BBA - Reviews on Cancer (v.1836, #2)

CTLA-4 blockade and the renaissance of cancer immunotherapy by Simone Mocellin; Donato Nitti (187-196).
Cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) plays a key role in restraining the adaptive immune response of T-cells towards a variety of antigens including tumor associated antigens (TAAs). The blockade of this immune checkpoint elicits an effective anticancer immune response in a range of preclinical models, suggesting that naturally occurring (or therapeutically induced) TAA specific lymphocytes need to be “unleashed” in order to properly fight against malignant cells. Therefore, investigators have tested this therapeutic hypothesis also in humans: the favorable results obtained with this strategy in patients with advanced cutaneous melanoma are revolutionizing the management of this highly aggressive disease and are fueling new enthusiasm on cancer immunotherapy in general.Here we summarize the biology of CTLA-4, overview the experimental data supporting the rational for targeting CTLA-4 to treat cancer and review the main clinical findings on this novel anticancer approach. Moreover, we critically discuss the current challenges and potential developments of this promising field of cancer immunotherapy.
Keywords: CTLA-4; Co-signaling; Co-inhibitory molecule; Cancer; Tumor immunology; Immunotherapy;

Role of aryl hydrocarbon receptor in cancer by Shaolong Feng; Zhaohui Cao; Xinming Wang (197-210).
Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), a cytosolic ligand-activated transcription factor, belongs to the member of bHLH/PAS family of heterodimeric transcriptional regulators and is widely expressed in a variety of animal species and humans. Recent animal and human data suggested that AHR is involved in various signaling pathways critical to cell normal homeostasis, which covers multiple aspects of physiology, such as cell proliferation and differentiation, gene regulation, cell motility and migration, inflammation and others. Dysregulation of these physiological processes is known to contribute to events such as tumor initiation, promotion, and progression. Increasing epidemiological and experimental animal data provided substantial support for an association between abnormal AHR function and cancer, implicating AHR may be a novel drug-interfering target for cancers. The proposed underlying mechanisms of its actions in cancer involved multiple aspects, (a) inhibiting the functional expression of the key anti-oncogenes (such as p53 and BRCA1), (b) promoting stem cells transforming and angiogenesis, (c) altering cell survival, proliferation and differentiation by influencing the physiologic processes of cell-cycle, apoptosis, cell contact-inhibition, metabolism and remodel of extracellular matrix, and cell–matrix interaction, (d) cross-talking with the signaling pathways of estrogen receptor and inflammation. This review aims to provide a brief overview of recent investigations into the role of AHR and the underlying mechanisms of its actions in cancer, which were explored by the new technologies emerging in recent years.
Keywords: Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR); Cancer;

Protein tyrosine phosphatases as novel targets in breast cancer therapy by Caroline E. Nunes-Xavier; Jorge Martín-Pérez; Ari Elson; Rafael Pulido (211-226).
Breast cancer is linked to hyperactivation of protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs), and recent studies have unveiled that selective tyrosine dephosphorylation by protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) of specific substrates, including PTKs, may activate or inactivate oncogenic pathways in human breast cancer cell growth-related processes. Here, we review the current knowledge on the involvement of PTPs in breast cancer, as major regulators of breast cancer therapy-targeted PTKs, such as HER1/EGFR, HER2/Neu, and Src. The functional interplay between PTKs and PTK-activating or -inactivating PTPs, and its implications in novel breast cancer therapies based on targeting of specific PTPs, are discussed.Display Omitted
Keywords: Protein tyrosine phosphatase; Protein tyrosine kinase; Cell signaling; Therapy resistance; Drug targeting; Breast cancer;

