Publications by authors named "Jessica M Molkentine"

11 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

p16 Represses DNA Damage Repair via a Novel Ubiquitin-Dependent Signaling Cascade.

Cancer Res 2021 Dec 29. Epub 2021 Dec 29.

Radiation Oncology, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Squamous cell carcinoma driven by human papillomavirus (HPV) is more sensitive to DNA-damaging therapies than its HPV-negative counterpart. Here we show that p16, the clinically utilized surrogate for HPV positivity, renders cells more sensitive to radiation via a ubiquitin-dependent signaling pathway, linking high levels of this protein to increased activity of the transcription factor SP1, increased HUWE1 transcription, and degradation of ubiquitin-specific protease 7 (USP7) and TRIP12. Activation of this pathway in HPV-positive disease led to decreased homologous recombination (HR) and improved response to radiation, a phenomenon that can be recapitulated in HPV-negative disease using USP7 inhibitors in clinical development. This p16-driven axis induced sensitivity to PARP inhibition and potentially leads to "BRCAness" in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells. Thus, these findings support a functional role for p16 in HPV-positive tumors in driving response to DNA damage, which can be exploited to improve outcomes in both HPV-positive and HPV-negative HNSCC patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-2101DOI Listing
December 2021

Targeting DNA damage response in head and neck cancers through abrogation of cell cycle checkpoints.

Int J Radiat Biol 2021 25;97(8):1121-1128. Epub 2020 Feb 25.

Department of Radiation Oncology, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Purpose: Head and neck cancers (HNSCC) are routinely treated with radiotherapy; however, normal tissue toxicity remains a concern. Therefore, it is important to validate treatment modalities combining molecularly targeted agents with radiotherapy to improve the therapeutic ratio. The aim of this study was to assess the ability of the PARP inhibitor niraparib (MK-4827) alone, or in combination with cell cycle checkpoint abrogating drugs targeting Chk1 (MK-8776) or Wee1 (MK-1775), to radiosensitize HNSCCs in the context of HPV status.

Materials And Methods: PARP1, PARP2, Chk1 or Wee1 shRNA constructs were analyzed from an in vivo shRNA screen of HNSCC xenografts comparing radiosensitization differences between HPV(+) and HPV(-) tumors. Radiosensitization by niraparib alone or in combination with MK-8776 or MK-1775 was assessed by clonogenic survival in HPV(-) and HPV(+) cells; and the role of p16 in determining response was explored. Relative expressions of DNA repair genes were compared by PCR array in HPV(+) and HPV(-) cells, and following siRNA-mediated knockdown of TRIP12 in HPV(-) cells.

Results: In vivo shRNA screening showed a modest preferential radiosensitization by Wee1 and PARP2 in HPV(-) and Chk1 in HPV(+) tumor models. Niraparib alone enhanced the radiosensitivity of all HNSCC cell lines tested. However, HPV(-) cells were sensitized to a greater degree, as suggested by the shRNA screen. When combined with MK-8776 or MK-1775, radiosensitization was further enhanced in an HPV dependent manner with HPV(+) cells enhanced by MK-8776 and HPV(-) cells enhanced by MK-1775. A PCR array for DNA repair genes showed PARP and HR proteins BRCA1 and RAD51 were much lower in HPV(+) cells than in HPV(-). Similarly, directly knocking down p16-dependent TRIP12 decreased expression of these same genes. Overexpressing p16 decreased TRIP12 expression and increased radiosensitivity in HPV(-) HN5. However, while PARP inhibition led to significant radiosensitization in the control, it led to no further significant radiosensitization in p16 overexpressing cells. Forced p16 expression in HPV(-) HN5 increased accumulation in G1 and subG1 and limited progression to S phase, thus reducing effectiveness of PARP inhibition.

Conclusions: Niraparib effectively radiosensitizes HNSCCs with a greater benefit seen in HPV(-). HPV status also plays a role in response to MK-8776 or MK-1775 when combined with niraparib due to differences in DNA repair mechanisms. This study suggests that using cell cycle abrogators in combination with PARP inhibitors may be a beneficial treatment option in HNSCC, but also emphasizes the importance of HPV status when considering effective treatment strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09553002.2020.1730014DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7483862PMC
September 2021

Mitochondrial fusion exploits a therapeutic vulnerability of pancreatic cancer.

