bims-pimaco Biomed News
on PI3K and MAPK signalling in colorectal cancer
Issue of 2021‒12‒05
eleven papers selected by
Lucas B. Zeiger
Beatson Institute for Cancer Research

  1. World J Gastrointest Oncol. 2021 Nov 15. 13(11): 1632-1647
      The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) acts in two structurally and functionally distinct protein complexes, mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2). Upon deregulation, activated mTOR signaling is associated with multiple processes involved in tumor growth and metastasis. Compared with mTORC1, much less is known about mTORC2 in cancer, mainly because of the unavailability of a selective inhibitor. However, existing data suggest that mTORC2 with its two distinct subunits Rictor and mSin1 might play a more important role than assumed so far. It is one of the key effectors of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway and stimulates cell growth, cell survival, metabolism, and cytoskeletal organization. It is not only implicated in tumor progression, metastasis, and the tumor microenvironment but also in resistance to therapy. Rictor, the central subunit of mTORC2, was found to be upregulated in different kinds of cancers and is associated with advanced tumor stages and a bad prognosis. Moreover, AKT, the main downstream regulator of mTORC2/Rictor, is one of the most highly activated proteins in cancer. Primary and secondary liver cancer are major problems for current cancer therapy due to the lack of specific medical treatment, emphasizing the need for further therapeutic options. This review, therefore, summarizes the role of mTORC2/Rictor in cancer, with special focus on primary liver cancer but also on liver metastases.
    Keywords:  Cholangiocellular carcinoma; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver cancer; Liver metastases; Mammalian target of rapamycin; Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 2; Rictor
  2. Pharmgenomics Pers Med. 2021 ;14 1517-1535
      The serine/threonine kinase AKT is a critical effector of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling cascade and has a pivotal role in cell growth, proliferation, survival, and metabolism. AKT is one of the most commonly activated pathways in human cancer and dysregulation of AKT-dependent pathways is associated with the development and maintenance of a range of solid tumors. There are multiple small-molecule inhibitors targeting different components of the PI3K/AKT pathway currently at various stages of clinical development, in addition to new combination strategies aiming to boost the therapeutic efficacy of these drugs. Correlative and translational studies have been undertaken in the context of clinical trials investigating AKT inhibitors, however the identification of predictive biomarkers of response and resistance to AKT inhibition remains an unmet need. In this review, we discuss the biological function and activation of AKT, discuss its contribution to tumor development and progression, and review the efficacy and toxicity data from clinical trials, including both AKT inhibitor monotherapy and combination strategies with other agents. We also discuss the promise and challenges associated with the development of AKT inhibitors and associated predictive biomarkers of response and resistance.
    Keywords:  AKT; AKT inhibitor; PI3K; m-TOR
  3. Cell Rep. 2021 Nov 30. pii: S2211-1247(21)01546-1. [Epub ahead of print]37(9): 110060
      We apply genetic screens to delineate modulators of KRAS mutant pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) sensitivity to ERK inhibitor treatment, and we identify components of the ATR-CHK1 DNA damage repair (DDR) pathway. Pharmacologic inhibition of CHK1 alone causes apoptotic growth suppression of both PDAC cell lines and organoids, which correlates with loss of MYC expression. CHK1 inhibition also activates ERK and AMPK and increases autophagy, providing a mechanistic basis for increased efficacy of concurrent CHK1 and ERK inhibition and/or autophagy inhibition with chloroquine. To assess how CHK1 inhibition-induced ERK activation promotes PDAC survival, we perform a CRISPR-Cas9 loss-of-function screen targeting direct/indirect ERK substrates and identify RIF1. A key component of non-homologous end joining repair, RIF1 suppression sensitizes PDAC cells to CHK1 inhibition-mediated apoptotic growth suppression. Furthermore, ERK inhibition alone decreases RIF1 expression and phenocopies RIF1 depletion. We conclude that concurrent DDR suppression enhances the efficacy of ERK and/or autophagy inhibitors in KRAS mutant PDAC.
