lung cancer

New Co-Author paper out now in SciTransMed: Inhibition of activin signaling in lung adenocarcinoma increases the therapeutic index of platinum chemotherapy

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Very exciting day to see this amazing work by the lab of Prof.Neil Watkins published in the prestigious Science Translational Medicine Journal.

A huge amount of work for a lot of very talented people over many many years went into this study, and hopefully it will result in significant improvements for the treatment of lung cancer patients using platinum based chemotherapies. You can access the fully article here [Link]

Platinum-based chemotherapy is a mainstay of treatment for lung cancer, but resistance to this therapy is a common problem, as are dose-limiting side effects, particularly kidney toxicity. To search for mechanisms that may contribute to treatment resistance, Marini et al. performed a whole-genome RNA interference screen and identified the activin pathway, which can be targeted. The authors demonstrated that inhibition of this pathway using a small molecule or a protein called follistatin can offer a dual benefit in that it potentiates the effects of platinum drugs in mouse models of cancer and also protects the animals from kidney damage. These findings suggest that activin inhibitors could be a valuable addition to platinum chemotherapy, enhancing the efficacy of treatment while also allowing the use of higher doses or longer periods of drug exposure.


New Co-author Publication: Hic1 maintains chromosomal stability independent of p53

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Great news, we have a new co-author publication out in the journal Oncogene! The work was lead by Professor Neil Watkins, and is titled “The tumor suppressor Hic1 maintains chromosomal stability independent of Tp53”.

You can access the full article here [Link]

ABSTRACT: Hypermethylated-in-Cancer 1 (Hic1) is a tumor suppressor gene frequently inactivated by epigenetic silencing and loss-of- heterozygosity in a broad range of cancers. Loss of HIC1, a sequence-specific zinc finger transcriptional repressor, results in deregulation of genes that promote a malignant phenotype in a lineage-specific manner. In particular, upregulation of the HIC1 target gene SIRT1, a histone deacetylase, can promote tumor growth by inactivating TP53. An alternate line of evidence suggests that HIC1 can promote the repair of DNA double strand breaks through an interaction with MTA1, a component of the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase (NuRD) complex. Using a conditional knockout mouse model of tumor initiation, we now show that inactivation of Hic1 results in cell cycle arrest, premature senescence, chromosomal instability and spontaneous transformation in vitro. This phenocopies the effects of deleting Brca1, a component of the homologous recombination DNA repair pathway, in mouse embryonic fibroblasts. These effects did not appear to be mediated by deregulation of Hic1 target gene expression or loss of Tp53 function, and rather support a role for Hic1 in maintaining genome integrity during sustained replicative stress. Loss of Hic1 function also cooperated with activation of oncogenic KRas in the adult airway epithelium of mice, resulting in the formation of highly pleomorphic adenocarcinomas with a micropapillary phenotype in vivo. These results suggest that loss of Hic1 expression in the early stages of tumor formation may contribute to malignant transformation through the acquisition of chromosomal instability.


New Publication: Hedgehog signaling in small cell lung cancer

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Great news we have a new co-author publication in Oncogene!

This work was in collaboration with Prof. Neil Wakins here at the Garvan Institute and focuses on the role of Hedgehog (Hh)  signaling in small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Small cell lung cancer is a common, aggressive malignancy with universally poor prognosis.

Full details can be found here [link]

TITLE: “The role of canonical and non-canonical Hedgehog signaling in tumor progression in a mouse model of small cell lung cancer”


Hedgehog (Hh) signaling regulates cell fate and self-renewal in development and cancer. Canonical Hh signaling is mediated by Hh ligand binding to the receptor Patched (Ptch), which in turn activates Gli-mediated transcription through Smoothened (Smo), the molecular target of the Hh pathway inhibitors used as cancer therapeutics. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a common, aggressive malignancy with universally poor prognosis. Although preclinical studies have shown that Hh inhibitors block the self-renewal capacity of SCLC cells, the lack of activating pathway mutations have cast doubt over the significance of these observations. In particular, the existence of autocrine, ligand-dependent Hh signaling in SCLC has been disputed. In a conditional Tp53;Rb1 mutant mouse model of SCLC, we now demonstrate a requirement for the Hh ligand Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) for the progression of SCLC. Conversely, we show that conditional Shh overexpression activates canonical Hh signaling in SCLC cells, and markedly accelerates tumor progression. When compared to mouse SCLC tumors expressing an activating, ligand-independent Smo mutant, tumors overexpressing Shh exhibited marked chromosomal instability and Smoothened-independent upregulation of Cyclin B1, a putative non-canonical arm of the Hh pathway. In turn, we show that overexpression of Cyclin B1 induces chromosomal instability in mouse embryonic fibroblasts lacking both Tp53 and Rb1. These results provide strong support for an autocrine, ligand-dependent model of Hh signaling in SCLC pathogenesis, and reveal a novel role for non-canonical Hh signaling through the induction of chromosomal instability.