Federica Sotgia

The University of Manchester, Manchester, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (179)1011.03 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The pathogenesis of the adrenocortical cancer (ACC) involves integration of molecular signals and the interplay of different downstream pathways (i.e. IGFII/IGF1R, β-catenin, Wnt, ESR1). This tumor is characterized by limited therapeutic options and unsuccessful treatments. A useful strategy to develop an effective therapy for ACC is to identify a common downstream target of these multiple pathways. A good candidate could be the transcription factor estrogen-related receptor alpha (ERRα) because of its ability to regulate energy metabolism, mitochondrial biogenesis and signalings related to cancer progression. In this study we tested the effect of ERRα inverse agonist, XCT790, on the proliferation of H295R adrenocortical cancer cell line. Results from in vitro and in vivo experiments showed that XCT790 reduced H295R cell growth. The inhibitory effect was associated with impaired cell cycle progression which was not followed by any apoptotic event. Instead, incomplete autophagy and cell death by necrotic processes, as a consequence of the cell energy failure, induced by pharmacological reduction of ERRα was evidenced. Our results indicate that therapeutic strategies targeting key factors such as ERRα that control the activity and signaling of bioenergetics processes in high-energy demanding tumors could represent an innovative/alternative therapy for the treatment of ACC.
    Oncotarget 07/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DNA-PK is an enzyme that is required for proper DNA-repair and is thought to confer radio-resistance in cancer cells. As a consequence, it is a high-profile validated target for new pharmaceutical development. However, no FDA-approved DNA-PK inhibitors have emerged, despite many years of drug discovery and lead optimization. This is largely because existing DNA-PK inhibitors suffer from poor pharmacokinetics. They are not well absorbed and/or are unstable, with a short plasma half-life. Here, we identified the first FDA-approved DNA-PK inhibitor by "chemical proteomics". In an effort to understand how doxycycline targets cancer stem-like cells (CSCs), we serendipitously discovered that doxycycline reduces DNA-PK protein expression by nearly 15-fold (> 90%). In accordance with these observations, we show that doxycycline functionally radio-sensitizes breast CSCs, by up to 4.5-fold. Moreover, we demonstrate that DNA-PK is highly over-expressed in both MCF7- and T47D-derived mammospheres. Interestingly, genetic or pharmacological inhibition of DNA-PK in MCF7 cells is sufficient to functionally block mammosphere formation. Thus, it appears that active DNA-repair is required for the clonal expansion of CSCs. Mechanistically, doxycycline treatment dramatically reduced the oxidative mitochondrial capacity and the glycolytic activity of cancer cells, consistent with previous studies linking DNA-PK expression to the proper maintenance of mitochondrial DNA integrity and copy number. Using a luciferase-based assay, we observed that doxycycline treatment quantitatively reduces the anti-oxidant response (NRF1/2) and effectively blocks signaling along multiple independent pathways normally associated with stem cells, including STAT1/3, Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), Notch, WNT and TGF-beta signaling. In conclusion, we propose that the efficacy of doxycycline as a DNA-PK inhibitor should be tested in Phase-II clinical trials, in combination with radio-therapy. Doxycycline has excellent pharmacokinetics, with nearly 100% oral absorption and a long serum half-life (18-22 hours), at a standard dose of 200-mg per day. In further support of this idea, we show that doxycycline effectively inhibits the mammosphere-forming activity of primary breast cancer samples, derived from metastatic disease sites (pleural effusions or ascites fluid). Our results also have possible implications for the radio-therapy of brain tumors and/or brain metastases, as doxycycline is known to effectively cross the blood-brain barrier. Further studies will be needed to determine if other tetracycline family members also confer radio-sensitivity.
