Publications by authors named "Aurelie Courtin"

14 Publications

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Dual-Mechanism ERK1/2 Inhibitors Exploit a Distinct Binding Mode to Block Phosphorylation and Nuclear Accumulation of ERK1/2.

Mol Cancer Ther 2020 02 20;19(2):525-539. Epub 2019 Nov 20.

Signalling Laboratory, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

The RAS-regulated RAF-MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signaling pathway is frequently deregulated in cancer due to activating mutations of growth factor receptors, RAS or BRAF. Both RAF and MEK1/2 inhibitors are clinically approved and various ERK1/2 inhibitors (ERKi) are currently undergoing clinical trials. To date, ERKi display two distinct mechanisms of action (MoA): catalytic ERKi solely inhibit ERK1/2 catalytic activity, whereas dual mechanism ERKi additionally prevents the activating phosphorylation of ERK1/2 at its T-E-Y motif by MEK1/2. These differences may impart significant differences in biological activity because T-E-Y phosphorylation is the signal for nuclear entry of ERK1/2, allowing them to access many key transcription factor targets. Here, we characterized the MoA of five ERKi and examined their functional consequences in terms of ERK1/2 signaling, gene expression, and antiproliferative efficacy. We demonstrate that catalytic ERKi promote a striking nuclear accumulation of p-ERK1/2 in KRAS-mutant cell lines. In contrast, dual-mechanism ERKi exploits a distinct binding mode to block ERK1/2 phosphorylation by MEK1/2, exhibit superior potency, and prevent the nuclear accumulation of ERK1/2. Consequently, dual-mechanism ERKi exhibit more durable pathway inhibition and enhanced suppression of ERK1/2-dependent gene expression compared with catalytic ERKi, resulting in increased efficacy across BRAF- and RAS-mutant cell lines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-19-0505DOI Listing
February 2020

Quantitation of ERK1/2 inhibitor cellular target occupancies with a reversible slow off-rate probe.

Chem Sci 2018 Dec 17;9(45):8608-8618. Epub 2018 Sep 17.

Astex Pharmaceuticals , 436 Cambridge Science Park , Cambridge , CB4 0QA , UK . Email: ; Email:

Target engagement is a key concept in drug discovery and its direct measurement can provide a quantitative understanding of drug efficacy and/or toxicity. Failure to demonstrate target occupancy in relevant cells and tissues has been recognised as a contributing factor to the low success rate of clinical drug development. Several techniques are emerging to quantify target engagement in cells; however, measurements remain challenging, mainly due to technical limitations. Here, we report the development of a non-covalent clickable probe, based on SCH772984, a slow off-rate ERK1/2 inhibitor, which enabled efficient pull down of ERK1/2 protein click reaction with tetrazine tagged agarose beads. This was used in a competition setting to measure relative target occupancy by selected ERK1/2 inhibitors. As a reference we used the cellular thermal shift assay, a label-free biophysical assay relying solely on ligand-induced thermodynamic stabilization of proteins. To validate the EC values measured by both methods, the results were compared with IC data for the phosphorylation of RSK, a downstream substrate of ERK1/2 used as a functional biomarker of ERK1/2 inhibition. We showed that a slow off-rate reversible probe can be used to efficiently pull down cellular proteins, significantly extending the potential of the approach beyond the need for covalent or photoaffinity warheads.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c8sc02754dDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6253716PMC
December 2018

Fragment-Based Discovery of a Potent, Orally Bioavailable Inhibitor That Modulates the Phosphorylation and Catalytic Activity of ERK1/2.

J Med Chem 2018 06 31;61(11):4978-4992. Epub 2018 May 31.

Astex Pharmaceuticals , 436 Cambridge Science Park , Cambridge , CB4 0QA , U.K.

Aberrant activation of the MAPK pathway drives cell proliferation in multiple cancers. Inhibitors of BRAF and MEK kinases are approved for the treatment of BRAF mutant melanoma, but resistance frequently emerges, often mediated by increased signaling through ERK1/2. Here, we describe the fragment-based generation of ERK1/2 inhibitors that block catalytic phosphorylation of downstream substrates such as RSK but also modulate phosphorylation of ERK1/2 by MEK without directly inhibiting MEK. X-ray crystallographic and biophysical fragment screening followed by structure-guided optimization and growth from the hinge into a pocket proximal to the C-α helix afforded highly potent ERK1/2 inhibitors with excellent kinome selectivity. In BRAF mutant cells, the lead compound suppresses pRSK and pERK levels and inhibits proliferation at low nanomolar concentrations. The lead exhibits tumor regression upon oral dosing in BRAF mutant xenograft models, providing a promising basis for further optimization toward clinical pERK1/2 modulating ERK1/2 inhibitors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b00421DOI Listing
June 2018

Emergence of resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in non-small-cell lung cancer can be delayed by an upfront combination with the HSP90 inhibitor onalespib.

