Publications by authors named "Angelo Cicalese"

11 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

RNAi screens identify CHD4 as an essential gene in breast cancer growth.

Oncotarget 2016 Dec;7(49):80901-80915

Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, Milan 20141, Italy.

Epigenetic regulation plays an essential role in tumor development and epigenetic modifiers are considered optimal potential druggable candidates. In order to identify new breast cancer vulnerabilities and improve therapeutic chances for patients, we performed in vivo and in vitro shRNA screens in a human breast cancer cell model (MCF10DCIS.com cell line) using epigenetic libraries. Among the genes identified in our screening, we deeply investigated the role of Chromodomain Helicase DNA binding Protein 4 (CHD4) in breast cancer tumorigenesis. CHD4 silencing significantly reduced tumor growth in vivo and proliferation in vitro of MCF10DCIS.com cells. Similarly, in vivo breast cancer growth was decreased in a spontaneous mouse model of breast carcinoma (MMTV-NeuT system) and in metastatic patient-derived xenograft models. Conversely, no reduction in proliferative ability of non-transformed mammary epithelial cells (MCF10A) was detected. Moreover, we showed that CHD4 depletion arrests proliferation by inducing a G0/G1 block of cell cycle associated with up-regulation of CDKN1A (p21). These results highlight the relevance of genetic screens in the identification of tumor frailties and the role of CHD4 as a potential pharmacological target to inhibit breast cancer growth.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.12646DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5348363PMC
December 2016

In Vivo Functional Platform Targeting Patient-Derived Xenografts Identifies WDR5-Myc Association as a Critical Determinant of Pancreatic Cancer.

Cell Rep 2016 06 16;16(1):133-147. Epub 2016 Jun 16.

Department of Genomic Medicine, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA; Institute for Applied Cancer Science, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA; Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA. Electronic address:

Current treatment regimens for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) yield poor 5-year survival, emphasizing the critical need to identify druggable targets essential for PDAC maintenance. We developed an unbiased and in vivo target discovery approach to identify molecular vulnerabilities in low-passage and patient-derived PDAC xenografts or genetically engineered mouse model-derived allografts. Focusing on epigenetic regulators, we identified WDR5, a core member of the COMPASS histone H3 Lys4 (H3K4) MLL (1-4) methyltransferase complex, as a top tumor maintenance hit required across multiple human and mouse tumors. Mechanistically, WDR5 functions to sustain proper execution of DNA replication in PDAC cells, as previously suggested by replication stress studies involving MLL1, and c-Myc, also found to interact with WDR5. We indeed demonstrate that interaction with c-Myc is critical for this function. By showing that ATR inhibition mimicked the effects of WDR5 suppression, these data provide rationale to test ATR and WDR5 inhibitors for activity in this disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2016.05.063DOI Listing
June 2016

In Vivo Genetic Screens of Patient-Derived Tumors Revealed Unexpected Frailty of the Transformed Phenotype.

Cancer Discov 2016 06 13;6(6):650-63. Epub 2016 May 13.

Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.

Unlabelled: The identification of genes maintaining cancer growth is critical to our understanding of tumorigenesis. We report the first in vivo genetic screen of patient-derived tumors, using metastatic melanomas and targeting 236 chromatin genes by expression of specific shRNA libraries. Our screens revealed unprecedented numerosity of genes indispensable for tumor growth (∼50% of tested genes) and unexpected functional heterogeneity among patients (<15% in common). Notably, these genes were not activated by somatic mutations in the same patients and are therefore distinguished from mutated cancer driver genes. We analyzed underlying molecular mechanisms of one of the identified genes, the Histone-lysine N-methyltransferase KMT2D, and showed that it promotes tumorigenesis by dysregulating a subset of transcriptional enhancers and target genes involved in cell migration. The assembly of enhancer genomic patterns by activated KMT2D was highly patient-specific, regardless of the identity of transcriptional targets, suggesting that KMT2D might be activated by distinct upstream signaling pathways.

Significance: Drug targeting of biologically relevant cancer-associated mutations is considered a critical strategy to control cancer growth. Our functional in vivo genetic screens of patient-derived tumors showed unprecedented numerosity and interpatient heterogeneity of genes that are essential for tumor growth, but not mutated, suggesting that multiple, patient-specific signaling pathways are activated in tumors. Cancer Discov; 6(6); 650-63. ©2016 AACR.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 561.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2159-8290.CD-15-1200DOI Listing
June 2016

p63 Sustains self-renewal of mammary cancer stem cells through regulation of Sonic Hedgehog signaling.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Mar 4;112(11):3499-504. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

Biochemistry Laboratory, Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Department of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome "Tor Vergata," 00133 Rome, Italy; Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, 20141 Milan, Italy;

