JNK activity has been implicated in the malignant proliferation, invasion and drug-resistance of glioma cells (GCs), but the molecular mechanisms underlying JNK activation are currently unknown. Here, we reported that MKK7, not MKK4, directly activates JNK in GCs and exerts oncogenic effects on tumor formation. Notably, MKK7 expression in glioma tissues was closely correlated with the grade of the glioma and JNK/c-Jun activation. Mechanistically, MKK7 transcription critically depends on the complexes formed by HDAC4 and the transcriptional factors SP1 and Kruppel-like factor-5 (KLF5), wherein HDAC4 directly deacetylates both SP1 and KLF5 and synergistically upregulates MKK7 transcription through two SP1 sites located on its promoter. In contrast, the increases in acetylated-SP1 and acetylated-KLF5 after HDAC4 inhibition switched to transcriptionally suppress MKK7. Selective inhibition of HDAC4 by LMK235, siRNAs or blockage of SP1 and KLF5 by the ectopic dominant-negative SP1 greatly reduced the malignant capacity of GCs. Furthermore, suppression of both MKK7 expression and JNK/c-Jun activities was involved in the tumor-growth inhibitory effects induced by LMK235 in U87-xenograft mice. Interestingly, HDAC4 is highly expressed in glioma tissues, and the rate of HDAC4 nuclear import is closely correlated with glioma grade, as well as with MKK7 expression. Collectively, these findings demonstrated that highly expressed MKK7 contributes to JNK/c-Jun signaling-mediated glioma formation. MKK7 transcription, regulated by SP1 and KLF5, critically depends on HDAC4 activity, and inhibition of HDAC4 presents a potential strategy for suppressing the oncogenic roles of MKK7/JNK/c-Jun signaling in GCs.
Afatinib is a pan-HER inhibitor approved for specific types of lung cancer. We explored antitumor activity, predictive biomarkers and the potential mechanisms underlying antitumor effect and acquired resistance of afatinib in gastric cancer (GC) in vitro and in vivo. Five human GC cell lines and eight patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models with clear molecular profiling were used to evaluate the antitumor activity and mechanisms of afatinib. The ErbB family and downstream PI3K/AKT/mTOR and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways were evaluated before and after afatinib treatment. An afatinib-resistant PDX model was established to explore both the potential mechanisms of drug resistance and reversal strategies. We found that afatinib exerted a strong tumor suppression in EGFR/HER2 highly amplified (copy number >6) or overexpressed (IHC 3+) PDX models and a moderate tumor suppression in EGFR/HER2 moderately expressed (IHC 2+) PDX models. Afatinib selectively inhibited the proliferation of HER2 highly amplified GC cells in a dose-dependent manner in vitro. Afatinib also exerted its antitumor effect by inducing cell apoptosis and cell arrest at G1 phase. Diminished activation of the ErbB family and downstream PI3K/AKT/mTOR and MAPK pathways was also observed. Erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular receptor A2 (EPHA2) upregulation and phosphorylation might be involved in afatinib-acquired resistance, and EPHA2 blockade could restore afatinib sensitivity. GC patients with amplification (copy number >6) or overexpression (IHC 3+) of EGFR/HER2 were most likely to benefit from afatinib treatment and EPHA2 blockade reversed acquired resistance to afatinib treatment, which could provide solid evidences for future clinical trials.
