Urothelial carcinoma of the bladder is unique among epithelial carcinomas in its divergent pathways of tumorigenesis. Low-grade papillary tumours rarely become muscle-invasive and they frequently harbour gene mutations that constitutively activate the receptor tyrosine kinase-Ras pathway. By contrast, most high-grade invasive tumours progress to life-threatening metastases and have defects in the p53 and the retinoblastoma protein pathways. Correcting pathway-specific defects represents an attractive strategy for the molecular therapy of urothelial carcinomas.
Papillary and invasive cancers of the urinary bladder appear to evolve and progress through distinct molecular pathways. Invasion in bladder cancer forebodes a graver prognosis, and these tumors are generally characterized by alterations in the p53 and retinoblastoma (RB) pathways that normally regulate the cell cycle by interacting with the Ras-mitogen activated protein kinase signal transduction pathway. Tumor angiogenesis further contributes to the neoplastic growth by providing a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients. Distinct epigenetic and genetic events characterize the interplay between the molecules involved in these pathways, thus affording their use as indicators of prognosis. Efforts are now underway to construct molecular panels comprising multiple markers that can serve as more robust predictors of outcome. While clinical trials for targeted chemotherapy for bladder cancer have commenced, novel genetic and pharmacologic agents that can target pathway-specific molecules are currently under development. The next generation of clinical management for urothelial carcinoma will witness the use of multimarker panels for prognostic prediction and combination therapy directed at novel molecular targets for treatment.
Stimulation of the Ras-mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal transduction pathway results in a multitude of events including expression of the immediate-early genes, c-fos and c-myc. Downstream targets of this stimulated pathway are the mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinases (MSK) 1 and 2, which are histone H3 kinases. In chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, it has been shown that the mitogen-induced phosphorylated H3 is associated with the immediate-early genes and that MSK1/2 activity and H3 phosphorylation have roles in chromatin remodeling and transcription of these genes. In oncogene-transformed fibroblasts in which the Ras-MAPK pathway is constitutively active, histone H1 and H3 phosphorylation is increased and the chromatin of these cells has a more relaxed structure than the parental cells. In this review we explore the deregulation of the Ras-MAPK pathway in cancer, with an emphasis on breast cancer. We discuss the features of MSK1 and 2 and the impact of a constitutively activated Ras-MAPK pathway on chromatin remodeling and gene expression.
There is substantial evidence for the existence of mutually exclusive molecular pathways to tumorigenesis, in the formation of papillary and invasive carcinomas, respectively. The most common genetic alterations in low grade papillary transitional-cell carcinoma (TCC) are loss of heterozygosity of part or all of chromosome 9 and activating mutations of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3). The pathway to development of invasive TCC seems to start with dysplasia, progress to carcinoma in situ, followed by invasion of the lamina propria. The most frequent genetic alteration in dysplasia and carcinoma in situ is mutation of TP53, followed by loss of heterozygosity of chromosome 9. A marker for progression in TCC is loss of chromosome 8p, which occurs in approximately 60% of bladder tumors. Global trends of increased genomic instability and aberrant methylation of cytosine residues in DNA correlate with increased tumor invasion and progression. When researching markers of bladder cancer for clinical use, it is important that biomedical pathways and their alterations are measured in the same tumor populations. This review examines the published data and proposes a model for the mechanisms behind bladder cancer development.
Thymidine phosphorylase (TP) (E.C. 188.8.131.52), also known as platelet-derived endothelial cell growth factor, is a potent angiogenic factor. The expression of TP correlates with poor prognosis in a range of tumor types. 2-Deoxy-D-ribose-1-phosphate, a product of thymidine catabolism by TP, is a strongly reducing sugar that generates oxygen radical species during the early stages of protein glycation. We show that thymidine induces oxidative stress in TP-overexpressing carcinoma cells, promoting secretion of the stress-induced angiogenic factors vascular endothelial growth factor and interleukin-8, and inducing matrix metalloproteinase-1. Our findings outline a putative mechanism for TP-induced angiogenesis and identify novel targets for intervention.
The improved understanding of the molecular biology of urothelial malignancies is helping to define the role of new targets and prognostic indices that can direct the most appropriate choice of treatment for advanced disease. Many human tumors express high levels of growth factors and their receptors that can be used as potential therapeutical targets. Tyrosine-kinase receptors, including many growth factor receptors such the receptors for epidermal growth factor (EGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and Her2/neu, have been found overexpressed in urothelial tumors. For many of these growth factor receptors, the degree of expression has been associated with the progression of cancer and a poor prognosis. Among the best studied growth factor receptors are the two members of EGF receptor familiy EGFr (ErbB-1), and Her2/neu (ErbB-2). Several preclinical studies in bladder cancer models, have confirmed that systemic administration of growth factor inhibitors inhibits the growth and metastasis of human transitional cell carcinoma established in the bladder wall of athymic nude mice. Additional studies indicate that therapy with EGFR inhibitors enhances the activity of conventional cytoreductive chemotherapeutic agents, in part by inhibiting tumor cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and inducing apoptosis. Novel targeted therapy hold promise to improve the current results of bladder cancer treatment. Based on the success seen with anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies (Herceptin) and the promising results with EGFR targeted agents (IMC-C225 Cetuximab, ZD1389 Iressa, OSI-774 Tarceva, GW 57016) in other tumor types, and based on the results obtained in preclinical models, there is a great interest in assessing these agents in patients with bladder cancer. Several trials are now ongoing testing these new agents alone or in combination with chemotherapy in bladder cancer patients. The integration of these newer biologic agents, probably to supplement rather than to supplant chemotherapeutic drugs, should be a primary direction of research with the objective to interfere with multiple aspects of bladder cancer progression. However, the value of integration of biologically targeted agents into combined modality treatment for patients with bladder cancer has still to be proven.
The aim of this review is to provide a contemporary outline of our current understanding of the molecular and genetic events associated with tumorigenesis and the progression of bladder cancer. A comprehensive review of the literature was performed on the molecular alterations associated with transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder. Intense research efforts are being made to better identify and characterize various bladder cancers and their true biologic potential. The need to predict which superficial tumors will recur or progress, and which invasive tumors will metastasize has led to a much better understanding of the molecular pathways associated with bladder cancer. The molecular changes that occur in TCC of the bladder are numerous and can be categorized into: (1) chromosomal alterations leading to carcinogenesis, (2) loss of cell cycle regulation accounting for cellular proliferation, and (3) metastasis, guided by events such as angiogenesis. It is becoming apparent that the accumulation of genetic and molecular changes ultimately determines a tumors phenotype and subsequent clinical behavior. At the present time, conventional histopathologic evaluation of bladder cancer (tumor grade and stage) is inadequate to accurately predict the behavior of most bladder tumors. While new laboratory techniques have allowed us to better understand how bladder cancer develops and ultimately progresses, few of these techniques are currently available for use in the clinical setting. The ultimate goal is to develop reliable prognostic markers which will accurately predict not only the expected clinical course of an individual bladder tumor but also the response of that tumor to currently available therapies. More importantly, this information may be employed in the future to dictate altogether new treatments for the prevention and/or stabilization of the early molecular events that lead to the development of bladder cancer.
Molecular biology is expected to provide new tools and approaches to assess the prognosis of patients with bladder cancer, by providing information on the risks of tumor recurrence and progression from superficial bladder cancer to an invasive phenotype. Genetic and epigenetic alterations have been closely associated with bladder carcinogenesis and progression, although most of these are still under investigation in a preclinical setting. This article highlights current findings from molecular studies, and describes their potential application in molecular staging of bladder cancer.