Gerhard Christofori

Universität Basel, Bâle, Basel-City, Switzerland

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Publications (138)1224.98 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The significance of matricellular proteins during development and cancer progression is widely recognized. However, how these proteins actively contribute to physiological development and pathological cancer progression is only partially elucidated. In this study, we investigated the role of the matricellular protein Cysteine-rich 61 (CYR61) in pancreatic islet development and carcinogenesis. Transgenic expression of CYR61 in β cells (Rip1CYR mice) caused irregular islets morphology and distorted sorting of α cells, but did not alter islets size, number or vascularization. To investigate the function of CYR61 during carcinogenesis, we crossed Rip1CYR mice with Rip1Tag2 mice, a well-established model of β cell carcinogenesis. Beta tumors in Rip1Tag2CYR mice were larger, more invasive and more vascularized compared to tumors in Rip1Tag2 mice. The effect of CYR61 on angiogenesis was fully abrogated by treating mice with the anti-VEGFR2 mAb DC101. Results from in vitro assays demonstrated that CYR61 modulated integrin α6β1-dependent invasion and adhesion without altering its expression. Taken together, these results show that CYR61 expression in pancreatic β cells interferes with normal islet architecture, promotes islet tumor growth, invasion and VEGF/VERGFR-2-dependent tumor angiogenesis. Taken together, these observations demonstrate that CYR61 acts as a tumor-promoting gene in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Oncotarget
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    ABSTRACT: Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) represent a rare but challenging heterogeneous group of cancers with an increasing incidence over the last number of decades. Herein, we report an in depth evaluation of the new anti-angiogenic small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) nintedanib in the preclinical Rip1Tag2 transgenic mouse model of neuroendocrine carcinoma of the pancreas (insulinoma). We have assessed the anti-angiogenic and anti-tumor activity of nintedanib, in comparison to other anti-angiogenic TKI, by treating Rip1Tag2 transgenic mice with different treatment schedules complemented with histopathological, cell biological and biochemical analyses. Prolonged nintedanib treatment of Rip1Tag2 mice has led to a strong suppression of angiogenesis, accompanied by a reduced tumor burden, which translated into a significant prolongation of survival. Despite nintedanib's inhibitory action on perivascular cells, the blood vessels remaining after therapy displayed a considerably mature phenotype with tight perivascular cell coverage and preserved perfusion. Nintedanib treatment did not increase local tumor invasiveness or metastasis to the liver and pancreatic lymph nodes - a phenomenon which has been observed with anti-angiogenic treatments of Rip1Tag2 transgenic mice in other laboratories. In contrast to the strong reduction in blood microvessel densities, nintedanib did not have any impact on tumor lymphangiogenesis. Based on our findings we propose the clinical evaluation of the anti-angiogenic drug nintedanib as a new treatment modality of PNET patients, notably in a direct comparison to already established therapeutic regimen such as sunitinib. Copyright © 2015, American Association for Cancer Research.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Clinical Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor progression depends on angiogenesis. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptors (VEGFRs) are the main signal transducers that stimulate endothelial cell migration and vessel sprouting. At present, only VEGFR2 is targeted in the clinical practice. To develop new, anti-angiogenic nanoparticles (immunoliposomes, ILs), that redirect cytotoxic compounds to tumor-associated vascular cells. Pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) was targeted against VEGFR2- and VEGFR3-expressing cells by inserting anti-VEGFR2 and/or anti-VEGFR3 antibody fragments into the lipid bilayer membrane of PLD. These constructs were tested in vitro, and in vivo in the Rip1Tag2 mouse model of human cancer. The combination treatment with anti-VEGFR2-ILs-dox and anti-VEGFR3-ILs-dox was superior to targeting only VEGFR2 cells and provides a highly efficient approach of depleting tumor-associated vasculature. This leads to tumor starvation and pronounced reduction of tumor burden. Nanoparticles against VEGFR2 and -3 expressing tumor-associated endothelial cells represent a promising and novel anti-cancer strategy.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Journal of Drug Targeting