Cell free DNA (cfDNA) in human plasma carries abundant information, which has therefore been the key sample for noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) and liquid biopsy. Especially by using the rapidly developed next-generation sequencing (NGS) techniques, the genetic and epigenetic information embedded in cfDNA has been effectively and extensively decoded. In this process, a key step is to construct the NGS library. Due to its high degradation, the single strand-based method was reported to be more qualified to construct the NGS library of cfDNA. In order to develop a new simple method for this application, this study adapted our recently developed single strand adaptor library preparation (SALP) method for constructing an NGS library of cfDNA. In the improved method, cfDNA was firstly denatured into single strands and then ligated with a single strand adaptor (SSA) that had a 3 ' overhang of 3 random bases by using T4 DNA ligase. The SSA-ligated DNA was converted into double-stranded DNA with an additional adenine at the other end by polymerizing with Taq polymerase. Next, a barcode T adaptor (BTA) was ligated to this end. Finally, the cfDNA ligated with two adaptors was amplified with the Illumina-compatible primers for NGS. Using the method, this study successfully sequenced 20 cfDNA samples from 16 esophageal cancer patients and 4 healthy people. By bioinformatics analysis, this study found the genetic and epigenetic difference between patients and healthy people and identified 23 epigenetic and 28 genetic altered esophageal cancer-specific genes.
This study aimed to compare the differences in characteristics and prognoses between Asian and white patients receiving immunotherapy for nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We studied 390 patients who received atezolizumab as part of the POPLAR or OAK trial, and analyzed the differences in baseline characteristics, outcomes and genetic mutations in blood samples between Asian and white patients. Overall survival (OS) was longer in Asian compared to white patients (median OS: 18.7 vs. 11.1 months; p = 0.005). Race was identified as an independent prognostic factor for OS (Asian vs. white: hazard ratio 0.647, 95% confidence interval 0.447-0.936, p = 0.021), together with performance status, histology, baseline sum of the longest tumor diameters (BLSLD) and number of metastatic sites. The two groups also differed in terms of characteristics including smoking history, BLSLD, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation frequency, programmed death-ligand 1 expression and blood-based tumor-mutation burden. Blood mutations of STK11, EGFR, KEAP1, POLE, GRM3, ATM and STAG2 were associated with treatment response, and TP53, KEAP1, APC, RB1, CREBBP, EPHA5 and STAG2 mutations were associated with OS. The blood-based mutation profiles differentiated between Asian and white patients, especially in relation to EGFR (23.8 vs. 8.5%), TP53 (30.2 vs. 46.9%) and STK11 (1.6 vs. 12.3%) mutations (all p < 0.05). The different clinicopathological features and mutation profiles in Asian and white patients may explain the superior outcome following atezolizumab treatment in Asian patients with NSCLC. The results of this study have important implications for further studies on racial disparities in relation to immunotherapy.
Mirror Image Polydactyly 1 (MIPOL1) is generally associated with congenital anomalies. However, its role in cancer development is poorly understood. Previously, by utilizing the functional complementation approach, microcell-mediated chromosome transfer (MMCT), a tumor suppressor gene, MIPOL1, was identified. MIPOL1 was confirmed to be downregulated in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells and tumor tissues, and re-expression of MIPOL1 induced tumor suppression. The aim of the current study is to further elucidate the functional tumor suppressive role of MIPOL1. In our study, with an expanded sample size of different clinical stages of NPC tumor tissues, we further confirmed the downregulation of MIPOL1 in different cancer stages. MIPOL1 re-expression down-regulated angiogenic factors and reduced phosphorylation of metastasis-associated proteins including AKT, p65, and FAK. In addition, MIPOL1 was confirmed to interact with a tumor suppressor, RhoB, and re-expression of MIPOL1 enhanced RhoB activity. The functional role of MIPOL1 was further validated by utilizing a panel of wild-type (WT) and truncated MIPOL1 expression constructs. The MIPOL1 tumor-suppressive effect can only be observed in the WT MIPOL1-expressing cells. In vitro and nude mice in vivo functional studies further confirmed the critical role of WT MIPOL1 in inhibiting migration, invasion and metastasis in NPC. Overall, our study provides strong evidence about the tumor-suppressive role of MIPOL1 in inhibiting angiogenesis and metastasis in NPC.
