Ross A Okimoto

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (10)167.27 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Ceramide is a lipid second messenger derived from the hydrolysis of sphingomyelin by sphingomyelinases (SMases) and implicated in diverse cellular responses, including growth arrest, differentiation, and apoptosis. Defects in the neutral SMase (nSMase) gene Smpd3, the primary regulator of ceramide biosynthesis, are responsible for developmental defects of bone; regulation of ceramide levels have been implicated in macrophage differentiation, but this pathway has not been directly implicated in human cancer. In a genomic screen for gene copy losses contributing to tumorigenesis in a mouse osteosarcoma model, we identified a somatic homozygous deletion specifically targeting Smpd3. Reconstitution of SMPD3 expression in mouse tumor cells lacking the endogenous gene enhanced tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-induced reduction of cell viability. Nucleotide sequencing of the highly conserved SMPD3 gene in a large panel of human cancers revealed mutations in 5 (5%) of 92 acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) and 8 (6%) of 131 acute lymphoid leukemias (ALLs), but not in other tumor types. In a subset of these mutations, functional analysis indicated defects in protein stability and localization. Taken together, these observations suggest that disruption of the ceramide pathway may contribute to a subset of human leukemias.
    Blood 06/2008; 111(9):4716-22. · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Induction of mRNA for BIK proapoptotic protein by doxorubicin or gamma-irradiation requires the DNA-binding transcription factor activity of p53. In MCF7 cells, pure antiestrogen fulvestrant also induces BIK mRNA and apoptosis. Here, we provide evidence that, in contrast to doxorubicin or gamma-irradiation, fulvestrant induction of BIK mRNA is not a direct effect of the transcriptional activity of p53, although p53 is necessary for this induction. It is known that p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA) mRNA is induced directly by the transcriptional activity of p53. Whereas gamma-irradiation induced both BIK and PUMA mRNA, only BIK mRNA was induced by fulvestrant. Whereas both fulvestrant and doxorubicin induced BIK mRNA, only doxorubicin enhanced the DNA-binding activity of p53 and induced PUMA mRNA. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) suppression of p53 expression as well as overexpression of dominant-negative p53 effectively inhibited the fulvestrant induction of BIK mRNA, protein, and apoptosis. Transcriptional activity of a 2-kb BIK promoter, which contained an incomplete p53-binding sequence, was not affected by fulvestrant when tested by reporter assay. Fulvestrant neither affected the stability of the BIK mRNA transcripts. Interestingly, other human breast cancer cells, such as ZR75-1, constitutively expressed BIK mRNA even without fulvestrant. In these cells, however, BIK protein seemed to be rapidly degraded by proteasome, and siRNA suppression of BIK in ZR75-1 cells inhibited apoptosis induced by MG132 proteasome inhibitor. These results suggest that expression of BIK in human breast cancer cells is regulated at the mRNA level by a mechanism involving a nontranscriptional activity of p53 and by proteasomal degradation of BIK protein.
    Cancer Research 11/2006; 66(20):10153-61. · 8.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Specific activating mutations within the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) identify a subset of non-small cell lung cancers with dramatic sensitivity to the specific tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), gefitinib and erlotinib. Despite the abundant expression of EGFR protein in a broad range of epithelial cancers, EGFR mutations have not been reported in a substantial fraction of other cancers. Given recent reports of TKI-responsive cases of esophageal and pancreatic cancer, this study was designed to determine the prevalence of EGFR mutations in these gastrointestinal cancers. We sequenced exons 18 to 21 of EGFR from 21 cases of Barrett's esophagus, 5 cases of high-grade esophageal dysplasia, 17 cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma, and 55 cases of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Subsets of esophageal (n = 7) and pancreatic cancer cases (n = 5) were obtained from patients who were subsequently treated with gefitinib or erlotinib-capecitabine, respectively. Mutations of EGFR were identified in two esophageal cancers (11.7%), three cases of Barrett's esophagus (14.2%), and two pancreatic cancers (3.6%). The mutations consisted of the recurrent missense L858R and in-frame deletion delE746-A750, previously characterized as activating EGFR mutations in non-small cell lung cancer. We also identified the TKI drug resistance-associated EGFR T790M mutation in an untreated case of Barrett's esophagus and the corresponding adenocarcinoma. The presence of activating mutations within EGFR in both esophageal and pancreatic adenocarcinomas defines a previously unrecognized subset of gastrointestinal tumors in which EGFR signaling may play an important biological role. EGFR mutations in premalignant lesions of Barrett's esophagus also point to these as an early event in transformation of the esophageal epithelium. The role of genotype-directed TKI therapy should be tested in prospective clinical trials.
