Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have minimal therapeutic effect in hormone receptor-positive (HR+ ) breast cancer. We present final overall survival (OS) results (n = 88) from a randomized phase 2 trial of eribulin ± pembrolizumab for patients with metastatic HR+ breast cancer, computationally dissect genomic and/or transcriptomic data from pre-treatment tumors (n = 52) for molecular associations with efficacy, and identify cytokine changes differentiating response and ICI-related toxicity (n = 58). Despite no improvement in OS with combination therapy (hazard ratio 0.95, 95% CI 0.59-1.55, p = 0.84), immune infiltration and antigen presentation distinguished responding tumors, while tumor heterogeneity and estrogen signaling independently associated with resistance. Moreover, patients with ICI-related toxicity had lower levels of immunoregulatory cytokines. Broadly, we establish a framework for ICI response in HR+ breast cancer that warrants diagnostic and therapeutic validation. ClinicalTrials.gov Registration: NCT03051659.
Sacituzumab govitecan (SG), the first antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) approved for triple-negative breast cancer, incorporates the anti-TROP2 antibody hRS7 conjugated to a topoisomerase-1 (TOP1) inhibitor payload. We sought to identify mechanisms of SG resistance through RNA and whole-exome sequencing of pretreatment and postprogression specimens. One patient exhibiting de novo progression lacked TROP2 expression, in contrast to robust TROP2 expression and focal genomic amplification of TACSTD2/TROP2 observed in a patient with a deep, prolonged response to SG. Analysis of acquired genomic resistance in this case revealed one phylogenetic branch harboring a canonical TOP1 E418K resistance mutation and subsequent frameshift TOP1 mutation, whereas a distinct branch exhibited a novel TACSTD2/TROP2 T256R missense mutation. Reconstitution experiments demonstrated that TROP2T256R confers SG resistance via defective plasma membrane localization and reduced cell-surface binding by hRS7. These findings highlight parallel genomic alterations in both antibody and payload targets associated with resistance to SG. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings underscore TROP2 as a response determinant and reveal acquired SG resistance mechanisms involving the direct antibody and drug payload targets in distinct metastatic subclones of an individual patient. This study highlights the specificity of SG and illustrates how such mechanisms will inform therapeutic strategies to overcome ADC resistance.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 2355.
In a trial of patients with high grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC), addition of the ATR inhibitor berzosertib to gemcitabine improved progression free survival (PFS) compared to gemcitabine alone but biomarkers predictive of treatment are lacking. Here we report a candidate biomarker of response to gemcitabine versus combined gemcitabine and ATR inhibitor therapy in HGSOC ovarian cancer. Patients with replication stress (RS)-high tumors (n = 27), defined as harboring at least one genomic RS alteration related to loss of RB pathway regulation and/or oncogene-induced replication stress achieve significantly prolonged PFS (HR = 0.38, 90% CI, 0.17-0.86) on gemcitabine monotherapy compared to those with tumors without such alterations (defined as RS-low, n = 30). However, addition of berzosertib to gemcitabine benefits only patients with RS-low tumors (gemcitabine/berzosertib HR 0.34, 90% CI, 0.13-0.86) and not patients with RS-high tumors (HR 1.11, 90% CI, 0.47-2.62). Our findings support the notion that the exacerbation of RS by gemcitabine monotherapy is adequate for lethality in RS-high tumors. Conversely, for RS-low tumors addition of berzosertib-mediated ATR inhibition to gemcitabine is necessary for lethality to occur. Independent prospective validation of this biomarker is required.
Karyotype alterations have emerged as on-target complications from CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. However, the events that lead to these karyotypic changes in embryos after Cas9-treatment remain unknown. Here, using imaging and single-cell genome sequencing of 8-cell stage embryos, we track both spontaneous and Cas9-induced karyotype aberrations through the first three divisions of embryonic development. We observe the generation of abnormal structures of the nucleus that arise as a consequence of errors in mitosis, including micronuclei and chromosome bridges, and determine their contribution to common karyotype aberrations including whole chromosome loss that has been recently reported after editing in embryos. Together, these data demonstrate that Cas9-mediated germline genome editing can lead to unwanted on-target side effects, including major chromosome structural alterations that can be propagated over several divisions of embryonic development.
