Immunotherapy has shown limited efficacy in patients with EGFR-mutated lung cancer. Efforts to enhance the immunogenicity of EGFR-mutated lung cancer have been unsuccessful to date. Here, we discover that MET amplification, the most common mechanism of resistance to third-generation EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), activates tumor cell STING, an emerging determinant of cancer immunogenicity (1). However, STING activation was restrained by ectonucleosidase CD73, which is induced in MET-amplified, EGFR-TKI-resistant cells. Systematic genomic analyses and cell line studies confirmed upregulation of CD73 in MET-amplified and MET-activated lung cancer contexts, which depends on coinduction of FOSL1. Pemetrexed (PEM), which is commonly used following EGFR-TKI treatment failure, was identified as an effective potentiator of STING-dependent TBK1-IRF3-STAT1 signaling in MET-amplified, EGFR-TKI-resistant cells. However, PEM treatment also induced adenosine production, which inhibited T-cell responsiveness. In an allogenic humanized mouse model, CD73 deletion enhanced immunogenicity of MET-amplified, EGFR-TKI-resistant cells, and PEM treatment promoted robust responses regardless of CD73 status. Using a physiologic antigen recognition model, inactivation of CD73 significantly increased antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell immunogenicity following PEM treatment. These data reveal that combined PEM and CD73 inhibition can co-opt tumor cell STING induction in TKI-resistant EGFR-mutated lung cancers and promote immunogenicity.
SIGNIFICANCE: MET amplification upregulates CD73 to suppress tumor cell STING induction and T-cell responsiveness in TKI-resistant, EGFR-mutated lung cancer, identifying a strategy to enhance immunogenicity and improve treatment.
In EGFR-mutant lung cancer, drug-tolerant persister cells (DTPCs) show prolonged survival when receiving EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) treatments. They are a likely source of drug resistance, but little is known about how these cells tolerate drugs. Ribonucleic acids (RNAs) molecules control cell growth and stress responses. Nucleic acid metabolism provides metabolites, such as purines, supporting RNA synthesis and downstream functions. Recently, noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs), such as microRNAs (miRNAs), have received attention due to their capacity to repress gene expression via inhibitory binding to downstream messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Here, our study links miRNA expression to purine metabolism and drug tolerance. MiR-21-5p (guide strand) is a commonly upregulated miRNA in disease states, including cancer and drug resistance. However, the expression and function of miR-21-3p (passenger strand) are not well understood. We found that upregulation of miR-21-5p and miR-21-3p tune purine metabolism leading to increased drug tolerance. Metabolomics data demonstrated that purine metabolism was the top pathway in the DTPCs compared with the parental cells. The changes in purine metabolites in the DTPCs were partially rescued by targeting miR-21. Analysis of protein levels in the DTPCs showed that reduced expression of adenylosuccinate lyase (ADSL) was reversed after the miR-21 knockdown. ADSL is an essential enzyme in the de novo purine biosynthesis pathway by converting succino-5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide riboside (succino-AICAR or SAICAR) to AICAR (or acadesine) as well as adenylosuccinate to adenosine monophosphate (AMP). In the DTPCs, miR-21-5p and miR-21-3p repress ADSL expression. The levels of top decreased metabolite in the DTPCs, AICAR was reversed when miR-21 was blocked. AICAR induced oxidative stress, evidenced by increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reduced expression of nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (NRF2). Concurrently, miR-21 knockdown induced ROS generation. Therapeutically, a combination of AICAR and osimertinib increased ROS levels and decreased osimertinib-induced NRF2 expression. In a MIR21 knockout mouse model, MIR21 loss-of-function led to increased purine metabolites but reduced ROS scavenging capacity in lung tissues in physiological conditions. Our data has established a link between ncRNAs, purine metabolism, and the redox imbalance pathway. This discovery will increase knowledge of the complexity of the regulatory RNA network and potentially enable novel therapeutic options for drug-resistant patients.
KRAS-LKB1 (KL) mutant lung cancers silence STING owing to intrinsic mitochondrial dysfunction, resulting in T cell exclusion and resistance to programmed cell death (ligand) 1 (PD-[L]1) blockade. Here we discover that KL cells also minimize intracellular accumulation of 2'3'-cyclic GMP-AMP (2'3'-cGAMP) to further avoid downstream STING and STAT1 activation. An unbiased screen to co-opt this vulnerability reveals that transient MPS1 inhibition (MPS1i) potently re-engages this pathway in KL cells via micronuclei generation. This effect is markedly amplified by epigenetic de-repression of STING and only requires pulse MPS1i treatment, creating a therapeutic window compared with non-dividing cells. A single course of decitabine treatment followed by pulse MPS1i therapy restores T cell infiltration in vivo, enhances anti-PD-1 efficacy, and results in a durable response without evidence of significant toxicity.