    Keywords:  CHK1; DNA damage; ERK; KRAS; MYC; RIF1; pancreatic cancer
  4. Mol Oncol. 2021 Dec 02.
      A more comprehensive understanding of how cells respond to drug intervention, the likely immediate signalling responses and how resistance may develop within different microenvironments will help inform treatment regimes. The non-receptor tyrosine kinase SRC regulates many cellular signalling processes, and pharmacological inhibition has long been a target of cancer drug discovery projects. Here, we describe the in vitro and in vivo characterisation of the small-molecule SRC inhibitor AZD0424. We show that AZD0424 potently inhibits the phosphorylation of tyrosine-419 of SRC (IC50 ~ 100 nM) in many cancer cell lines; however, inhibition of cell viability, via a G1 cell cycle arrest, was observed only in a subset of cancer cell lines in the low (on target) micromolar range. We profiled the changes in intracellular pathway signalling in cancer cells following exposure to AZD0424 and other targeted therapies using reverse phase protein array (RPPA) analysis. We demonstrate that SRC is activated in response to treatment of KRAS-mutant colorectal cell lines with MEK inhibitors (trametinib or AZD6244), and that AZD0424 abrogates this. Cell lines treated with trametinib or AZD6244 in combination with AZD0424 had reduced EGFR, FAK and SRC compensatory activation, and, cell viability was synergistically inhibited. In vivo, trametinib treatment of mice bearing HCT116 tumours increased phosphorylation of SRC on Tyr419, and, when combined with AZD0424, inhibition of tumour growth was greater than with trametinib alone. We also demonstrate that drug-induced resistance to trametinib is not re-sensitised by AZD0424 treatment in vitro, likely as a result of multiple compensatory signalling mechanisms; however, inhibition of SRC remains an effective way to block invasion of trametinib-resistant tumour cells. These data imply that SRC inhibition may offer a useful addition to MEK-inhibitor combination strategies.
    Keywords:  MEK inhibitor; SRC inhibitor; drug combinations; reverse phase protein array (RPPA)
  5. Mol Ther Oncolytics. 2021 Dec 17. 23 387-401
      Loss of function of tuberous sclerosis complex 1 or 2 (TSC1 or TSC2) leads to the activation of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). Hyperactivated mTORC1 plays a critical role in tumor growth, but the underlying mechanism is still not completely elucidated. Here, by analyzing Tsc1- or Tsc2-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts, rat Tsc2-null ELT3 cells, and human cancer cells, we present evidence for the involvement of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) as a downstream target of mTORC1 in tumor growth. We show that mTORC1 leads to increased EGFR expression through upregulation of runt-related transcriptional factor 1 (RUNX1). Knockdown of EGFR impairs proliferation and tumoral growth of Tsc-deficient cells, while overexpression of EGFR promotes the proliferation of the control cells. Moreover, the mTOR signaling pathway has been shown to be positively correlated with EGFR in human cancers. In addition, we demonstrated that EGFR enhances cell growth through activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). We conclude that activation of the RUNX1/EGFR/STAT3 signaling pathway contributes to tumorigenesis caused by hyperactivated mTORC1 and should be targeted for the treatment of mTORC1-related tumors, particularly TSC.
    Keywords:  EGFR; RUNX1; STAT3; mTOR; tuberous sclerosis complex; tumorigenesis
  6. Nat Biotechnol. 2021 Dec 02.
      Protein phosphorylation dynamically integrates environmental and cellular information to control biological processes. Identifying functional phosphorylation amongst the thousands of phosphosites regulated by a perturbation at a global scale is a major challenge. Here we introduce 'personalized phosphoproteomics', a combination of experimental and computational analyses to link signaling with biological function by utilizing human phenotypic variance. We measure individual subject phosphoproteome responses to interventions with corresponding phenotypes measured in parallel. Applying this approach to investigate how exercise potentiates insulin signaling in human skeletal muscle, we identify both known and previously unidentified phosphosites on proteins involved in glucose metabolism. This includes a cooperative relationship between mTOR and AMPK whereby the former directly phosphorylates the latter on S377, for which we find a role in metabolic regulation. These results establish personalized phosphoproteomics as a general approach for investigating the signal transduction underlying complex biology.
  7. J Med Chem. 2021 Dec 02.
      The serine/threonine kinase AKT functions as a critical node of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (m-TOR) signaling pathway. Aberrant activation and overexpression of AKT are strongly correlated with numerous human cancers. To date, only two AKT degraders with no structure-activity relationship (SAR) results have been reported. Through extensive SAR studies on various linkers, E3 ligase ligands, and AKT binding moieties, we identified two novel and potent AKT proteolysis targeting chimera (PROTAC) degraders: von Hippel-Lindau (VHL)-recruiting degrader 13 (MS98) and cereblon (CRBN)-recruiting degrader 25 (MS170). These two compounds selectively induced robust AKT protein degradation, inhibited downstream signaling, and suppressed cancer cell proliferation. Moreover, these two degraders exhibited good plasma exposure levels in mice through intraperitoneal injection. Overall, our comprehensive SAR studies led to the discovery of degraders 13 and 25, which are potentially useful chemical tools to investigate biological and pathogenic functions of AKT in vitro and in vivo.