WEE1 inhibition and genomic instability in cancer by Lianne E.M. Vriend; Philip C. De Witt Hamer; Cornelis J.F. Van Noorden; Thomas Würdinger (227-235).
One of the hallmarks of cancer is genomic instability controlled by cell cycle checkpoints. The G1 and G2 checkpoints allow DNA damage responses, whereas the mitotic checkpoint enables correct seggregation of the sister chromosomes to prevent aneuploidy. Cancer cells often lack a functional G1 arrest and rely on G2 arrest for DNA damage responses. WEE1 kinase is an important regulator of the G2 checkpoint and is overexpressed in various cancer types. Inhibition of WEE1 is a promising strategy in cancer therapy in combination with DNA-damaging agents, especially when cancer cells harbor p53 mutations, as it causes mitotic catastrophy when DNA is not repaired during G2 arrest. Cancer cell response to WEE1 inhibition monotherapy has also been demonstrated in various types of cancer, including p53 wild-type cancers. We postulate that chromosomal instability can explain tumor response to WEE1 monotherapy. Therefore, chromosomal instability may need to be taken into account when determining the most effective strategy for the use of WEE1 inhibitors in cancer therapy.
Keywords: WEE1 kinase; Cancer; Genomic instability; Chromosomal instability; p53; Cell cycle checkpoint;

Invasion as target for therapy of glioblastoma multiforme by Anne Vehlow; Nils Cordes (236-244).
The survival of cancer patients suffering from glioblastoma multiforme is limited to just a few months even after treatment with the most advanced techniques. The indefinable borders of glioblastoma cell infiltration into the surrounding healthy tissue prevent complete surgical removal. In addition, genetic mutations, epigenetic modifications and microenvironmental heterogeneity cause resistance to radio- and chemotherapy altogether resulting in a hardly to overcome therapeutic scenario. Therefore, the development of efficient therapeutic strategies to combat these tumors requires a better knowledge of genetic and proteomic alterations as well as the infiltrative behavior of glioblastoma cells and how this can be targeted. Among many cell surface receptors, members of the integrin family are known to regulate glioblastoma cell invasion in concert with extracellular matrix degrading proteases. While preclinical and early clinical trials suggested specific integrin targeting as a promising therapeutic approach, clinical trials failed to deliver improved cure rates up to now. Little is known about glioblastoma cell motility, but switches in invasion modes and adaption to specific microenvironmental cues as a consequence of treatment may maintain tumor cell resistance to therapy. Thus, understanding the molecular basis of integrin and protease function for glioblastoma cell invasion in the context of radiochemotherapy is a pressing issue and may be beneficial for the design of efficient therapeutic approaches. This review article summarizes the latest findings on integrins and extracellular matrix in glioblastoma and adds some perspective thoughts on how this knowledge might be exploited for optimized multimodal therapy approaches.
Keywords: Glioblastoma multiforme; Extracellular matrix; Invasion; Integrins; Proteases; Radiochemotherapy;

The iron storage protein ferritin has been continuously studied for over 70 years and its function as the primary iron storage protein in cells is well established. Although the intracellular functions of ferritin are for the most part well-characterized, the significance of serum (extracellular) ferritin in human biology is poorly understood. Recently, several lines of evidence have demonstrated that ferritin is a multi-functional protein with possible roles in proliferation, angiogenesis, immunosuppression, and iron delivery. In the context of cancer, ferritin is detected at higher levels in the sera of many cancer patients, and the higher levels correlate with aggressive disease and poor clinical outcome. Furthermore, ferritin is highly expressed in tumor-associated macrophages which have been recently recognized as having critical roles in tumor progression and therapy resistance. These characteristics suggest ferritin could be an attractive target for cancer therapy because its down-regulation could disrupt the supportive tumor microenvironment, kill cancer cells, and increase sensitivity to chemotherapy. In this review, we provide an overview of the current knowledge on the function and regulation of ferritin. Moreover, we examine the literature on ferritin's contributions to tumor progression and therapy resistance, in addition to its therapeutic potential.
Keywords: Ferritin; Serum ferritin; Iron; Inflammation; Anti-oxidation; Tumor-associated macrophages;

