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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009 Jan;2(1):27-36. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0147.

Targeting mammalian target of rapamycin by rapamycin prevents tumor progression in an oral-specific chemical carcinogenesis model.

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Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH, 30 Convent Drive, Building 30, Bethesda, MD 20892-4340, USA.


The increased molecular understanding of cancerous growth may now afford the opportunity to develop novel therapies targeting specific dysregulated molecular mechanisms contributing to the progression of each cancer type. In this regard, the aberrant activation of Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway is a frequent event in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC), thus representing a potential molecular target for the treatment of HNSCC patients. The ability to translate this emerging body of information into effective therapeutic strategies, however, has been hampered by the limited availability of animal models for oral malignancies. Here, we show that the administration in the drinking water to mice of 4-nitroquinoline-1 oxide, a DNA adduct-forming agent that serves as a surrogate of tobacco exposure, leads to the progressive appearance of preneoplastic and tumoral lesions in the tongue and oral mucosa, with 100% incidence after only 16 weeks of carcinogen exposure. Remarkably, many of these lesions evolve spontaneously into highly malignant SCCs few weeks after 4-nitroquinoline-1 oxide withdrawal. In this model, we have observed that the activation of the Akt-mTOR biochemical route represents an early event, which is already detectable in dysplastic lesions. Furthermore, we show that the inhibition of mTOR by the chronic administration of rapamycin halts the malignant conversion of precancerous lesions and promotes the regression of advanced carcinogen-induced SCCs. Together, these findings support the contribution of the mTOR signaling pathway to HNSCC progression and provide a strong rationale for the early evaluation of mTOR inhibitors as a molecular-targeted strategy for HNSCC chemoprevention and treatment.

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