Molecular underpinnings of tumor suppression of colon and triple-negative breast cancers
Wong, Chen Khuan
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Colon and breast cancers are amongst the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States, mostly attributed to metastasis and resistance to therapy. Hence, there is a critical need to identify novel biomarkers for effective prognosis and to design targeted therapies to combat the metastatic diseases. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at chromosome 18q and inactivation of the target gene, SMAD4, corresponds to resistance to the common chemotherapeutic agent, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), in colon cancer. Our examination of the therapeutic resistance phenomenon in SMAD4-negative colon cancer cells with the three common agents revealed significant resistance to both 5-FU and irinotecan but not to oxaliplatin. We also followed up with the earlier findings from our group, which suggested that SMAD4 might interact with metastasis-promoting factors to suppress metastatic progression and render sensitivity to chemotherapy. Co-immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry analysis revealed that SMAD4 interacts with and inhibits RICTOR, a component of mTORC2 that activates oncogenic AKT via phosphorylation at Serine 473. Overexpression of SMAD4, depletion of RICTOR, or inhibition of AKT signaling restores sensitivity to irinotecan in SMAD4-negative colon cancer cells in vitro. Furthermore, as expected pharmacological inhibition of AKT sensitizes these cells to irinotecan in vivo. Interestingly, high RICTOR/AKT expression correlates with worse survival in colon cancer patients, suggesting them as novel prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets. On the other hand, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive form of breast cancer due to lack of effective targeted therapies. Using miRNA expression profiling of a model for epithelial-mesenchymal transition in TNBC, we found suppression of miR-4417 during the progression from non-malignant to malignant stage. Furthermore, localization of miR-4417 to chromosome 1p36, a region corresponding to high frequency of LOH in multiple cancers and low-level expression in TNBC patients associated with poor overall survival is consistent with its likely role as a tumor suppressor. Interestingly, we found that overexpression of miR-4417 is sufficient to inhibit migration and tumorigenecity of TNBC cells in vitro. Overall, our findings suggest miR-4417 exerts a tumor-suppressive effect and could serve as a novel prognostic biomarker and therapeutic tool against TNBC.