[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) originate from stem-loop-containing precursors (pre-miRNAs, pri-miRNAs) and mature by means of the Drosha and Dicer endonucleases and their associated factors. The let-7 miRNAs have prominent roles in developmental differentiation and in regulating cell proliferation. In cancer, the tumor suppressor function of let-7 is abrogated by overexpression of Lin28, one of several RNA-binding proteins that regulate let-7 biogenesis by interacting with conserved motifs in let-7 precursors close to the Dicer cleavage site. Using in vitro assays, we have identified a binding site for short modified oligoribonucleotides ('looptomirs') overlapping that of Lin28 in pre-let-7a-2. These looptomirs selectively antagonize the docking of Lin28, but still permit processing of pre-let-7a-2 by Dicer. Looptomirs restored synthesis of mature let-7 and inhibited growth and clonogenic potential in Lin28 overexpressing hepatocarcinoma cells, thereby demonstrating a promising new means to rescue defective miRNA biogenesis in Lin28-dependent cancers.
Nucleic Acids Research 11/2014; · 8.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several studies link disease progression, recurrence and treatment failures to the cancer stem-like cell (CSC) subpopulation within the heterogeneous tumor cell population. Myc is a transcription factor having a central function in stem cell biology and in human cancers. Hence, Myc represents an attractive target to develop CSC-specific therapies. Recent findings suggest that Myc transcription can be silenced using an RNAi-based strategy that targets noncoding promoter-associated RNA (paRNA) overlapping the transcription start site. In this study, we investigated the effects of silencing Myc transcription on prostate CSC in cell culture and xenograft models of human prostate cancer. Treatment with an effective promoter-targeting siRNA reduced the fraction of CSCs leading to reduced self-renewal, tumor-initiating and metastatic capability. Combined analysis of stem-like cells and senescence markers indicated that Myc silencing triggered a phenotypic shift and senescence in the CSC subpopulation. Notably, systemic delivery of the promoter-targeting siRNA in the xenograft model produced a striking suppression in the development of prostate tumors. Our results support a pivotal role for Myc in CSC maintenance and show that Myc targeting via RNAi-based transcriptional silencing can trigger CSC senescence and loss of their tumor-initiating capability. More generally, our findings demonstrate the efficacy of RNAi-based transcriptional strategies and the potential to target regulatory noncoding paRNAs for therapeutic applications.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: RNAi-based nucleic acid molecules have attracted considerable attention as compelling therapeutics providing safe and competent delivery systems are available. Dendrimers are emerging as appealing nanocarriers for nucleic acid delivery thanks to their unique well-defined architecture and the resulting cooperativity and multivalency confined within a nanostructure. The present review offers a brief overview of the structurally flexible triethanolamine-core poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM) dendrimers developed in our group as nanovectors for the delivery of RNAi therapeutics. Their excellent activity for delivering different RNAi therapeutics in various disease models in vitro and in vivo will be highlighted here.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Testin (TES) is a putative tumour-suppressor gene downregulated in various types of cancers. Survivin is a nodal protein involved in multiple signalling pathways, tumour maintenance and inhibition of apoptosis. Previous studies indicate that TES and survivin can functionally interact and modulate cell death and proliferation in breast cancer cells. The aim of the present study was to investigate the expression and prognostic relevance of TES and survivin in breast cancer subtypes examining a large cohort of breast cancer patients. We determined the expression of TES and survivin by immunohistochemistry (IHC) in tissue samples from 242 breast cancer patients diagnosed between 1981 and 2009. The expression of these proteins was compared with clinical and pathological data. There was a significant association of nuclear survivin overexpression and TES downregulation with triple-negative tumours [P=0.009; univariate odds ratio (OR), 3.20; 95% CI, 1.34-7.66] (P=0.018; multivariate OR, 2.90; 95% CI, 1.20‑6.97). A further significant correlation was observed between TES downregulation and the luminal B subtype (P=0.019, univariate OR: 2.90; 95% CI, 1.19‑7.06) (P=0.032, multivariate OR, 2.67; 95% CI, 1.09-6.65), independent of survivin expression. Our results demonstrated a statistically significant association between TES downregulation and highly aggressive breast tumour subtypes, such as triple-negative and luminal B tumours, along with the prognostic relevance of nuclear expression of survivin. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of such an association.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chromosomal translocations leading to deregulated expression of ETS transcription factors are frequent in prostate tumors. Here, we report a novel mechanism leading to oncogenic activation of the ETS factor ESE1/ELF3 in prostate tumors. ESE1/ELF3 was overexpressed in human primary and metastatic tumors. It mediated transforming phenotypes in vitro and in vivo and induced an inflammatory transcriptome with changes in relevant oncogenic pathways. ESE1/ELF3 was induced by IL-1β through NF-κB and was a crucial mediator of the phenotypic and transcriptional changes induced by IL-1β in prostate cancer cells. This linkage was mediated by interaction of ESE1/ELF3 with the NF-κB subunits p65 and p50, acting by enhancing their nuclear translocation and transcriptional activity and by inducing p50 transcription. Supporting these findings, gene expression profiling revealed an enrichment of NF-κB effector functions in prostate cancer cells or tumors expressing high levels of ESE1/ELF3. We observed concordant upregulation of ESE1/ELF3 and NF-κB in human prostate tumors that was associated with adverse prognosis. Collectively, our results define an important new mechanistic link between inflammatory signaling and the progression of prostate cancer.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) is an established treatment for relapsed ovarian cancer. Preclinical and clinical evidences in other tumor types suggest that the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib can act synergistically with PLD.