Gain-of-function mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) in human cancers result in the production of d-2-hydroxyglutarate (d-2HG), an oncometabolite that promotes tumorigenesis through epigenetic alterations. The cancer cell-intrinsic effects of d-2HG are well understood, but its tumor cell-nonautonomous roles remain poorly explored. We compared the oncometabolite d-2HG with its enantiomer, l-2HG, and found that tumor-derived d-2HG was taken up by CD8+ T cells and altered their metabolism and antitumor functions in an acute and reversible fashion. We identified the glycolytic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) as a molecular target of d-2HG. d-2HG and inhibition of LDH drive a metabolic program and immune CD8+ T cell signature marked by decreased cytotoxicity and impaired interferon-γ signaling that was recapitulated in clinical samples from human patients with IDH1 mutant gliomas.
Estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer represents 75% of all breast cancers in women. Although patients with ER+ cancers receive endocrine therapies, more than 30% develop resistance and succumb to the disease, highlighting the need to understand endocrine resistance. Here we show an unexpected role for the cell polarity protein SCRIB as a tumor-promoter and a regulator of endocrine resistance in ER-positive breast cancer cells. SCRIB expression is induced by estrogen signaling in a MYC-dependent manner. SCRIB interacts with SLC3A2, a heteromeric component of leucine amino acid transporter SLC7A5. SLC3A2 binds to the N-terminus of SCRIB to facilitate the formation of SCRIB/SLC3A2/LLGL2/SLC7A5 quaternary complex required for membrane localization of the amino acid transporter complex. Both SCRIB and SLC3A2 are required for cell proliferation and tamoxifen resistance in ER+ cells identifying a new role for the SCRIB/SLC3A2 complex in ER+ breast cancer.
How the glioma immune microenvironment fosters tumorigenesis remains incompletely defined. Here, we use single-cell RNA-sequencing and multiplexed tissue-imaging to characterize the composition, spatial organization, and clinical significance of extracellular purinergic signaling in glioma. We show that microglia are the predominant source of CD39, while tumor cells principally express CD73. In glioblastoma, CD73 is associated with EGFR amplification, astrocyte-like differentiation, and increased adenosine, and is linked to hypoxia. Glioblastomas enriched for CD73 exhibit inflammatory microenvironments, suggesting that purinergic signaling regulates immune adaptation. Spatially-resolved single-cell analyses demonstrate a strong spatial correlation between tumor-CD73 and microglial-CD39, with proximity associated with poor outcomes. Similar spatial organization is present in pediatric high-grade gliomas including H3K27M-mutant diffuse midline glioma. These data reveal that purinergic signaling in gliomas is shaped by genotype, lineage, and functional state, and that core enzymes expressed by tumor and myeloid cells are organized to promote adenosine-rich microenvironments potentially amenable to therapeutic targeting.
Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors exert their efficacy via synthetic lethal effects and by inducing cGAS/STING-mediated immune responses. We demonstrate that compared to monotherapies, combined PARP inhibition and STING agonism results in increased STING pathway activation, greater cytotoxic T-cell recruitment and enhanced dendritic cell activation in BRCA1-deficient breast cancer models. The combination markedly improved anti-tumor efficacy in vivo, with evidence of complete tumor clearance, prolongation of survival and induction of immunologic memory.
DNA repair pathway inhibitors are a new class of anticancer drugs that are advancing in clinical trials. Peposertib is an inhibitor of DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), which is a key driver of nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ). To identify regulators of response to peposertib, we performed a genome-wide CRISPR knockout screen and found that loss of POLQ (polymerase theta, POLθ) and other genes in the microhomology-mediated end-joining (MMEJ) pathway are key predictors of sensitivity to DNA-PK inhibition. Simultaneous disruption of two DNA repair pathways via combined treatment with peposertib plus a POLθ inhibitor novobiocin exhibited synergistic synthetic lethality resulting from accumulation of toxic levels of DNA double-strand break end resection. TP53-mutant tumor cells were resistant to peposertib but maintained elevated expression of POLQ and increased sensitivity to novobiocin. Consequently, the combination of peposertib plus novobiocin resulted in synthetic lethality in TP53-deficient tumor cell lines, organoid cultures, and patient-derived xenograft models. Thus, the combination of a targeted DNA-PK/NHEJ inhibitor with a targeted POLθ/MMEJ inhibitor may provide a rational treatment strategy for TP53-mutant solid tumors.
SIGNIFICANCE: Combined inhibition of NHEJ and MMEJ using two nontoxic, targeted DNA repair inhibitors can effectively induce toxic DNA damage to treat TP53-deficient cancers.
