Human papilloma virus-associated head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) represent a distinct subgroup of HNSCC characterized by a favorable prognosis and a distinct molecular biology. There is a range of unresolved questions regarding the different biology and clinical outcome of HPV-positive HNSCC. The purpose of the present project was to obtain insight into the biology of treatment responsiveness of HPV-related HNSCC.
Notch signaling is important for tumor angiogenesis induced by vascular endothelial growth factor A. Blockade of the Notch ligand Dll4 inhibits tumor growth in a paradoxical way. Dll4 inhibition increases endothelial cell sprouting, but vessels show reduced perfusion. The reason for this lack of perfusion is not currently understood. Here we report that inhibition of Notch signaling in endothelial cell using an inducible binary transgenic system limits VEGFA-driven tumor growth and causes endothelial dysfunction. Neither excessive endothelial cell sprouting nor defects of pericyte abundance accompanied the inhibition of tumor growth and functional vasculature. However, biochemical and functional analysis revealed that endothelial nitric oxide production is decreased by Notch inhibition. Treatment with the soluble guanylate cyclase activator BAY41-2272, a vasorelaxing agent that acts downstream of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) by directly activating its soluble guanylyl cyclase receptor, rescued blood vessel function and tumor growth. We show that reduction in nitric oxide signaling is an early alteration induced by Notch inhibition and suggest that lack of functional vessels observed with Notch inhibition is secondary to inhibition of nitric oxide signaling. Coculture and tumor growth assays reveal that Notch-mediated nitric oxide production in endothelial cell requires VEGFA signaling. Together, our data support that eNOS inhibition is responsible for the tumor growth and vascular function defects induced by endothelial Notch inhibition. This study uncovers a novel mechanism of nitric oxide production in endothelial cells in tumors, with implications for understanding the peculiar character of tumor blood vessels.
Autofluorescence (AF) imaging provides valuable information about the structural and chemical states of tissue that can be used for early cancer detection. Optical scattering and absorption of excitation and emission light by the epithelium can significantly affect observed tissue AF intensity. Determining the effect of epithelial attenuation on the AF intensity could lead to a more accurate interpretation of AF intensity. We propose to use optical coherence tomography coregistered with AF imaging to characterize the AF attenuation due to the epithelium. We present imaging results from three vital tissue models, each consisting of a three-dimensional tissue culture grown from one of three epithelial cell lines (HCT116, OVCAR8, and MCF7) and immobilized on a fluorescence substrate. The AF loss profiles in the tissue layer show two different regimes, each approximately linearly decreasing with thickness. For thin cell cultures (<300 ?m), the AF signal changes as AF(t)/AF(0)=1-1.3t (t is the thickness in millimeter). For thick cell cultures (>400 ?m), the AF loss profiles have different intercepts but similar slopes. The data presented here can be used to estimate AF loss due to a change in the epithelial layer thickness and potentially to reduce AF bronchoscopy false positives due to inflammation and non-neoplastic epithelial thickening.
We have recently described that Notch activates nitric oxide (NO) signaling in the embryonic endocardium. Both Notch signaling and NO signaling have been shown to be important during adult arteriogenesis. Notch has been shown to be required for remodeling of the collateral vessels, whereas NO is required for the initial vasodilatory response to ischemia. Whether Notch also has an impact on the vasodilatory phase of arteriogenesis after ischemia is not known. We tested the hypothesis that endothelial cell-Notch function is required for NO induction and vasodilation, in response to ischemia in the adult vasculature.
