Publications by authors named "Francesca Vena"

5 Publications

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Targeting Casein Kinase 1 Delta Sensitizes Pancreatic and Bladder Cancer Cells to Gemcitabine Treatment by Upregulating Deoxycytidine Kinase.

Mol Cancer Ther 2020 08 19;19(8):1623-1635. Epub 2020 May 19.

Department of Drug Discovery, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida.

Although gemcitabine is the cornerstone of care for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), patients lack durable responses and relapse is inevitable. While the underlying mechanisms leading to gemcitabine resistance are likely to be multifactorial, there is a strong association between activating gemcitabine metabolism pathways and clinical outcome. This study evaluated casein kinase 1 delta (CK1δ) as a potential therapeutic target for PDA and bladder cancer, in which CK1δ is frequently overexpressed. We assessed the antitumor effects of genetically silencing or pharmacologically inhibiting CK1δ using our in-house CK1δ small-molecule inhibitor SR-3029, either alone or in combination with gemcitabine, on the proliferation and survival of pancreatic and bladder cancer cell lines and orthotopic mouse models. Genetic studies confirmed that silencing CK1δ or treatment with SR-3029 induced a significant upregulation of deoxycytidine kinase (dCK), a rate-limiting enzyme in gemcitabine metabolite activation. The combination of SR-3029 with gemcitabine induced synergistic antiproliferative activity and enhanced apoptosis in both pancreatic and bladder cancer cells. Furthermore, in an orthotopic pancreatic tumor model, we observed improved efficacy with combination treatment concomitant with increased dCK expression. This study demonstrates that CK1δ plays a role in gemcitabine metabolism, and that the combination of CK1δ inhibition with gemcitabine holds promise as a future therapeutic option for metastatic PDA as well as other cancers with upregulated CK1δ expression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-19-0997DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7415672PMC
August 2020

Therapeutic Targeting of CDK12/CDK13 in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.

Cancer Cell 2019 11 24;36(5):545-558.e7. Epub 2019 Oct 24.

Department of Drug Discovery, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL 33612, USA. Electronic address:

Epigenetic regulation enables tumors to respond to changing environments during tumor progression and metastases and facilitates treatment resistance. Targeting chromatin modifiers or catalytic effectors of transcription is an emerging anti-cancer strategy. The cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) 12 and 13 phosphorylate the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II, regulating transcription and co-transcriptional processes. Here we report the development of SR-4835, a highly selective dual inhibitor of CDK12 and CDK13, which disables triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells. Mechanistically, inhibition or loss of CDK12/CDK13 triggers intronic polyadenylation site cleavage that suppresses the expression of core DNA damage response proteins. This provokes a "BRCAness" phenotype that results in deficiencies in DNA damage repair, promoting synergy with DNA-damaging chemotherapy and PARP inhibitors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ccell.2019.09.004DOI Listing
November 2019

MEK inhibition leads to BRCA2 downregulation and sensitization to DNA damaging agents in pancreas and ovarian cancer models.

Oncotarget 2018 Feb 22;9(14):11592-11603. Epub 2018 Jan 22.

Cancer Research UK Drug-DNA Interactions Research Group, UCL Cancer Institute, Paul O'Gorman Building, University College London, London WC1E 6DD, UK.

Targeting the DNA damage response (DDR) in tumors with defective DNA repair is a clinically successful strategy. The RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK signalling pathway is frequently deregulated in human cancers. In this study, we explored the effects of MEK inhibition on the homologous recombination pathway and explored the potential for combination therapy of MEK inhibitors with DDR inhibitors and a hypoxia-activated prodrug. We studied effects of combining pimasertib, a selective allosteric inhibitor of MEK1/2, with olaparib, a small molecule inhibitor of poly (adenosine diphosphate [ADP]-ribose) polymerases (PARP), and with the hypoxia-activated prodrug evofosfamide in ovarian and pancreatic cancer cell lines. Apoptosis was assessed by Caspase 3/7 assay and protein expression was detected by immunoblotting. DNA damage response was monitored with γH2AX and RAD51 immunofluorescence staining. antitumor activity of pimasertib with evofosfamide were assessed in pancreatic cancer xenografts. We found that BRCA2 protein expression was downregulated following pimasertib treatment under hypoxic conditions. This translated into reduced homologous recombination repair demonstrated by levels of RAD51 foci. MEK inhibition was sufficient to induce formation of γH2AX foci, suggesting that inhibition of this pathway would impair DNA repair. When combined with olaparib or evofosfamide, pimasertib treatment enhanced DNA damage and increased apoptosis. The combination of pimasertib with evofosfamide demonstrated increased anti-tumor activity in BRCA wild-type Mia-PaCa-2 xenograft model, but not in the BRCA mutated BxPC3 model. Our data suggest that targeted MEK inhibition leads to impaired homologous recombination DNA damage repair and increased PARP inhibition sensitivity in BRCA-2 proficient cancers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24294DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5837749PMC
February 2018

The MEK1/2 Inhibitor Pimasertib Enhances Gemcitabine Efficacy-Response.

Clin Cancer Res 2016 05;22(10):2595

UCL Cancer Institute, University College of London, London, United Kingdom.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-0566DOI Listing
May 2016

The MEK1/2 Inhibitor Pimasertib Enhances Gemcitabine Efficacy in Pancreatic Cancer Models by Altering Ribonucleotide Reductase Subunit-1 (RRM1).

Clin Cancer Res 2015 Dec 30;21(24):5563-77. Epub 2015 Jul 30.

Cancer Research UK Drug-DNA Interactions Research Group, UCL Cancer Institute, University College London, London, United Kingdom.

Purpose: Gemcitabine, a nucleoside analogue, is an important treatment for locally advanced and metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) but provides only modest survival benefit. Targeting downstream effectors of the RAS/ERK signaling pathway by direct inhibition of MEK1/2 proteins is a promising therapeutic strategy, as aberrant activation of this pathway occurs frequently in PDAC. In this study, the ability of pimasertib, a selective allosteric MEK1/2 inhibitor, to enhance gemcitabine efficacy was tested and the molecular mechanism of their interaction was investigated.

Experimental Design: Cell survival and apoptosis were assessed by MTT and Caspase 3/7 Glo assays in human pancreatic cancer cell lines. Protein expression was detected by immunoblotting. The in vivo sensitivity of gemcitabine with pimasertib was evaluated in an orthotopic model of pancreatic tumor.

Results: Synergistic activity was observed when gemcitabine was combined sequentially with pimasertib, in human pancreatic cancer cells. In particular, pimasertib reduced ribonucleotide reductase subunit 1 (RRM1) protein, and this was associated with sensitivity to gemcitabine. Pretreatment with MG132 impaired reduction of RRM1 protein induced by pimasertib, suggesting that RRM1 is degraded posttranslationally. Immunoprecipitation indicated enhanced MDM2-mediated polyubiquitination of RRM1 through Lys-48-mediated linkage following pimasertib treatment, an effect mediated, in part, by AKT. Finally, the combination treatment with pimasertib and gemcitabine caused significant tumor growth delays in an orthotopic pancreatic cancer model, with RRM1 downregulation in pimasertib-treated mice.

Conclusions: These results confirm an important role of RRM1 in gemcitabine response and indicate MEK as a potential target to sensitize gemcitabine therapy for PDAC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(24); 5563-77. ©2015 AACR.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-15-0485DOI Listing
December 2015