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Genomic investigation of co-targeting tumor immune microenvironment and immune checkpoints in pan-cancer immunotherapy

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Drugs that target immune checkpoints (ICPs) have become the most popular weapons in cancer immunotherapy; however, they are only beneficial for a small fraction of patients. Accumulating evidence suggests that the tumor immune microenvironment (TIME) plays a critical role in anti-cancer immunity. This study aimed to assess the potential merits and feasibility of combinational targeting ICPs and TIME in cancer immunotherapy. A total of 31 cancer type-specific datasets in TCGA were individually collected by the publicly available web servers for multiple bioinformatic analyses of ICPs and TIME factors. GEPIA was used to calculate the prognostic indexes, STRING was used to construct protein-protein interactions, cBioPortal was used for visualization and comparison of genetic alterations, and TISIDB was used to explore the correlation to tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). Intriguingly, TIME factors were identified to have more global coverage and prognostic significance across multiple cancer types compared with ICPs, thus offering more general targetability in clinical therapy. Moreover, TIME factors showed interactive potential with ICPs, and genomic alteration of TIME factors coupled with that of ICPs, at least in pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, TIME factors were found to be significantly associated with TILs, including but not limited to pancreatic cancer. Finally, the clinical significance and translational potential of further combination therapies that incorporate both ICP inhibitors and TIME factor-targeted treatments were discussed. Together, TIME factors are promising immunotherapeutic targets, and a combination strategy of TIME factors-targeted therapies with ICP inhibitors may benefit more cancer patients in the future.

Super-enhancer in prostate cancer: transcriptional disorders and therapeutic targets

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Abnormal activity of oncogenic and tumor-suppressor signaling pathways contributes to cancer and cancer risk in humans. Transcriptional dysregulation of these pathways is commonly associated with tumorigenesis and the development of cancer. Genetic and epigenetic alterations may mediate dysregulated transcriptional activity. One of the most important epigenetic alternations is the non-coding regulatory element, which includes both enhancers and super-enhancers (SEs). SEs, characterized as large clusters of enhancers with aberrant high levels of transcription factor binding, have been considered as key drivers of gene expression in controlling and maintaining cancer cell identity. In cancer cells, oncogenes acquire SEs and the cancer phenotype relies on these abnormal transcription programs driven by SEs, which leads to cancer cells often becoming addicted to the SEs-related transcription programs, including prostate cancer. Here, we summarize recent findings of SEs and SEs-related gene regulation in prostate cancer and review the potential pharmacological inhibitors in basic research and clinical trials.

Super-enhancer function and its application in cancer targeted therapy

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Recently, super-enhancers (SEs) have been identified as a unique type of transcriptional regulation involved in cancer development. SEs exhibit a size, high transcription factor density, and strong binding to the transcriptional machinery compared with typical enhancers. SEs play an essential role in cell growth, differentiation, and disease initiation and progression including tumorigenesis. In particular, cancer-specific SEs have been proven to be key oncogenic drivers types of tumor cells. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that cancer-specific SEs can mediate the dysregulation of signaling pathways and promote cancer cell growth. Additionally, therapeutic strategies directly targeting SE components, for example, by disrupting SE structure or inhibiting SE cofactors, have shown a good curative effect on various cancers.

Microbiome dysbiosis in lung cancer: from composition to therapy

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

The correlations between microbiota dysbiosis and cancer have gained extensive attention and been widely explored. As a leading cancer diagnosis worldwide, lung cancer poses a great threat to human health. The healthy human lungs are consistently exposed to external environment and harbor a specific pattern of microbiota, sharing many key pathological and physiological characteristics with the intestinal tract. Although previous findings uncovered the critical roles of microbiota in tumorigenesis and response to anticancer therapy, most of them were focused on the intestinal microbiota rather than lung microbiota. Notably, the considerable functions of microbiota in maintaining lung homeostasis should not be neglected as the microbiome dysbiosis may promote tumor development and progression through production of cytokines and toxins and multiple other pathways. Despite the fact that increasing studies have revealed the effect of microbiome on the induction of lung cancer and different disease status, the underlying mechanisms and potential therapeutic strategies remained unclear. Herein, we summarized the recent progresses about microbiome in lung cancer and further discussed the role of microbial communities in promoting lung cancer progression and the current status of therapeutic approaches targeting microbiome to alleviate and even cure lung cancer.

PBRM1 mutation and preliminary response to immune checkpoint blockade treatment in non-small cell lung cancer

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Polybromo-1 (PBRM1) gene is a promising biomarker for immunotherapy in clear cell renal cell carcinoma. But to our knowledge, the frequency and clinical relevance of PBRM1 mutation in lung cancer remain unknown. We conducted a retrospective study to evaluate the prevalence of PBRM1 mutation and its correlation with preliminary response to immunotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Our results indicated that PBRM1 mutation was more likely to be a negative predictive biomarker for immunotherapy in NSCLC.