Many cancer research efforts focus on exploiting genetic-level features that may be targeted for therapy. Tissue-level features of the tumour microenvironment also represent useful therapeutic targets. Here we investigate the presence of low oxygen tension and sensitivity to NOS inhibition of tumour vasculature as potential tumour-specific features that may be targeted by hypoxic cytotoxins, a class of therapeutics currently under investigation. We have previously demonstrated that tirapazamine (TPZ) mediates central vascular dysfunction in tumours. TPZ is a hypoxic cytotoxin that is also a competitive inhibitor of NOS. Here we further investigated the vascular-targeting activity of TPZ by combining it with NOS inhibitor L-NNA, or with low oxygen content gas breathing. Tumours were analyzed via multiplex immunohistochemical staining that revealed irreversible loss of perfusion and enhanced tumour cell death when TPZ was combined with either low oxygen or a NOS inhibitor. Tumour growth rate was reduced by TPZ + NOS inhibition, and tumours previously resistant to TPZ-mediated vascular dysfunction were sensitized by low oxygen breathing. Additional mapping analysis suggests that tumours with reduced vascular-associated stroma may have greater sensitivity to these effects. These results indicate that poorly oxygenated tumour vessels, also being abnormally organized and with inadequate smooth muscle, may be successfully targeted for significant anti-cancer effects by inhibition of NOS and hypoxia-activated prodrug toxicity. This strategy illustrates a novel use of hypoxia-activated cytotoxic prodrugs as vascular targeting agents, and also represents a novel mechanism for targeting tumour vessels.
Conventional chemotherapy targets proliferating cancer cells, but most cells in solid tumors are not in a proliferative state. Thus, strategies to enable conventional chemotherapy to target noncycling cells may greatly increase tumor responsiveness. In this study, we used a 3-dimensional tissue culture system to assay diffusible factors that can limit proliferation in the context of the tumor microenvironment, with the goal of identifying targets to heighten proliferative capacity in this setting. We found that supraphysiologic levels of insulin or insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) in combination with oxygen supplementation were sufficient to initiate proliferation of quiescence cells in this system. At maximal induction with IGF-I, net tissue proliferation increased 3- to 4-fold in the system such that chemotherapy could trigger a 3- to 6-fold increase in cytotoxicity, compared with control conditions. These effects were confirmed in vivo in colon cancer xenograft models with demonstrations that IGF-I receptor stimulation was sufficient to generate a 45% increase in tumor cell proliferation, along with a 25% to 50% increase in chemotherapy-induced tumor growth delay. Although oxygen was a dominant factor limiting in vitro tumor cell proliferation, we found that oxygen supplementation via pure oxygen breathing at 1 or 2 atmospheres pressure (mimicking hyperbaric therapy) did not decrease hypoxia in the tumor xenograft mouse model and was insufficient to increase tumor proliferation. Thus, our findings pointed to IGF-I receptor stimulation as a rational strategy to successfully increase tumor responsiveness to cytotoxic chemotherapy.
The heart is the most common site of congenital defects, and valvuloseptal defects are the most common of the cardiac anomalies seen in the newborn. The process of endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) in the cardiac cushions is a required step during early valve development, and Notch signaling is required for this process. Here we show that Notch activation induces the transcription of both subunits of the soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) heterodimer, GUCY1A3 and GUCY1B3, which form the nitric oxide receptor. In parallel, Notch also promotes nitric oxide (NO) production by inducing Activin A, thereby activating a PI3-kinase/Akt pathway to phosphorylate eNOS. We thus show that the activation of sGC by NO through a Notch-dependent autocrine loop is necessary to drive early EndMT in the developing atrioventricular canal (AVC).
Carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX) is a hypoxia and HIF-1-inducible protein that regulates intra- and extracellular pH under hypoxic conditions and promotes tumor cell survival and invasion in hypoxic microenvironments. Interrogation of 3,630 human breast cancers provided definitive evidence of CAIX as an independent poor prognostic biomarker for distant metastases and survival. shRNA-mediated depletion of CAIX expression in 4T1 mouse metastatic breast cancer cells capable of inducing CAIX in hypoxia resulted in regression of orthotopic mammary tumors and inhibition of spontaneous lung metastasis formation. Stable depletion of CAIX in MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer xenografts also resulted in attenuation of primary tumor growth. CAIX depletion in the 4T1 cells led to caspase-independent cell death and reversal of extracellular acidosis under hypoxic conditions in vitro. Treatment of mice harboring CAIX-positive 4T1 mammary tumors with novel CAIX-specific small molecule inhibitors that mimicked the effects of CAIX depletion in vitro resulted in significant inhibition of tumor growth and metastasis formation in both spontaneous and experimental models of metastasis, without inhibitory effects on CAIX-negative tumors. Similar inhibitory effects on primary tumor growth were observed in mice harboring orthotopic tumors comprised of lung metatstatic MDA-MB-231 LM2-4(Luc+) cells. Our findings show that CAIX is vital for growth and metastasis of hypoxic breast tumors and is a specific, targetable biomarker for breast cancer metastasis.
