Meijun Zhu

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States

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Publications (11)109.33 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Many common human mesenchymal tumors, including gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) and leiomyosarcoma (LMS), feature myogenic differentiation. Here we report that intragenic deletion of the dystrophin-encoding and muscular dystrophy-associated DMD gene is a frequent mechanism by which myogenic tumors progress to high-grade, lethal sarcomas. Dystrophin is expressed in the non-neoplastic and benign counterparts of GIST, RMS and LMS tumors, and DMD deletions inactivate larger dystrophin isoforms, including 427-kDa dystrophin, while preserving the expression of an essential 71-kDa isoform. Dystrophin inhibits myogenic sarcoma cell migration, invasion, anchorage independence and invadopodia formation, and dystrophin inactivation was found in 96%, 100% and 62% of metastatic GIST, embryonal RMS and LMS samples, respectively. These findings validate dystrophin as a tumor suppressor and likely anti-metastatic factor, suggesting that therapies in development for muscular dystrophies may also have relevance in the treatment of cancer.
    Nature Genetics 05/2014; · 35.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: PURPOSEAmplifications and mutations in the KIT proto-oncogene in subsets of melanomas provide therapeutic opportunities. PATIENTS AND METHODS We conducted a multicenter phase II trial of imatinib in metastatic mucosal, acral, or chronically sun-damaged (CSD) melanoma with KIT amplifications and/or mutations. Patients received imatinib 400 mg once per day or 400 mg twice per day if there was no initial response. Dose reductions were permitted for treatment-related toxicities. Additional oncogene mutation screening was performed by mass spectroscopy.ResultsTwenty-five patients were enrolled (24 evaluable). Eight patients (33%) had tumors with KIT mutations, 11 (46%) with KIT amplifications, and five (21%) with both. Median follow-up was 10.6 months (range, 3.7 to 27.1 months). Best overall response rate (BORR) was 29% (21% excluding nonconfirmed responses) with a two-stage 95% CI of 13% to 51%. BORR was significantly greater than the hypothesized null of 5% and statistically significantly different by mutation status (7 of 13 or 54% KIT mutated v 0% KIT amplified only). There were no statistical differences in rates of progression or survival by mutation status or by melanoma site. The overall disease control rate was 50% but varied significantly by KIT mutation status (77% mutated v 18% amplified). Four patients harbored pretreatment NRAS mutations, and one patient acquired increased KIT amplification after treatment. CONCLUSION Melanomas that arise on mucosal, acral, or CSD skin should be assessed for KIT mutations. Imatinib can be effective when tumors harbor KIT mutations, but not if KIT is amplified only. NRAS mutations and KIT copy number gain may be mechanisms of therapeutic resistance to imatinib.
    Journal of Clinical Oncology 06/2013; · 18.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Leiomyoma and leiomyosarcoma share morphological features and smooth muscle differentiation, and both arise most frequently within the uterine corpus of middle-aged women. However, they are considered biologically unrelated tumors due to their disparate clinical, cytogenetic, and molecular features. MED12, the mediator complex subunit 12 gene, has been recently implicated as an oncogene in as many as 70% of sporadic uterine leiomyoma. In the present study, we show MED12 hotspot exon 2 mutations in extrauterine leiomyoma (3 of 19 cases) and in leiomyosarcoma (3 of 13 uterine cases). We also show that MED12 mutations are found in both primary and metastatic leiomyosarcoma. Immunoblotting studies demonstrated MED12 protein expression in 100% of leiomyomas (13) and leiomyosarcomas (20), irrespective of MED12 exon 2 mutation status or histological grade. These findings indicate that MED12 has oncogenic roles in a broad range of smooth muscle neoplasia, including tumors arising in extrauterine locations.Modern Pathology advance online publication, 7 December 2012; doi:10.1038/modpathol.2012.203.