The predominant p63 isoform, ΔNp63, is a master regulator of normal epithelial stem cell (SC) maintenance. However, in vivo evidence of the regulation of cancer stem cell (CSC) properties by p63 is still limited. Here, we exploit the transgenic MMTV-ErbB2 (v-erb-b2 avian erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog 2) mouse model of carcinogenesis to dissect the role of p63 in the regulation of mammary CSC self-renewal and breast tumorigenesis. ErbB2 tumor cells enriched for SC-like properties display increased levels of ΔNp63 expression compared with normal mammary progenitors. Down-regulation of p63 in ErbB2 mammospheres markedly restricts self-renewal and expansion of CSCs, and this action is fully independent of p53. Furthermore, transplantation of ErbB2 progenitors expressing shRNAs against p63 into the mammary fat pads of syngeneic mice delays tumor growth in vivo. p63 knockdown in ErbB2 progenitors diminishes the expression of genes encoding components of the Sonic Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway, a driver of mammary SC self-renewal. Remarkably, p63 regulates the expression of Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), GLI family zinc finger 2 (Gli2), and Patched1 (Ptch1) genes by directly binding to their gene regulatory regions, and eventually contributes to pathway activation. Collectively, these studies highlight the importance of p63 in maintaining the self-renewal potential of mammary CSCs via a positive modulation of the Hh signaling pathway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1500762112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4372004PMC
March 2015

DNA damage response in adult stem cells.

Blood Cells Mol Dis 2014 Apr 28;52(4):147-51. Epub 2014 Jan 28.

Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, IEO, 20141 Milan, Italy; Dipartimento di Medicina, Chirurgia e Odontoiatria, Università degli Studi di Milano, 20122 Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

This review discusses the processes of DNA-damage-response and DNA-damage repair in stem and progenitor cells of several tissues. The long life-span of stem cells suggests that they may respond differently to DNA damage than their downstream progeny and, indeed, studies have begun to elucidate the unique stem cell response mechanisms to DNA damage. Because the DNA damage responses in stem cells and progenitor cells are distinctly different, stem and progenitor cells should be considered as two different entities from this point of view. Hematopoietic and mammary stem cells display a unique DNA-damage response, which involves active inhibition of apoptosis, entry into the cell-cycle, symmetric division, partial DNA repair and maintenance of self-renewal. Each of these biological events depends on the up-regulation of the cell-cycle inhibitor p21. Moreover, inhibition of apoptosis and symmetric stem cell division are the consequence of the down-regulation of the tumor suppressor p53, as a direct result of p21 up-regulation. A deeper understanding of these processes is required before these findings can be translated into human anti-aging and anti-cancer therapies. One needs to clarify and dissect the pathways that control p21 regulation in normal and cancer stem cells and define (a) how p21 blocks p53 functions in stem cells and (b) how p21 promotes DNA repair in stem cells. Is this effect dependent on p21s ability to inhibit p53? Such molecular knowledge may pave the way to methods for maintaining short-term tissue reconstitution while retaining long-term cellular and genomic integrity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bcmd.2013.12.005DOI Listing
April 2014

DNA damage in stem cells activates p21, inhibits p53, and induces symmetric self-renewing divisions.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 Mar 15;110(10):3931-6. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, 20141 Milan, Italy.

DNA damage leads to a halt in proliferation owing to apoptosis or senescence, which prevents transmission of DNA alterations. This cellular response depends on the tumor suppressor p53 and functions as a powerful barrier to tumor development. Adult stem cells are resistant to DNA damage-induced apoptosis or senescence, however, and how they execute this response and suppress tumorigenesis is unknown. We show that irradiation of hematopoietic and mammary stem cells up-regulates the cell cycle inhibitor p21, a known target of p53, which prevents p53 activation and inhibits p53 basal activity, impeding apoptosis and leading to cell cycle entry and symmetric self-renewing divisions. p21 also activates DNA repair, limiting DNA damage accumulation and self-renewal exhaustion. Stem cells with moderate DNA damage and diminished self-renewal persist after irradiation, however. These findings suggest that stem cells have evolved a unique, p21-dependent response to DNA damage that leads to their immediate expansion and limits their long-term survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1213394110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3593901PMC
March 2013

The emerging role of p53 in stem cells.

Trends Mol Med 2012 Jan 7;18(1):6-12. Epub 2011 Sep 7.

Istituto Europeo di Oncologia (IEO), Department of Experimental Oncology at the IFOM-IEO Campus, Via Adamello 16, 20139 Milan, Italy.

Among the hundreds of oncogenes and tumor suppressors that have been identified in the past 50 years, p53 is probably the best characterized; nevertheless, new functions are constantly being discovered. As a tumor suppressor, p53 regulates cellular responses to different stress stimuli by inducing reversible cell cycle arrest and DNA repair, or triggering senescence or apoptosis. Recent findings on the regulation of stem cell (SC) division and reprogramming suggest the intriguing possibility that p53 also carries out its tumor suppression function by regulating SC homeostasis. Specifically, p53 activation may counteract SC expansion by several emerging mechanisms including restriction of self-renewing divisions, inhibition of symmetric division and block of reprogramming of somatic/progenitor cells into SCs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molmed.2011.08.002DOI Listing
January 2012

The tumor suppressor p53 regulates polarity of self-renewing divisions in mammary stem cells.

