Purpose: Aurora kinase A (AURKA) is overexpressed in several cancer types, making it an attractive druggable target in clinical trials. In this study, we investigated the role of AURKA in regulating EIF4E, cap-dependent translation, and resistance to mTOR inhibitor, RAD001 (everolimus).
Experimental Design: Tumor xenografts and in vitro cell models of upper gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas (UGC) were used to determine the role of AURKA in the activation of EIF4E and cap-dependent translation. Overexpression, knockdown, and pharmacologic inhibition of AURKA were used in vitro and in vivo.
Results: Using in vitro cell models, we found that high protein levels of AURKA mediate phosphorylation of EIF4E and upregulation of c-MYC. Notably, we detected overexpression of endogenous AURKA in everolimus-resistant UGC cell models. AURKA mediated phosphorylation of EIF4E, activation of cap-dependent translation, and an increase in c-MYC protein levels. Targeting AURKA using genetic knockdown or a small-molecule inhibitor, alisertib, reversed these molecular events, leading to a decrease in cancer cell survival in acquired and intrinsic resistant cell models. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that AURKA binds to and inactivates protein phosphatase 2A, a negative regulator of EIF4E, leading to phosphorylation and activation of EIF4E in an AKT-, ERK1/2-, and mTOR-independent manner. Data from tumor xenograft mouse models confirmed that everolimus-resistant cancer cells are sensitive to alisertib.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that AURKA plays an important role in the activation of EIF4E and cap-dependent translation. Targeting the AURKA–EIF4E–c-MYC axis using alisertib is a novel therapeutic strategy that can be applicable for everolimus-resistant tumors and/or subgroups of cancers that show overexpression of AURKA and activation of EIF4E and c-MYC. Clin Cancer Res; 1–13. ©2017 AACR.
- Received August 31, 2016.
- Revision received December 29, 2016.
- Accepted December 29, 2016.
- ©2017 American Association for Cancer Research.