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See detailKinase inhibitor library screening identifies synergistic drug combinations effective in sensitive and resistant melanoma cells
Margue, Christiane UL; Philippidou, Demetra UL; Kozar, Ines UL et al

in Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research (2019), 38(1),

Background: Melanoma is the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer with increasing case numbers worldwide. The development of inhibitors targeting mutated BRAF (found in around 60% of melanoma ... [more ▼]

Background: Melanoma is the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer with increasing case numbers worldwide. The development of inhibitors targeting mutated BRAF (found in around 60% of melanoma patients) has markedly improved overall survival of patients with late-stage tumors, even more so when combined with MEK inhibitors targeting the same signaling pathway. However, invariably patients become resistant to this targeted therapy resulting in rapid progression with treatment-refractory disease. The purpose of this study was the identification of new kinase inhibitors that do not lead to the development of resistance in combination with BRAF inhibitors (BRAFi), or that could be of clinical benefit as a 2nd line treatment for late-stage melanoma patients that have already developed resistance. Methods: We have screened a 274-compound kinase inhibitor library in 3 BRAF mutant melanoma cell lines (each one sensitive or made resistant to 2 distinct BRAFi). The screening results were validated by dose-response studies and confirmed the killing efficacies of many kinase inhibitors. Two different tools were applied to investigate and quantify potential synergistic effects of drug combinations: the Chou-Talalay method and the Synergyfinder application. In order to exclude that resistance to the new treatments might occur at later time points, synergistic combinations were administered to fluorescently labelled parental and resistant cells over a period of > 10 weeks. Results: Eight inhibitors targeting Wee1, Checkpoint kinase 1/2, Aurora kinase, MEK, Polo-like kinase, PI3K and Focal adhesion kinase killed melanoma cells synergistically when combined with a BRAFi. Additionally, combination of a Wee1 and Chk inhibitor showed synergistic killing effects not only on sensitive cell lines, but also on intrinsically BRAFi- and treatment induced-resistant melanoma cells. First in vivo studies confirmed these observations. Interestingly, continuous treatment with several of these drugs, alone or in combination, did not lead to emergence of resistance. Conclusions: Here, we have identified new, previously unexplored (in the framework of BRAFi resistance) inhibitors that have an effect not only on sensitive but also on BRAFi-resistant cells. These promising combinations together with the new immunotherapies could be an important step towards improved 1st and 2nd line treatments for late-stage melanoma patients. [less ▲]

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See detailA new ALK isoform transported by extracellular vesicles confers drug resistance to melanoma cells
Cesi, Giulia; Philippidou, Demetra UL; Kozar, Ines UL et al

in Molecular Cancer (2018), (17:145),

Abstract BACKGROUND: Drug resistance remains an unsolved clinical issue in oncology. Despite promising initial responses obtained with BRAF and MEK kinase inhibitors, resistance to treatment develops ... [more ▼]

Abstract BACKGROUND: Drug resistance remains an unsolved clinical issue in oncology. Despite promising initial responses obtained with BRAF and MEK kinase inhibitors, resistance to treatment develops within months in virtually all melanoma patients. METHODS: Microarray analyses were performed in BRAF inhibitor-sensitive and resistant cell lines to identify changes in the transcriptome that might play a role in resistance. siRNA approaches and kinase inhibitors were used to assess the involvement of the identified Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) in drug resistance. The capability of extracellular vesicles (EVs) to transfer drug resistant properties was investigated in co-culture assays. RESULTS: Here, we report a new mechanism of acquired drug resistance involving the activation of a novel truncated form of ALK. Knock down or inhibition of ALK re-sensitised resistant cells to BRAF inhibition and induced apoptosis. Interestingly, truncated ALK was also secreted into EVs and we show that EVs were the vehicle for transferring drug resistance. CONCLUSIONS: To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating the functional involvement of EVs in melanoma drug resistance by transporting a truncated but functional form of ALK, able to activate the MAPK signalling pathway in target cells. Combined inhibition of ALK and BRAF dramatically reduced tumour growth in vivo. These findings make ALK a promising clinical target in melanoma patients. [less ▲]

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See detailImpact of BRAF kinase inhibitors on the miRNomes and transcriptomes of melanoma cells
Kreis, Stephanie UL; Kozar, Ines UL; Cesi, Giulia UL et al

in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (2017)

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See detailComparison of a healthy miRNome with melanoma patient miRNomes: are microRNAs suitable serum biomarkers for cancer?
Margue, Christiane UL; Reinsbach, Susanne UL; Philippidou, Demetra UL et al

in Oncotarget (2015), 6(14), 12110-27

MiRNAs are increasingly recognized as biomarkers for the diagnosis of cancers where they are profiled from tumor tissue (intracellular miRNAs) or serum/plasma samples (extracellular miRNAs). To improve ... [more ▼]

