Activation of EIF4E by Aurora kinase A depicts a novel druggable axis in everolimus-resistant cancer cells

Ahmed Katsha, Lihong Wang, Janet Arras, Omar M. Omar, Jeffrey Ecsedy, Abbes Belkhiri, Wael El-Rifai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


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 phar-macologic 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3756-3768
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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