Patients with relapsed ovarian cancer (N = 58), previously treated with platinum (100%) and taxane (95%), received bortezomib, 1.3 mg/m intravenous (days 1, 4, 8, and 11), and PLD, 30 mg/m intravenous (day 1), every 3 weeks. Tumor responses were assessed using Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors and Gynecologic Cancer Intergroup criteria. An optimal 2-stage design was implemented. Gene expression profiling in peripheral blood was characterized before and during treatment in 10 platinum-sensitive patients enrolled in stage 2 of the study.
Median number of bortezomib-PLD cycles was 3.5. Of 38 patients in the platinum-sensitive group, 9 responses were observed (median duration, 4.8 months). The platinum-resistant group was closed at stage 1 owing to lack of response. Toxicity was moderate and mainly consisted of hematologic, gastrointestinal, and mucositis events. Of the total 58 patients, peripheral neuropathy was reported in 9 patients (none were grade 3). Transcription profiling identified the prevalence of genes associated with ribonucleoprotein complexes, RNA processing, and protein translation. The gene expression changes were more robust in patients who responded or had stable disease compared with patients who had progressive disease.
The combination of bortezomib and PLD was well tolerated, but the antitumor activity is insufficient to warrant further investigation in ovarian cancer.
International Journal of Gynecological Cancer 06/2012; 22(5):792-800. · 1.94 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer stem cells (CSC) play a significant role in tumor progression, disease recurrence, and treatment failure. Here, we show that the endogenously expressed ETS transcription factor ESE3/EHF controls prostate epithelial cell differentiation and stem-like potential. We found that loss of ESE3/EHF induced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), stem-like features, and tumor-initiating and metastatic properties in prostate epithelial cells, and reexpression of ESE3/EHF inhibited the stem-like properties and tumorigenic potential of prostate cancer cells. Mechanistically, ESE3/EHF repressed the expression of key EMT and CSC genes, including TWIST1, ZEB2, BMI1, and POU5F1. Analysis of human tissue microarrays showed that reduced ESE3/EHF expression is an early event in tumorigenesis, frequently occurring independently of other ETS gene alterations. Additional analyses linked loss of ESE3/EHF expression to a distinct group of prostate tumors with distinctive molecular and biologic characteristics, including increased expression of EMT and CSC genes. Low ESE3/EHF expression was also associated with increased biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer and reduced overall survival after prostatectomy. Collectively, our findings define a key role for ESE3/EHF in the development of a subset of prostate tumors and highlight the clinical importance of identifying molecularly defined tumor subgroups.