MiRNAs are increasingly recognized as biomarkers for the diagnosis of cancers where they are profiled from tumor tissue (intracellular miRNAs) or serum/plasma samples (extracellular miRNAs). To improve detection of reliable biomarkers from blood samples, we first compiled a healthy reference miRNome and established a well-controlled analysis pipeline allowing for standardized quantification of circulating miRNAs. Using whole miRNome and custom qPCR arrays, miRNA expression profiles were analyzed in 126 serum, whole blood and tissue samples of healthy volunteers and melanoma patients and in primary melanocyte and keratinocyte cell lines. We found characteristic signatures with excellent prognostic scores only in late stage but not in early stage melanoma patients. Upon comparison of melanoma tissue miRNomes with matching serum samples, several miRNAs were identified to be exclusively tissue-derived (miR-30b-5p, miR-374a-5p and others) while others had higher expression levels in serum (miR-3201 and miR-122-5p). Here we have compiled a healthy and widely applicable miRNome from serum samples and we provide strong evidence that levels of cell-free miRNAs only change significantly at later stages of melanoma progression, which has serious implications for miRNA biomarker studies in cancer. [less ▲]

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See detailNew Target Genes of MITF-Induced microRNA-211 Contribute to Melanoma Cell Invasion
Margue, Christiane UL; Philippidou, Demetra UL; Reinsbach, Susanne UL et al

in PLoS ONE (2013), 8(9),

The non-coding microRNAs (miRNA) have tissue- and disease-specific expression patterns. They down-regulate target mRNAs, which likely impacts on most fundamental cellular processes. Differential ... [more ▼]

The non-coding microRNAs (miRNA) have tissue- and disease-specific expression patterns. They down-regulate target mRNAs, which likely impacts on most fundamental cellular processes. Differential expression patterns of miRNAs are currently being exploited for identification of biomarkers for early disease diagnosis, prediction of progression for melanoma and other cancers and as promising drug targets, since they can easily be inhibited or replaced in a given cellular context. Before successfully manipulating miRNAs in clinical settings, their precise expression levels, endogenous functions and thus their target genes have to be determined. MiR-211, a melanocyte lineage-specific small non-coding miRNA, is located in an intron of TRPM1, a target gene of the microphtalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF). By transcriptionally up-regulating TRPM1, MITF, which is critical for both melanocyte differentiation and survival and for melanoma progression, indirectly drives the expression of miR-211. Expression of this miRNA is often reduced in melanoma samples. Here, we investigated functional roles of miR-211 by identifying and studying new target genes. We show that MITF-correlated miR-211 expression levels are mostly but not always reduced in a panel of 11 melanoma cell lines and in primary and metastatic melanoma compared to normal melanocytes and nevi, respectively. MiR-211 itself only marginally impacted on cell invasion and migration, while perturbation of some new miR-211 target genes, such as AP1S2, SOX11, IGFBP5, and SERINC3 significantly increased invasion. These results and the variable expression levels of miR-211 raise serious doubts on the value of miR-211 as a melanoma tumor-suppressing miRNA and/or as a biomarker for melanoma. [less ▲]

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See detailInterplay of microRNAs, transcription factors and target genes: Linking dynamic expression changes to function
Nazarov, P. V. A; Reinsbach, Susanne UL; Muller, A. A et al

in Nucleic Acids Research (2013), 41(5), 2817-2831

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ubiquitously expressed small non-coding RNAs that, in most cases, negatively regulate gene expression at the posttranscriptional level. miRNAs are involved in fine-tuning ... [more ▼]

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ubiquitously expressed small non-coding RNAs that, in most cases, negatively regulate gene expression at the posttranscriptional level. miRNAs are involved in fine-tuning fundamental cellular processes such as proliferation, cell death and cell cycle control and are believed to confer robustness to biological responses. Here, we investigated simultaneously the transcriptional changes of miRNA and mRNA expression levels over time after activation of the Janus kinase/Signal transducer and activator of transcription (Jak/STAT) pathway by interferon-c stimulation of melanoma cells. To examine global miRNA and mRNA expression patterns, time-series microarray data were analysed. We observed delayed responses of miRNAs (after 24-48 h) with respect to mRNAs (12-24 h) and identified biological functions involved at each step of the cellular response. Inference of the upstream regulators allowed for identification of transcriptional regulators involved in cellular reactions to interferon-c stimulation. Linking expression profiles of transcriptional regulators and miRNAs with their annotated functions, we demonstrate the dynamic interplay of miRNAs and upstream regulators with biological functions. Finally, our data revealed network motifs in the form of feed-forward loops involving transcriptional regulators, mRNAs and miRNAs. Additional information obtained from integrating time-series mRNA and miRNA data may represent an important step towards understanding the regulatory principles of gene expression. © The Author(s) 2013. [less ▲]

