Carmen Behrens

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, United States

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Publications (4)26.32 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) often expresses mutant KRAS together with tumor-associated mutations of the CDKN2A locus, which are associated with aggressive, therapy-resistant tumors. Here, we unravel specific requirements for the maintenance of NSCLC that carry this genotype. We establish that the ERK/RHOA/focal adhesion kinase (FAK) network is deregulated in high-grade lung tumors. Suppression of RHOA or FAK induces cell death selectively in mutant KRAS;INK4a/ARF deficient lung cancer cells. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of FAK caused tumor regression specifically in the high-grade lung cancer that developed in mutant Kras;Cdkn2a-null mice. Our findings provide the rationale for the rapid implementation of genotype-specific targeted therapies utilizing FAK inhibitors in cancer patients.
    Cancer Discovery 01/2013; · 10.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer and is associated with a high mortality rate worldwide. The majority of individuals bearing NSCLC are treated with surgery plus adjuvant cisplatin, an initially effective therapeutic regimen that, however, is unable to prevent relapse within 5 y after tumor resection in an elevated proportion of patients. The factors that predict the clinical course of NSCLC and its sensitivity to therapy remain largely obscure. One notable exception is provided by pyridoxal kinase (PDXK), the enzyme that generates the bioactive form of vitamin B6. PDXK has recently been shown to be required for optimal cisplatin responses in vitro and in vivo and to constitute a bona fide prognostic marker in the NSCLC setting. Together with PDXK, 84 additional factors were identified that influence the response of NSCLC cells to cisplatin in vitro including the hepatic lipase LIPC. Here, we report that the intratumoral levels of LIPC, as assessed by immunohistochemistry in two independent cohorts of NSCLC patients, positively correlate with disease outcome. In one out of two cohorts studied, the overall survival of NSCLC patients bearing LIPC (high) lesions was unaffected, if not slightly worsened, by cisplatin-based adjuvant therapy. Conversely, the overall survival of patients with LIPC (low) lesions was prolonged by post-operative cisplatin. Pending validation in appropriate clinical series, these results suggest that LIPC (low) NSCLC patients would be those who mainly benefit from adjuvant cisplatin therapy. Thus, the expression levels of LIPC appear to have an independent prognostic value (and perhaps a predictive potential) in the setting of NSCLC. If these findings were confirmed by additional studies, LIPC expression levels might allow not only for NSCLC patient stratification, but also for the implementation of personalized therapeutic approaches.
    Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 01/2013; 12(4). · 5.24 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are routinely treated with cytotoxic agents such as cisplatin. Through a genome-wide siRNA-based screen, we identified vitamin B6 metabolism as a central regulator of cisplatin responses in vitro and in vivo. By aggravating a bioenergetic catastrophe that involves the depletion of intracellular glutathione, vitamin B6 exacerbates cisplatin-mediated DNA damage, thus sensitizing a large panel of cancer cell lines to apoptosis. Moreover, vitamin B6 sensitizes cancer cells to apoptosis induction by distinct types of physical and chemical stress, including multiple chemotherapeutics. This effect requires pyridoxal kinase (PDXK), the enzyme that generates the bioactive form of vitamin B6. In line with a general role of vitamin B6 in stress responses, low PDXK expression levels were found to be associated with poor disease outcome in two independent cohorts of patients with NSCLC. These results indicate that PDXK expression levels constitute a biomarker for risk stratification among patients with NSCLC.
    Cell Reports 07/2012; 2(2):257-69. · 7.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: For therapeutic purposes, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has traditionally been regarded as a single disease. However, recent evidence suggest that the two major subtypes of NSCLC, adenocarcinoma (AC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC) respond differently to both molecular targeted and new generation chemotherapies. Therefore, identifying the molecular differences between these tumor types may impact novel treatment strategy. We performed the first large-scale analysis of 261 primary NSCLC tumors (169 AC and 92 SqCC), integrating genome-wide DNA copy number, methylation and gene expression profiles to identify subtype-specific molecular alterations relevant to new agent design and choice of therapy. Comparison of AC and SqCC genomic and epigenomic landscapes revealed 778 altered genes with corresponding expression changes that are selected during tumor development in a subtype-specific manner. Analysis of >200 additional NSCLCs confirmed that these genes are responsible for driving the differential development and resulting phenotypes of AC and SqCC. Importantly, we identified key oncogenic pathways disrupted in each subtype that likely serve as the basis for their differential tumor biology and clinical outcomes. Downregulation of HNF4α target genes was the most common pathway specific to AC, while SqCC demonstrated disruption of numerous histone modifying enzymes as well as the transcription factor E2F1. In silico screening of candidate therapeutic compounds using subtype-specific pathway components identified HDAC and PI3K inhibitors as potential treatments tailored to lung SqCC. Together, our findings suggest that AC and SqCC develop through distinct pathogenetic pathways that have significant implication in our approach to the clinical management of NSCLC.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(5):e37775. · 3.73 Impact Factor