Rapidly proliferating tumor and immune cells need metabolic programs that support energy and biomass production. The amino acid glutamine is consumed by effector T cells and glutamine-addicted triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells, suggesting that a metabolic competition for glutamine may exist within the tumor microenvironment, potentially serving as a therapeutic intervention strategy. Here, we report that there is an inverse correlation between glutamine metabolic genes and markers of T cell-mediated cytotoxicity in human basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) patient datasets, with increased glutamine metabolism and decreased T cell cytotoxicity associated with poor survival. We found that tumor cell-specific loss of glutaminase (GLS), a key enzyme for glutamine metabolism, improved anti-tumor T cell activation in both a spontaneous mouse TNBC model and orthotopic grafts. The glutamine transporter inhibitor V-9302 selectively blocked glutamine uptake by TNBC cells but not CD8+ T cells, driving synthesis of GSH, a major cellular antioxidant, to improve CD8+ T cell effector function. We propose a “glutamine steal” scenario, in which cancer cells deprive tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes of needed glutamine, thus impairing anti-tumor immune responses. Therefore, tumor-selective targeting of glutamine metabolism may be a promising therapeutic strategy in TNBC.
Deanna N. Edwards, Verra M. Ngwa, Ariel L. Raybuck, Shan Wang, Yoonha Hwang, Laura C. Kim, Sung Hoon Cho, Yeeun Paik, Qingfei Wang, Siyuan Zhang, H. Charles Manning, Jeffrey C. Rathmell, Rebecca S. Cook, Mark R. Boothby, Jin Chen
Novel approaches are needed to boost the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy. Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM) protein plays a central role in sensing DNA double strand breaks and coordinating their repair. Recent data indicated that ATM might be a promising target to enhance immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy. However, the molecular mechanism involved is not clearly elucidated. Here we show that ATM inhibition could potentiate ICB therapy by promoting cytoplasmic leakage of mitochondrial DNA and activation of the cGAS/STING pathway. Genetic depletion of ATM in murine cancer cells significantly delayed tumor growth in syngeneic mouse hosts in a T-cell dependent manner. Furthermore, chemical inhibition of ATM significantly potentiated anti-PD1 therapy of mouse tumors. ATM inhibition potently activated the cGAS/STING pathway and enhanced lymphocyte infiltration into the tumor microenvironment by downregulating TFAM, which led to mitochondrial DNA leakage into the cytoplasm. Moreover, our analysis of data from a large patient cohort indicated that ATM mutations, especially nonsense mutations, predicted for clinical benefits for ICB therapy. Our study therefore provides strong evidence that ATM may serve both as a therapeutic target and a biomarker to enable ICB therapy
Mengjie Hu, Min Zhou, Xuhui Bao, Dong Pan, Meng Jiao, Xinjian Liu, Fang Li, Chuan-Yuan Li
Tumors depend on a blood supply to deliver oxygen and nutrients, making tumor vasculature an attractive anti-cancer target. However, only a fraction of cancer patients benefits from angiogenesis inhibitors. Whether anti-angiogenic therapy would be more effective if targeted to individuals with specific tumor characteristics is unknown. To better characterize the tumor vascular environment both within and between cancer types, we developed a standardized metric – the Endothelial Index (EI) – to estimate vascular density in over 10,000 human tumors, corresponding to 31 solid tumor types, from transcriptome data. We then used this index to compare hyper- and hypo-vascular tumors, enabling the classification of human tumors into six vascular microenvironment signatures (VMSs) based on the expression of a panel of 24 vascular hub genes. EI and VMS correlated with known tumor vascular features and were independently associated with prognosis in certain cancer types. Retrospective testing of clinical trial data identified VMS2 classification as a powerful biomarker for response to bevacizumab. Our studies thus provide an unbiased picture of human tumor vasculature which may enable more precise deployment of anti-angiogenesis therapy.
Benjamin M. Kahn, Alfredo Lucas, Rohan Alur, Maximilian D. Wengyn, Gregory W. Schwartz, Jinyang Li, Kathryn Sun, H. Carlo Maurer, Kenneth P. Olive, Robert B. Faryabi, Ben Stanger
The tumor microenvironment affects the outcome of radiotherapy against head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). We recently found that tolerogenic myeloid cells accumulate in circulation of HNSCC patients undergoing radiotherapy. Here, we analyzed tumor-containing lymph nodes biopsies collected from these patients. After two-weeks of radiotherapy, we found an increase in tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) with activated STAT3, while CD8 T-cells were reduced as detected using multiplex IHC. Gene expression profiling indicated upregulation of M2 macrophage-related genes (CD163, CD206), immunosuppressive mediators (ARG1, LIF, TGFB1) and Th2 cytokines (IL4, IL5) in irradiated tumors. We next validated STAT3 as a potential target in human HNSCC-associated TAMs, using UM-SCC1 xenotransplants in humanized mice. Local injections of myeloid cell-targeted STAT3 antisense oligonucleotide (CpG-STAT3ASO) activated human DCs/macrophages, promoted CD8 T-cell recruitment and thereby arrested UM-SCC1 tumor growth. Furthermore, CpG-STAT3ASO synergized with tumor irradiation against syngeneic HPV+ mEERL and HPV– MOC2 HNSCC tumors in mice, triggering tumor regression and/or extending animal survival. The antitumor immune responses were CD8+ and CD4+ T-cell-dependent and associated with the activation of antigen-presenting cells (DCs/M1 macrophages) and increased CD8+ to regulatory T-cell ratio. Our observations suggest that targeted inhibition of STAT3 in tumor-associated myeloid cells augments the efficacy of radiotherapy against HNSCC.
