Prof Ahmed Ashour Ahmed

Research Area: Cell and Molecular Biology
Technology Exchange: Biobanking, Bioinformatics, Drug discovery, Immunohistochemistry, Microscopy (Confocal) and Protein interaction
Scientific Themes: Cancer and Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology
Web Links:

Prof. Ahmed's research focuses on personalization of therapy to circumvent drug resistance in cancer.

World wide, over 200,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year of whom only one fourth will remain alive five years following the diagnosis. This makes ovarian cancer the most lethal gynaecological malignancy. In spite of excellent response to chemotherapy, minimal residual disease persists and results in the development of chemotherapy resistant recurrent tumours. Incomplete response to primary therapy allows the development of chemotherapy resistance in ovarian cancer and this leads to progressive disease that is difficult to treat.

Our approach is to utilise state of the art technologies including high throughput microscopy, genomics and proteomics technologies to unravel key drivers of micrometastases followed by mechanistic analyses to understand key survival mechanism of ovarian cancer micrometastases that could be targeted for therapy.

Name Department Institution Country
Professor Stefan Knapp Structural Genomics Consortium Oxford University, NDM Research Building United Kingdom
Professor Christopher Yau Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics Oxford University, Henry Wellcome Building of Genomic Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Tatjana Sauka-Spengler Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Bass Hassan Oxford University United Kingdom
Dr Boris Vojnovic Oxford University,
Prof Robert C. Bast, Jr., M.D. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center United States
Hu Z, Yau C, Ahmed AA. 2017. A pan-cancer genome-wide analysis reveals tumour dependencies by induction of nonsense-mediated decay. Nat Commun, 8 pp. 15943. | Show Abstract | Read more

Nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) eliminates transcripts with premature termination codons. Although NMD-induced loss-of-function has been shown to contribute to the genesis of particular cancers, its global functional consequence in tumours has not been characterized. Here we develop an algorithm to predict NMD and apply it on somatic mutations reported in The Cancer Genome Atlas. We identify more than 73 K mutations that are predicted to elicit NMD (NMD-elicit). NMD-elicit mutations in tumour suppressor genes (TSGs) are associated with significant reduction in gene expression. We discover cancer-specific NMD-elicit signatures in TSGs and cancer-associated genes. Our analysis reveals a previously unrecognized dependence of hypermutated tumours on hypofunction of genes that are involved in chromatin remodelling and translation. Half of hypermutated stomach adenocarcinomas are associated with NMD-elicit mutations of the translation initiators LARP4B and EIF5B. Our results unravel strong therapeutic opportunities by targeting tumour dependencies on NMD-elicit mutations.

Miranda F, Mannion D, Liu S, Zheng Y, Mangala LS, Redondo C, Herrero-Gonzalez S, Xu R, Taylor C, Chedom DF et al. 2016. Salt-Inducible Kinase 2 Couples Ovarian Cancer Cell Metabolism with Survival at the Adipocyte-Rich Metastatic Niche. Cancer Cell, 30 (2), pp. 273-289. | Show Abstract | Read more

The adipocyte-rich microenvironment forms a niche for ovarian cancer metastasis, but the mechanisms driving this process are incompletely understood. Here we show that salt-inducible kinase 2 (SIK2) is overexpressed in adipocyte-rich metastatic deposits compared with ovarian primary lesions. Overexpression of SIK2 in ovarian cancer cells promotes abdominal metastasis while SIK2 depletion prevents metastasis in vivo. Importantly, adipocytes induce calcium-dependent activation and autophosphorylation of SIK2. Activated SIK2 plays a dual role in augmenting AMPK-induced phosphorylation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and in activating the PI3K/AKT pathway through p85α-S154 phosphorylation. These findings identify SIK2 at the apex of the adipocyte-induced signaling cascades in cancer cells and make a compelling case for targeting SIK2 for therapy in ovarian cancer.

Hellner K, Miranda F, Fotso Chedom D, Herrero-Gonzalez S, Hayden DM, Tearle R, Artibani M, KaramiNejadRanjbar M, Williams R, Gaitskell K et al. 2016. Premalignant SOX2 overexpression in the fallopian tubes of ovarian cancer patients: Discovery and validation studies. EBioMedicine, 10 pp. 137-149. | Show Abstract | Read more

Current screening methods for ovarian cancer can only detect advanced disease. Earlier detection has proved difficult because the molecular precursors involved in the natural history of the disease are unknown. To identify early driver mutations in ovarian cancer cells, we used dense whole genome sequencing of micrometastases and microscopic residual disease collected at three time points over three years from a single patient during treatment for high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC). The functional and clinical significance of the identified mutations was examined using a combination of population-based whole genome sequencing, targeted deep sequencing, multi-center analysis of protein expression, loss of function experiments in an in-vivo reporter assay and mammalian models, and gain of function experiments in primary cultured fallopian tube epithelial (FTE) cells. We identified frequent mutations involving a 40kb distal repressor region for the key stem cell differentiation gene SOX2. In the apparently normal FTE, the region was also mutated. This was associated with a profound increase in SOX2 expression (p<2(-16)), which was not found in patients without cancer (n=108). Importantly, we show that SOX2 overexpression in FTE is nearly ubiquitous in patients with HGSOCs (n=100), and common in BRCA1-BRCA2 mutation carriers (n=71) who underwent prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy. We propose that the finding of SOX2 overexpression in FTE could be exploited to develop biomarkers for detecting disease at a premalignant stage, which would reduce mortality from this devastating disease.

Laios A, Volpi D, Tullis IDC, Woodward M, Kennedy S, Pathiraja PNJ, Haldar K, Vojnovic B, Ahmed AA. 2015. A prospective pilot study of detection of sentinel lymph nodes in gynaecological cancers using a novel near infrared fluorescence imaging system. BMC Res Notes, 8 (1), pp. 608. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Sentinel Lymph Node (SLN) sampling may significantly reduce surgical morbidity by avoiding needless radical lymphadenectomy. In gynaecological cancers, the current practice in the UK is testing the accuracy of SLN detection using radioactive isotopes within the context of clinical trials. However, radioactive tracers pose significant logistic problems. We, therefore, conducted a pilot, observational study to assess the feasibility of a novel optical imaging device for SLN detection in gynaecological cancers using near infrared (NIR) fluorescence. METHODS: A novel, custom-made, optical imaging system was developed to enable detection of multiple fluorescence dyes and allow simultaneous bright-field imaging during open surgery and laparoscopic procedures. We then evaluated the performance of the system in a prospective study of 49 women with early stage vulval, cervical and endometrial cancer who were scheduled to undergo complete lymphadenectomy. Clinically approved fluorescent contrast agents indocyanine green (ICG) and methylene blue (MB) were used. The main outcomes of the study included SLN mapping detection rates, false negative rates using the NIR fluorescence technique and safety of the procedures. We also examined the association between injection sites and differential lymphatic drainage in women with endometrial cancer by fluorescence imaging of ICG and MB. RESULTS: A total of 64 SLNs were detected during both open surgery and laparoscopy. Following dose optimisation and the learning phase, SLN detection rate approached 100 % for all cancer types with no false negatives detected. Fluorescence from ICG and MB detected para-aortic SLNs in women with endometrial cancer following uterine injection. Percutaneous SLN detection was also achieved in most women with vulval cancer. No adverse reactions associated with the use of either dyes were observed. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated the successful clinical application of a novel NIR fluorescence imaging system for SLN detection across different gynaecological cancers. We showcased the first in human imaging, during the same procedure, of two fluorescence dyes in women with endometrial cancer.

Zhang S, Lu Z, Mao W, Ahmed AA, Yang H, Zhou J, Jennings N, Rodriguez-Aguayo C, Lopez-Berestein G, Miranda R et al. 2015. CDK5 Regulates Paclitaxel Sensitivity in Ovarian Cancer Cells by Modulating AKT Activation, p21Cip1- and p27Kip1-Mediated G1 Cell Cycle Arrest and Apoptosis. PLoS One, 10 (7), pp. e0131833. | Show Abstract | Read more

Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5) is a cytoplasmic serine/ threonine kinase. Knockdown of CDK5 enhances paclitaxel sensitivity in human ovarian cancer cells. This study explores the mechanisms by which CDK5 regulates paclitaxel sensitivity in human ovarian cancers. Multiple ovarian cancer cell lines and xenografts were treated with CDK5 small interfering RNA (siRNA) with or without paclitaxel to examine the effect on cancer cell viability, cell cycle arrest and tumor growth. CDK5 protein was measured by immunohistochemical staining of an ovarian cancer tissue microarray to correlate CDK5 expression with overall patient survival. Knockdown of CDK5 with siRNAs inhibits activation of AKT which significantly correlates with decreased cell growth and enhanced paclitaxel sensitivity in ovarian cancer cell lines. In addition, CDK5 knockdown alone and in combination with paclitaxel induced G1 cell cycle arrest and caspase 3 dependent apoptotic cell death associated with post-translational upregulation and nuclear translocation of TP53 and p27(Kip1) as well as TP53-dependent transcriptional induction of p21(Cip1) in wild type TP53 cancer cells. Treatment of HEYA8 and A2780 wild type TP53 xenografts in nu/nu mice with CDK5 siRNA and paclitaxel produced significantly greater growth inhibition than either treatment alone. Increased expression of CDK5 in human ovarian cancers correlates inversely with overall survival. CDK5 modulates paclitaxel sensitivity by regulating AKT activation, the cell cycle and caspase-dependent apoptosis. CDK5 inhibition can potentiate paclitaxel activity in human ovarian cancer cells.

Liu S, Zheng Y, Volpi D, El-Kasti M, Klotz D, Tullis I, Henricks A, Campo L, Myers K, Laios A et al. 2015. Toward operative in vivo fluorescence imaging of the c-Met proto-oncogene for personalization of therapy in ovarian cancer Cancer, 121 (2), pp. 202-213. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2014 American Cancer Society. BACKGROUND: Standard biomarker testing of a single macroscopic disease site is unlikely to be sufficient because of tumor heterogeneity. A focus on examining global biomarker expression or activity, particularly in microscopic residual chemotherapy-resistant disease, is needed for the appropriate selection of targeted therapies. This study was aimed at establishing a technique for the assessment of biomarkers of ovarian cancer peritoneal spread. METHODS: An in-house developed fluorescent imaging device was used to detect the expression of the c-Met oncogene in ovarian cancer. A modified cyanine 5-tagged peptide, GE137, with a high in vitro affinity for the human c-Met protein, was tested in a panel of ovarian cancer cell lines. Finally, the feasibility of detecting submillimeter ovarian cancer cell peritoneal metastases in vivo was tested through the intravenous injection of GE137 into mice with tumor xenografts. RESULTS: Using optical imaging it was possible to detect c-Met expression in submillimeter peritoneal metastases that were freshly excised from a human high-grade serous ovarian cancer. GE137 selectively bound to the c-Met tyrosine kinase without activating survival signaling pathways (AKT or extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation) downstream of c-Met. GE137 specifically accumulated in SKOv3 ovarian cancer cells expressing c-Met via clathrin-mediated endocytosis and emitted a fluorescent signal that lasted for at least 8 hours in tumor xenografts in vivo with a sustained high signal-to-noise ratio. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that intraoperative optical imaging could provide a new paradigm for selecting cancer patients for appropriate targeted therapies, particularly after initial chemotherapy.

Bon H, Wadhwa K, Schreiner A, Osborne M, Carroll T, Ramos-Montoya A, Ross-Adams H, Visser M, Hoffmann R, Ahmed AA et al. 2015. Salt-inducible kinase 2 regulates mitotic progression and transcription in prostate cancer. Mol Cancer Res, 13 (4), pp. 620-635. | Show Abstract | Read more

UNLABELLED: Salt-inducible kinase 2 (SIK2) is a multifunctional kinase of the AMPK family that plays a role in CREB1-mediated gene transcription and was recently reported to have therapeutic potential in ovarian cancer. The expression of this kinase was investigated in prostate cancer clinical specimens. Interestingly, auto-antibodies against SIK2 were increased in the plasma of patients with aggressive disease. Examination of SIK2 in prostate cancer cells found that it functions both as a positive regulator of cell-cycle progression and a negative regulator of CREB1 activity. Knockdown of SIK2 inhibited cell growth, delayed cell-cycle progression, induced cell death, and enhanced CREB1 activity. Expression of a kinase-dead mutant of SIK2 also inhibited cell growth, induced cell death, and enhanced CREB1 activity. Treatment with a small-molecule SIK2 inhibitor (ARN-3236), currently in preclinical development, also led to enhanced CREB1 activity in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Because CREB1 is a transcription factor and proto-oncogene, it was posited that the effects of SIK2 on cell proliferation and viability might be mediated by changes in gene expression. To test this, gene expression array profiling was performed and while SIK2 knockdown or overexpression of the kinase-dead mutant affected established CREB1 target genes; the overlap with transcripts regulated by forskolin (FSK), the adenylate cyclase/CREB1 pathway activator, was incomplete. IMPLICATIONS: This study demonstrates that targeting SIK2 genetically or therapeutically will have pleiotropic effects on cell-cycle progression and transcription factor activation, which should be accounted for when characterizing SIK2 inhibitors.

Townley HE, Zheng Y, Goldsmith J, Zheng YY, Stratford MRL, Dobson PJ, Ahmed AA. 2015. A novel biosensor for quantitative monitoring of on-target activity of paclitaxel. Nanoscale, 7 (3), pp. 1127-1135. | Show Abstract | Read more

This study describes a system for quantifying paclitaxel activity using the C-terminus of α-tubulin as a biomarker. Following stabilization of microtubules with paclitaxel, a specific detyrosination reaction occurs at the C-terminus of α-tubulin which could be used to assess efficacy. A fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) based biosensor was synthesized comprising a short peptide that corresponded to the C-terminus of α-tubulin, a fluorophore (Abz), and a quencher (Dnp). The fluorophore added to the end of the peptide can be released upon enzymatic detyrosination. In addition, a single fluorophore-tagged peptide was also conjugated to mesoporous silica nanoparticles to examine the feasibility of combining the drug with the peptide biomarker. As a proof of concept, we found that the degree of peptide cleavage, and therefore enzymatic activity, was directly correlated with exogenous bovine carboxypeptidase (CPA) an enzyme that mimics endogenous detyrosination. In addition, we show that cell lysates obtained from paclitaxel-treated cancer cells competed with exogenous CPA for biosensor cleavage in a paclitaxel dose-dependent manner. Our work provides strong evidence for the feasibility of combining paclitaxel with a novel biosensor in a multi-load nanoparticle.

Laios A, Pathiraja P, Ahmed A, Vojnovic B, Haldar K, Volpi D, Tullis I. 2014. A PROSPECTIVE PILOT STUDY OF NEAR INFRARED (PIONIR) IMAGING OF SENTINEL NODES IN GYNAECOLOGICAL CANCERS INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GYNECOLOGICAL CANCER, 24 (9), pp. 1245-1245.

Liu S, Zheng Y, Volpi D, El-Kasti M, Klotz D, Tullis I, Henricks A, Campo L, Myers K, Laios A et al. 2015. Toward operative in vivo fluorescence imaging of the c-Met proto-oncogene for personalization of therapy in ovarian cancer. Cancer, 121 (2), pp. 202-213. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Standard biomarker testing of a single macroscopic disease site is unlikely to be sufficient because of tumor heterogeneity. A focus on examining global biomarker expression or activity, particularly in microscopic residual chemotherapy-resistant disease, is needed for the appropriate selection of targeted therapies. This study was aimed at establishing a technique for the assessment of biomarkers of ovarian cancer peritoneal spread. METHODS: An in-house developed fluorescent imaging device was used to detect the expression of the c-Met oncogene in ovarian cancer. A modified cyanine 5-tagged peptide, GE137, with a high in vitro affinity for the human c-Met protein, was tested in a panel of ovarian cancer cell lines. Finally, the feasibility of detecting submillimeter ovarian cancer cell peritoneal metastases in vivo was tested through the intravenous injection of GE137 into mice with tumor xenografts. RESULTS: Using optical imaging it was possible to detect c-Met expression in submillimeter peritoneal metastases that were freshly excised from a human high-grade serous ovarian cancer. GE137 selectively bound to the c-Met tyrosine kinase without activating survival signaling pathways (AKT or extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation) downstream of c-Met. GE137 specifically accumulated in SKOv3 ovarian cancer cells expressing c-Met via clathrin-mediated endocytosis and emitted a fluorescent signal that lasted for at least 8 hours in tumor xenografts in vivo with a sustained high signal-to-noise ratio. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that intraoperative optical imaging could provide a new paradigm for selecting cancer patients for appropriate targeted therapies, particularly after initial chemotherapy.