Non-genetic mechanisms have recently emerged as important drivers of cancer therapy failure1, where some cancer cells can enter a reversible drug-tolerant persister state in response to treatment2. Although most cancer persisters remain arrested in the presence of the drug, a rare subset can re-enter the cell cycle under constitutive drug treatment. Little is known about the non-genetic mechanisms that enable cancer persisters to maintain proliferative capacity in the presence of drugs. To study this rare, transiently resistant, proliferative persister population, we developed Watermelon, a high-complexity expressed barcode lentiviral library for simultaneous tracing of each cell's clonal origin and proliferative and transcriptional states. Here we show that cycling and non-cycling persisters arise from different cell lineages with distinct transcriptional and metabolic programs. Upregulation of antioxidant gene programs and a metabolic shift to fatty acid oxidation are associated with persister proliferative capacity across multiple cancer types. Impeding oxidative stress or metabolic reprogramming alters the fraction of cycling persisters. In human tumours, programs associated with cycling persisters are induced in minimal residual disease in response to multiple targeted therapies. The Watermelon system enabled the identification of rare persister lineages that are preferentially poised to proliferate under drug pressure, thus exposing new vulnerabilities that can be targeted to delay or even prevent disease recurrence.
Loss of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) sensing are major causes of primary and acquired resistance to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. Thus, additional treatment options are needed for tumors that lose expression of MHC class I. The cellular inhibitor of apoptosis proteins 1 and 2 (cIAP1/2) regulate classical and alternative nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) signaling. Induction of noncanonical NF-κB signaling with cIAP1/2 antagonists mimics costimulatory signaling, augmenting antitumor immunity. We show that induction of noncanonical NF-κB signaling induces T cell-dependent immune responses, even in β2-microglobulin (β2M)-deficient tumors, demonstrating that direct CD8 T cell recognition of tumor cell-expressed MHC class I is not required. Instead, T cell-produced lymphotoxin reprograms both mouse and human macrophages to be tumoricidal. In wild-type mice, but not mice incapable of antigen-specific T cell responses, cIAP1/2 antagonism reduces tumor burden by increasing phagocytosis of live tumor cells. Efficacy is augmented by combination with CD47 blockade. Thus, activation of noncanonical NF-κB stimulates a T cell-macrophage axis that curtails growth of tumors that are resistant to checkpoint blockade because of loss of MHC class I or IFN-γ sensing. These findings provide a potential mechanism for controlling checkpoint blockade refractory tumors.
Cohesin is a multi-subunit protein complex that forms a ring-like structure around DNA. Cohesin is essential for sister chromatid cohesion, chromatin organization, transcriptional regulation and DNA damage repair, and plays a major role in dynamically shaping the genome architecture and maintaining DNA integrity. The core complex subunits STAG2, RAD21, SMC1 and SMC3, as well as its modulators PDS5A/B, WAPL and NIPBL, have been found to be recurrently mutated in hematologic and solid malignancies. These mutations are found across the full spectrum of myeloid neoplasia, including pediatric Down Syndrome-associated acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (DS-AMKL), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), and de-novo and secondary acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The mechanisms by which cohesin mutations act as drivers of clonal expansion and disease progression are still poorly understood. Recent studies have described the impact of cohesin alterations on self-renewal and differentiation of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC), which are associated with changes in chromatin and epigenetic state directing lineage commitment, as well as genomic integrity. Here, we will review the role of the cohesin complex in healthy and malignant hematopoiesis. We will discuss clinical implications of cohesin mutations in myeloid malignancies and discuss opportunities for therapeutic targeting.
Brain metastases are refractory to therapies that control systemic disease in patients with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2+) breast cancer, and the brain microenvironment contributes to this therapy resistance. Nutrient availability can vary across tissues, therefore metabolic adaptations required for brain metastatic breast cancer growth may introduce liabilities that can be exploited for therapy. Here, we assessed how metabolism differs between breast tumors in brain versus extracranial sites and found that fatty acid synthesis is elevated in breast tumors growing in brain. We determine that this phenotype is an adaptation to decreased lipid availability in brain relative to other tissues, resulting in a site-specific dependency on fatty acid synthesis for breast tumors growing at this site. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of fatty acid synthase (FASN) reduces HER2+ breast tumor growth in the brain, demonstrating that differences in nutrient availability across metastatic sites can result in targetable metabolic dependencies.