Dayson Moreira, Sagus Sampath, Haejung Won, Seok Voon White, Yu-Lin Su, Marice Alcantara, Chongkai Wang, Peter P. Lee, Ellie Maghami, Erminia Massarelli, Marcin Kortylewski
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 death (PD)-1 blockade is poorly understood. Here, we performed dynamic single-cell RNA sequencing of murine organotypic tumor spheroids undergoing PD-1 blockade, identifying a discrete sub-population 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 interleukin-6 (IL-6) but were vulnerable to tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)-induced cytotoxicity, relying on 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.
Kartik Sehgal, Andrew J. Portell, Elena V. Ivanova, Patrick H. Lizotte, Navin R. Mahadevan, Jonathan R. Greene, Amir Vajdi, Carino Gurjao, Tyler Teceno, Luke J. Taus, Tran C. Thai, Shunsuke Kitajima, Derek Liu, Tetsuo Tani, Moataz Noureddine, Christie J. Lau, Paul T. Kirschmeier, David Liu, Marios Giannakis, Russell W. Jenkins, Prafulla C. Gokhale, Silvia Goldoni, Maria Pinzon-Ortiz, William D. Hastings, Peter Hammerman, Juan J. Miret, Cloud P. Paweletz, David A. Barbie
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common tumor predisposition syndrome, caused by NF1 gene mutation, in which affected patients develop Schwann cell lineage peripheral nerve sheath tumors (neurofibromas). To investigate human neurofibroma pathogenesis, we differentiated a series of isogenic patient-specific NF1-mutant human induced-pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) into Schwannian lineage cells (SLCs). We found that while wild-type and heterozygous NF1-mutant hiPSC-SLCs did not form tumors following mouse sciatic nerve implantation, NF1-null SLCs formed bona fide neurofibromas with high levels of SOX10 expression. To confirm that SOX10+ SLCs contain the cells of origin for neurofibromas, both Nf1 alleles were inactivated in mouse Sox10+ cells, leading to classic nodular cutaneous and plexiform neurofibroma formation that completely recapitulate their human counterparts. Moreover, we discovered that NF1 loss impaired Schwann cell differentiation by inducing a persistent stem-like state to expand the pool of progenitors required to initiate tumor formation, indicating that in addition to regulating MAPK-mediated cell growth, NF1 loss also alters Schwann cell differentiation to promote neurofibroma development. Taken together, we established complementary humanized neurofibroma explant and first-in-kind mouse genetically engineered nodular cutaneous neurofibroma models that delineate neurofibroma pathogenesis amenable to future therapeutic target discovery and evaluation.
Juan Mo, Corina Anastasaki, Zhiguo Chen, Tracey Shipman, Jason B. Papke, Kevin Y. Yin, David H. Gutmann, Lu Q. Le
MYC stimulates both metabolism and protein synthesis, but it is unknown how cells coordinate these complementary programs. Previous work reported that in a subset of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines, MYC activates guanosine triphosphate (GTP) synthesis and results in sensitivity to inhibitors of the GTP synthesis enzyme inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). Here we demonstrated that primary MYCHigh human SCLC tumors also contain abundant guanosine nucleotides. We also found that elevated MYC in SCLCs with acquired chemoresistance rendered these otherwise recalcitrant tumors dependent on IMPDH. Unexpectedly, our data indicated that IMPDH links the metabolic and protein synthesis outputs of oncogenic MYC. Co-expression analysis placed IMPDH within the MYC-driven ribosome program, and GTP depletion prevented RNA Polymerase I (Pol I) from localizing to ribosomal DNA. Furthermore, the GTPases GPN1 and GPN3 were upregulated by MYC and directed Pol I to ribosomal DNA. Constitutively GTP-bound GPN1/3 mutants mitigated the effect of GTP depletion on Pol I, protecting chemoresistant SCLC cells from IMPDH inhibition. GTP therefore functions as a metabolic gate tethering MYC-dependent ribosome biogenesis to nucleotide sufficiency through GPN1 and GPN3. IMPDH dependence is a targetable vulnerability in chemoresistant, MYCHigh SCLC.