Liu S, Knapp S, Ahmed AA. 2014. The structural basis of PI3K cancer mutations: from mechanism to therapy. Cancer Res, 74 (3), pp. 641-646. | Show Abstract | Read more

While genetic alteration in the p85α-p110α (PI3K) complex represents one of the most frequent driver mutations in cancer, the wild-type complex is also required for driving cancer progression through mutations in related pathways. Understanding the mechanistic basis of the function of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) is essential for designing optimal therapeutic targeting strategies. Recent structural data of the p85α/p110α complex unraveled key insights into the molecular mechanisms of the activation of the complex and provided plausible explanations for the well-established biochemical data on p85/p110 dimer regulation. A wealth of biochemical and biologic information supported by recent genetic findings provides a strong basis for additional p110-independent function of p85α in the regulation of cell survival. In this article, we review the structural, biochemical, and biologic mechanisms through which p85α regulates the cancer cell life cycle with an emphasis on the recently discovered genetic alterations in cancer. As cancer progression is dependent on multiple biologic processes, targeting key drivers such as the PI3K may be required for efficacious therapy of heterogeneous tumors typically present in patients with late-stage disease.

Volpi D, Tullis IDC, Laios A, Pathiraja PNJ, Haldar K, Ahmed AA, Vojnovic B. 2014. A novel multiwavelength fluorescence image-guided surgery imaging system ADVANCED BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL DIAGNOSTIC AND SURGICAL GUIDANCE SYSTEMS XII, 8935 | Show Abstract | Read more

We describe the development and performance analysis of two clinical near-infrared fluorescence image-guided surgery (FIGS) devices that aim to overcome some of the limitations of current FIGS systems. The devices operate in a widefield-imaging mode and can work (1) in conjunction with a laparoscope, during minimally invasive surgery, and (2) as a hand-held, open surgery imaging system. In both cases, narrow-band excitation light, delivered at multiple wavelengths, is efficiently combined with white reflectance light. Light is delivered to ~100 cm 2 surgical field at 1-2 mW/cm 2 for white light and 3-7 mW/cm 2 (depending on wavelength) of red - near infrared excitation, at a typical working distance of 350 mm for the hand-held device and 100 mm for the laparoscope. A single, sensitive, miniaturized color camera collects both fluorescence and white reflectance light. The use of a single imager eliminates image alignment and software overlay complexity. A novel filtering and illumination arrangement allows simultaneous detection of white reflectance and fluorescence emission from multiple dyes in real-time. We will present both fluorescence detection sensitivity modeling and practical performance data. We have demonstrated the efficiency and the advantages of the devices both pre-clinically and during live surgery on humans. Both the hand-held and the laparoscopic systems have proved to be reliable and beneficial in an ongoing clinical trial involving sentinel lymph node detection in gynecological cancers. We will show preliminary results using two clinically approved dyes, Methylene blue and indocyanine green. We anticipate that this technology can be integrated and routinely used in a larger variety of surgical procedures.

Xie X, Bartholomeusz C, Ahmed AA, Kazansky A, Diao L, Baggerly KA, Hortobagyi GN, Ueno NT. 2013. Bisphosphorylated PEA-15 sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to paclitaxel by impairing the microtubule-destabilizing effect of SCLIP. Mol Cancer Ther, 12 (6), pp. 1099-1111. | Show Abstract | Read more

Paclitaxel is a standard chemotherapeutic agent for ovarian cancer. PEA-15 (phosphoprotein enriched in astrocytes-15 kDa) regulates cell proliferation, autophagy, apoptosis, and glucose metabolism and also mediates AKT-dependent chemoresistance in breast cancer. The functions of PEA-15 are tightly regulated by its phosphorylation status at Ser104 and Ser116. However, the effect of PEA-15 phosphorylation status on chemosensitivity of cancer cells remains unknown. Here, we tested the hypothesis that PEA-15 phosphorylated at both Ser104 and Ser116 (pPEA-15) sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to paclitaxel. We first found that knockdown of PEA-15 in PEA-15-high expressing HEY and OVTOKO ovarian cancer cells resulted in paclitaxel resistance, whereas re-expression of PEA-15 in these cells led to paclitaxel sensitization. We next found that SKOV3.ip1-DD cells (expressing phosphomimetic PEA-15) were more sensitive to paclitaxel than SKOV3.ip1-AA cells (expressing nonphosphorylatable PEA-15). Compared with SKOV3.ip1-vector and SKOV3.ip1-AA cells, SKOV3.ip1-DD cells displayed reduced cell viability, inhibited anchorage-independent growth, and augmented apoptosis when treated with paclitaxel. Furthermore, HEY and OVTOKO cells displayed enhanced paclitaxel sensitivity when transiently overexpressing phosphomimetic PEA-15 and reduced paclitaxel sensitivity when transiently overexpressing nonphosphorylatable PEA-15. These results indicate that pPEA-15 sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to paclitaxel. cDNA microarray analysis suggested that SCLIP (SCG10-like protein), a microtubule-destabilizing protein, is involved in pPEA-15-mediated chemosensitization. We found that reduced expression and possibly posttranslational modification of SCLIP following paclitaxel treatment impaired the microtubule-destabilizing effect of SCLIP, thereby promoting induction of mitotic arrest and apoptosis by paclitaxel. Our findings highlight the importance of pPEA-15 as a promising target for improving the efficacy of paclitaxel-based therapy in ovarian cancer.

Ahmed AA, Becker CM, Bast RC. 2012. The origin of ovarian cancer. BJOG, 119 (2), pp. 134-136. | Read more

Badgwell DB, Lu Z, Le K, Gao F, Yang M, Suh GK, Bao J-J, Das P, Andreeff M, Chen W et al. 2012. The tumor-suppressor gene ARHI (DIRAS3) suppresses ovarian cancer cell migration through inhibition of the Stat3 and FAK/Rho signaling pathways. Oncogene, 31 (1), pp. 68-79. | Show Abstract | Read more

Ovarian cancers migrate and metastasize over the surface of the peritoneal cavity. Consequently, dysregulation of mechanisms that limit cell migration may be particularly important in the pathogenesis of the disease. ARHI is an imprinted tumor-suppressor gene that is downregulated in >60% of ovarian cancers, and its loss is associated with decreased progression-free survival. ARHI encodes a 26-kDa GTPase with homology to Ras. In contrast to Ras, ARHI inhibits cell growth, but whether it also regulates cell motility has not been studied previously. Here we report that re-expression of ARHI decreases the motility of IL-6- and epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated SKOv3 and Hey ovarian cancer cells, inhibiting both chemotaxis and haptotaxis. ARHI binds to and sequesters Stat3 in the cytoplasm, preventing its translocation to the nucleus and localization in focal adhesion complexes. Stat3 siRNA or the JAK2 inhibitor AG490 produced similar inhibition of motility. However, the combination of ARHI expression with Stat3 knockdown or inhibition produced greatest inhibition in ovarian cancer cell migration, consistent with Stat3-dependent and Stat3-independent mechanisms. Consistent with two distinct signaling pathways, knockdown of Stat3 selectively inhibited IL-6-stimulated migration, whereas knockdown of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) preferentially inhibited EGF-stimulated migration. In EGF-stimulated ovarian cancer cells, re-expression of ARHI inhibited FAK(Y397) and Src(Y416) phosphorylation, disrupted focal adhesions, and blocked FAK-mediated RhoA signaling, resulting in decreased levels of GTP-RhoA. Re-expression of ARHI also disrupted the formation of actin stress fibers in a FAK- and RhoA-dependent manner. Thus, ARHI has a critical and previously uncharacterized role in the regulation of ovarian cancer cell migration, exerting inhibitory effects on two distinct signaling pathways.

