Featured Publications

Kodack, D.P., et al. The brain microenvironment mediates resistance in luminal breast cancer to PI3K inhibition through HER3 activation. Sci Transl Med 9, 391, (2017).Abstract
Although targeted therapies are often effective systemically, they fail to adequately control brain metastases. In preclinical models of breast cancer that faithfully recapitulate the disparate clinical responses in these microenvironments, we observed that brain metastases evade phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibition despite drug accumulation in the brain lesions. In comparison to extracranial disease, we observed increased HER3 expression and phosphorylation in brain lesions. HER3 blockade overcame the resistance of HER2-amplified and/or PIK3CA-mutant breast cancer brain metastases to PI3K inhibitors, resulting in marked tumor growth delay and improvement in mouse survival. These data provide a mechanistic basis for therapeutic resistance in the brain microenvironment and identify translatable treatment strategies for HER2-amplified and/or PIK3CA-mutant breast cancer brain metastases.
Venteicher, A.S., et al. Decoupling genetics, lineages, and microenvironment in IDH-mutant gliomas by single-cell RNA-seq. Science 355, 6332, (2017).Abstract
Tumor subclasses differ according to the genotypes and phenotypes of malignant cells as well as the composition of the tumor microenvironment (TME). We dissected these influences in isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH)-mutant gliomas by combining 14,226 single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) profiles from 16 patient samples with bulk RNA-seq profiles from 165 patient samples. Differences in bulk profiles between IDH-mutant astrocytoma and oligodendroglioma can be primarily explained by distinct TME and signature genetic events, whereas both tumor types share similar developmental hierarchies and lineages of glial differentiation. As tumor grade increases, we find enhanced proliferation of malignant cells, larger pools of undifferentiated glioma cells, and an increase in macrophage over microglia expression programs in TME. Our work provides a unifying model for IDH-mutant gliomas and a general framework for dissecting the differences among human tumor subclasses.
Lien, E.C., Dibble, C.C. & Toker, A. PI3K signaling in cancer: beyond AKT. Curr Opin Cell Biol 45, 62-71 (2017).Abstract
The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway is one of the most frequently altered pathways in human cancer and has a critical role in driving tumor initiation and progression. Although PI3K and its lipid product phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) have been shown to activate multiple downstream signaling proteins, the vast majority of studies have focused on the protein kinase AKT as the dominant effector of PI3K signaling. However, recent studies have demonstrated many contexts under which other PIP3-dependent signaling proteins critically contribute to cancer progression, illustrating the importance of understanding AKT-independent signaling downstream of PI3K. Here, we highlight three PI3K-dependent, but AKT-independent, signaling branches that have recently been shown to have important roles in promoting phenotypes associated with malignancy. First, the PDK1-mTORC2-SGK axis can substitute for AKT in survival, migration, and growth signaling and has emerged as a major mechanism of resistance to PI3K and AKT inhibitors. Second, Rac signaling mediates the reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton to regulate cancer cell migration, invasion, and metabolism. Finally, the TEC family kinase BTK has a critical role in B cell function and malignancy and represents a recent example of an effective therapeutic target in cancer. These mechanisms highlight how understanding PI3K-dependent, but AKT-independent, signaling mechanisms that drive cancer progression will be crucial for the development of novel and more effective approaches for targeting the PI3K pathway for therapeutic benefit in cancer.
Guerriero, J.L., et al. Class IIa HDAC inhibition reduces breast tumours and metastases through anti-tumour macrophages. Nature 543, 7645, 428-432 (2017). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although the main focus of immuno-oncology has been manipulating the adaptive immune system, harnessing both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system might produce superior tumour reduction and elimination. Tumour-associated macrophages often have net pro-tumour effects, but their embedded location and their untapped potential provide impetus to discover strategies to turn them against tumours. Strategies that deplete (anti-CSF-1 antibodies and CSF-1R inhibition) or stimulate (agonistic anti-CD40 or inhibitory anti-CD47 antibodies) tumour-associated macrophages have had some success. We hypothesized that pharmacologic modulation of macrophage phenotype could produce an anti-tumour effect. We previously reported that a first-in-class selective class IIa histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, TMP195, influenced human monocyte responses to the colony-stimulating factors CSF-1 and CSF-2 in vitro. Here, we utilize a macrophage-dependent autochthonous mouse model of breast cancer to demonstrate that in vivo TMP195 treatment alters the tumour microenvironment and reduces tumour burden and pulmonary metastases by modulating macrophage phenotypes. TMP195 induces the recruitment and differentiation of highly phagocytic and stimulatory macrophages within tumours. Furthermore, combining TMP195 with chemotherapy regimens or T-cell checkpoint blockade in this model significantly enhances the durability of tumour reduction. These data introduce class IIa HDAC inhibition as a means to harness the anti-tumour potential of macrophages to enhance cancer therapy.

Naxerova, K., et al. Origins of lymphatic and distant metastases in human colorectal cancer. Science 357, 6346, 55-60 (2017).Abstract
The spread of cancer cells from primary tumors to regional lymph nodes is often associated with reduced survival. One prevailing model to explain this association posits that fatal, distant metastases are seeded by lymph node metastases. This view provides a mechanistic basis for the TNM staging system and is the rationale for surgical resection of tumor-draining lymph nodes. Here we examine the evolutionary relationship between primary tumor, lymph node, and distant metastases in human colorectal cancer. Studying 213 archival biopsy samples from 17 patients, we used somatic variants in hypermutable DNA regions to reconstruct high-confidence phylogenetic trees. We found that in 65% of cases, lymphatic and distant metastases arose from independent subclones in the primary tumor, whereas in 35% of cases they shared common subclonal origin. Therefore, two different lineage relationships between lymphatic and distant metastases exist in colorectal cancer.