Cancer Research 04/2012; 72(11):2889-900. · 9.28 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor β/δ (PPARβ/δ) is a nuclear receptor involved in regulation of lipid and glucose metabolism, wound healing and inflammation. PPARβ/δ has been associated also with cancer. Here we investigated the expression of PPARβ/δ and components of the prostaglandin biosynthetic pathway in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We found increased expression of PPARβ/δ, Cox-2, cPLA(2), PGES and VEGF in human NSCLC compared to normal lung. In NSCLC cell lines PPARβ/δ activation increased proliferation and survival, while PPARβ/δ knock-down reduced viability and increased apoptosis. PPARβ/δ agonists induced Cox-2 and VEGF transcription, suggesting the existence of feed-forward loops promoting cell survival, inflammation and angiogenesis. These effects were seen only in high PPARβ/δ expressing cells, while low expressing cells were less or not affected. The effects were also abolished by PPARβ/δ knock-down or incubation with a PPARβ/δ antagonist. Induction of VEGF was due to both binding of PPARβ/δ to the VEGF promoter and PI3K activation through a non-genomic mechanism. We found that PPARβ/δ interacted with the PI3K regulatory subunit p85α leading to PI3K activation and Akt phosphorylation. Collectively, these data indicate that PPARβ/δ might be a central element in lung carcinogenesis controlling multiple pathways and representing a potential target for NSCLC treatment.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(9):e46009. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Deregulated activity of transcription factors (TFs) of the Sp/KLF family, like Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4, and consequent over-expression of Sp-regulated genes occur frequently in human cancers. This provides the rationale for development of inhibitors of Sp TFs as cancer therapeutics. Mithramycin A (MTM-A) is a natural polyketide that binds GC-rich DNA sequences, inhibits activity of Sp TFs and exhibits potent antitumor activity in experimental systems. However, clinical use of MTM-A is limited by the severe toxicity of the compound. Here, we studied two MTM-A analogues, which had been generated by genetically engineering of the MTM-A biosynthetic pathway, and evaluated their activity in human prostate cancer in cell cultures and mouse models. The compounds, named MTM-SDK and MTM-SK, were highly effective in vitro inhibiting proliferation of prostate cancer cells and transcription of Sp-regulated genes by blocking binding of Sp proteins to the gene promoters. When administered to mice, both compounds were well tolerated with maximum tolerated doses of MTM-SDK and MTM-SK, respectively, 4- and 32- fold higher than MTM-A. After systemic administration, both compounds were cleared rapidly from the bloodstream but maintained plasma levels well above the active concentrations required in vitro for inhibition of Sp TF activity and cell proliferation. Consistently, MTM-SDK and MTM-SK inhibited transcription of Sp-regulated genes in prostate tumor xenografts and exhibited potent antitumor activity in subcutaneous and metastatic tumor xenograft models with no or minimal toxicity. Taken together, these data indicate that MTM-SDK and MTM-SK possess significantly improved pharmacological and toxicological properties compared to MTM-A and represent promising drugs for treatment of advanced prostate cancer.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(4):e35130. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) has opened new avenues in biology and medicine. In addition to post-transcriptional gene silencing, new findings are expanding the range of action of small duplex RNAs and broadening the spectrum of the potential applications of RNAi-based therapeutics. In recent years a complex and heterogeneous network of non-protein coding RNAs (ncRNAs) with potential regulatory functions has come into the spotlight providing an unexpected perspective on the mechanisms of transcriptional and epigenetic control of gene expression in human cells. The spread and complexity of these RNA-based transcriptional regulatory networks are still to be explored. However, they are likely to be important mechanisms controlling gene expression in human cells. As we will learn more about these processes, endogenous small RNAs and ncRNAs participating in these transcriptional regulatory networks might become valuable targets to modulate expression of genes involved in human diseases. Thus, understanding these basic processes of gene regulation might be translated in the near future into innovative therapeutic strategies to treat human diseases.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Short double-stranded RNAs, which are known as short interfering RNA (siRNA), can be used to specifically down-regulate the expression of the targeted gene in a process known as RNA interference (RNAi). However, the success of gene silencing applications based on the use of synthetic siRNA critically depends on efficient intracellular delivery. Polycationic branched macromolecules such as poly(amidoamine) (PAMAM) dendrimers show a strong binding affinity for RNA molecules and, hence, can provide an effective, reproducible, and relatively nontoxic method for transferring siRNAs into animal cells. Notwithstanding these perspectives, relatively few attempts have been made so far along these lines to study in detail the molecular mechanisms underlying the complexation process between PAMAMs and siRNAs. In this work we combine molecular simulation and experimental approaches to study the molecular requirements of the interaction of RNA-based therapeutics and PAMAM dendrimers of different generations. The dendrimers and their siRNA complexes were structurally characterized, and the free energy of binding between each dendrimer and a model siRNA was quantified by using the well-known MM/PBSA approach. DOSY NMR experiments confirmed the structural in silico prediction and yielded further information on both the complex structure and stoichiometry at low N/P ratio values. siRNA/PAMAM complex formation was monitored at different N/P ratios using gel retardation assays, and a simple model was proposed, which related the amount of siRNA complexed to the entropy variation upon complex formation obtained from the computer simulations.
Chemistry - A European Journal 05/2010; 16(26):7781-95. · 5.93 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Increased activity of Sp family of transcription factors is a frequent and critical event in cancer development and progression. Genes governing tumor growth, invasion and angiogenesis are regulated by Sp factors, like Sp1, Sp3 or Sp4, and are frequently over-expressed in tumors. Targeting Sp factors has been explored as a therapeutic approach. Mithramycin (MTM) is a natural antibiotic that binds DNA and inhibit Sp1-dependent transcription. New analogues, named MTM-SDK and MTM-SK, were recently obtained by genetic engineering of the MTM biosynthetic pathway and have demonstrated improved transcriptional and antiproliferative activity in ovarian cancer cell lines in vitro. In the present study we evaluated the activity of the new compounds in human ovarian cancer xenografts.
