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Int J Cancer. 2007 Apr 15;120(8):1803-10.

Mammalian target of rapamycin is activated in human gastric cancer and serves as a target for therapy in an experimental model.

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Department of Surgery, University of Regensburg, Medical Center, Regensburg, Germany.


The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) has become an interesting target for cancer therapy through its influence on oncogenic signals, which involve phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase and hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha). Since mTOR is an upstream regulator of HIF-1alpha, a key mediator of gastric cancer growth and angiogenesis, we investigated mTOR activation in human gastric adenocarcinoma specimens and determined whether rapamycin could inhibit gastric cancer growth in mice. Expression of phospho-mTOR was assessed by immunohistochemical analyses of human tissues. For in vitro studies, human gastric cancer cell lines were used to determine S6K1, 4E-BP-1 and HIF-1alpha activation and cancer cell motility upon rapamycin treatment. Effects of rapamycin on tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo were assessed in both a subcutaneous tumor model and in an experimental model with orthotopically grown tumors. Mice received either rapamycin (0.5 mg/kg/day or 1.5 mg/kg/day) or diluent per intra-peritoneal injections. In addition, antiangiogenic effects were monitored in vivo using a dorsal-skin-fold chamber model. Immunohistochemical analyses showed strong expression of phospho-mTOR in 60% of intestinal- and 64% of diffuse-type human gastric adenocarcinomas. In vitro, rapamycin-treatment effectively blocked S6K1, 4E-BP-1 and HIF-1alpha activation, and significantly impaired tumor cell migration. In vivo, rapamycin-treatment led to significant inhibition of subcutaneous tumor growth, decreased CD31-positive vessel area and reduced tumor cell proliferation. Similar significant results were obtained in an orthotopic model of gastric cancer. In the dorsal-skin-fold chamber model, rapamycin-treatment significantly inhibited tumor vascularization in vivo. In conclusion, mTOR is frequently activated in human gastric cancer and represents a promising new molecular target for therapy.

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