bims-tucedo Biomed News
on Tumor cell dormancy
Issue of 2021‒01‒10
forty-five papers selected by
Isabel Puig Borreil
Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology

  1. Cancer Res. 2021 Jan 05. pii: canres.1895.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a dynamic epigenetic reprogramming event that occurs in a subset of tumor cells and is an initiating step towards invasion and distant metastasis. The process is reversible and gives plasticity to cancer cells to survive under variable conditions, with the acquisition of cancer stem cell-like characteristics and features such as drug resistance. Therefore, understanding survival dependencies of cells along the phenotypic spectrum of EMT will provide better strategies to target the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of tumors and prevent their ability to bypass single inhibitor treatment strategies. To address this, we integrated the data from a selective drug screen in epithelial and mesenchymal Kras/p53 (KP) mutant lung tumor cells with separate datasets including reverse phase protein array and an in vivo shRNA dropout screen. These orthogonal approaches identified AXL and MEK as potential mesenchymal and epithelial cell survival dependencies, respectively. To capture the dynamicity of EMT, incorporation of a dual fluorescence EMT sensor system into murine KP lung cancer models enabled real time analysis of the epigenetic state of tumor cells and assessment of the efficacy of single agent or combination treatment with AXL and MEK inhibitors. Both 2-D and 3-D culture systems and in vivo models revealed that this combination treatment strategy of MEK plus AXL inhibition synergistically killed lung cancer cells by specifically targeting each phenotypic subpopulation. In conclusion, these results indicate that co-targeting the specific vulnerabilities of EMT subpopulations can prevent EMT-mediated drug resistance, effectively controlling tumor cell growth and metastasis.
  2. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(4): 1626-1640
      Colorectal cancer (CRC) cells are traditionally considered unresponsive to TGFβ due to mutations in the receptors and/or downstream signaling molecules. TGFβ influences CRC cells only indirectly via stromal cells, such as cancer-associated fibroblasts. However, CRC cell ability to directly respond to TGFβ currently remains unexplored. This represents a missed opportunity for diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Methods: We examined whether cancer cells from primary CRC and liver metastases respond to TGFβ by inducing TGFβ-induced protein ig-h3 (TGFBI) expression, and the contribution of canonical and non-canonical TGFβ signaling pathways to this effect. We then investigated in vitro and in vivo TGFBI impact on metastasis formation and angiogenesis. Using patient serum samples and an orthotopic mouse model of CRC liver metastases we assessed the diagnostic/tumor targeting value of novel antibodies against TGFBI. Results: Metastatic CRC cells, such as circulating tumor cells, directly respond to TGFβ. These cells were characterized by the absence of TGFβ receptor mutations and the frequent presence of p53 mutations. The pro-tumorigenic program orchestrated by TGFβ in CRC cells was mediated through TGFBI, the expression of which was positively regulated by non-canonical TGFβ signaling cascades. TGFBI inhibition was sufficient to significantly reduce liver metastasis formation in vivo. Moreover, TGFBI pro-tumorigenic function was linked to its ability to stimulate angiogenesis. TGFBI levels were higher in serum samples from untreated patients with CRC than in patients who were receiving chemotherapy. A radiolabeled anti-TGFBI antibody selectively targeted metastatic lesions in vivo, underscoring its diagnostic and therapeutic potential. Conclusions: TGFβ signaling in CRC cells directly contributes to their metastatic potential and stromal cell-independence. Proteins downstream of activated TGFβ, such as TGFBI, represent novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets for more specific anti-metastatic therapies.
    Keywords:  alternative TGFβ signaling; endothelial cells; liver metastases
  3. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(3): 1429-1445
      Rationale: Breast cancer preferentially develops osteolytic bone metastasis, which makes patients suffer from pain, fractures and spinal cord compression. Accumulating evidences have shown that exosomes play an irreplaceable role in pre-metastatic niche formation as a communication messenger. However, the function of exosomes secreted by breast cancer cells remains incompletely understood in bone metastasis of breast cancer. Methods: Mouse xenograft models and intravenous injection of exosomes were applied for analyzing the role of breast cancer cell-derived exosomes in vivo. Effects of exosomes secreted by the mildly metastatic MDA231 and its subline SCP28 with highly metastatic ability on osteoclasts formation were confirmed by TRAP staining, ELISA, microcomputed tomography, histomorphometric analyses, and pit formation assay. The candidate exosomal miRNAs for promoting osteoclastogenesis were globally screened by RNA-seq. qRT-PCR, western blot, confocal microscopy, and RNA interfering were performed to validate the function of exosomal miRNA. Results: Implantation of SCP28 tumor cells in situ leads to increased osteoclast activity and reduced bone density, which contributes to the formation of pre-metastatic niche for tumor cells. We found SCP28 cells-secreted exosomes are critical factors in promoting osteoclast differentiation and activation, which consequently accelerates bone lesion to reconstruct microenvironment for bone metastasis. Mechanistically, exosomal miR-21 derived from SCP28 cells facilitates osteoclastogenesis through regulating PDCD4 protein levels. Moreover, miR-21 level in serum exosomes of breast cancer patients with bone metastasis is significantly higher than that in other subpopulations. Conclusion: Our results indicate that breast cancer cell-derived exosomes play an important role in promoting breast cancer bone metastasis, which is associated with the formation of pre-metastatic niche via transferring miR-21 to osteoclasts. The data from patient samples further reflect the significance of miR-21 as a potential target for clinical diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer bone metastasis.
    Keywords:  bone metastasis; exosomes; miR-21; osteoclasts; pre-metastatic niche
  4. Cancer Res. 2021 Jan 05. pii: canres.2876.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      Metastasis is responsible for the majority of breast cancer (BrCa) deaths; however, the mechanisms underlying metastasis in this disease remain largely elusive. Here we report that under hypoxic conditions, alternative splicing of MBD2 is suppressed, favoring the production of MBD2a which facilitates BrCa metastasis. Specifically, MBD2a promoted, whereas its lesser known short form MBD2c suppressed metastasis. Activation of HIF-1 under hypoxia facilitated MBD2a production via repression of SRSF2-mediated alternative splicing. As a result, elevated MBD2a outcompeted MBD2c for binding to promoter CpG islands to activate expression of FZD1, thereby promoting EMT and metastasis. Strikingly, clinical data reveals significantly correlated expression of MBD2a and MBD2c with the invasiveness of malignancy, indicating opposing roles for MBD2 splicing variants in regulating human BrCa metastasis. Collectively, our findings establish a novel link between MBD2 switching and tumor metastasis and provide a promising therapeutic strategy and predictive biomarkers for hypoxia-driven BrCa metastasis.
  5. Oncogene. 2021 Jan 08.
      Integrins are cell adhesion receptors, which are typically transmembrane glycoproteins that connect to the extracellular matrix (ECM). The function of integrins regulated by biochemical events within the cells. Understanding the mechanisms of cell growth by integrins is important in elucidating their effects on tumor progression. One of the major events in integrin signaling is integrin binding to extracellular ligands. Another event is distant signaling that gathers chemical signals from outside of the cell and transmit the signals upon cell adhesion to the inside of the cell. In normal breast tissue, integrins function as checkpoints to monitor effects on cell proliferation, while in cancer tissue these functions altered. The combination of tumor microenvironment and its associated components determines the cell fate. Hypoxia can increase the expression of several integrins. The exosomal integrins promote the growth of metastatic cells. Expression of certain integrins is associated with increased metastasis and decreased prognosis in cancers. In addition, integrin-binding proteins promote invasion and metastasis in breast cancer. Targeting specific integrins and integrin-binding proteins may provide new therapeutic approaches for breast cancer therapies. This review will examine the current knowledge of integrins' role in breast cancer.
