H E Varmus

Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, United States

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Publications (402)4891.76 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Human lung adenocarcinomas (LUAD) contain mutations in EGFR in similar to 15% of cases and in KRAS in similar to 30%, yet no individual adenocarcinoma appears to carry activating mutations in both genes, a finding we have confirmed by re-analysis of data from over 600 LUAD. Here we provide evidence that co-occurrence of mutations in these two genes is deleterious. In transgenic mice programmed to express both mutant oncogenes in the lung epithelium, the resulting tumors express only one oncogene. We also show that forced expression of a second oncogene in human cancer cell lines with an endogenous mutated oncogene is deleterious. The most prominent features accompanying loss of cell viability were vacuolization, other changes in cell morphology, and increased macropinocytosis. Activation of ERK, p38 and JNK in the dying cells suggests that an overly active MAPK signaling pathway may mediate the phenotype. Together, our findings indicate that mutual exclusivity of oncogenic mutations may reveal unexpected vulnerabilities and therapeutic possibilities.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2015 · eLife Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: ERBB3, a member of the EGFR family of receptor tyrosine kinases, has been implicated in activation of the PI3K pathway in human lung adenocarcinomas driven by EGFR mutations. We investigated the contribution of ERBB3 to the initiation, progression, and therapeutic response of EGFR-induced lung adenocarcinomas using tetracycline- and tamoxifen-inducible transgenic mouse models. Deletion of Erbb3 at the time of induction of mutant EGFR had no effect on tumorigenesis, demonstrating that ERBB3 is not required to initiate tumorigenesis. Tumors that developed in the absence of ERBB3 remained sensitive to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors and retained activation of the PI3K-AKT pathway. Interestingly, acute loss of Erbb3 suppressed further growth of established EGFRL858R-mediated lung tumors. Four weeks after deletion of Erbb3, the tumors exhibited phosphorylation of EGFR, of the adaptor proteins GAB1 and GAB2, and of the downstream signaling molecules AKT and ERK, suggesting that alternative signaling pathways could compensate for loss of Erbb3. Similar to our observations with mouse tumors, we found that GAB adaptor proteins play a role in ERBB3-independent activation of the PI3K pathway by mutant EGFR in EGFR-mutant human cell lines. Finally, in such cell lines, increased levels of phosphorylation of ERBB2 or MET were associated with reduced sensitivity to acute loss of ERBB3, suggesting remarkable plasticity in the signaling pathways regulated by mutant EGFR with important therapeutic implications.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: Somatic mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) kinase domain drive lung adenocarcinoma. We have previously identified MIG6, an inhibitor of ERBB signaling and a potential tumor suppressor, as a target for phosphorylation by mutant EGFRs. Here we demonstrate that Mig6 is a tumor suppressor for the initiation and progression of mutant EGFR-driven lung adenocarcinoma in mouse models. Mutant EGFR-induced lung tumor formation was accelerated in Mig6-deficient mice, even with Mig6 haploinsufficiency. We demonstrate that constitutive phosphorylation of MIG6 at Y394/395 in EGFR-mutant human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines is associated with an increased interaction of MIG6 with mutant EGFR, which may stabilize EGFR protein. MIG6 also fails to promote mutant EGFR degradation. We propose a model whereby increased tyrosine phosphorylation of MIG6 decreases its capacity to inhibit mutant EGFR. Nonetheless, the residual inhibition is sufficient for Mig6 to delay mutant EGFR-driven tumor initiation and progression in mouse models. Copyright © 2015, American Association for Cancer Research.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Cancer Discovery
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    ABSTRACT: Activating mutations in the EGF receptor (EGFR) are associated with clinical responsiveness to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), such as erlotinib and gefitinib. However, resistance eventually arises, often due to a second EGFR mutation, most commonly T790M. Through a genome-wide siRNA screen in a human lung cancer cell line and analyses of murine mutant EGFR-driven lung adenocarcinomas, we found that erlotinib resistance was associated with reduced expression of neurofibromin, the RAS GTPase activating protein encoded by the NF1 gene. Erlotinib failed to fully inhibit RAS-ERK signaling when neurofibromin levels were reduced. Treatment of neurofibromin-deficient lung cancers with a MEK inhibitor restored sensitivity to erlotinib. Low levels of NF1 expression were associated with primary and acquired resistance of lung adenocarcinomas to EGFR TKIs in patients. These findings identify a subgroup of patients with EGFR mutant lung adenocarcinoma who might benefit from combination therapy with EGFR and MEK inhibitors.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Cancer Discovery