  8. NPJ Precis Oncol. 2021 Dec 01. 5(1): 99
      Acquired resistance to molecular targeted therapy is a significant challenge of the precision medicine era. The ability to understand these mechanisms of resistance may improve patient selection and allow for the development of rationally designed next-line or combination treatment strategies and improved patient outcomes. AKT is a critical effector of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase signaling cascade, one of the most commonly activated pathways in human cancer. Deregulation of signaling pathways, such as RAF/MEK/ERK are previously described mechanisms of resistance to AKT/PI3K inhibitors. Mutations in the mTOR gene, however, are exceedingly rare. We present a case of acquired mTOR resistance, following targeted AKT inhibition, and subsequent response to mTOR1/2 inhibitor in a patient with metastatic endometrial cancer, the first documented response to ATP-competitive mTOR inhibition in this setting. This case supports mTOR mutation as a mechanism of resistance, and underscores the importance of tumor molecular profiling, exemplifying precision medicine in action.
  9. CPT Pharmacometrics Syst Pharmacol. 2021 Dec 01.
      Several PI3K inhibitors are in clinical development for the treatment of various forms of cancers, including pan-PI3K inhibitors targeting all four PI3K isoforms (α, β, γ, δ), and isoform-selective inhibitors. Diarrhea and Immune-mediated colitis are among the adverse events (AEs) observed with PI3K inhibition which limit the maximal tolerated dose. A quantitative systems pharmacology model was developed to investigate PI3K-inhibitor-induced colitis. The effects of individual PI3K isoforms on relevant cellular pathways were incorporated into a mechanistic representation of mucosal inflammation. A virtual clinical population captures the observed clinical variability in the onset timing and rates of diarrhea and colitis for 7 clinically-tested PI3K inhibitors. Model-based analysis suggests that colitis development is governed by both the inhibition of PI3Kδ, which drives T cell differentiation and proliferation, and PI3Kα, which regulates epithelial barrier integrity. Specifically, when PI3Kα is inhibited below a given threshold, epithelial barrier dysfunction precipitates an exaggerated T effector response due to PI3Kδ-inhibition, leading to risk of diarrhea and colitis. This synergy explains why the lowest diarrhea and colitis rates are seen with the weakest PI3Kδ inhibition (alpelisib), and higher rates are seen with strong PI3Kδ inhibition if PI3Kα is even mildly inhibited (e.g, idelalisib), whereas strong PI3Kδ inhibition in the absence of PI3Kα inhibition does not result in high colitis rates (umbralisib). Thus, the model-based analysis suggests that PI3Kα and δ inhibition play unique but synergistic roles in driving colitis. Finally, we explore if and how dose-regimen might influence colitis rates for molecules that inhibit both PI3Kα and PI3Kδ.
  10. Nat Genet. 2021 Dec 02.
      Although single-gene perturbation screens have revealed a number of new targets, vulnerabilities specific to frequently altered drivers have not been uncovered. An important question is whether the compensatory relationship between functionally redundant genes masks potential therapeutic targets in single-gene perturbation studies. To identify digenic dependencies, we developed a CRISPR paralog targeting library to investigate the viability effects of disrupting 3,284 genes, 5,065 paralog pairs and 815 paralog families. We identified that dual inactivation of DUSP4 and DUSP6 selectively impairs growth in NRAS and BRAF mutant cells through the hyperactivation of MAPK signaling. Furthermore, cells resistant to MAPK pathway therapeutics become cross-sensitized to DUSP4 and DUSP6 perturbations such that the mechanisms of resistance to the inhibitors reinforce this mechanism of vulnerability. Together, multigene perturbation technologies unveil previously unrecognized digenic vulnerabilities that may be leveraged as new therapeutic targets in cancer.
  11. Anticancer Res. 2021 Dec;41(12): 6169-6176
      BACKGROUND/AIM: Rictor is an adaptor protein essential for mTORC2, which regulates cell growth and survival. The aim of this study was to identify microRNAs (miR) that down-regulate Rictor and investigate their function on breast cancer cell survival.MATERIALS AND METHODS: Trypan blue assay, MTT assay, polymerase chain reaction analysis, luciferase reporter assay and western blot analysis were carried out in breast cancer cell lines HCC1954, MDA-MB-231, SK-BR-3, and BT474.
    RESULTS: miR-3188 overexpression suppressed the expression of Rictor and inhibited cell viability in HCC1954 and MDA-MB-231, highly Rictor-expressing breast cancer cells. In addition, miR-3188 overexpression decreased the protein level of p-AKT at Ser473, a substrate of mTORC2. Moreover, miRNA-3188 overexpression sensitized breast cancer cells to ionizing radiation (IR) by down-regulating Rictor and p-AKT.
    CONCLUSION: miR-3188 enhances IR sensitivity by affecting the mTORC2/AKT signalling pathway by altering the expression of Rictor, which could be a promising therapeutic strategy for the future treatment of breast cancer.
    Keywords:  Breast cancer; Rictor; ionizing radiation; miR-3188