Imperial College London

Professor Guido Franzoso

Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Immunology and Inflammation

Chair in Inflammation and Signal Transduction



+44 (0)20 3313 8421g.franzoso Website




Miss Anjli Jagpal +44 (0)20 3313 3152




5N1Commonwealth BuildingHammersmith Campus





Publication Type

148 results found

Cornice J, Verzella D, Arboretto P, Vecchiotti D, Capece D, Zazzeroni F, Franzoso Get al., 2024, NF-κB: governing macrophages in cancer, Genes, Vol: 15, ISSN: 2073-4425

Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are the major component of the tumor microenvironment (TME), where they sustain tumor progression and or-tumor immunity. Due to their plasticity, macrophages can exhibit anti- or pro-tumor functions through the expression of different gene sets leading to distinct macrophage phenotypes: M1-like or pro-inflammatory and M2-like or anti-inflammatory. NF-κB transcription factors are central regulators of TAMs in cancers, where they often drive macrophage polarization toward an M2-like phenotype. Therefore, the NF-κB pathway is an attractive therapeutic target for cancer immunotherapy in a wide range of human tumors. Hence, targeting NF-κB pathway in the myeloid compartment is a potential clinical strategy to overcome microenvironment-induced immunosuppression and increase anti-tumor immunity. In this review, we discuss the role of NF-κB as a key driver of macrophage functions in tumors as well as the principal strategies to overcome tumor immunosuppression by targeting the NF-κB pathway.

Journal article

Cheung TS, Giacomini C, Cereda M, Avivar-Valderas A, Capece D, Bertolino GM, delaRosa O, Hicks R, Ciccocioppo R, Franzoso G, Galleu A, Ciccarelli FD, Dazzi Fet al., 2023, Apoptosis in mesenchymal stromal cells activates an immunosuppressive secretome predicting clinical response in Crohn's disease, Molecular Therapy, Vol: 31, Pages: 3531-3544, ISSN: 1525-0016

In vivo apoptosis of human mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) plays a critical role in delivering immunomodulation. Yet, caspase activity not only mediates the dying process but also death-independent functions that may shape the immunogenicity of apoptotic cells. Therefore, a better characterization of the immunological profile of apoptotic MSCs (ApoMSCs) could shed light on their mechanistic action and therapeutic applications. We analyzed the transcriptomes of MSCs undergoing apoptosis and identified several immunomodulatory factors and chemokines dependent on caspase activation following Fas stimulation. The ApoMSC secretome inhibited human T cell proliferation and activation, and chemoattracted monocytes in vitro. Both immunomodulatory activities were dependent on the cyclooxygenase2 (COX2)/prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) axis. To assess the clinical relevance of ApoMSC signature, we used the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from a cohort of fistulizing Crohn's disease (CD) patients who had undergone MSC treatment (ADMIRE-CD). Compared with healthy donors, MSCs exposed to patients' PBMCs underwent apoptosis and released PGE2 in a caspase-dependent manner. Both PGE2 and apoptosis were significantly associated with clinical responses to MSCs. Our findings identify a new mechanism whereby caspase activation delivers ApoMSC immunosuppression. Remarkably, such molecular signatures could implicate translational tools for predicting patients' clinical responses to MSC therapy in CD.

Journal article

Verzella D, Cornice J, Arboretto P, Vecchiotti D, Di Vito Nolfi M, Capece D, Zazzeroni F, Franzoso Get al., 2022, The NF-κB pharmacopeia: novel strategies to subdue an intractable target, Biomedicine, Vol: 10, ISSN: 0970-2067

NF-κB transcription factors are major drivers of tumor initiation and progression. NF-κB signaling is constitutively activated by genetic alterations or environmental signals in many human cancers, where it contributes to almost all hallmarks of malignancy, including sustained proliferation, cell death resistance, tumor-promoting inflammation, metabolic reprogramming, tissue invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis. As such, the NF-κB pathway is an attractive therapeutic target in a broad range of human cancers, as well as in numerous non-malignant diseases. Currently, however, there is no clinically useful NF-κB inhibitor to treat oncological patients, owing to the preclusive, on-target toxicities of systemic NF-κB blockade. In this review, we discuss the principal and most promising strategies being developed to circumvent the inherent limitations of conventional IκB kinase (IKK)/NF-κB-targeting drugs, focusing on new molecules that target upstream regulators or downstream effectors of oncogenic NF-κB signaling, as well as agents targeting individual NF-κB subunits.