Br J Cancer 2016 Oct 27;115(9):1069-1077. Epub 2016 Sep 27.

Astex Pharmaceuticals, 436 Cambridge Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge, CB4 0QA, UK.

Background: Tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as crizotinib and erlotinib, are widely used to treat non-small-cell lung cancer, but after initial response, relapse is common because of the emergence of resistance through multiple mechanisms. Here, we investigated whether a frontline combination with an HSP90 inhibitor could delay the emergence of resistance to these inhibitors in preclinical lung cancer models.

Methods: The HSP90 inhibitor, onalespib, was combined with either crizotinib or erlotinib in ALK- or EGFR-activated xenograft models respectively (H2228, HCC827).

Results: In both models, after initial response to the monotherapy kinase inhibitors, tumour relapse was observed. In contrast, tumour growth remained inhibited when treated with an onalespib/kinase inhibitor combination. Analysis of H2228 tumours, which had relapsed on crizotinib monotherapy, identified a number of clinically relevant crizotinib resistance mechanisms, suggesting that HSP90 inhibitor treatment was capable of suppressing multiple mechanisms of resistance. Resistant cell lines, derived from these tumours, retained sensitivity to onalespib (proliferation and signalling pathways were inhibited), indicating that, despite their resistance to crizotinib, they were still sensitive to HSP90 inhibition.

Conclusions: Together, these preclinical data suggest that frontline combination with an HSP90 inhibitor may be a method for delaying the emergence of resistance to targeted therapies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/bjc.2016.294DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5117788PMC
October 2016

Proliferation and ovarian hormone signaling are impaired in normal breast tissues from women with BRCA1 mutations: benefit of a progesterone receptor modulator treatment as a breast cancer preventive strategy in women with inherited BRCA1 mutations.

Oncotarget 2016 Jul;7(29):45317-45330

UMRS 1007, Saints Pères, Paris Descartes University, Paris, France.

Women with inherited BRCA1 mutations have an elevated risk (40-80%) for developing breast and ovarian cancers. Reproductive history has been reported to alter this risk, suggesting a relationship between ovarian hormone signaling and BRCA1-related tumor development. BRCA1 interactions with estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) signaling were previously described in human breast cancer cell lines and mouse models. However, few studies have examined the effect of ovarian hormone regulation in normal human breast tissues bearing a heterozygous BRCA1 mutation. This study compares the proliferation level (Ki67) and the expression of ER, PR, and of the PR target gene, fatty acid synthase (FASN), in histologically normal breast tissues from women with BRCA1 mutations (BRCA1+/mut, n=23) or without BRCA1 mutations (BRCA1+/+, n=28). BRCA1+/mut tissues showed an increased proliferation and impaired hormone receptor expression with a marked loss of the PR isoform, PR-B. Responses to estradiol and progesterone treatments in BRCA1+/mut and BRCA1+/+ breast tissues were studied in a mouse xenograft model, and showed that PR and FASN expression were deregulated in BRCA1+/mut breast tissues. Progesterone added to estradiol treatment increased the proliferation in a subset of BRCA1+/mut breast tissues. The PR inhibitor, ulipristal acetate (UPA), was able to reverse this aberrant progesterone-induced proliferation. This study suggests that a subset of women with BRCA1 mutations could be candidates for a UPA treatment as a preventive breast cancer strategy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9638DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5216725PMC
July 2016

CHK1 Inhibition Synergizes with Gemcitabine Initially by Destabilizing the DNA Replication Apparatus.

Cancer Res 2015 Sep 3;75(17):3583-95. Epub 2015 Jul 3.

Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Combining cell-cycle checkpoint kinase inhibitors with the DNA-damaging chemotherapeutic agent gemcitabine offers clinical appeal, with a mechanistic rationale based chiefly on abrogation of gemcitabine-induced G2-M checkpoint activation. However, evidence supporting this mechanistic rationale from chemosensitization studies has not been consistent. Here we report a systematic definition of how pancreatic cancer cells harboring mutant p53 respond to this combination therapy, by combining mathematical models with large-scale quantitative biologic analyses of single cells and cell populations. Notably, we uncovered a dynamic range of mechanistic effects at different ratios of gemcitabine and CHK1 inhibitors. Remarkably, effective synergy was attained even where cells exhibited an apparently functional G2-M surveillance mechanism, as exemplified by a lack of both overt premature CDK1 activation and S-phase mitotic entry. Consistent with these findings, S-G2 duration was extended in treated cells, leading to a definable set of lineage-dependent catastrophic fates. At synergistic drug concentrations, global replication stress was a distinct indicator of chemosensitization as characterized molecularly by an accumulation of S-phase cells with high levels of hyperphosphorylated RPA-loaded single-stranded DNA. In a fraction of these cells, persistent genomic damage was observed, including chromosomal fragmentation with a loss of centromeric regions that prevented proper kinetochore-microtubule attachment. Together, our results suggested a "foot-in-the-door" mechanism for drug synergy where cells were destroyed not by frank G2-M phase abrogation but rather by initiating a cumulative genotoxicity that deregulated DNA synthesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-3347DOI Listing
September 2015

Anti-tumour efficacy of capecitabine in a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic cancer.

PLoS One 2013 28;8(6):e67330. Epub 2013 Jun 28.

Pharmacology and Drug Development Group, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Capecitabine (CAP) is a 5-FU pro-drug approved for the treatment of several cancers and it is used in combination with gemcitabine (GEM) in the treatment of patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC). However, limited pre-clinical data of the effects of CAP in PDAC are available to support the use of the GEMCAP combination in clinic. Therefore, we investigated the pharmacokinetics and the efficacy of CAP as a single agent first and then in combination with GEM to assess the utility of the GEMCAP therapy in clinic. Using a model of spontaneous PDAC occurring in Kras(G12D); p53(R172H); Pdx1-Cre (KPC) mice and subcutaneous allografts of a KPC PDAC-derived cell line (K8484), we showed that CAP achieved tumour concentrations (∼25 µM) of 5-FU in both models, as a single agent, and induced survival similar to GEM in KPC mice, suggesting similar efficacy. In vitro studies performed in K8484 cells as well as in human pancreatic cell lines showed an additive effect of the GEMCAP combination however, it increased toxicity in vivo and no benefit of a tolerable GEMCAP combination was identified in the allograft model when compared to GEM alone. Our work provides pre-clinical evidence of 5-FU delivery to tumours and anti-tumour efficacy following oral CAP administration that was similar to effects of GEM. Nevertheless, the GEMCAP combination does not improve the therapeutic index compared to GEM alone. These data suggest that CAP could be considered as an alternative to GEM in future, rationally designed, combination treatment strategies for advanced pancreatic cancer.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0067330PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696095PMC
January 2014

Ulipristal acetate does not impact human normal breast tissue.

Hum Reprod 2012 Sep 26;27(9):2785-98. Epub 2012 Jun 26.

INSERM-UPMC, UMRS 938, Hôpital Saint-Antoine, 75012 Parris, France.

Background: Antiprogestins are of growing interest for the development of new treatments in the gynecological field. Ulipristal acetate (UPA) is a progesterone receptor (PR) modulator considered for long-term administration in contraception and is currently being registered for the treatment of uterine fibroids. In light of the influences of hormonal dysfunction in breast pathologies, the secondary consequences of chronic UPA therapy need to be established. The aim of this study was to determine UPA actions mediated by PR and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in normal and transformed breast.

Methods: UPA, progesterone (P) and dexamethasone (DEX) effects were observed on PR and GR responsive genes and on proliferation and apoptosis of normal human breast epithelial (HBE) and breast cancer cells. Human normal breast tissue samples were xenografted in athymic mice and treated with estradiol (E2), or E2 + P, or E2 + P + UPA.

Results: Analysis of PR and GR reporter gene transactivation and their respective endogenous target genes indicated that UPA exerted anti-progestational and anti-glucocorticoid activity in both types of cells with a more pronounced effect in cancer cells. When combined with P or DEX, UPA limits the proliferation of HBE cells but increases growth in breast cancer cell lines. UPA administration had no impact on the mitotic index on xenografted human breast tissue exposed to gonadal hormones at similar concentrations to those present in normal women.

