenic differentiation remains unclear. Our study in this article found that THZ1 could both inhibit the differentiation of C2C12 cells and mouse primary myoblasts, also repressing the expression of differentiation-related transcription factors and muscle structural proteins, such as and myogenin, myh3 and MCK. Moreover, THZ1 could inhibit C2C12 cell proliferation and migration, increase its oxidative stress and promote its apoptosis. Our data indicates that THZ1 inhibits myogenic differentiation, suggesting that therapies based on THZ1 might have potential side effects on muscle functions.
Project description:High-grade serous ovarian cancer is characterized by extensive copy number alterations, among which the amplification of MYC oncogene occurs in nearly half of tumors. We demonstrate that ovarian cancer cells highly depend on MYC for maintaining their oncogenic growth, indicating MYC as a therapeutic target for this difficult-to-treat malignancy. However, targeting MYC directly has proven difficult. We screen small molecules targeting transcriptional and epigenetic regulation, and find that THZ1 - a chemical inhibiting CDK7, CDK12, and CDK13 - markedly downregulates MYC. Notably, abolishing MYC expression cannot be achieved by targeting CDK7 alone, but requires the combined inhibition of CDK7, CDK12, and CDK13. In 11 patient-derived xenografts models derived from heavily pre-treated ovarian cancer patients, administration of THZ1 induces significant tumor growth inhibition with concurrent abrogation of MYC expression. Our study indicates that targeting these transcriptional CDKs with agents such as THZ1 may be an effective approach for MYC-dependent ovarian malignancies.
Project description:About one-third of oestrogen receptor alpha-positive breast cancer patients treated with tamoxifen relapse. Here we identify the nuclear receptor retinoic acid receptor alpha as a marker of tamoxifen resistance. Using quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomics, we show that retinoic acid receptor alpha protein networks and levels differ in a tamoxifen-sensitive (MCF7) and a tamoxifen-resistant (LCC2) cell line. High intratumoural retinoic acid receptor alpha protein levels also correlate with reduced relapse-free survival in oestrogen receptor alpha-positive breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant tamoxifen solely. A similar retinoic acid receptor alpha expression pattern is seen in a comparable independent patient cohort. An oestrogen receptor alpha and retinoic acid receptor alpha ligand screening reveals that tamoxifen-resistant LCC2 cells have increased sensitivity to retinoic acid receptor alpha ligands and are less sensitive to oestrogen receptor alpha ligands compared with MCF7 cells. Our data indicate that retinoic acid receptor alpha may be a novel therapeutic target and a predictive factor for oestrogen receptor alpha-positive breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.