Journal article

Capece D, Verzella D, Flati I, Arboretto P, Cornice J, Franzoso Get al., 2022, NF-κB: blending metabolism, immunity, and inflammation, Trends in Immunology, Vol: 43, Pages: 757-775, ISSN: 0167-5699

The procurement and management of nutrients and ability to fight infections are fundamental requirements for survival. These defense responses are bioenergetically costly, requiring the immune system to balance protection against pathogens with the need to maintain metabolic homeostasis. NF-κB transcription factors are central regulators of immunity and inflammation. Over the last two decades, these factors have emerged as a pivotal node coordinating the immune and metabolic systems in physiology and the etiopathogenesis of major threats to human health, including cancer, autoimmunity, chronic inflammation, and others. In this review, we discuss recent advances in understanding how NF-κB-dependent metabolic programs control inflammation, metabolism, and immunity and how improved knowledge of them may lead to better diagnostics and therapeutics for widespread human diseases.

Journal article

Capece D, Franzoso G, 2022, Rewired lipid metabolism as an actionable vulnerability of aggressive colorectal carcinoma, Molecular and Cellular Oncology, Vol: 9, ISSN: 2372-3556

Cancer cells reprogram lipid metabolism to fuel cell division, adaptation to stress, and metastatic dissemination. NF-κB transcription factors control this mechanism in aggressive Consensus Molecular Subtype (CMS)4 of colorectal carcinoma (CRC) via triacylglycerol (TAG) lipase, carboxylesterase 1 (CES1), thereby linking obesity-associated inflammation with metabolic adaptation and cytoprotection from lipid-induced toxicity. Our findings identify a potential therapeutic route to treat patients with metastasis-prone CRC and provide an example for targeting core tumor subtype-based vulnerabilities in cancers beyond CRC

Journal article

Capece D, Verzella D, Begalli F, Bennett J, D'Andrea D, Vecchiotti D, Zazzeroni F, Franzoso Get al., 2021, Extracellular flux analysis to investigate the impact of NF-κB on mitochondrial respiration in colorectal carcinoma (CRC)., NF-κB Transcription Factors, Editors: Franzoso, Zazzeroni, Publisher: Springer, Pages: 293-303

The reprogramming of cell metabolism is a hallmark of cancer. NF-κB transcription factors coordinate the host defense responses to stress, injury, and infection. They also play a central role in oncogenesis, at least in part by regulating cell metabolism and the adaptation to energy stress conditions in various types of cancer, such as colorectal carcinoma (CRC). Here, we describe the XF Cell Mito Stress Test methodology aimed at characterizing the metabolic and bioenergetic profile of CRC cells following the silencing of the essential NF-κB subunit, RelA. This methodology may also be applied to other cancers to reveal novel core vulnerabilities of malignant cells.

Book chapter

Vecchiotti D, Verzella D, Capece D, Cornice J, Nolfi MDV, Di Francesco B, Franzoso G, Alesse E, Zazzeroni Fet al., 2021, Immunohistochemical analysis of expression, phosphorylation, and nuclear translocation of NF-κB proteins in human tissues, Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol: 2366, Pages: 27-42, ISSN: 1064-3745

Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is a technique aimed at detecting specific antigens on tissue sections by the use of targeting reagents labeled with reporter molecules. This technique allows a snapshot of the structure of tissue and determines the cellular and subcellular localization of a target antigen. This chapter describes how to identify and localize NF-κB proteins in human tissue using immunohistochemical staining on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded and frozen tissue.

Journal article

Tornatore L, Capece D, Sandomenico A, Verzella D, Vecchiotti D, Zazzeroni F, Ruvo M, Franzoso Get al., 2021, The screening of combinatorial peptide libraries for targeting key molecules or protein-protein interactions in the NF-κB pathway, Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol: 2366, Pages: 343-356, ISSN: 1064-3745