The tumor microenvironment (TME) is a unique metabolic niche that can inhibit T cell metabolism and cytotoxicity. To dissect the metabolic interplay between tumors and T cells, we establish an in vitro system that recapitulates the metabolic niche of the TME and allows us to define cell-specific metabolism. We identify tumor-derived lactate as an inhibitor of CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity, revealing an unexpected metabolic shunt in the TCA cycle. Metabolically fit cytotoxic T cells shunt succinate out of the TCA cycle to promote autocrine signaling via the succinate receptor (SUCNR1). Cytotoxic T cells are reliant on pyruvate carboxylase (PC) to replenish TCA cycle intermediates. By contrast, lactate reduces PC-mediated anaplerosis. The inhibition of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) is sufficient to restore PC activity, succinate secretion, and the activation of SUCNR1. These studies identify PDH as a potential drug target to allow CD8+ T cells to retain cytotoxicity and overcome a lactate-enriched TME.
The breast is a dynamic organ whose response to physiological and pathophysiological conditions alters its disease susceptibility, yet the specific effects of these clinical variables on cell state remain poorly annotated. We present a unified, high-resolution breast atlas by integrating single-cell RNA-seq, mass cytometry, and cyclic immunofluorescence, encompassing a myriad of states. We define cell subtypes within the alveolar, hormone-sensing, and basal epithelial lineages, delineating associations of several subtypes with cancer risk factors, including age, parity, and BRCA2germline mutation. Of particular interest is a subset of alveolar cells termed basal-luminal (BL) cells, which exhibit poor transcriptional lineage fidelity, accumulate with age, and carry a gene signature associated with basal-like breast cancer. We further utilize a medium-depletion approach to identify molecular factors regulating cell-subtype proportion in organoids. Together, these data are a rich resource to elucidate diverse mammary cell states.
Intratumoral heterogeneity has been described for various tumor types and models of human cancer, and can have profound effects on tumor progression and drug resistance. This study describes an in-depth analysis of molecular and functional heterogeneity among subclonal populations (SCPs) derived from a single triple-negative breast cancer cell line, including copy number analysis, whole-exome and RNA sequencing, proteome analysis, and barcode analysis of clonal dynamics, as well as functional assays. The SCPs were found to have multiple unique genetic alterations and displayed significant variation in anchorage independent growth and tumor forming ability. Analyses of clonal dynamics in SCP mixtures using DNA barcode technology revealed selection for distinct clonal populations in different in vitro and in vivo environmental contexts, demonstrating that in vitro propagation of cancer cell lines using different culture conditions can contribute to the establishment of unique strains. These analyses also revealed strong enrichment of a single SCP during the development of xenograft tumors in immune-compromised mice. This SCP displayed attenuated interferon signaling in vivo and reduced sensitivity to the antiproliferative effects of type I interferons. Reduction in interferon signaling was found to provide a selective advantage within the xenograft microenvironment specifically. In concordance with the previously described role of interferon signaling as tumor suppressor, these findings suggest that similar selective pressures may be operative in human cancer and patient-derived xenograft models.
Most cancer vaccines target peptide antigens, necessitating personalization owing to the vast inter-individual diversity in major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules that present peptides to T cells. Furthermore, tumours frequently escape T cell-mediated immunity through mechanisms that interfere with peptide presentation1. Here we report a cancer vaccine that induces a coordinated attack by diverse T cell and natural killer (NK) cell populations. The vaccine targets the MICA and MICB (MICA/B) stress proteins expressed by many human cancers as a result of DNA damage2. MICA/B serve as ligands for the activating NKG2D receptor on T cells and NK cells, but tumours evade immune recognition by proteolytic MICA/B cleavage3,4. Vaccine-induced antibodies increase the density of MICA/B proteins on the surface of tumour cells by inhibiting proteolytic shedding, enhance presentation of tumour antigens by dendritic cells to T cells and augment the cytotoxic function of NK cells. Notably, this vaccine maintains efficacy against MHC class I-deficient tumours resistant to cytotoxic T cells through the coordinated action of NK cells and CD4+ T cells. The vaccine is also efficacious in a clinically important setting: immunization following surgical removal of primary, highly metastatic tumours inhibits the later outgrowth of metastases. This vaccine design enables protective immunity even against tumours with common escape mutations.
Individual participant data (IPD) from oncology clinical trials is invaluable for identifying factors that influence trial success and failure, improving trial design and interpretation, and comparing pre-clinical studies to clinical outcomes. However, the IPD used to generate published survival curves are not generally publicly available. We impute survival IPD from ~500 arms of Phase 3 oncology trials (representing ~220,000 events) and find that they are well fit by a two-parameter Weibull distribution. Use of Weibull functions with overall survival significantly increases the precision of small arms typical of early phase trials: analysis of a 50-patient trial arm using parametric forms is as precise as traditional, non-parametric analysis of a 90-patient arm. We also show that frequent deviations from the Cox proportional hazards assumption, particularly in trials of immune checkpoint inhibitors, arise from time-dependent therapeutic effects. Trial duration therefore has an underappreciated impact on the likelihood of success.