Conclusions: Although further clinical trials are required to confirm that the results from our experimental models can be extrapolated to women treated with UPA, they suggest that such treatment would not be deleterious to normal breast tissue at least for a cycle (28 days) of continuous administration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humrep/des221DOI Listing
September 2012

Glucocorticoid receptor and breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Res Treat 2011 Nov 5;130(1):1-10. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

INSERM-UPMC, UMRS 938, Hôpital Saint-Antoine, 184 rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, 75012, Paris, France.

Stress enhances glucocorticoid (GC) synthesis, which alters inflammation and immune responses, as well as cellular proliferation and apoptosis in a number of tissues. Increasingly, stress has been associated with cancer progression, and in particular in breast cancer. Consequently, an operational glucocorticoid receptor system in breast tissue influences breast cancer development. In this review, we summarize the data on the GC/GR system in normal and tumoral breast tissue. We also review the molecular mechanisms by which GCs control apoptosis and proliferation in breast cancer models and how GCs alter the chemotherapy of breast cancer treatment when used in combination. Finally, we discuss the participation of GR in breast tumorigenesis under hormone replacement therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10549-011-1689-6DOI Listing
November 2011

Glucocorticoid receptor activity discriminates between progesterone and medroxyprogesterone acetate effects in breast cells.

Breast Cancer Res Treat 2012 Jan 19;131(1):49-63. Epub 2011 Feb 19.

INSERM-UPMC, UMRS 938, Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Paris, France.

The purpose of this article is to determine the tumorigenic potential of estradiol treatment (E2) when combined with either progesterone (P4) or medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) in normal luminal human breast cells (HBE) and in human breast cancer cells (T47-D, MCF-7). Proliferation profiles were evaluated, along with the gene transactivation activity between the progesterone and glucocorticoid receptors (PR, GR) in HBE, T47-D, and MCF-7 cells treated by E2 + P4 or E2 + MPA. High throughput transcriptome analysis was performed on RNA from HBE cells treated by E2, E2 + MPA and E2 + P4. GR content was analyzed in normal breast cells as well. In HBE cells, E2 + P4 treatment was antiproliferative and promoted cellular differentiation. In contrast, E2 + MPA displayed mitogenic, antiapoptotic effects in HBE cells and did not influence cellular differentiation. The effect of P4 and MPA on cell proliferation was, however, variable in breast cancer cells. In cells containing GR or/and PR, MPA decreased proliferation whereas P4 antiproliferative effect needed the presence of PR. In HBE cells, the regulation of genes by E2 + P4, and E2 + MPA was significantly different, particularly in cell proliferation and cell death gene families. Further analysis revealed a modulation of the glucocorticoid receptor gene expression pathway by E2 + MPA. Predominant MPA glucocorticoid activity in normal and breast cancer cells was demonstrated using a glucocorticoid antagonist and the down-regulation of the GR by RNA interference. In normal luminal breast cells and in breast cancer cells, P4 and MPA combined with E2 treatment have opposing mitogenic effects due to GR. The consequences of MPA glucocorticoid potencies as well as the importance of GR in breast tissue merit a reappraisal.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10549-011-1394-5DOI Listing
January 2012

Progestins induce catalase activities in breast cancer cells through PRB isoform: correlation with cell growth inhibition.

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2009 Jul 19;115(3-5):153-60. Epub 2009 Apr 19.

INSERM-UPMC Univ Paris 06, UMRS 938, Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Paris, France.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been suggested to participate in tumor emergence due to their mitogenic and apoptotic signaling, and as contributors to DNA structural damage. Here we report that progesterone and various synthetic steroids with progestin potencies (norethisterone acetate, MPA, and Tibolone) counteract cell growth induced by hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)), through a potent induction of catalase activities, in breast cancer cells and normal human epithelial breast cells. At physiological concentrations, progesterone and the pure progestin, Org2058, displayed the most potent H(2)O(2) detoxification ability suggesting its effect was characteristic of its progestin potency. We also report on the enhancement of catalase activities by progesterone receptor isoform B (PRB), as determined from experiments using antiprogestins and MDA-MB-231, cells engineered for the selective expression of progesterone receptor isoform A or B. The potent action of progesterone on catalase activities indicates its contribution to a beneficial role in breast cell homeostasis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2009.04.002DOI Listing
July 2009

Death receptor pathways mediate targeted and non-targeted effects of ionizing radiations in breast cancer cells.

Carcinogenesis 2009 Mar 6;30(3):432-9. Epub 2009 Jan 6.