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See detailDynamic regulation of microRNA expression following interferonγ- induced gene transcription
Reinsbach, Susanne UL; Nazarov, Petr V.; Philippidou, Demetra UL et al

in RNA Biology (2012), 9(7), 987-989

MicroRNAs are major players in post-transcriptional gene regulation. Even small changes in miRNA levels may have profound consequences for the expression levels of target genes. Hence, miRNAs themselves ... [more ▼]

MicroRNAs are major players in post-transcriptional gene regulation. Even small changes in miRNA levels may have profound consequences for the expression levels of target genes. Hence, miRNAs themselves need to be tightly, albeit dynamically, regulated. Here, we investigated the dynamic behavior of miRNAs over a wide time range following stimulation of melanoma cells with interferonγ (IFNγ), which activates the transcription factor STAT1. By applying several bioinformatic and statistical software tools for visualization and identification of differentially expressed miRNAs derived from time-series microarray experiments, 8.9% of 1105 miRNAs appeared to be directly or indirectly regulated by STAT1. Focusing on distinct dynamic expression patterns, we found that the majority of robust miRNA expression changes occurred in the intermediate time range (24-48 h). Three miRNAs (miR-27a, miR-30a and miR-34a) had a delayed regulation occurring at 72 h while none showed significant expression changes at early time points between 30 min and 6 h. Expression patterns of individual miRNAs were altered gradually over time or abruptly increased or decreased between two time points. Furthermore, we observed coordinated dynamic transcription of most miRNA clusters while few were found to be regulated independently of their genetic cluster. Most interestingly, several "star" or passenger strand sequences were specifically regulated over time while their "guide" strands were not. © 2012 Landes Bioscience. [less ▲]

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See detailInterferon-γ-induced activation of Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 1 (STAT1) up-regulates the tumor suppressing microRNA-29 family in melanoma cells
Schmitt, Martina J.; Philippidou, Demetra UL; Reinsbach, Susanne UL et al

in Cell Communication and Signaling (2012), 10

Background: The type-II-cytokine IFN-γ is a pivotal player in innate immune responses but also assumes functions in controlling tumor cell growth by orchestrating cellular responses against neoplastic ... [more ▼]

Background: The type-II-cytokine IFN-γ is a pivotal player in innate immune responses but also assumes functions in controlling tumor cell growth by orchestrating cellular responses against neoplastic cells. The role of IFN-γ in melanoma is not fully understood: it is a well-known growth inhibitor of melanoma cells in vitro. On the other hand, IFN-γ may also facilitate melanoma progression. While interferon-regulated genes encoding proteins have been intensively studied since decades, the contribution of miRNAs to effects mediated by interferons is an emerging area of research.We recently described a distinct and dynamic regulation of a whole panel of microRNAs (miRNAs) after IFN-γ-stimulation. The aim of this study was to analyze the transcriptional regulation of miR-29 family members in detail, identify potential interesting target genes and thus further elucidate a potential signaling pathway IFN-γ → Jak→ P-STAT1 → miR-29 → miR-29 target genes and its implication for melanoma growth. Results: Here we show that IFN-γ induces STAT1-dependently a profound up-regulation of the miR-29 primary cluster pri-29a∼b-1 in melanoma cell lines. Furthermore, expression levels of pri-29a∼b-1 and mature miR-29a and miR-29b were elevated while the pri-29b-2∼c cluster was almost undetectable. We observed an inverse correlation between miR-29a/b expression and the proliferation rate of various melanoma cell lines. This finding could be corroborated in cells transfected with either miR-29 mimics or inhibitors. The IFN-γ-induced G1-arrest of melanoma cells involves down-regulation of CDK6, which we proved to be a direct target of miR-29 in these cells. Compared to nevi and normal skin, and metastatic melanoma samples, miR-29a and miR-29b levels were found strikingly elevated in certain patient samples derived from primary melanoma. Conclusions: Our findings reveal that the miR-29a/b1 cluster is to be included in the group of IFN- and STAT-regulated genes. The up-regulated miR-29 family members may act as effectors of cytokine signalling in melanoma and other cancer cells as well as in the immune system. © 2012 Schmitt et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. [less ▲]

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See detailSignatures of MicroRNAs and selected MicroRNA target genes in human melanoma
Philippidou, Demetra UL; Schmitt, Martina UL; Moser, Dirk et al

in Cancer Research (2010), 70(10), 4163-4173

Small noncoding microRNAs (miRNA) regulate the expression of target mRNAs by repressing their translation or orchestrating their sequence-specific degradation. In this study, we investigated miRNA and ... [more ▼]