    Modern Pathology 12/2012; · 5.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Endometrial stromal sarcoma (ESS) characterized by YWHAE-FAM22 genetic fusion is histologically higher grade and clinically more aggressive than ESS with JAZF1-SUZ12 or equivalent genetic rearrangements, hence it is clinically important to recognize this subset of ESS. To identify diagnostic immunomarkers for this biologically defined ESS subset, we compared gene expression profiles between YWHAE-FAM22 ESS and JAZF1-rearranged ESS. These studies showed consistent upregulation of cyclin D1 in YWHAE-FAM22 ESS compared with JAZF1-SUZ12 ESS. Immunohistochemically, the high-grade round cell component of all 12 YWHAE-FAM22 ESS demonstrated diffuse (≥70%) moderate to strong nuclear cyclin D1 staining, and this diffuse positivity was not seen in 34 ESSs with JAZF1 and equivalent genetic rearrangements or in 21 low-grade ESS with no demonstrable genetic rearrangements. In a series of 243 non-ESS pure uterine mesenchymal and mixed epithelial-mesenchymal tumors, only 2 of 8 undifferentiated endometrial sarcomas with nuclear uniformity and 1 of 80 uterine leiomyosarcomas demonstrate diffuse cyclin D1 immunoreactivity. Both cyclin D1-positive undifferentiated endometrial sarcomas showed diffuse strong CD10 staining, which is consistently absent in the high-grade round cell component of YWHAE-FAM22 ESS. The low-grade spindle cell component of YWHAE-FAM22 ESS showed a spatially heterogenous cyclin D1 staining pattern that was weaker and less diffuse overall. Our findings indicate that cyclin D1 is a sensitive and specific diagnostic immunomarker for YWHAE-FAM22 ESS. When evaluating high-grade uterine sarcomas, cyclin D1 can be included in the immunohistochemical panel as an indicator of YWHAE-FAM22 ESS.
    The American journal of surgical pathology 10/2012; 36(10):1562-1570. · 4.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The majority of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are characterized by activating mutations of KIT, an HSP90 client protein. Further secondary resistance mutations within KIT limit clinical responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as imatinib. The dependence of KIT and its mutated forms on HSP90 suggests that HSP90 inhibition might be a valuable treatment option for GIST, which would be equally effective on imatinib-sensitive and -resistant clones. We investigated the activity of AT13387, a potent HSP90 inhibitor currently being evaluated in clinical trials, in both in vitro and in vivo GIST models. AT13387 inhibited the proliferation of imatinib-sensitive (GIST882, GIST-T1) and -resistant (GIST430, GIST48) cell lines, including those resistant to the geldanamycin analogue HSP90 inhibitor, 17-AAG. Treatment with AT13387 resulted in depletion of HSP90 client proteins, KIT and AKT, along with their phospho-forms in imatinib-sensitive and -resistant cell lines, irrespective of KIT mutation. KIT signaling was ablated, whereas HSP70, a marker of HSP90 inhibition, was induced. In vivo, antitumor activity of AT13387 was showed in both the imatinib-sensitive, GIST-PSW, xenograft model and a newly characterized imatinib-resistant, GIST430, xenograft model. Induction of HSP70, depletion of phospho-KIT and inhibition of KIT signaling were seen in tumors from both models after treatment with AT13387. A combination of imatinib and AT13387 treatment in the imatinib-resistant GIST430 model significantly enhanced tumor growth inhibition over either of the monotherapies. Importantly, the combination of AT13387 and imatinib was well tolerated. These results suggest AT13387 is an excellent candidate for clinical testing in GIST in combination with imatinib.
    Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 06/2012; 11(8):1799-808. · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Somatic GNAQ mutations at codon 209 have been identified in approximately 50% of uveal melanomas and have been reported to be oncogenic through activating PLCβ/PKC/Erk1/2 pathways. We hypothesized that protein kinase C (PKC) may provide new opportunities for therapeutic targeting of uveal melanoma carrying GNAQ mutations. To test this hypothesis, uveal melanoma cells harboring wild-type or mutant GNAQ were treated with the PKC inhibitor AEB071 (sotrastaurin) or infected with lentivirus-expressing short hairpin RNAs (shRNA) targeting PKC isoforms. Notably, AEB071 at low micromolar concentrations significantly inhibited the growth of uveal melanoma cells harboring GNAQ mutations through induction of G(1) arrest and apoptosis. However, AEB071 had little effect on uveal melanoma cells carrying wild-type GNAQ. AEB071-mediated cell inhibition in the GNAQ-mutated uveal melanoma was accompanied by inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk)1/2 phosphorylation, NF-κB, decreased expression of cyclin D1, survivin, Bcl-xL, and XIAP, and increased expression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27(Kip1). AEB071 suppressed the expression of PKC α, β, δ, ε, and θ in GNAQ-mutated uveal melanoma cells. Our findings from shRNA-mediated knockdown studies revealed that these PKC isoforms are functionally important for uveal melanoma cells harboring GNAQ mutations. Furthermore, inhibitors of Erk1/2 and NF-κB pathways reduced viability of uveal melanoma cells. Together, our findings show that AEB071 exerts antitumor action on uveal melanoma cells carrying GNAQ mutations via targeting PKC/Erk1/2 and PKC/NF-κB pathways. Targeted PKC inhibition with drugs such as AEB071 offers novel therapeutic potential for uveal melanoma harboring GNAQ mutations. Mol Cancer Ther; 11(9); 1905-14. ©2012 AACR.
    Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 05/2012; 11(9):1905-14. · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Metastatic GI stromal tumor (GIST) is a life-threatening disease with no therapy of proven efficacy after failure of imatinib and sunitinib. Regorafenib is a structurally unique inhibitor of multiple cancer-associated kinases, including KIT and platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR), with broad-spectrum anticancer activity in preclinical and early-phase trials. Because KIT and PDGFR-α remain drivers of GIST after resistance to imatinib and sunitinib, we performed a multicenter single-stage phase II trial of regorafenib in patients with advanced GIST after failure of at least imatinib and sunitinib. Patients received regorafenib orally, 160 mg daily, on days 1 to 21 of a 28-day cycle. Disease assessment was performed every two cycles per RECIST 1.1. Primary end point was clinical benefit rate (CBR), defined as objective responses (ie, complete or partial response [PR] as well as stable disease [SD] ≥ 16 weeks). Serial tumor biopsies were obtained from consenting patients whenever possible. From February to December 2010, 34 patients were enrolled at four US centers. As of July 28, 2011, 33 patients had received at least two cycles of regorafenib (range, two to 17 cycles). CBR was 79% (95% CI, 61% to 91%). Four patients achieved PR, and 22 exhibited SD ≥ 16 weeks. Median progression-free survival was 10.0 months. The most common grade 3 toxicities were hypertension and hand-foot-skin reaction. Regorafenib has significant activity in patients with advanced GIST after failure of both imatinib and sunitinib. A phase III trial of regorafenib versus placebo is ongoing to define more fully the safety and efficacy of regorafenib in this setting.
    Journal of Clinical Oncology 05/2012; 30(19):2401-7. · 18.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Endometrial stromal sarcoma (ESS) is a genetically heterogenous group of uterine sarcomas, of which almost half are associated with JAZF1 rearrangement. We recently identified a novel genetic fusion between YWHAE and FAM22A/B in ESS harboring t(10;17)(q22;p13) and herein describe the clinicopathologic features of 13 YWHAE-FAM22 ESS cases (11 primary and 3 metastatic) and compare them with 20 ESS cases with JAZF1 rearrangement. Ten of 11 primary uterine tumors contained morphologically high-grade areas composed of round cells arranged in nests with a delicate stromal capillary network. The tumor cells showed large nuclei with irregular nuclear contours and significant mitotic activity (>10 mitoses/10 HPF) in addition to focal tumor necrosis, in contrast to JAZF1 ESS, which lacked a nested growth pattern, were composed of cells with small round/oval nuclei, and typically had <5 MF/10 HPF. In 7 of the 11 uterine tumors, there was an additional cytologically bland and mitotically weakly active spindle cell component with a fibrous/fibromyxoid stroma (ESS, fibromyxoid variant). Two metastatic tumors (pulmonary) also contained round cell and spindle cell components, whereas 1 metastasis (vaginal) was composed solely of the spindle cell component. In both primary and metastatic tumors, the spindle cells were diffusely positive for estrogen and progesterone receptors and CD10, in contrast to the round cell areas, which were negative. Clinically, 10 of 12 patients with YWHAE-FAM22 ESS presented with FIGO stages II to III disease, in contrast to only 4 of 16 patients with JAZF1 ESS presenting with stages II to III disease (P<0.05). Tumors with YWHAE-FAM22 rearrangements constitute a distinct group of ESS, which is associated with high-grade morphology and aggressive clinical behavior compared to JAZF1 ESS. Thus, their distinction from typical JAZF1 ESS is important for prognostic and therapeutic purposes.
