Patient-derived organoid models are proving to be a powerful platform for both basic and translational studies. Here we conduct a methodical analysis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) tumor organoid drug response in paired patient-derived xenograft (PDX) and PDX-derived organoid (PXO) models grown under WNT-free culture conditions. We report a specific relationship between area under the curve value of organoid drug dose response and in vivo tumor growth, irrespective of the drug treatment. In addition, we analyzed the glycome of PDX and PXO models and demonstrate that PXOs recapitulate the in vivo glycan landscape. In addition, we identify a core set of 57 N-glycans detected in all 10 models that represent 50%-94% of the relative abundance of all N-glycans detected in each of the models. Last, we developed a secreted biomarker discovery pipeline using media supernatant of organoid cultures and identified potentially new extracellular vesicle (EV) protein markers. We validated our findings using plasma samples from patients with PDAC, benign gastrointestinal diseases, and chronic pancreatitis and discovered that 4 EV proteins are potential circulating biomarkers for PDAC. Thus, we demonstrate the utility of organoid cultures to not only model in vivo drug responses but also serve as a powerful platform for discovering clinically actionable serologic biomarkers.
Aging is closely associated with increased susceptibility to breast cancer, yet there have been limited systematic studies of aging-induced alterations in the mammary gland. Here, we leverage high-throughput single-cell RNA sequencing to generate a detailed transcriptomic atlas of young and aged murine mammary tissues. By analyzing epithelial, stromal, and immune cells, we identify age-dependent alterations in cell proportions and gene expression, providing evidence that suggests alveolar maturation and physiological decline. The analysis also uncovers potential pro-tumorigenic mechanisms coupled to the age-associated loss of tumor suppressor function and change in microenvironment. In addition, we identify a rare, age-dependent luminal population co-expressing hormone-sensing and secretory-alveolar lineage markers, as well as two macrophage populations expressing distinct gene signatures, underscoring the complex heterogeneity of the mammary epithelia and stroma. Collectively, this rich single-cell atlas reveals the effects of aging on mammary physiology and can serve as a useful resource for understanding aging-associated cancer risk.
The need to test anticancer drugs in multiple indications has been addressed by basket trials, which are Phase I or II clinical trials involving multiple tumor subtypes and a single master protocol. Basket trials typically involve few patients per type, making it challenging to rigorously compare responses across types. We describe the use of permutation testing to test for differences among subgroups using empirical null distributions and the Benjamini-Hochberg procedure to control for false discovery. We apply the approach retrospectively to tumor-volume changes and progression-free survival in published basket trials for neratinib, larotrectinib, pembrolizumab, and imatinib and uncover examples of therapeutic benefit missed by conventional binomial testing. For example, we identify an overlooked opportunity for use of neratinib in lung cancers carrying ERBB2 Exon 20 mutations. Permutation testing can be used to design basket trials but is more conservatively introduced alongside established approaches to enrollment such as Simon's two-stage design.
Average age and obesity prevalence are increasing globally. Both aging and obesity are characterized by profound systemic metabolic and immunologic changes and are cancer risk factors. The mechanisms linking age and body weight to cancer are incompletely understood, but recent studies have provided evidence that the anti-tumor immune response is reduced in both conditions, while responsiveness to immune checkpoint blockade, a form of cancer immunotherapy, is paradoxically intact. Dietary restriction, which promotes health and lifespan, may enhance cancer immunity. These findings illustrate that the systemic context can impact anti-tumor immunity and immunotherapy responsiveness. Here, we review the current knowledge of how age and systemic metabolic state affect the anti-tumor immune response, with an emphasis on CD8 T cells, which are key players in anti-tumor immunity. A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms may lead to novel therapies enhancing anti-tumor immunity in the context of aging or metabolic dysfunction.