    Clinical Cancer Research 08/2006; 12(14 Pt 1):4283-7. · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In a screen for gene copy number alterations in mouse mammary tumors initiated by loss of the Brca1 and Trp53 genes, we observed that the majority (11 of 15; 73%) had high-level amplification of wild-type Met, encoding a growth factor receptor implicated in tumor progression. Met amplification was localized to unstable double minute chromosomes and was uniquely found in mouse breast tumors driven by loss of Brca1 and Trp53. Whereas analogous MET amplification was not found in human breast cancers, the identification of a dominant somatic genetic lesion in the Brca1/Trp53 mouse model suggests that recurrent secondary hits may also exist in BRCA1-initiated human breast cancer.
    Cancer Research 05/2006; 66(7):3452-5. · 8.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The success of molecular targeted therapy in cancer may depend on the selection of appropriate tumor types whose survival depends on the drug target, so-called "oncogene addiction." Preclinical approaches to defining drug-responsive subsets are needed if initial clinical trials are to be directed at the most susceptible patient population. Here, we show that gastric cancer cells with high-level stable chromosomal amplification of the growth factor receptor MET are extraordinarily susceptible to the selective inhibitor PHA-665752. Although MET activation has primarily been linked with tumor cell migration and invasiveness, the amplified wild-type MET in these cells is constitutively activated, and its continued signaling is required for cell survival. Treatment with PHA-665752 triggers massive apoptosis in 5 of 5 gastric cancer cell lines with MET amplification but in 0 of 12 without increased gene copy numbers (P = 0.00016). MET amplification may thus identify a subset of epithelial cancers that are uniquely sensitive to disruption of this pathway and define a patient group that is appropriate for clinical trials of targeted therapy using MET inhibitors.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2006; 103(7):2316-21. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Somatic activating mutations in EGFR identify a subset of non-small cell lung cancer that respond to tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Acquisition of drug resistance is linked to a specific secondary somatic mutation, EGFR T790M. Here we describe a family with multiple cases of non-small cell lung cancer associated with germline transmission of this mutation. Four of six tumors analyzed showed a secondary somatic activating EGFR mutation, arising in cis with the germline EGFR mutation T790M. These observations implicate altered EGFR signaling in genetic susceptibility to lung cancer.
    Nature Genetics 01/2006; 37(12):1315-6. · 35.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have shown modest yet reproducible response rates in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Somatic mutations in EGFR have recently been shown to be predictive of a clinical response in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with these inhibitors. The objective of this study was to determine if such mutations, or recently reported mutations in ERBB2, also underlie EGFR-TKI responsiveness in SCCHN patients. We sequenced the kinase domain of EGFR and exon 20 of ERBB2 in tumor specimens from eight responsive patients. In addition, mutational analysis was done on tumor specimens from nine gefitinib nonresponders and 65 unselected cases of SCCHN. None of eight TKI-responsive specimens had mutations within the kinase domain of EGFR. EGFR amplification was also not associated with drug responsiveness. However, a single responsive case had a somatic missense mutation within exon 20 of ERBB2. Our data indicate that unlike NSCLC, EGFR kinase mutations are rare in unselected cases of SCCHN within the United States and are not linked to gefitinib or erlotinib responses in SCCHN. Alternative mechanisms, including ERBB2 mutations, may underlie responsiveness in this tumor type.
