A novel E2F/Sphingosine kinase 1 axis regulates anthracycline response in squamous cell carcinoma

Mehlika Hazar-Rethinam, etc
Clinical Cancer Research, 2014

Purpose:Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are frequently drug resistant and have a mortality rate of 45%. We have previously shown that E2F7 may contribute to drug resistance in SCC cells. However, the mechanism and pathways involved remain unknown. Experimental Design:We used transcriptomic profiling to identify candidate pathways that may contribute to E2F7-dependent resistance to anthracyclines. We then manipulated the activity/expression of the candidate pathway using overexpression, knockdown and pharmacological inhibitors in in vitro and in vivo models of SCC to demonstrate causality. In addition, we examined the expression of E2F7 and a downstream effector in a tissue microarray (TMA) generated from HNSCC patient samples. Results:E2F7-deficient keratinocytes were selectively sensitive to doxorubicin and this was reversed by overexpressing E2F7. Transcriptomic profiling identified Sphingosine kinase 1 (Sphk1) as a potential mediator of E2F7-dependent drug resistance. Knockdown and overexpression studies revealed that Sphk1 was a downstream target of E2F7. TMA studies showed that E2F7 overexpression correlated with Sphk1 overexpression in human HNSCC. Moreover, inhibition of Sphk1 by shRNA or the Sphk1 specific inhibitor, SK1-I (BML-EI411), enhanced the sensitivity of SCC cells to doxorubicin in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, E2F7 induced doxorubicin resistance was mediated via Sphk1-dependent activation of AKT in vitro and in vivo. Conclusions:We identify a novel drugable pathway in which E2F7 directly increases the transcription and activity of the Sphk1/S1P axis resulting in activation of AKT and subsequent drug resistance. Collectively, this novel combinatorial therapy can potentially be trialed in humans using existing agents.

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Clinical Cancer Research
doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1962
University of Queensland