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Castel Guelfo di Bologna, Italy

Simioni C.,University of Ferrara | Martelli A.M.,University of Bologna | Martelli A.M.,National Research Council Italy | Martelli A.M.,Muscoloskeletal Cell Biology Laboratory | And 5 more authors.
Oncotarget | Year: 2013

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common potentially lethal human malignancies worldwide. Advanced or recurrent HCC is frequently resistant to conventional chemotherapeutic agents and radiation. Therefore, targeted agents with tolerable toxicity are mandatory to improve HCC therapy and prognosis. In this neoplasia, the PI3K/Akt signaling network has been frequently shown to be aberrantly up-regulated. To evaluate whether Akt could represent a target for treatment of HCC, we studied the effects of the allosteric Akt inhibitor, MK-2206, on a panel of HCC cell lines characterized by different levels of Akt-1 activation. The inhibitor decreased cell viability and induced cell cycle arrest in the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle, with a higher efficacy in cells with hyperphosphorylated Akt-1. Moreover, MK-2206 induced apoptosis, as documented by Annexin V labeling, and also caused autophagy, as evidenced by increased levels of the autophagy marker LC3A/B. Autophagy was shown to be a protective mechanism against MK-2206 cytotoxicity. MK-2206 down-regulated, in a concentration-dependent manner, the phosphorylation levels of Akt-1 and its downstream targets, GSK3 α/β and FOXO3A. MK-2206 synergized with doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic drug widely used for HCC treatment. Our findings suggest that the use of Akt inhibitors, either alone or in combination with doxorubicin, may be considered as an attractive therapeutic regimen for the treatment of HCC.

Lonetti A.,University of Bologna | Cappellini A.,University of Cassino and Southern Lazio | Sparta A.M.,University of Bologna | Chiarini F.,Muscoloskeletal Cell Biology Laboratory | And 8 more authors.
Oncotarget | Year: 2015

Class I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases (PI3Ks) are frequently activated in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), mainly due to the loss of PTEN function. Therefore, targeting PI3Ks is a promising innovative approach for T-ALL treatment, however at present no definitive evidence indicated which is the better therapeutic strategy between pan or selective isoform inhibition, as all the four catalytic subunits might participate in leukemogenesis. Here, we demonstrated that in both PTEN deleted and PTEN non deleted T-ALL cell lines, PI3K pan-inhibition exerted the highest cytotoxic effects when compared to both selective isoform inhibition or dual p110γ/δ inhibition. Intriguingly, the dual p110γ/δ inhibitor IPI-145 was effective in Loucy cells, which are representative of early T-precursor (ETP)-ALL, a T-ALL subtype associated with a poor outcome. PTEN gene deletion did not confer a peculiar reliance of T-ALL cells on PI3K activity for their proliferation/survival, as PTEN was inactivated in PTEN non deleted cells, due to posttranslational mechanisms. PI3K pan-inhibition suppressed Akt activation and induced caspase-independent apoptosis. We further demonstrated that in some T-ALL cell lines, autophagy could exert a protective role against PI3K inhibition. Our findings strongly support clinical application of class I PI3K pan-inhibitors in T-ALL treatment, with the possible exception of ETP-ALL cases.

Buontempo F.,University of Bologna | Orsini E.,University of Bologna | Lonetti A.,University of Bologna | Cappellini A.,University of Cassino and Southern Lazio | And 13 more authors.
Oncotarget | Year: 2016