  6. J Clin Invest. 2021 Jan 04. pii: 136779. [Epub ahead of print]131(1):
      Slow-cycling/dormant cancer cells (SCCs) have pivotal roles in driving cancer relapse and drug resistance. A mechanistic explanation for cancer cell dormancy and therapeutic strategies targeting SCCs are necessary to improve patient prognosis, but are limited because of technical challenges to obtaining SCCs. Here, by applying proliferation-sensitive dyes and chemotherapeutics to non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and patient-derived xenografts, we identified a distinct SCC subpopulation that resembled SCCs in patient tumors. These SCCs displayed major dormancy-like phenotypes and high survival capacity under hostile microenvironments through transcriptional upregulation of regulator of G protein signaling 2 (RGS2). Database analysis revealed RGS2 as a biomarker of retarded proliferation and poor prognosis in NSCLC. We showed that RGS2 caused prolonged translational arrest in SCCs through persistent eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α) phosphorylation via proteasome-mediated degradation of activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4). Translational activation through RGS2 antagonism or the use of phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors, including sildenafil (Viagra), promoted ER stress-induced apoptosis in SCCs in vitro and in vivo under stressed conditions, such as those induced by chemotherapy. Our results suggest that a low-dose chemotherapy and translation-instigating pharmacological intervention in combination is an effective strategy to prevent tumor progression in NSCLC patients after rigorous chemotherapy.
    Keywords:  Cell Biology; Lung cancer; Oncology
  7. Cancer Cell. 2021 Jan 05. pii: S1535-6108(20)30609-7. [Epub ahead of print]
      Treatment-persistent residual tumors impede curative cancer therapy. To understand this cancer cell state we generated models of treatment persistence that simulate the residual tumors. We observe that treatment-persistent tumor cells in organoids, xenografts, and cancer patients adopt a distinct and reversible transcriptional program resembling that of embryonic diapause, a dormant stage of suspended development triggered by stress and associated with suppressed Myc activity and overall biosynthesis. In cancer cells, depleting Myc or inhibiting Brd4, a Myc transcriptional co-activator, attenuates drug cytotoxicity through a dormant diapause-like adaptation with reduced apoptotic priming. Conversely, inducible Myc upregulation enhances acute chemotherapeutic activity. Maintaining residual cells in dormancy after chemotherapy by inhibiting Myc activity or interfering with the diapause-like adaptation by inhibiting cyclin-dependent kinase 9 represent potential therapeutic strategies against chemotherapy-persistent tumor cells. Our study demonstrates that cancer co-opts a mechanism similar to diapause with adaptive inactivation of Myc to persist during treatment.
    Keywords:  CDK9; CRISPR; MYC; adaptation to stress; breast cancer; cancer; diapause; drug persistence; prostate cancer; residual tumor
  8. Cancer Res. 2021 Jan 05. pii: canres.2125.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      Novel strategies to treat late-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) that often develop resistance to chemotherapy remains an unmet clinical demand. In this study, we identify the multi-kinase inhibitor pacritinib as capable of re-sensitizing the response to paclitaxel in an acquired resistance model. Transcriptome analysis of paclitaxel-sensitive and -resistant cell lines, as well as chemorefractory clinical samples identified S100A9 as the top candidate gene suppressed by pacritinib and whose overexpression was significantly associated with paclitaxel resistance and poor clinical outcome. Moreover, both paclitaxel-resistant NPC cells and relapsed/metastatic clinical samples exhibited increased IRAK1 phosphorylation and that pacritinib could abolish the IRAK1 phosphorylation to suppress S100A9 expression. Functional studies in both in vitro and in vivo models showed that genetic or pharmacological blockade of IRAK1 overcame the resistance to paclitaxel, and combined treatment of pacritinib with paclitaxel exhibited superior anti-tumor effect. Together, these findings demonstrated an important role of the IRAK1-S100A9 axis in mediating resistance to paclitaxel. Furthermore, targeting IRAK1 by pacritinib, may provide a novel therapeutic strategy to overcome chemoresistance in NPC.
  9. Nat Genet. 2021 Jan;53(1): 76-85
      Cellular plasticity describes the ability of cells to transition from one set of phenotypes to another. In melanoma, transient fluctuations in the molecular state of tumor cells mark the formation of rare cells primed to survive BRAF inhibition and reprogram into a stably drug-resistant fate. However, the biological processes governing cellular priming remain unknown. We used CRISPR-Cas9 genetic screens to identify genes that affect cell fate decisions by altering cellular plasticity. We found that many factors can independently affect cellular priming and fate decisions. We discovered a new plasticity-based mode of increasing resistance to BRAF inhibition that pushes cells towards a more differentiated state. Manipulating cellular plasticity through inhibition of DOT1L before the addition of the BRAF inhibitor resulted in more therapy resistance than concurrent administration. Our results indicate that modulating cellular plasticity can alter cell fate decisions and may prove useful for treating drug resistance in other cancers.
  10. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(2): 958-973
      Rationale: Aberrant androgen receptor (AR) signaling via full-length AR (AR-FL) and constitutively active AR variant 7 (AR-V7) plays a key role in the development of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and resistance to hormone therapies. Simultaneous targeting of AR-FL and AR-V7 may be a promising strategy to overcome resistance to hormone therapy. This study aimed to identify novel drug candidates co-targeting AR-FL and AR-V7 activities and elucidate their molecular mechanism of anti-CRPC activities. Methods: Using a CRPC cell-based reporter assay system, we screened a small library of antimalarial agents to explore the possibility of repositioning them for CRPC treatment and identified bruceantin (BCT) as a potent anti-CRPC drug candidate. A series of cell-based, molecular, biochemical, and in vivo approaches were performed to evaluate the therapeutic potential and molecular mechanism of BCT in CRPC. These approaches include reporter gene assays, cell proliferation, RNA-seq, qRT-PCR, mouse xenografts, co-immunoprecipitation, GST pull-down, immobilized BCT pull-down, molecular modeling, and bioinformatic analyses. Results: We identified BCT as a highly potent inhibitor co-targeting AR-FL and AR-V7 activity. BCT inhibits the transcriptional activity of AR-FL/AR-V7 and downregulates their target genes in CRPC cells. In addition, BCT efficiently suppresses tumor growth and metastasis of CRPC cells. Mechanistically, BCT disrupts the interaction of HSP90 with AR-FL/AR-V7 by directly binding to HSP90 and inhibits HSP90 chaperone function, leading to degradation of AR-FL/AR-V7 through the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Clinically, HSP90 expression is upregulated and correlated with AR/AR-V7 levels in CRPC. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that BCT could serve as a promising therapeutic candidate against CRPC and highlight the potential benefit of targeting AR-FL/AR-V7-HSP90 axis to overcome resistance caused by aberrant AR-FL/AR-V7 signaling.
    Keywords:  HSP90; androgen receptor; androgen receptor variant 7; bruceantin; castration-resistant prostate cancer
  11. Nat Commun. 2021 Jan 08. 12(1): 174
      The immunosuppressive microenvironment that is shaped by hepatic metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is essential for tumor cell evasion of immune destruction. Neutrophils are important components of the metastatic tumor microenvironment and exhibit heterogeneity. However, the specific phenotypes, functions and regulatory mechanisms of neutrophils in PDAC liver metastases remain unknown. Here, we show that a subset of P2RX1-negative neutrophils accumulate in clinical and murine PDAC liver metastases. RNA sequencing of murine PDAC liver metastasis-infiltrated neutrophils show that P2RX1-deficient neutrophils express increased levels of immunosuppressive molecules, including PD-L1, and have enhanced mitochondrial metabolism. Mechanistically, the transcription factor Nrf2 is upregulated in P2RX1-deficient neutrophils and associated with PD-L1 expression and metabolic reprogramming. An anti-PD-1 neutralizing antibody is sufficient to compromise the immunosuppressive effects of P2RX1-deficient neutrophils on OVA-activated OT1 CD8+ T cells. Therefore, our study uncovers a mechanism by which metastatic PDAC tumors evade antitumor immunity by accumulating a subset of immunosuppressive P2RX1-negative neutrophils.