Small noncoding microRNAs (miRNA) regulate the expression of target mRNAs by repressing their translation or orchestrating their sequence-specific degradation. In this study, we investigated miRNA and miRNA target gene expression patterns in melanoma to identify candidate biomarkers for early and progressive disease. Because data presently available on miRNA expression in melanoma are inconsistent thus far, we applied several different miRNA detection and profiling techniques on a panel of 10 cell lines and 20 patient samples representing nevi and primary or metastatic melanoma. Expression of selected miRNAs was inconsistent when comparing cell line-derived and patient-derived data. Moreover, as expected, some discrepancies were also detected when miRNA microarray data were correlated with qPCR-measured expression levels. Nevertheless, we identified miRNA-200c to be consistently downregulated in melanocytes, melanoma cell lines, and patient samples, whereas miRNA-205 and miRNA-23b were markedly reduced only in patient samples. In contrast, miR-146a and miR-155 were upregulated in all analyzed patients but none of the cell lines. Whole-genome microarrays were performed for analysis of selected melanoma cell lines to identify potential transcriptionally regulated miRNA target genes. Using Ingenuity pathway analysis, we identified a deregulated gene network centered around microphthalmia-associated transcription factor, a transcription factor known to play a key role in melanoma development. Our findings define miRNAs and miRNA target genes that offer candidate biomarkers in human melanoma. ©2010 AACR. [less ▲]

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See detailIL-24: a classic cytokine and/or a potential cure for cancer?
Kreis, Stephanie UL; Philippidou, Demetra UL; Margue, Christiane UL et al

in Journal of Cellular & Molecular Medicine (2008), 12(6A), 2505-2510

IL-24, a member of the IL-10 family of cytokines, is produced by monocytes and Th2 cells. Interestingly, immune cells do not appear to express specific IL-24 receptor chains (IL-20R1/IL-20R2 and IL-22R/IL ... [more ▼]

IL-24, a member of the IL-10 family of cytokines, is produced by monocytes and Th2 cells. Interestingly, immune cells do not appear to express specific IL-24 receptor chains (IL-20R1/IL-20R2 and IL-22R/IL-20R2), it is therefore unlikely that IL-24 has classical immune-modulating properties. Skin, on the other hand, seems to represent a major target tissue for IL-24 and related cytokines such as IL-19, -20, and -22. However, the initial interest in IL-24 did not arise from its physiological signalling properties through its cognate receptors but rather because of its tentative ability to selectively kill different cancer cells. In an attempt to further investigate the signalling events underlying the IL-24-induced cancer cell death, we found that melanoma cell lines did not react in the expected and previously described way. Using several different forms and delivery modes of IL-24, we were unable to detect any apoptosis-inducing properties of this cytokine in melanoma cells. In the present "Point of view" we will briefly summarise these findings and put them in context of published reports stating that IL-24 might be a long sought after treatment for several types of cancer. [less ▲]

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See detailRecombinant interleukin-24 lacks apoptosis-inducing properties in melanoma cells
Kreis, Stephanie UL; Philippidou, Demetra UL; Margue, Christiane UL et al

in PLoS ONE (2007), 2(12), 1300

IL-24, also known as melanoma differentiation antigen 7 (mda-7), is a member of the IL-10 family of cytokines and is mainly produced by Th(2) cells as well as by activated monocytes. Binding of IL-24 to ... [more ▼]

IL-24, also known as melanoma differentiation antigen 7 (mda-7), is a member of the IL-10 family of cytokines and is mainly produced by Th(2) cells as well as by activated monocytes. Binding of IL-24 to either of its two possible heterodimeric receptors IL-20R1/IL-20R2 and IL-22R/IL-20R2 activates STAT3 and/or STAT1 in target tissues such as lung, testis, ovary, keratinocytes and skin. To date, the physiological properties of IL-24 are still not well understood but available data suggest that IL-24 affects epidermal functions by increasing proliferation of dermal cells. In stark contrast to its "normal" and physiological behaviour, IL-24 has been reported to selectively and efficiently kill a vast variety of cancer cells, especially melanoma cells, independent of receptor expression and Jak-STAT signalling. These intriguing properties have led to the development of adenovirally-expressed IL-24, which is currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Using three different methods, we have analysed a large panel of melanoma cell lines with respect to IL-24 and IL-24 receptor expression and found that none of the investigated cell lines expressed sufficient amounts of functional receptor pairs and therefore did not react to IL-24 stimulation with Jak/STAT activation. Results for three cell lines contrasted with previous studies, which reported presence of IL-24 receptors and activation of STAT3 following IL-24 stimulation. Furthermore, evaluating four different sources and modes of IL-24 administration (commercial recombinant IL-24, bacterially expressed GST-IL-24 fusion protein, IL-24 produced from transfected Hek cells, transiently over-expressed IL-24) no induction or increase in cell death was detected when compared to appropriate control treatments. Thus, we conclude that the cytokine IL-24 itself has no cancer-specific apoptosis-inducing properties in melanoma cells. [less ▲]

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