Serum markers in small cell lung cancer: Opportunities for improvement by Marjan Harmsma; Bert Schutte; Frans C.S. Ramaekers (255-272).
Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death from malignancy worldwide. In particular small cell lung cancers, which comprise about 15–20% of all lung cancers, are extremely aggressive and cure rates are extremely low. Therefore, new treatment modalities are needed and detection at an early stage of disease, as well as adequate monitoring of treatment response is essential in order to improve outcome. In this respect, the use of non-invasive tools for screening and monitoring has gained increasing interest and the clinical applicability of reliable, tumor-related substances that can be detected as tumor markers in easily accessible body fluids is subject of intense investigation. Some of these indicators, such as high LDH levels in serum as a reflection of the disease, have been in use for a long time as a general tumor marker. To allow for improved monitoring of the efficacy of new therapeutic modalities and for accurate subtyping, there is a strong need for specific and sensitive markers that are more directly related to the biology and behavior of small cell lung cancer. In this review the current status of these potential markers, like CEA, NSE, ProGRP, CK-BB, SCC, CgA, NCAM and several cytokeratins will be critically analyzed with respect to their performance in blood based assays. Based on known cleavage sites for cytoplasmic and extracellular proteases, a prediction of stable fragments can be obtained and used for optimal test design. Furthermore, insight into the synthesis of specific splice variants and neo-epitopes resulting from protein modification and cleavage, offers further opportunities for improvement of tumor assays.Finally, we discuss the possibility that detection of SCLC related autoantibodies in paraneoplastic disease can be used as a very early indicator of SCLC.
Keywords: Small cell lung cancer; Biomarkers; Proteolytic cleavage; Post-translational modification; Splicing; Paraneoplastic disease;

Tumor cell-mediated neovascularization and lymphangiogenesis contrive tumor progression and cancer metastasis by Zhifei Cao; Bingxue Shang; Gaochuan Zhang; Lucio Miele; Fazlul H. Sarkar; Zhiwei Wang; Quansheng Zhou (273-286).
Robust neovascularization and lymphangiogenesis have been found in a variety of aggressive and metastatic tumors. Endothelial sprouting angiogenesis is generally considered to be the major mechanism by which new vasculature forms in tumors. However, increasing evidence shows that tumor vasculature is not solely composed of endothelial cells (ECs). Some tumor cells acquire processes similar to embryonic vasculogenesis and produce new vasculature through vasculogenic mimicry, trans-differentiation of tumor cells into tumor ECs, and tumor cell–EC vascular co-option. In addition, tumor cells secrete various vasculogenic factors that induce sprouting angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. Vasculogenic tumor cells actively participate in the formation of vascular cancer stem cell niche and a premetastatic niche. Therefore, tumor cell-mediated neovascularization and lymphangiogenesis are closely associated with tumor progression, cancer metastasis, and poor prognosis. Vasculogenic tumor cells have emerged as key players in tumor neovascularization and lymphangiogenesis and play pivotal roles in tumor progression and cancer metastasis. However, the mechanisms underlying tumor cell-mediated vascularity as they relate to tumor progression and cancer metastasis remain unclear. Increasing data have shown that various intrinsic and extrinsic factors activate oncogenes and vasculogenic genes, enhance vasculogenic signaling pathways, and trigger tumor neovascularization and lymphangiogenesis. Collectively, tumor cells are the instigators of neovascularization. Therefore, targeting vasculogenic tumor cells, genes, and signaling pathways will open new avenues for anti-tumor vasculogenic and metastatic drug discovery. Dual targeting of endothelial sprouting angiogenesis and tumor cell-mediated neovascularization and lymphangiogenesis may overcome current clinical problems with anti-angiogenic therapy, resulting in significantly improved anti-angiogenesis and anti-cancer therapies.
Keywords: Cancer metastasis; Neovascularization; Lymphangiogenesis; Vasculogenic mimicry; Trans-differentiation; Cancer stem cells;

CXCR3, a double-edged sword in tumor progression and angiogenesis by Clotilde Billottet; Cathy Quemener; Andreas Bikfalvi (287-295).
CXC chemokines are involved in chemotaxis, regulation of cell growth, induction of apoptosis and modulation of angiostatic effects. CXCL9, CXCL10, CXCL11, CXCL4 and its variant CXCL4L1 are members of the CXC chemokine family, which bind to the CXCR3 receptor to exert their biological effects. These chemokines are associated with a variety of human diseases including chronic inflammation, immune dysfunction, cancer and metastasis. In this review, we focus on accumulating evidence demonstrating the pivotal role of CXCR3 in tumor progression. Its effects are mediated directly in tumor cells or indirectly through the regulation of angiogenesis and tumor immunity. Understanding the emerging role of CXCR3 and its signaling mechanisms further validates this receptor as a biomarker and therapeutic target for tumor progression and tumor angiogenesis.
Keywords: CXCR3; CXC chemokines; Angiogenesis; Cancer; Tumor invasion; Tumor immunity;