The drivers of ductal carcinoma (DCIS) to invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) transition are poorly understood. Here, we conducted an integrated genomic, transcriptomic, and whole-slide image analysis to evaluate changes in copy-number profiles, mutational profiles, expression, neoantigen load, and topology in 6 cases of matched pure DCIS and recurrent IDC. We demonstrate through combined copy-number and mutational analysis that recurrent IDC can be genetically related to its pure DCIS despite long latency periods and therapeutic interventions. Immune "hot" and "cold" tumors can arise as early as DCIS and are subtype-specific. Topologic analysis showed a similar degree of pan-leukocyte-tumor mixing in both DCIS and IDC but differ when assessing specific immune subpopulations such as CD4 T cells and CD68 macrophages. Tumor-specific copy-number aberrations in MHC-I presentation machinery and losses in 3p, 4q, and 5p are associated with differences in immune signaling in estrogen receptor (ER)-negative IDC. Common oncogenic hotspot mutations in genes including and are predicted to be neoantigens yet are paradoxically conserved during the DCIS-to-IDC transition, and are associated with differences in immune signaling. We highlight both tumor and immune-specific changes in the transition of pure DCIS to IDC, including genetic changes in tumor cells that may have a role in modulating immune function and assist in immune escape, driving the transition to IDC. IMPLICATIONS: We demonstrate that the to IDC evolutionary bottleneck is shaped by both tumor and immune cells.
BACKGROUND: Targeted therapies for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) are limited; however, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) represents a potential target, as the majority of TNBC express EGFR. The purpose of these studies was to evaluate the effectiveness of two EGFR-targeted antibody-drug conjugates (ADC: ABT-414; ABBV-321) in combination with navitoclax, an antagonist of the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 and BCL-XL proteins, in order to assess the translational relevance of these combinations for TNBC.
METHODS: The pre-clinical efficacy of combined treatments was evaluated in multiple patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models of TNBC. Microscopy-based dynamic BH3 profiling (DBP) was used to assess mitochondrial apoptotic signaling induced by navitoclax and/or ADC treatments, and the expression of EGFR and BCL-2/XL was analyzed in 46 triple-negative patient tumors.
RESULTS: Treatment with navitoclax plus ABT-414 caused a significant reduction in tumor growth in five of seven PDXs and significant tumor regression in the highest EGFR-expressing PDX. Navitoclax plus ABBV-321, an EGFR-targeted ADC that displays more effective wild-type EGFR-targeting, elicited more significant tumor growth inhibition and regressions in the two highest EGFR-expressing models evaluated. The level of mitochondrial apoptotic signaling induced by single or combined drug treatments, as measured by DBP, correlated with the treatment responses observed in vivo. Lastly, the majority of triple-negative patient tumors were found to express EGFR and co-express BCL-XL and/or BCL-2.
CONCLUSIONS: The dramatic tumor regressions achieved using combined agents in pre-clinical TNBC models underscore the abilities of BCL-2/XL antagonists to enhance the effectiveness of EGFR-targeted ADCs and highlight the clinical potential for usage of such targeted ADCs to alleviate toxicities associated with combinations of BCL-2/XL inhibitors and systemic chemotherapies.
Obesity is a major cancer risk factor, but how differences in systemic metabolism change the tumor microenvironment (TME) and impact anti-tumor immunity is not understood. Here, we demonstrate that high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity impairs CD8+ T cell function in the murine TME, accelerating tumor growth. We generate a single-cell resolution atlas of cellular metabolism in the TME, detailing how it changes with diet-induced obesity. We find that tumor and CD8+ T cells display distinct metabolic adaptations to obesity. Tumor cells increase fat uptake with HFD, whereas tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells do not. These differential adaptations lead to altered fatty acid partitioning in HFD tumors, impairing CD8+ T cell infiltration and function. Blocking metabolic reprogramming by tumor cells in obese mice improves anti-tumor immunity. Analysis of human cancers reveals similar transcriptional changes in CD8+ T cell markers, suggesting interventions that exploit metabolism to improve cancer immunotherapy.
The role of the physical microenvironment in tumor development, progression, metastasis, and treatment is gaining appreciation. The emerging multidisciplinary field of the physical sciences of cancer is now embraced by engineers, physicists, cell biologists, developmental biologists, tumor biologists, and oncologists attempting to understand how physical parameters and processes affect cancer progression and treatment. Discoveries in this field are starting to be translated into new therapeutic strategies for cancer. In this Review, we propose four physical traits of tumors that contribute to tumor progression and treatment resistance: (i) elevated solid stresses (compression and tension), (ii) elevated interstitial fluid pressure, (iii) altered material properties (for example, increased tissue stiffness, which historically has been used to detect cancer by palpation), and (iv) altered physical microarchitecture. After defining these physical traits, we discuss their causes, consequences, and how they complement the biological hallmarks of cancer.