JCI Insight 2019 07 23;5. Epub 2019 Jul 23.

Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) requires mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) to fuel its growth, however, broadly inhibiting this pathway might also disrupt essential mitochondrial functions in normal tissues. PDAC cells exhibit abnormally fragmented mitochondria that are essential to its oncogenicity, but it was unclear if this mitochondrial feature was a valid therapeutic target. Here, we present evidence that normalizing the fragmented mitochondria of pancreatic cancer via the process of mitochondrial fusion reduces OXPHOS, which correlates with suppressed tumor growth and improved survival in preclinical models. Mitochondrial fusion was achieved by genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of dynamin related protein-1 (Drp1) or through overexpression of mitofusin-2 (Mfn2). Notably, we found that oral leflunomide, an FDA-approved arthritis drug, promoted a two-fold increase in Mfn2 expression in tumors and was repurposed as a chemotherapeutic agent, improving the median survival of mice with spontaneous tumors by 50% compared to vehicle. We found that the chief tumor suppressive mechanism of mitochondrial fusion was enhanced mitophagy, which proportionally reduced mitochondrial mass and ATP production. These data suggest that mitochondrial fusion is a specific and druggable regulator of pancreatic cancer growth that could be rapidly translated to the clinic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.126915DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6777817PMC
July 2019

Selective EGLN Inhibition Enables Ablative Radiotherapy and Improves Survival in Unresectable Pancreatic Cancer.

Cancer Res 2019 05;79(9):2327-2338

Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

When pancreatic cancer cannot be removed surgically, patients frequently experience morbidity and death from progression of their primary tumor. Radiation therapy (RT) cannot yet substitute for an operation because radiation causes fatal bleeding and ulceration of the nearby stomach and intestines before achieving tumor control. There are no FDA-approved medications that prevent or reduce radiation-induced gastrointestinal injury. Here, we overcome this fundamental problem of anatomy and biology with the use of the oral EGLN inhibitor FG-4592, which selectively protects the intestinal tract from radiation toxicity without protecting tumors. A total of 70 KPC mice with autochthonous pancreatic tumors received oral FG-4592 or vehicle control ± ablative RT to a cumulative 75 Gy administered in 15 daily fractions to a limited tumor field. Although ablative RT reduced complications from local tumor progression, fatal gastrointestinal bleeding was observed in 56% of mice that received high-dose RT with vehicle control. However, radiation-induced bleeding was completely ameliorated in mice that received high-dose RT with FG-4592 (0% bleeding, < 0.0001 compared with vehicle). Furthermore, FG-4592 reduced epithelial apoptosis by half ( = 0.002) and increased intestinal microvessel density by 80% compared with vehicle controls. EGLN inhibition did not stimulate cancer growth, as treatment with FG-4592 alone, or overexpression of HIF2 within KPC tumors independently improved survival. Thus, we provide a proof of concept for the selective protection of the intestinal tract by the EGLN inhibition to enable ablative doses of cytotoxic therapy in unresectable pancreatic cancer by reducing untoward morbidity and death from radiation-induced gastrointestinal bleeding. SIGNIFICANCE: Selective protection of the intestinal tract by EGLN inhibition enables potentially definitive doses of radiation therapy. This might allow radiation to be a surgical surrogate for unresectable pancreatic cancer. http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/canres/79/9/2327/F1.large.jpg.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-1785DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6666414PMC
May 2019

Enteral Activation of WR-2721 Mediates Radioprotection and Improved Survival from Lethal Fractionated Radiation.

Sci Rep 2019 02 13;9(1):1949. Epub 2019 Feb 13.

Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, 77030, United States of America.