Chen M-Y, Liao WS-L, Lu Z, Bornmann WG, Hennessey V, Washington MN, Rosner GL, Yu Y, Ahmed AA, Bast RC. 2011. Decitabine and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) inhibit growth of ovarian cancer cell lines and xenografts while inducing expression of imprinted tumor suppressor genes, apoptosis, G2/M arrest, and autophagy. Cancer, 117 (19), pp. 4424-4438. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Epigenetic therapy has had a significant impact on the management of hematologic malignancies, but its role in the treatment of ovarian cancer remains to be defined. The authors previously demonstrated that treatment of ovarian and breast cancer cells with DNA methyltransferase and histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors can up-regulate the expression of imprinted tumor suppressors. In this study, demethylating agents and HDAC inhibitors were tested for their ability to induce re-expression of tumor suppressor genes, inhibiting growth of ovarian cancer cells in culture and in xenografts. METHODS: Ovarian cancer cells (Hey and SKOv3) were treated with demethylating agents (5-aza-20-deoxycytidine [DAC] or 5-azacitidine [AZA]) or with HDAC inhibitors (suberoylanilide hydroxamicacid [SAHA] or trichostatin A [TSA]) to determine their impact on cellular proliferation, cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, autophagy, and re-expression of 2 growth inhibitory imprinted tumor suppressor genes: guanosine triphosphate-binding Di-RAS-like 3 (ARHI) and paternally expressed 3 (PEG3). The in vivo activities of DAC and SAHA were assessed in a Hey xenograft model. RESULTS: The combination of DAC and SAHA produced synergistic inhibition of Hey and SKOv3 cell growth by apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. DAC induced autophagy in Hey cells that was enhanced by SAHA. Treatment with both agents induced re-expression of ARHI and PEG3 in cultured cells and in xenografts, correlating with growth inhibition. Knockdown of ARHI decreased DAC-induced autophagy. DAC and SAHA inhibited the growth of Hey xenografts and induced autophagy in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: A combination of DAC and SAHA inhibited ovarian cancer growth while inducing apoptosis, G2/M arrest, autophagy, and re-expression of imprinted tumor suppressor genes.

Le X-F, Mao W, He G, Claret F-X, Xia W, Ahmed AA, Hung M-C, Siddik ZH, Bast RC. 2011. The role of p27(Kip1) in dasatinib-enhanced paclitaxel cytotoxicity in human ovarian cancer cells. J Natl Cancer Inst, 103 (18), pp. 1403-1422. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Less than 50% of ovarian cancers respond to paclitaxel. Effective strategies are needed to enhance paclitaxel sensitivity. METHODS: A library of silencing RNAs (siRNAs) was used to identify kinases that regulate paclitaxel sensitivity in human ovarian cancer SKOv3 cells. The effect of dasatinib, an inhibitor of Src and Abl kinases, on paclitaxel sensitivity was measured in ovarian cancer cells and HEY xenografts. The roles of p27(Kip1), Bcl-2, and Cdk1 in apoptosis induced by dasatinib and paclitaxel were assessed using a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assay, siRNA knockdown of gene expression, transfection with Bcl-2 and Cdk1 expression vectors, and flow cytometry. All statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS: Src family and Abl kinases were identified as modulators of paclitaxel sensitivity in SKOv3 cells. The siRNA knockdown of Src, Fyn, or Abl1 enhanced paclitaxel-mediated growth inhibition in ovarian cancer cells compared with a control siRNA. HEY cells treated with dasatinib plus paclitaxel formed fewer colonies than did cells treated with either agent alone. Treatment of HEY xenograft-bearing mice with dasatinib plus paclitaxel inhibited tumor growth more than treatment with either agent alone (average tumor volume per mouse, dasatinib + paclitaxel vs paclitaxel: 0.28 vs. 0.81 cm3, difference = 0.53 cm3, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.44 to 0.62 cm3, P = .014); dasatinib + paclitaxel vs. dasatinib: 0.28 vs. 0.55 cm3, difference = 0.27 cm3, 95% CI = 0.21 to 0.33 cm3, P = .035). Combined treatment induced more TUNEL-positive apoptotic cells than did either agent alone. The siRNA knockdown of p27(Kip1) decreased dasatinib- and paclitaxel-induced apoptosis compared with a negative control siRNA (sub-G1 fraction, control siRNA vs. p27(Kip1) siRNA: 42.5% vs. 20.1%, difference = 22.4%, 95% CI = 20.1% to 24.7%, P = .017). Studies with forced expression and siRNA knockdown of Bcl-2 and Cdk1 suggest that dasatinib-mediated induction of p27(Kip1) enhanced paclitaxel-induced apoptosis by negatively regulating Bcl-2 and Cdk1 expression. CONCLUSION: Inhibition of Src family and Abl kinases with either siRNAs or dasatinib enhances paclitaxel sensitivity of ovarian cancer cells through p27(Kip1)-mediated suppression of Bcl-2 and Cdk1 expression.

Ahmed AA, Wang X, Lu Z, Goldsmith J, Le X-F, Grandjean G, Bartholomeusz G, Broom B, Bast RC. 2011. Modulating microtubule stability enhances the cytotoxic response of cancer cells to Paclitaxel. Cancer Res, 71 (17), pp. 5806-5817. | Show Abstract | Read more

The extracellular matrix protein TGFBI enhances the cytotoxic response of cancer cells to paclitaxel by affecting integrin signals that stabilize microtubules. Extending the implications of this knowledge, we tested the more general hypothesis that cancer cell signals which increase microtubule stability before exposure to paclitaxel may increase its ability to stabilize microtubules and thereby enhance its cytotoxicity. Toward this end, we carried out an siRNA screen to evaluate how genetic depletion affected microtubule stabilization, cell viability, and apoptosis. High content microscopic analysis was carried out in the absence or presence of paclitaxel. Kinase knockdowns that stabilized microtubules strongly enhanced the effects of paclitaxel treatment. Conversely, kinase knockdowns that enhanced paclitaxel-mediated cytotoxicity sensitized cells to microtubule stabilization by paclitaxel. The siRNA screen identified several genes that have not been linked previously to microtubule regulation or paclitaxel response. Gene shaving and Bayesian resampling used to classify these genes suggested three pathways of paclitaxel-induced cell death related to apoptosis and microtubule stability, apoptosis alone, or neither process. Our results offer a functional classification of the genetic basis for paclitaxel sensitivity and they support the hypothesis that stabilizing microtubules prior to therapy could enhance antitumor responses to paclitaxel treatment.

Ahmed AA, Goldsmith J, Fokt I, Le X-F, Krzysko KA, Lesyng B, Bast RC, Priebe W. 2011. A genistein derivative, ITB-301, induces microtubule depolymerization and mitotic arrest in multidrug-resistant ovarian cancer. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol, 68 (4), pp. 1033-1044. | Show Abstract | Read more

PURPOSE: To investigate the mechanistic basis of the anti-tumor effect of the compound ITB-301. METHODS: Chemical modifications of genistein have been introduced to improve its solubility and efficacy. The anti-tumor effects were tested in ovarian cancer cells using proliferation assays, cell cycle analysis, immunofluorescence, and microscopy. RESULTS: In this work, we show that a unique glycoside of genistein, ITB-301, inhibits the proliferation of SKOv3 ovarian cancer cells. We found that the 50% growth inhibitory concentration of ITB-301 in SKOv3 cells was 0.5 μM. Similar results were obtained in breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and acute myelogenous leukemia cell lines. ITB-301 induced significant time- and dose-dependent microtubule depolymerization. This depolymerization resulted in mitotic arrest and inhibited proliferation in all ovarian cancer cell lines examined including SKOv3, ES2, HeyA8, and HeyA8-MDR cells. The cytotoxic effect of ITB-301 was dependent on its induction of mitotic arrest as siRNA-mediated depletion of BUBR1 significantly reduced the cytotoxic effects of ITB-301, even at a concentration of 10 μM. Importantly, efflux-mediated drug resistance did not alter the cytotoxic effect of ITB-301 in two independent cancer cell models of drug resistance. CONCLUSION: These results identify ITB-301 as a novel anti-tubulin agent that could be used in cancers that are multidrug resistant. We propose a structural model for the binding of ITB-301 to α- and β-tubulin dimers on the basis of molecular docking simulations. This model provides a rationale for future work aimed at designing of more potent analogs.