Follicular lymphoma patients display heterogeneous overall survival and variable risk of transformation. Recent studies have highlighted the role of the microenvironment. The contribution of microvessel density to follicular lymphoma survival remains controversial. We used a quantitative tumor mapping approach to determine whether the degree of vascularization correlated with outcome in a uniformly treated cohort. Whole-tissue sections of diagnostic biopsies from 84 cases were stained for CD34 and tumor-to-vessel-distance that encompassed 90% of the tumor (TVD(90)) was determined using image analysis. Twenty-one cases with lower TVD(90) showed inferior overall survival (P=0.0001) and high risk of transformation (P=0.01). These cases significantly correlated with increased Lymphoma-Associated Macrophages (?(2)=0.025). In multivariate analysis macrophages content, IPI and TVD(90) were independent predictors of overall survival (P=0.05, P=0.001 and P=0.01, respectively) and IPI and TVD(90) predicted risk of transformation (P=0.008 and P=0.08, respectively). Increased angiogenesis is an independent marker of inferior survival and may promote transformation.
The angiopoietins Ang1 (ANGPT1) and Ang2 (ANGPT2) are secreted factors that bind to the endothelial cell-specific receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2 (TEK) and regulate angiogenesis. Ang1 activates Tie2 to promote blood vessel maturation and stabilization. In contrast, Ang2, which is highly expressed by tumor endothelial cells, is thought to inhibit Tie2 activity and destabilize blood vessels, thereby facilitating VEGF-dependent vessel growth. Here, we show that the inhibition of tumor xenograft growth caused by an Ang2-specific antibody (REGN910) is reversed by systemic administration of the Tie2 agonist Ang1. These results indicate that Ang2 blockade inhibits tumor growth by decreasing Tie2 activity, showing that Ang2 is a Tie2 activator. REGN910 treatment of tumors resulted in increased expression of genes that are repressed by Tie2 activation, providing further evidence that REGN910 inhibits Tie2 signaling. Combination treatment with REGN910 plus the VEGF blocker aflibercept reduced tumor vascularity and tumor perfusion more dramatically than either single agent, resulting in more extensive tumor cell death and more potent inhibition of tumor growth. Challenging the prevailing model of Ang2 as a destabilizing factor, our findings indicate that Ang2 plays a protective role in tumor endothelial cells by activating Tie2, thereby limiting the antivascular effects of VEGF inhibition. Thus, blockade of Ang2 might enhance the clinical benefits currently provided by anti-VEGF agents. .
Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) have been suggested to arise from various developmental sources during embryogenesis, depending on the vascular bed. However, evidence also points to a common subpopulation of vascular progenitor cells predisposed to VSMC fate in the embryo. In the present study, we use binary transgenic reporter mice to identify a Tie1(+)CD31(dim)vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin(-)CD45(-) precursor that gives rise to VSMC in vivo in all vascular beds examined. This precursor does not represent a mature endothelial cell, because a VE-cadherin promoter-driven reporter shows no expression in VSMC during murine development. Blockade of Notch signaling in the Tie1(+) precursor cell, but not the VE-cadherin(+) endothelial cell, decreases VSMC investment of developing arteries, leading to localized hemorrhage in the embryo at the time of vascular maturation. However, Notch signaling is not required in the Tie1(+) precursor after establishment of a stable artery. Thus, Notch activity is required in the differentiation of a Tie1(+) local precursor to VSMC in a spatiotemporal fashion across all vascular beds.
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