Featured Publications

van Galen, P., et al. Single-Cell RNA-Seq Reveals AML Hierarchies Relevant to Disease Progression and Immunity. Cell 176, 6, 1265-1281.e24 (2019).Abstract
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a heterogeneous disease that resides within a complex microenvironment, complicating efforts to understand how different cell types contribute to disease progression. We combined single-cell RNA sequencing and genotyping to profile 38,410 cells from 40 bone marrow aspirates, including 16 AML patients and five healthy donors. We then applied a machine learning classifier to distinguish a spectrum of malignant cell types whose abundances varied between patients and between subclones in the same tumor. Cell type compositions correlated with prototypic genetic lesions, including an association of FLT3-ITD with abundant progenitor-like cells. Primitive AML cells exhibited dysregulated transcriptional programs with co-expression of stemness and myeloid priming genes and had prognostic significance. Differentiated monocyte-like AML cells expressed diverse immunomodulatory genes and suppressed T cell activity in vitro. In conclusion, we provide single-cell technologies and an atlas of AML cell states, regulators, and markers with implications for precision medicine and immune therapies. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Konstantinopoulos, P.A., et al. Olaparib and α-specific PI3K inhibitor alpelisib for patients with epithelial ovarian cancer: a dose-escalation and dose-expansion phase 1b trial. Lancet Oncol (2019).Abstract
BACKGROUND: Based on preclinical work, we found that combination of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors with drugs that inhibit the homologous recombination repair (HRR) pathway (such as PI3K inhibitors) might sensitise HRR-proficient epithelial ovarian cancers to PARP inhibitors. We aimed to assess the safety and identify the recommended phase 2 dose of the PARP inhibitor olaparib in combination with the PI3K inhibitor alpelisib in patients with epithelial ovarian cancer and in patients with breast cancer. METHODS: In this multicentre, open-label, phase 1b trial following a 3 + 3 dose-escalation design, we recruited patients aged 18 years or older with the following key eligibility criteria: confirmed diagnosis of either recurrent ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer of high-grade serous histology; confirmed diagnosis of either recurrent ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer of any histology with known germline BRCA mutations; confirmed diagnosis of recurrent breast cancer of triple-negative histology; or confirmed diagnosis of recurrent breast cancer of any histology with known germline BRCA mutations. Additional patients with epithelial ovarian cancer were enrolled in a dose-expansion cohort. Four dose levels were planned: the starting dose level of alpelisib 250 mg once a day plus olaparib 100 mg twice a day (dose level 0); alpelisib 250 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 1); alpelisib 300 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 2); and alpelisib 200 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 3). Both drugs were administered orally, in tablet formulation. The primary objective was to identify the maximum tolerated dose and the recommended phase 2 dose of the combination of alpelisib and olaparib for patients with epithelial ovarian cancer and patients with breast cancer. Analyses included all patients who received at least one dose of the study drugs. The trial is active, but closed to enrolment; follow-up for patients who completed treatment is ongoing. This trial is registered with, number NCT01623349. FINDINGS: Between Oct 3, 2014, and Dec 21, 2016, we enrolled 34 patients (28 in the dose-escalation cohort and six in the dose-expansion cohort); two in the dose-escalation cohort were ineligible at the day of scheduled study initiation. Maximum tolerated dose and recommended phase 2 dose were identified as alpelisib 200 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 3). Considering all dose levels, the most common treatment-related grade 3-4 adverse events were hyperglycaemia (five [16%] of 32 patients), nausea (three [9%]), and increased alanine aminotransferase concentrations (three [9%]). No treatment-related deaths occurred. Dose-limiting toxic effects included hyperglycaemia and fever with decreased neutrophil count. Of the 28 patients with epithelial ovarian cancer, ten (36%) achieved a partial response and 14 (50%) had stable disease according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors 1.1. INTERPRETATION: Combining alpelisib and olaparib is feasible with no unexpected toxic effects. The observed activity provides preliminary clinical evidence of synergism between olaparib and alpelisib, particularly in epithelial ovarian cancer, and warrants further investigation. FUNDING: Ovarian Cancer Dream Team (Stand Up To Cancer, Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition), Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Novartis.