Ahmed AA, Lu Z, Jennings NB, Etemadmoghadam D, Capalbo L, Jacamo RO, Barbosa-Morais N, Le X-F, Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group, Vivas-Mejia P et al. 2010. SIK2 is a centrosome kinase required for bipolar mitotic spindle formation that provides a potential target for therapy in ovarian cancer. Cancer Cell, 18 (2), pp. 109-121. | Show Abstract | Read more

Regulators of mitosis have been successfully targeted to enhance response to taxane chemotherapy. Here, we show that the salt inducible kinase 2 (SIK2) localizes at the centrosome, plays a key role in the initiation of mitosis, and regulates the localization of the centrosome linker protein, C-Nap1, through S2392 phosphorylation. Interference with the known SIK2 inhibitor PKA induced SIK2-dependent centrosome splitting in interphase while SIK2 depletion blocked centrosome separation in mitosis, sensitizing ovarian cancers to paclitaxel in culture and in xenografts. Depletion of SIK2 also delayed G1/S transition and reduced AKT phosphorylation. Higher expression of SIK2 significantly correlated with poor survival in patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancers. We believe these data identify SIK2 as a plausible target for therapy in ovarian cancers.

Ahmed AA, Etemadmoghadam D, Temple J, Lynch AG, Riad M, Sharma R, Stewart C, Fereday S, Caldas C, Defazio A et al. 2010. Driver mutations in TP53 are ubiquitous in high grade serous carcinoma of the ovary. J Pathol, 221 (1), pp. 49-56. | Show Abstract | Read more

Numerous studies have tested the association between TP53 mutations in ovarian cancer and prognosis but these have been consistently confounded by limitations in study design, methodology, and/or heterogeneity in the sample cohort. High-grade serous (HGS) carcinoma is the most clinically important histological subtype of ovarian cancer. As these tumours may arise from the ovary, Fallopian tube or peritoneum, they are collectively referred to as high-grade pelvic serous carcinoma (HGPSC). To identify the true prevalence of TP53 mutations in HGPSC, we sequenced exons 2-11 and intron-exon boundaries in tumour DNA from 145 patients. HGPSC cases were defined as having histological grade 2 or 3 and FIGO stage III or IV. Surprisingly, pathogenic TP53 mutations were identified in 96.7% (n = 119/123) of HGPSC cases. Molecular and pathological review of mutation-negative cases showed evidence of p53 dysfunction associated with copy number gain of MDM2 or MDM4, or indicated the exclusion of samples as being low-grade serous tumours or carcinoma of uncertain primary site. Overall, p53 dysfunction rate approached 100% of confirmed HGPSCs. No association between TP53 mutation and progression-free or overall survival was found. From this first comprehensive mapping of TP53 mutation rate in a homogeneous group of HGPSC patients, we conclude that mutant TP53 is a driver mutation in the pathogenesis of HGPSC cancers. Because TP53 mutation is almost invariably present in HGPSC, it is not of substantial prognostic or predictive significance.

Griffin N, Grant LA, Freeman SJ, Jimenez-Linan M, Berman LH, Earl H, Ahmed AA, Crawford R, Brenton J, Sala E. 2009. Image-guided biopsy in patients with suspected ovarian carcinoma: a safe and effective technique? Eur Radiol, 19 (1), pp. 230-235. | Show Abstract | Read more

In patients with suspected advanced ovarian carcinoma, a precise histological diagnosis is required before commencing neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. This study aims to determine the diagnostic accuracy and complication rate of percutaneous biopsies performed under ultrasound or computed tomography guidance. Between 2002 to 2007, 60 consecutive image-guided percutaneous biopsies were performed in patients with suspected ovarian cancer. The following variables were recorded: tissue biopsied, imaging technique, experience of operator, biopsy needle gauge, number of passes, complications, and final histology. Forty-seven patients had omental biopsies, 12 pelvic mass biopsies, and 1 para-aortic lymph node biopsy. Thirty-five biopsies were performed under ultrasound, 25 under computed tomography guidance. Biopsy needle gauges ranged from 14-20 swg with two to five passes for each patient. There were no complications. Histology was obtained in 52 (87%) patients. Percutaneous image-guided biopsy of peritoneal disease or pelvic mass is safe with high diagnostic accuracy. The large-gauge biopsy needle is as safe as the small gauge needle, but has the added value of obtaining tissue samples for immunohistochemistry and genomic studies.

Ahmed AA, Mills AD, Ibrahim AEK, Temple J, Blenkiron C, Vias M, Massie CE, Iyer NG, McGeoch A, Crawford R et al. 2007. The extracellular matrix protein TGFBI induces microtubule stabilization and sensitizes ovarian cancers to paclitaxel. Cancer Cell, 12 (6), pp. 514-527. | Show Abstract | Read more

The extracellular matrix (ECM) can induce chemotherapy resistance via AKT-mediated inhibition of apoptosis. Here, we show that loss of the ECM protein TGFBI (transforming growth factor beta induced) is sufficient to induce specific resistance to paclitaxel and mitotic spindle abnormalities in ovarian cancer cells. Paclitaxel-resistant cells treated with recombinant TGFBI protein show integrin-dependent restoration of paclitaxel sensitivity via FAK- and Rho-dependent stabilization of microtubules. Immunohistochemical staining for TGFBI in paclitaxel-treated ovarian cancers from a prospective clinical trial showed that morphological changes of paclitaxel-induced cytotoxicity were restricted to areas of strong expression of TGFBI. These data show that ECM can mediate taxane sensitivity by modulating microtubule stability.

Krypuy M, Ahmed AA, Etemadmoghadam D, Hyland SJ, Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group, DeFazio A, Fox SB, Brenton JD, Bowtell DD, Dobrovic A. 2007. High resolution melting for mutation scanning of TP53 exons 5-8. BMC Cancer, 7 (1), pp. 168. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: p53 is commonly inactivated by mutations in the DNA-binding domain in a wide range of cancers. As mutant p53 often influences response to therapy, effective and rapid methods to scan for mutations in TP53 are likely to be of clinical value. We therefore evaluated the use of high resolution melting (HRM) as a rapid mutation scanning tool for TP53 in tumour samples. METHODS: We designed PCR amplicons for HRM mutation scanning of TP53 exons 5 to 8 and tested them with DNA from cell lines hemizygous or homozygous for known mutations. We assessed the sensitivity of each PCR amplicon using dilutions of cell line DNA in normal wild-type DNA. We then performed a blinded assessment on ovarian tumour DNA samples that had been previously sequenced for mutations in TP53 to assess the sensitivity and positive predictive value of the HRM technique. We also performed HRM analysis on breast tumour DNA samples with unknown TP53 mutation status. RESULTS: One cell line mutation was not readily observed when exon 5 was amplified. As exon 5 contained multiple melting domains, we divided the exon into two amplicons for further screening. Sequence changes were also introduced into some of the primers to improve the melting characteristics of the amplicon. Aberrant HRM curves indicative of TP53 mutations were observed for each of the samples in the ovarian tumour DNA panel. Comparison of the HRM results with the sequencing results revealed that each mutation was detected by HRM in the correct exon. For the breast tumour panel, we detected seven aberrant melt profiles by HRM and subsequent sequencing confirmed the presence of these and no other mutations in the predicted exons. CONCLUSION: HRM is an effective technique for simple and rapid scanning of TP53 mutations that can markedly reduce the amount of sequencing required in mutational studies of TP53.

