BBA - Reviews on Cancer (v.1836, #1)

Molecular modelling and simulations in cancer research by Ran Friedman; Kjetil Boye; Kjersti Flatmark (1-14).
The complexity of cancer and the vast amount of experimental data available have made computer-aided approaches necessary. Biomolecular modelling techniques are becoming increasingly easier to use, whereas hardware and software are becoming better and cheaper. Cross-talk between theoretical and experimental scientists dealing with cancer-research from a molecular approach, however, is still uncommon. This is in contrast to other fields, such as amyloid-related diseases, where molecular modelling studies are widely acknowledged. The aim of this review paper is therefore to expose some of the more common approaches in molecular modelling to cancer scientists in simple terms, illustrating success stories while also revealing the limitations of computational studies at the molecular level.
Keywords: Molecular dynamics; AKR1B10; Tubulin polymerase; Pin1; ERK2 l-asparaginase; p53;

Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved pathway for degradation of cytoplasmic proteins and organelles via lysosome. Proteins coded by the autophagy-related genes (Atgs) are the core molecular machinery in control of autophagy. Among the various biological functions of autophagy identified so far, the link between autophagy and cancer is probably among the most extensively studied and is often viewed as controversial. Autophagy might exert a dual role in cancer development: autophagy can serve as an anti-tumor mechanism, as defective autophagy (e.g., heterozygous knockdown Beclin 1 and Atg7 in mice) promotes the malignant transformation and spontaneous tumors. On the other hand, autophagy functions as a protective or survival mechanism in cancer cells against cellular stress (e.g., nutrient deprivation, hypoxia and DNA damage) and hence promotes tumorigenesis and causes resistance to therapeutic agents. Liver cancer is one of the common cancers with well-established etiological factors including hepatitis virus infection and environmental carcinogens such as aflatoxin and alcohol exposure. In recent years, the involvement of autophagy in liver cancer has been increasingly studied. Here, we aim to provide a systematic review on the close cross-talks between autophagy and liver cancer, and summarize the current status in development of novel liver cancer therapeutic approaches by targeting autophagy. It is believed that understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the autophagy modulation and liver cancer development may provoke the translational studies that ultimately lead to new therapeutic strategies for liver cancer.
Keywords: Autophagy; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Cancer therapy; mTOR; Atgs;

Human height genes and cancer by Romina Tripaldi; Liborio Stuppia; Saverio Alberti (27-41).
Body development requires the ability to control cell proliferation and metabolism, together with selective ‘invasive’ cell migration for organogenesis. These requirements are shared with cancer. Human height-associated loci have been recently identified by genome-wide SNP-association studies. Strikingly, most of the more than 100 genes found associated to height appear linked to neoplastic growth, and impose a higher risk for cancer. Height-associated genes drive the HH/PTCH and BMP/TGFβ pathways, with p53, c-Myc, ERα, HNF4A and SMADs as central network nodes. Genetic analysis of body-size-affecting diseases and evidence from genetically-modified animals support this model. The finding that cancer is deeply linked to normal, body-plan master genes may profoundly affect current paradigms on tumor development.
Keywords: Cancer; Height; Gene-association studies; Heredity; Signaling pathways;

Targeting cellular apoptotic pathway with peptides from marine organisms by Lanhong Zheng; Xiukun Lin; Ning Wu; Ming Liu; Yuan Zheng; Jun Sheng; Xiaofeng Ji; Mi Sun (42-48).
Apoptosis is a critical defense mechanism against the formation and progression of cancer and exhibits distinct morphological and biochemical traits. Targeting apoptotic pathways becomes an intriguing strategy for the development of chemotherapeutic agents. Peptides from marine organisms have become important sources in the discovery of antitumor drugs, especially when modern technology makes it more and more feasible to collect organisms from seas. This primer summarizes several marine peptides, based on their effects on apoptotic signaling pathways, although most of these peptides have not yet been studied in depth for their mechanisms of action. Novel peptides that induce an apoptosis signal pathway are presented in association with their pharmacological properties.Schematic depiction of apoptosis mechanisms for marine antitumor peptides. Apoptosis occurs via different pathways in cells. Some marine anticancer peptides can alter the ratio of Bcl-2/Bax, while some others can activate caspases or trigger cytochrome c release. JNK and p38 MAPK pathways and PI3K/AKT pathway are also involved in marine peptide induced apoptosis.Display Omitted
Keywords: Apoptosis; Marine organisms; Peptides;

