Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Cancer discovery


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


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


High-throughput genomic analyses may improve outcomes in patients with advanced cancers. MOSCATO 01 is a prospective clinical trial evaluating the clinical benefit of this approach. Nucleic acids were extracted from fresh-frozen tumor biopsies and analyzed by array comparative genomic hybridization, next-generation sequencing, and RNA sequencing. The primary objective was to evaluate clinical benefit as measured by the percentage of patients presenting progression-free survival (PFS) on matched therapy (PFS2) 1.3-fold longer than the PFS on prior therapy (PFS1). A total of 1,035 adult patients were included, and a biopsy was performed in 948. An actionable molecular alteration was identified in 411 of 843 patients with a molecular portrait. A total of 199 patients were treated with a targeted therapy matched to a genomic alteration. The PFS2/PFS1 ratio was >1.3 in 33% of the patients (63/193). Objective responses were observed in 22 of 194 patients (11%; 95% CI, 7%-17%), and median overall survival was 11.9 months (95% CI, 9.5-14.3 months).SIGNIFICANCE: This study suggests that high-throughput genomics could improve outcomes in a subset of patients with hard-to-treat cancers. Although these results are encouraging, only 7% of the successfully screened patients benefited from this approach. Randomized trials are needed to validate this hypothesis and to quantify the magnitude of benefit. Expanding drug access could increase the percentage of patients who benefit. Cancer Discov; 7(6); 1-10. ©2017 AACR.

Concepts: Genetics, Cancer, Oncology, Molecular biology, Biopsy, Pathology, The Canon of Medicine, Biotechnology


Kinase inhibitor resistance often involves upregulation of poorly understood “bypass” signaling pathways. Here, we show that extracellular proteomic adaptation is one path to bypass signaling and drug resistance. Proteolytic shedding of surface receptors, which can provide negative feedback on signaling activity, is blocked by kinase inhibitor treatment and enhances bypass signaling. In particular, MEK inhibition broadly decreases shedding of multiple receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK), including HER4, MET, and most prominently AXL, an ADAM10 and ADAM17 substrate, thus increasing surface RTK levels and mitogenic signaling. Progression-free survival of patients with melanoma treated with clinical BRAF/MEK inhibitors inversely correlates with RTK shedding reduction following treatment, as measured noninvasively in blood plasma. Disrupting protease inhibition by neutralizing TIMP1 improves MAPK inhibitor efficacy, and combined MAPK/AXL inhibition synergistically reduces tumor growth and metastasis in xenograft models. Altogether, extracellular proteomic rewiring through reduced RTK shedding represents a surprising mechanism for bypass signaling in cancer drug resistance.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Signal transduction, Enzyme, Receptor tyrosine kinase, Protein kinase, Phosphorylation, Inhibitor


Acquired drug resistance is a major factor limiting the effectiveness of targeted cancer therapies. Targeting tumors with kinase inhibitors induces complex adaptive programs that promote the persistence of a fraction of the original cell population, facilitating the eventual outgrowth of inhibitor-resistant tumor clones. We show that the addition of a newly identified CDK7/12 inhibitor, THZ1, to targeted therapy enhances cell killing and impedes the emergence of drug-resistant cell populations in diverse cellular and in vivo cancer models. We propose that targeted therapy induces a state of transcriptional dependency in a subpopulation of cells poised to become drug tolerant, which THZ1 can exploit by blocking dynamic transcriptional responses, remodeling of enhancers and key signalling outputs required for tumor cell survival in the setting of targeted therapy. These findings suggest that the addition of THZ1 to targeted therapies is a promising broad-based strategy to hinder the emergence of drug-resistant cancer cell populations.

Concepts: Gene expression, Cancer, Oncology, Chemotherapy, Benign tumor, Tumor, Neoplasm, Targeted therapy


Lysosomes serve dual roles in cancer metabolism, executing catabolic programs (i.e. autophagy and macropinocytosis), while promoting mTORC1-dependent anabolism. Antimalarial compounds such as chloroquine or quinacrine have been used as lysosomal inhibitors, but fail to inhibit mTOR signaling. Further, the molecular target of these agents has not been identified. We report a screen of novel dimeric antimalarials that identifies dimeric quinacrines (DQs) as potent anticancer compounds, which concurrently inhibit mTOR and autophagy. Central nitrogen methylation of the DQ linker enhances lysosomal localization and potency. An in situ photoaffinity pulldown identified palmitoyl-protein thioesterase 1 (PPT1) as the molecular target of DQ661. PPT1 inhibition concurrently impairs mTOR and lysosomal catabolism through the rapid accumulation of palmitoylated proteins. DQ661 inhibits the in vivo tumor growth of melanoma, pancreatic, and colorectal cancer mouse models and can be safely combined with chemotherapy. Thus, lysosome-directed PPT1 inhibitors represent a new approach to concurrently targeting mTORC1 and lysosomal catabolism in cancer.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Metabolism, Chemotherapy, Colorectal cancer, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor, Anabolism