    The American journal of surgical pathology 03/2012; 36(5):641-53. · 4.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: 14-3-3 proteins are ubiquitously expressed regulators of various cellular functions, including proliferation, metabolism, and differentiation, and altered 14-3-3 expression is associated with development and progression of cancer. We report a transforming 14-3-3 oncoprotein, which we identified through conventional cytogenetics and whole-transcriptome sequencing analysis as a highly recurrent genetic mechanism in a clinically aggressive form of uterine sarcoma: high-grade endometrial stromal sarcoma (ESS). The 14-3-3 oncoprotein results from a t(10;17) genomic rearrangement, leading to fusion between 14-3-3ε (YWHAE) and either of two nearly identical FAM22 family members (FAM22A or FAM22B). Expression of YWHAE-FAM22 fusion oncoproteins was demonstrated by immunoblot in t(10;17)-bearing frozen tumor and cell line samples. YWHAE-FAM22 fusion gene knockdowns were performed with shRNAs and siRNAs targeting various FAM22A exons in an t(10;17)-bearing ESS cell line (ESS1): Fusion protein expression was inhibited, with corresponding reduction in cell growth and migration. YWHAE-FAM22 maintains a structurally and functionally intact 14-3-3ε (YWHAE) protein-binding domain, which is directed to the nucleus by a FAM22 nuclear localization sequence. In contrast to classic ESS, harboring JAZF1 genetic fusions, YWHAE-FAM22 ESS display high-grade histologic features, a distinct gene-expression profile, and a more aggressive clinical course. Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis demonstrated absolute specificity of YWHAE-FAM22A/B genetic rearrangement for high-grade ESS, with no fusions detected in other uterine and nonuterine mesenchymal tumors (55 tumor types, n = 827). These discoveries reveal diagnostically and therapeutically relevant models for characterizing aberrant 14-3-3 oncogenic functions.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2012; 109(3):929-34. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: GNAQ mutations at codon 209 have been recently identified in approximately 50% of uveal melanomas (UM) and are reported to be oncogenic through activating the MAPK/Erk1/2 pathway. Protein kinase C (PKC) is a component of signaling from GNAQ to Erk1/2. Inhibition of PKC might regulate GNAQ mutation-induced Erk1/2 activation, resulting in growth inhibition of UM cells carrying GNAQ mutations. UM cells carrying wild type or mutant GNAQ were treated with the PKC inhibitor enzastaurin. Effects on proliferation, apoptosis, and signaling events were evaluated. Enzastaurin downregulated the expression of several PKC isoforms including PKCβII PKCθ, PKCε and/or their phosphorylation in GNAQ mutated cells. Downregulation of these PKC isoforms in GNAQ mutated cells by shRNA resulted in reduced viability. Enzastaurin exhibited greater antiproliferative effect on GNAQ mutant cells than wild type cells through induction of G1 arrest and apoptosis. Enzastaurin-induced G1 arrest was associated with inhibition of Erk1/2 phosphorylation, downregulation of cyclin D1, and accumulation of cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor p27(Kip1). Furthermore, enzastaurin reduced the expression of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 and survivin in GNAQ mutant cells. Inhibition of Erk1/2 phosphorylation with a MEK specific inhibitor enhanced the sensitivity of GNAQ wild type cells to enzastaurin, accompanied by p27(Kip1) accumulation and/or inhibition of enzastaurin-induced survivin and Bcl-2 upregulation. PKC inhibitors such as enzastaurin have activity against UM cells carrying GNAQ mutations through inhibition of the PKC/Erk1/2 pathway and induction of G1 arrest and apoptosis. Inhibition of the PKC pathway provides a basis for clinical investigation in patients with UM.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(1):e29622. · 3.73 Impact Factor