Heritable germline mutations are estimated to drive 10% of all cancers, which can manifest as pediatric as well adult diseases. This series, curated by Series Editors Agata Smogorzewska and JCI Associate Editor Mary Armanios, unravels how the biology and genetics underlying familial cancer predisposition syndromes informs understanding cancer etiology and biology. Reviews focus on cancer-driving mutations in transcription factors, in developmental and metabolic signals, and in pathways that control genetic stability and provide insights linking mechanistic studies with ongoing clinical research. Enhanced understanding of the biological basis for these familial cancers may inform the treatment of cancers driven by both germline and somatic mutations.
The field of hereditary kidney cancer has begun to mature following the identification of several germline syndromes that define genetic and molecular features of this cancer. Molecular defects within these hereditary syndromes demonstrate consistent deficits in angiogenesis and metabolic signaling, largely driven by altered hypoxia signaling. The classical mutation, loss of function of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor, provides a human pathogenesis model for critical aspects of pseudohypoxia. These features are mimicked in a less common hereditary renal tumor syndrome, known as hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell carcinoma. Here, we review renal tumor angiogenesis and metabolism from a HIF-centric perspective, considering alterations in the hypoxic landscape, and molecular deviations resulting from high levels of HIF family members. Mutations underlying HIF deregulation drive multifactorial aberrations in angiogenic signals and metabolism. The mechanisms by which these defects drive tumor growth are still emerging. However, the distinctive patterns of angiogenesis and glycolysis-/glutamine-dependent bioenergetics provide insight into the cellular environment of these cancers. The result is a scenario permissive for aggressive tumorigenesis especially within the proximal renal tubule. These features of tumorigenesis have been highly actionable in kidney cancer treatments, and will likely continue as central tenets of kidney cancer therapeutics.
John C. Chappell, Laura Beth Payne, W. Kimryn Rathmell
The tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) classically counteracts the PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling cascade. Germline pathogenic PTEN mutations cause PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome (PHTS), featuring various benign and malignant tumors, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder. Germline and somatic mosaic mutations in genes encoding components of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway downstream of PTEN predispose to syndromes with partially overlapping clinical features, termed the “PTEN-opathies.” Experimental models of PTEN pathway disruption uncover the molecular and cellular processes influencing clinical phenotypic manifestations. Such insights not only teach us about biological mechanisms in states of health and disease, but also enable more accurate gene-informed cancer risk assessment, medical management, and targeted therapeutics. Hence, the PTEN-opathies serve as a prototype for bedside to bench, and back to the bedside, practice of evidence-based precision medicine.
Lamis Yehia, Joanne Ngeow, Charis Eng