  12. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(3): 996-1015
      Resistance to anoikis, cell death due to matrix detachment, is acquired during tumor progression. The 14-3-3σ protein is implicated in the development of chemo- and radiation resistance, indicating a poor prognosis in multiple human cancers. However, its function in anoikis resistance and metastasis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is currently unknown. Methods: Protein expression levels of 14-3-3σ were measured in paired HCC and normal tissue samples using western blot and immunohistochemical (IHC) staining. Statistical analysis was performed to evaluate the clinical correlation between 14-3-3σ expression, clinicopathological features, and overall survival. Artificial modulation of 14-3-3σ (downregulation and overexpression) was performed to explore the role of 14-3-3σ in HCC anoikis resistance and tumor metastasis in vitro and in vivo. Association of 14-3-3σ with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) was assayed by co-immunoprecipitation. Effects of ectopic 14-3-3σ expression or knockdown on EGFR signaling, ligand-induced EGFR degradation and ubiquitination were examined using immunoblotting and co-immunoprecipitation, immunofluorescence staining, and flow cytometry analysis. The levels of EGFR ubiquitination, the interaction between EGFR and 14-3-3σ, and the association of EGFR with c-Cbl after EGF stimulation, in 14-3-3σ overexpressing or knockdown cells were examined to elucidate the mechanism by which 14-3-3σ inhibits EGFR degradation. Using gain-of-function or loss-of-function strategies, we further investigated the role of the EGFR signaling pathway and its downstream target machinery in 14-3-3σ-mediated anoikis resistance of HCC cells. Results: We demonstrated that 14-3-3σ was upregulated in HCC tissues, whereby its overexpression was correlated with aggressive clinicopathological features and a poor prognosis. In vitro and in vivo experiments indicated that 14-3-3σ promoted anoikis resistance and metastasis of HCC cells. Mechanistically, we show that 14-3-3σ can interact with EGFR and significantly inhibit EGF-induced degradation of EGFR, stabilizing the activated receptor, and therefore prolong the activation of EGFR signaling. We demonstrated that 14-3-3σ downregulated ligand-induced EGFR degradation by inhibiting EGFR-c-Cbl association and subsequent c-Cbl-mediated EGFR ubiquitination. We further verified that activation of the ERK1/2 pathway was responsible for 14-3-3σ-mediated anoikis resistance of HCC cells. Moreover, EGFR inactivation could reverse the 14-3-3σ-mediated effects on ERK1/2 phosphorylation and anoikis resistance. Expression of 14-3-3σ and EGFR were found to be positively correlated in human HCC tissues. Conclusions: Our results indicate that 14-3-3σ plays a pivotal role in the anoikis resistance and metastasis of HCC cells, presumably by inhibiting EGFR degradation and regulating the activation of the EGFR-dependent ERK1/2 pathway. To our best knowledge, this is the first report of the role of 14-3-3σ in the anoikis resistance of HCC cells, offering new research directions for the treatment of metastatic cancer by targeting 14-3-3σ.
    Keywords:  14-3-3σ; EGFR; ERK1/2 pathway; HCC; anoikis resistance
  13. Mol Cancer. 2021 Jan 04. 20(1): 6
      De novo and acquired resistance, which are mainly mediated by genetic alterations, are barriers to effective routine chemotherapy. However, the mechanisms underlying gastric cancer (GC) resistance to chemotherapy are still unclear. We showed that the long noncoding RNA CRNDE was related to the chemosensitivity of GC in clinical samples and a PDX model. CRNDE was decreased and inhibited autophagy flux in chemoresistant GC cells. CRNDE directly bound to splicing protein SRSF6 to reduce its protein stability and thus regulate alternative splicing (AS) events. We determined that SRSF6 regulated the PICALM exon 14 skip splice variant and triggered a significant S-to-L isoform switch, which contributed to the expression of the long isoform of PICALM (encoding PICALML). Collectively, our findings reveal the key role of CRNDE in autophagy regulation, highlighting the significance of CRNDE as a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target against chemoresistance in GC.
    Keywords:  Autophagy; Chemoresistant; Gastric cancer; Long noncoding RNA CRNDE; Protein splicing
  14. Genome Biol. 2021 Jan 07. 22(1): 19
      BACKGROUND: Metastatic progress is the primary cause of death in most cancers, yet the regulatory dynamics driving the cellular changes necessary for metastasis remain poorly understood. Multi-omics approaches hold great promise for addressing this challenge; however, current analysis tools have limited capabilities to systematically integrate transcriptomic, epigenomic, and cistromic information to accurately define the regulatory networks critical for metastasis.RESULTS: To address this limitation, we use a purposefully generated cellular model of colon cancer invasiveness to generate multi-omics data, including expression, accessibility, and selected histone modification profiles, for increasing levels of invasiveness. We then adopt a rigorous probabilistic framework for joint inference from the resulting heterogeneous data, along with transcription factor binding profiles. Our approach uses probabilistic graphical models to leverage the functional information provided by specific epigenomic changes, models the influence of multiple transcription factors simultaneously, and automatically learns the activating or repressive roles of cis-regulatory events. Global analysis of these relationships reveals key transcription factors driving invasiveness, as well as their likely target genes. Disrupting the expression of one of the highly ranked transcription factors JunD, an AP-1 complex protein, confirms functional relevance to colon cancer cell migration and invasion. Transcriptomic profiling confirms key regulatory targets of JunD, and a gene signature derived from the model demonstrates strong prognostic potential in TCGA colorectal cancer data.
    CONCLUSIONS: Our work sheds new light into the complex molecular processes driving colon cancer metastasis and presents a statistically sound integrative approach to analyze multi-omics profiles of a dynamic biological process.
    Keywords:  Colon cancer; Metastasis; Multi-omics; Probabilistic model; Transcriptional regulation
  15. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jan 04. pii: E137. [Epub ahead of print]13(1):
      The BRAFV600E mutation is found in 8-10% of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients and it is recognized as a poor prognostic factor with a median overall survival inferior to 20 months. At present, besides immune checkpoint inhibitors (CPIs) for those tumors with concomitant MSI-H status, recommended treatment options include cytotoxic chemotherapy + anti-VEGF in the first line setting, and a combination of EGFR and a BRAF inhibitor (cetuximab plus encorafenib) in second line. However, even with the latter targeted approach, acquired resistance limits the possibility of more than an incremental benefit and survival is still dismal. In this review, we discuss current treatment options for this subset of patients and perform a systematic review of ongoing clinical trials. Overall, we identified six emerging strategies: targeting MAPK pathway (monotherapy or combinations), targeting MAPK pathway combined with cytotoxic agents, intensive cytotoxic regimen combinations, targeted agents combined with CPIs, oxidative stress induction, and cytotoxic agents combined with antiangiogenic drugs and CPIs. In the future, the integration of new therapeutic strategies targeting key players in the BRAFV600E oncogenic pathways with current treatment approach based on cytotoxic chemotherapy and surgery is likely to redefine the treatment landscape of these CRC patients.
    Keywords:  BRAF; FOLFOXIRI; colon cancer; immune checkpoint inhibitors; targeted agents
  16. Cancer Res. 2021 Jan 08. pii: canres.2828.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      The tumor suppressor protein RB acts as a transcription repressor via interaction of its pocket domain with an LXCXE motif in HDAC proteins such as HDAC1. Here we demonstrate that HDAC5 deficient for the LXCXE motif interacts with both RB-N (via an FXXXV motif) and RB-C segments, and such interactions are diminished by phosphorlyation of RB serine-249/threonine-252 and threonine-821. HDAC5 was frequently downregulated or deleted in human cancers such as prostate cancer. Loss of HDAC5 increased histone H3 lysine 27 acetylation (H3K27-ac) and circumvented RB-mediated repression of cell cycle-related pro-oncogenic genes. HDAC5 loss also conferred resistance to CDK4/6 inhibitors such as Palbociclib in prostate and breast cancer cells in vitro and prostate tumors in vivo, but this effect was overcome by the BET-CBP/p300 dual inhibitor NEO2734. Our findings reveal an unknown role of HDAC5 in RB-mediated histone deacetylation and gene repression and define a new mechanism modulating CDK4/6 inhibitor therapeutic sensitivity in cancer cells.
