As cancer researchers are learning more about the causes of tumor cell growth and drug resistance, they are discovering molecular pathways that might lead to new targeted therapies to potentially treat this deadly cancer.
Scientists at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in San Diego worked collaboratively across the laboratories of Drs. Paul Mischel, Web Cavenee and Frank Furnari to investigate one such molecular pathway called the mammalian target of rapamycin or mTOR. This signaling pathway is hyperactivated in close to 90 percent of glioblastomas and plays a critical role in regulating tumor growth and survival. Therapies that inhibit mTOR signaling are under investigation as drug development targets, but results to date have been disappointing: mTOR inhibitors halt the growth but fail to kill the tumor cells.
A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences uncovers an unexpected but important molecular mechanism of mTOR inhibitor resistance and identifies a novel drug combination that reverses this resistance.
The story begins with a closer look at a gene-encoded protein called promyleocytic leukemia gene or PML. The study investigators explored the role of PML in causing resistance to mTOR inhibitor treatment. They found that when glioblastoma patients are treated with drugs that target the mTOR pathway, the levels of PML rise dramatically. Further, they showed that PML upregulation made the tumor cells resistant to mTOR inhibitors, and that if they suppressed the ability of the tumor cells to upregulate the PML protein, the tumor cells died in response to the mTOR inhibitor therapy.
"When we looked at cells in in vivo models and patients treated in the clinic, it became clear that the glioblastoma cells massively regulated PML enabling them to escape the effects of mTOR inhibitor therapy," reported senior author Paul Mischel, MD, Ludwig Institute member based at the University of California at San Diego.
"Our team hypothesized that if we could use a pharmacological approach to get rid of PML and combine it with an mTOR inhibitor, it could change the response from halting growth to cell death. The question was how?" added Mischel.
Previous research had shown that the use of low-dose arsenic could cause degradation of the PML protein in patients with leukemia. The team hypothesized that if arsenic could degrade PML, it may reverse resistance to mTOR inhibitors. The combination of mTOR and low-dose arsenic in mice indeed showed a synergistic effect, with massive tumor cell death along with very significant shrinkage of the tumor in mice with no ill side effects.
"Current therapy upregulates PML, turning off the mTOR signaling pathway. The tumor cells hide, waiting for the target signal to return," said Mischel. "When low-dose arsenic is added, not only does it stop the cell from returning, it shuts down the escape route killing the tumor cell."
These results present the first clinical evidence that mTOR inhibition promotes PML upregulation in mice and patients, and that it mediates drug resistance. The clinical relevance was confirmed when researchers looked at before- and after-treatment tissue samples from patients treated with mTOR inhibitors, confirming that PML goes up significantly in post treatment of mTOR inhibitors.
"These data suggest a new approach for potential treatment of glioblastoma," said Mischel. "We are moving forward to test that possibility in people."
Post-doctoral students Akio Iwanami and Beatrice Gini from the Mischel lab as well as Ciro Zanca from the Furnari/Cavenee lab, also contributed significantly to this paper.
This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Uehara Memorial Foundation, three NIH grants: NS73831, CA 119347 and P01-CA95616, the Ziering Family Foundation in Memory of Sigi Ziering and the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation.
About The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research is an international non-profit organization committed to improving the understanding and control of cancer through integrated laboratory and clinical discovery. Leveraging its worldwide network of investigators and the ability to sponsor and conduct its own clinical trials, Ludwig is actively engaged in translating its discoveries into applications for patient benefit. Since its establishment in 1971, the Ludwig Institute has expended more than $1.5 billion on cancer research.
For further information please contact Rachel Steinhardt, email@example.com or +1-212-450-1582.
Rachel Steinhardt | EurekAlert!
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy