Research Papers:

TAK1 regulates the tumor microenvironment through inflammatory, angiogenetic and apoptotic signaling cascades

Scott A. Scarneo _, Kelly W. Yang, Jose R. Roques, Alanna Dai, Liesl S. Eibschutz, Philip Hughes and Timothy A.J. Haystead

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Oncotarget. 2020; 11:1961-1970. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27606

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Scott A. Scarneo1, Kelly W. Yang1, Jose R. Roques2, Alanna Dai2, Liesl S. Eibschutz1, Philip Hughes1 and Timothy A.J. Haystead1

1 Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC 27710, USA

2 Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA

Correspondence to:

Timothy A.J. Haystead,email: [email protected]

Keywords: TAK1; breast cancer; therapeutic; inflammation

Received: February 13, 2020     Accepted: April 27, 2020     Published: May 26, 2020


Transforming growth factor beta-activated kinase 1 (TAK1) has been implicated for its role in inflammatory signaling and as an important mediator of cellular apoptosis and necroptosis in various cell types. Our recent discovery of a first-in-class, potent and selective TAK1 inhibitor, takinib, represents a novel pharmacological tool to evaluate TAK1’s role in cancer. In this study we evaluated the potential therapeutic capacity of TAK1 inhibition on tumor growth and on tumor microenvironment remodeling. In a screen of 16 cancer cell lines, takinib in combination with tumor necrosis factor (TNF) was found to induce cell death (>20%) in 6 out of 16 cell lines. Furthermore, knocking out of TAK1 in MDA-MB-231 cells dramatically increased their sensitization to TNF-mediated apoptosis. In vivo xenographs of MDA-MB-231 TAK1KO tumors displayed delayed tumor growth and increased overall survival compared to TAK1WT controls. Histological and proteomic analysis of TAK1KO tumors showed altered angiogenic signaling and inflammatory signaling via immune cells. Overall, these findings suggest that the targeting of TAK1 in immune mediated cancers may be a novel therapeutic axis.

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