  17. Elife. 2021 Jan 06. pii: e61539. [Epub ahead of print]10
      Cancer extracellular vesicles (EVs) shuttle at distance and fertilize pre-metastatic niches facilitating subsequent seeding by tumor cells. However, the link between EV secretion mechanisms and their capacity to form pre-metastatic niches remains obscure. Using mouse models, we show that GTPases of the Ral family control, through the phospholipase D1, multi-vesicular bodies homeostasis and tune the biogenesis and secretion of pro-metastatic EVs. Importantly, EVs from RalA or RalB depleted cells have limited organotropic capacities in vivo and are less efficient in promoting metastasis. RalA and RalB reduce the EV levels of the adhesion molecule MCAM/CD146, which favors EV-mediated metastasis by allowing EVs targeting to the lungs. Finally, RalA, RalB and MCAM/CD146, are factors of poor prognosis in breast cancer patients. Altogether, our study identifies RalGTPases as central molecules linking the mechanisms of EVs secretion and cargo loading to their capacity to disseminate and induce pre-metastatic niches in a CD146 dependent manner.
    Keywords:  cancer biology; cell biology; human; mouse; zebrafish
  18. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(3): 1396-1411
      Rationale: circular RNAs (circRNAs) have been demonstrated to play a crucial role in cancer progression. KIAA1429, a key component of the m6A methyltransferase complex, has recently been reported to promote hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression by regulating the m6A methylation. The aim of present study is to investigate the role of circular RNAs in KIAA1429-mediated HCC progression. Methods: RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and methylated RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (m6A-seq) were utilized to identify KIAA1429-regulated circRNAs. The effects of circDLC1 on proliferation and metastasis of hepatoma cells were examined in vitro and in vivo. RT-qPCR was used to measure the expression of circDLC1 in HCC tissues and hepatoma cells. RNA FISH, RIP assays and biotin-labeled RNA pull-down were used to investigate the downstream effector of circDLC1. The downstream targets of circDLC1 were identified using RNA-seq. Results: Our data demonstrated that circDLC1 was downregulated in HCC tissues and closely relevant to favorable prognosis. Overexpression of circDLC1 inhibited the proliferation and motility of hepatoma cells in vitro and in vivo, while silencing of circDLC1 played the opposite role. Mechanistic investigations revealed that circDLC1 could bind to RNA-binding protein HuR, which subsequently reduced the interaction between HuR and MMP1 mRNAs, and thus inhibited the expression of MMP1, ultimately contributing to inhibition of HCC progression. Conclusion: Our work suggests that circDLC1, a downstream target of KIAA1429, is a promising prognostic marker for HCC patients, and the circDLC1-HuR-MMP1 axis may serve as a potential therapeutic target for HCC treatment.
    Keywords:  Hepatocellular carcinoma; KIAA1429; MMP1; RNA-binding protein HuR; circular RNA
  19. Oncogene. 2021 Jan 08.
      Steroid regulated cancer cells use nuclear receptors and associated regulatory proteins to orchestrate transcriptional networks to drive disease progression. In primary breast cancer, the coactivator AIB1 promotes estrogen receptor (ER) transcriptional activity to enhance cell proliferation. The function of the coactivator in ER+ metastasis however is not established. Here we describe AIB1 as a survival factor, regulator of pro-metastatic transcriptional pathways and a promising actionable target. Genomic alterations and functional expression of AIB1 associated with reduced disease-free survival in patients and enhanced metastatic capacity in novel CDX and PDX ex-vivo models of ER+ metastatic disease. Comparative analysis of the AIB1 interactome with complementary RNAseq characterized AIB1 as a transcriptional repressor. Specifically, we report that AIB1 interacts with MTA2 to form a repressive complex, inhibiting CDH1 (encoding E-cadherin) to promote EMT and drive progression. We further report that pharmacological and genetic inhibition of AIB1 demonstrates significant anti-proliferative activity in patient-derived models establishing AIB1 as a viable strategy to target endocrine resistant metastasis. This work defines a novel role for AIB1 in the regulation of EMT through transcriptional repression in advanced cancer cells with a considerable implication for prognosis and therapeutic interventions.
  20. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(2): 824-840
      Constitutive activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is a common feature in human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). STAT3 plays an important role in cancer progression as a driver oncogene and acquired resistance of targeted therapies as an alternatively activated pathway. W2014-S with pharmacophore structure of imidazopyridine, which was firstly reported to be utilized in STAT3 inhibitor discovery, was screened out as a potent STAT3 inhibitor from a library of small molecules. The aim of this study is to investigate the antitumor activities and mechanisms of W2014-S in NSCLC and effect on epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) resistance in vitro and in vivo. Methods: SPR analysis, Co-immunoprecipitation, confocal microscope imaging, and luciferase report gene assays were utilized to determine the mechanisms. Cell viability, colonial survival, wound healing, cell invasion assay, human cancer cell xenografts and PDX tumor xenografts were used to determine antitumor activities. Results: W2014-S disrupted STAT3 dimerization and selectively inhibited aberrant STAT3 signaling in NSCLC cell line. W2014-S strongly suppressed proliferation, survival, migration and invasion of lung cancer cells with aberrant STAT3 activation and inhibited the growth of human NSCLC cell xenografts and PDX tumor xenografts in mouse model. Furthermore, W2014-S significantly sensitized resistant NSCLC cell line to gefitinib and erlotinib in vitro and enhances the anti-tumor effect of gefitinib in TKI-resistant lung cancer xenografts in vivo. Conclusions: Our study has provided a novel STAT3 inhibitor with significant anti-tumor activities in NSCLC and suggests that combination of STAT3 inhibitor such as W2014-S with gefitinib could serve as a promising strategy to overcome EGFR-TKIs acquired resistance in NSCLC patients.
    Keywords:  EGFR-TKI; STAT3 inhibitor; W2014-S; acquired resistance; non-small cell lung cancer
  21. Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2021 Jan 07.
      The spread of primary tumor cells to distant organs, termed metastasis, is the principal cause of cancer mortality and is a critical therapeutic target in oncology. Thus, a better understanding of metastatic progression is critical for improved therapeutic approaches requiring insight into the timing of tumor cell dissemination and seeding of distant organs, which can lead to the formation of occult lesions. However, due to limitations in imaging techniques, primary tumors can only be detected when they reach a relatively large size (e.g., > 1 cm3), which, based on our understanding of tumor evolution, is 10 to 20 years (30 doubling times) following tumor initiation. Recent insights into the timing of metastasis are based on the genomic profiling of paired primary tumors and metastases, suggesting that tumor cell seeding of secondary sites occurs early during tumor progression and years prior to diagnosis. Following seeding, tumor cells may remain in a dormant state as single cells or micrometastases before emerging as overt lesions. This timeline and the role of metastatic dormancy are regulated by interactions between the tumor, its microenvironment, and tumor-specific T cell responses. An improved understanding of the mechanisms and interactions responsible for immune evasion and tumor cell release from dormancy would support the development of novel targeted therapeutics. We posit herein that the immunosuppressive mechanisms mediated by myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a major contributor to tumor progression, and that these mechanisms promote tumor cell escape from dormancy. Thus, while extensive studies have demonstrated a role for MDSCs in the escape from adoptive and innate immune responses (T-, natural killer (NK)-, and B cell responses), facilitating tumor progression and metastasis, few studies have considered their role in dormancy. In this review, we discuss the role of MDSC expansion, driven by tumor burden, and its role in escape from dormancy, resulting in occult metastases, and the potential for MDSC inhibition as an approach to prolong the survival of patients with advanced malignancies.