Resistance to radiotherapy and to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs), as well as therapy-related lung toxicity, are serious problems in the treatment of lung cancer. NF-kappa B has been reported to be associated with radioresistance. Therefore, we evaluated its effects on sensitivity to irradiation and to EGFR-TKIs; irradiation-induced lung toxicity; and the effects of irradiation on sensitivity to EGFR-TKIs. We used IKK beta inhibitor IMD 0354 or p65 depletion to explore their effects on sensitivity to irradiation and to EGFR-TKIs in vitro and in vivo. We evaluated the efficacy of IMD 0354 in a radiation-induced pulmonary-fibrosis mouse model. Irradiation enhanced activation and expression of MET and therefore suppressed the sensitivity of lung cancer cells to irradiation or EGFR-TKIs. Inhibition of NF-kappa B by IMD 0354 or by p65 depletion reversed irradiation-induced MET activation and increased the sensitivity of lung cancer cells to irradiation, to EGFR-TKIs and to the combination thereof in vitro and in vivo. In addition, IMD 0354 significantly reduced lung toxicity in a murine model of irradiation-induced pneumonia and lung fibrosis. These findings indicated that NF-kappa B inhibition can improve sensitivity to irradiation and to EGFR-TKIs and can decrease irradiation-inducedlung toxicity in lung cancer.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have unprecedented effects on the treatment of metastatic melanoma. However, little is known about the prognostic values of various clinicopathological characteristics. Here, PubMed, Embase and Cochrane database were searched from inception to April 2018 for random controlled trials (RCTs) that compared ICIs with controls. The hazard ratios (HRs) for overall survival (OS) according to gender, age, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) level and metastasis stage were extracted. Four phase III RCTs involving 1,598 patients with metastatic melanoma were included in this study. Compared with conventional agents, ICIs were associated with prolonged OS (HR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.50-0.88; p = 0.005). The pooled OS HR was 0.60 (95% CI, 0.42-0.84; p = 0.003) in men; 0.84 (95% CI, 0.69-1.01; p = 0.07) in women. The difference in efficacy between men and women was significant (p(interaction) = 0.03). The OS HR was 0.59 (95% CI, 0.41-0.83; p = 0.003) in patients >65 years old; 0.74 (95% CI, 0.55-1.01; p = 0.054) in patients <65 years old. The OS HR was 0.75 (95% CI, 0.60-0.94; p = 0.01) in patients with ECOG PS = 1; 0.64 (95% CI, 0.38-1.06; p = 0.08) in patients with ECOG PS = 0. Additionally, the long-term benefits were independent of metastasis stage and LDH level. In summary, although immunotherapy significantly prolongs OS in metastatic melanoma, the long-term benefits in women, younger patients (<65 years old) and patients with ECOG PS = 0 were marginal. These results may assist in treatment decision-making, design and interpretation of clinical trials and economic analyses.
Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) is the most common histiocytosis with constitutive activation of the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK (MAPKinase) cell signaling pathway. We analyzed 89 cases of BRAF and MAP2K1 mutations by Sanger sequencing, of which 18 cases showed that these two gene mutations are negative. Whole genome sequencing of suitable specimens in these negative cases revealed a translocation from the 3 intron of PLEKHA6 to the 13 intron of NTRK3 in one case. We identified that this translocation could cause a novel fusion mutation, PLEKHA6-NTRK3. Overexpression of the PLEKHA6-NTRK3 mutant in NIH 3T3 cells enhanced MAPKinase pathway activation, promote cell growth. Our result suggested that a new mutation need be included in LCH molecular screening panel to better define its prevalence in LCH.