DNA polymerase theta (POLθ) is synthetic lethal with Homologous Recombination (HR) deficiency and thus a candidate target for HR-deficient cancers. Through high-throughput small molecule screens we identified the antibiotic Novobiocin (NVB) as a specific POLθ inhibitor that selectively kills HR-deficient tumor cells in vitro and in vivo. NVB directly binds to the POLθ ATPase domain, inhibits its ATPase activity, and phenocopies POLθ depletion. NVB kills HR-deficient breast and ovarian tumors in GEMM, xenograft and PDX models. Increased POLθ levels predict NVB sensitivity, and BRCA-deficient tumor cells with acquired resistance to PARP inhibitors (PARPi) are sensitive to NVB in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, NVB-mediated cell death in PARPi-resistant cells arises from increased double-strand break end resection, leading to accumulation of single-strand DNA intermediates and non-functional RAD51 foci. Our results demonstrate that NVB may be useful alone or in combination with PARPi in treating HR-deficient tumors, including those with acquired PARPi resistance. (151/150).
To systematically define molecular features in human tumor cells that determine their degree of sensitivity to human allogeneic natural killer (NK) cells, we quantified the NK cell responsiveness of hundreds of molecularly annotated 'DNA-barcoded' solid tumor cell lines in multiplexed format and applied genome-scale CRISPR-based gene-editing screens in several solid tumor cell lines, to functionally interrogate which genes in tumor cells regulate the response to NK cells. In these orthogonal studies, NK cell-sensitive tumor cells tend to exhibit 'mesenchymal-like' transcriptional programs; high transcriptional signature for chromatin remodeling complexes; high levels of B7-H6 (NCR3LG1); and low levels of HLA-E/antigen presentation genes. Importantly, transcriptional signatures of NK cell-sensitive tumor cells correlate with immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) resistance in clinical samples. This study provides a comprehensive map of mechanisms regulating tumor cell responses to NK cells, with implications for future biomarker-driven applications of NK cell immunotherapies.
Despite the clinical success of the third-generation EGFR inhibitor osimertinib as a first-line treatment of EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), resistance arises due to the acquisition of EGFR second-site mutations and other mechanisms, which necessitates alternative therapies. Dacomitinib, a pan-HER inhibitor, is approved for first-line treatment and results in different acquired EGFR mutations than osimertinib that mediate on-target resistance. A combination of osimertinib and dacomitinib could therefore induce more durable responses by preventing the emergence of resistance. Here we present an integrated computational modeling and experimental approach to identify an optimal dosing schedule for osimertinib and dacomitinib combination therapy. We developed a predictive model that encompasses tumor heterogeneity and inter-subject pharmacokinetic variability to predict tumor evolution under different dosing schedules, parameterized using in vitro dose-response data. This model was validated using cell line data and used to identify an optimal combination dosing schedule. Our schedule was subsequently confirmed tolerable in an ongoing dose-escalation phase I clinical trial (NCT03810807), with some dose modifications, demonstrating that our rational modeling approach can be used to identify appropriate dosing for combination therapy in the clinical setting.
CDK4/6 inhibitors are approved to treat breast cancer and are in trials for other malignancies. We examined CDK4/6 inhibition in mouse and human CD8+ T cells during early stages of activation. Mice receiving tumor-specific CD8+ T cells treated with CDK4/6 inhibitors displayed increased T-cell persistence and immunologic memory. CDK4/6 inhibition upregulated MXD4, a negative regulator of MYC, in both mouse and human CD8+ T cells. Silencing of Mxd4 or Myc in mouse CD8+ T cells demonstrated the importance of this axis for memory formation. We used single-cell transcriptional profiling and T-cell receptor clonotype tracking to evaluate recently activated human CD8+ T cells in patients with breast cancer before and during treatment with either palbociclib or abemaciclib. CDK4/6 inhibitor therapy in humans increases the frequency of CD8+ memory precursors and downregulates their expression of MYC target genes, suggesting that CDK4/6 inhibitors in patients with cancer may augment long-term protective immunity. SIGNIFICANCE: CDK4/6 inhibition skews newly activated CD8+ T cells toward a memory phenotype in mice and humans with breast cancer. CDK4/6 inhibitors may have broad utility outside breast cancer, particularly in the neoadjuvant setting to augment CD8+ T-cell priming to tumor antigens prior to dosing with checkpoint blockade.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 2355.