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    ABSTRACT: ERBB3, a member of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) family of receptor tyrosine kinases, has been implicated in activation of the phosphatidyl-inositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway in human lung adenocarcinomas driven by EGFR mutations. We investigated the contribution of ERBB3 to the initiation, progression and therapeutic response of EGFR-induced lung adenocarcinomas using tetracycline- and tamoxifen- inducible transgenic mouse models. Deletion of Erbb3 at the time of induction of mutant EGFR had no effect on tumorigenesis, demonstrating that ERBB3 is not required to initiate tumorigenesis. Tumors that developed in the absence of ERBB3 remained sensitive to EGFR TKIs and retained activation of the PI3K/AKT pathway. Interestingly, acute loss of Erbb3 suppressed further growth of established EGFRL858R-mediated lung tumors. Four weeks after deletion of Erbb3, the tumors exhibited phosphorylation of EGFR, of the adaptor proteins GAB1 and GAB2 and, of the downstream signaling molecules AKT and ERK suggesting that alternative signaling pathways could compensate for loss of Erbb3. Similar to our observations with mouse tumors, we found that GAB adaptor proteins play a role in ERBB3 independent activation of the PI3K pathway by mutant EGFR in EGFR mutant human cell lines. Finally, in such cell lines, increased levels of phosphorylation of ERBB2 or MET were associated with reduced sensitivity to acute loss of ERBB3, suggesting remarkable plasticity in the signaling pathways regulated by mutant EGFR with important therapeutic implications. Copyright © 2015, American Association for Cancer Research.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Molecular Cancer Therapeutics
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    ABSTRACT: Somatic mutations in the EGFR proto-oncogene occur in ~15% of human lung adenocarcinomas and the importance of EGFR mutations for the initiation and maintenance of lung cancer is well established from mouse models and cancer therapy trials in human lung cancer patients. Recently, we identified DOK2 as a lung adenocarcinoma tumor suppressor gene. Here we show that genomic loss of DOK2 is associated with EGFR mutations in human lung adenocarcinoma, and we hypothesized that loss of DOK2 might therefore cooperate with EGFR mutations to promote lung tumorigenesis. We tested this hypothesis using genetically engineered mouse models and find that loss of Dok2 in the mouse accelerates lung tumorigenesis initiated by oncogenic EGFR, but not that initiated by mutated Kras. Moreover, we find that DOK2 participates in a negative feedback loop that opposes mutated EGFR; EGFR mutation leads to recruitment of DOK2 to EGFR and DOK2-mediated inhibition of downstream activation of RAS. These data identify DOK2 as a tumor suppressor in EGFR-mutant lung adenocarcinoma.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · PLoS ONE
  • X. Song · P.-D. Fan · U. Guha · D. Threadgill · H. Varmus · K. Politi

    No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Clinical Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: Bromodomain and extra terminal domain (BET) proteins function as epigenetic signaling factors that associate with acetylated histones and facilitate transcription of target genes. Inhibitors targeting the activity of BET proteins have shown potent antiproliferative effects in hematological cancers through the suppression of c-MYC and downstream target genes. However, as the epigenetic landscape of a cell varies drastically depending on lineage, transcriptional coactivators such as BETs would be expected to have different targets in cancers derived from different cells of origin, and this may influence the activity and mechanism of action of BET inhibitors. To test this hypothesis, we treated a panel of lung adenocarcinoma (LAC) cell lines with the BET inhibitor JQ1 and found that a subset is acutely susceptible to BET inhibition. In contrast to blood tumors, we show that LAC cells are inhibited by JQ1 through a mechanism independent of c-MYC down-regulation. Through gene expression profiling, we discovered that the oncogenic transcription factor FOSL1 and its targets are suppressed by JQ1 in a dose-dependant manner. Knockdown of BRD4 also decreased FOSL1 levels, and inhibition of FOSL1 phenocopied the effects of JQ1 treatment, suggesting that loss of this transcription factor may be partly responsible for the cytotoxic effects of BET inhibition in LAC cells, although ectopic expression of FOSL1 alone did not rescue the phenotype. Together, these findings suggest that BET inhibitors may be useful in solid tumors and that cell-lineage-specific differences in transcriptional targets of BETs may influence the activity of inhibitors of these proteins in different cancer types.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2012 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    Roel Nusse · Harold Varmus
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    ABSTRACT: Wnt genes and components of Wnt signalling pathways have been implicated in a wide spectrum of important biological phenomena, ranging from early organismal development to cell behaviours to several diseases, especially cancers. Emergence of the field of Wnt signalling can be largely traced back to the discovery of the first mammalian Wnt gene in 1982. In this essay, we mark the thirtieth anniversary of that discovery by describing some of the critical scientific developments that led to the flowering of this field of research.