    Keywords:  Circulating tumor cells; Dormancy; Metastasis; Myeloid-derived suppressor cells; Pre-metastatic niche
  22. Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Jan 05. pii: clincanres.3215.2020. [Epub ahead of print]
      PURPOSE: Women treated with radiotherapy before 30 years of age have increased risk of developing breast cancer at an early age. Here we sought to investigate mechanisms by which radiation promotes aggressive cancer.EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: The tumor microenvironment (TME) of breast cancers arising in women treated with radiotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma was compared to that of sporadic breast cancers. We Investigated radiation effects on carcinomas arising from Trp53 null mammary transplants after irradiation of the target epithelium or host using immunocompetent and incompetent mice, some which were treated with aspirin.
    RESULTS: Compared to age-matched specimens of sporadic breast cancers, radiation-preceded breast cancers were characterized by TME rich in transforming growth factor β, cyclooxygenase-2 and myeloid cells, indicative of greater immunosuppression, even when matched for triple-negative status. The mechanism by which radiation impacts TME construction was investigated in carcinomas arising in mice bearing Trp53 null mammary transplants. Immunosuppressive TME (iTME) were recapitulated in mice irradiated before transplantation, which implicated systemic immune effects. In Nu/Nu mice lacking adaptive immunity irradiated before Trp53 null mammary transplantation, cancers also established an iTME, which pointed to a critical role for myeloid cells. Consistent with this, irradiated mammary glands contained more macrophages and human cells co-cultured with polarized macrophages underwent dysplastic morphogenesis mediated by interferon γ. Treating mice with low-dose aspirin for 6 months post-irradiation prevented establishment of an iTME and resulted in less aggressive tumors.
    CONCLUSIONS: These data show that radiation acts via non-mutational mechanisms to promote markedly immunosuppressive features of aggressive, radiation-preceded breast cancers.
  23. Oncogene. 2021 Jan 08.
      Bone metastasis remains a major cause of mortality and morbidity in breast cancer. Therefore, there is an urgent need to better select high-risk patients in order to adapt patient's treatment and prevent bone recurrence. Here, we found that integrin alpha5 (ITGA5) was highly expressed in bone metastases, compared to lung, liver, or brain metastases. High ITGA5 expression in primary tumors correlated with the presence of disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow aspirates from early stage breast cancer patients (n = 268; p = 0.039). ITGA5 was also predictive of poor bone metastasis-free survival in two separate clinical data sets (n = 855, HR = 1.36, p = 0.018 and n = 427, HR = 1.62, p = 0.024). This prognostic value remained significant in multivariate analysis (p = 0.028). Experimentally, ITGA5 silencing impaired tumor cell adhesion to fibronectin, migration, and survival. ITGA5 silencing also reduced tumor cell colonization of the bone marrow and formation of osteolytic lesions in vivo. Conversely, ITGA5 overexpression promoted bone metastasis. Pharmacological inhibition of ITGA5 with humanized monoclonal antibody M200 (volociximab) recapitulated inhibitory effects of ITGA5 silencing on tumor cell functions in vitro and tumor cell colonization of the bone marrow in vivo. M200 also markedly reduced tumor outgrowth in experimental models of bone metastasis or tumorigenesis, and blunted cancer-associated bone destruction. ITGA5 was not only expressed by tumor cells but also osteoclasts. In this respect, M200 decreased human osteoclast-mediated bone resorption in vitro. Overall, this study identifies ITGA5 as a mediator of breast-to-bone metastasis and raises the possibility that volociximab/M200 could be repurposed for the treatment of ITGA5-positive breast cancer patients with bone metastases.
  24. J Hematol Oncol. 2021 Jan 06. 14(1): 6
      BACKGROUND: HOMER family scaffolding proteins (HOMER1-3) play critical roles in the development and progression of human disease by regulating the assembly of signal transduction complexes in response to extrinsic stimuli. However, the role of HOMER protein in breast cancer remains unclear.METHODS: HOMER3 expression was examined by immunohistochemistry in breast cancer patient specimens, and its significance in prognosis was assessed by Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. The effects of HOMER3 in growth factor-induced β-Catenin activation were analyzed by assays such as TOP/FOP flash reporter, tyrosine phosphorylation assay and reciprocal immunoprecipitation (IP) assay. Role of HOMER3 in breast cancer metastasis was determined by cell function assays and mice tumor models.
    RESULTS: Herein, we find that, among the three HOMER proteins, HOMER3 is selectively overexpressed in the most aggressive triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) subtype, and significantly correlates with earlier tumor metastasis and shorter patient survival. Mechanismly, HOMER3 interacts with both c-Src and β-Catenin, thus providing a scaffolding platform to facilitate c-Src-induced β-Catenin tyrosine phosphorylation under growth factor stimulation. HOMER3 promotes β-Catenin nuclear translocation and activation, and this axis is clinically relevant. HOMER3 promotes and is essential for EGF-induced aggressiveness and metastasis of TNBC cells both in vitro and in vivo.
    CONCLUSION: These findings identify a novel role of HOMER3 in the transduction of growth factor-mediated β-Catenin activation and suggest that HOMER3 might be a targetable vulnerability of TNBC.
    Keywords:  HOMER3; Metastasis; TNBC; Tyrosine phosphorylation; β-catenin
  25. Nat Commun. 2021 01 04. 12(1): 51
      Identifying novel drug targets to overcome resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and eradicating leukemia stem/progenitor cells are required for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Here, we show that ubiquitin-specific peptidase 47 (USP47) is a potential target to overcome TKI resistance. Functional analysis shows that USP47 knockdown represses proliferation of CML cells sensitive or resistant to imatinib in vitro and in vivo. The knockout of Usp47 significantly inhibits BCR-ABL and BCR-ABLT315I-induced CML in mice with the reduction of Lin-Sca1+c-Kit+ CML stem/progenitor cells. Mechanistic studies show that stabilizing Y-box binding protein 1 contributes to USP47-mediated DNA damage repair in CML cells. Inhibiting USP47 by P22077 exerts cytotoxicity to CML cells with or without TKI resistance in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, P22077 eliminates leukemia stem/progenitor cells in CML mice. Together, targeting USP47 is a promising strategy to overcome TKI resistance and eradicate leukemia stem/progenitor cells in CML.
  26. Cancers (Basel). 2020 Dec 20. pii: E3851. [Epub ahead of print]12(12):
      Immunotherapy is now the preferred treatment for most lung cancer patients. It is used to treat unresectable stage III non-small-cell lung cancer and is the first-line therapy for non-oncogene-driven advanced/metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer patients (either alone or in combination with chemotherapy). Unfortunately, most patients that respond initially to immunotherapy develop resistance over time, thus limiting the durability of immunotherapy. A better understanding of the mechanisms of acquired resistance is urgently needed to expand the benefit of immunotherapy in lung cancer patients. This review aims to summarize the mechanisms and clinical outcomes of acquired resistance of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapies in non-small-cell lung cancer patients.
