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Muthuswamy, S.K. Self-organization in cancer: implications for histopathology, cancer cell biology, and metastasis. Cancer Cell (2021). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Pathologists use histological features to classify tumors and assign site of origin for metastasis. How and why tumors organize the way they do and recreate their histological organization during metastasis is unknown. Here, I discuss the concept of “histostasis” conferring tumors a histological memory and hypothesize its implications for metastasis.
Sehgal, K., et al. Dynamic single-cell RNA sequencing identifies immunotherapy persister cells following PD-1 blockade. J Clin Invest 131, 2, (2021).Abstract
Resistance to oncogene-targeted therapies involves discrete drug-tolerant persister cells, originally discovered through in vitro assays. Whether a similar phenomenon limits efficacy of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) blockade is poorly understood. Here, we performed dynamic single-cell RNA-Seq of murine organotypic tumor spheroids undergoing PD-1 blockade, identifying a discrete subpopulation of immunotherapy persister cells (IPCs) that resisted CD8+ T cell-mediated killing. These cells expressed Snai1 and stem cell antigen 1 (Sca-1) and exhibited hybrid epithelial-mesenchymal features characteristic of a stem cell-like state. IPCs were expanded by IL-6 but were vulnerable to TNF-α-induced cytotoxicity, relying on baculoviral IAP repeat-containing protein 2 (Birc2) and Birc3 as survival factors. Combining PD-1 blockade with Birc2/3 antagonism in mice reduced IPCs and enhanced tumor cell killing in vivo, resulting in durable responsiveness that matched TNF cytotoxicity thresholds in vitro. Together, these data demonstrate the power of high-resolution functional ex vivo profiling to uncover fundamental mechanisms of immune escape from durable anti-PD-1 responses, while identifying IPCs as a cancer cell subpopulation targetable by specific therapeutic combinations.
Bagati, A., et al. Integrin αvβ6-TGFβ-SOX4 Pathway Drives Immune Evasion in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Cancer Cell 39, 1, 54-67.e9 (2021).Abstract
Cancer immunotherapy shows limited efficacy against many solid tumors that originate from epithelial tissues, including triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). We identify the SOX4 transcription factor as an important resistance mechanism to T cell-mediated cytotoxicity for TNBC cells. Mechanistic studies demonstrate that inactivation of SOX4 in tumor cells increases the expression of genes in a number of innate and adaptive immune pathways important for protective tumor immunity. Expression of SOX4 is regulated by the integrin αvβ6 receptor on the surface of tumor cells, which activates TGFβ from a latent precursor. An integrin αvβ6/8-blocking monoclonal antibody (mAb) inhibits SOX4 expression and sensitizes TNBC cells to cytotoxic T cells. This integrin mAb induces a substantial survival benefit in highly metastatic murine TNBC models poorly responsive to PD-1 blockade. Targeting of the integrin αvβ6-TGFβ-SOX4 pathway therefore provides therapeutic opportunities for TNBC and other highly aggressive human cancers of epithelial origin.
Elia, I. & Haigis, M.C. Metabolites and the tumour microenvironment: from cellular mechanisms to systemic metabolism. Nat Metab 3, 1, 21-32 (2021).Abstract
Metabolic transformation is a hallmark of cancer and a critical target for cancer therapy. Cancer metabolism and behaviour are regulated by cell-intrinsic factors as well as metabolite availability in the tumour microenvironment (TME). This metabolic niche within the TME is shaped by four tiers of regulation: (1) intrinsic tumour cell metabolism, (2) interactions between cancer cells and non-cancerous cells, (3) tumour location and heterogeneity and (4) whole-body metabolic homeostasis. Here, we define these modes of metabolic regulation and review how distinct cell types contribute to the metabolite composition of the TME. Finally, we connect these insights to understand how each of these tiers offers unique therapeutic potential to modulate the metabolic profile and function of all cells inhabiting the TME.
Hemming, M.L., et al. HAND1 and BARX1 act as transcriptional and anatomic determinants of malignancy in gastrointestinal stromal tumor. Clin Cancer Res (2021).Abstract
: Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) arises from interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) or their precursors, which are present throughout the gastrointestinal tract. While gastric GIST is commonly indolent and small intestine GIST more aggressive, a molecular understanding of disease behavior would inform therapy decisions in GIST. Although a core transcription factor (TF) network is conserved across GIST, accessory TFs HAND1 and BARX1 are expressed in a disease state-specific pattern. Here, we characterize two divergent transcriptional programs maintained by HAND1 and BARX1, and evaluate their association with clinical outcomes. : We evaluated RNA-seq and TF chromatin immunoprecipitation with sequencing (ChIP-seq) in GIST samples and cultured cells for transcriptional programs associated with HAND1 and BARX1. Multiplexed tissue-based cyclic immunofluorescence (CyCIF) and immunohistochemistry evaluated tissue and cell-level expression of TFs and their association with clinical factors. : We show that HAND1 is expressed in aggressive GIST, modulating and core TF expression and supporting proliferative cellular programs. In contrast, BARX1 is expressed in indolent and micro-GISTs. HAND1 and BARX1 expression were superior predictors of relapse-free survival, as compared to standard risk stratification, and they predict progression-free survival on imatinib. Reflecting the developmental origins of accessory TF programs, HAND1 was expressed solely in small intestine ICCs, while BARX1 expression was restricted to gastric ICCs. : Our results define anatomic and transcriptional determinants of GIST and molecular origins of clinical phenotypes. Assessment of HAND1 and BARX1 expression in GIST may provide prognostic information and improve clinical decisions on the administration of adjuvant therapy.