Brenton JD, Ahmed AA, Caldas C. 2006. Molecular forecasting of breast cancer: Time to move forward with clinical testing - In reply JOURNAL OF CLINICAL ONCOLOGY, 24 (4), pp. 722-723. | Read more

Ozdağ H, Teschendorff AE, Ahmed AA, Hyland SJ, Blenkiron C, Bobrow L, Veerakumarasivam A, Burtt G, Subkhankulova T, Arends MJ et al. 2006. Differential expression of selected histone modifier genes in human solid cancers. BMC Genomics, 7 pp. 90. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Post-translational modification of histones resulting in chromatin remodelling plays a key role in the regulation of gene expression. Here we report characteristic patterns of expression of 12 members of 3 classes of chromatin modifier genes in 6 different cancer types: histone acetyltransferases (HATs)- EP300, CREBBP, and PCAF; histone deacetylases (HDACs)- HDAC1, HDAC2, HDAC4, HDAC5, HDAC7A, and SIRT1; and histone methyltransferases (HMTs)- SUV39H1and SUV39H2. Expression of each gene in 225 samples (135 primary tumours, 47 cancer cell lines, and 43 normal tissues) was analysedby QRT-PCR, normalized with 8 housekeeping genes, and given as a ratio by comparison with a universal reference RNA. RESULTS: This involved a total of 13,000 PCR assays allowing for rigorous analysis by fitting a linear regression model to the data. Mutation analysis of HDAC1, HDAC2, SUV39H1, and SUV39H2 revealed only two out of 181 cancer samples (both cell lines) with significant coding-sequence alterations. Supervised analysis and Independent Component Analysis showed that expression of many of these genes was able to discriminate tumour samples from their normal counterparts. Clustering based on the normalized expression ratios of the 12 genes also showed that most samples were grouped according to tissue type. Using a linear discriminant classifier and internal cross-validation revealed that with as few as 5 of the 12 genes, SIRT1, CREBBP, HDAC7A, HDAC5 and PCAF, most samples were correctly assigned. CONCLUSION: The expression patterns of HATs, HDACs, and HMTs suggest these genes are important in neoplastic transformation and have characteristic patterns of expression depending on tissue of origin, with implications for potential clinical application.

Krubasik D, Iyer NG, English WR, Ahmed AA, Vias M, Roskelley C, Brenton JD, Caldas C, Murphy G. 2006. Absence of p300 induces cellular phenotypic changes characteristic of epithelial to mesenchyme transition. Br J Cancer, 94 (9), pp. 1326-1332. | Show Abstract | Read more

p300 is a transcriptional cofactor and prototype histone acetyltransferase involved in regulating multiple cellular processes. We generated p300 deficient (p300-) cells from the colon carcinoma cell line HCT116 by gene targeting. Comparison of epithelial and mesenchymal proteins in p300- with parental HCT116 cells showed that a number of genes involved in cell and extracellular matrix interactions, typical of 'epithelial to mesenchyme transition' were differentially regulated at both the RNA and protein level. p300- cells were found to have aggressive 'cancer' phenotypes, with loss of cell-cell adhesion, defects in cell-matrix adhesion and increased migration through collagen and matrigel. Although migration was shown to be metalloproteinase mediated, these cells actually showed a downregulation or no change in the level of key metalloproteinases, indicating that changes in cellular adhesion properties can be critical for cellular mobility.

Naderi A, Ahmed AA, Wang Y, Brenton JD, Caldas C. 2005. Optimal amounts of fluorescent dye improve expression microarray results in tumor specimens. Mol Biotechnol, 30 (2), pp. 151-154. | Show Abstract | Read more

Expression microarrays have great potential for clinical use but variability of the results represents a challenge for reliable practical application. The amount of fluorescent dye used in microarray experiments is a significant source of variability that has not been systematically studied. Here we demonstrate that the quantity of Cy3 dye affects microarray results performed on tumor specimens. Signal-to-noise ratios and coefficients of variation are significantly improved by increasing Cy3 to 150-180 pmol, but any further increase does not improve the data. In conclusion, optimal amounts of dye reduce variability and improve reliability of expression microarray experiments.

Brenton JD, Carey LA, Ahmed AA, Caldas C. 2005. Molecular classification and molecular forecasting of breast cancer: ready for clinical application? J Clin Oncol, 23 (29), pp. 7350-7360. | Show Abstract | Read more

Profiling breast cancer with expression arrays has become common, and it has been suggested that the results from early studies will lead to understanding of the molecular differences between clinical cases and allow individualization of care. We critically review two main applications of expression profiling; studies unraveling novel breast cancer classifications and those that aim to identify novel markers for prediction of clinical outcome. Breast cancer may now be subclassified into luminal, basal, and HER2 subtypes with distinct differences in prognosis and response to therapy. However, profiling studies to identify predictive markers have suffered from methodologic problems that prevent general application of their results. Future work will need to reanalyze existing microarray data sets to identify more representative sets of candidate genes for use as prognostic signatures and will need to take into account the new knowledge of molecular subtypes of breast cancer when assessing predictive effects.

Ahmed AA, Brenton JD. 2005. Microarrays and breast cancer clinical studies: forgetting what we have not yet learnt. Breast Cancer Res, 7 (3), pp. 96-99. | Show Abstract | Read more

This review takes a sceptical view of the impact of breast cancer studies that have used microarrays to identify predictors of clinical outcome. In addition to discussing general pitfalls of microarray experiments, we also critically review the key breast cancer studies to highlight methodological problems in cohort selection, statistical analysis, validation of results and reporting of raw data. We conclude that the optimum use of microarrays in clinical studies requires further optimisation and standardisation of methodology and reporting, together with improvements in clinical study design.

Xie X, Bartholomeusz C, Ahmed AA, Kazansky A, Diao L, Baggerly KA, Hortobagyi GN, Ueno NT. 2013. Bisphosphorylated PEA-15 sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to paclitaxel by impairing the microtubule-destabilizing effect of SCLIP. Mol Cancer Ther, 12 (6), pp. 1099-1111. | Show Abstract | Read more

Paclitaxel is a standard chemotherapeutic agent for ovarian cancer. PEA-15 (phosphoprotein enriched in astrocytes-15 kDa) regulates cell proliferation, autophagy, apoptosis, and glucose metabolism and also mediates AKT-dependent chemoresistance in breast cancer. The functions of PEA-15 are tightly regulated by its phosphorylation status at Ser104 and Ser116. However, the effect of PEA-15 phosphorylation status on chemosensitivity of cancer cells remains unknown. Here, we tested the hypothesis that PEA-15 phosphorylated at both Ser104 and Ser116 (pPEA-15) sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to paclitaxel. We first found that knockdown of PEA-15 in PEA-15-high expressing HEY and OVTOKO ovarian cancer cells resulted in paclitaxel resistance, whereas re-expression of PEA-15 in these cells led to paclitaxel sensitization. We next found that SKOV3.ip1-DD cells (expressing phosphomimetic PEA-15) were more sensitive to paclitaxel than SKOV3.ip1-AA cells (expressing nonphosphorylatable PEA-15). Compared with SKOV3.ip1-vector and SKOV3.ip1-AA cells, SKOV3.ip1-DD cells displayed reduced cell viability, inhibited anchorage-independent growth, and augmented apoptosis when treated with paclitaxel. Furthermore, HEY and OVTOKO cells displayed enhanced paclitaxel sensitivity when transiently overexpressing phosphomimetic PEA-15 and reduced paclitaxel sensitivity when transiently overexpressing nonphosphorylatable PEA-15. These results indicate that pPEA-15 sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to paclitaxel. cDNA microarray analysis suggested that SCLIP (SCG10-like protein), a microtubule-destabilizing protein, is involved in pPEA-15-mediated chemosensitization. We found that reduced expression and possibly posttranslational modification of SCLIP following paclitaxel treatment impaired the microtubule-destabilizing effect of SCLIP, thereby promoting induction of mitotic arrest and apoptosis by paclitaxel. Our findings highlight the importance of pPEA-15 as a promising target for improving the efficacy of paclitaxel-based therapy in ovarian cancer.