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor growth depends on the formation of new blood vessels (tumor angiogenesis) either from preexisting vessels or by the recruitment of bone marrow-derived cells. Despite encouraging results obtained with preclinical cancer models, the therapeutic targeting of tumor angiogenesis has thus far failed to deliver an enduring clinical response in cancer patients. One major obstacle for improving anti-angiogenic therapy is the lack of validated biomarkers, which allow patient stratification for suitable treatment and a rapid assessment of therapy response. Toward these goals, we have employed several mouse models of tumor angiogenesis to identify cell populations circulating in their blood that correlated with the extent of tumor angiogenesis and therapy response. Flow cytometry analyses of different combinations of cell surface markers that define subsets of bone marrow-derived cells were performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells from tumor-bearing and healthy mice. We identified one cell population, CD45(dim)VEGFR1(-)CD31(low), that was increased in levels during active tumor angiogenesis in a variety of transgenic and syngeneic transplantation mouse models of cancer. Treatment with various anti-angiogenic drugs did not affect CD45(dim)VEGFR1(-)CD31(low) cells in healthy mice, whereas in tumor-bearing mice, a consistent reduction in their levels was observed. Gene expression profiling of CD45(dim)VEGFR1(-)CD31(low) cells characterized these cells as an immature B cell population. These immature B cells were then directly validated as surrogate marker for tumor angiogenesis and of pharmacologic responses to anti-angiogenic therapies in various mouse models of cancer.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Angiogenesis
  • Ruben Bill · Gerhard Christofori
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    ABSTRACT: Although major progress has been achieved in treating breast cancer patients, metastatic breast cancer still remains a deadly disease. A full understanding of the process of systemic cancer cell dissemination is therefore critical to develop next generation therapies. A plethora of experimental data points towards a central role of an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in the multistep cascade of metastasis formation. However, in patients the data are based on correlative studies which often, but not always, tie the expression of EMT markers to cancer invasion, metastasis and poor clinical outcome. Moreover, the notion that cancer cells are able to switch between different modes of migration asks for a thorough review of the actual relevance of EMT in cancer metastasis. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · FEBS letters
  • Marco Archetti · Daniela A Ferraro · Gerhard Christofori

    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: De novo formation of blood vessels is a pivotal mechanism during cancer development. During the past few years, antiangiogenic drugs have been developed to target tumor vasculature. However, because of limitations and adverse effects observed with current therapies, there is a strong need for alternative antiangiogenic strategies. Using specific anti-junctional adhesion molecule (JAM)-B antibodies and Jam-b-deficient mice, we studied the role in antiangiogenesis of JAM-B. We found that antibodies against murine JAM-B, an endothelium-specific adhesion molecule, inhibited microvessel outgrowth from ex vivo aortic rings and in vitro endothelial network formation. In addition, anti-JAM-B antibodies blocked VEGF signaling, an essential pathway for angiogenesis. Moreover, increased aortic ring branching was observed in aortas isolated from Jam-b-deficient animals, suggesting that JAM-B negatively regulates proangiogenic pathways. In mice, JAM-B expression was detected in de novo-formed blood vessels of tumors, but anti-JAM-B antibodies unexpectedly did not reduce tumor growth. Accordingly, JAM-B deficiency in vivo had no impact on blood vessel formation, suggesting that targeting JAM-B in vivo may be offset by other proangiogenic mechanisms. In conclusion, despite the promising effects observed in vitro, targeting JAM-B during tumor progression seems to be inefficient as a stand-alone antiangiogenesis therapy.-Meguenani, M., Miljkovic-Licina, M., Fagiani, E., Ropraz, P., Hammel, P., Aurrand-Lions, M., Adams, R. H., Christofori, G., Imhof, B. A., Garrido-Urbani, S. Junctional adhesion molecule B interferes with angiogenic VEGF/VEGFR2 signaling. © FASEB.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · The FASEB Journal

