Rachel A Toroni

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

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Publications (7)29.03 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Bevacizumab, the recombinant antibody targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), improves progression-free but not overall survival in metastatic breast cancer. To seek further insights in resistance mechanisms to bevacizumab at the molecular level, we developed VEGF and non-VEGF-driven ER-positive MCF7-derived xenograft models allowing comparison of tumor response at different timepoints. VEGF gene (MV165) overexpressing xenografts were initially sensitive to bevacizumab, but eventually acquired resistance. In contrast, parental MCF7 cells derived tumors were de novo insensitive to bevacizumab. Microarray analysis with qRT-PCR validation revealed that Follistatin (FST) and NOTCH were the top signaling pathways associated with resistance in VEGF-driven tumors (P<0.05). Based on the presence of VEGF, treatment with bevacizumab resulted in altered patterns of metagenes and PAM50 gene expression. In VEGF-driven model after short and long-term bevacizumab treatments, a change in the intrinsic subtype (luminal to myoepithelial/basal-like) was observed in association with increased expression of genes implicated with cancer stem cell phenotype (P<0.05). Our results show that the presence or absence of VEGF expression affects the response to bevacizumab therapy and gene pathways. In particular, long-term bevacizumab treatment shifts the cancer cells to a more aggressive myoepithelial/basal subtype in VEGF-expressing model, but not in non-VEGF model. These findings could shed light on variable results to anti-VEGF therapy in patients and emphasize the importance of patient stratification based on the VEGF expression. Our data strongly suggest consideration of patient subgroups for treatment and designing novel combinatory therapies in the clinical setting.
    Journal of Cancer. 07/2014; 5(8):633-45.
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    ABSTRACT: About half of all melanomas harbor a mutation that results in a constitutively active BRAF kinase mutant (BRAFV600E/K) that can be selectively inhibited by targeted BRAF inhibitors (BRAFis). While patients treated with BRAFis initially exhibit measurable clinical improvement, the majority of patients eventually develop drug resistance and relapse. Here, we observed marked elevation of WNT5A in a subset of tumors from patients exhibiting disease progression on BRAFi therapy. WNT5A transcript and protein were also elevated in BRAFi-resistant melanoma cell lines generated by long-term in vitro treatment with BRAFi. RNAi-mediated reduction of endogenous WNT5A in melanoma decreased cell growth, increased apoptosis in response to BRAFi challenge, and decreased the activity of prosurvival AKT signaling. Conversely, overexpression of WNT5A promoted melanoma growth, tumorigenesis, and activation of AKT signaling. Similarly to WNT5A knockdown, knockdown of the WNT receptors FZD7 and RYK inhibited growth, sensitized melanoma cells to BRAFi, and reduced AKT activation. Together, these findings suggest that chronic BRAF inhibition elevates WNT5A expression, which promotes AKT signaling through FZD7 and RYK, leading to increased growth and therapeutic resistance. Furthermore, increased WNT5A expression in BRAFi-resistant melanomas correlates with a specific transcriptional signature, which identifies potential therapeutic targets to reduce clinical BRAFi resistance.
    The Journal of clinical investigation. 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Advances in phosphoproteomics have made it possible to monitor changes in protein phosphorylation that occur at different steps in signal transduction, and have aided the identification of new pathway components. In the present study we applied this technology to advance our understanding of the responses of melanoma cells to signaling initiated by the secreted ligand, WNT3A. We started by comparing the phospho-peptide patterns of cells treated with WNT3A for different periods of time. Next, we integrated these data sets with the results from a siRNA screen that targeted protein kinases. This integration of siRNA screening and proteomics enabled us to identify four kinases that exhibit altered phosphorylation in response to WNT3A and that regulate a luciferase reporter of beta-catenin-responsive transcription (BAR). We focused on one of these kinases, an atypical PKC kinase, Protein Kinase N1 (PKN1). Reducing the levels of PKN1 with siRNAs significantly enhances activation of BAR and increases apoptosis in melanoma cell lines. Using affinity purification followed by mass spectrometry, we then found that PKN1 is present in a protein complex with a Wnt receptor, Frizzled 7 (FZD7), as well as with proteins that co-purify with FZD7. These data establish that the protein kinase PKN1 inhibits Wnt/beta-catenin signaling and sensitizes melanoma cells to cell death stimulated by WNT3A.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 10/2013; · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Elevated levels of nuclear β-catenin are associated with higher rates of survival in patients with melanoma, raising questions as to how ß-catenin is regulated in this context. In the present study, we investigated the formal possibility that the secretion of WNT ligands that stabilize ß-catenin may be regulated in melanoma and thus contributes to differences in ß-catenin levels. We find that WLS, a conserved transmembrane protein necessary for WNT secretion, is decreased in both melanoma cell lines and in patient tumours relative to skin and to benign nevi. Unexpectedly, reducing endogenous WLS with shRNAs in human melanoma cell lines promotes spontaneous lung metastasis in xenografts in mice and promotes cell proliferation in vitro. Conversely, overexpression of WLS inhibits cell proliferation in vitro. Activating β-catenin downstream of WNT secretion blocks the increased cell migration and proliferation observed in the presence of WLS shRNAs, while inhibiting WNT signalling rescues the growth defects induced by excess WLS. These data suggest that WLS functions as a negative regulator of melanoma proliferation and spontaneous metastasis by activating WNT/β-catenin signalling.
    EMBO Molecular Medicine 11/2012; · 7.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Aberrant activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling plays an important role in breast cancer progression and represents a potential therapeutic target for breast cancer. In this study, we report the impact of the investigational drug MLN0128, a potent and selective small molecule active-site TORC1/2 kinase inhibitor, on tumor growth and metastasis using human breast cancer xenograft models. We assessed in vitro antiproliferative activity of MLN0128 in a panel of breast cancer cell lines. We next evaluated the impact of MLN0128 on tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis using mammary fat pad xenograft models of a non-VEGF (ML20) and a VEGF-driven (MV165) MCF-7 sublines harboring PIK3CA mutations. MLN0128 potently inhibited cell proliferation in various breast cancer cell lines harboring PIK3CA (IC(50): 1.5-53 nM), PTEN (IC(50): 1-149 nM), KRAS, and/or BRAF mutations (IC(50): 13-162 nM), and in human endothelial cells (IC(50): 33-40 nM) in vitro. In vivo, MLN0128 decreased primary tumor growth significantly in both non-VEGF (ML20; p = 0.05) and VEGF-driven MCF-7 (MV165; p = 0.014) xenograft models. MLN0128 decreased the phosphorylation of Akt, S6, 4E-BP1, and NDRG1 in both models. In contrast, rapamycin increased Akt activity and failed to reduce the phosphorylation of 4E-BP1, PRAS40, and NDRG1. VEGF-induced lung metastasis in MV165 is inhibited by MLN0128 and rapamycin. In conclusion, MLN0128 inhibits TORC1/2-dependent signaling in preclinical models of breast cancer. MLN0128 appears to be superior in blocking mTORC1/2 signaling in contrast to rapamycin. Our findings support the clinical research of MLN0128 in patients with breast cancer and metastasis.
    Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 10/2012; · 4.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Because the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is linked to melanoma pathogenesis and to patient survival, we conducted a kinome small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen in melanoma cells to expand our understanding of the kinases that regulate this pathway. We found that BRAF signaling, which is constitutively activated in many melanomas by the BRAF(V600E) mutation, inhibits Wnt/β-catenin signaling in human melanoma cells. Because inhibitors of BRAF(V600E) show promise in ongoing clinical trials, we investigated whether altering Wnt/β-catenin signaling might enhance the efficacy of the BRAF(V600E) inhibitor PLX4720. We found that endogenous β-catenin was required for PLX4720-induced apoptosis of melanoma cells and that activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling synergized with PLX4720 to decrease tumor growth in vivo and to increase apoptosis in vitro. This synergistic enhancement of apoptosis correlated with reduced abundance of an endogenous negative regulator of β-catenin, AXIN1. In support of the hypothesis that AXIN1 is a mediator rather than a marker of apoptosis, siRNA directed against AXIN1 rendered resistant melanoma cell lines susceptible to apoptosis in response to treatment with a BRAF(V600E) inhibitor. Thus, Wnt/β-catenin signaling and AXIN1 may regulate the efficacy of inhibitors of BRAF(V600E), suggesting that manipulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway could be combined with BRAF inhibitors to treat melanoma.
    Science Signaling 01/2012; 5(206):ra3. · 7.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Overexpression and altered function of EphA2 receptor tyrosine kinase are critical in the progression of breast cancer and provide a target for breast cancer therapy. We have previously demonstrated that EphA2 overexpression decreases estrogen dependence and Tamoxifen sensitivity both in vitro and in vivo. EA5, a novel monoclonal antibody that mimicks the binding of ephrin A to EphA2, reverses the effect of EphA2 overexpression and restores Tamoxifen sensitivity in EphA2-transfected MCF-7 cells in vitro. To explore the role of EphA2 overexpression on ER-dependent mechanisms, we used two different ER+/EphA2-transfected cell line models (MCF-7(neo)/MCF-7(EphA2) and T47D(neo)/T47D(EphA2)). EA5 inhibits primary tumor growth and restores Tamoxifen sensitivity in the MCF-7(EphA2) xenografts. Using the T47D(EphA2) in vitro model, we verified that EphA2 decreases ER activation in response to E2 stimulation consistent with our earlier results in MCF-7(EphA2) model. We found no direct interaction between ER and EphA2 and no difference in expression of canonical ER-dependent proteins or ER co-regulators. However, E2 stimulation phosphorylates FAK(Tyr925) only in ER+/EphA2+ cell lines. Treatment of T47D(EphA2) cells with EA5 and Tamoxifen leads to dephosphorylation of FAK(Tyr925) in response to E2. Our data demonstrate that dual targeting of EphA2 and ER is a promising approach for delaying resistance to Tamoxifen. The data support our hypothesis that EphA2 impacts ER function via a FAK dependent pathway.
    Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 06/2011; 127(2):375-84. · 4.47 Impact Factor