    Keywords:  PD-1; PD-L1; acquired resistance; immune checkpoint inhibitors; immunotherapy; lung cancer
  27. Acta Neuropathol. 2021 Jan 04.
      The deadly complication of brain metastasis (BM) is largely confined to a relatively narrow cross-section of systemic malignancies, suggesting a fundamental role for biological mechanisms shared across commonly brain metastatic tumor types. To identify and characterize such mechanisms, we performed genomic, transcriptional, and proteomic profiling using whole-exome sequencing, mRNA-seq, and reverse-phase protein array analysis in a cohort of the lung, breast, and renal cell carcinomas consisting of BM and patient-matched primary or extracranial metastatic tissues. While no specific genomic alterations were associated with BM, correlations with impaired cellular immunity, upregulated oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), and canonical oncogenic signaling pathways including phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling, were apparent across multiple tumor histologies. Multiplexed immunofluorescence analysis confirmed significant T cell depletion in BM, indicative of a fundamentally altered immune microenvironment. Moreover, functional studies using in vitro and in vivo modeling demonstrated heightened oxidative metabolism in BM along with sensitivity to OXPHOS inhibition in murine BM models and brain metastatic derivatives relative to isogenic parentals. These findings demonstrate that pathophysiological rewiring of oncogenic signaling, cellular metabolism, and immune microenvironment broadly characterizes BM. Further clarification of this biology will likely reveal promising targets for therapeutic development against BM arising from a broad variety of systemic cancers.
    Keywords:  Brain metastasis; Immunosuppression; Molecular profiling; Multiple histologies; Oxidative phosphorylation; Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling
  28. J Clin Invest. 2021 Jan 04. pii: 143296. [Epub ahead of print]131(1):
      Interferons (IFNs) are pleiotropic cytokines critical for regulation of epithelial cell functions and for immune system regulation. In cancer, IFNs contribute to tumor-intrinsic and -extrinsic mechanisms that determine the quality of antitumor immunity and response to immunotherapy. In this Review, we focus on the different types of tumor IFN sensitivity that determine dynamic tumor-immune interactions and their coevolution during cancer progression and metastasis. We extend the discussion to new evidence supporting immunotherapy-mediated immunoediting and the dual opposing roles of IFNs that lead to immune checkpoint blockade response or resistance. Understanding the intricate dynamic responses to IFN will lead to novel immunotherapeutic strategies to circumvent protumorigenic effects of IFN while exploiting IFN-mediated antitumor immunity.
  29. Cancers (Basel). 2020 Dec 20. pii: E3855. [Epub ahead of print]12(12):
      Serine-threonine protein kinase B-RAF (BRAF)-mutated metastatic melanoma (MM) is a highly aggressive type of skin cancer. Treatment of MM patients using BRAF/MEK inhibitors (BRAFi/MEKi) eventually leads to drug resistance, limiting any clinical benefit. Herein, we demonstrated that the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)-biosynthetic enzyme nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) is a driving factor in BRAFi resistance development. Using stable and inducible NAMPT over-expression systems, we showed that forced NAMPT expression in MM BRAF-mutated cell lines led to increased energy production, MAPK activation, colony-formation capacity, and enhance tumorigenicity in vivo. Moreover, NAMPT over-expressing cells switched toward an invasive/mesenchymal phenotype, up-regulating expression of ZEB1 and TWIST, two transcription factors driving the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) process. Consistently, within the NAMPT-overexpressing cell line variants, we observed an increased percentage of a rare, drug-effluxing stem cell-like side population (SP) of cells, paralleled by up-regulation of ABCC1/MRP1 expression and CD133-positive cells. The direct correlation between NAMPT expression and gene set enrichments involving metastasis, invasiveness and mesenchymal/stemness properties were verified also in melanoma patients by analyzing The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) datasets. On the other hand, CRISPR/Cas9 full knock-out NAMPT BRAFi-resistant MM cells are not viable, while inducible partial silencing drastically reduces tumor growth and aggressiveness. Overall, this work revealed that NAMPT over-expression is both necessary and sufficient to recapitulate the BRAFi-resistant phenotype plasticity.
    Keywords:  BRAF; BRAF inhibitors resistance; MAPK; NAD; NAMPT; mesenchymal phenotype; metabolic reprogramming; metastatic melanoma; oncogene; stemness
  30. Nat Commun. 2021 Jan 08. 12(1): 184
      Molecular stratification can improve the management of advanced cancers, but requires relevant tumor samples. Metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC) is poised to benefit given a recent expansion of treatment options and its high genomic heterogeneity. We profile minimally-invasive plasma circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) samples from 104 mUC patients, and compare to same-patient tumor tissue obtained during invasive surgery. Patient ctDNA abundance is independently prognostic for overall survival in patients initiating first-line systemic therapy. Importantly, ctDNA analysis reproduces the somatic driver genome as described from tissue-based cohorts. Furthermore, mutation concordance between ctDNA and matched tumor tissue is 83.4%, enabling benchmarking of proposed clinical biomarkers. While 90% of mutations are identified across serial ctDNA samples, concordance for serial tumor tissue is significantly lower. Overall, our exploratory analysis demonstrates that genomic profiling of ctDNA in mUC is reliable and practical, and mitigates against disease undersampling inherent to studying archival primary tumor foci. We urge the incorporation of cell-free DNA profiling into molecularly-guided clinical trials for mUC.
  31. Nat Commun. 2021 01 04. 12(1): 20
      Drug resistance and tumor recurrence are major challenges in cancer treatment. Cancer cells often display centrosome amplification. To maintain survival, cancer cells achieve bipolar division by clustering supernumerary centrosomes. Targeting centrosome clustering is therefore considered a promising therapeutic strategy. However, the regulatory mechanisms of centrosome clustering remain unclear. Here we report that KIFC1, a centrosome clustering regulator, is positively associated with tumor recurrence. Under DNA damaging treatments, the ATM and ATR kinases phosphorylate KIFC1 at Ser26 to selectively maintain the survival of cancer cells with amplified centrosomes via centrosome clustering, leading to drug resistance and tumor recurrence. Inhibition of KIFC1 phosphorylation represses centrosome clustering and tumor recurrence. This study identified KIFC1 as a prognostic tumor recurrence marker, and revealed that tumors can acquire therapeutic resistance and recurrence via triggering centrosome clustering under DNA damage stresses, suggesting that blocking KIFC1 phosphorylation may open a new vista for cancer therapy.
  32. Nat Med. 2021 Jan 04.
      Intratumoral heterogeneity (ITH) is a fundamental property of cancer; however, the origins of ITH remain poorly understood. We performed single-cell transcriptome profiling of peritoneal carcinomatosis (PC) from 15 patients with gastric adenocarcinoma (GAC), constructed a map of 45,048 PC cells, profiled the transcriptome states of tumor cell populations, incisively explored ITH of malignant PC cells and identified significant correlates with patient survival. The links between tumor cell lineage/state compositions and ITH were illustrated at transcriptomic, genotypic, molecular and phenotypic levels. We uncovered the diversity in tumor cell lineage/state compositions in PC specimens and defined it as a key contributor to ITH. Single-cell analysis of ITH classified PC specimens into two subtypes that were prognostically independent of clinical variables, and a 12-gene prognostic signature was derived and validated in multiple large-scale GAC cohorts. The prognostic signature appears fundamental to GAC carcinogenesis and progression and could be practical for patient stratification.
  33. Nat Med. 2021 Jan 04.
      Metastasis is the primary cause of cancer mortality, and cancer frequently metastasizes to the liver. It is not clear whether liver immune tolerance mechanisms contribute to cancer outcomes. We report that liver metastases diminish immunotherapy efficacy systemically in patients and preclinical models. Patients with liver metastases derive limited benefit from immunotherapy independent of other established biomarkers of response. In multiple mouse models, we show that liver metastases siphon activated CD8+ T cells from systemic circulation. Within the liver, activated antigen-specific Fas+CD8+ T cells undergo apoptosis following their interaction with FasL+CD11b+F4/80+ monocyte-derived macrophages. Consequently, liver metastases create a systemic immune desert in preclinical models. Similarly, patients with liver metastases have reduced peripheral T cell numbers and diminished tumoral T cell diversity and function. In preclinical models, liver-directed radiotherapy eliminates immunosuppressive hepatic macrophages, increases hepatic T cell survival and reduces hepatic siphoning of T cells. Thus, liver metastases co-opt host peripheral tolerance mechanisms to cause acquired immunotherapy resistance through CD8+ T cell deletion, and the combination of liver-directed radiotherapy and immunotherapy could promote systemic antitumor immunity.