Targeted inhibition of oncogenic pathways can be highly effective in halting the rapid growth of tumors but often leads to the emergence of slowly dividing persister cells, which constitute a reservoir for the selection of drug-resistant clones. In BRAF melanomas, RAF and MEK inhibitors efficiently block oncogenic signaling, but persister cells emerge. Here, we show that persister cells escape drug-induced cell-cycle arrest via brief, sporadic ERK pulses generated by transmembrane receptors and growth factors operating in an autocrine/paracrine manner. Quantitative proteomics and computational modeling show that ERK pulsing is enabled by rewiring of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling: from an oncogenic BRAF monomer-driven configuration that is drug sensitive to a receptor-driven configuration that involves Ras-GTP and RAF dimers and is highly resistant to RAF and MEK inhibitors. Altogether, this work shows that pulsatile MAPK activation by factors in the microenvironment generates a persistent population of melanoma cells that rewires MAPK signaling to sustain non-genetic drug resistance.
Coordinated regulation of genes is key to determining cell fate. Although this is best understood for master regulator transcription factors, posttranscriptional regulation of mRNA stability and nuclear export can be equally effective at altering gene expression. Indeed, the heterogeneity of RNA-binding proteins and miRNAs suggests a deep complexity to posttranscriptional regulatory processes. In this issue, Wu and colleagues report a new mechanism for TGFβ-mediated immune suppression via regulation of mRNA-binding proteins in CD8 T cells..
Despite decades of effort, the sensitivity of patient tumors to individual drugs is often not predictable on the basis of molecular markers alone. Therefore, unbiased, high-throughput approaches to match patient tumors to effective drugs, without requiring a priori molecular hypotheses, are critically needed. Here, we improved upon a method that we previously reported and developed called high-throughput dynamic BH3 profiling (HT-DBP). HT-DBP is a microscopy-based, single-cell resolution assay that enables chemical screens of hundreds to thousands of candidate drugs on freshly isolated tumor cells. The method identifies chemical inducers of mitochondrial apoptotic signaling, a mechanism of cell death. HT-DBP requires only 24 hours of ex vivo culture, which enables a more immediate study of fresh primary tumor cells and minimizes adaptive changes that occur with prolonged ex vivo culture. Effective compounds identified by HT-DBP induced tumor regression in genetically engineered and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models of breast cancer. We additionally found that chemical vulnerabilities changed as cancer cells expanded ex vivo. Furthermore, using PDX models of colon cancer and resected tumors from colon cancer patients, our data demonstrated that HT-DBP could be used to generate personalized pharmacotypes. Thus, HT-DBP appears to be an ex vivo functional method with sufficient scale to simultaneously function as a companion diagnostic, therapeutic personalization, and discovery tool.
Crucial transitions in cancer-including tumor initiation, local expansion, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance-involve complex interactions between cells within the dynamic tumor ecosystem. Transformative single-cell genomics technologies and spatial multiplex in situ methods now provide an opportunity to interrogate this complexity at unprecedented resolution. The Human Tumor Atlas Network (HTAN), part of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Moonshot Initiative, will establish a clinical, experimental, computational, and organizational framework to generate informative and accessible three-dimensional atlases of cancer transitions for a diverse set of tumor types. This effort complements both ongoing efforts to map healthy organs and previous large-scale cancer genomics approaches focused on bulk sequencing at a single point in time. Generating single-cell, multiparametric, longitudinal atlases and integrating them with clinical outcomes should help identify novel predictive biomarkers and features as well as therapeutically relevant cell types, cell states, and cellular interactions across transitions. The resulting tumor atlases should have a profound impact on our understanding of cancer biology and have the potential to improve cancer detection, prevention, and therapeutic discovery for better precision-medicine treatments of cancer patients and those at risk for cancer.
Advances in our understanding of molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis have translated into knowledge-based therapies directed against specific oncogenic signaling targets. These therapies often induce dramatic responses in susceptible tumors. Unfortunately, most advanced cancers, including those with robust initial responses, eventually acquire resistance to targeted therapies and relapse. Even though immune-based therapies are more likely to achieve complete cures, acquired resistance remains an obstacle to their success as well. Acquired resistance is the direct consequence of pre-existing intratumor heterogeneity and ongoing diversification during therapy, which enables some tumor cells to survive treatment and facilitates the development of new therapy-resistant phenotypes. In this review, we discuss the sources of intratumor heterogeneity and approaches to capture and account for it during clinical decision making. Finally, we outline potential strategies to improve therapeutic outcomes by directly targeting intratumor heterogeneity.
