Professional Education

  • Bachelor of Arts, Augustana College (2012)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Iowa (2016)

All Publications

  • BST-2 promotes survival in circulation and pulmonary metastatic seeding of breast cancer cells. Scientific reports Mahauad-Fernandez, W. D., Naushad, W., Panzner, T. D., Bashir, A., Lal, G., Okeoma, C. M. 2018; 8 (1): 17608


    Bone marrow stromal antigen 2 (BST-2) mediates various facets of cancer progression and metastasis. Here, we show that BST-2 is linked to poor survival in invasive breast cancer patients as its expression positively correlates with disease severity. However, the mechanisms that drive the pro-metastatic functions of BST-2 are not fully understood. Correlation of BST-2 expression and tumor aggressiveness was analyzed in human tissue samples. Migration, invasion, and competitive experimental metastasis assays were used to measure the cellular responses after silencing BST-2 expression. Using a mouse model of breast cancer, we show that BST-2 promotes metastasis independent of the primary tumor. Additional experiments show that suppression of BST-2 renders non-adherent cancer cells non-viable by sensitizing cells to anoikis. Embedment of cancer cells in basement membrane matrix reveals that silencing BTS-2 expression inhibits invadopodia formation, extracellular matrix degradation, and subsequent cell invasion. Competitive experimental pulmonary metastasis shows that silencing BST-2 reduces the numbers of viable circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and decreases the efficiency of lung colonization. Our data define a previously unknown function for BST-2 in the i) formation of invadopodia, ii) degradation of extracellular matrix, and iii) protection of CTCs from hemodynamic stress. We believe that physical (tractional forces) and biochemical (ECM type/composition) cues may control BST-2's role in cell survival and invadopodia formation. Collectively, our findings highlight BST-2 as a key factor that allows cancer cells to invade, survive in circulation, and at the metastatic site.

    View details for PubMedID 30514852

  • B49, a BST-2-based peptide, inhibits adhesion and growth of breast cancer cells SCIENTIFIC REPORTS Mahauad-Fernandez, W. D., Okeoma, C. M. 2018; 8: 4305


    Bone marrow stromal antigen 2 (BST-2) also known as Tetherin has been implicated in the growth and progression of many cancers. BST-2 employs its pro-tumor effects through the formation of BST-2:BST-2 dimers which ultimately promotes cell to cell and cell to matrix adhesion, cell motility, survival, and growth. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of a novel BST-2-based peptide-B49 on adhesion and growth of breast cancer cells. Homotypic/heterotypic adhesion, three-dimensional spheroid formation, and anchorage-independent growth were used to assess the effect of B49 on cell adhesion and growth. Additionally, we provide evidence of the anti-tumor effect of B49 in a preclinical mouse model of breast cancer. Results show that breast cancer cell adhesion to other cancer cells or components of the tumor microenvironment were inhibited by B49. Most well-known evaluation indexes of cancer cell growth, including spheroid formation, anchorage-independent, and primary tumor growth were significantly inhibited by B49. These data affirm that i) BST-2 plays a key role in mediating breast cancer cell adhesion and growth, and ii) B49 and its analog B49Mod1 significantly inhibits BST-2-mediated cancer cell adhesion and growth. Therefore, B49 and its analogs offer a promising anti-adhesion and therapeutic lead for BST-2-dependent cancers.

    View details for PubMedID 29523843

  • Structural determinant of BST-2-mediated regulation of breast cancer cell motility: a role for cytoplasmic tail tyrosine residues ONCOTARGET Naushad, W., Mahauad-Fernandez, W. D., Okeoma, C. M. 2017; 8 (66): 110221–33


    There is now irrefutable evidence that overexpression of the innate immunity protein-BST-2, in breast cancer cells is implicated in tumor growth and progression. The cellular mechanisms that control BST-2-mediated effect in tumor progression involve enhancement of cancer cell motility-migration/invasion. However, the distinct structural elements of BST-2 that mediate breast cancer cell motility remain unknown. Here, we used various motility assays and different variants of BST-2 to examine the cellular and structural mechanisms controlling BST-2-mediated cell motility. We show that BST-2 silencing in various cancer cell lines inhibits cell motility. Restoration of BST-2 expression using construct expressing wild type BST-2 rescues cell motility. Mutational analysis identifies the cytoplasmic tail of BST-2 as a novel regulator of cancer cell motility, because cell motility was significantly abrogated by substitution of the BST-2 cytoplasmic tail tyrosine residues to alanine residues. Furthermore, in a spheroid invasion model, BST-2-expressing tumor spheroids are highly invasive inside 3D Matrigel matrices. In this model, the spreading distance of BST-2-expressing spheroids was significantly higher than that of BST-2-suppressed spheroids. Collectively, our data reveal that i) BST-2-expressing breast cancer cells in spheroids are more motile than their BST-2-supressed counterparts; ii) BST-2 cytoplasmic tail regulates non-proteolytic (migration) and proteolytic (invasion) mechanisms of breast cancer cell motility; and iii) replacement of the tyrosine residues at positions 6 and 8 in the cytoplasmic tail of BST-2 with alanine residues inhibits cell motility.

    View details for PubMedID 29299143