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Mol Cancer Ther. 2007 Apr;6(4):1212-22. Epub 2007 Apr 3.

MAP-ing glioma invasion: mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 3 and p38 drive glioma invasion and progression and predict patient survival.

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  • 1Cancer and Cell Biology Division, Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA.


Although astrocytic brain tumors do not metastasize systemically, during tumorigenesis glioma cells adopt an invasive phenotype that is poorly targeted by conventional therapies; hence, glioma patients die of recurrence from the locally invasive tumor population. Our work is aimed at identifying and validating novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers in invasive human gliomas. Transcriptomes of invasive glioma cells relative to stationary cognates were produced from a three-dimensional spheroid in vitro invasion assay by laser capture microdissection and whole human genome expression microarrays. Qualitative differential expression of candidate invasion genes was confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, clinically by immunohistochemistry on tissue microarray, by immunoblotting on surgical specimens, and on two independent gene expression data sets of glial tumors. Cell-based assays and ex vivo brain slice invasion studies were used for functional validation. We identify mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase 3 (MKK3) as a key activator of p38 MAPK in glioma; MKK3 activation is strongly correlated with p38 activation in vitro and in vivo. We further report that these members of the MAPK family are strong promoters of tumor invasion, progression, and poor patient survival. Inhibition of either candidate leads to significantly reduced glioma invasiveness in vitro. Consistent with the concept of synthetic lethality, we show that inhibition of invasion by interference with these genes greatly sensitizes arrested glioma cells to cytotoxic therapies. Our findings therefore argue that interference with MKK3 signaling through a novel treatment combination of p38 inhibitor plus temozolomide heightens the vulnerability of glioma to chemotherapy.

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