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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 detailROS production induced by BRAF inhibitor treatment rewires metabolic processes affecting cell growth of melanoma cells
Cesi, Giulia UL; Walbrecq, Geoffroy UL; Zimmer, Andreas David UL et al

in Molecular Cancer (2017), 8(june),

Background: Most melanoma patients with BRAFV600E positive tumors respond well to a combination of BRAF kinase and MEK inhibitors. However, some patients are intrinsically resistant while the majority of ... [more ▼]

Background: Most melanoma patients with BRAFV600E positive tumors respond well to a combination of BRAF kinase and MEK inhibitors. However, some patients are intrinsically resistant while the majority of patients eventually develop drug resistance to the treatment. For patients insufficiently responding to BRAF and MEK inhibitors, there is an ongoing need for new treatment targets. Cellular metabolism is such a promising new target line: mutant BRAFV600E has been shown to affect the metabolism. Methods: Time course experiments and a series of western blots were performed in a panel of BRAFV600E and BRAFWT/ NRASmut human melanoma cells, which were incubated with BRAF and MEK1 kinase inhibitors. siRNA approaches were used to investigate the metabolic players involved. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) were measured by confocal microscopy and AZD7545, an inhibitor targeting PDKs (pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase) was tested. Results: We show that inhibition of the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway induces phosphorylation of the pyruvate dehydrogenase PDH-E1α subunit in BRAFV600E and in BRAFWT/NRASmut harboring cells. Inhibition of BRAF, MEK1 and siRNA knock-down of ERK1/2 mediated phosphorylation of PDH. siRNA-mediated knock-down of all PDKs or the use of DCA (a pan-PDK inhibitor) abolished PDH-E1α phosphorylation. BRAF inhibitor treatment also induced the upregulation of ROS, concomitantly with the induction of PDH phosphorylation. Suppression of ROS by MitoQ suppressed PDH-E1α phosphorylation, strongly suggesting that ROS mediate the activation of PDKs. Interestingly, the inhibition of PDK1 with AZD7545 specifically suppressed growth of BRAF-mutant and BRAF inhibitor resistant melanoma cells. Conclusions: In BRAFV600E and BRAFWT/NRASmut melanoma cells, the increased production of ROS upon inhibition of the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway, is responsible for activating PDKs, which in turn phosphorylate and inactivate PDH. As part of a possible salvage pathway, the tricarboxylic acid cycle is inhibited leading to reduced oxidative metabolism and reduced ROS levels. We show that inhibition of PDKs by AZD7545 leads to growth suppression of BRAF-mutated and -inhibitor resistant melanoma cells. Thus small molecule PDK inhibitors such as AZD7545, might be promising drugs for combination treatment in melanoma patients with activating RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway mutations (50% BRAF, 25% NRASmut, 11.9% NF1mut). [less ▲]

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See detailTumor-Initiating Cells: a criTICal review of isolation approaches and new challenges in targeting strategies
Baig, Komal UL; Ullmann, Pit UL; Haan, Serge UL et al

in Molecular Cancer (2017)

Most cancers contain a subpopulation of highly tumorigenic cells, known as cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor-initiating cells (TICs). Targeting TICs may be essential to achieve cure, because of their self ... [more ▼]

Most cancers contain a subpopulation of highly tumorigenic cells, known as cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor-initiating cells (TICs). Targeting TICs may be essential to achieve cure, because of their self-renewal and tumorigenic properties as well as their resistance to conventional therapies. Despite significant advances in TIC biology, their isolation and identification remain largely disputed and incompletely established. In this review, we discuss the latest developments in isolation and culturing approaches of TICs, with focus on colorectal cancer (CRC). We feature recent findings on TIC-relevant signaling pathways and the metabolic identity of TICs, as well as their current clinical implications. Lastly, we highlight the influence of inter- and intra-tumoral heterogeneity on TIC function and targeting approaches. [less ▲]

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