Functional protein pathway activation mapping of the progression of normal skin to squamous cell carcinoma

Janine G. Einspahr*, Valerie Calvert, David S. Alberts, Clara Curiel-Lewandrowski, James Warneke, Robert Krouse, Steven P. Stratton, Lance Liotta, Caterina Longo, Giovanni Pellicani, Anil Prasad, Paul Sagerman, Yira Bermudez, Jianghong Deng, G. Timothy Bowden, Emanuel F. Petricoin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Reverse phase protein microarray analysis was used to identify cell signaling derangements in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) compared with actinic keratosis (AK) and upper inner arm (UIA). We analyzed two independent tissue sets with isolation and enrichment of epithelial cells by laser capture microdissection. Set 1 served as a pilot and a means to identify protein pathway activation alterations that could be further validated in a second independent set. Set 1 was comprised of 4 AK, 13 SCC, and 20 UIA. Set 2 included 15 AK, 9 SCCs, and 20 UIAs. Activation of 51 signaling proteins, known to be involved in tumorigenesis, were assessed for set 1 and showed that the MEK-ERK [mitogen-activated protein (MAP)/extracellular signalregulated (ERK; MEK)] pathway was activated in SCC compared with AK and UIA, and that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and mTOR pathways were aberrantly activated in SCC. Unsupervised twoway hierarchical clustering revealed that AK and UIA shared a common signaling network activation architecture while SCC was dramatically different. Statistical analysis found that prosurvival signaling through phosphorylation of ASK and 4EBP1 as well as increased Bax and Bak expression was higher in AK compared with UIA. We expanded pathway network activation mapping in set 2 to 101 key signaling proteins, which corroborated activation of MEK-ERK, EGFR, and mTOR pathways through discovery of a number of upstream and downstream signaling molecules within these pathways to conclude that SCC is indeed a pathway activation-driven disease. Pathway activation mapping of SCC compared with AK revealed several interconnected networks that could be targeted with drug therapy for potential chemoprevention and therapeutic applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Prevention Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


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