  • No preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Clinical and Experimental Metastasis
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    Marco Archetti · Daniela A Ferraro · Gerhard Christofori
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    ABSTRACT: The extensive intratumor heterogeneity revealed by sequencing cancer genomes is an essential determinant of tumor progression, diagnosis, and treatment. What maintains heterogeneity remains an open question because competition within a tumor leads to a strong selection for the fittest subclone. Cancer cells also cooperate by sharing molecules with paracrine effects, such as growth factors, and heterogeneity can be maintained if subclones depend on each other for survival. Without strict interdependence between subclones, however, nonproducer cells can free-ride on the growth factors produced by neighboring producer cells, a collective action problem known in game theory as the "tragedy of the commons," which has been observed in microbial cell populations. Here, we report that similar dynamics occur in cancer cell populations. Neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer (insulinoma) cells that do not produce insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) grow slowly in pure cultures but have a proliferation advantage in mixed cultures, where they can use the IGF-II provided by producer cells. We show that, as predicted by evolutionary game theory, producer cells do not go extinct because IGF-II acts as a nonlinear public good, creating negative frequency-dependent selection that leads to a stable coexistence of the two cell types. Intratumor cell heterogeneity can therefore be maintained even without strict interdependence between cell subclones. Reducing the amount of growth factors available within a tumor may lead to a reduction in growth followed by a new equilibrium, which may explain relapse in therapies that target growth factors.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a program defined in epithelial cells and recognized as playing a critical role in cancer progression. Although melanoma is not a cancer of epithelial cells, hallmarks of EMT have been described to play a critical role in melanoma progression. Here we demonstrate that long term TGFβ exposure can induce a dedifferentiated EMT-like state resembling a previously described invasive phenotype (EMT-like). TGFβ-induced EMT-like is marked by the downregulation of melanocyte differentiation markers, such as MITF, and the upregulation of mesenchymal markers, such as N-cadherin, and an increase in melanoma cell migration and cell invasion. Pharmacological interference shows the dependency of TGFβ-induced EMT-like on the activation of the PDGF signaling pathway and the subsequent activation of PI3K in human melanoma cells. Together, the data provide novel insights into the transcriptional plasticity of melanoma cells that might contribute to tumor progression in patients and propose avenues to therapeutic interventions.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Experimental Dermatology
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    ABSTRACT: The cellular changes during an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) largely rely on global changes in gene expression orchestrated by transcription factors. Tead transcription factors and their transcriptional co-activators Yap and Taz have been previously implicated in promoting an EMT, however, their direct transcriptional target genes and their functional role during EMT have remained widely elusive. We have uncovered a previously unanticipated role of the transcription factor Tead2 during EMT. During EMT in mammary gland epithelial cells and breast cancer cells, levels of Tead2 increase in the nucleus of cells, thereby directing a predominant nuclear localization of its co-factors Yap and Taz via the formation of Tead2/Yap/Taz complexes. Genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation/next generation sequencing in combination with gene expression profiling reveals the transcriptional targets of Tead2 during EMT. Among these, zyxin contributes to the migratory and invasive phenotype evoked by Tead2. The results demonstrate that Tead transcription factors are critical regulators of Yap/Taz cellular distribution and together they control the expression of genes critical for EMT and metastasis.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2014 · Journal of Cell Science