Unraveling the mystery of cancer metabolism in the genesis of tumor-initiating cells and development of cancer by Gaochuan Zhang; Ping Yang; Pengda Guo; Lucio Miele; Fazlul H. Sarkar; Zhiwei Wang; Quansheng Zhou (49-59).
Robust anaerobic metabolism plays a causative role in the origin of cancer cells; however, the oncogenic metabolic genes, factors, pathways, and networks in genesis of tumor-initiating cells (TICs) have not yet been systematically summarized. In addition, the mechanisms of oncogenic metabolism in the genesis of TICs are enigmatic. In this review, we discussed multiple cancer metabolism-related genes (MRGs) that are overexpressed in TICs and are responsible for inducing pluripotent stem cells. Moreover, we summarized that oncogenic metabolic genes and onco-metabolites induce metabolic reprogramming, which switches normal mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation to cancer anaerobic metabolism, triggers epigenetic, genetic, and environmental alterations, drives the generation of TICs, and boosts the development of cancer. Importantly, cancer metabolism is controlled by positive and negative metabolic regulators. Positive oncogenic metabolic regulators, including key oncogenic metabolic genes, onco-metabolites, hypoxia, and an acidic environment, promote oncogenic metabolic reprogramming and anaerobic metabolism. However, dysfunction of negative metabolic regulators, including defects in p53, PTEN, and LKB1-AMPK-mTOR pathways, enhances cancer metabolism. Loss of the metabolic balance results in oncogenic metabolic reprogramming, genesis of TICs, and tumorigenesis. Collectively, this review provides new insight into the role and mechanism of these oncogenic metabolisms in the genesis of TICs and tumorigenesis. Accordingly, targeting key oncogenic genes, onco-metabolites, pathways, networks, and the acidic cancer microenvironment appears to be an attractive strategy for novel anti-tumor treatment.
Keywords: Cancer metabolism; Stem cells; Cancer therapy; Oncogenic metabolic genes;

Resistance to endocrine therapy in breast carcinogenesis due to the redox regulation of the signal transduction system by reactive oxygen species (ROS) is the subject of this review article. Both antiestrogens and aromatase inhibitors are thought to prevent cancer through modulating the estrogen receptor function, but other mechanisms cannot be ruled out as these compounds also block metabolism and redox cycling of estrogen and are free radical scavengers. Endocrine therapeutic agents, such as, tamoxifen and other antiestrogens, and the aromatase inhibitor, exemestane, are capable of producing ROS. Aggressive breast cancer cells have high oxidative stress and chronic treatment with exemestane, fulvestrant or tamoxifen may add additional ROS stress. Breast cancer cells receiving long-term antiestrogen treatment appear to adapt to this increased persistent level of ROS. This, in turn, may lead to the disruption of reversible redox signaling that involves redox-sensitive phosphatases, protein kinases, such as, ERK and AKT, and transcription factors, such as, AP-1, NRF-1 and NF-κB. Thioredoxin modulates the expression of estrogen responsive genes through modulating the production of H2O2 in breast cancer cells. Overexpressing thioredoxine reductase 2 and reducing oxidized thioredoxin restores tamoxifen sensitivity to previously resistant breast cancer cells. In summary, it appears that resistance to endocrine therapy may be mediated, in part, by ROS-mediated dysregulation of both estrogen-dependent and estrogen-independent redox-sensitive signaling pathways. Further studies are needed to define the mechanism of action of thioredoxin modifiers, and their effect on the redox regulation that contributes to restoring the antiestrogen-mediated signal transduction system and growth inhibitory action.
Keywords: Resistance; Endocrine therapy; Redox regulation; Thioredoxin;

More than two decades of Apc modeling in rodents by Maged Zeineldin; Kristi L. Neufeld (80-89).
Mutation of tumor suppressor gene adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) is an initiating step in most colon cancers. This review summarizes Apc models in mice and rats, with particular concentration on those most recently developed, phenotypic variation among different models, and genotype/phenotype correlations.
Keywords: Adenomatous polyposis coli/APC; Apc mouse model; FAP model; Conditional Apc mutation; Intestinal polyposis; LOH/Apc mouse model;

