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Journal: Cancer discovery


Biomarkers for a more precise patient care are needed in metastatic prostate cancer (mPC). We have reported a Phase II trial (TOPARP-A) of the poly(ADP)-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor olaparib in mPC, demonstrating antitumor activity associating with homologous recombination DNA repair defects. We now report targeted and whole exome sequencing of serial circulating-free DNA (cfDNA) samples collected during this trial. Decreases in cfDNA concentration independently associated with outcome in multivariable analyses (HR for overall survival at week 8: 0.19; 95%CI 0.06-0.56 p=0.003). All tumor tissue somatic DNA repair mutations were detectable in cfDNA; allele frequency of somatic mutations decreased selectively in responding patients (Chi-squared p<0.001). At disease progression, following response to olaparib, multiple sub-clonal aberrations reverting germline and somatic DNA repair mutations (BRCA2, PALB2) back in frame emerged as mechanisms of resistance. These data support the role of liquid biopsies as predictive, prognostic, response and resistance biomarker in mPC.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Cancer, Mutation, Evolution, DNA repair, Homologous recombination, Prostate cancer


We found that the cancerous pancreas harbors a markedly more abundant microbiome compared with normal pancreas in both mice and humans, and select bacteria are differentially increased in the tumorous pancreas compared with gut. Ablation of the microbiome protects against preinvasive and invasive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), whereas transfer of bacteria from PDA-bearing hosts, but not controls, reverses tumor protection. Bacterial ablation was associated with immunogenic reprogramming of the PDA tumor microenvironment, including a reduction in myeloid-derived suppressor cells and an increase in M1 macrophage differentiation, promoting TH1 differentiation of CD4+T cells and CD8+T-cell activation. Bacterial ablation also enabled efficacy for checkpoint-targeted immunotherapy by upregulating PD-1 expression. Mechanistically, the PDA microbiome generated a tolerogenic immune program by differentially activating select Toll-like receptors in monocytic cells. These data suggest that endogenous microbiota promote the crippling immune-suppression characteristic of PDA and that the microbiome has potential as a therapeutic target in the modulation of disease progression.SIGNIFICANCE:We found that a distinct and abundant microbiome drives suppressive monocytic cellular differentiation in pancreatic cancer via selective Toll-like receptor ligation leading to T-cell anergy. Targeting the microbiome protects against oncogenesis, reverses intratumoral immune tolerance, and enables efficacy for checkpoint-based immunotherapy. These data have implications for understanding immune suppression in pancreatic cancer and its reversal in the clinic.Cancer Discov; 8(4);1-14. ©2018 AACR.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene expression, Cancer, Bacteria, Pancreas, Immunology, Pancreatic cancer


Talazoparib inhibits poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) catalytic activity, trapping PARP1 on damaged DNA and causing cell death in BRCA1/2-mutated cells. We evaluated talazoparib therapy in this 2-part, phase I, first-in-human trial. Antitumor activity, maximum tolerated dose (MTD), pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of once-daily talazoparib were determined in an open-label, multicenter, dose-escalation study (NCT01286987). The MTD was 1.0 mg/day, with an elimination half-life of 50 hours. Treatment-related adverse events included fatigue (26/71 patients; 37%) and anemia (25/71 patients; 35%). Grade 3 to 4 adverse events included anemia (17/71 patients; 24%) and thrombocytopenia (13/71 patients; 18%). Sustained PARP inhibition was observed at doses ≥0.60 mg/day. At 1.0 mg/day, confirmed responses were observed in 7/14 (50%) and 5/12 (42%) patients with BRCA mutation-associated breast and ovarian cancers, respectively, and in patients with pancreatic and small cell lung cancer. Talazoparib demonstrated single-agent antitumor activity and was well tolerated in patients at the recommended dose of 1.0 mg/day.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Lung cancer, DNA repair, Leukemia, Small cell carcinoma


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine subtype of lung cancer with high mortality. We used a systematic drug repositioning bioinformatics approach querying a large compendium of gene expression profiles to identify candidate U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs to treat SCLC. We found that tricyclic antidepressants and related molecules potently induce apoptosis in both chemonaïve and chemoresistant SCLC cells in culture, in mouse and human SCLC tumors transplanted into immunocompromised mice, and in endogenous tumors from a mouse model for human SCLC. The candidate drugs activate stress pathways and induce cell death in SCLC cells, at least in part by disrupting autocrine survival signals involving neurotransmitters and their G protein-coupled receptors. The candidate drugs inhibit the growth of other neuroendocrine tumors, including pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and Merkel cell carcinoma. These experiments identify novel targeted strategies that can be rapidly evaluated in patients with neuroendocrine tumors through the repurposing of approved drugs.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Cancer, Oncology, Lung cancer, Neuroendocrine tumor, Small cell carcinoma


Lymphodepletion chemotherapy followed by infusion of CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptor-modified T (CAR-T) cells can be complicated by neurologic adverse events (AE) in patients with refractory B-cell malignancies. In 133 adults treated with CD19 CAR-T cells, we found that acute lymphoblastic leukemia, high CD19(+) cells in bone marrow, high CAR-T cell dose, cytokine release syndrome, and preexisting neurologic comorbidities were associated with increased risk of neurologic AEs. Patients with severe neurotoxicity demonstrated evidence of endothelial activation, including disseminated intravascular coagulation, capillary leak, and increased blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability. The permeable BBB failed to protect the cerebrospinal fluid from high concentrations of systemic cytokines, including IFNγ, which induced brain vascular pericyte stress and their secretion of endothelium-activating cytokines. Endothelial activation and multifocal vascular disruption were found in the brain of a patient with fatal neurotoxicity. Biomarkers of endothelial activation were higher before treatment in patients who subsequently developed grade ≥4 neurotoxicity.SIGNIFICANCE: We provide a detailed clinical, radiologic, and pathologic characterization of neuro-toxicity after CD19 CAR-T cells, and identify risk factors for neurotoxicity. We show endothelial dysfunction and increased BBB permeability in neurotoxicity and find that patients with evidence of endothelial activation before lymphodepletion may be at increased risk of neurotoxicity. Cancer Discov; 7(12); 1-16. ©2017 AACR.

Concepts: Cancer, Brain, Neurology, Leukemia, Endothelium, Cerebrospinal fluid, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Disseminated intravascular coagulation


Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has teamed up with biotechnology company Advaxis to explore development of neoepitope-based immunotherapies. The partnership is just one of several such ventures in a promising area of research that uses advanced sequencing technology to customize vaccines based on altered proteins in individual patients' tumors.

Concepts: Cancer, Molecular biology, Biotechnology, Immunotherapy


Loss of function mutations in JAK½ can lead to acquired resistance to anti-programmed death protein 1 (PD-1) therapy. We reasoned they may also be involved in primary resistance to anti-PD-1 therapy. JAK½ inactivating mutations were noted in tumor biopsies of 1 of 23 patients with melanoma and in 1 of 16 patients with mismatch repair deficient colon cancer treated with PD-1 blockade. Both cases had a high mutational load but did not respond to anti-PD-1 therapy. Two out of 48 human melanoma cell lines had JAK½ mutations, which led to lack of PD-L1 expression upon interferon gamma exposure mediated by inability to signal through the interferon gamma receptor pathway. JAK½ loss-of-function alterations in TCGA confer adverse outcomes in patients. We propose that JAK½ loss-of-function mutations are a genetic mechanism of lack of reactive PD-L1 expression and response to interferon gamma, leading to primary resistance to PD-1 blockade therapy.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Genetics, Cancer, Ionizing radiation, Mutation, Evolution, DNA repair


Neuroblastomas (NBs) harboring activating point mutations in Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) are differentially sensitive to the ALK inhibitor crizotinib, with certain mutations conferring intrinsic crizotinib resistance. To overcome this clinical obstacle, our goal was to identify inhibitors with improved potency that can target intractable ALK variants such as F1174L. We find that PF-06463922 has high potency across ALK variants, and inhibits ALK more effectively than crizotinib in vitro. Most importantly, PF-06463922 induces complete tumor regression in both crizotinib-resistant and sensitive xenograft mouse models of NB, as well as in PDXs harboring the crizotinib-resistant F1174L or F1245C mutations. These studies demonstrate that PF-06463922 has the potential to overcome crizotinib resistance, and exerts unprecedented activity as a single targeted agent against F1174L and F1245C ALK-mutated xenograft tumors, while also inducing responses in a R1275Q xenograft model. Taken together, these results provide the rationale to move PF-06463922 into clinical trials for treatment of patients with ALK-mutated NB.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Cancer, Oncology, Tumor, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor, Anaplastic large cell lymphoma


To understand the genetic drivers of immune recognition and evasion in colorectal cancer (CRC), we analyzed 1,211 CRC primary tumor samples, including 179 classified as microsatellite instability-high (MSI-high). This set includes The Cancer Genome Atlas CRC cohort of 592 samples, completed and analyzed here. MSI-high, a hypermutated, immunogenic subtype of CRC, had a high rate of significantly mutated genes in important immune modulating pathways and in the antigen presentation machinery, including biallelic losses of B2M and HLA genes due to copy number alterations and copy-neutral loss of heterozygosity (CN-LOH). WNT/β-catenin signaling genes were significantly mutated in all CRC subtypes, and activated WNT/β-catenin signaling was correlated with the absence of T-cell infiltration. This large-scale genomic analysis of CRC demonstrates that MSI-high cases frequently undergo an immunoediting process that provides them with genetic events allowing immune escape despite high mutational load and frequent lymphocytic infiltration, and furthermore, that CRC tumors have genetic and methylation events associated with activated WNT signaling and T-cell exclusion.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cancer, Mutation, Evolution, Genome


T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive malignancy of thymocytes. Using a transgenic screen in zebrafish, thymocyte selection-associated high mobility box protein (TOX) was uncovered as a collaborating oncogenic driver that accelerated T-ALL onset by expanding the initiating pool of transformed clones and elevating genomic instability. TOX is highly expressed in a majority of human T-ALL and is required for proliferation and continued xenograft growth in mice. Using a wide array of functional analyses, we uncovered that TOX binds directly to KU70/80 and suppresses recruitment of this complex to DNA breaks to inhibit Non-Homologous End Joining repair (NHEJ). Impaired NHEJ is well known to cause genomic instability, including development of T cell malignancies in Ku70 and Ku80 deficient mice. Collectively, our work has uncovered important roles for TOX in regulating NHEJ by elevating genomic instability during leukemia initiation and sustaining leukemic cell proliferation following transformation.

Concepts: Gene, Cancer, DNA repair, Leukemia, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Thymus, Non-homologous end joining, Ku70