  34. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(4): 1795-1813
      Background: Ovarian cancer is a fatal malignant gynecological tumor. Ovarian cancer stem cells (OCSCs) contribute to resistance to chemotherapy. The polycomb group protein enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) plays a key role in maintaining CSCs. Here, we aimed to investigate the specific mechanism by which EZH2 regulates CSCs to result in chemoresistance and poor prognosis of ovarian cancer. Methods: We used a nude mouse model to obtain a cell line enriched for OCSCs, named SK-3rd cells. The CRISPR and Cas9 endonuclease system was used to establish an EZH2-knockout SK-3rd ovarian cancer cell line. High-throughput PCR array and bioinformatics methods were used to screen the EZH2 target involved in CSC stemness. A luciferase reporter assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation assay were performed to identify activation of CHK1 by EZH2. We evaluated associations between EZH2/CHK1 expression and the chemoresistance and prognosis of ovarian cancer patients. Results: EZH2 plays a critical role in maintaining ovarian CSC stemness and chemo-resistance. CHK1 is an EZH2 target involved in CSC stemness. Knockdown of EZH2 in ovarian CSCs decreased CHK1 expression, while CHK1 overexpression was sufficient to reverse the inhibitory effect on spheroid formation and chemoresistance caused by repression of EZH2. In addition, EZH2 was also shown to play a unique role in activating rather than repressing CHK1 signaling through binding to the CHK1 promoter in epithelial ovarian cancer cells. Finally, in clinical samples, ovarian cancer patients with high levels of EZH2 and CHK1 not only were more resistant to platinum but also had a poorer prognosis. Conclusions: Our data revealed a previously unidentified functional and mechanistic link between EZH2 levels, CHK1 signaling activation, and ovarian CSCs and provided strong evidence that EZH2 promotes ovarian cancer chemoresistance and recurrence.
    Keywords:  Cancer stem cell; EZH2 and CHK1; chemoresistance; ovarian cancer
  35. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(2): 700-714
      Rationale: PLAGL2 (pleomorphic adenoma gene like-2), a zinc finger PLAG transcription factor, is aberrantly expressed in several malignant tumors. However, the biological roles of PLAGL2 and its underlying mechanism in gastric cancer (GC) remain unclear. Methods: A series of experiments in vitro and in vivo were conducted to reveal the role of PLAGL2 in GC progression. Results: The data revealed that PLAGL2 promotes GC cell proliferation, migration, invasion, and EMT in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, we demonstrated the critical role of PLAGL2 in the stabilization of snail family transcriptional repressor 1 (Snail1) and promoting Snail1-mediated proliferation and migration of GC cells. PLAGL2 activated the transcription of deubiquitinase USP37, which then interacted with and deubiquitinated Snail1 protein directly. In addition, GSK-3β-dependent phosphorylation of Snail1 protein is essential for USP37-mediated Snail1 deubiquitination regulation. Conclusions: In general, PLAGL2 promotes the proliferation and migration of GC cells through USP37-mediated deubiquitination of Snail1 protein. This work provided potential therapeutic targets for GC treatment.
    Keywords:  GC; PLAGL2; Snail1; USP37; deubiquitination
  36. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(3): 1473-1492
      Background: Collagen type VI alpha 1 (COL6A1) has been found to be dysregulated in several human malignancies. However, the role of COL6A1 in osteosarcoma (OS) progression remains largely unclear. Here, we aimed to explore the clinical significance and biological involvement of COL6A1 in the OS cell migration and invasion. Material and Methods: We used immunohistochemistry, qRT-PCR and western blot to detect the expression of COL6A1 in 181 OS patient samples. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and PCR were carried out to verify the regulatory interaction of p300, c-Jun and COL6A1 promoter. The invasion and migration function of COL6A1 in OS was detected in vitro and in vivo. RNA sequence was performed to detect the downstream pathway of COL6A1, and then co-immunoprecipitation (co-IP), ubiquitination assays and rescue experiments were performed to determine the regulatory effect of COL6A1 and signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT1). Exosomes derived from OS cell lines were assessed for the ability to promote cancer progression by co-cultured assay and exosomes tracing. Results: COL6A1 was commonly upregulated in OS tissues, especially in lung metastasis tissues, which was associated with a poor prognosis. c-Jun bound p300 increased the enrichment of H3K27ac at the promoter region of the COL6A1 gene, which resulted in the upregulation of COL6A1 in OS. Overexpression of COL6A1 promoted OS cell migration and invasion via interacting with SOCS5 to suppress STAT1 expression and activation in an ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation manner. Most interestingly, we found that exosomal COL6A1 derived from OS cells convert normal fibroblasts to cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) by secreting pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL-6 and IL-8. The activated CAFs could promote OS cell invasion and migration by mediating TGF-β/COL6A1 signaling pathway. Conclusion: Our data demonstrated that upregulation of COL6A1 activated by H3K27 acetylation promoted the cell migration and invasion by suppressing STAT1 pathway in OS cells. Moreover, COL6A1 can be packaged into OS cell-derived exosomes and activate CAFs to promote OS metastasis.
    Keywords:  COL6A1; STAT1; cancer-associated fibroblasts; metastasis; osteosarcoma
  37. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jan 06. pii: E165. [Epub ahead of print]13(2):
      Interactions between malignant cells and neighboring stromal and immune cells profoundly shape cancer progression. New forms of therapies targeting these cells have revolutionized the treatment of cancer. However, in order to specifically address each population, it was essential to identify and understand their individual roles in interaction between malignant cells, and the formation of the tumor microenvironment (TME). In this review, we focus on the myeloid cell compartment, a prominent, and heterogeneous group populating TME, which can initially exert an anti-tumoral effect, but with time actively participate in disease progression. Macrophages, dendritic cells, neutrophils, myeloid-derived suppressor cells, mast cells, eosinophils, and basophils act alone or in concert to shape tumor cells resistance through cellular interaction and/or release of soluble factors favoring survival, proliferation, and migration of tumor cells, but also immune-escape and therapy resistance.
    Keywords:  cancer development; microenvironment; myeloid cells; resistance
  38. Nat Cell Biol. 2021 Jan;23(1): 87-98
      Prostate cancer shows remarkable clinical heterogeneity, which manifests in spatial and clonal genomic diversity. By contrast, the transcriptomic heterogeneity of prostate tumours is poorly understood. Here we have profiled the transcriptomes of 36,424 single cells from 13 prostate tumours and identified the epithelial cells underlying disease aggressiveness. The tumour microenvironment (TME) showed activation of multiple progression-associated transcriptomic programs. Notably, we observed promiscuous KLK3 expression and validated the ability of cancer cells in altering T-cell transcriptomes. Profiling of a primary tumour and two matched lymph nodes provided evidence that KLK3 ectopic expression is associated with micrometastases. Close cell-cell communication exists among cells. We identified an endothelial subset harbouring active communication (activated endothelial cells, aECs) with tumour cells. Together with sequencing of an additional 11 samples, we showed that aECs are enriched in castration-resistant prostate cancer and promote cancer cell invasion. Finally, we created a user-friendly web interface for users to explore the sequenced data.
  39. Cell. 2021 Jan 07. pii: S0092-8674(20)31535-X. [Epub ahead of print]184(1): 226-242.e21
      Cancer cells enter a reversible drug-tolerant persister (DTP) state to evade death from chemotherapy and targeted agents. It is increasingly appreciated that DTPs are important drivers of therapy failure and tumor relapse. We combined cellular barcoding and mathematical modeling in patient-derived colorectal cancer models to identify and characterize DTPs in response to chemotherapy. Barcode analysis revealed no loss of clonal complexity of tumors that entered the DTP state and recurred following treatment cessation. Our data fit a mathematical model where all cancer cells, and not a small subpopulation, possess an equipotent capacity to become DTPs. Mechanistically, we determined that DTPs display remarkable transcriptional and functional similarities to diapause, a reversible state of suspended embryonic development triggered by unfavorable environmental conditions. Our study provides insight into how cancer cells use a developmentally conserved mechanism to drive the DTP state, pointing to novel therapeutic opportunities to target DTPs.