Unresectable pancreatic cancer is almost universally lethal because chemotherapy and radiation cannot completely stop the growth of the cancer. The major problem with using radiation to approximate surgery in unresectable disease is that the radiation dose required to ablate pancreatic cancer exceeds the tolerance of the nearby duodenum. WR-2721, also known as amifostine, is a well-known radioprotector, but has significant clinical toxicities when given systemically. WR-2721 is a prodrug and is converted to its active metabolite, WR-1065, by alkaline phosphatases in normal tissues. The small intestine is highly enriched in these activating enzymes, and thus we reasoned that oral administration of WR-2721 just before radiation would result in localized production of the radioprotective WR-1065 in the small intestine, providing protective benefits without the significant systemic side effects. Here, we show that oral WR-2721 is as effective as intraperitoneal WR-2721 in promoting survival of intestinal crypt clonogens after morbid irradiation. Furthermore, oral WR-2721 confers full radioprotection and survival after lethal upper abdominal irradiation of 12.5 Gy × 5 fractions (total of 62.5 Gy, EQD2 = 140.6 Gy). This radioprotection enables ablative radiation therapy in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer and nearly triples the median survival compared to controls. We find that the efficacy of oral WR-2721 stems from its selective accumulation in the intestine, but not in tumors or other normal tissues, as determined by in vivo mass spectrometry analysis. Thus, we demonstrate that oral WR-2721 is a well-tolerated, and quantitatively selective, radioprotector of the intestinal tract that is capable of enabling clinically relevant ablative doses of radiation to the upper abdomen without unacceptable gastrointestinal toxicity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-37147-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6374382PMC
February 2019

Tumor-Associated Fatigue in Cancer Patients Develops Independently of IL1 Signaling.

Cancer Res 2018 02 7;78(3):695-705. Epub 2017 Dec 7.

Department of Symptom Research, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Fatigue is the most common symptom of cancer at diagnosis, yet causes and effective treatments remain elusive. As tumors can be highly inflammatory, it is generally accepted that inflammation mediates cancer-related fatigue. However, evidence to support this assertion is mostly correlational. In this study, we directly tested the hypothesis that fatigue results from propagation of tumor-induced inflammation to the brain and activation of the central proinflammatory cytokine, IL1. The heterotopic syngeneic murine head and neck cancer model (mEER) caused systemic inflammation and increased expression of in the brain while inducing fatigue-like behaviors characterized by decreased voluntary wheel running and exploratory activity. Expression of in the brain was not associated with any alterations in motivation, measured by responding in a progressive ratio schedule of food reinforcement, depression-like behaviors, or energy balance. Decreased wheel running occurred prior to detection in the brain, when systemic inflammation was minimal. Furthermore, mice null for two components of IL1β signaling, the type 1 IL1 receptor or the receptor adapter protein MyD88, were not protected from tumor-induced decreases in wheel running, despite attenuated cytokine action and expression. Behavioral and inflammatory analysis of four additional syngeneic tumor models revealed that tumors can induce fatigue regardless of their systemic or central nervous system inflammatory potential. Together, our results show that brain IL1 signaling is not necessary for tumor-related fatigue, dissociating this type of cancer sequela from systemic cytokine expression. These findings challenge the current understanding of fatigue in cancer patients, the most common and debilitating sequela associated with malignancy. .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-17-2168DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5811314PMC
February 2018

Neuroimmune mechanisms of behavioral alterations in a syngeneic murine model of human papilloma virus-related head and neck cancer.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2017 05 11;79:59-66. Epub 2017 Feb 11.

Department of Symptom Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Unit 384, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

Patients with cancer often experience a high symptom burden prior to the start of treatment. As disease- and treatment-related neurotoxicities appear to be additive, targeting disease-related symptoms may attenuate overall symptom burden for cancer patients and improve the tolerability of treatment. It has been hypothesized that disease-related symptoms are a consequence of tumor-induced inflammation. We tested this hypothesis using a syngeneic heterotopic murine model of human papilloma virus (HPV)-related head and neck cancer. This model has the advantage of being mildly aggressive and not causing cachexia or weight loss. We previously showed that this tumor leads to increased IL-6, IL-1β, and TNF-α expression in the liver and increased IL-1β expression in the brain. The current study confirmed these features and demonstrated that the tumor itself exhibits high inflammatory cytokine expression (e.g., IL-6, IL-1β, and TNF-α) compared to healthy tissue. While there is a clear relationship between cytokine levels and behavioral deficits in this model, the behavioral changes are surprisingly mild. Therefore, we sought to confirm the relationship between behavior and inflammation by amplifying the effect using a low dose of lipopolysaccharide (LPS, 0.1mg/kg). In tumor-bearing mice LPS induced deficits in nest building, tail suspension, and locomotor activity approximately 24h after LPS. However, these mice did not display an exacerbation of LPS-induced weight loss, anorexia, or anhedonia. Further, while heightened serum IL-6 was observed there was minimal priming of liver or brain cytokine expression. Next we sought to inhibit tumor-induced burrowing deficits by reducing inflammation using minocycline. Minocycline (∼50mg/kg/day in drinking water) was able to attenuate tumor-induced inflammation and burrowing deficits. These data provide evidence in favor of an inflammatory-like mechanism for the behavioral alterations associated with tumor growth in a syngeneic murine model of HPV-related head and neck cancer. However, the inflammatory state and behavioral changes induced by this tumor clearly differ from other forms of inflammation-induced sickness behavior.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.02.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5402618PMC
May 2017