Interleukin 18: Friend or foe in cancer by Giuseppe Palma; Antonio Barbieri; Sabrina Bimonte; Marco Palla; Silvia Zappavigna; Michele Caraglia; Paolo A. Ascierto; Gennaro Ciliberto; Claudio Arra (296-303).
In the last few years, the field of tumor immunology has significantly expanded and its boundaries, never particularly clear, have become less distinct. Although the immune system plays an important role in controlling tumor growth, it has also become clear that tumor growth can be promoted by inflammatory immune responses. A good example that exemplifies the ambiguous role of the immune system in cancer progression is represented by interleukin 18 (IL-18) that was first identified as an interferon-γ-inducing factor (IGIF) involved in T helper type-1 (Th1) immune response. The expression and secretion of IL-18 have been observed in various cell types from immune cells to circulating cancer cells. In this review we highlighted the multiple roles played by IL-18 in immune regulation, cancer progression and angiogenesis and the clinical potential that may result from such understanding.
Keywords: Tumor immunology; Immune regulation;

Regulation of angiogenesis via Notch signaling in breast cancer and cancer stem cells by Weiqiang Zhou; Guangdi Wang; Shanchun Guo (304-320).
Breast cancer angiogenesis is elicited and regulated by a number of factors including the Notch signaling. Notch receptors and ligands are expressed in breast cancer cells as well as in the stromal compartment and have been implicated in carcinogenesis. Signals exchanged between neighboring cells through the Notch pathway can amplify and consolidate molecular differences, which eventually dictate cell fates. Notch signaling and its crosstalk with many signaling pathways play an important role in breast cancer cell growth, migration, invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis, as well as cancer stem cell (CSC) self-renewal. Therefore, significant attention has been paid in recent years toward the development of clinically useful antagonists of Notch signaling. Better understanding of the structure, function and regulation of Notch intracellular signaling pathways, as well as its complex crosstalk with other oncogenic signals in breast cancer cells will be essential to ensure rational design and application of new combinatory therapeutic strategies. Novel opportunities have emerged from the discovery of Notch crosstalk with inflammatory and angiogenic cytokines and their links to CSCs. Combinatory treatments with drugs designed to prevent Notch oncogenic signal crosstalk may be advantageous over λ secretase inhibitors (GSIs) alone. In this review, we focus on the more recent advancements in our knowledge of aberrant Notch signaling contributing to breast cancer angiogenesis, as well as its crosstalk with other factors contributing to angiogenesis and CSCs.
Keywords: Notch; Breast cancer; Tumor angiogenesis; Oncogenesis; Breast cancer stem cells;

Tumor microenvironment: Bone marrow-mesenchymal stem cells as key players by Pedro Barcellos-de-Souza; Valentina Gori; Franco Bambi; Paola Chiarugi (321-335).
Tumor progression is a multistep phenomenon in which tumor-associated stromal cells perform an intricate cross-talk with tumor cells, supplying appropriate signals that may promote tumor aggressiveness. Among several cell types that constitute the tumor stroma, the discovery that bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSC) have a strong tropism for tumors has achieved notoriety in recent years. Not only are the BM-MSC recruited, but they can also engraft at tumor sites and transdifferentiate into cells such as activated fibroblasts, perivascular cells and macrophages, which will perform a key role in tumor progression. Whether the BM-MSC and their derived cells promote or suppress the tumor progression is a controversial issue. Recently, it has been proposed that proinflammatory stimuli can be decisive in driving BM-MSC polarization into cells with either tumor-supportive or tumor-repressive phenotypes (MSC1/MSC2). These considerations are extremely important both to an understanding of tumor biology and to the putative use of BM-MSC as “magic bullets” against tumors. In this review, we discuss the role of BM-MSC in many steps in tumor progression, focusing on the factors that attract BM-MSC to tumors, BM-MSC differentiation ability, the role of BM-MSC in tumor support or inhibition, the immunomodulation promoted by BM-MSC and metastatic niche formation by these cells.
Keywords: Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells; Tumor progression; Tumor tropism; Evasion from tumor site; Cancer-associated fibroblasts; Metastatic niche;