Peptides are emerging as an increasingly dependable class of therapeutics in the treatment of cancer and metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, which are all areas of high interest to the pharmaceutical industry. The global market for peptide therapeutics was valued at about 25 billion USD in 2018 and is estimated to reach 57.2 billion USD by the end of 2027. Here, we describe a method for the screening and deconvolution of combinatorial peptide libraries to discover compounds that target discrete signaling components of the NF-κB pathway. Recently, we used this approach to specifically disrupt the interaction between the JNK-activating kinase, MKK7, and the NF-κB-regulated antiapoptotic factor, GADD45β, in multiple myeloma (MM). We showed that the GADD45β/MKK7 complex is a functionally critical survival module downstream of NF-κB in MM cells and as such provides an attractive therapeutic target to selectively inhibit NF-κB antiapoptotic signaling in cancer cells. By integrating the library screening and deconvolution methods described here with a rational chemical optimization strategy, we developed the first-in-class GADD45β/MKK7 inhibitor, DTP3 (a D-tripeptide), which is now being trialed in MM and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) patients. The same drug discovery approach may be generally applied to therapeutically target other key components of the NF-κB pathway in cancers beyond MM and DLBCL, as well as in non-malignant NF-κB-driven diseases.

Journal article

Vecchiotti D, Verzella D, Capece D, Nolfi MDV, Di Francesco B, Cornice J, Franzoso G, Alesse E, Zazzeroni Fet al., 2021, Biochemical methods to analyze the subcellular localization of NF-κB proteins using cell fractionation., NF-κB Transcription Factors, Editors: Franzoso, Zazzeroni, Publisher: Springer, Pages: 19-25, ISBN: 978-1-0716-1668-0

Cell fractionation is a method used to study different cellular events like protein translocation and sequestration by disrupting cells and fractionating their contents, thus allowing an enrichment of the protein of interest. Using different concentrations of sucrose or detergent buffer formulations in combination with centrifugations, the cell fractions are separated based on their density and size.

Book chapter

Saavedra-Garcia P, Roman-Trufero M, Al-Sadah HA, Blighe K, Lopez-Jimenez E, Christoforou M, Penfold L, Capece D, Xiong X, Miao Y, Parzych K, Caputo V, Siskos AP, Encheva V, Liu Z, Thiel D, Kaiser MF, Piazza P, Chaidos A, Karadimitris A, Franzoso G, Snijder AP, Keun HC, OyarzĂșn DA, Barahona M, Auner Het al., 2021, Systems level profiling of chemotherapy-induced stress resolution in cancer cells reveals druggable trade-offs, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Vol: 118, ISSN: 0027-8424

Cancer cells can survive chemotherapy-induced stress, but how they recover from it is not known.Using a temporal multiomics approach, we delineate the global mechanisms of proteotoxic stressresolution in multiple myeloma cells recovering from proteasome inhibition. Our observations definelayered and protracted programmes for stress resolution that encompass extensive changes acrossthe transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome. Cellular recovery from proteasome inhibitioninvolved protracted and dynamic changes of glucose and lipid metabolism and suppression ofmitochondrial function. We demonstrate that recovering cells are more vulnerable to specific insultsthan acutely stressed cells and identify the general control nonderepressable 2 (GCN2)-driven cellularresponse to amino acid scarcity as a key recovery-associated vulnerability. Using a transcriptomeanalysis pipeline, we further show that GCN2 is also a stress-independent bona fide target intranscriptional signature-defined subsets of solid cancers that share molecular characteristics. Thus,identifying cellular trade-offs tied to the resolution of chemotherapy-induced stress in tumour cellsmay reveal new therapeutic targets and routes for cancer therapy optimisation.

Journal article

Capece D, D'Andrea D, Begalli F, Goracci L, Tornatore L, Alexander JL, Di Veroli A, Leow S-C, Vaiyapuri TS, Ellis JK, Verzella D, Bennett J, Savino L, Ma Y, McKenzie JS, Doria ML, Mason SE, Chng KR, Keun HC, Frost G, Tergaonkar V, Broniowska K, Stunkel W, Takats Z, Kinross JM, Cruciani G, Franzoso Get al., 2021, Enhanced triacylglycerol catabolism by Carboxylesterase 1 promotes aggressive colorectal carcinoma., Journal of Clinical Investigation, ISSN: 0021-9738