The management of HPV-positive women becomes particularly crucial in cervical cancer screening. Here we assessed whether detection of E6 or E7 oncoproteins targeting eight most prevalent HPV types could serve as a promising triage option. Women (N = 1,416) aged 50-60 from Shanxi, China underwent screening with HPV testing and liquid-based cytology (LBC), with any positive results referring to colposcopy and biopsy if necessary. Women with HPV-positive results received further tests using DNA-based genotyping, E6 or E7 oncoprotein detection targeting HPV16/18 (for short: E6 (16/18) Test) or HPV16/18/31/33/35/45/52/58 (for short: E6/E7 (8 types) Test), respectively. Among HPV-positive women, E6/E7 (8 types) oncoproteins had lower positivity (17.37%) compared to DNA-based genotyping for same eight types (58.30%) and LBC with ASC-US threshold (50.97%); HPV16 was the genotype showing the highest frequency (8.49%) for oncoprotein detection followed by HPV52 (3.47%), 58 (2.32%), 33 (1.54%), 18 (1.16%), 45 (0.77%), 35 (0.39%) and 31 (0%). For detection of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia Grade 3 or higher (CIN3+), E6/E7 (8 types) Test had similar sensitivity (100.00%) and superior specificity (85.94%) as well as positive predictive value (PPV, 22.22%) compared to both LBC and DNA-based genotyping (8 types); For detection of CIN2+, E6/E7 (8 types) Test was less sensitive (67.74%) but still more specific (89.47%) and risk predictive with PPV of 46.67%. Notably, E6/E7 (8 types) Test remarkably decreased the number of colposcopies needed to detect one CIN2+ and CIN3+ (2.14 and 4.50). E6/E7 oncoprotein detection showed a good "trade-off" between sensitivity and specificity with more efficient colposcopy referrals, which is of great importance to maximize the benefits of HPV-based screening program, especially applicable for the areas with high HPV prevalence and low-resources.
Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models are widely used as preclinical cancer models and are considered better than cell culture models in recapitulating the histological features, molecular characteristics and intratumoral heterogeneity (ITH) of human tumors. While the PDX model is commonly accepted for use in drug discovery and other translational studies, a growing body of evidence has suggested its limitations. Recently, the fidelity of cancer cells within a PDX has been questioned, which may impede the future application of these models. In this review, we will focus the variable phenotypes of xenograft tumors and the genomic instability and molecular inconsistency of PDX tumors after serial transplantation. Next, we will discuss the underlying mechanism of ITH and its clinical relevance. Stochastic selection bias in the sampling process and/or deterministic clonal dynamics due to murine selective pressure may have detrimental effects on the results of personalized medicine and drug screening studies. In addition, we aim to identify a possible solution for the issue of fidelity in current PDX models and to discuss emerging next-generation preclinical models.
Metastasis is the leading cause of death for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. However, how lung cancer cells invade blood vessels during metastasis remains unclear. Here, based on bioinformatics analyses, we found that PLEK2 might regulate NSCLC migration and vascular invasion. As little is known about the function of PLEK2 in NSCLC, we aimed to clarify this. We demonstrated that PLEK2 was significantly upregulated in transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-beta 1)-treated NSCLC cells through ELK1 transcriptional activation, highly expressed in NSCLC tissues, and negatively correlated with NSCLC overall survival. Meanwhile, PLEK2 overexpression significantly promoted NSCLC epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and migration, human lung microvascular endothelial cells endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndoMT), and the destruction of vascular endothelial barriers. Moreover, PLEK2 knockdown inhibited TGF-beta 1-induced EMT and EndoMT. Furthermore, PLEK2 was found to directly interact with SHIP2 and target it for ubiquitination and degradation in NSCLC cells. Next, we confirmed that SHIP2 overexpression inhibits NSCLC EMT, migration and invasion and showed that PLEK2 overexpression can activate SHIP2-associated TGF-beta/PI3K/AKT signaling. Our results suggest that PLEK2 could be a novel prognostic marker and potential therapeutic target for NSCLC metastasis and vascular invasion.