Mitochondrial DNA mutations and breast tumorigenesis by Neelu Yadav; Dhyan Chandra (336-344).
Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease and genetic factors play an important role in its genesis. Although mutations in tumor suppressors and oncogenes encoded by the nuclear genome are known to play a critical role in breast tumorigenesis, the contribution of the mitochondrial genome to this process is unclear. Like the nuclear genome, the mitochondrial genome also encodes proteins critical for mitochondrion functions such as oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), which is known to be defective in cancer including breast cancer. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is more susceptible to mutations due to limited repair mechanisms compared to nuclear DNA (nDNA). Thus changes in mitochondrial genes could also contribute to the development of breast cancer. In this review we discuss mtDNA mutations that affect OXPHOS. Continuous acquisition of mtDNA mutations and selection of advantageous mutations ultimately leads to generation of cells that propagate uncontrollably to form tumors. Since irreversible damage to OXPHOS leads to a shift in energy metabolism towards enhanced aerobic glycolysis in most cancers, mutations in mtDNA represent an early event during breast tumorigenesis, and thus may serve as potential biomarkers for early detection and prognosis of breast cancer. Because mtDNA mutations lead to defective OXPHOS, development of agents that target OXPHOS will provide specificity for preventative and therapeutic agents against breast cancer with minimal toxicity.
Keywords: Mitochondrial DNA; OXPHOS; Breast cancer; Warburg effect; mtDNA mutations; Homoplasmy and heteroplasmy;

Insulin-like growth factor — Oestradiol crosstalk and mammary gland tumourigenesis by Yousef Hawsawi; Reem El-Gendy; Christopher Twelves; Valerie Speirs; James Beattie (345-353).
Development and differentiation of the mammary gland are dependent on the appropriate temporal expression of both systemically acting hormones and locally produced growth factors. A large body of evidence suggests that molecular crosstalk between these hormonal and growth factor axes is crucial for appropriate cell and tissue function. Two of the most important trophic factors involved in this process are the oestrogen (E) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) molecular axes. The reciprocal crosstalk that exists between these pathways occurs at transcriptional/post-transcriptional and translational/post-translational levels regulate the expression and activity of genes involved in this process. In a clinical context an important consequence of such crosstalk in the mammary gland is the role which it may play in the aetiology, maintenance and development of breast tumours. Although oestradiol (E2) acting through oestrogen receptors α and β (ERα/β) is important for normal mammary gland function it can also provide a mitogenic drive to ER + breast tumours. Therefore over several years anti-oestrogen therapeutic regimens in the form of selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs — e.g. tamoxifen), aromatase inhibitors (AI e.g. anastrozole) or selective oestrogen receptor down regulators (SERDs – e.g. fulvestrant) have been used in an adjuvant setting to control tumour growth. Although initial response is usually encouraging, large cohorts of patients eventually develop resistance to these treatments leading to tumour recurrence and poor prognosis. There are potentially many routes by which breast cancer (BC) cells could escape anti-oestrogen based therapeutic strategies and one of the most studied is the possible growth factor mediated activation of ER(s). Because of this, growth factor modulation of ER activity has been an intensively studied route of molecular crosstalk in the mammary gland. The insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1 and -2) are amongst the most potent mitogens for mammary epithelial cells and there is accumulating evidence that they interact with the E2 axis to regulate mitogenesis, apoptosis, adhesion, migration and differentiation of mammary epithelial cells. Such interactions are bi-directional and E2 has been shown to regulate the expression and activity of IGF axis genes with the general effect of sensitising breast epithelial cells to the actions of IGFs and insulin. In this short review we discuss the evidence for the involvement of crosstalk between the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) and oestrogen axes in the mammary gland and comment on the relevance of such studies in the aetiology and treatment of BC.
Keywords: Insulin-like growth factor; Oestradiol; Breast cancer; Endocrine resistance;