The proteasome inhibitor bortezomib is a new targeted treatment option for refractory or relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients. However, a limited efficacy of bortezomib alone has been reported. A terminal pro-apoptotic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress/unfolded protein response (UPR) is one of the several mechanisms of bortezomib-induced apoptosis. Recently, it has been documented that UPR disruption could be considered a selective anti-leukemia therapy. CX- 4945, a potent casein kinase (CK) 2 inhibitor, has been found to induce apoptotic cell death in T-ALL preclinical models, via perturbation of ER/UPR pathway. In this study, we analyzed in T- and B-ALL preclinical settings, the molecular mechanisms of synergistic apoptotic effects observed after bortezomib/CX-4945 combined treatment. We demonstrated that, adding CX-4945 after bortezomib treatment, prevented leukemic cells from engaging a functional UPR in order to buffer the bortezomibmediated proteotoxic stress in ER lumen. We documented that the combined treatment decreased pro-survival ER chaperon BIP/Grp78 expression, via reduction of chaperoning activity of Hsp90. Bortezomib/CX-4945 treatment inhibited NF-κB signaling in T-ALL cell lines and primary cells from T-ALL patients, but, intriguingly, in B-ALL cells the drug combination activated NF-κB p65 pro-apoptotic functions. In fact in B-cells, the combined treatment induced p65-HDAC1 association with consequent repression of the anti-apoptotic target genes, Bcl-xL and XIAP. Exposure to NEMO (IKKγ)-binding domain inhibitor peptide reduced the cytotoxic effects of bortezomib/CX-4945 treatment. Overall, our findings demonstrated that CK2 inhibition could be useful in combination with bortezomib as a novel therapeutic strategy in both T- and B-ALL.

Sparta A.M.,University of Bologna | Bressanin D.,University of Bologna | Chiarini F.,National Research Council Italy | Chiarini F.,Muscoloskeletal Cell Biology Laboratory | And 11 more authors.
Cell Cycle | Year: 2014

Polo-like kinases (PLKs) and Aurora kinases (AKs) act as key cell cycle regulators in healthy human cells. In cancer, these protein kinases are often overexpressed and dysregulated, thus contributing to uncontrolled cell proliferation and growth. T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is a heterogeneous malignancy arising in the thymus from T-cell progenitors. Primary chemoresistant and relapsed T-ALL patients have yet a poor outcome, therefore novel therapies, targeting signaling pathways important for leukemic cell proliferation, are required. Here, we demonstrate the potential therapeutic effects of BI6727, MK-5108, and GSK1070916, three selective inhibitors of PLK1, AK-A, and AK-B/C, respectively, in a panel of T-ALL cell lines and primary cells from T-ALL patients. The drugs were both cytostatic and cytotoxic to T-ALL cells by inducing G2/M-phase arrest and apoptosis. The drugs retained part of their pro-apoptotic activity in the presence of MS-5 bone marrow stromal cells. Moreover, we document for the first time that BI6727 perturbed both the PI3K/Akt/mTORC2 and the MEK/ERK/mTORC1 signaling pathways, and that a combination of BI6727 with specific inhibitors of the aforementioned pathways (MK-2206, CCI-779) displayed significantly synergistic cytotoxic effects. Taken together, our findings indicate that PLK1 and AK inhibitors display the potential for being employed in innovative therapeutic strategies for improving T-ALL patient outcome. © 2014 Landes Bioscience.

Buontempo F.,University of Bologna | Orsini E.,University of Bologna | Martins L.R.,University of Lisbon | Antunes I.,University of Lisbon | And 17 more authors.
Leukemia | Year: 2014

Constitutively active casein kinase 2 (CK2) signaling is a common feature of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). CK2 phosphorylates PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog) tumor suppressor, resulting in PTEN stabilization and functional inactivation. Downregulation of PTEN activity has an impact on PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling, which is of fundamental importance for T-ALL cell survival. These observations lend compelling weight to the application of CK2 inhibitors in the therapy of T-ALL. Here, we have analyzed the therapeutic potential of CX-4945 - a novel, highly specific, orally available, ATP-competitive inhibitor of CK2α. We show that CX-4945 treatment induced apoptosis in T-ALL cell lines and patient T lymphoblasts. CX-4945 downregulated PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling in leukemic cells. Notably, CX-4945 affected the unfolded protein response (UPR), as demonstrated by a significant decrease in the levels of the main UPR regulator GRP78/BIP, and led to apoptosis via upregulation of the ER stress/UPR cell death mediators IRE1α and CHOP. In vivo administration of CX-4945 to a subcutaneous xenotransplant model of human T-ALL significantly delayed tumor growth. Our findings indicate that modulation of the ER stress/UPR signaling through CK2 inhibition could be exploited for inducing apoptosis in T-ALL cells and that CX-4945 may be an efficient treatment for those T-ALLs displaying upregulation of CK2α/PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

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