PURPOSE: While chemotherapy remains the standard treatment for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), identifying and managing chemoresistant tumors has proven elusive. We sought to discover hallmarks and therapeutically actionable features of refractory TNBC through molecular analysis of primary chemoresistant TNBC specimens.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We performed transcriptional profiling of tumors from a phase II clinical trial of platinum chemotherapy for advanced TNBC (TBCRC-009), revealing a gene expression signature that identified de novo chemorefractory tumors. We then employed pharmacogenomic data mining, proteomic and other molecular studies to define the therapeutic vulnerabilities of these tumors.
RESULTS: We reveal the RAS-GTPase-activating protein (RAS-GAP) RASAL2 as an upregulated factor that mediates chemotherapy resistance but also an exquisite collateral sensitivity to combination MAP kinase kinase (MEK1/2) and EGFR inhibitors in TNBC. Mechanistically, RASAL2 GAP activity is required to confer kinase inhibitor sensitivity, as RASAL2-high TNBCs sustain basal RAS activity through suppression of negative feedback regulators SPRY1/2, together with EGFR upregulation. Consequently, RASAL2 expression results in failed feedback compensation upon co-inhibition of MEK1/2 and EGFR that induces synergistic apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. In patients with TNBC, high RASAL2 levels predict clinical chemotherapy response and long-term outcomes, and are associated via direct transcriptional regulation with activated oncogenic Yes-Associated Protein (YAP). Accordingly, chemorefractory patient-derived TNBC models exhibit YAP activation, high RASAL2 expression, and tumor regression in response to MEK/EGFR inhibitor combinations despite well-tolerated intermittent dosing.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings identify RASAL2 as a mediator of TNBC chemoresistance that rewires MAPK feedback and cross-talk to confer profound collateral sensitivity to combination MEK1/2 and EGFR inhibitors.
REV7 is a small multifunctional protein that participates in multiple DNA repair pathways, most notably translesion DNA synthesis and double-strand break (DSB) repair. While the role of REV7 in translesion synthesis has been known for several decades, its function in DSB repair is a recent discovery. Investigations into the DSB repair function of REV7 have led to the discovery of a new DNA repair complex known as Shieldin. Recent studies have also highlighted the importance of REV7's HORMA domain, an ancient structural motif, in REV7 function and have identified the HORMA regulators, TRIP13 and p31, as novel DNA repair factors. In this review, we discuss these recent findings and their implications for repair pathway choice, at both DSBs and replication forks. We suggest that REV7, in particular the activation state of its HORMA domain, can act as a critical determinant of mutagenic versus error-free repair in multiple contexts.
Upon nutrient stimulation, pre-adipocytes undergo differentiation to transform into mature adipocytes capable of storing nutrients as fat. We profiled cellular metabolite consumption to identify early metabolic drivers of adipocyte differentiation. We find that adipocyte differentiation raises the uptake and consumption of numerous amino acids. In particular, branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) catabolism precedes and promotes peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), a key regulator of adipogenesis. In early adipogenesis, the mitochondrial sirtuin SIRT4 elevates BCAA catabolism through the activation of methylcrotonyl-coenzyme A (CoA) carboxylase (MCCC). MCCC supports leucine oxidation by catalyzing the carboxylation of 3-methylcrotonyl-CoA to 3-methylglutaconyl-CoA. Sirtuin 4 (SIRT4) expression is decreased in adipose tissue of numerous diabetic mouse models, and its expression is most correlated with BCAA enzymes, suggesting a potential role for SIRT4 in adipose pathology through the alteration of BCAA metabolism. In summary, this work provides a temporal analysis of adipocyte differentiation and uncovers early metabolic events that stimulate transcriptional reprogramming.
Our knowledge of copy number evolution during the expansion of primary breast tumours is limited. Here, to investigate this process, we developed a single-cell, single-molecule DNA-sequencing method and performed copy number analysis of 16,178 single cells from 8 human triple-negative breast cancers and 4 cell lines. The results show that breast tumours and cell lines comprise a large milieu of subclones (7-22) that are organized into a few (3-5) major superclones. Evolutionary analysis suggests that after clonal TP53 mutations, multiple loss-of-heterozygosity events and genome doubling, there was a period of transient genomic instability followed by ongoing copy number evolution during the primary tumour expansion. By subcloning single daughter cells in culture, we show that tumour cells rediversify their genomes and do not retain isogenic properties. These data show that triple-negative breast cancers continue to evolve chromosome aberrations and maintain a reservoir of subclonal diversity during primary tumour growth.
