Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Differential Regulation of the EMT Axis by MEKl/2 and MEKS in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
by Hoang, Van Tuyet, Ph.D., Tulane University, 2016, 147; 10244620
Abstract (Summary)

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) presents a clinical challenge due to the aggressive nature of the disease and a lack of targeted therapies. Constitutive activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway has been linked to chemoresistance and metastatic progression through distinct mechanisms, including activation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) whereby cells adopt a motile and invasive phenotype through loss of epithelial markers, namely Cadherin 1/E-Cadherin (CDH1), and acquisition of mesenchymal markers, such as vimentin (VIM) and Cadherin 2/N-Cadherin (CDH2). While MAPK/ERK1/2 kinase inhibitors (MEKi) have shown promise as antitumor agents in the preclinical setting, application has had limited success clinically. Activation of compensatory signaling, potentially contributing to the emergence of drug resistance, has shifted the therapeutic strategy to combine MEK1/2 inhibitors with agents targeting oncoproteins (RAF) or parallel growth pathways (PI3K).

Conventional MAPK family members have been well-characterized in modulation of cellular processes involved in tumor initiation and progression, yet the role of MEK5-ERK5 in cancer biology is not completely understood. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of the MEK5 pathway in metastatic progression of various cancer types, including those of the prostate, colon, bone and breast. Furthermore, elevated levels of ERK5 expression and activity observed in breast carcinomas are linked to worse prognosis in TNBC patients. The purpose of this work is to explore MEK5 regulation of the EMT axis and to evaluate a novel pan-MEK inhibitor on clinically aggressive TNBC cells.

Our results show a distinction between the MEK1/2 and MEK5 cascades in maintenance of the mesenchymal phenotype, suggesting that the MEK5 pathway may be necessary and sufficient in EMT regulation while MEK1/2 signaling further sustains the mesenchymal state of TNBC cells. Furthermore, additive effects on MET induction are evident through the inhibition of both MEK1/2 and MEK5. Taken together, these data demonstrate the need for a better understanding of the individual roles of MEK1/2 and MEK5 signaling in breast cancer and provide rationale for combined targeting of these pathways to circumvent compensatory signaling and subsequent therapeutic resistance.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Burow, Matthew E.
Commitee: Collins-Burow, Bridgette M., Freytag, Lucia C., Morris, Cindy A., Rowan, Brian G.
School: Tulane University
Department: Biomedical Sciences
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-B 78/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Molecular biology
Keywords: Breast cancer, EMT, ERK5, MAPK, MEK inhibitor, MEK5
Publication Number: 10244620
ISBN: 9781369684285
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