Expression of Sp1 and target proteins in ovarian cancer specimens and tumor xenografts was assessed by immunohistochemistry. Drug-induced silencing of Sp1-regulated genes in cells and tumor xenograft samples was assessed by quantitative RT-PCR. Toxicity and antitumor activity of the compounds were investigated in healthy and tumor-bearing immunocompromised mice, respectively.
Expression of Sp1 was frequently increased in human epithelial ovarian cancers. MTM-SDK and MTM-SK acted as potent inhibitors of Sp1-dependent transcription both in vitro and in tumor xenografts. Both compounds were well tolerated even after prolonged administration and delayed growth of ovarian tumor xenografts. MTM-SDK was particularly effective against orthotopic tumors leading to a significant increase of survival and delay of tumor progression.
MTM-SDK and MTM-SK show relevant activity in vivo and represent interesting candidates for treatment of ovarian cancers.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To investigate the influence of demethylation with 5-aza-cytidine (AZA) on radiation sensitivity and to define the intrinsic radiation sensitivity of methylation deficient colorectal carcinoma cells.
Radiation sensitizing effects of AZA were investigated in four colorectal carcinoma cell lines (HCT116, SW480, L174 T, Co115), defining influence of AZA on proliferation, clonogenic survival, and cell cycling with or without ionizing radiation. The methylation status for cancer or DNA damage response-related genes silenced by promoter methylation was determined. The effect of deletion of the potential target genes (DNMT1, DNMT3b, and double mutants) on radiation sensitivity was analyzed.
AZA showed radiation sensitizing properties at >or=1 micromol/l, a concentration that does not interfere with the cell cycle by itself, in all four tested cell lines with a sensitivity-enhancing ratio (SER) of 1.6 to 2.1 (confidence interval [CI] 0.9-3.3). AZA successfully demethylated promoters of p16 and hMLH1, genes associated with ionizing radiation response. Prolonged exposure to low-dose AZA resulted in sustained radiosensitivity if associated with persistent genomic hypomethylation after recovery from AZA. Compared with maternal HCT116 cells, DNMT3b-defcient deficient cells were more sensitive to radiation with a SER of 2.0 (CI 0.9-2.1; p = 0.03), and DNMT3b/DNMT1-/- double-deficient cells showed a SER of 1.6 (CI 0.5-2.7; p = 0.09).
AZA-induced genomic hypomethylation results in enhanced radiation sensitivity in colorectal carcinoma. The mediators leading to sensitization remain unknown. Defining the specific factors associated with radiation sensitization after genomic demethylation may open the way to better targeting for the purpose of radiation sensitization.
International journal of radiation oncology, biology, physics 04/2010; 76(5):1512-9. · 4.59 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tumor cell dissemination to distant organs accounts for the majority of cancer related deaths. Analysis of the stepwise process of metastasis formation and progression might provide novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of disseminated cancer. However, studies with both biological and therapeutic endpoints would require highly sensitive and specific methods for precise quantification of the metastatic tumor burden in vivo. We have developed a quantitative real-time PCR-based assay for the detection and quantification of human tumor cells disseminated in mouse organs. The method relies on the parallel amplification of unique, species-specific, conserved and non-transcribed sequences in the mouse and human genomes. We tested the method in xenograft models to assess the metastatic potential of various cancer cell lines, the impact of injection modality and cell type on organ distribution, and the early stages of metastasis implantation and progression. With this method, we observed clear quantitative differences among colon cancer cell lines in terms of metastasis formation in the lung, consistent with the different in vitro growth properties. The mode of cell implantation and cell intrinsic properties strongly affected the metastatic pattern of prostate and breast cancer cell lines in mouse organs. The qPCR assay accurately determined the malignant cell burden even at early stages of metastasis progression in the lung. We describe a very sensitive assay for the highly reproducible detection and accurate quantification of human metastatic cells in mouse tissues and demonstrate its broad applicability to various experimental settings.
