bims-tumime Biomed News
on Tumor microenvironment and metabolism
Issue of 2024‒03‒24
six papers selected by
Alex Muir, University of Chicago

  1. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2024 Mar 16. pii: S0165-6147(24)00045-2. [Epub ahead of print]
      Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) constitute an important part of the tumor microenvironment (TME) that regulates tumor progression. Tumor-derived signals, hypoxia, and competition for nutrients influence TAMs to reprogram their cellular metabolism. This altered metabolic profile creates a symbiotic communication between tumor and other immune cells to support tumor growth. In addition, the metabolic profile of TAMs regulates the expression of immune checkpoint molecules. The dynamic plasticity also allows TAMs to reshape their metabolism in response to modern therapeutic strategies. Therefore, over the years, a significant number of approaches have been implicated to reprogram cancer-promoting metabolism in TAMs. In this review, we discuss the current strategies and pitfalls, along with upcoming promising opportunities in leveraging TAM metabolism for developing better therapeutic approaches against cancer.
    Keywords:  macrophages; metabolism; tumor
  2. bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 08. pii: 2024.03.06.583112. [Epub ahead of print]
      Colorectal cancer has been linked to chronic colitis and red meat consumption, which can increase colonic iron and heme. Heme oxygenase-1 ( Hmox1 ) metabolizes heme and releases ferrous iron, but its role in colonic tumorigenesis is not well-described. Recent studies suggest that ferroptosis, the iron-dependent form of cell death, protects against colonic tumorigenesis. Ferroptosis culminates in excessive lipid peroxidation that is constrained by the antioxidative glutathione pathway. We observed increased mucosal markers of ferroptosis and glutathione metabolism in the setting of murine and human colitis, as well as murine colonic neoplasia. We obtained similar results in murine and human colonic epithelial organoids exposed to heme and the ferroptosis activator erastin, especially induction of Hmox1 . RNA sequencing of colonic organoids from mice with deletion of intestinal epithelial Hmox1 (Hmox1 ΔIEC ) revealed increased ferroptosis and activated glutathione metabolism after heme exposure. In a colitis-associated cancer model we observed significantly fewer and smaller tumors in Hmox1 ΔIEC mice compared to littermate controls. Transcriptional profiling of Hmox1 ΔIEC tumors and tumor organoids revealed increased ferroptosis and oxidative stress markers in tumor epithelial cells. In total, our findings reveal ferroptosis as an important colitis-associated cancer signature pathway, and Hmox1 as a key regulator in the tumor microenvironment.
  3. Mol Cancer Ther. 2024 Mar 20.
      Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer remains incurable regardless of recent therapeutic advances. Prostate cancer tumors display highly glycolytic phenotypes as the cancer progresses. Non-specific inhibitors of glycolysis have not been utilized successfully for chemotherapy, because of their penchant to cause systemic toxicity. This study reports the preclinical activity, safety, and pharmacokinetics of a novel small molecule preclinical candidate, BKIDC-1553, with antiglycolytic activity. We tested a large battery of prostate cancer cell lines for inhibition of cell proliferation, in vitro. Cell cycle, metabolic and enzymatic assays were used to demonstrate their mechanism of action. A human PDX model implanted in mice and a human organoid were studied for sensitivity to our BKIDC preclinical candidate. A battery of pharmacokinetic experiments, absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion experiments, and in vitro and in vivo toxicology experiments were carried out to assess readiness for clinical trials. We demonstrate a new class of small molecule inhibitors where antiglycolytic activity in prostate cancer cell lines is mediated through inhibition of hexokinase 2. These compounds display selective growth inhibition across multiple prostate cancer models. We describe a lead BKIDC-1553 that demonstrates promising activity in a preclinical xenograft model of advanced prostate cancer, equivalent to that of enzalutamide. BKIDC-1553 demonstrates safety and pharmacologic properties consistent with a compound that can be taken into human studies with expectations of a good safety margin and predicted dosing for efficacy. This work supports testing BKIDC-1553 and its derivatives in clinical trials for patients with advanced prostate cancer.