Importance of epigenetic changes in cancer etiology, pathogenesis, clinical profiling, and treatment: What can be learned from hematologic malignancies? by Lorella Vecchio; Paul Faustin Seke Etet; Maulilio John Kipanyula; Mauro Krampera; Armel Hervé Nwabo Kamdje (90-104).
Epigenetic alterations represent a key cancer hallmark, even in hematologic malignancies (HMs) or blood cancers, whose clinical features display a high inter-individual variability. Evidence accumulated in recent years indicates that inactivating DNA hypermethylation preferentially targets the subset of polycomb group (PcG) genes that are regulators of developmental processes. Conversely, activating DNA hypomethylation targets oncogenic signaling pathway genes, but outcomes of both events lead in the overexpression of oncogenic signaling pathways that contribute to the stem-like state of cancer cells. On the basis of recent evidence from population-based, clinical and experimental studies, we hypothesize that factors associated with risk for developing a HM, such as metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammation, trigger epigenetic mechanisms to increase the transcriptional expression of oncogenes and activate oncogenic signaling pathways. Among others, signaling pathways associated with such risk factors include pro-inflammatory nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), and mitogenic, growth, and survival Janus kinase (JAK) intracellular non-receptor tyrosine kinase-triggered pathways, which include signaling pathways such as transducer and activator of transcription (STAT), Ras GTPases/mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs)/extracellular signal-related kinases (ERKs), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and β-catenin pathways. Recent findings on epigenetic mechanisms at work in HMs and their importance in the etiology and pathogenesis of these diseases are herein summarized and discussed. Furthermore, the role of epigenetic processes in the determination of biological identity, the consequences for interindividual variability in disease clinical profile, and the potential of epigenetic drugs in HMs are also considered.
Keywords: Epigenetic processes; Hematologic malignancy; Risk factors; Anticancer treatment; Interindividual variability; Chemoresistance;

Cell sorting in cancer research—Diminishing degree of cell heterogeneity by Natasha S. Barteneva; Kenneth Ketman; Elizaveta Fasler-Kan; Daria Potashnikova; Ivan A. Vorobjev (105-122).
Increasing evidence of intratumor heterogeneity and its augmentation due to selective pressure of microenvironment and recent achievements in cancer therapeutics lead to the need to investigate and track the tumor subclonal structure. Cell sorting of heterogeneous subpopulations of tumor and tumor-associated cells has been a long established strategy in cancer research. Advancement in lasers, computer technology and optics has led to a new generation of flow cytometers and cell sorters capable of high-speed processing of single cell suspensions. Over the last several years cell sorting was used in combination with molecular biological methods, imaging and proteomics to characterize primary and metastatic cancer cell populations, minimal residual disease and single tumor cells. It was the principal method for identification and characterization of cancer stem cells. Analysis of single cancer cells may improve early detection of tumors, monitoring of circulating tumor cells, evaluation of intratumor heterogeneity and chemotherapeutic treatments. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of major cell sorting applications and approaches with new prospective developments such as microfluidics and microchip technologies.
Keywords: Cancer; Cancer heterogeneity; Cell heterogeneity; Flow cytometry; High-speed cell sorting; Microarray;

Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. The development of cancer takes place in a multi-step process during which cells acquire a series of mutations that eventually lead to unrestrained cell growth and division, inhibition of cell differentiation, and evasion of cell death. Dysregulation of oncoapoptotic genes, growth factors, receptors and their downstream signaling pathway components represent a central driving force in tumor development. The detailed studies of signal transduction pathways for mechanisms of cell growth and apoptosis have significantly advanced our understanding of human cancers, subsequently leading to more effective treatments. Oral squamous cell carcinoma represents a classic example of multi-stage carcinogenesis. It gradually evolves through transitional precursor lesions from normal epithelium to a full-blown metastatic phenotype. Genetic alterations in many genes encoding crucial proteins, which regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, survival and apoptosis, have been implicated in oral cancer. As like other solid tumors, in oral cancer these genes include the ones coding for cell cycle regulators or oncoproteins (e.g. Ras, Myc, cyclins, CDKs, and CKIs), tumor suppressors (e.g. p53 and pRb), pro-survival proteins (e.g. telomerase, growth factors or their receptors), anti-apoptotic proteins (e.g. Bcl2 family, IAPs, and NF-kB), pro-apoptotic proteins (e.g. Bax and BH-3 family, Fas, TNF-R, and caspases), and the genes encoding key transcription factors or elements for signal transduction leading to cell growth and apoptosis. Here we discuss the current knowledge of oncoapoptotic regulation in human cancers with special reference to oral cancers.
Keywords: Oral cancer; Oncogenes; Tumor suppressor genes; Bcl2 family proteins; EGFR; TNF receptors;