The ability to adapt to low-nutrient microenvironments is essential for tumor-cell survival and progression in solid cancers, such as colorectal carcinoma (CRC). Signaling by the NF-κB transcription-factor pathway associates with advanced disease stages and shorter survival in CRC patients. NF-κB has been shown to drive tumor-promoting inflammation, cancer-cell survival and intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) dedifferentiation in mouse models of CRC. However, whether NF-κB affects the metabolic adaptations that fuel aggressive disease in CRC patients is unknown. Here, we identified carboxylesterase 1 (CES1) as an essential NF-κB-regulated lipase linking obesity-associated inflammation with fat metabolism and adaptation to energy stress in aggressive CRC. CES1 promoted CRC-cell survival via cell-autonomous mechanisms that fuel fatty-acid oxidation (FAO) and prevent the toxic build-up of triacylglycerols. We found that elevated CES1 expression correlated with worse outcomes in overweight CRC patients. Accordingly, NF-κB drove CES1 expression in CRC consensus molecular subtype (CMS)4, associated with obesity, stemness and inflammation. CES1 was also upregulated by gene amplifications of its transcriptional regulator, HNF4A, in CMS2 tumors, reinforcing its clinical relevance as a driver of CRC. This subtype-based distribution and unfavourable prognostic correlation distinguished CES1 from other intracellular triacylglycerol lipases and suggest CES1 could provide a route to treat aggressive CRC.

Journal article

Franzoso G, Zazzeroni F, 2021, Preface


Sandomenico A, Di Rienzo L, Calvanese L, Iaccarino E, D'Auria G, Falcigno L, Chambery A, Russo R, Franzoso G, Tornatore L, D'Abramo M, Ruvo M, Milanetti E, Raimondo Det al., 2021, Insights into the interaction mechanism of DTP3 with MKK7 by using STD-NMR and computational approaches, Biomedicines, Vol: 9, Pages: 1-16, ISSN: 2227-9059

GADD45β/MKK7 complex is a non-redundant, cancer cell-restricted survival module downstream of the NF-kB survival pathway, and it has a pathogenically critical role in multiple myeloma, an incurable malignancy of plasma cells. The first-in-class GADD45β/MKK7 inhibitor DTP3 effectively kills MM cells expressing its molecular target, both in vitro and in vivo, by inducing MKK7/JNK-dependent apoptosis with no apparent toxicity to normal cells. DTP3 combines favorable drug-like properties, with on-target-specific pharmacology, resulting in a safe and cancer-selective therapeutic effect; however, its mode of action is only partially understood. In this work, we have investigated the molecular determinants underlying the MKK7 interaction with DTP3 by combining computational, NMR, and spectroscopic methods. Data gathered by fluorescence quenching and computational approaches consistently indicate that the N-terminal region of MKK7 is the optimal binding site explored by DTP3. These findings further the understanding of the selective mode of action of GADD45β/MKK7 inhibitors and inform potential mechanisms of drug resistance. Notably, upon validation of the safety and efficacy of DTP3 in human trials, our results could also facilitate the development of novel DTP3-like therapeutics with improved bioavailability or the capacity to bypass drug resistance.

Journal article

Barbosa RR, Xu AQ, DAndrea D, Copley F, Patel H, Chakravarty P, Clear A, Calaminici M, Janz M, Zhang B, Schmidt-Supprian M, Wang J, Gribben JG, Tooze R, Fitzgibbon J, Franzoso G, Rajewsky K, Calado DPet al., 2020, Co-activation of NF-κB and MYC renders cancer cells addicted to IL6 for survival and phenotypic stability, Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

NF-κB and MYC are found co-deregulated in human B and plasma-cell cancers. In physiology, NF-κB is necessary for terminal B-to-plasma cell differentiation, whereas MYC repression is required. It is thus unclear if NF-κB/MYC co-deregulation is developmentally compatible in carcinogenesis and/or impacts cancer cell differentiation state, possibly uncovering unique sensitivities. Using a mouse system to trace cell lineage and oncogene activation we found that NF-κB/MYC co-deregulation originated cancers with a plasmablast-like phenotype, alike human plasmablastic-lymphoma and was linked to t(8;14)[MYC-IGH] multiple myeloma. Notably, in contrast to NF-κB or MYC activation alone, co-deregulation rendered cells addicted to IL6 for survival and phenotypic stability. We propose that conflicting oncogene-driven differentiation pressures can be accommodated at a cost in poorly-differentiated cancers.

Working paper

Verzella D, Pescatore A, Capece D, Vecchiotti D, Ursini MV, Franzoso G, Alesse E, Zazzeroni Fet al., 2020, Life, death, and autophagy in cancer: NF-kappa B turns up everywhere, Cell Death and Disease, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-14, ISSN: 2041-4889

Escaping programmed cell death is a hallmark of cancer. NF-κB transcription factors are key regulator of cell survival and aberrant NF-κB signaling has been involved in the pathogenesis of most human malignancies. Although NF-κB is best known for its antiapoptotic role, other processes regulating the life/death balance, such as autophagy and necroptosis, seem to network with NF-κB. This review discusses how the reciprocal regulation of NF-κB, autophagy and programmed cell death affect cancer development and progression.