Cell 2009 Sep;138(6):1083-95

Istituto Europeo di Oncologia (IEO), Department of Experimental Oncology at the IFOM-IEO Campus, Milan, Italy.

Stem-like cells may be integral to the development and maintenance of human cancers. Direct proof is still lacking, mainly because of our poor understanding of the biological differences between normal and cancer stem cells (SCs). Using the ErbB2 transgenic model of breast cancer, we found that self-renewing divisions of cancer SCs are more frequent than their normal counterparts, unlimited and symmetric, thus contributing to increasing numbers of SCs in tumoral tissues. SCs with targeted mutation of the tumor suppressor p53 possess the same self-renewal properties as cancer SCs, and their number increases progressively in the p53 null premalignant mammary gland. Pharmacological reactivation of p53 correlates with restoration of asymmetric divisions in cancer SCs and tumor growth reduction, without significant effects on additional cancer cells. These data demonstrate that p53 regulates polarity of cell division in mammary SCs and suggest that loss of p53 favors symmetric divisions of cancer SCs, contributing to tumor growth.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2009.06.048DOI Listing
September 2009

DNA damage response activation in mouse embryonic fibroblasts undergoing replicative senescence and following spontaneous immortalization.

Cell Cycle 2008 Nov 8;7(22):3601-6. Epub 2008 Nov 8.

IFOM Foundation-FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology Foundation, Milan, Italy.

Primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) are a popular tool for molecular and cell biology studies. However, when MEFs are grown in vitro under standard tissue culture conditions, they proliferate only for a limited number of population doublings (PD) and eventually undergo cellular senescence. Presently, the molecular mechanisms halting cell cycle progression and establishing cellular senescence under these conditions are unclear. Here, we show that a robust DNA damage response (DDR) is activated when MEFs undergo replicative cellular senescence. Senescent cells accumulate senescence-associated DDR foci (SDFs) containing the activated form of ATM, its phosphorylated substrates and gammaH2AX. In senescent MEFs, DDR markers do not preferentially accumulate at telomeres, the end of linear chromosomes. It has been observed that proliferation of MEFs is extended if they are cultured at low oxygen tension (3% O(2)). We observed that under these conditions, DDR is not observed and senescence is not established. Importantly, inactivation of ATM in senescent MEFs allows escape from senescence and progression through the S-phase. Therefore, MEFs undergoing cellular senescence arrest their proliferation due to the activation of a DNA damage checkpoint mediated by ATM kinase. Finally, we observed that spontaneously immortalized proliferating MEFs display markers of an activated DDR, indicating the presence of chromosomal DNA damage in these established cell lines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/cc.7.22.7152DOI Listing
November 2008

Oncogene-induced senescence is a DNA damage response triggered by DNA hyper-replication.

Nature 2006 Nov;444(7119):638-42

IFOM Foundation-FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology Foundation, 20139 Milan, Italy.

Early tumorigenesis is associated with the engagement of the DNA-damage checkpoint response (DDR). Cell proliferation and transformation induced by oncogene activation are restrained by cellular senescence. It is unclear whether DDR activation and oncogene-induced senescence (OIS) are causally linked. Here we show that senescence, triggered by the expression of an activated oncogene (H-RasV12) in normal human cells, is a consequence of the activation of a robust DDR. Experimental inactivation of DDR abrogates OIS and promotes cell transformation. DDR and OIS are established after a hyper-replicative phase occurring immediately after oncogene expression. Senescent cells arrest with partly replicated DNA and with DNA replication origins having fired multiple times. In vivo DNA labelling and molecular DNA combing reveal that oncogene activation leads to augmented numbers of active replicons and to alterations in DNA replication fork progression. We also show that oncogene expression does not trigger a DDR in the absence of DNA replication. Last, we show that oncogene activation is associated with DDR activation in a mouse model in vivo. We propose that OIS results from the enforcement of a DDR triggered by oncogene-induced DNA hyper-replication.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature05327DOI Listing
November 2006

A p53-p66Shc signalling pathway controls intracellular redox status, levels of oxidation-damaged DNA and oxidative stress-induced apoptosis.

Oncogene 2002 May;21(24):3872-8

Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, 20141 Milan, Italy.

Correlative evidence links stress, accumulation of oxidative cellular damage and ageing in lower organisms and in mammals. We investigated their mechanistic connections in p66Shc knockout mice, which are characterized by increased resistance to oxidative stress and extended life span. We report that p66Shc acts as a downstream target of the tumour suppressor p53 and is indispensable for the ability of stress-activated p53 to induce elevation of intracellular oxidants, cytochrome c release and apoptosis. Other functions of p53 are not influenced by p66Shc expression. In basal conditions, p66Shc-/- and p53-/- cells have reduced amounts of intracellular oxidants and oxidation-damaged DNA. We propose that steady-state levels of intracellular oxidants and oxidative damage are genetically determined and regulated by a stress-induced signal transduction pathway involving p53 and p66Shc.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.onc.1205513DOI Listing
May 2002