    Preview · Article · May 2012 · The EMBO Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We have previously shown that all six members of the anti-apoptotic BCL2 gene family can cooperate with (myelocytomatosis oncogene) MYC in a mouse model of leukemia, but three of them are significantly less potent contributors to leukemogenicity than the other three. The protein encoded by one of these less potent genes, BCL2L10/BCLb, was recently shown to vary dramatically in many primary human cancers by immunohistochemistry, and the protein levels were inversely correlated with survival in patients with several cancer types. We examined BCLb mRNA in a panel of human cancer cell lines and did not observe the extensive variation in mRNA that would be required to explain the vast differences in protein levels. We found that the levels of BCLb protein diminish quickly after inhibition of protein synthesis with cycloheximide, so we searched for interacting proteins that might affect posttranslational stability of BCLb. Using a variety of approaches, including immunoaffinity and mass spectrometry, we identified a protein, Ubiquilin1 (Ubqln), that specifically interacts with BCLb, and not with other anti-apoptotic BCL2-like proteins. Ubqln stabilizes BCLb protein, while also promoting monoubiquitination on multiple lysine residues and relocation to the cytosol. Furthermore, primary lung adencarcinomas have more Ubqln mRNA than normal adjacent lung tissue, and higher Ubqln mRNA levels are associated with shorter survival of lung cancer patients, suggesting that potentiation of the anti-apoptotic potential of BCLb through regulation of its stability by Ubqln may be an important factor in tumor progression.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: The gene encoding the receptor for hyaluronan-mediated motility (RHAMM) is overexpressed in many human cancers. However, it is unclear whether RHAMM plays a causal role in tumor initiation or progression. Using somatic gene transfer in a mouse model of islet cell tumorigenesis, we demonstrate that RHAMM isoform B (RHAMM(B)) promotes tumor growth and metastases to lymph nodes and the liver. The propensity of RHAMM(B)-expressing cells to metastasize to the liver was confirmed using an experimental metastasis assay in which cells were injected into the tail vein of immunodeficient mice. However, RHAMM(B) did not increase cell migration or proliferation in culture. In initial efforts to identify signaling pathways activated by RHAMM(B), we found that RHAMM(B) induced phosphorylation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), Erk1/2, and STAT3 and conferred susceptibility to apoptosis after treatment with an EGFR inhibitor, gefitinib. Taken together, the results indicate that RHAMM(B) promotes hepatic metastasis by islet tumor cells, perhaps through growth factor receptor-mediated signaling.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: We previously described four small molecules that reduced the growth of lung adenocarcinoma cell lines with either epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) or KRAS mutations in a high-throughout chemical screen. By combining affinity proteomics and gene expression analysis, we now propose superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) as the most likely target of one of these small molecules, referred to as lung cancer screen 1 (LCS-1). siRNAs against SOD1 slowed the growth of LCS-1 sensitive cell lines; conversely, expression of a SOD1 cDNA increased proliferation of H358 cells and reduced sensitivity of these cells to LCS-1. In addition, SOD1 enzymatic activity was inhibited in vitro by LCS-1 and two closely related analogs. These results suggest that SOD1 is an LCS-1-binding protein that may act in concert with mutant proteins, such as EGFR and KRAS, to promote cell growth, providing a therapeutic target for compounds like LCS-1.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the potential of in-depth quantitative proteomics to reveal plasma protein signatures that reflect lung tumor biology. We compared plasma protein profiles of four mouse models of lung cancer with profiles of models of pancreatic, ovarian, colon, prostate, and breast cancer and two models of inflammation. A protein signature for Titf1/Nkx2-1, a known lineage-survival oncogene in lung cancer, was found in plasmas of mouse models of lung adenocarcinoma. An EGFR signature was found in plasma of an EGFR mutant model, and a distinct plasma signature related to neuroendocrine development was uncovered in the small-cell lung cancer model. We demonstrate relevance to human lung cancer of the protein signatures identified on the basis of mouse models.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Cancer cell