    Oncotarget 06/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here, we show that new mitochondrial biogenesis is required for the anchorage independent survival and propagation of cancer stem-like cells (CSCs). More specifically, we used the drug XCT790 as an investigational tool, as it functions as a specific inhibitor of the ERRα-PGC1 signaling pathway, which governs mitochondrial biogenesis. Interestingly, our results directly demonstrate that XCT790 efficiently blocks both the survival and propagation of tumor initiating stem-like cells (TICs), using the MCF7 cell line as a model system. Mechanistically, we show that XCT790 suppresses the activity of several independent signaling pathways that are normally required for the survival of CSCs, such as Sonic hedgehog, TGFβ-SMAD, STAT3, and Wnt signaling. We also show that XCT790 markedly reduces oxidative mitochondrial metabolism (OXPHOS) and that XCT790-mediated inhibition of CSC propagation can be prevented or reversed by Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), a mitochondrial fuel. Consistent with our findings, over-expression of ERRα significantly enhances the efficiency of mammosphere formation, which can be blocked by treatment with mitochondrial inhibitors. Similarly, mammosphere formation augmented by FOXM1, a downstream target of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, can also be blocked by treatment with three different classes of mitochondrial inhibitors (XCT790, oligomycin A, or doxycycline). In this context, our unbiased proteomics analysis reveals that FOXM1 drives the expression of >90 protein targets associated with mitochondrial biogenesis, glycolysis, the EMT and protein synthesis in MCF7 cells, processes which are characteristic of an anabolic CSC phenotype. Finally, doxycycline is an FDA-approved antibiotic, which is very well-tolerated in patients. As such, doxycycline could be re-purposed clinically as a 'safe' mitochondrial inhibitor, to target FOXM1 and mitochondrial biogenesis in CSCs, to prevent tumor recurrence and distant metastasis, thereby avoiding patient relapse.
    Oncotarget 06/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Macrophages are a major cellular constituent of the tumour stroma and contribute to breast cancer prognosis. The precise role and treatment strategies to target macrophages remain elusive. As macrophage infiltration is associated with poor prognosis and high grade tumours we used the THP-1 cell line to model monocyte-macrophage differentiation in co-culture with four breast cancer cell lines (MCF7, T47D, MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-468) to model in vivo cellular interactions. Polarisation into M1 and M2 subtypes was confirmed by specific cell marker expression of ROS and HLA-DR, respectively. Co-culture with all types of macrophage increased migration of ER-positive breast cancer cell lines, while M2-macrophages increased mammosphere formation, compared to M1-macrophages, in all breast cancer cells lines. Treatment of cells with Zoledronate in co-culture reduced the "pro-tumourigenic" effects (increased mammospheres/migration) exerted by macrophages. Direct treatment of breast cancer cells in homotypic culture was unable to reduce migration or mammosphere formation.Macrophages promote "pro-tumourigenic" cellular characteristics of breast cancer cell migration and stem cell activity. Zoledronate targets macrophages within the microenvironment which in turn, reduces the "pro-tumourigenic" characteristics of breast cancer cells. Zoledronate offers an exciting new treatment strategy for both primary and metastatic breast cancer.
    Oncotarget 05/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    Maria Peiris-Pagès · Federica Sotgia · Michael Lisanti
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer cells recruit normal cells such as fibroblasts to establish reactive microenvironments. Via metabolic stress, catabolism and inflammation, these cancer-associated fibroblasts set up a synergistic relationship with tumour cells, that contributes to their malignancy and resistance to therapy. Given that chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, the possibility that healthy cell damage affects the metastatic risk or the prospect of developing a second malignancy becomes relevant. Here, we demonstrate standard chemotherapies phenotypically and metabolically transform stromal fibroblasts into cancer-associated fibroblasts, leading to the emergence of a highly glycolytic, autophagic and pro-inflammatory microenvironment. This catabolic microenvironment, in turn, activates stemness (Sonic hedgehog (Shh)/GLI signalling), the antioxidant response and interferon-mediated signalling, in adjacent breast cancer cells. Thus, we propose a model by which chemotherapy-induced catabolism in healthy fibroblasts constitutes a source of energy-rich nutrients and inflammatory cytokines that would activate stemness in adjacent epithelial cells, possibly triggering new tumorigenic processes. In this context, immune cell recruitment would be also stimulated to further support malignancy.