ACADL plays a tumor-suppressor role by targeting Hippo/YAP signaling in hepatocellular carcinoma

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (ACADL) is a mitochondrial enzyme that catalyzes the initial step of fatty acid oxidation, but the role of ACADL in tumor biology remains largely unknown. Here, we found that ACADL was frequently downregulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and its low expression was significantly correlated with poor clinical prognosis of HCC patients. Restoring the expression of ACADL in HCC cells resulted cell cycle arrest and growth suppression through suppressing Hippo/YAP signaling evidenced by decreased YAP nuclear accumulation and downstream target genes expression. Reactivation of YAP by XMU-MP-1 diminished the inhibitory effect of ACADL on HCC growth. More importantly, the nuclear accumulation of YAP was negatively correlated with ACADL expression levels in HCC specimens, and YAP inhibitor verteporfin effectively suppressed growth of HCC organoids with low ACADL expression. Together, our findings highlight a novel function of ACADL in regulating HCC growth and targeting ACADL/Yap may be a potential strategy for HCC precise treatment.

Different pathologic responses to neoadjuvant anti-PD-1 in primary squamous lung cancer and regional lymph nodes

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Neoadjuvant immunotherapy provides a unique opportunity for understanding therapeutic responses. We analyzed pathologic responses in surgical specimens obtained from 31 squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients receiving neoadjuvant anti-PD-1 treatment. Fifteen (48.4%) patients achieved pathologic complete response (pCR) or major pathologic response (MPR). Among them, seven (46.7%) were assessed as radiological partial response and eight (53.3%) as stable disease. Among 20 patients with pathologically identified tumor beds in lymph nodes (LNs), 10 and six patients achieved pCR/MPR in primary tumors and paired LNs, respectively. pCR was achieved in 6/19 N1 nodes and 1/7 N2 nodes. Residual viable tumor (RVT) cells in 8/9 MPR specimens had 100% immune-activated phenotype, while a median of 80% of RVT cells in pathologic nonresponse specimens presented immune-excluded/desert phenotype. These findings demonstrated that assessment of pathologic responses in both primary tumor and LNs may be important as a surrogate for assessing neoadjuvant immunotherapeutic efficacy.

Classification and mutation prediction based on histopathology H&E images in liver cancer using deep learning

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common subtype of liver cancer, and assessing its histopathological grade requires visual inspection by an experienced pathologist. In this study, the histopathological H&E images from the Genomic Data Commons Databases were used to train a neural network (inception V3) for automatic classification. According to the evaluation of our model by the Matthews correlation coefficient, the performance level was close to the ability of a 5-year experience pathologist, with 96.0% accuracy for benign and malignant classification, and 89.6% accuracy for well, moderate, and poor tumor differentiation. Furthermore, the model was trained to predict the ten most common and prognostic mutated genes in HCC. We found that four of them, includingCTNNB1,FMN2,TP53, andZFX4, could be predicted from histopathology images, with external AUCs from 0.71 to 0.89. The findings demonstrated that convolutional neural networks could be used to assist pathologists in the classification and detection of gene mutation in liver cancer.

Tailored duration of adjuvant trastuzumab for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive breast cancer

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

We assumed that the effect of adjuvant trastuzumab on survival is mediated by the treatment time and we conducted this trial-level meta-regression to determine the appropriate length of treatment. Twelve adjuvant trastuzumab trials (from January 2000 to June 2019, consisting of 20,271 patients) were included. We considered 12-month trastuzumab treatment as the standard. The primary study endpoint was disease-free survival (DFS). By quantifying the relationship between shortened treatment time (month) and altered recurrence risk (expressed as hazard ratio), we found the regression coefficient beta was 0.05 (95% confidence interval: 0.02-0.08, P = 0.002), indicating the recurrence risk would increase 5.1% for each month that treatment was shortened. Accordingly, 3, 6, and 9-month reductions in treatment time resulted in 16%, 35%, and 57% increases in recurrence risk, respectively. We revealed a significant linear association between shortened treatment time of trastuzumab and recurrence risk. The clinical duration of adjuvant trastuzumab should be tailored.

