• Neferine induces autophagy-dependent cell death in apoptosis-resistant cancers via ryanodine receptor and Ca 2+ -dependent mechanism

      Law, Betty Yuen Kwan; Michelangeli, Francesco; Qu, Yuan Qing; orcid: 0000-0003-3733-3661; Xu, Su-Wei; Han, Yu; Mok, Simon Wing Fai; Dias, Ivo Ricardo De Seabra Rodrigues; Javed, Masood-Ul-Hassan; Chan, Wai-Kit; Xue, Wei-Wei; et al. (Nature Publishing Group UK, 2019-12-27)
      Abstract: Resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy is a significant clinical concern and mechanisms regulating cell death in cancer therapy, including apoptosis, autophagy or necrosis, have been extensively investigated over the last decade. Accordingly, the identification of medicinal compounds against chemoresistant cancer cells via new mechanism of action is highly desired. Autophagy is important in inducing cell death or survival in cancer therapy. Recently, novel autophagy activators isolated from natural products were shown to induce autophagic cell death in apoptosis-resistant cancer cells in a calcium-dependent manner. Therefore, enhancement of autophagy may serve as additional therapeutic strategy against these resistant cancers. By computational docking analysis, biochemical assays, and advanced live-cell imaging, we identified that neferine, a natural alkaloid from Nelumbo nucifera, induces autophagy by activating the ryanodine receptor and calcium release. With well-known apoptotic agents, such as staurosporine, taxol, doxorubicin, cisplatin and etoposide, utilized as controls, neferine was shown to induce autophagic cell death in a panel of cancer cells, including apoptosis-defective and -resistant cancer cells or isogenic cancer cells, via calcium mobilization through the activation of ryanodine receptor and Ulk-1-PERK and AMPK-mTOR signaling cascades. Taken together, this study provides insights into the cytotoxic mechanism of neferine-induced autophagy through ryanodine receptor activation in resistant cancers.
    • Targeting STAT3 signaling using stabilised sulforaphane (SFX-01) inhibits endocrine resistant stem-like cells in ER-positive breast cancer

      Simões, Bruno M.; orcid: 0000-0003-1253-6657; email: bruno.simoes@manchester.ac.uk; Santiago-Gómez, Angélica; Chiodo, Chiara; Moreira, Tiago; Conole, Daniel; orcid: 0000-0002-3389-8377; Lovell, Scott; Alferez, Denis; Eyre, Rachel; Spence, Katherine; Sarmiento-Castro, Aida; et al. (Nature Publishing Group UK, 2020-05-30)
      Abstract: Estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer is frequently sensitive to endocrine therapy. Multiple mechanisms of endocrine therapy resistance have been identified, including cancer stem-like cell (CSC) activity. Here we investigate SFX-01, a stabilised formulation of sulforaphane (SFN), for its effects on breast CSC activity in ER+ preclinical models. SFX‐01 reduced mammosphere formation efficiency (MFE) of ER+ primary and metastatic patient samples. Both tamoxifen and fulvestrant increased MFE and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity of patient-derived xenograft (PDX) tumors, which was reversed by combination with SFX‐01. SFX-01 significantly reduced tumor-initiating cell frequency in secondary transplants and reduced the formation of spontaneous lung micrometastases by PDX tumors in mice. Mechanistically, we establish that both tamoxifen and fulvestrant induce STAT3 phosphorylation. SFX-01 suppressed phospho‐STAT3 and SFN directly bound STAT3 in patient and PDX samples. Analysis of ALDH+ cells from endocrine-resistant patient samples revealed activation of STAT3 target genes MUC1 and OSMR, which were inhibited by SFX-01 in patient samples. Increased expression of these genes after 3 months’ endocrine treatment of ER+ patients (n = 68) predicted poor prognosis. Our data establish the importance of STAT3 signaling in CSC-mediated resistance to endocrine therapy and the potential of SFX-01 for improving clinical outcomes in ER+ breast cancer.
    • The extracellular-regulated protein kinase 5 (ERK5) enhances metastatic burden in triple-negative breast cancer through focal adhesion protein kinase (FAK)-mediated regulation of cell adhesion

      Xu, Qiuping; Zhang, Jingwei; Telfer, Brian A.; Zhang, Hao; Ali, Nisha; Chen, Fuhui; Risa, Blanca; Pearson, Adam J.; Zhang, Wei; Finegan, Katherine G.; orcid: 0000-0003-2885-0122; et al. (Nature Publishing Group UK, 2021-05-12)
      Abstract: There is overwhelming clinical evidence that the extracellular-regulated protein kinase 5 (ERK5) is significantly dysregulated in human breast cancer. However, there is no definite understanding of the requirement of ERK5 in tumor growth and metastasis due to very limited characterization of the pathway in disease models. In this study, we report that a high level of ERK5 is a predictive marker of metastatic breast cancer. Mechanistically, our in vitro data revealed that ERK5 was critical for maintaining the invasive capability of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells through focal adhesion protein kinase (FAK) activation. Specifically, we found that phosphorylation of FAK at Tyr397 was controlled by a kinase-independent function of ERK5. Accordingly, silencing ERK5 in mammary tumor grafts impaired FAK phosphorylation at Tyr397 and suppressed TNBC cell metastasis to the lung without preventing tumor growth. Collectively, these results establish a functional relationship between ERK5 and FAK signaling in promoting malignancy. Thus, targeting the oncogenic ERK5-FAK axis represents a promising therapeutic strategy for breast cancer exhibiting aggressive clinical behavior.