Genome editing has therapeutic potential for treating genetic diseases and cancer. However, the currently most practicable approaches rely on the generation of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), which can give rise to a poorly characterized spectrum of chromosome structural abnormalities. Here, using model cells and single-cell whole-genome sequencing, as well as by editing at a clinically relevant locus in clinically relevant cells, we show that CRISPR-Cas9 editing generates structural defects of the nucleus, micronuclei and chromosome bridges, which initiate a mutational process called chromothripsis. Chromothripsis is extensive chromosome rearrangement restricted to one or a few chromosomes that can cause human congenital disease and cancer. These results demonstrate that chromothripsis is a previously unappreciated on-target consequence of CRISPR-Cas9-generated DSBs. As genome editing is implemented in the clinic, the potential for extensive chromosomal rearrangements should be considered and monitored.
Despite the availability of multiple human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-targeted (HER2-targeted) treatments, therapeutic resistance in HER2+ breast cancer remains a clinical challenge. Intratumor heterogeneity for HER2 and resistance-conferring mutations in the PIK3CA gene (encoding PI3K catalytic subunit α) have been investigated in response and resistance to HER2-targeting agents, while the role of divergent cellular phenotypes and tumor epithelial-stromal cell interactions is less well understood. Here, we assessed the effect of intratumor cellular genetic heterogeneity for ERBB2 (encoding HER2) copy number and PIK3CA mutation on different types of neoadjuvant HER2-targeting therapies and clinical outcome in HER2+ breast cancer. We found that the frequency of cells lacking HER2 was a better predictor of response to HER2-targeted treatment than intratumor heterogeneity. We also compared the efficacy of different therapies in the same tumor using patient-derived xenograft models of heterogeneous HER2+ breast cancer and single-cell approaches. Stromal determinants were better predictors of response than tumor epithelial cells, and we identified alveolar epithelial and fibroblastic reticular cells as well as lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor 1-positive (Lyve1+) macrophages as putative drivers of therapeutic resistance. Our results demonstrate that both preexisting and acquired resistance to HER2-targeting agents involve multiple mechanisms including the tumor microenvironment. Furthermore, our data suggest that intratumor heterogeneity for HER2 should be incorporated into treatment design.
INTRODUCTION: mutations drive tumorigenesis by altering cell signaling and the tumor immune microenvironment. Recent studies have shown promise for KRAS-G12C covalent inhibitors, which are advancing rapidly through clinical trials. The sequencing and combination of these agents with other therapies including immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) will benefit from strategies that also address the immune microenvironment to improve durability of response.
AREAS COVERED: This paper reviews KRAS signaling and discusses downstream effects on cytokine production and the tumor immune microenvironment. RAS targeted therapy is introduced and perspectives on therapeutic targeting of KRAS-G12C and its immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment are offered.
EXPERT OPINION: The availability of KRAS-G12C covalent inhibitors raises hopes for targeting this pervasive oncogene and designing better therapeutic combinations to promote anti-tumor immunity. A comprehensive mechanistic understanding of KRAS immunosuppression is required in order to prioritize agents for clinical trials.
Resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) is a key challenge in cancer therapy. To elucidate underlying mechanisms, we developed Perturb-CITE-sequencing (Perturb-CITE-seq), enabling pooled clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas9 perturbations with single-cell transcriptome and protein readouts. In patient-derived melanoma cells and autologous tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) co-cultures, we profiled transcriptomes and 20 proteins in ~218,000 cells under ~750 perturbations associated with cancer cell-intrinsic ICI resistance (ICR). We recover known mechanisms of resistance, including defects in the interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-JAK/STAT and antigen-presentation pathways in RNA, protein and perturbation space, and new ones, including loss/downregulation of CD58. Loss of CD58 conferred immune evasion in multiple co-culture models and was downregulated in tumors of melanoma patients with ICR. CD58 protein expression was not induced by IFN-γ signaling, and CD58 loss conferred immune evasion without compromising major histocompatibility complex (MHC) expression, suggesting that it acts orthogonally to known mechanisms of ICR. This work provides a framework for the deciphering of complex mechanisms by large-scale perturbation screens with multimodal, single-cell readouts, and discovers potentially clinically relevant mechanisms of immune evasion.