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroendocrine tumors are well vascularized and express specific cell surface markers, such as somatostatin receptors and the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R). Using the Rip1Tag2 transgenic mouse model of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET), we have investigated the potential benefit of a combination of anti-angiogenic treatment with targeted internal radiotherapy. [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-111In)NH2]-exendin-4, a radiopeptide that selectively binds to GLP-1R expressed on insulinoma and other neuroendocrine tumor cells, was co-administered with oral vatalanib (an inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFR)) or imatinib (a c-kit/PDGFR inhibitor). The control groups included single-agent kinase inhibitor treatments and [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-natIn)NH2]-exendin-4 monotherapy. For biodistribution, Rip1Tag2 mice were pre-treated with oral vatalanib or imatinib for 0, 3, 5, or 7 days at a dose of 100 mg/kg. Subsequently, [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-111In)NH2]-exendin-4 was administered i.v., and the biodistribution was assessed after 4 h. For therapy, the mice were injected with 1.1 MBq [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-111In)NH2]-exendin-4 and treated with vatalanib or imatinib 100 mg/kg orally for another 7 days. Tumor volume, tumor cell apoptosis and proliferation, and microvessel density were quantified. Combination of [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-111In)NH2]-exendin-4 and vatalanib was significantly more effective than single treatments (p < 0.05) and reduced the tumor volume by 97% in the absence of organ damage. The pre-treatment of mice with vatalanib led to a reduction in the tumor uptake of [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-111In)NH2]-exendin-4, indicating that concomitant administration of vatalanib and the radiopeptide was the best approach. Imatinib did not show a synergistic effect with [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-111In)NH2]-exendin-4. The combination of 1.1 MBq of [Lys40(Ahx-DTPA-111In)NH2]-exendin-4 with 100 mg/kg vatalanib had the same effect on a neuroendocrine tumor as the injection of 28 MBq of the radiopeptide alone but without any apparent side effects, such as radiation damage of the kidneys.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · EJNMMI Research
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    ABSTRACT: An epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) underlies malignant tumor progression and metastatic spread by enabling cancer cells to depart from the primary tumor, invade surrounding tissue and disseminate to distant organs. EMT also enriches for cancer stem cells (CSCs) and increases the capacity of cancer cells to initiate and propagate tumors upon transplantation into immune-deficient mice, a major hallmark of CSCs. However, the molecular mechanisms promoting the tumorigenicity of cancer cells undergoing an EMT and of CSCs have remained widely elusive. We here report that EMT confers efficient tumorigenicity to murine breast cancer cells by the up-regulated expression of the pro-angiogenic factor vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) and by increased tumor angiogenesis. Based on these data, we propose a novel interpretation of the features of CSCs with EMT-induced, VEGF-A-mediated angiogenesis as the connecting mechanism between cancer cell stemness and tumor initiation.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: We have identified the zinc-finger transcription factor Kruppel-like factor 4 (Klf4) among the transcription factors that are significantly downregulated in their expression during epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in mammary epithelial cells and in breast cancer cells. Loss and gain of function experiments demonstrate that the down-regulation of Klf4 expression is required for the induction of EMT and for metastasis . In addition, reduced Klf4 expression correlates with shorter disease-free survival of subsets of breast cancer patients. Yet, reduced expression of Klf4 also induces apoptosis in cells undergoing TGFβ-induced EMT. Chromatin immunoprecipitation/deep-sequencing in combination with gene expression profiling reveals direct Klf4 target genes, including E-cadherin (), N-cadherin (), vimentin (), β-catenin (), VEGF-A (), endothelin-1 () and Jnk1 (). Thereby, Klf4 acts as a transcriptional activator of epithelial genes and as a repressor of mesenchymal genes. Specifically, increased expression of Jnk1 () upon down-regulation of its transcriptional repressor Klf4 is required for EMT cell migration and for the induction of apoptosis. The data demonstrate a central role of Klf4 in the maintenance of epithelial cell differentiation and the prevention of EMT and metastasis.