Journal article

Rajpoot S, Bennett J, Franzoso G, Verzella D, Begalli F, Capece D, D'Andrea Det al., 2020, Reprogramming immunosuppressive tumour-associated dendritic cells with GADD45β inhibitors, Clinical Medicine, Vol: 20, Pages: s116-s116, ISSN: 1470-2118

Journal article

Capece D, Verzella D, Di Francesco B, Alesse E, Franzoso G, Zazzeroni Fet al., 2020, NF-κB and mitochondria cross paths in cancer: mitochondrial metabolism and beyond, Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, Vol: 98, Pages: 118-128, ISSN: 1084-9521

NF-κB plays a pivotal role in oncogenesis. This transcription factor is best known for promoting cancer cell survival and tumour-driving inflammation. However, several lines of evidence support a crucial role for NF-κB in governing energy homeostasis and mediating cancer metabolic reprogramming. Mitochondria are central players in many metabolic processes altered in cancer. Beyond their bioenergetic activity, several facets of mitochondria biology, including mitochondrial dynamics and oxidative stress, promote and sustain malignant transformation. Recent reports revealed an intimate connection between NF-κB pathway and the oncogenic mitochondrial functions. NF-κB can impact mitochondrial respiration and mitochondrial dynamics, and, reciprocally, mitochondria can sense stress signals and convert them into cell biological responses leading to NF-κB activation. In this review we discuss their emerging reciprocal regulation and the significance of this interplay for anticancer therapy.

Journal article

Tornatore L, Capece D, D'Andrea D, Begalli F, Verzella D, Bennett J, Acton G, Campbell EA, Kelly J, Tarbit M, Adams N, Bannoo S, Leonardi A, Sandomenico A, Raimondo D, Ruvo M, Chambery A, Oblak M, Al-Obaidi MJ, Kaczmarski RS, Gabriel I, Oakervee HE, Kaiser MF, Wechalekar A, Benjamin R, Apperley JF, Auner HW, Franzoso Get al., 2019, Clinical proof of concept for a safe and effective NF-κB-targeting strategy in multiple myeloma, British Journal of Haematology, Vol: 185, Pages: 588-592, ISSN: 1365-2141

Journal article

Tornatore L, Capece D, D'Andrea D, Begalli F, Verzella D, Bennett J, Acton G, Campbell EA, Kelly J, Tarbit M, Adams N, Bannoo S, Leonardi A, Sandomenico A, Raimondo D, Ruvo M, Chambery A, Oblak M, Al-Obaidi MJ, Kaczmarski RS, Gabriel I, Oakervee HE, Kaiser MF, Wechalekar A, Benjamin R, Apperley JF, Auner HW, Franzoso Get al., 2019, Preclinical toxicology and safety pharmacology of the first-in-class GADD45β/MKK7 inhibitor and clinical candidate, DTP3, Toxicology Reports, Vol: 6, Pages: 369-379, ISSN: 2214-7500

Aberrant NF-κB activity drives oncogenesis and cell survival in multiple myeloma (MM) and many other cancers. However, despite an aggressive effort by the pharmaceutical industry over the past 30 years, no specific IκBα kinase (IKK)β/NF-κB inhibitor has been clinically approved, due to the multiple dose-limiting toxicities of conventional NF-κB-targeting drugs. To overcome this barrier to therapeutic NF-κB inhibition, we developed the first-in-class growth arrest and DNA-damage-inducible (GADD45)β/mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MKK)7 inhibitor, DTP3, which targets an essential, cancer-selective cell-survival module downstream of the NF-κB pathway. As a result, DTP3 specifically kills MM cells, ex vivo and in vivo, ablating MM xenografts in mice, with no apparent adverse effects, nor evident toxicity to healthy cells. Here, we report the results from the preclinical regulatory pharmacodynamic (PD), safety pharmacology, pharmacokinetic (PK), and toxicology programmes of DTP3, leading to the approval for clinical trials in oncology. These results demonstrate that DTP3 combines on-target-selective pharmacology, therapeutic anticancer efficacy, favourable drug-like properties, long plasma half-life and good bioavailability, with no target-organs of toxicity and no adverse effects preclusive of its clinical development in oncology, upon daily repeat-dose administration in both rodent and non-rodent species. Our study underscores the clinical potential of DTP3 as a conceptually novel candidate therapeutic selectively blocking NF-κB survival signalling in MM and potentially other NF-κB-driven cancers.