  • No preview · Article · Apr 2011 · Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: Soft-tissue sarcomas, which result in approximately 10,700 diagnoses and 3,800 deaths per year in the United States, show remarkable histologic diversity, with more than 50 recognized subtypes. However, knowledge of their genomic alterations is limited. We describe an integrative analysis of DNA sequence, copy number and mRNA expression in 207 samples encompassing seven major subtypes. Frequently mutated genes included TP53 (17% of pleomorphic liposarcomas), NF1 (10.5% of myxofibrosarcomas and 8% of pleomorphic liposarcomas) and PIK3CA (18% of myxoid/round-cell liposarcomas, or MRCs). PIK3CA mutations in MRCs were associated with Akt activation and poor clinical outcomes. In myxofibrosarcomas and pleomorphic liposarcomas, we found both point mutations and genomic deletions affecting the tumor suppressor NF1. Finally, we found that short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-based knockdown of several genes amplified in dedifferentiated liposarcoma, including CDK4 and YEATS4, decreased cell proliferation. Our study yields a detailed map of molecular alterations across diverse sarcoma subtypes and suggests potential subtype-specific targets for therapy.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2010 · Nature Genetics

  • No preview · Article · Apr 2010 · Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: Seventy-five percent of lung adenocarcinomas with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations respond to treatment with the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) gefitinib and erlotinib; however, drug-resistant tumors eventually emerge. In 60% of cases, resistant tumors carry a secondary mutation in EGFR (T790M), amplification of MET, or both. Here, we describe the establishment of erlotinib resistance in lung tumors, which were induced by mutant EGFR, in transgenic mice after multiple cycles of drug treatment; we detect the T790M mutation in five out of 24 tumors or Met amplification in one out of 11 tumors in these mice. This preclinical mouse model, therefore, recapitulates the molecular changes responsible for resistance to TKIs in human tumors and holds promise for the discovery of additional mechanisms of drug resistance in lung cancer.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2009 · Disease Models and Mechanisms
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    Romel Somwar · David Shum · Hakim Djaballah · Harold Varmus
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    ABSTRACT: Drug treatment for human lung cancers remains unsatisfactory, despite the identification of many potential therapeutic targets (such as mutant KRAS protein) and the approval of agents that inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of mutant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). To seek new therapeutic strategies against lung tumors, the authors have screened 189,290 small molecules for their ability to retard growth of human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines, which harbor mutations in EGFR or KRAS. Four candidates that are structurally different from common tyrosine kinase inhibitors were selected for further study. The authors describe one small molecule (designated lung cancer screen-1 [LCS-1]) in detail here. Identification of the targets of LCS-1 and other growth inhibitors found in this screen may help to develop new agents for the treatment of lung adenocarcinomas, including those driven by mutant EGFR and KRAS.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2009 · Journal of Biomolecular Screening
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    Yi-Chieh Nancy Du · David S Klimstra · Harold Varmus
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    ABSTRACT: It is unclear whether the cellular origin of various forms of pancreatic cancer involves transformation or transdifferentiation of different target cells or whether tumors arise from common precursors, with tumor types determined by the specific genetic alterations. Previous studies suggested that pancreatic ductal carcinomas might be induced by polyoma middle T antigen (PyMT) expressed in non-ductal cells. To ask whether PyMT transforms and transdifferentiates endocrine cells toward exocrine tumor phenotypes, we generated transgenic mice that carry tetracycline-inducible PyMT and a linked luciferase reporter. Induction of PyMT in beta cells causes beta-cell hyperplastic lesions that do not progress to malignant neoplasms. When PyMT is de-induced, beta cell proliferation and growth cease; however, regression does not occur, suggesting that continued production of PyMT is not required to maintain the viable expanded beta cell population. In contrast, induction of PyMT in early pancreatic progenitor cells under the control of Pdx1 produces acinar cell carcinomas and beta-cell hyperplasia. The survival of acinar tumor cells is dependent on continued expression of PyMT. Our findings indicate that PyMT can induce exocrine tumors from pancreatic progenitor cells, but cells in the beta cell lineage are not transdifferentiated toward exocrine cell types by PyMT; instead, they undergo oncogene-dependent hyperplastic growth, but do not require PyMT for survival.