Smurf2 inhibition enhances chemotherapy and radiation sensitivity in non-small-cell lung cancer

Kunal R. Chaudhary, Connor J. Kinslow, Haiying Cheng, Jose M. Silva, Jiyang Yu, Tony J. Wang, Tom K. Hei, Balazs Halmos, Simon K. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Lung cancer has been the most common cancer worldwide for several decades. The outcomes of patients with locally advanced lung cancer remain dismal, and only a minority of patients survive more than 5 years. However, tumor therapeutic resistance mechanisms are poorly studied. Identification of therapeutic resistance pathways in lung cancer in order to increase the sensitivity of lung tumor cells to therapeutic agents is a crucial but challenging need. To identify novel genes that modulate the response to platinum-based therapy, we performed a genome-wide high-throughput ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) screen via transfection of human lung cancer (PC9) cells with a viral short hairpin RNA (shRNA) library. We further validated a potential target via 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) and clonogenic survival assays on PC9 and A549 lung tumor cells transfected with small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to successfully downregulate protein expression and then treated with increasing doses of cisplatin or X-ray radiation. We determined protein expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC) after chemoradiotherapy and analyzed gene expression-based survival outcomes in two cohorts of human non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. The screen identified several targets involved in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), including Smurf1, Smurf2, YAP1, and CEBPZ, and glycolytic pathway proteins, including PFKFB3. Furthermore, we found that the small molecule proteasome inhibitor bortezomib significantly downregulated Smurf2 in lung cancer cells. The addition of bortezomib in combination with cisplatin and radiation therapy in PC9 and A549 cells led to an increase in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) double-strand breaks with increased numbers of γ-H2AX-positive cells and upregulation of apoptosis. Finally, we found that Smurf2 protein expression was upregulated in situ after treatment with cisplatin and radiation therapy in a relevant cohort of patients with stage III NSCLC. Additionally, Smurf2 gene expression was the strongest predictor of survival in patients with squamous NSCLC after chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy. We successfully identified and validated Smurf2 as both a common modulator of resistance and an actionable target in lung cancer. These results suggest the urgent need to investigate clinical Smurf2 inhibition via bortezomib in combination with cisplatin and radiation for patients with locally advanced NSCLC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10140
JournalScientific reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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