Ahmed AA, Becker CM, Bast RC. 2012. The origin of ovarian cancer. BJOG, 119 (2), pp. 134-136. | Read more

Badgwell DB, Lu Z, Le K, Gao F, Yang M, Suh GK, Bao J-J, Das P, Andreeff M, Chen W et al. 2012. The tumor-suppressor gene ARHI (DIRAS3) suppresses ovarian cancer cell migration through inhibition of the Stat3 and FAK/Rho signaling pathways. Oncogene, 31 (1), pp. 68-79. | Show Abstract | Read more

Ovarian cancers migrate and metastasize over the surface of the peritoneal cavity. Consequently, dysregulation of mechanisms that limit cell migration may be particularly important in the pathogenesis of the disease. ARHI is an imprinted tumor-suppressor gene that is downregulated in >60% of ovarian cancers, and its loss is associated with decreased progression-free survival. ARHI encodes a 26-kDa GTPase with homology to Ras. In contrast to Ras, ARHI inhibits cell growth, but whether it also regulates cell motility has not been studied previously. Here we report that re-expression of ARHI decreases the motility of IL-6- and epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated SKOv3 and Hey ovarian cancer cells, inhibiting both chemotaxis and haptotaxis. ARHI binds to and sequesters Stat3 in the cytoplasm, preventing its translocation to the nucleus and localization in focal adhesion complexes. Stat3 siRNA or the JAK2 inhibitor AG490 produced similar inhibition of motility. However, the combination of ARHI expression with Stat3 knockdown or inhibition produced greatest inhibition in ovarian cancer cell migration, consistent with Stat3-dependent and Stat3-independent mechanisms. Consistent with two distinct signaling pathways, knockdown of Stat3 selectively inhibited IL-6-stimulated migration, whereas knockdown of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) preferentially inhibited EGF-stimulated migration. In EGF-stimulated ovarian cancer cells, re-expression of ARHI inhibited FAK(Y397) and Src(Y416) phosphorylation, disrupted focal adhesions, and blocked FAK-mediated RhoA signaling, resulting in decreased levels of GTP-RhoA. Re-expression of ARHI also disrupted the formation of actin stress fibers in a FAK- and RhoA-dependent manner. Thus, ARHI has a critical and previously uncharacterized role in the regulation of ovarian cancer cell migration, exerting inhibitory effects on two distinct signaling pathways.

Le X-F, Mao W, He G, Claret F-X, Xia W, Ahmed AA, Hung M-C, Siddik ZH, Bast RC. 2011. The role of p27(Kip1) in dasatinib-enhanced paclitaxel cytotoxicity in human ovarian cancer cells. J Natl Cancer Inst, 103 (18), pp. 1403-1422. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Less than 50% of ovarian cancers respond to paclitaxel. Effective strategies are needed to enhance paclitaxel sensitivity. METHODS: A library of silencing RNAs (siRNAs) was used to identify kinases that regulate paclitaxel sensitivity in human ovarian cancer SKOv3 cells. The effect of dasatinib, an inhibitor of Src and Abl kinases, on paclitaxel sensitivity was measured in ovarian cancer cells and HEY xenografts. The roles of p27(Kip1), Bcl-2, and Cdk1 in apoptosis induced by dasatinib and paclitaxel were assessed using a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assay, siRNA knockdown of gene expression, transfection with Bcl-2 and Cdk1 expression vectors, and flow cytometry. All statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS: Src family and Abl kinases were identified as modulators of paclitaxel sensitivity in SKOv3 cells. The siRNA knockdown of Src, Fyn, or Abl1 enhanced paclitaxel-mediated growth inhibition in ovarian cancer cells compared with a control siRNA. HEY cells treated with dasatinib plus paclitaxel formed fewer colonies than did cells treated with either agent alone. Treatment of HEY xenograft-bearing mice with dasatinib plus paclitaxel inhibited tumor growth more than treatment with either agent alone (average tumor volume per mouse, dasatinib + paclitaxel vs paclitaxel: 0.28 vs. 0.81 cm3, difference = 0.53 cm3, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.44 to 0.62 cm3, P = .014); dasatinib + paclitaxel vs. dasatinib: 0.28 vs. 0.55 cm3, difference = 0.27 cm3, 95% CI = 0.21 to 0.33 cm3, P = .035). Combined treatment induced more TUNEL-positive apoptotic cells than did either agent alone. The siRNA knockdown of p27(Kip1) decreased dasatinib- and paclitaxel-induced apoptosis compared with a negative control siRNA (sub-G1 fraction, control siRNA vs. p27(Kip1) siRNA: 42.5% vs. 20.1%, difference = 22.4%, 95% CI = 20.1% to 24.7%, P = .017). Studies with forced expression and siRNA knockdown of Bcl-2 and Cdk1 suggest that dasatinib-mediated induction of p27(Kip1) enhanced paclitaxel-induced apoptosis by negatively regulating Bcl-2 and Cdk1 expression. CONCLUSION: Inhibition of Src family and Abl kinases with either siRNAs or dasatinib enhances paclitaxel sensitivity of ovarian cancer cells through p27(Kip1)-mediated suppression of Bcl-2 and Cdk1 expression.

Ahmed AA, Wang X, Lu Z, Goldsmith J, Le X-F, Grandjean G, Bartholomeusz G, Broom B, Bast RC. 2011. Modulating microtubule stability enhances the cytotoxic response of cancer cells to Paclitaxel. Cancer Res, 71 (17), pp. 5806-5817. | Show Abstract | Read more

The extracellular matrix protein TGFBI enhances the cytotoxic response of cancer cells to paclitaxel by affecting integrin signals that stabilize microtubules. Extending the implications of this knowledge, we tested the more general hypothesis that cancer cell signals which increase microtubule stability before exposure to paclitaxel may increase its ability to stabilize microtubules and thereby enhance its cytotoxicity. Toward this end, we carried out an siRNA screen to evaluate how genetic depletion affected microtubule stabilization, cell viability, and apoptosis. High content microscopic analysis was carried out in the absence or presence of paclitaxel. Kinase knockdowns that stabilized microtubules strongly enhanced the effects of paclitaxel treatment. Conversely, kinase knockdowns that enhanced paclitaxel-mediated cytotoxicity sensitized cells to microtubule stabilization by paclitaxel. The siRNA screen identified several genes that have not been linked previously to microtubule regulation or paclitaxel response. Gene shaving and Bayesian resampling used to classify these genes suggested three pathways of paclitaxel-induced cell death related to apoptosis and microtubule stability, apoptosis alone, or neither process. Our results offer a functional classification of the genetic basis for paclitaxel sensitivity and they support the hypothesis that stabilizing microtubules prior to therapy could enhance antitumor responses to paclitaxel treatment.

Ahmed AA, Goldsmith J, Fokt I, Le X-F, Krzysko KA, Lesyng B, Bast RC, Priebe W. 2011. A genistein derivative, ITB-301, induces microtubule depolymerization and mitotic arrest in multidrug-resistant ovarian cancer. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol, 68 (4), pp. 1033-1044. | Show Abstract | Read more

PURPOSE: To investigate the mechanistic basis of the anti-tumor effect of the compound ITB-301. METHODS: Chemical modifications of genistein have been introduced to improve its solubility and efficacy. The anti-tumor effects were tested in ovarian cancer cells using proliferation assays, cell cycle analysis, immunofluorescence, and microscopy. RESULTS: In this work, we show that a unique glycoside of genistein, ITB-301, inhibits the proliferation of SKOv3 ovarian cancer cells. We found that the 50% growth inhibitory concentration of ITB-301 in SKOv3 cells was 0.5 μM. Similar results were obtained in breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and acute myelogenous leukemia cell lines. ITB-301 induced significant time- and dose-dependent microtubule depolymerization. This depolymerization resulted in mitotic arrest and inhibited proliferation in all ovarian cancer cell lines examined including SKOv3, ES2, HeyA8, and HeyA8-MDR cells. The cytotoxic effect of ITB-301 was dependent on its induction of mitotic arrest as siRNA-mediated depletion of BUBR1 significantly reduced the cytotoxic effects of ITB-301, even at a concentration of 10 μM. Importantly, efflux-mediated drug resistance did not alter the cytotoxic effect of ITB-301 in two independent cancer cell models of drug resistance. CONCLUSION: These results identify ITB-301 as a novel anti-tubulin agent that could be used in cancers that are multidrug resistant. We propose a structural model for the binding of ITB-301 to α- and β-tubulin dimers on the basis of molecular docking simulations. This model provides a rationale for future work aimed at designing of more potent analogs.

Ahmed AA, Lu Z, Jennings NB, Etemadmoghadam D, Capalbo L, Jacamo RO, Barbosa-Morais N, Le X-F, Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group, Vivas-Mejia P et al. 2010. SIK2 is a centrosome kinase required for bipolar mitotic spindle formation that provides a potential target for therapy in ovarian cancer. Cancer Cell, 18 (2), pp. 109-121. | Show Abstract | Read more

Regulators of mitosis have been successfully targeted to enhance response to taxane chemotherapy. Here, we show that the salt inducible kinase 2 (SIK2) localizes at the centrosome, plays a key role in the initiation of mitosis, and regulates the localization of the centrosome linker protein, C-Nap1, through S2392 phosphorylation. Interference with the known SIK2 inhibitor PKA induced SIK2-dependent centrosome splitting in interphase while SIK2 depletion blocked centrosome separation in mitosis, sensitizing ovarian cancers to paclitaxel in culture and in xenografts. Depletion of SIK2 also delayed G1/S transition and reduced AKT phosphorylation. Higher expression of SIK2 significantly correlated with poor survival in patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancers. We believe these data identify SIK2 as a plausible target for therapy in ovarian cancers.

Ahmed AA, Etemadmoghadam D, Temple J, Lynch AG, Riad M, Sharma R, Stewart C, Fereday S, Caldas C, Defazio A et al. 2010. Driver mutations in TP53 are ubiquitous in high grade serous carcinoma of the ovary. J Pathol, 221 (1), pp. 49-56. | Show Abstract | Read more

Numerous studies have tested the association between TP53 mutations in ovarian cancer and prognosis but these have been consistently confounded by limitations in study design, methodology, and/or heterogeneity in the sample cohort. High-grade serous (HGS) carcinoma is the most clinically important histological subtype of ovarian cancer. As these tumours may arise from the ovary, Fallopian tube or peritoneum, they are collectively referred to as high-grade pelvic serous carcinoma (HGPSC). To identify the true prevalence of TP53 mutations in HGPSC, we sequenced exons 2-11 and intron-exon boundaries in tumour DNA from 145 patients. HGPSC cases were defined as having histological grade 2 or 3 and FIGO stage III or IV. Surprisingly, pathogenic TP53 mutations were identified in 96.7% (n = 119/123) of HGPSC cases. Molecular and pathological review of mutation-negative cases showed evidence of p53 dysfunction associated with copy number gain of MDM2 or MDM4, or indicated the exclusion of samples as being low-grade serous tumours or carcinoma of uncertain primary site. Overall, p53 dysfunction rate approached 100% of confirmed HGPSCs. No association between TP53 mutation and progression-free or overall survival was found. From this first comprehensive mapping of TP53 mutation rate in a homogeneous group of HGPSC patients, we conclude that mutant TP53 is a driver mutation in the pathogenesis of HGPSC cancers. Because TP53 mutation is almost invariably present in HGPSC, it is not of substantial prognostic or predictive significance.

Griffin N, Grant LA, Freeman SJ, Jimenez-Linan M, Berman LH, Earl H, Ahmed AA, Crawford R, Brenton J, Sala E. 2009. Image-guided biopsy in patients with suspected ovarian carcinoma: a safe and effective technique? Eur Radiol, 19 (1), pp. 230-235. | Show Abstract | Read more

In patients with suspected advanced ovarian carcinoma, a precise histological diagnosis is required before commencing neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. This study aims to determine the diagnostic accuracy and complication rate of percutaneous biopsies performed under ultrasound or computed tomography guidance. Between 2002 to 2007, 60 consecutive image-guided percutaneous biopsies were performed in patients with suspected ovarian cancer. The following variables were recorded: tissue biopsied, imaging technique, experience of operator, biopsy needle gauge, number of passes, complications, and final histology. Forty-seven patients had omental biopsies, 12 pelvic mass biopsies, and 1 para-aortic lymph node biopsy. Thirty-five biopsies were performed under ultrasound, 25 under computed tomography guidance. Biopsy needle gauges ranged from 14-20 swg with two to five passes for each patient. There were no complications. Histology was obtained in 52 (87%) patients. Percutaneous image-guided biopsy of peritoneal disease or pelvic mass is safe with high diagnostic accuracy. The large-gauge biopsy needle is as safe as the small gauge needle, but has the added value of obtaining tissue samples for immunohistochemistry and genomic studies.

Ahmed AA, Mills AD, Ibrahim AEK, Temple J, Blenkiron C, Vias M, Massie CE, Iyer NG, McGeoch A, Crawford R et al. 2007. The extracellular matrix protein TGFBI induces microtubule stabilization and sensitizes ovarian cancers to paclitaxel. Cancer Cell, 12 (6), pp. 514-527. | Show Abstract | Read more

The extracellular matrix (ECM) can induce chemotherapy resistance via AKT-mediated inhibition of apoptosis. Here, we show that loss of the ECM protein TGFBI (transforming growth factor beta induced) is sufficient to induce specific resistance to paclitaxel and mitotic spindle abnormalities in ovarian cancer cells. Paclitaxel-resistant cells treated with recombinant TGFBI protein show integrin-dependent restoration of paclitaxel sensitivity via FAK- and Rho-dependent stabilization of microtubules. Immunohistochemical staining for TGFBI in paclitaxel-treated ovarian cancers from a prospective clinical trial showed that morphological changes of paclitaxel-induced cytotoxicity were restricted to areas of strong expression of TGFBI. These data show that ECM can mediate taxane sensitivity by modulating microtubule stability.

Krypuy M, Ahmed AA, Etemadmoghadam D, Hyland SJ, Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group, DeFazio A, Fox SB, Brenton JD, Bowtell DD, Dobrovic A. 2007. High resolution melting for mutation scanning of TP53 exons 5-8. BMC Cancer, 7 (1), pp. 168. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: p53 is commonly inactivated by mutations in the DNA-binding domain in a wide range of cancers. As mutant p53 often influences response to therapy, effective and rapid methods to scan for mutations in TP53 are likely to be of clinical value. We therefore evaluated the use of high resolution melting (HRM) as a rapid mutation scanning tool for TP53 in tumour samples. METHODS: We designed PCR amplicons for HRM mutation scanning of TP53 exons 5 to 8 and tested them with DNA from cell lines hemizygous or homozygous for known mutations. We assessed the sensitivity of each PCR amplicon using dilutions of cell line DNA in normal wild-type DNA. We then performed a blinded assessment on ovarian tumour DNA samples that had been previously sequenced for mutations in TP53 to assess the sensitivity and positive predictive value of the HRM technique. We also performed HRM analysis on breast tumour DNA samples with unknown TP53 mutation status. RESULTS: One cell line mutation was not readily observed when exon 5 was amplified. As exon 5 contained multiple melting domains, we divided the exon into two amplicons for further screening. Sequence changes were also introduced into some of the primers to improve the melting characteristics of the amplicon. Aberrant HRM curves indicative of TP53 mutations were observed for each of the samples in the ovarian tumour DNA panel. Comparison of the HRM results with the sequencing results revealed that each mutation was detected by HRM in the correct exon. For the breast tumour panel, we detected seven aberrant melt profiles by HRM and subsequent sequencing confirmed the presence of these and no other mutations in the predicted exons. CONCLUSION: HRM is an effective technique for simple and rapid scanning of TP53 mutations that can markedly reduce the amount of sequencing required in mutational studies of TP53.

Brenton JD, Ahmed AA, Caldas C. 2006. Molecular forecasting of breast cancer: Time to move forward with clinical testing - In reply JOURNAL OF CLINICAL ONCOLOGY, 24 (4), pp. 722-723. | Read more

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