The avascular nature of cartilage makes it a unique tissue, but whether and how the absence of nutrient supply regulates chondrogenesis remain unknown. Here we show that obstruction of vascular invasion during bone healing favours chondrogenic over osteogenic differentiation of skeletal progenitor cells. Unexpectedly, this process is driven by a decreased availability of extracellular lipids. When lipids are scarce, skeletal progenitors activate forkhead box O (FOXO) transcription factors, which bind to the Sox9 promoter and increase its expression. Besides initiating chondrogenesis, SOX9 acts as a regulator of cellular metabolism by suppressing oxidation of fatty acids, and thus adapts the cells to an avascular life. Our results define lipid scarcity as an important determinant of chondrogenic commitment, reveal a role for FOXO transcription factors during lipid starvation, and identify SOX9 as a critical metabolic mediator. These data highlight the importance of the nutritional microenvironment in the specification of skeletal cell fate.
The chromosome breakage-fusion-bridge (BFB) cycle is a mutational process that produces gene amplification and genome instability. Signatures of BFB cycles can be observed in cancer genomes alongside chromothripsis, another catastrophic mutational phenomenon. We explain this association by elucidating a mutational cascade that is triggered by a single cell division error-chromosome bridge formation-that rapidly increases genomic complexity. We show that actomyosin forces are required for initial bridge breakage. Chromothripsis accumulates, beginning with aberrant interphase replication of bridge DNA. A subsequent burst of DNA replication in the next mitosis generates extensive DNA damage. During this second cell division, broken bridge chromosomes frequently missegregate and form micronuclei, promoting additional chromothripsis. We propose that iterations of this mutational cascade generate the continuing evolution and subclonal heterogeneity characteristic of many human cancers.
Malignant abdominal fluid (ascites) frequently develops in women with advanced high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) and is associated with drug resistance and a poor prognosis. To comprehensively characterize the HGSOC ascites ecosystem, we used single-cell RNA sequencing to profile ~11,000 cells from 22 ascites specimens from 11 patients with HGSOC. We found significant inter-patient variability in the composition and functional programs of ascites cells, including immunomodulatory fibroblast sub-populations and dichotomous macrophage populations. We found that the previously described immunoreactive and mesenchymal subtypes of HGSOC, which have prognostic implications, reflect the abundance of immune infiltrates and fibroblasts rather than distinct subsets of malignant cells. Malignant cell variability was partly explained by heterogeneous copy number alteration patterns or expression of a stemness program. Malignant cells shared expression of inflammatory programs that were largely recapitulated in single-cell RNA sequencing of ~35,000 cells from additionally collected samples, including three ascites, two primary HGSOC tumors and three patient ascites-derived xenograft models. Inhibition of the JAK/STAT pathway, which was expressed in both malignant cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts, had potent anti-tumor activity in primary short-term cultures and patient-derived xenograft models. Our work contributes to resolving the HSGOC landscape and provides a resource for the development of novel therapeutic approaches.
BET bromodomain inhibitors (BBDIs) are candidate therapeutic agents for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and other cancer types, but inherent and acquired resistance to BBDIs limits their potential clinical use. Using CRISPR and small-molecule inhibitor screens combined with comprehensive molecular profiling of BBDI response and resistance, we identified synthetic lethal interactions with BBDIs and genes that, when deleted, confer resistance. We observed synergy with regulators of cell cycle progression, YAP, AXL, and SRC signaling, and chemotherapeutic agents. We also uncovered functional similarities and differences among BRD2, BRD4, and BRD7. Although deletion of BRD2 enhances sensitivity to BBDIs, BRD7 loss leads to gain of TEAD-YAP chromatin binding and luminal features associated with BBDI resistance. Single-cell RNA-seq, ATAC-seq, and cellular barcoding analysis of BBDI responses in sensitive and resistant cell lines highlight significant heterogeneity among samples and demonstrate that BBDI resistance can be pre-existing or acquired.