Jiao, A.L., et al. Human nuclear RNAi-defective 2 (NRDE2) is an essential RNA splicing factor. RNA 25, 3, 352-363 (2019).Abstract
The accurate inheritance of genetic material is a basic necessity in all domains of life and an unexpectedly large number of RNA processing factors are required for mitotic progression and genome stability. NRDE2 (nuclear RNAi defective-2) is an evolutionarily conserved protein originally discovered for its role in nuclear RNA interference (RNAi) and heritable gene silencing in (). The function of the human gene remains poorly understood. Here we show that human NRDE2 is an essential protein required for suppressing intron retention in a subset of pre-mRNAs containing short, GC-rich introns with relatively weak 5' and 3' splice sites. NRDE2 preferentially interacts with components of the U5 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP), the exon junction complex, and the RNA exosome. Interestingly, depleted cells exhibit greatly increased levels of genomic instability and DNA damage, as well as defects in centrosome maturation and mitotic progression. We identify the essential centriolar satellite protein, CEP131, as a direct NRDE2-regulated target. NRDE2 specifically binds to and promotes the efficient splicing of pre-mRNA, and depleting dramatically reduces CEP131 protein expression, contributing to impaired recruitment of critical centrosomal proteins (e.g., γ-tubulin and Aurora Kinase A) to the spindle poles during mitosis. Our work establishes a conserved role for human in RNA splicing, characterizes the severe genomic instability phenotypes observed upon loss of , and highlights the direct regulation of splicing as one of multiple mechanisms through which such phenotypes might be explained.
Garrido-Castro, A.C., Lin, N.U. & Polyak, K. Insights into Molecular Classifications of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Improving Patient Selection for Treatment. Cancer Discov 9, 2, 176-198 (2019).Abstract
: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) remains the most challenging breast cancer subtype to treat. To date, therapies directed to specific molecular targets have rarely achieved clinically meaningful improvements in outcomes of patients with TNBC, and chemotherapy remains the standard of care. Here, we seek to review the most recent efforts to classify TNBC based on the comprehensive profiling of tumors for cellular composition and molecular features. Technologic advances allow for tumor characterization at ever-increasing depth, generating data that, if integrated with clinical-pathologic features, may help improve risk stratification of patients, guide treatment decisions and surveillance, and help identify new targets for drug development. SIGNIFICANCE: TNBC is characterized by higher rates of relapse, greater metastatic potential, and shorter overall survival compared with other major breast cancer subtypes. The identification of biomarkers that can help guide treatment decisions in TNBC remains a clinically unmet need. Understanding the mechanisms that drive resistance is key to the design of novel therapeutic strategies to help prevent the development of metastatic disease and, ultimately, to improve survival in this patient population.
Mengwasser, K.E., et al. Genetic Screens Reveal FEN1 and APEX2 as BRCA2 Synthetic Lethal Targets. Mol Cell 73, 5, 885-899.e6 (2019).Abstract
BRCA1 or BRCA2 inactivation drives breast and ovarian cancer but also creates vulnerability to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. To search for additional targets whose inhibition is synthetically lethal in BRCA2-deficient backgrounds, we screened two pairs of BRCA2 isogenic cell lines with DNA-repair-focused small hairpin RNA (shRNA) and CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-based libraries. We found that BRCA2-deficient cells are selectively dependent on multiple pathways including base excision repair, ATR signaling, and splicing. We identified APEX2 and FEN1 as synthetic lethal genes with both BRCA1 and BRCA2 loss of function. BRCA2-deficient cells require the apurinic endonuclease activity and the PCNA-binding domain of Ape2 (APEX2), but not Ape1 (APEX1). Furthermore, BRCA2-deficient cells require the 5' flap endonuclease but not the 5'-3' exonuclease activity of Fen1, and chemically inhibiting Fen1 selectively targets BRCA-deficient cells. Finally, we developed a microhomology-mediated end-joining (MMEJ) reporter and showed that Fen1 participates in MMEJ, underscoring the importance of MMEJ as a collateral repair pathway in the context of homologous recombination (HR) deficiency.