    Keywords:  MRD; autophagy; barcode; chemotherapy; colorectal cancer; diapause; drug tolerant persisters; equipotent; mTOR; slow-cycling
  40. Lancet Oncol. 2021 01;pii: S1470-2045(20)30556-8. [Epub ahead of print]22(1): e7-e17
      Breast cancer brain metastases are an increasing clinical problem. Studies have shown that brain metastases from breast cancer have a distinct genomic landscape to that of the primary tumour, including the presence of mutations that are absent in the primary breast tumour. In this Review, we aim to review and evaluate genomic sequencing data for breast cancer brain metastases by searching PubMed, Embase, and Scopus for relevant articles published in English between database inception and May 30, 2020. Extracted information includes data for mutations, receptor status (eg, immunohistochemistry and Prediction Analysis of Microarray 50 [PAM50]), and copy number alterations from published manuscripts and supplementary materials. Of the 431 articles returned by the database search, 13 (3%) breast cancer brain metastases sequencing studies, comprising 164 patients with sequenced brain metastases, met all our inclusion criteria. We identified 268 mutated genes that were present in two or more breast cancer brain metastases samples. Of these 268 genes, 22 (8%) were mutated in five or more patients and pathway enrichment analysis showed their involvement in breast cancer-related signalling pathways, regulation of gene transcription, cell cycle, and DNA repair. Actionability analysis using the Drug Gene Interaction Database revealed that 15 (68%) of these 22 genes are actionable drug targets. In addition, immunohistochemistry and PAM50 data showed receptor discordancy between primary breast cancers and their paired brain metastases. This systematic review provides a detailed overview of the most commonly mutated genes identified in samples of breast cancer brain metastases and their clinical relevance. These data highlight the differences between primary breast cancers and brain metastases and the importance of acquiring and analysing brain metastasis samples for further study.
  41. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(4): 1763-1779
      Rationale: Glioma stem-like cells (GSCs) contribute to temozolomide (TMZ) resistance in gliomas, although the mechanisms have not been delineated. Methods: In vitro functional experiments (colony formation assay, flow cytometric analysis, TUNEL assay) were used to assess the ability of extracellular vesicles (EVs) from hypoxic GSCs to promote TMZ resistance in glioblastoma (GBM) cells. RNA sequencing and quantitative Reverse Transcription-PCR were employed to identify the functional miRNA in hypoxic EVs. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were performed to analyze the transcriptional regulation of miRNAs by HIF1α and STAT3. RIP and RNA pull-down assays were used to validate the hnRNPA2B1-mediated packaging of miRNA into EVs. The function of EV miR-30b-3p from hypoxic GSCs was verified by in vivo experiments and analysis of clinical samples. Results: Hypoxic GSC-derived EVs exerted a greater effect on GBM chemoresistance than those from normoxic GSCs. The miRNA profiling revealed that miR-30b-3p was significantly upregulated in the EVs from hypoxic GSCs. Further, HIF1α and STAT3 transcriptionally induced miR-30b-3p expression. RNA immunoprecipitation and RNA-pull down assays revealed that binding of miR-30b-3p with hnRNPA2B1 facilitated its transfer into EVs. EV-packaged miR-30b-3p (EV-miR-30b-3p) directly targeted RHOB, resulting in decreased apoptosis and increased proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Our results provided evidence that miR-30b-3p in CSF could be a potential biomarker predicting resistance to TMZ. Conclusion: Our findings indicated that targeting EV-miR-30b-3p could provide a potential treatment strategy for GBM.
    Keywords:  GSCs; TMZ; chemoresistance; extracellular vesicles; hypoxia; miR-30b-3p
  42. Theranostics. 2021 ;11(2): 665-683
      Tumor microenvironments are the result of cellular alterations in cancer that support unrestricted growth and proliferation and result in further modifications in cell behavior, which are critical for tumor progression. Angiogenesis and therapeutic resistance are known to be modulated by hypoxia and other tumor microenvironments, such as acidic stress, both of which are core features of the glioblastoma microenvironment. Hypoxia has also been shown to promote a stem-like state in both non-neoplastic and tumor cells. In glial tumors, glioma stem cells (GSCs) are central in tumor growth, angiogenesis, and therapeutic resistance, and further investigation of the interplay between tumor microenvironments and GSCs is critical to the search for better treatment options for glioblastoma. Accordingly, we summarize the impact of hypoxia and acidic stress on GSC signaling and biologic phenotypes, and potential methods to inhibit these pathways.
    Keywords:  acidic stress; cancer stem cells; glioma; hypoxia; tumor microenvironment
  43. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Jan 19. pii: e2015808118. [Epub ahead of print]118(3):
      Cisplatin is a mainstay of systemic therapy for a variety of cancers, such as lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and ovarian cancer. However, resistance to cisplatin represents one of the most significant barriers for patient outcome improvement. Actin-like 6A (ACTL6A) is a component of several chromatin remodeling complexes, including SWI/SNF, NuA4/TIP60 histone acetylase, and INO80. Amplification of ACTL6A gene is often seen in lung squamous cell carcinoma, ovarian cancer, and esophageal cancer, but its significance remains to be fully determined. Here we identify ACTL6A overexpression as a novel cause for platinum resistance. High levels of ACTL6A are associated with chemoresistance in several types of human cancer. We show that overexpression of ACTL6A leads to increased repair of cisplatin-DNA adducts and resistance to cisplatin treatment. In contrast, depletion of ACTL6A inhibits the repair of cisplatin-induced DNA lesions, and increases cisplatin sensitivity in cisplatin-resistant ovarian cancer cells. The regulation of repair by ACTL6A is mediated through the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex. Treatment with a histone deacetylase inhibitor can reverse the effect of ACTL6A overexpression on the repair of cisplatin-induced DNA damage and render cancer cells more sensitive to cisplatin treatment in a xenograft mouse model. Taken together, our study uncovers a novel role for ACTL6A in platinum resistance, and provides evidence supporting the feasibility of using HDAC inhibitors for platinum resistant tumors.
    Keywords:  ACTL6A; DNA repair; SWI/SNF; cisplatin resistance
  44. Mol Cancer. 2021 Jan 04. 20(1): 2
      Esophageal cancer (EC) is a disease often marked by aggressive growth and poor prognosis. Lack of targeted therapies, resistance to chemoradiation therapy, and distant metastases among patients with advanced disease account for the high mortality rate. The tumor microenvironment (TME) contains several cell types, including fibroblasts, immune cells, adipocytes, stromal proteins, and growth factors, which play a significant role in supporting the growth and aggressive behavior of cancer cells. The complex and dynamic interactions of the secreted cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and their receptors mediate chronic inflammation and immunosuppressive TME favoring tumor progression, metastasis, and decreased response to therapy. The molecular changes in the TME are used as biological markers for diagnosis, prognosis, and response to treatment in patients. This review highlighted the novel insights into the understanding and functional impact of deregulated cytokines and chemokines in imparting aggressive EC, stressing the nature and therapeutic consequences of the cytokine-chemokine network. We also discuss cytokine-chemokine oncogenic potential by contributing to the Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), angiogenesis, immunosuppression, metastatic niche, and therapeutic resistance development. In addition, it discusses the wide range of changes and intracellular signaling pathways that occur in the TME. Overall, this is a relatively unexplored field that could provide crucial insights into tumor immunology and encourage the effective application of modulatory cytokine-chemokine therapy to EC.
    Keywords:  Chemokines; Cytokines; Drug targets; Epithelial-Mesenchymal transition; Esophageal cancer; Immune evasion; Inflammation; Tumor microenvironment