Sickness behavior induced by cisplatin chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a murine head and neck cancer model is associated with altered mitochondrial gene expression.

Behav Brain Res 2016 Jan 22;297:241-50. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

Department of Symptom Research, MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Unit 384, Houston, TX 77030, United States.

The present study was undertaken to explore the possible mechanisms of the behavioral alterations that develop in response to cancer and to cancer therapy. For this purpose we used a syngeneic heterotopic mouse model of human papilloma virus (HPV)-related head and neck cancer in which cancer therapy is curative. Mice implanted or not with HPV+ tumor cells were exposed to sham treatment or a regimen of cisplatin and radiotherapy (chemoradiation). Sickness was measured by body weight loss and reduced food intake. Motivation was measured by burrowing, a highly prevalent species specific behavior. Tumor-bearing mice showed a gradual decrease in burrowing over time and increased brain and liver inflammatory cytokine mRNA expression by 28 days post tumor implantation. Chemoradiation administered to healthy mice resulted in a mild decrease in burrowing, body weight, and food intake. Chemoradiation in tumor-bearing mice decreased tumor growth and abrogated liver and brain inflammation, but failed to attenuate burrowing deficits. PCR array analysis of selected hypoxia and mitochondrial genes revealed that both the tumor and chemoradiation altered the expression of genes involved in mitochondrial energy metabolism within the liver and brain and increased expression of genes related to HIF-1α signaling within the brain. The most prominent changes in brain mitochondrial genes were noted in tumor-bearing mice treated with chemoradiation. These findings indicate that targeting mitochondrial dysfunction following cancer and cancer therapy may be a strategy for prevention of cancer-related symptoms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2015.10.024DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4679574PMC
January 2016

Inhibition of P-TEFb by DRB suppresses SIRT1/CK2α pathway and enhances radiosensitivity of human cancer cells.

Anticancer Res 2014 Dec;34(12):6981-9

Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, U.S.A.

Background: Positive transcription elongation factor-b (P-TEFb) is a complex containing CDK9 and a cyclin (T1, T2 or K). The effect of inhibition of P-TEFb by 5,6-dichloro-l-β-D-ribofuranosyl benzimidazole (DRB) on cell radiosensitivity and the underlying mechanisms were investigated.

Materials And Methods: Six human cancer cell lines were subjected to (3)H-uridine incorporation, cell viability and clonogenic cell survival assays; cell-cycle redistribution and apoptosis assay; western blots and nuclear 53BP1 foci analysis after exposing the cells to DRB with/without γ-radiation.

Results: DRB suppressed colony formation and enhanced radiosensitivity of all cell lines. DRB caused a further increase in radiation-induced apoptosis and cell-cycle redistribution depending on p53 status. DRB prolonged the presence of radiation-induced nuclear p53 binding protein-1 (53BP1) foci and suppressed the expression of sirtuin-1 (SIRT1) and casein kinase 2-alpha (CK2α), suggesting an inhibition of DNA repair processes.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that DRB has the potential to increase the efficacy of radiotherapy and warrants further investigation using in vivo tumor models.
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December 2014

Dasatinib, a multi-kinase inhibitor increased radiation sensitivity by interfering with nuclear localization of epidermal growth factor receptor and by blocking DNA repair pathways.