CEA, DSV, iRCM, SREIT, Laboratoire de Cancérologie Expérimentale, Fontenay-aux-Roses, France.

Delayed cell death by mitotic catastrophe is a frequent mode of solid tumor cell death after gamma-irradiation, a widely used treatment of cancer. Whereas the mechanisms that underlie the early gamma-irradiation-induced cell death are well documented, those that drive the delayed cell death are largely unknown. Here we show that the Fas, tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha death receptor pathways mediate the delayed cell death observed after gamma-irradiation of breast cancer cells. Early after irradiation, we observe the increased expression of Fas, TRAIL-R and TNF-R that first sensitizes cells to apoptosis. Later, the increased expression of FasL, TRAIL and TNF-alpha permit the apoptosis engagement linked to mitotic catastrophe. Treatments with TNF-alpha, TRAIL or anti-Fas antibody, early after radiation exposure, induce apoptosis, whereas the neutralization of the three death receptors pathways impairs the delayed cell death. We also show for the first time that irradiated breast cancer cells excrete soluble forms of the three ligands that can induce the death of sensitive bystander cells. Overall, these results define the molecular basis of the delayed cell death of irradiated cancer cells and identify the death receptors pathways as crucial actors in apoptosis induced by targeted as well as non-targeted effects of ionizing radiation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgp008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2650794PMC
March 2009

Androgens repress the expression of the angiogenesis inhibitor thrombospondin-1 in normal and neoplastic prostate.

Cancer Res 2005 Jan;65(1):300-8

Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, Research Unit 403, Laënnec School of Medicine, Lyon, France.

In order to understand why the angiogenesis inhibitor thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) is often, although not always, associated with prostatic tumors, we have investigated its relationship with the testosterone and the vasculature on which both normal and tumorigenic prostatic epithelia depend. In vivo, androgen withdrawal led to increased TSP1 production and decreased vascularization in the normal rat prostate which was reversed by androgen replacement. Androgen repression of TSP1 production occurred at the transcriptional level and was dependent on the presence of the first intron of the TSP1 gene. In an experimental model of prostate tumorigenesis, TSP1, when delivered by admixed stromal fibroblasts, markedly delayed LNCaP tumor growth and limited tumor vascularization. However, prolonged exposure to TSP1 resulted in the growth of tumors secreting high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor in the bloodstream of tumor-bearing animals and tumor growth was no longer sensitive to TSP1 inhibitory effects. Clinical evidence also suggested that prostate carcinomas are able to adapt to escape the antiangiogenic effects of TSP1. In human androgen-dependent localized prostate carcinomas, TSP1 expression was inversely correlated with blood vessel density. Androgen deprivation in patients with hormone-responsive tumors led to increased TSP1 expression and vascular regression. In contrast, despite a sustained expression in the tumor bed, TSP1 was no longer associated with decreased vascularization in hormone-refractory prostate tumors. Overall, these results suggest that the high in situ TSP1 exposure triggered by androgen deprivation in patients with prostate cancer could lead to early tumor resistance. Such patients could benefit from a combination of androgen deprivation and antiangiogenic therapy in order to minimize the induction of such tumor escape.
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January 2005

SiRNA-mediated inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor severely limits tumor resistance to antiangiogenic thrombospondin-1 and slows tumor vascularization and growth.

Cancer Res 2003 Jul;63(14):3919-22

CNRS UPR 9079, 94801 Villejuif, France.

In the past few years, several laboratories have developed antiangiogenic molecules that starve tumors by targeting their vasculature and we have shown that, when produced in tumors, the antiangiogenic molecule thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) reduces the vascularization and delays tumor onset. Yet over time, tumor cells producing active TSP1 do eventually form exponentially growing tumors. These tumors are composed of cells secreting unusually high amounts of the angiogenic stimulator vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that are sufficient to overcome the inhibitory TSP1. Here, we use short double-stranded RNA (siRNA) to trigger RNA interference and thereby impair the synthesis of VEGF and ask if this inability to produce VEGF prevents the development of TSP1 resistance. Systemic in vivo administration of crude anti-VEGF siRNA reduced the growth of unaltered fibrosarcoma tumor cells, and when the anti-VEGF siRNA was expressed from tumor cells themselves, such inhibition was synergistic with the inhibitory effects derived from TSP1 secretion by the tumor cells. Anti-VEGF siRNA delayed the emergence of TSP1-resistant tumors and strikingly reduced their subsequent growth rate.
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July 2003