Mendelian randomization analyses of genetically predicted circulating levels of cytokines with risk of breast cancer

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

To determine whether genetically predicted circulating levels of cytokines are associated with risk of overall breast cancer (BC), estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and ER-negative BC, we conducted two-sample MR analyses using data from the most comprehensive genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on cytokines in 8293 Finnish participants and the largest BC GWAS from the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC) with totally 122,977 BC cases and 105,974 healthy controls. We systematically screened 41 cytokines (of which 24 cytokines have available instruments) and identified that genetically predicted circulating levels (1-SD increase) of MCP1 (OR: 1.08; 95% CIs: 1.03-1.12;Pvalue: 3.55 x 10(-4)), MIP1b (OR: 1.02; 95% CIs: 1.01-1.04;Pvalue: 2.70 x 10(-3)) and IL13 (OR: 1.06; 95% CIs: 1.03-1.10;Pvalue: 3.33 x 10(-4)) were significantly associated with increased risk of overall BC, as well as ER-positive BC. In addition, higher levels of MIP1b and IL13 were also significantly associated with increased risk of ER-negative BC. These findings suggest the crucial role of cytokines in BC carcinogenesis and potential of targeting specific inflammatory cytokines for BC prevention.

Association of mismatch repair status with survival and response to neoadjuvant chemo(radio)therapy in rectal cancer

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Prior reports have indicated that defective mismatch repair (MMR) has a favorable impact on outcome in colorectal cancer patients treated with surgery, immunotherapy, or adjuvant chemotherapy. However, the impact of MMR status on response to neoadjuvant radiotherapy in rectal cancer is not well understood. Here we report that dMMR was associated with improved disease-free survival (DFS) (P = 0.034) in patients receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NCT). Patients with dMMR tumors who received neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (NCRT) achieved significantly worse DFS (P = 0.026) than those treated with NCT. Conversely, NCRT improved DFS (P = 0.043) in patients with pMMR tumors, especially for stage III disease with improved DFS (P = 0.02). The presence of dMMR was associated with better prognosis in rectal cancer patients treated with NCT. NCT benefited patients with dMMR tumors; while NCRT benefited patients with stage III disease and pMMR tumors. Patients stratified by MMR status may provide a more tailored approach to rectal cancer neoadjuvant therapy.

The identification and functional analysis of CD8+PD-1+CD161+ T cells in hepatocellular carcinoma

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Immunotherapy is a powerful therapeutic strategy for end-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It is well known that T cells, including CD8+PD-1+ T cells, play important roles involving tumor development. However, their underlying phenotypic and functional differences of T cell subsets remain unclear. We constructed single-cell immune contexture involving approximate 20,000,000 immune cells from 15 pairs of HCC tumor and non-tumor adjacent tissues and 10 blood samples (including five of HCCs and five of healthy controls) by mass cytometry. scRNA-seq and functional analysis were applied to explore the function of cells. Multi-color fluorescence staining and tissue micro-arrays were used to identify the pathological distribution of CD8+PD-1+CD161 +/- T cells and their potential clinical implication. The differential distribution of CD8+ T cells subgroups was identified in tumor and non-tumor adjacent tissues. The proportion of CD8+PD1+CD161+ T cells was significantly decreased in tumor tissues, whereas the ratio of CD8+PD1+CD161- T cells was much lower in non-tumor adjacent tissues. Diffusion analysis revealed the distinct evolutionary trajectory of CD8+PD1+CD161+ and CD8+PD1+CD161- T cells. scRNA-seq and functional study further revealed the stronger immune activity of CD8+PD1+CD161+ T cells independent of MHC class II molecules expression. Interestingly, a similar change in the ratio of CD8+CD161+/ CD8+CD161- T cells was also found in peripheral blood samples collected from HCC cases, indicating their potential usage clinically. We here identified different distribution, function, and trajectory of CD8+PD-1+CD161+ and CD8+PD-1+CD161- T cells in tumor lesions, which provided new insights for the heterogeneity of immune environment in HCCs and also shed light on the potential target for immunotherapy.

Somatic copy number profiling from hepatocellular carcinoma circulating tumor cells

期刊: NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY, 2020; 4 (1)

Somatic copy number alterations (SCNAs) are important genetic drivers of many cancers. We investigated the feasibility of obtaining SCNA profiles from circulating tumor cells (CTCs) as a molecular liquid biopsy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). CTCs from ten HCC patients underwent SCNA profiling. The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) SCNA data were used to develop a cancer origin classification model, which was then evaluated for classifying 44 CTCs from multiple cancer types. Sequencing of 18 CTC samples (median: 4 CTCs/sample) from 10 HCC patients using a low-resolution whole-genome sequencing strategy (median: 0.88 million reads/sample) revealed frequent SCNAs in previously reported HCC regions such as 8q amplifications and 17p deletions. SCNA profiling revealed that CTCs share a median of 80% concordance with the primary tumor. CTCs had SCNAs not seen in the primary tumor, some with prognostic implications. Using a SCNA profiling model, the tissue of origin was correctly identified for 32/44 (73%) CTCs from 12/16 (75%) patients with different cancer types.

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