Journal article

Rega C, Russo R, Foca A, Sandomenico A, Iaccarino E, Raimondo D, Milanetti E, Tornatore L, Franzoso G, Pedone PV, Ruvo M, Chambery Aet al., 2018, Probing the interaction interface of the GADD45 beta/MKK7 and MKK7/DTP3 complexes by chemical cross-linking mass spectrometry, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL MACROMOLECULES, Vol: 114, Pages: 114-123, ISSN: 0141-8130

GADD45β is selectively and constitutively expressed in Multiple Myeloma cells, and this expression correlates with an unfavourable clinical outcome. GADD45β physically interacts with the JNK kinase, MKK7, inhibiting its activity to enable the survival of cancer cells. DTP3 is a small peptide inhibitor of the GADD45β/MKK7 complex and is able to restore MKK7/JNK activation, thereby promoting selective cell death of GADD45β-overexpressing cancer cells.Enzymatic MS foot-printing and diazirine-based chemical cross-linking MS (CX-MS) strategies were applied to study the interactions between GADD45β and MKK7 kinase domain (MKK7_KD) and between DTP3 and MKK7_KD. Our data show that the binding between GADD45β and MKK7 largely occurs between GADD45β loop 2 (region 103–117) and the kinase enzymatic pocket. We also show that DTP3 interferes with this GADD45β/MKK7 interaction by contacting the MKK7 peptides, 113–136 and 259–274. Accordingly, an MKK7_KD Δ(101–136) variant lacking Trp135 did not produce a fluorescence quenching effect upon the binding of DTP3. The assessment of the interaction between GADD45β and MKK7 and the elucidation of the recognition surfaces between DTP3 and MKK7 significantly advance the understanding of the mechanism underlying the inhibition of the GADD45β/MKK7 interaction by DTP3 and pave the way to the design of small-molecule DTP3 analogues.

Journal article

Capece D, D'Andrea D, Verzella D, Tornatore L, Begalli F, Bennett JB, Zazzeroni F, Franzoso Get al., 2018, Turning an old GADDget into a troublemaker, Cell Death and Differentiation, Vol: 25, Pages: 640-642, ISSN: 1350-9047

Journal article

Verzella D, Bennett J, Fischietti M, Thotakura AK, Recordati C, Pasqualini F, Capece D, Vecchiotti D, D'Andrea D, Di Francesco B, De Maglie M, Begalli F, Tornatore L, Papa S, Lawrence T, Forbes SJ, Sica A, Alesse E, Zazzeroni F, Franzoso Get al., 2018, GADD45β loss ablates innate immunosuppression in cancer, Cancer Research, Vol: 78, Pages: 1275-1292, ISSN: 1538-7445

T cell exclusion from the tumour microenvironment (TME) is a major barrier to overcoming immune escape. Here we identify a myeloid-intrinsic mechanism governed by the NF-κB effector molecule GADD45β that restricts tumour-associated inflammation and T cell trafficking into tumours. In various models of solid cancers refractory to immunotherapies, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and ovarian adenocarcinoma, Gadd45b inhibition in myeloid cells restored activation of pro-inflammatory tumour-associated macrophages (TAM) and intratumoural immune infiltration, thereby diminishing oncogenesis. Our results provide a basis to interpret clinical evidence that elevated expression of GADD45B confers poor clinical outcomes in most human cancers. Further, they suggest a therapeutic target in GADD45β for re-programming TAM to overcome immunosuppression and T cell exclusion from the TME.

Journal article

Bennett J, Capece D, Begalli F, Verzella D, D'Andrea D, Tornatore L, Franzoso Get al., 2018, NF-κB in the crosshairs: Rethinking an old riddle., Int J Biochem Cell Biol, Vol: 95, Pages: 108-112

Constitutive NF-κB signalling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of most human malignancies and virtually all non-malignant pathologies. Accordingly, the NF-κB pathway has been aggressively pursued as an attractive therapeutic target for drug discovery. However, the severe on-target toxicities associated with systemic NF-κB inhibition have thus far precluded the development of a clinically useful, NF-κB-targeting medicine as a way to treat patients with either oncological or non-oncological diseases. This minireview discusses some of the more promising approaches currently being developed to circumvent the preclusive safety liabilities of global NF-κB blockade by selectively targeting pathogenic NF-κB signalling in cancer, while preserving the multiple physiological functions of NF-κB in host defence responses and tissue homeostasis.

Journal article

Begalli F, Bennett J, Capece D, Verzella D, D'Andrea D, Tornatore L, Franzoso Get al., 2017, Unlocking the NF-κB Conundrum: Embracing Complexity to Achieve Specificity., Biomedicines, Vol: 5, ISSN: 2227-9059

Transcription factors of the nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) family are central coordinating regulators of the host defence responses to stress, injury and infection. Aberrant NF-κB activation also contributes to the pathogenesis of some of the most common current threats to global human health, including chronic inflammatory diseases, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, vascular diseases and the majority of cancers. Accordingly, the NF-κB pathway is widely considered an attractive therapeutic target in a broad range of malignant and non-malignant diseases. Yet, despite the aggressive efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to develop a specific NF-κB inhibitor, none has been clinically approved, due to the dose-limiting toxicities associated with the global suppression of NF-κB. In this review, we summarise the main strategies historically adopted to therapeutically target the NF-κB pathway with an emphasis on oncology, and some of the emerging strategies and newer agents being developed to pharmacologically inhibit this pathway.

Journal article

Tornatore L, Acton G, Adams N, Campbell EA, Kelly J, Szydlo RM, Tarbit M, Bannoo S, D'Andrea D, Capece D, Sandoinenico A, Dyson J, Leonardi A, Driessen C, Ruvo M, Anees I, Oblak M, Quaid S, Al-Obaidi MJ, Auner H, Benbenjamin R, Kaczmarski RS, Kaiser MF, Mehta A, Oakervee HE, Schey SA, Wechalekar A, Apperley JF, Franzoso Get al., 2015, Cancer-selective targeting of the NF-kappa B survival pathway in multiple myeloma with the GADD45 beta/MKK7 inhibitor, DTP3, 57th Annual Meeting of the American-Society-of-Hematology, Publisher: American Society of Hematology, Pages: 1-3, ISSN: 0006-4971

Conference paper

Koh CM, Khattar E, Leow SC, Liu CY, Muller J, Ang WX, Li Y, Franzoso G, Li S, Guccione E, Tergaonkar Vet al., 2015, Telomerase regulates MYC-driven oncogenesis independent of its reverse transcriptase activity, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol: 125, Pages: 2109-2122, ISSN: 1558-8238

Constitutively active MYC and reactivated telomerase often coexist in cancers. While reactivation of telomerase is thought to be essential for replicative immortality, MYC, in conjunction with cofactors, confers several growth advantages to cancer cells. It is known that the reactivation of TERT, the catalytic subunit of telomerase, is limiting for reconstituting telomerase activity in tumors. However, while reactivation of TERT has been functionally linked to the acquisition of several “hallmarks of cancer” in tumors, the molecular mechanisms by which this occurs and whether these mechanisms are distinct from the role of telomerase on telomeres is not clear. Here, we demonstrated that first-generation TERT-null mice, unlike Terc-null mice, show delayed onset of MYC-induced lymphomagenesis. We further determined that TERT is a regulator of MYC stability in cancer. TERT stabilized MYC levels on chromatin, contributing to either activation or repression of its target genes. TERT regulated MYC ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation, and this effect of TERT was independent of its reverse transcriptase activity and role in telomere elongation. Based on these data, we conclude that reactivation of TERT, a direct transcriptional MYC target in tumors, provides a feed-forward mechanism to potentiate MYC-dependent oncogenesis.

Journal article

Tornatore L, Sandomenico A, Raimondo D, Low C, Rocci A, Tralau-Stewart C, Capece D, D'Andrea D, Bua M, Boyle E, van Duin M, Zoppoli P, Jaxa-Chamiec A, Thotakura AK, Dyson J, Walker BA, Leonardi A, Chambery A, Driessen C, Sonneveld P, Morgan G, Palumbo A, Tramontano A, Rahemtulla A, Ruvo M, Franzoso Get al., 2014, Cancer-selective targeting of the NF-kappa B survival pathway with GADD45 beta/MKK7 inhibitors (vol 26, pg 495, 2014), Cancer Cell, Vol: 26, Pages: 938-938, ISSN: 1535-6108

Journal article

Tornatore L, Sandomenico A, Raimondo D, Low C, Rocci A, Tralau-Stewart C, Capece D, D'Andrea D, Bua M, Boyle E, van Duin M, Zoppoli P, Jaxa-Chamiec A, Thotakura AK, Dyson J, Walker BA, Leonardi A, Chambery A, Driessen C, Sonneveld P, Morgan G, Palumbo A, Tramontano A, Rahemtulla A, Ruvo M, Franzoso Get al., 2014, Cancer-selective targeting of the NF-kappa B survival pathway with GADD45 beta/MKK7 inhibitors, Cancer Cell, Vol: 26, Pages: 495-508, ISSN: 1535-6108

Constitutive NF-κB signaling promotes survival in multiple myeloma (MM) and other cancers; however, current NF-κB-targeting strategies lack cancer cell specificity. Here, we identify the interaction between the NF-κB-regulated antiapoptotic factor GADD45β and the JNK kinase MKK7 as a therapeutic target in MM. Using a drug-discovery strategy, we developed DTP3, a D-tripeptide, which disrupts the GADD45β/MKK7 complex, kills MM cells effectively, and, importantly, lacks toxicity to normal cells. DTP3 has similar anticancer potency to the clinical standard, bortezomib, but more than 100-fold higher cancer cell specificity in vitro. Notably, DTP3 ablates myeloma xenografts in mice with no apparent side effects at the effective doses. Hence, cancer-selective targeting of the NF-κB pathway is possible and, at least for myeloma patients, promises a profound benefit.

Journal article

Ling GS, Bennett J, Woollard KJ, Szajna M, Fossati-Jimack L, Taylor PR, Scott D, Franzoso G, Cook HT, Botto Met al., 2014, Integrin CD11b positively regulates TLR4-induced signalling pathways in dendritic cells but not in macrophages, Nature Communications, Vol: 5, Pages: 1-12, ISSN: 2041-1723

Tuned and distinct responses of macrophages and dendritic cells to Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) activation induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) underpin the balance between innate and adaptive immunity. However, the molecule(s) that confer these cell-type-specific LPS-induced effects remain poorly understood. Here we report that the integrin αM (CD11b) positively regulates LPS-induced signalling pathways selectively in myeloid dendritic cells but not in macrophages. In dendritic cells, which express lower levels of CD14 and TLR4 than macrophages, CD11b promotes MyD88-dependent and MyD88-independent signalling pathways. In particular, in dendritic cells CD11b facilitates LPS-induced TLR4 endocytosis and is required for the subsequent signalling in the endosomes. Consistent with this, CD11b deficiency dampens dendritic cell-mediated TLR4-triggered responses in vivo leading to impaired T-cell activation. Thus, by modulating the trafficking and signalling functions of TLR4 in a cell-type-specific manner CD11b fine tunes the balance between adaptive and innate immune responses initiated by LPS.

Journal article

Barbarulo A, Iansante V, Chaidos A, Naresh K, Rahemtulla A, Franzoso G, Karadimitris A, Haskard DO, Papa S, Bubici Cet al., 2013, Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase family member 14 (PARP14) is a novel effector of the JNK2-dependent pro-survival signal in multiple myeloma, Oncogene, Vol: 32, Pages: 4231-4242, ISSN: 0950-9232

Regulation of cell survival is a key part of the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma (MM). Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling has been implicated in MM pathogenesis, but its function is unclear. To elucidate the role of JNK in MM, we evaluated the specific functions of the two major JNK proteins, JNK1 and JNK2. We show here that JNK2 is constitutively activated in a panel of MM cell lines and primary tumors. Using loss-of-function studies, we demonstrate that JNK2 is required for the survival of myeloma cells and constitutively suppresses JNK1-mediated apoptosis by affecting expression of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP)14, a key regulator of B-cell survival. Strikingly, we found that PARP14 is highly expressed in myeloma plasma cells and associated with disease progression and poor survival. Overexpression of PARP14 completely rescued myeloma cells from apoptosis induced by JNK2 knockdown, indicating that PARP14 is critically involved in JNK2-dependent survival. Mechanistically, PARP14 was found to promote the survival of myeloma cells by binding and inhibiting JNK1. Moreover, inhibition of PARP14 enhances the sensitization of MM cells to anti-myeloma agents. Our findings reveal a novel regulatory pathway in myeloma cells through which JNK2 signals cell survival via PARP14, and identify PARP14 as a potential therapeutic target in myeloma.

Journal article

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