Fang Huang, Kenneth Huffman, Zixi Wang, Xun Wang, Kailong Li, Feng Cai, Chendong Yang, Ling Cai, Terry S. Shih, Lauren G. Zacharias, Andrew S. Chung, Qian Yang, Milind D. Chalishazar, Abbie S. Ireland, C. Allison Stewart, Kasey R. Cargill, Luc Girard, Yi Liu, Min Ni, Jian Xu, Xudong Wu, Hao Zhu, Benjamin J. Drapkin, Lauren A. Byers, Trudy G. Oliver, Adi Gazdar, John Minna, Ralph DeBerardinis
Mutations in the core RNA splicing factor SF3B1 are prevalent in leukemias and uveal melanoma but hotspot SF3B1 mutations are also seen in epithelial malignancies such as breast cancer. Although hotspot mutations in SF3B1 alter hematopoietic differentiation, whether SF3B1 mutations contribute to epithelial cancer development and progression is unknown. Here, we identify that SF3B1 mutations in mammary epithelial and breast cancer cells induce a recurrent pattern of aberrant splicing leading to activation of AKT and NF-kB, enhanced cell migration, and accelerated tumorigenesis. Transcriptomic analysis of human cancer specimens, MMTV-cre Sf3b1K700E/WT mice, and isogenic mutant cell lines identified hundreds of aberrant 3’ splice sites (3’ss) induced by mutant SF3B1. Consistently between mouse and human tumors, mutant SF3B1 promoted aberrant splicing (dependent on aberrant branchpoints as well as pyrimidines downstream of the cryptic 3’ss) and consequent suppression of PPP2R5A and MAP3K7, critical negative regulators of AKT and NF-kB. Coordinate activation of NF-kB and AKT signaling was observed in the knock-in models, leading to accelerated cell migration and tumor development in combination with mutant PIK3CA but also hypersensitizing cells to AKT kinase inhibitors. These data identify hotspot mutations in SF3B1 as an important contributor to breast tumorigenesis and reveal unique vulnerabilities in cancers harboring them.
Bo Liu, Zhaoqi Liu, Sisi Chen, Michelle Ki, Caroline Erickson, Jorge S. Reis-Filho, Benjamin H. Durham, Qing Chang, Elisa de Stanchina, Yiwei Sun, Raul Rabadan, Omar Abdel-Wahab, Sarat Chandarlapaty
BACKGROUND Therapeutic vaccinations against cancer have mainly targeted differentiation antigens, cancer-testis antigens, and overexpressed antigens and have thus far resulted in little clinical benefit. Studies conducted by multiple groups have demonstrated that T cells recognizing neoantigens are present in most cancers and offer a specific and highly immunogenic target for personalized vaccination.METHODS We recently developed a process using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes to identify the specific immunogenic mutations expressed in patients’ tumors. Here, validated, defined neoantigens, predicted neoepitopes, and mutations of driver genes were concatenated into a single mRNA construct to vaccinate patients with metastatic gastrointestinal cancer.RESULTS The vaccine was safe and elicited mutation-specific T cell responses against predicted neoepitopes not detected before vaccination. Furthermore, we were able to isolate and verify T cell receptors targeting KRASG12D mutation. We observed no objective clinical responses in the 4 patients treated in this trial.CONCLUSION This vaccine was safe, and potential future combination of such vaccines with checkpoint inhibitors or adoptive T cell therapy should be evaluated for possible clinical benefit in patients with common epithelial cancers.TRIAL REGISTRATION Phase I/II protocol (NCT03480152) was approved by the IRB committee of the NIH and the FDA.FUNDING Center for Clinical Research, NCI, NIH.
Gal Cafri, Jared J. Gartner, Tal Zaks, Kristen Hopson, Noam Levin, Biman C. Paria, Maria R. Parkhurst, Rami Yossef, Frank J. Lowery, Mohammad S. Jafferji, Todd D. Prickett, Stephanie L. Goff, Christine T. McGowan, Samantha Seitter, Mackenzie L. Shindorf, Anup Parikh, Praveen D. Chatani, Paul F. Robbins, Steven A. Rosenberg
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) heterogeneity causes a greater number of deaths than any other brain tumor, despite the availability of alkylating chemotherapy. GBM stem-like cells (GSCs) contribute to GBM complexity and chemoresistance, but it remains challenging to identify and target GSCs or factors that control their activity. Here, we identified a specific GSC subset and show that activity of these cells is positively regulated by stabilization of methyl CpG binding domain 3 (MBD3) protein. MBD3 binds to CK1A and to BTRCP E3 ubiquitin ligase, triggering MBD3 degradation, suggesting that modulating this circuit could antagonize GBM recurrence. Accordingly, xenograft mice treated with the CK1A activator pyrvinium pamoate (Pyr-Pam) showed enhanced MBD3 degradation in cells expressing high levels of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) and in GSCs, overcoming temozolomide chemoresistance. Pyr-Pam blocked recruitment of MBD3 and the repressive nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase (NuRD) complex to neurogenesis-associated gene loci and increased acetyl–histone H3 activity and GSC differentiation. We conclude that CK1A/BTRCP/MBD3/NuRD signaling modulates GSC activation and malignancy, and that targeting this signaling could suppress GSC proliferation and GBM recurrence.
Byoung-San Moon, Mingyang Cai, Grace Lee, Tong Zhao, Xiaofeng Song, Steven L. Giannotta, Frank J. Attenello, Min Yu, Wange Lu