Radiother Oncol 2012 Nov 23;105(2):241-9. Epub 2012 Sep 23.

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

Background And Purpose: Although inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling during radiation led to improvement of tumor control and survival, novel strategies are needed to further improve the outcome of patients with locally advanced head and neck carcinoma. Because EGFR is known to interact with c-Src kinases, the present study investigated dasatinib (BMS-354825), an inhibitor of c-Src kinases, for its efficacy in enhancing radiosensitivity of human head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) in vitro and examined the underlying mechanisms for this effect.

Materials And Methods: Six HNSCC lines were exposed to dasatinib, radiation, or both, and assessed for c-Src and EGFR expression, cell survival and colony forming ability. Among these cell lines, HN-5 and FaDu lines were analyzed for induction of apoptosis, cell cycle re-distribution and for nuclear localization of EGFR, γ-H2AX and 53BP1 proteins. Immuno-precipitation and Western blots were performed to analyze the levels and binding of proteins involved in cell survival, apoptosis and DNA repair pathways. Suppression of c-Src by siRNA and subsequent clonogenic assay was performed in HN-5 cells.

Results: All six HNSCC lines that were examined expressed high levels of c-Src. Two (HN-5 and MDA-183) expressed higher levels of EGFR than other lines. Dasatinib suppressed cell survival of all cell lines tested independent of c-Src or EGFR levels but enhanced the radiosensitivity of HN-5 and MDA-183. HN-5 and FaDu were analyzed further. Dasatinib suppressed phosphorylation of c-Src in both cell lines, but decreased repair of radiation-induced DNA damage in HN-5 cells only as evidenced by suppression of c-Abl and Nbs-1 activity, inhibition of the association between c-Src and EGFR or Her-2, prolongation of nuclear γ-H2AX and 53BP1 foci and inhibition of EGFR nuclear localization and its association with DNA-PKcs. Finally, partial suppression of c-Src resulted in a small increase in HN-5 cell radiosensitivity.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that dasatinib induces apoptosis and blocks DNA repair in EGFR-expressing HNSCC cells and improves radiotherapy outcome. These findings warrant further investigation using in vivo tumor models for potential translation into clinical testing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.radonc.2012.08.010DOI Listing
November 2012

MK-1775, a novel Wee1 kinase inhibitor, radiosensitizes p53-defective human tumor cells.

Clin Cancer Res 2011 Sep 28;17(17):5638-48. Epub 2011 Jul 28.

Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology and Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.

Purpose: Radiotherapy is commonly used to treat a variety of solid tumors. However, improvements in the therapeutic ratio for several disease sites are sorely needed, leading us to assess molecularly targeted therapeutics as radiosensitizers. The aim of this study was to assess the wee1 kinase inhibitor, MK-1775, for its ability to radiosensitize human tumor cells.

Experimental Design: Human tumor cells derived from lung, breast, and prostate cancers were tested for radiosensitization by MK-1775 using clonogenic survival assays. Both p53 wild-type and p53-defective lines were included. The ability of MK-1775 to abrogate the radiation-induced G₂ block, thereby allowing cells harboring DNA lesions to prematurely progress into mitosis, was determined using flow cytometry and detection of γ-H2AX foci. The in vivo efficacy of the combination of MK-1775 and radiation was assessed by tumor growth delay experiments using a human lung cancer cell line growing as a xenograft tumor in nude mice.

Results: Clonogenic survival analyses indicated that nanomolar concentrations of MK-1775 radiosensitized p53-defective human lung, breast, and prostate cancer cells but not similar lines with wild-type p53. Consistent with its ability to radiosensitize, MK-1775 abrogated the radiation-induced G₂ block in p53-defective cells but not in p53 wild-type lines. MK-1775 also significantly enhanced the antitumor efficacy of radiation in vivo as shown in tumor growth delay studies, again for p53-defective tumors.

Conclusions: These results indicate that p53-defective human tumor cells are significantly radiosensitized by the potent and selective wee1 kinase inhibitor, MK-1775, in both the in vitro and in vivo settings. Taken together, our findings strongly support the clinical evaluation of MK-1775 in combination with radiation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-0650DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3167033PMC
September 2011
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