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: The extracellular matrix molecule tenascin-C (TNC) is a major component of the cancer-specific matrix, and high TNC expression is linked to poor prognosis in several cancers. To provide a comprehensive understanding of TNC's functions in cancer, we established an immune-competent transgenic mouse model of pancreatic β-cell carcinogenesis with varying levels of TNC expression and compared stochastic neuroendocrine tumor formation in abundance or absence of TNC. We show that TNC promotes tumor cell survival, the angiogenic switch, more and leaky vessels, carcinoma progression, and lung micrometastasis. TNC downregulates Dickkopf-1 (DKK1) promoter activity through the blocking of actin stress fiber formation, activates Wnt signaling, and induces Wnt target genes in tumor and endothelial cells. Our results implicate DKK1 downregulation as an important mechanism underlying TNC-enhanced tumor progression through the provision of a proangiogenic tumor microenvironment.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Cell Reports
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    ABSTRACT: Gene expression profiling has uncovered the transcription factor Sox4 with upregulated activity during TGF-β-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in normal and cancerous breast epithelial cells. Sox4 is indispensable for EMT and cell survival in vitro and for primary tumor growth and metastasis in vivo. Among several EMT-relevant genes, Sox4 directly regulates the expression of Ezh2, encoding the Polycomb group histone methyltransferase that trimethylates histone 3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3) for gene repression. Ablation of Ezh2 expression prevents EMT, whereas forced expression of Ezh2 restores EMT in Sox4-deficient cells. Ezh2-mediated H3K27me3 marks associate with key EMT genes, representing an epigenetic EMT signature that predicts patient survival. Our results identify Sox4 as a master regulator of EMT by governing the expression of the epigenetic modifier Ezh2.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Cancer cell
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    ABSTRACT: The lymphatic system, the network of lymphatic vessels and lymphoid organs, maintains the body fluid balance and ensures the immunological surveillance of the body. In the adult organism, the de novo formation of lymphatic vessels is mainly observed in pathological conditions. In contrast to the molecular mechanisms governing the generation of the lymphatic vasculature during embryogenesis, the processes underlying pathological lymphangiogenesis are less well understood. A genome-wide screen comparing the transcriptome of tumor-derived lymphatic endothelial cells with that of blood vessel endothelial cells identified paralemmin-1 as a protein prominently expressed in lymphatic endothelial cells. Paralemmin-1 is a lipid-anchored membrane protein that in fibroblasts and neurons plays a role in the regulation of cell shape, plasma membrane dynamics and cell motility. Here, we show that paralemmin-1 is expressed in tumor-derived lymphatic endothelial cells as well as in lymphatic endothelial cells of normal, non-tumorigenic tissue. Paralemmin-1 represses cell migration and delays the formation of tube-like structures of lymphatic endothelial cells in vitro by modulating cell-substrate adhesion, filopodia formation and plasma membrane blebbing. While constitutive genetic ablation of paralemmin-1 expression in mice has no effect on the development and physiological function of the lymphatic system, the loss of paralemmin-1 impaired tumor-associated lymphangiogenesis. Together, these results newly identify paralemmin-1 as a protein highly expressed in lymphatic endothelial cells. Similar to its function in neurons, it may link the cytoskeleton to the plasma membrane and thereby modulate lymphatic endothelial cell adhesion, migration and lymphangiogenesis.