The M2 splice isoform of pyruvate kinase (PKM2) is a key enzyme for generating pyruvate and ATP in the glycolytic pathway, whereas the role of PKM2 in tumorigenesis remains a subject of debate. In our study, we found PKM2 is highly expressed in melanoma patients and the malignance is positively correlated with high PKM2 activity and glycolytic capability in melanoma cells. Suppression of PKM2 expression by knocking down markedly attenuated malignant phenotype both in vitro and in vivo, and restoration of PKM2 expression in PKM2 depleted cells could rescue melanoma cells proliferation, invasion and metastasis. With the data indicating PKM2 as a potential therapeutic target, we performed screening for PKM2 inhibitors and identified benserazide (Ben), a drug currently in clinical use. We demonstrated that Ben directly binds to and blocks PKM2 enzyme activity, leading to inhibition of aerobic glycolysis concurrent up-regulation of OXPHOS. Of note, despite PKM2 is very similar to PKM1, Ben does not affect PKM1 enzyme activity. We showed that Ben significantly inhibits cell proliferation, colony formation, invasion and migration in vitro and in vivo. The specificity of Ben was demonstrated by the findings that, suppression of PKM2 expression diminishes the efficacy of Ben in inhibition of melanoma cell growth; ectopic PKM2 expression in normal cells sensitizes cells to Ben treatment. Interestingly, PKM2 activity and aerobic glycolysis are upregulated in BRAFi-resistant melanoma cells. As a result, BRAFi-resistant cells exhibit heightened sensitivity to suppression of PKM2 expression or treatment with Ben both in vitro and in vivo.
We analyzed the number of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and Epstein-Barr virus DNA (EBV DNA) for diagnosis, monitoring and prognosis of patients with metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma (mNPC). The levels of CTCs and EBV DNA were measured at baseline and after first-line chemotherapy in 148 mNPC patients prospectively enrolled between December 2014 and August 2016. We also collected 122 non-mNPC cases within the same time frame for examining CTCs and EBV DNA at baseline. In 270 NPC patients, we observed improved specificity (86.0% vs. 41.0%) and inferior sensitivity (42.3% vs. 81.3%) of CTCs as compared to EBV DNA for diagnosis of distant metastasis. mNPC patients were stratified into unfavorable and favorable prognostic groups, respectively, based on CTC of 12 at baseline and 1 after first-line chemotherapy and EBV DNA of 10,000 at baseline and 4,000 after first-line chemotherapy. Conversion of baseline unfavorable CTCs and EBV DNA to favorable after first-line chemotherapy was associated with significantly longer progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) compared to patients with unfavorable CTCs and EBV DNA at both time points. Among patients with a complete/partial response as per imaging evaluation, favorable CTCs and EBV DNA levels after first-line chemotherapy were associated with significantly longer PFS and OS. In conclusion, our data demonstrated the number of CTCs and EBV DNA before, after and during first-line chemotherapy were strong predictive markers for mNPC patients. When utilized in conjunction with imaging studies, CTCs and EBV DNA could provide additional prognostic information.
Lung metastasis is one of the leading causes of death for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). We sought to characterize the genetic alterations underlying TNBC lung metastases by integrating whole-genome sequencing and functional screening. Furthermore, we aimed to develop a metastasis-related gene signature for TNBC patients to improve risk stratification. In this prospective observational study, we first conducted whole-genome sequencing of paired primary tumor and lung metastasis from one TNBC patient to identify potential genetic driver alterations. An in vivo gain-of-function screening using an amplified open reading frame library was then employed to screen candidate genes promoting lung metastasis. Finally, we applied Cox proportional hazard regression modeling to develop a prognostic gene signature from 14 candidate genes in TNBC. Compared to the primary tumor, copy number amplifications of chromosomes 3q and 8q were identified in the lung metastasis. We discovered an enrichment of 14 genes from chromosomes 3q and 8q in mouse lung metastases model. We further developed and validated a four-gene signature (ENY2, KCNK9, TNFRSF11B and KCNMB2) that predicts recurrence-free survival and lung metastasis in TNBC. Our data also demonstrated that upregulated expression of ENY2 could promote invasion and lung metastasis of TNBC cells both in vitro and in vivo. In conclusion, our study reveals functional genes with copy number amplifications among chromosome 3q and 8q in lung metastasis of TNBC. And we develop a functional gene signature that can effectively stratify patients into low- and high-risk subgroups of recurrence, helping frame personalized treatments for TNBC.