Cyclin E, a key regulatory protein controlling the G1 to S phase transition in mammalian cells, is post- translationally modified by neutrophil elastase mediated proteolytic cleavage to generate the low molecular weight isoforms of cyclin E (LMW-E) that are detected in many cancer types. Our laboratory has elucidated several distinct oncological attributes of LMW-E versus full length cyclin E (EL) in breast cancer, using in vitro and in vivo model systems. In this application, using a robust inducible murine transgenic model of LMW-E mediated tumorigenesis, we have mapped some of the early events in the pre-neoplastic mammary gland that gives rise to aggressive tumors with high metastatic potential. These LMW-E oncogenic events permit the induction of sustained tumorigenesis even in the absence of LMW-E expression. These events include induction of DNA damage, upregulation of several genes involved in unregulated DNA replication and G2/M transition, and specific mutations in genes, such as ALK, that is readily targetable. These preliminary results have led to the following three testable hypotheses: (1) expression of LMW-E early in the pre-invasive breast cancer (i.e. ductal carcinoma in situ) results in induction of genomic alteration leading to an invasive carcinoma, (2) LMW-E in a cyclin E knockout model will result in a more aggressive phenotype than overexpression of EL, resulting in increased genomic instability, centrosome amplification and transformability in hMECs, (3) Inhibition of ALK, a secondary oncogenic event to LMW-E induction, early in the neoplastic process can inhibit tumorigenesis and also be used as a target for the treatment of triple negative breast cancers (TNBC) expressing LMW-E. The following aims are designed to test each aspect of these 3 hypotheses:
Aim 1 :Examine the role of cytoplasmic cyclin E in differentiating indolent versus high-risk ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Aim 2 : Investigate the mechanism of LMW-E mediated DNA damage response and centrosome amplification in the absence of endogenous cyclin E in somatic hMEC models.
Aim 3 : Investigate the role of ALK as a mediator of LMW-E mediated mammary tumorigenesis and as a therapeutic target in TNBC. These studies have the potential to identify LMW-E-induced early oncogenic events and provide the rationale to use LMW-E as a biomarker to identify the DCIS cases which are at high risk for developing invasive cancer. Our studies will show if ALK can be a viable target for the LMW-E overexpressing TNBC patients. Since there are already several ALK inhibitors, which have undergone Phase I-III clinical trials in malignancies other than breast, the translational of these pre-clinical studies to TNBC patients could occur readily.

Public Health Relevance

The information gained through the proposed studies could have tremendous clinical relevance for patients with early stage and advanced breast cancer. We already know that LMW-E expression correlates with poor patient outcome; LMW-E expression may also identify those early stage breast cancers, such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) which are at high risk for invasive recurrence of breast cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Molecular Oncogenesis Study Section (MONC)
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Willis, Kristine Amalee
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University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
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Caruso, Joseph A; Duong, Mylinh T; Carey, Jason P W et al. (2018) Low-Molecular-Weight Cyclin E in Human Cancer: Cellular Consequences and Opportunities for Targeted Therapies. Cancer Res 78:5481-5491
Chen, Xian; Low, Kwang-Huei; Alexander, Angela et al. (2018) Cyclin E Overexpression Sensitizes Triple-Negative Breast Cancer to Wee1 Kinase Inhibition. Clin Cancer Res 24:6594-6610
Francis, Ashleigh M; Alexander, Angela; Liu, Yanna et al. (2017) CDK4/6 Inhibitors Sensitize Rb-positive Sarcoma Cells to Wee1 Kinase Inhibition through Reversible Cell-Cycle Arrest. Mol Cancer Ther 16:1751-1764