  4. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2024 Mar 26. 121(13): e2319055121
      Elevated cancer metabolism releases lactic acid and CO2 into the under-perfused tumor microenvironment, resulting in extracellular acidosis. The surviving cancer cells must adapt to this selection pressure; thus, targeting tumor acidosis is a rational therapeutic strategy to manage tumor growth. However, none of the major approved treatments are based explicitly on disrupting acid handling, signaling, or adaptations, possibly because the distinction between acid-sensitive and acid-resistant phenotypes is not clear. Here, we report pH-related phenotypes of sixty-eight colorectal cancer (CRC) cell lines by measuring i) extracellular acidification as a readout of acid production by fermentative metabolism and ii) growth of cell biomass over a range of extracellular pH (pHe) levels as a measure of the acid sensitivity of proliferation. Based on these measurements, CRC cell lines were grouped along two dimensions as "acid-sensitive"/"acid-resistant" versus "low metabolic acid production"/"high metabolic acid production." Strikingly, acid resistance was associated with the expression of CEACAM6 and CEACAM5 genes coding for two related cell-adhesion molecules, and among pH-regulating genes, of CA12. CEACAM5/6 protein levels were strongly induced by acidity, with a further induction under hypoxia in a subset of CRC lines. Lack of CEACAM6 (but not of CEACAM5) reduced cell growth and their ability to differentiate. Finally, CEACAM6 levels were strongly increased in human colorectal cancers from stage II and III patients, compared to matched samples from adjacent normal tissues. Thus, CEACAM6 is a marker of acid-resistant clones in colorectal cancer and a potential motif for targeting therapies to acidic regions within the tumors.
    Keywords:  acidosis; acid–base; metabolism; microenvironment; tumor acidity
  5. JCI Insight. 2024 Mar 19. pii: e175320. [Epub ahead of print]
      Evaluating the response to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) remains an unmet challenge in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The requirement of cholesterol for activation and function of T cells led us to hypothesize that quantifying cellular accumulation of this molecule could distinguish successful from ineffective checkpoint immunotherapy. To analyze accumulation of cholesterol by T cells in the immune microenvironment of breast cancer, we leveraged the PET radiotracer, eFNP-59. eFNP-59 is an analog of cholesterol that our group validated as an imaging biomarker for cholesterol uptake in pre-clinical models and initial human studies. In immunocompetent mouse models of TNBC, we found that elevated uptake of exogenous labeled cholesterol analogs functions as a marker for T cell activation. When comparing ICI-responsive and non-responsive tumors directly, uptake of fluorescent cholesterol and eFNP-59 increased in T cells from ICI-responsive tumors. We discovered that accumulation of cholesterol by T cells increased in ICI-responding tumors that received anti-PD-1 checkpoint immunotherapy. In patients with TNBC, tumors containing cycling T cells had features of cholesterol uptake and trafficking within those populations. These results suggest that uptake of exogenous cholesterol analogs by tumor-infiltrating T cells detects T cell activation and has potential to assess the success of ICI therapy.
    Keywords:  Breast cancer; Diagnostic imaging; Immunology; Immunotherapy; Oncology
  6. ACS Chem Biol. 2024 Mar 20.
      Cancer cell culture models frequently rely on fetal bovine serum as a source of protein and lipid factors that support cell survival and proliferation; however, serum-containing media imperfectly mimic the in vivo cancer environment. Recent studies suggest that typical serum-containing cell culture conditions can mask cancer dependencies, for example, on cholesterol biosynthesis enzymes, that exist in vivo and emerge when cells are cultured in media that provide more realistic levels of lipids. Here, we describe a high-throughput screen that identified fenretinide and ivermectin as small molecules whose cytotoxicity is greatly enhanced in lipid-restricted media formulations. The mechanism of action studies indicates that ivermectin-induced cell death involves oxidative stress, while fenretinide likely targets delta 4-desaturase, sphingolipid 1, a lipid desaturase necessary for ceramide synthesis, to induce cell death. Notably, both fenretinide and ivermectin have previously demonstrated in vivo anticancer efficacy despite their low cytotoxicity under typical cell culture conditions. These studies suggest ceramide synthesis as a targetable vulnerability of cancer cells cultured under lipid-restricted conditions and reveal a general screening strategy for identifying additional cancer dependencies masked by the superabundance of medium lipids.