    No preview · Article · May 2013 · Angiogenesis
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    ABSTRACT: The Hippo (Hpo) pathway is a novel signaling pathway that controls organ size in Drosophila and mammals and is deregulated in a variety of human cancers. It consists of a set of kinases that, through a number of phosphorylation events, inactivate YAP, a transcriptional co-activator that controls cellular proliferation and apoptosis. We have identified PTPN14 as a YAP-binding protein that negatively regulates YAP activity by controlling its localization. Mechanistically, we find that the interaction of ectopic YAP with PTPN14 can be mediated by the respective WW and PPxY motifs. However, the PTPN14 PPxY motif and phosphatase activity appear to be dispensable for the negative regulation of endogenous YAP, likely suggesting more complex mechanisms of interaction and modulation. Finally, we demonstrate that PTPN14 downregulation can phenocopy YAP activation in mammary epithelial cells and synergize with YAP to induce oncogenic transformation.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    C Braeutigam · L Rago · A Rolke · L Waldmeier · G Christofori · J Winter
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    ABSTRACT: The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a prerequisite for cancer progression and metastasis formation, is regulated not only at the transcriptional but also at the post-transcriptional level, including at the level of alternative pre-mRNA splicing. Several recent studies have highlighted the involvement of splicing factors, including epithelial splicing regulatory proteins (Esrps) and RNA-binding Fox protein 2 (Rbfox2), in this process. Esrps regulate epithelial-specific splicing, and their expression is downregulated during EMT. By contrast, the role of Rbfox2 is controversial because Rbfox2 regulates epithelial as well as mesenchymal splicing events. Here, we have used several established cell culture models to investigate the functions of Rbfox2 during EMT. We demonstrate that induction of an EMT upregulates the expression of Rbfox2, which correlates with an increase in Rbfox2-regulated splicing events in the cortactin (Cttn), Pard3 and dynamin 2 (Dnm2) transcripts. At the same time, however, the epithelial-specific ability to splice the Enah, Slk and Tsc2 transcripts is either reduced or lost completely by Rbfox2, which might be due, in part, to downregulation of the expression of the Esrps cooperative factors. Depletion of Rbfox2 during EMT did not prevent the activation of transforming growth factor-β signaling, the upregulation of mesenchymal markers or changes in cell morphology toward a mesenchymal phenotype. In addition, this depletion did not influence cell migration. However, depletion of Rbfox2 in cells that have completed an EMT significantly reduced their invasive potential. Taken together, our results suggest that during an EMT, Rbfox2-regulated splicing shifts from epithelial-to mesenchymal-specific events, leading to a higher degree of tissue invasiveness.Oncogene advance online publication, 25 February 2013; doi:10.1038/onc.2013.50.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · Oncogene
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    Meera Saxena · Gerhard Christofori
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    ABSTRACT: Most cancer deaths are due to the systemic dissemination of cancer cells and the formation of secondary tumors (metastasis) in distant organs. Recent years have brought impressive progress in metastasis research, yet we still lack sufficient insights into how cancer cells migrate out of primary tumors and invade into neighboring tissue, intravasate into the blood or the lymphatic circulation, survive in the blood stream, and target specific organs to initiate metastatic outgrowth. While a large number of cellular and animal models of cancer have been crucial in delineating the molecular mechanisms underlying tumor initiation and progression, experimental models that faithfully recapitulate the multiple stages of metastatic disease are still scarce. The advent of sophisticated genetic engineering in mice, in particular the ability to manipulate gene expression in specific tissue and at desired time points at will, have allowed to rebuild the metastatic process in mice. Here, we describe a selection of cellular experimental systems, tumor transplantation mouse models and genetically engineered mouse models that are used for monitoring specific processes involved in metastasis, such as cell migration and invasion, and for investigating the full metastatic process. Such models not only aid in deciphering the pathomechanisms of metastasis, but are also instrumental for the preclinical testing of anti-metastatic therapies and further refinement and generation of improved models.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · Molecular oncology

Publication Stats

12k Citations
1,224.98 Total Impact Points


  • 2002-2015
    • Universität Basel
      • • Department of Biomedicine
      • • Institut für Biochemie und Genetik
      Bâle, Basel-City, Switzerland
    • San Raffaele Scientific Institute
      Milano, Lombardy, Italy
  • 2013
    • Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
      Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
  • 2007
    • University of Helsinki
      • Molecular/Cancer Biology Laboratory
      Helsinki, Uusimaa, Finland
  • 1995-2002
    • Research Institute of Molecular Pathology
      Wien, Vienna, Austria
  • 1999
    • Umeå University
      Umeå, Västerbotten, Sweden
  • 1996
    • University of California, San Francisco
      • Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
      San Francisco, California, United States
  • 1993
    • University of Cambridge
      • Department of Clinical Biochemistry
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom