NF-kappaB includes a family of signal-activated transcription factors that normally regulate responses to injury and infection but which are aberrantly activated in many carcinomas. Cumulative evidence implicates NF-kappaB in cell survival, inflammation, angiogenesis, spread and therapeutic resistance during tumor development, progression and metastasis of carcinomas. Non-specific natural and synthetic agents that inhibit NF-kappaB have demonstrated activity and safety in prevention or therapy. NF-kappaB-activating kinases and the proteasome are under investigation for targeted prevention and therapy of carcinoma. We completed our phase I clinical trial of proteasome inhibitor bortezomib with reirradiation for patients with recurrent HNSCC (01-C-0104). Correlative studies revealed that treatment significantly enhanced apoptosis with inhibition of nuclear RELA, but other NF-kappaB subunits, ERK1/2, and STAT3 were variably or not affected, and tumor progression was often observed within 3 months. Overall, 5/17 patients treated at the initial dose level demonstrated partial responses. Accrual of 6 patients has been completed at the 0.9mg/m2 dose level, defining it as the maximally tolerated dose with a new schedule that provides a two week break from drug treatment. Studies in HNSCC cell lines, indicated that bortezomib partially inhibits basal activation of NF-kappaB1/RELA, but not NF-kappaB2/RELB, or MAPK-AP-1 activation. We conclude that although bortezomib inhibits activation of subunits of the canonical pathway, it does not block nuclear activation of the noncanonical NF-kappaB or MAPK-AP-1 or STAT3 prosurvival signal pathways, which may contribute to the heterogeneous responses observed in HNSCC. Combination of bortezomib with MAPK JNK inhibitor in vitro showed increased activity, indicating potential of combining bortezomib with other signal pathway inhibitors. A collaborative trial (NIH protocol 08-C-0071) with NCI and University of Pittsburgh NCI SPORE investigators combining bortezomib to inhibit NF-kB, with Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor inhibitor antibody cetuximab to inhibit MAPK and STAT3, was completed and published in the past year (Argiris et al., Clin Cancer Res, 2011). 7 patients were accrued, with dose escalation of 3 patients each at 0.7,1.0, and one at 1.3mg/m2 without dose limiting toxicity. Preliminary assessment indicated a modest complete response rate in 3/7 subjects, with shorter than expected disease free survival, prompting closure of accrual. Correlative stuides revealed that Bortezomib antagonized degradation of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor. ECOG 1304, a phase II multicenter study of bortezomib alone or in combination with irinotecan was completed and reported (Gilbert et al, Head Neck, 2012). Individual responses were seen in each arm, which was insufficient to recommend further trial of bortezomib alone or in combination with irinotecan for head and neck cancer. Studies defining the role of TGFbeta and upstream kinases TAK1, as key signal activators of NF-kB RELA transactivation were completed and manuscript published (Freudlsperger, Oncogene, 2012). The role of NF-kB in regulation of Chemokine Receptor 7, previously shown to promote head and neck cancer growth and metastasis was reported (Mburu et al, J Biol Chem, 2012)

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Zip Code
Si, H; Lu, H; Yang, X et al. (2016) TNF-α modulates genome-wide redistribution of ΔNp63α/TAp73 and NF-κB cREL interactive binding on TP53 and AP-1 motifs to promote an oncogenic gene program in squamous cancer. Oncogene 35:5781-5794
Davis, Ruth J; Van Waes, Carter; Allen, Clint T (2016) Overcoming barriers to effective immunotherapy: MDSCs, TAMs, and Tregs as mediators of the immunosuppressive microenvironment in head and neck cancer. Oral Oncol 58:59-70
Eytan, Danielle F; Snow, Grace E; Carlson, Sophie et al. (2016) SMAC Mimetic Birinapant plus Radiation Eradicates Human Head and Neck Cancers with Genomic Amplifications of Cell Death Genes FADD and BIRC2. Cancer Res 76:5442-54
Moore, Ellen C; Cash, Harrison A; Caruso, Andria M et al. (2016) Enhanced Tumor Control with Combination mTOR and PD-L1 Inhibition in Syngeneic Oral Cavity Cancers. Cancer Immunol Res 4:611-20
Cancer Genome Atlas Network (2015) Comprehensive genomic characterization of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Nature 517:576-82
Allen, Clint T; Van Waes, Carter (2015) Immunohistochemical analysis of NF-κB in human tumor tissue. Methods Mol Biol 1280:459-68
Zhang, Jialing; Yan, Bin; Späth, Stephan Stanislaw et al. (2015) Integrated transcriptional profiling and genomic analyses reveal RPN2 and HMGB1 as promising biomarkers in colorectal cancer. Cell Biosci 5:53
Eytan, Danielle F; Snow, Grace E; Carlson, Sophie G et al. (2015) Combination effects of SMAC mimetic birinapant with TNFα, TRAIL, and docetaxel in preclinical models of HNSCC. Laryngoscope 125:E118-24
Hayes, D Neil; Van Waes, Carter; Seiwert, Tanguy Y (2015) Genetic Landscape of Human Papillomavirus-Associated Head and Neck Cancer and Comparison to Tobacco-Related Tumors. J Clin Oncol 33:3227-34
Mohan, Suresh; Vander Broek, Robert; Shah, Sujay et al. (2015) MEK Inhibitor PD-0325901 Overcomes Resistance to PI3K/mTOR Inhibitor PF-5212384 and Potentiates Antitumor Effects in Human Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Clin Cancer Res 21:3946-56

Showing the most recent 10 out of 26 publications