    Oncotarget 04/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It has been over 20 years since the discovery that caveolar lipid rafts function as signalling organelles. Lipid rafts create plasma membrane heterogeneity, and caveolae are the most extensively studied subset of lipid rafts. A newly emerging paradigm is that changes in caveolae also generate tumour metabolic heterogeneity. Altered caveolae create a catabolic tumour microenvironment, which supports oxidative mitochondrial metabolism in cancer cells and which contributes to dismal survival rates for cancer patients. In this Review, we discuss the role of caveolae in tumour progression, with a special emphasis on their metabolic and cell signalling effects, and their capacity to transform the tumour microenvironment.
    Nature Reviews Cancer 03/2015; 15(4):225-37. DOI:10.1038/nrc3915 · 29.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor-initiating cells (TICs), a.k.a. cancer stem cells (CSCs), are difficult to eradicate with conventional approaches to cancer treatment, such as chemo-therapy and radiation. As a consequence, the survival of residual CSCs is thought to drive the onset of tumor recurrence, distant metastasis, and drug-resistance, which is a significant clinical problem for the effective treatment of cancer. Thus, novel approaches to cancer therapy are needed urgently, to address this clinical need. Towards this end, here we have investigated the therapeutic potential of graphene oxide to target cancer stem cells. Graphene and its derivatives are well-known, relatively inert and potentially non-toxic nano-materials that form stable dispersions in a variety of solvents. Here, we show that graphene oxide (of both big and small flake sizes) can be used to selectively inhibit the proliferative expansion of cancer stem cells, across multiple tumor types. For this purpose, we employed the tumor-sphere assay, which functionally measures the clonal expansion of single cancer stem cells under anchorage-independent conditions. More specifically, we show that graphene oxide effectively inhibits tumor-sphere formation in multiple cell lines, across 6 different cancer types, including breast, ovarian, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancers, as well as glioblastoma (brain). In striking contrast, graphene oxide is non-toxic for " bulk " cancer cells (non-stem) and normal fibroblasts. Mechanistically, we present evidence that GO exerts its striking effects on CSCs by inhibiting several key signal transduction pathways (WNT, Notch and STAT-signaling) and thereby inducing CSC differentiation. Thus, graphene oxide may be an effective non-toxic therapeutic strategy for the eradication of cancer stem cells, via differentiation-based nano-therapy.
    Oncotarget 02/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor-initiating cells (TICs), a.k.a. cancer stem cells (CSCs), are difficult to eradicate with conventional approaches to cancer treatment, such as chemo-therapy and radiation. As a consequence, the survival of residual CSCs is thought to drive the onset of tumor recurrence, distant metastasis, and drug-resistance, which is a significant clinical problem for the effective treatment of cancer. Thus, novel approaches to cancer therapy are needed urgently, to address this clinical need. Towards this end, here we have investigated the therapeutic potential of graphene oxide to target cancer stem cells. Graphene and its derivatives are well-known, relatively inert and potentially non-toxic nano-materials that form stable dispersions in a variety of solvents. Here, we show that graphene oxide (of both big and small flake sizes) can be used to selectively inhibit the proliferative expansion of cancer stem cells, across multiple tumor types. For this purpose, we employed the tumor-sphere assay, which functionally measures the clonal expansion of single cancer stem cells under anchorage-independent conditions. More specifically, we show that graphene oxide effectively inhibits tumor-sphere formation in multiple cell lines, across 6 different cancer types, including breast, ovarian, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancers, as well as glioblastoma (brain). In striking contrast, graphene oxide is non-toxic for "bulk" cancer cells (non-stem) and normal fibroblasts. Mechanistically, we present evidence that GO exerts its striking effects on CSCs by inhibiting several key signal transduction pathways (WNT, Notch and STAT-signaling) and thereby inducing CSC differentiation. Thus, graphene oxide may be an effective non-toxic therapeutic strategy for the eradication of cancer stem cells, via differentiation-based nano-therapy.
    Oncotarget 02/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have used an unbiased proteomic profiling strategy to identify new potential therapeutic targets in tumor-initiating cells (TICs), a.k.a., cancer stem cells (CSCs). Towards this end, the proteomes of mammospheres from two breast cancer cell lines were directly compared to attached monolayer cells. This allowed us to identify proteins that were highly over-expressed in CSCs and/or progenitor cells. We focused on ribosomal proteins and protein folding chaperones, since they were markedly over-expressed in mammospheres. Overall, we identified >80 molecules specifically associated with protein synthesis that were commonly upregulated in mammospheres. Most of these proteins were also transcriptionally upregulated in human breast cancer cells in vivo, providing evidence for their potential clinical relevance. As such, increased mRNA translation could provide a novel mechanism for enhancing the proliferative clonal expansion of TICs. The proteomic findings were functionally validated using known inhibitors of protein synthesis, via three independent approaches. For example, puromycin (which mimics the structure of tRNAs and competitively inhibits protein synthesis) preferentially targeted CSCs in both mammospheres and monolayer cultures, and was ~10-fold more potent for eradicating TICs, than "bulk" cancer cells. In addition, rapamycin, which inhibits mTOR and hence protein synthesis, was very effective at reducing mammosphere formation, at nanomolar concentrations. Finally, mammosphere formation was also markedly inhibited by methionine restriction, which mimics the positive effects of caloric restriction in cultured cells. Remarkably, mammosphere formation was >18-fold more sensitive to methionine restriction and replacement, as directly compared to monolayer cell proliferation. Methionine is absolutely required for protein synthesis, since every protein sequence starts with a methionine residue. Thus, the proliferation and survival of CSCs is very sensitive to the inhibition of protein synthesis, using multiple independent approaches. Our findings have important clinical implications, since they may also explain the positive therapeutic effects of PI3-kinase inhibitors and AKT inhibitors, as they ultimately converge on mTOR signaling and would block protein synthesis. We conclude that inhibition of mRNA translation by pharmacological or protein/methionine restriction may be effective strategies for eliminating TICs. Our data also indicate a novel mechanism by which caloric/protein restriction may reduce tumor growth, by targeting protein synthesis in anabolic tumor-initiating cancer cells.
    Oncotarget 02/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here, we propose a new strategy for the treatment of early cancerous lesions and advanced metastatic disease, via the selective targeting of cancer stem cells (CSCs), a.k.a., tumor-initiating cells (TICs). We searched for a global phenotypic characteristic that was highly conserved among cancer stem cells, across multiple tumor types, to provide a mutation-independent approach to cancer therapy. This would allow us to target cancer stem cells, effectively treating cancer as a single disease of "stemness", independently of the tumor tissue type. Using this approach, we identified a conserved phenotypic weak point - a strict dependence on mitochondrial biogenesis for the clonal expansion and survival of cancer stem cells. Interestingly, several classes of FDA-approved antibiotics inhibit mitochondrial biogenesis as a known "side-effect", which could be harnessed instead as a "therapeutic effect". Based on this analysis, we now show that 4-to-5 different classes of FDA-approved drugs can be used to eradicate cancer stem cells, in 12 different cancer cell lines, across 8 different tumor types (breast, DCIS, ovarian, prostate, lung, pancreatic, melanoma, and glioblastoma (brain)). These five classes of mitochondrially-targeted antibiotics include: the erythromycins, the tetracyclines, the glycylcyclines, an anti-parasitic drug, and chloramphenicol. Functional data are presented for one antibiotic in each drug class: azithromycin, doxycycline, tigecycline, pyrvinium pamoate, as well as chloramphenicol, as proof-of-concept. Importantly, many of these drugs are non-toxic for normal cells, likely reducing the side effects of anti-cancer therapy. Thus, we now propose to treat cancer like an infectious disease, by repurposing FDA-approved antibiotics for anti-cancer therapy, across multiple tumor types. These drug classes should also be considered for prevention studies, specifically focused on the prevention of tumor recurrence and distant metastasis. Finally, recent clinical trials with doxycycline and azithromycin (intended to target cancer-associated infections, but not cancer cells) have already shown positive therapeutic effects in cancer patients, although their ability to eradicate cancer stem cells was not yet appreciated.
    Oncotarget 01/2015; · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here, we used quantitative proteomics analysis to identify novel therapeutic targets in cancer stem cells and/or progenitor cells. For this purpose, mammospheres from two ER-positive breast cancer cell lines (MCF7 and T47D) were grown in suspension using low-attachment plates and directly compared to attached monolayer cells grown in parallel. This allowed us to identify a subset of proteins that were selectively over-expressed in mammospheres, relative to epithelial monolayers. We focused on mitochondrial proteins, as they appeared to be highly upregulated in both MCF7 and T47D mammospheres. Key mitochondrial-related enzymes involved in beta-oxidation and ketone metabolism were significantly upregulated in mammospheres, as well as proteins involved in mitochondrial biogenesis, and specific protein inhibitors of autophagy/mitophagy. Overall, we identified >40 "metabolic targets" that were commonly upregulated in both MCF7 and T47D mammospheres. Most of these "metabolic targets" were also transcriptionally upregulated in human breast cancer cells in vivo, validating their clinical relevance. Based on this analysis, we propose that increased mitochondrial biogenesis and decreased mitochondrial degradation could provide a novel mechanism for the accumulation of mitochondrial mass in cancer stem cells. To functionally validate our observations, we utilized a specific MCT1/2 inhibitor (AR-C155858), which blocks the cellular uptake of two types of mitochondrial fuels, namely ketone bodies and L-lactate. Our results indicate that inhibition of MCT1/2 function effectively reduces mammosphere formation, with an IC-50 of ~1 µM, in both ER-positive and ER-negative breast cancer cell lines. Very similar results were obtained with oligomycin A, an inhibitor of the mitochondrial ATP synthase. Thus, the proliferative clonal expansion of cancer stem cells appears to require oxidative mitochondrial metabolism, related to the re-use of monocarboxylic acids, such as ketones or L-lactate. Our findings have important clinical implications for exploiting mitochondrial metabolism to eradicate cancer stem cells and to prevent recurrence, metastasis and drug resistance in cancer patients. Importantly, a related MCT1/2 inhibitor (AZD3965) is currently in phase I clinical trials in patients with advanced cancers: http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01791595.
    Oncotarget 11/2014; 5(22). · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    Oncotarget 09/2014; 5(18):7982-3. · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Profound metabolic differences between cancer cells and fibroblasts promote tumorigenesis. A study by Valencia and colleagues in this issue of Cancer Cell supports this assertion. They observed that metabolic asymmetry in prostate tumors drives aggressive disease with high p62 in anabolic cancer cells, but loss of p62 in catabolic fibroblasts.
    Cancer Cell 07/2014; 26(1):5-7. DOI:10.1016/j.ccr.2014.06.021 · 23.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A significant proportion of the genes regulated by 17-beta-estradiol (E2) via estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) have roles in vesicle trafficking in breast cancer. Intracellular vesicle trafficking and extracellular vesicles have important roles in tumourigenesis. Here we report the discovery of giant (3-42μm) intracellular and extracellular vesicles (GVs) and the role of E2 on vesicle formation in breast cancer (BC) cell lines using three independent live cell imaging techniques. Large diameter vesicles, GVs were also identified in a patient-derived xenograft BC model, and in invasive breast carcinoma tissue. ERα-positive (MCF-7 and T47D) BC cell lines demonstrated a significant increase in GV formation after stimulation with E2 which was reversed by tamoxifen. ERα-negative (MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-468) BC cell lines produced GVs independently of E2 and tamoxifen. These results indicate the existence of both intracellular and extracellular vesicles with considerably larger dimensions than generally recognised with BC cells and suggest that the GVs are regulated by E2 via ERα in ERα-positive BC but by E2-independent mechanisms in ER-ve BC.
    Oncotarget 05/2014; 5(10):3055-65. · 6.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Metabolic synergy or metabolic coupling between glycolytic stromal cells (Warburg effect) and oxidative cancer cells occurs in human breast cancers and promotes tumor growth. The Warburg effect or aerobic glycolysis is the catabolism of glucose to lactate to obtain adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This review summarizes the main findings on this stromal metabolic phenotype, and the associated signaling pathways, as well as the critical role of oxidative stress and autophagy, all of which promote carcinoma cell mitochondrial metabolism and tumor growth. Loss of Caveolin 1 (Cav-1) and the upregulation of monocarboxylate transporter 4 (MCT4) in stromal cells are novel markers of the Warburg effect and metabolic synergy between stromal and carcinoma cells. MCT4 and Cav-1 are also breast cancer prognostic biomarkers. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are key mediators of the stromal Warburg effect. High ROS also favors cancer cell mitochondrial metabolism and tumorigenesis, and anti-oxidants can reverse this altered stromal and carcinoma metabolism. A pseudo-hypoxic state with glycolysis and low mitochondrial metabolism in the absence of hypoxia is a common feature in breast cancer. High ROS induces loss of Cav-1 in stromal cells and is sufficient to generate a pseudo-hypoxic state. Loss of Cav-1 in the stroma drives glycolysis and lactate extrusion via HIF-1α stabilization and the upregulation of MCT4. Stromal cells with loss of Cav-1 and/or high expression of MCT4 also show a catabolic phenotype, with enhanced macroautophagy. This catabolic state in stromal cells is driven by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α, nuclear factor κB (NFκB), and JNK activation and high ROS generation. A feed-forward loop in stromal cells regulates pseudo-hypoxia and metabolic synergy, with Cav-1, MCT4, HIF-1α, NFκB, and ROS as its key elements. Metabolic synergy also may occur between cancer cells and cells in distant organs from the tumor. Cancer cachexia, which is due to severe organismal metabolic dysregulation in myocytes and adipocytes, shares similarities with stromal-carcinoma metabolic synergy, as well. In summary, metabolic synergy occurs when breast carcinoma cells induce a nutrient-rich microenvironment to promote tumor growth. The process of tumor metabolic synergy is a multistep process, due to the generation of ROS, and the induction of catabolism with autophagy, mitophagy and glycolysis. Studying epithelial-stromal interactions and metabolic synergy is important to better understand the ecology of cancer and the metabolic role of different cell types in tumor progression.
    Seminars in Oncology 04/2014; 41(2):195-216. DOI:10.1053/j.seminoncol.2014.03.002 · 3.94 Impact Factor
  • M. P. Lisanti · F. Sotgia
    Acta Physiologica 03/2014; 210:16-16. · 4.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: CAPER is an estrogen receptor (ER) co-activator that was recently shown to be involved in human breast cancer pathogenesis. Indeed, we reported increased expression of CAPER in human breast cancer specimens. We demonstrated that CAPER was undetectable or expressed at relatively low levels in normal breast tissue and assumed a cytoplasmic distribution. In contrast, CAPER was expressed at higher levels in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) specimens, where it assumed a predominantly nuclear distribution. However, the functional role of CAPER in human breast cancer initiation and progression remained unknown. Here, we used a lentiviral-mediated gene silencing approach to reduce the expression of CAPER in the ER-positive human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. The proliferation and tumorigenicity of MCF-7 cells stably expressing control or human CAPER shRNAs was then determined via both in vitro and in vivo experiments. Knockdown of CAPER expression significantly reduced the proliferation of MCF-7 cells in vitro. Importantly, nude mice injected with MCF-7 cells harboring CAPER shRNAs developed smaller tumors than mice injected with MCF-7 cells harboring control shRNAs. Mechanistically, tumors derived from mice injected with MCF-7 cells harboring CAPER shRNAs displayed reduced expression of the cell cycle regulators PCNA, MCM7, and cyclin D1, and the protein synthesis marker 4EBP1. In conclusion, knockdown of CAPER expression markedly reduced human breast cancer cell proliferation in both in vitro and in vivo settings. Mechanistically, knockdown of CAPER abrogated the activity of proliferative and protein synthesis pathways.
    Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 02/2014; 13(8). DOI:10.4161/cc.28156 · 5.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Fibroblasts are the most abundant "non-cancerous" cells in tumors. However, it remains largely unknown how these cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) promote tumor growth and metastasis, driving chemotherapy resistance and poor clinical outcome. This review summarizes new findings on CAF signaling pathways and their emerging metabolic phenotypes that promote tumor growth. Although it is well-established that altered cancer metabolism enhances tumor growth, little is known about the role of fibroblast metabolism in tumor growth. New studies reveal that metabolic coupling occurs between catabolic fibroblasts and anabolic cancer cells, in many types of human tumors, including breast, prostate, and head & neck cancers, as well as lymphomas. These catabolic phenotypes observed in CAFs are secondary to a ROS-induced metabolic stress response. Mechanistically, this occurs via HIF1-alpha and NFkB signaling, driving oxidative stress, autophagy, glycolysis and senescence in stromal fibroblasts. These catabolic CAFs then create a nutrient-rich microenvironment, to metabolically support tumor growth, via the local stromal generation of mitochondrial fuels (lactate, ketone bodies, fatty acids, glutamine, and other amino acids). Importantly, powerful anti-oxidants can rescue this altered metabolic phenotype in tumor-associated fibroblasts. New biomarkers of this catabolic CAF phenotype (such as caveolin-1 (Cav-1) and MCT4), which are reversible upon treatment with anti-oxidants, are strong predictors of poor clinical outcome in various types of human cancer. How cancer cells metabolically reprogram fibroblasts can also help us to understand the effects of cancer cells at an organismal level, explaining para-neoplastic phenomena, such as cancer cachexia. In conclusion, cancer should be viewed more as a systemic disease, that engages the host-organism in various forms of energy-transfer and metabolic co-operation, across a whole-body "ecosystem".
    Seminars in Cancer Biology 01/2014; 25C. DOI:10.1016/j.semcancer.2014.01.005 · 9.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Fibroblasts are the most abundant “non-cancerous” cells in tumors. However, it remains largely unknown how these cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) promote tumor growth and metastasis, driving chemotherapy resistance and poor clinical outcome. This review summarizes new findings on CAF signaling pathways and their emerging metabolic phenotypes that promote tumor growth. Although it is well-established that altered cancer metabolism enhances tumor growth, little is known about the role of fibroblast metabolism in tumor growth. New studies reveal that metabolic coupling occurs between catabolic fibroblasts and anabolic cancer cells, in many types of human tumors, including breast, prostate, and head & neck cancers, as well as lymphomas. These catabolic phenotypes observed in CAFs are secondary to a ROS-induced metabolic stress response. Mechanistically, this occurs via HIF1-alpha and NFkB signaling, driving oxidative stress, autophagy, glycolysis and senescence in stromal fibroblasts. These catabolic CAFs then create a nutrient-rich microenvironment, to metabolically support tumor growth, via the local stromal generation of mitochondrial fuels (lactate, ketone bodies, fatty acids, glutamine, and other amino acids). Importantly, powerful anti-oxidants can rescue this altered metabolic phenotype in tumor-associated fibroblasts. New biomarkers of this catabolic CAF phenotype (such as caveolin-1 (Cav-1) and MCT4), which are reversible upon treatment with anti-oxidants, are strong predictors of poor clinical outcome in various types of human cancer. How cancer cells metabolically reprogram fibroblasts can also help us to understand the effects of cancer cells at an organismal level, explaining para-neoplastic phenomena, such as cancer cachexia. In conclusion, cancer should be viewed more as a systemic disease, that engages the host-organism in various forms of energy-transfer and metabolic co-operation, across a whole-body “ecosystem”.
    Seminars in Cancer Biology 01/2014; · 9.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mammography is an important screening modality for the early detection of DCIS and breast cancer lesions. More specifically, high mammographic density is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, the biological processes underlying this phenomenon remain largely unknown. Here, we re-interrogated genome-wide transcriptional profiling data obtained from low-density (LD) mammary fibroblasts (n = 6 patients) and high-density (HD) mammary fibroblasts (n = 7 patients) derived from a series of 13 female patients. We used these raw data to generate a "breast density" gene signature consisting of>1250 transcripts that were significantly increased in HD fibroblasts, relative to LD fibroblasts. We then focused on the genes that were increased by ≥ 1.5-fold (P<0.05) and performed gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA), using the molecular signatures database (MSigDB). Our results indicate that HD fibroblasts show the upregulation and/or hyper-activation of several key cellular processes, including the stress response, inflammation, stemness, and signal transduction. The transcriptional profiles of HD fibroblasts also showed striking similarities to human tumors, including head and neck, liver, thyroid, lung, and breast cancers. This may reflect functional similarities between cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and HD fibroblasts. This is consistent with the idea that the presence of HD fibroblasts may be a hallmark of a pre-cancerous phenotype. In these biological processes, GSEA predicts that several key signaling pathways may be involved, including JNK1, iNOS, Rho GTPase(s), FGF-R, EGF-R, and PDGF-R-mediated signal transduction, thereby creating a pro-inflammatory, pro-proliferative, cytokine, and chemokine-rich microenvironment. HD fibroblasts also showed significant overlap with gene profiles derived from smooth muscle cells under stress (JNK1) and activated/infected macrophages (iNOS). Thus, HD fibroblasts may behave like activated myofibroblasts and macrophages, to create and maintain a fibrotic and inflammatory microenvironment. Finally, comparisons between the HD fibroblast gene signature and breast cancer tumor stroma revealed that JNK1 stress signaling is the single most significant biological process that is shared between these 2 data sets (with P values between 5.40E-09 and 1.02E-14), and is specifically associated with tumor recurrence. These results implicate "stromal JNK1 signaling" in the pathogenesis of human breast cancers and the transition to malignancy. Augmented TGF-β signaling also emerged as a common feature linking high breast density with tumor stroma and breast cancer recurrence (P = 5.23E-05). Similarities between the HD fibroblast gene signature, wound healing, and the cancer-associated fibroblast phenotype were also noted. Thus, this unbiased informatics analysis of high breast density provides a novel framework for additional experimental exploration and new hypothesis-driven breast cancer research, with a focus on cancer prevention and personalized medicine.
    Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 12/2013; 13(4). DOI:10.4161/cc.27379 · 5.01 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

8k Citations
1,011.03 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2010–2015
    • The University of Manchester
      • • Manchester Breast Centre
      • • Manchester Academic Health Science Centre
      Manchester, England, United Kingdom
  • 2013
    • University of Leicester
      Leiscester, England, United Kingdom
  • 2006–2013
    • Thomas Jefferson University
      • • Department of Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine
      • • Department of Cancer Biology
      Filadelfia, Pennsylvania, United States
    • Sacred Heart University
      Феърфилд, Connecticut, United States
  • 2012
    • University of Michigan
      • Life Sciences Institute
      Ann Arbor, MI, United States
  • 2007
    • Harvard Medical School
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
    • IRCCS Istituto G. Gaslini
      • Department of Experimental and Laboratory Medicine
      Genova, Liguria, Italy
  • 1999–2006
    • Albert Einstein College of Medicine
      • • Department of Molecular Pharmacology
      • • Albert Einstein Cancer Center
      New York City, NY, United States
  • 2004
    • Stanford University
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 1998–2004
    • Università degli Studi di Genova
      • Dipartimento di Medicina sperimentale (DIMES)
      Genova, Liguria, Italy
  • 2002
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • Department of Experimental Medicine
      Roma, Latium, Italy
    • University of Victoria
      • Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
      Victoria, British Columbia, Canada