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2009 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: The advent of targeted therapies for cancer has provoked interest in experimental models for the systematic study of oncogene dependence. To that end, we developed a three-dimensional (3D) culture system to analyze the responses of primary mouse mammary epithelial cells to the induction and deinduction of oncogenes. Mammary cells derived from normal virgin mice, or from tritransgenic mice (TetO-MYC;TetO-Kras(G12D);MMTV-rtTA) in which MYC and mutant Kras can be regulated by doxycycline, develop from single cells into polarized acini. Lumen formation occurs without apparent apoptosis, and the hollow spheres of cells enlarge by division, with metaphase plates oriented perpendicularly to the apical surface. When MYC and Kras(G12D) are induced, the acini enlarge and form solid, depolarized spheres. Upon deinduction of MYC and Kras(G12D) the solid structures regress, leaving a repolarized monolayer of viable cells. These cells display a phenotype consistent with progenitors of mammary epithelium: They exclude Hoechst dye 33342, and reform acini in 3D cultures and repopulate mammary fat pads more efficiently than cells harvested from uninduced acini. Moreover, cells in the surviving spheres retain the ability to respond to reinduction and thus may represent the type of cells that give rise to recurrent tumors.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2009 · Genes & development

Publication Stats

52k Citations
4,891.76 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2015
    • Weill Cornell Medical College
      New York, New York, United States
  • 2000-2015
    • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
      • Division of Cancer Biology & Genetics
      New York, New York, United States
    • University of Colorado at Boulder
      Boulder, Colorado, United States
  • 2012-2014
    • National Human Genome Research Institute
      베서스다, Maryland, United States
  • 1994-2012
    • National Institutes of Health
      • Molecular Targets Laboratory
      Maryland, United States
    • University of Pennsylvania
      • Department of Medicine
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
    • Pennsylvania State University
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
      University Park, MD, United States
  • 1971-2009
    • University of California, San Francisco
      • • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
      • • Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
      • • Department of Medicine
      • • Division of Hospital Medicine
      San Francisco, California, United States
  • 1996-2000
    • National Cancer Institute (USA)
      • Center for Cancer Research
      베서스다, Maryland, United States
    • Baylor College of Medicine
      Houston, Texas, United States
  • 1999
    • University of Cambridge
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 1998
    • Harvard Medical School
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1997
    • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
      Cold Spring Harbor, New York, United States
  • 1995
    • Kenyon College
      Gambier, Ohio, United States
  • 1989
    • CSU Mentor
      Long Beach, California, United States
  • 1987
    • Children's Hospital Los Angeles
      • Division of Hematology-Oncology
      Los Ángeles, California, United States
  • 1985
    • The Rockefeller University
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1981-1985
    • University of San Francisco
      San Francisco, California, United States
  • 1984
    • Netherlands Cancer Institute
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 1982
    • University of Southern California
      • Department of Medicine
      Los Ángeles, California, United States
    • University of Minnesota Duluth
      Duluth, Minnesota, United States
  • 1979
    • Tulane University
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
      New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
  • 1976
    • Salk Institute
      La Jolla, California, United States
    • University of California, Berkeley
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 1973
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison
      • McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research
      Madison, MS, United States