Copper is an essential cofactor for all organisms, and yet it becomes toxic if concentrations exceed a threshold maintained by evolutionarily conserved homeostatic mechanisms. How excess copper induces cell death, however, is unknown. Here, we show in human cells that copper-dependent, regulated cell death is distinct from known death mechanisms and is dependent on mitochondrial respiration. We show that copper-dependent death occurs by means of direct binding of copper to lipoylated components of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. This results in lipoylated protein aggregation and subsequent iron-sulfur cluster protein loss, which leads to proteotoxic stress and ultimately cell death. These findings may explain the need for ancient copper homeostatic mechanisms.
Immune evasion is a significant contributor to tumor evolution, and the immunoinhibitory axis PD-1/PD-L1 is a frequent mechanism employed to escape tumor immune surveillance. To identify cancer drivers involved in immune evasion, we performed a CRISPR-Cas9 screen of tumor suppressor genes regulating the basal and interferon (IFN)-inducible cell surface levels of PD-L1. Multiple regulators of PD-L1 were identified, including IRF2, ARID2, KMT2D, and AAMP. We also identified CTCF and the cohesin complex proteins, known regulators of chromatin architecture and transcription, among the most potent negative regulators of PD-L1 cell surface expression. Additionally, loss of the cohesin subunit RAD21 was shown to up-regulate PD-L2 and MHC-I surface expression. PD-L1 and MHC-I suppression by cohesin were shown to be conserved in mammary epithelial and myeloid cells. Comprehensive examination of the transcriptional effect of STAG2 deficiency in epithelial and myeloid cells revealed an activation of strong IFN and NF-κB expression signatures. Inhibition of JAK-STAT or NF-κB pathways did not result in rescue of PD-L1 up-regulation in RAD21-deficient cells, suggesting more complex or combinatorial mechanisms at play. Discovery of the PD-L1 and IFN up-regulation in cohesin-mutant cells expands our understanding of the biology of cohesin-deficient cells as well as molecular regulation of the PD-L1 molecule.
Transcription is a complex, dynamic process. Using live single-cell measurements, Patange et al. show, in a recent issue of Cell Reports, that elevated levels of the transcription factor MYC enhance target gene RNA production by increasing the duration but not frequency of transcriptional bursts.
The combination of single-cell transcriptomics with mitochondrial DNA variant detection can be used to establish lineage relationships in primary human cells, but current methods are not scalable to interrogate complex tissues. Here, we combine common 3' single-cell RNA-sequencing protocols with mitochondrial transcriptome enrichment to increase coverage by more than 50-fold, enabling high-confidence mutation detection. The method successfully identifies skewed immune-cell expansions in primary human clonal hematopoiesis.
PURPOSE: Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) is a neoplasm characterized by smooth muscle differentiation, complex copy-number alterations, tumor suppressor loss and the absence of recurrent driver mutations. Clinical management for advanced disease relies on the use of empiric cytotoxic chemotherapy with limited activity, and novel targeted therapies supported by preclinical research on LMS biology are urgently needed. A lack of fidelity of established LMS cell lines to their mesenchymal neoplasm of origin has limited translational understanding of this disease, and few other preclinical models have been established. Here, we characterize LMS patient derived xenograft (PDX) models of LMS, assessing fidelity to their tumors of origin and performing preclinical evaluation of candidate therapies. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We implanted 49 LMS surgical samples into immunocompromised mice. Engrafting tumors were characterized by histology, targeted next-generation sequencing, RNA-seq and ultra-low passage whole-genome sequencing. Candidate therapies were selected based on prior evidence of pathway activation or high-throughput dynamic BH3 profiling. RESULTS: We show that LMS PDX maintain the histologic appearance, copy-number alterations and transcriptional program of their parental tumors across multiple xenograft passages. Transcriptionally, LMS PDX co-cluster with paired LMS patient-derived samples and differ primarily in host-related immunologic and microenvironment signatures. We identify susceptibility of LMS PDX to transcriptional CDK inhibition, which disrupts an E2F-driven oncogenic transcriptional program and inhibits tumor growth. CONCLUSIONS: Our results establish LMS PDX as valuable preclinical models and identify strategies to discover novel vulnerabilities in this disease. These data support the clinical assessment of transcriptional CDK inhibitors as a therapeutic strategy for LMS patients.