    Clinical Cancer Research 12/2005; 11(22):8105-8. · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most cases of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with dramatic responses to gefitinib have specific activating mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), but the predictive value of these mutations has not been defined in large clinical trials. The goal of this study was to determine the contribution of molecular alterations in EGFR to response and survival within the phase II (IDEAL) and phase III (INTACT) trials of gefitinib. We analyzed the frequency of EGFR mutations in lung cancer specimens from both the IDEAL and INTACT trials and compared it with EGFR gene amplification, another genetic abnormality in NSCLC. EGFR mutations correlated with previously identified clinical features of gefitinib response, including adenocarcinoma histology, absence of smoking history, female sex, and Asian ethnicity. No such association was seen in patients whose tumors had EGFR amplification, suggesting that these molecular markers identify different biologic subsets of NSCLC. In the IDEAL trials, responses to gefitinib were seen in six of 13 tumors (46%) with an EGFR mutation, two of seven tumors (29%) with amplification, and five of 56 tumors (9%) with neither mutation nor amplification (P = .001 for either EGFR mutation or amplification v neither abnormality). Analysis of the INTACT trials did not show a statistically significant difference in response to gefitinib plus chemotherapy according to EGFR genotype. EGFR mutations and, to a lesser extent, amplification appear to identify distinct subsets of NSCLC with an increased response to gefitinib. The combination of gefitinib with chemotherapy does not improve survival in patients with these molecular markers.
    Journal of Clinical Oncology 12/2005; 23(31):8081-92. · 18.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) with activating mutations in the kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) demonstrate dramatic, but transient, responses to the reversible tyrosine kinase inhibitors gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva). Some recurrent tumors have a common secondary mutation in the EGFR kinase domain, T790M, conferring drug resistance, but in other cases the mechanism underlying acquired resistance is unknown. In studying multiple sites of recurrent NSCLCs, we detected T790M in only a small percentage of tumor cells. To identify additional mechanisms of acquired resistance to gefitinib, we used NSCLC cells harboring an activating EGFR mutation to generate multiple resistant clones in vitro. These drug-resistant cells demonstrate continued dependence on EGFR and ERBB2 signaling for their viability and have not acquired secondary EGFR mutations. However, they display increased internalization of ligand-activated EGFR, consistent with altered receptor trafficking. Although gefitinib-resistant clones are cross-resistant to related anilinoquinazolines, they demonstrate sensitivity to a class of irreversible inhibitors of EGFR. These inhibitors also show effective inhibition of signaling by T790M-mutant EGFR and killing of NSCLC cells with the T790M mutation. Both mechanisms of gefitinib resistance are therefore circumvented by irreversible tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Our findings suggest that one of these, HKI-272, may prove highly effective in the treatment of EGFR-mutant NSCLCs, including tumors that have become resistant to gefitinib or erlotinib.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2005; 102(21):7665-70. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most patients with non-small-cell lung cancer have no response to the tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib, which targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). However, about 10 percent of patients have a rapid and often dramatic clinical response. The molecular mechanisms underlying sensitivity to gefitinib are unknown. We searched for mutations in the EGFR gene in primary tumors from patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who had a response to gefitinib, those who did not have a response, and those who had not been exposed to gefitinib. The functional consequences of identified mutations were evaluated after the mutant proteins were expressed in cultured cells. Somatic mutations were identified in the tyrosine kinase domain of the EGFR gene in eight of nine patients with gefitinib-responsive lung cancer, as compared with none of the seven patients with no response (P<0.001). Mutations were either small, in-frame deletions or amino acid substitutions clustered around the ATP-binding pocket of the tyrosine kinase domain. Similar mutations were detected in tumors from 2 of 25 patients with primary non-small-cell lung cancer who had not been exposed to gefitinib (8 percent). All mutations were heterozygous, and identical mutations were observed in multiple patients, suggesting an additive specific gain of function. In vitro, EGFR mutants demonstrated enhanced tyrosine kinase activity in response to epidermal growth factor and increased sensitivity to inhibition by gefitinib. A subgroup of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer have specific mutations in the EGFR gene, which correlate with clinical responsiveness to the tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib. These mutations lead to increased growth factor signaling and confer susceptibility to the inhibitor. Screening for such mutations in lung cancers may identify patients who will have a response to gefitinib.
    New England Journal of Medicine 06/2004; 350(21):2129-39. · 51.66 Impact Factor