The HER2 amplicon in breast cancer: Topoisomerase IIA and beyond by William Jacot; Maryse Fiche; Khalil Zaman; Anita Wolfer; Pierre-Jean Lamy (146-157).
HER2 gene amplification is observed in about 15% of breast cancers. The subgroup of HER2-positive breast cancers appears to be heterogeneous and presents complex patterns of gene amplification at the locus on chromosome 17q12-21. The molecular variations within the chromosome 17q amplicon and their clinical implications remain largely unknown. Besides the well-known TOP2A gene encoding Topoisomerase IIA, other genes might also be amplified and could play functional roles in breast cancer development and progression. This review will focus on the current knowledge concerning the HER2 amplicon heterogeneity, its clinical and biological impact and the pitfalls associated with the evaluation of gene amplifications at this locus, with particular attention to TOP2A and the link between TOP2A and anthracycline benefit. In addition it will discuss the clinical and biological implications of the amplification of ten other genes at this locus (MED1, STARD3, GRB7, THRA, RARA, IGFPB4, CCR7, KRT20, KRT19 and GAST) in breast cancer.
Keywords: Breast cancer; HER2; Amplicon;

Vertebrate animal models of glioma: Understanding the mechanisms and developing new therapies by Leon Chen; Yuqing Zhang; Jingxuan Yang; John P. Hagan; Min Li (158-165).
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is recognized as one of the most deadly cancers characterized by cellular atypia, severe necrosis, and high rate of angiogenesis. In this review, we discuss a diversified group of GBM xenograft models and compare them with the genetically engineered mouse (GEM) model systems. Next, we describe common genetic defects observed in GBM and numerous GEM models that recapitulate these abnormalities. Finally, we focus on the clinical value of other vertebrate animal models such as the canine model by examining their contributions to GBM research.
Keywords: Brain tumor; Animal model; Tumorigenesis; Cancer therapy;

A molecular rheostat at the interface of cancer and diabetes by Mahasin A. Osman; Fazlul H. Sarkar; Enrique Rodriguez-Boulan (166-176).
Epidemiology studies revealed the connection between several types of cancer and type 2 diabetes (T2D) and suggested that T2D is both a symptom and a risk factor of pancreatic cancer. High level of circulating insulin (hyperinsulinemia) in obesity has been implicated in promoting aggressive types of cancers. Insulin resistance, a symptom of T2D, pressures pancreatic β-cells to increase insulin secretion, leading to hyperinsulinemia, which in turn leads to a gradual loss of functional β-cell mass, thus indicating a fine balance and interplay between β-cell function and mass. While the mechanisms of these connections are unclear, the mTORC1-Akt signaling pathway has been implicated in controlling β-cell function and mass, and in mediating the link of cancer and T2D. However, incomplete understating of how the pathway is regulated and how it integrates body metabolism has hindered its efficacy as a clinical target. The IQ motif containing GTPase activating protein 1 (IQGAP1)-Exocyst axis is a growth factor- and nutrient-sensor that couples cell growth and division. Here we discuss how IQGAP1-Exocyst, through differential interactions with Rho-type of small guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases), acts as a rheostat that modulates the mTORC1-Akt and MAPK signals, and integrates β-cell function and mass with insulin signaling, thus providing a molecular mechanism for cancer initiation in diabetes. Delineating this regulatory pathway may have the potential of contributing to optimizing the efficacy and selectivity of future therapies for cancer and diabetes.
Keywords: Cancer; Diabetes; Signaling; Metabolism; IQGAP1;

Galectin-9 in tumor biology: A jack of multiple trades by Roy Heusschen; Arjan W. Griffioen; Victor L. Thijssen (177-185).
Galectin family members have been shown to exert multiple roles in the context of tumor biology. Several recent findings support a similar multi-faceted role for galectin-9. Galectin-9 expression is frequently altered in cancer as compared to normal tissues. In addition, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that galectin-9 is involved in several aspects of tumor progression, including tumor cell adhesion and survival, immune escape and angiogenesis. Also, galectin-9 shows potential as a prognostic marker and a therapeutic target for several malignancies. In this review we summarize both the established and the emerging roles of galectin-9 in tumor biology and discuss the potential application of galectin-9 in anti-cancer therapy.
Keywords: Galectin; Metastasis; Immune escape; Angiogenesis; Cancer therapy;