[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The initiation and maintenance of a malignant phenotype requires complex and synergistic interactions of multiple oncogenic signals. The Hedgehog (HH)/GLI pathway has been implicated in a variety of cancer entities and targeted pathway inhibition is of therapeutic relevance. Signal cross-talk with other cancer pathways including PI3K/AKT modulates HH/GLI signal strength and its oncogenicity. In this study, we addressed the role of HH/GLI and its putative interaction with the PI3K/AKT cascade in the initiation and maintenance of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Using transgenic mouse models, we show that B-cell-specific constitutive activation of HH/GLI signaling either at the level of the HH effector and drug target Smoothened or at the level of the GLI transcription factors does not suffice to initiate a CLL-like phenotype characterized by the accumulation of CD5(+) B cells in the lymphatic system and peripheral blood. Furthermore, Hh/Gli activation in Pten-deficient B cells with activated Pi3K/Akt signaling failed to enhance the expansion of leukemic CD5(+) B cells, suggesting that genetic or epigenetic alterations leading to aberrant HH/GLI signaling in B cells do not suffice to elicit a CLL-like phenotype in mice. By contrast, we identify a critical role of GLI and PI3K signaling for the survival of human primary CLL cells. We show that combined targeting of GLI and PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling can have a synergistic therapeutic effect in cells from a subgroup of CLL patients, thereby providing a basis for the evaluation of future combination therapies targeting HH/GLI and PI3K signaling in this common hematopoietic malignancy.Oncogene advance online publication, 2 February 2015; doi:10.1038/onc.2014.450.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The transcription factors and proto-oncogenes STAT3 and STAT5 are highly activated in hematological malignancies and represent promising therapeutic targets. Whereas the importance of STAT5 as tumor promoter is beyond doubt, the role of STAT3 in hematological cancers is less well understood. Both, enforced as well as attenuated expression of STAT3 were reported in hematopoietic malignancies. Recent evidence implicates STAT3 as key player for tumor immune surveillance as it both mediates the production of and response to inflammatory cytokines. Here we investigated the effects of STAT3 deletion in a BCR/ABL-induced lymphoma model, which is tightly controlled by natural killer (NK) cells in vivo. Upon STAT3 deletion tumor growth is significantly enhanced when compared to STAT3-expressing controls. The increased tumor size upon loss of STAT3 was accompanied by reduced NK cell infiltration and decreased levels of the cytokine IFN-γ and the chemokine RANTES. Upon transplantation into NK cell-deficient mice differences in lymphoma size were abolished indicating that STAT3 expression in the tumor cells controls NK cell-dependent tumor surveillance. Our findings indicate that STAT3 inhibition in lymphoma patients will impair NK cell-mediated tumor surveillance, which needs to be taken into account when testing STAT3 inhibitors in preclinical or clinical trials.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The highly conserved Hedgehog/GLI signaling pathway regulates multiple aspects of embryonic development and plays a decisive role in tissue homeostasis and the hematopoietic system by controlling cell fate decisions, stem cell self-renewal, and activation. Loss of negative control of Hedgehog signaling contributes to tumor pathogenesis and progression. In the classical view of canonical Hedgehog signaling, Hedgehog ligand binding to its receptor Patched culminates in the activation of the key pathway activator Smoothened, followed by activation of the GLI transcription factors. Its essential function and druggability render Smoothened well suited to therapeutic intervention. However, recent evidence suggests a critical role of Smoothened-independent regulation of GLI activity by several other signaling pathways including the PI3K/AKT and RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK axes. In addition, the contribution of canonical Hedgehog signaling via Patched and Smoothened to normal and malignant hematopoiesis has been the subject of recent controversies. In this review, we discuss the current understanding and controversial findings of canonical and noncanonical GLI activation in hematological malignancies in light of the current therapeutic strategies targeting the Hedgehog pathway.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been known for many years that cooperative interactions between oncogenes (e.g. RAS, MYC, BCL2) can fuel cancer growth (1-5), but the restricted druggability of many of those interacting cancer genes has hampered translation of combined targeting to medical cancer therapy. The identification and characterization of cooperative cancer signaling pathways amenable to medical therapy is therefore a crucial step towards the establishment of efficient targeted combination treatments urgently needed to improve cancer therapy. Here we review recent findings of our group and colleagues on the molecular mechanisms of cooperative Hedgehog/GLI and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) signaling, two clinically relevant oncogenic pathways involved in the development of many human malignancies. We also discuss the possible implications of these findings for the design of a therapeutic regimen relying on combined targeting of key effectors of both pathways.
Frontiers in Bioscience 01/2012; 17:90-9. · 4.25 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Hedgehog (Hh) pathway regulates cell proliferation and survival and contributes to tumorigenesis. We investigated the expression and function of this pathway in B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells and in healthy B lymphocytes. Profiling of cognate Hh pathway members revealed reduced expression of two key Hh signaling effectors, Smoothened (SMOH) and GLI, in CLL cells, whereas transcription levels of other investigated members resembled normal B-lymphocyte levels. Examining the functional role of SMOH and GLI in cell survival, we found that CLL cells were hardly sensitive toward specific SMOH inhibition, but showed an unspecific decline in cell viability in response to high concentrations of the SMOH antagonist cyclopamine. In contrast, treatment with the novel GLI antagonist GANT61 reduced expression of the target gene Patched and preferentially decreased the viability of malignant cells. Specific RNA interference knockdown experiments in a CLL-derived cell line confirmed the autonomous role of GLI in malignant cell survival. GANT61-induced apoptosis in primary leukemic cells was partly attenuated by protective stromal cells, but not soluble sonic hedgehog ligand. In summary, our data show a downregulation of the classical Hh pathway in CLL and suggest an intrinsic SMOH-independent role of GLI in the ex vivo survival of CLL cells.