Clinical and Experimental Metastasis 04/2010; 27(4):261-71. · 3.46 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) are attractive tools to control gene expression at the transcriptional level. This anti-gene approach has proven to be successful in various experimental settings. However, the mechanisms leading to transcriptional repression in cells have not been fully investigated yet. Here, we examined the consequence of triplex DNA formation on the binding of transcriptional activators, co-activators and RNA Polymerase II to the ets2 gene promoter using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. The triplex target sequence was located approximately 40-bp upstream of the transcription start site (TSS) and overlapped an Sp1 binding site relevant for ets2 transcription. We found that the ets2-TFO prevented binding of Sp1, TAF(II)130 and TAF(II)250 to the ets2 promoter, while binding of RNA polymerase II and TBP were not affected. The effects were both sequence and target specific, since the TFO had no effect on the c-myc promoter and a mutated ets2 promoter construct. Thus, triplex DNA formation near a TSS leads to formation of a non-functional pre-initiation complex (PIC) by blocking binding of transcriptional activators and co-activator molecules. This is the first direct demonstration of interference with PIC assembly at the TSS by oligonucleotide-triplex DNA formation in cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: ETS transcription factors regulate important signaling pathways involved in cell differentiation and development in many tissues and have emerged as important players in prostate cancer. However, the biological impact of ETS factors in prostate tumorigenesis is still debated.
We performed an analysis of the ETS gene family using microarray data and real-time PCR in normal and tumor tissues along with functional studies in normal and cancer cell lines to understand the impact in prostate tumorigenesis and identify key targets of these transcription factors. We found frequent dysregulation of ETS genes with oncogenic (i.e., ERG and ESE1) and tumor suppressor (i.e., ESE3) properties in prostate tumors compared to normal prostate. Tumor subgroups (i.e., ERG(high), ESE1(high), ESE3(low) and NoETS tumors) were identified on the basis of their ETS expression status and showed distinct transcriptional and biological features. ERG(high) and ESE3(low) tumors had the most robust gene signatures with both distinct and overlapping features. Integrating genomic data with functional studies in multiple cell lines, we demonstrated that ERG and ESE3 controlled in opposite direction transcription of the Polycomb Group protein EZH2, a key gene in development, differentiation, stem cell biology and tumorigenesis. We further demonstrated that the prostate-specific tumor suppressor gene Nkx3.1 was controlled by ERG and ESE3 both directly and through induction of EZH2.
These findings provide new insights into the role of the ETS transcriptional network in prostate tumorigenesis and uncover previously unrecognized links between aberrant expression of ETS factors, deregulation of epigenetic effectors and silencing of tumor suppressor genes. The link between aberrant ETS activity and epigenetic gene silencing may be relevant for the clinical management of prostate cancer and design of new therapeutic strategies.
PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(5):e10547. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) directed to gene promoters can silence genes at the transcriptional level. siRNA-directed transcriptional silencing (RdTS) was first described in plants and yeasts and more recently in mammalian cells. RdTS has been associated with the induction of epigenetic changes and the formation of complexes containing RNA interference and chromatin-remodelling factors. Here, we show that a promoter-targeted siRNA inhibits transcription of the c-myc gene. Transcriptional silencing of c-myc did not involve changes of known epigenetic marks. Instead, the c-myc promoter-targeted siRNA interfered with transcription initiation blocking the assembly of the pre-initiation complex. Transcriptional interference depended on Argonaute 2 and a noncoding promoter-associated RNA initiated upstream and overlapping the transcription start site. Silencing of c-myc led to growth arrest, reduced clonogenic potential and senescence of c-myc over-expressing prostate cancer cells with minimal effect on normal cells. RNA-directed transcriptional interference may be a natural mechanism of transcriptional control and siRNAs targeting noncoding RNAs participating in this regulatory pathway could be valuable tools to control expression of deregulated genes in human diseases.
The EMBO Journal 06/2009; 28(12):1708-19. · 9.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Injected, nano-scale drug delivery systems, or nanovectors, are ideal candidates to provide breakthrough solutions to the time-honored problem of optimizing therapeutic index for a treatment. Even modest amounts of progress towards this goal have historically engendered substantial benefits across multiple fields of medicine, with the translability, for example, from oncology to infectious diseases being granted by the fact that the progresses had a single common denominator in the underlying technological platform. In this work we combine multiscale molecular modeling and experimental approaches to define the mode and the molecular requirements of the interaction of oligonucleotide-based therapeutics (e.g., small interfering (si)RNA) and dendrimeric delivery reagents. In details, by mimicking in silico the experiments performed in vitro, information at the molecular level (e.g., interaction forces, mechanisms, structures, free energies of binding, self-assembly, etc.), which cannot be accessed by other experimental techniques, are obtained. Thus, critical molecular parameters for optimizing and de novo designing nanocargos for tissues and tumor specific uptake can be determined. This would provide valuable information to devise optimal delivery modalities that would increase the efficacy of siRNA therapeutics in cells and laboratory animals and move them toward clinical applications.
Advances in Science and Technology 09/2008; 57:154-159.