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Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified more than 170 breast cancer susceptibility loci. Here we hypothesize that some risk-associated variants might act in non-breast tissues, specifically adipose tissue and immune cells from blood and spleen. Using expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) reported in these tissues, we identify 26 previously unreported, likely target genes of overall breast cancer risk variants, and 17 for estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer, several with a known immune function. We determine the directional effect of gene expression on disease risk measured based on single and multiple eQTL. In addition, using a gene-based test of association that considers eQTL from multiple tissues, we identify seven (and four) regions with variants associated with overall (and ER-negative) breast cancer risk, which were not reported in previous GWAS. Further investigation of the function of the implicated genes in breast and immune cells may provide insights into the etiology of breast cancer.
Using an ORF kinome screen in MCF-7 cells treated with the CDK4/6 inhibitor ribociclib plus fulvestrant, we identified FGFR1 as a mechanism of drug resistance. FGFR1-amplified/ER+ breast cancer cells and MCF-7 cells transduced with FGFR1 were resistant to fulvestrant ± ribociclib or palbociclib. This resistance was abrogated by treatment with the FGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) lucitanib. Addition of the FGFR TKI erdafitinib to palbociclib/fulvestrant induced complete responses of FGFR1-amplified/ER+ patient-derived-xenografts. Next generation sequencing of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in 34 patients after progression on CDK4/6 inhibitors identified FGFR1/2 amplification or activating mutations in 14/34 (41%) post-progression specimens. Finally, ctDNA from patients enrolled in MONALEESA-2, the registration trial of ribociclib, showed that patients with FGFR1 amplification exhibited a shorter progression-free survival compared to patients with wild type FGFR1. Thus, we propose breast cancers with FGFR pathway alterations should be considered for trials using combinations of ER, CDK4/6 and FGFR antagonists.
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the deadliest form of breast cancer because it is more aggressive, diagnosed at later stage and more likely to develop local and systemic recurrence. Many patients do not experience adequate tumor control after current clinical treatments involving surgical removal, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, leading to disease progression and significantly decreased quality of life. Here we report a new combinatory therapy strategy involving cannabinoid-based medicine and photodynamic therapy (PDT) for the treatment of TNBC. This combinatory therapy targets two proteins upregulated in TNBC: the cannabinoid CB2 receptor (CBR, a G-protein coupled receptor) and translocator protein (TSPO, a mitochondria membrane receptor). We found that the combined CBR agonist and TSPO-PDT treatment resulted in synergistic inhibition in TNBC cell and tumor growth. This combinatory therapy approach provides new opportunities to treat TNBC with high efficacy. In addition, this study provides new evidence on the therapeutic potential of CBR agonists for cancer.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Chemotherapy is the most commonly prescribed treatment for patients with aggressive and lethal triple negative breast cancers (TNBCs), which often develop chemoresistance. A recent study combined single nucleus sequencing, single cell RNA sequencing, and evolutionary biology to understand how tumor cells use genetic and phenotypic diversity to evade the selective pressures of neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
PURPOSE - The identification of biomarkers related to the prognosis of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is critically important for improved understanding of the biology that drives TNBC progression.
METHODS - We evaluated gene expression in total RNA isolated from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor samples using the NanoString nCounter assay for 469 TNBC cases from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study. We used Cox regression to quantify Hazard Ratios (HR) and corresponding confidence intervals (CI) for overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) in models that included adjustment for breast cancer intrinsic subtype. Of 302 genes in our discovery analysis, 22 were further evaluated in relation to OS among 134 TNBC cases from the Nashville Breast Health Study and the Southern Community Cohort Study; 16 genes were further evaluated in relation to DFS in 335 TNBC cases from four gene expression omnibus datasets. Fixed-effect meta-analysis was used to combine results across data sources.
RESULTS - Twofold higher expression of EOMES (HR 0.90, 95% CI 0.83-0.97), RASGRP1 (HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.82-0.97), and SOD2 (HR 0.80, 95% CI 0.66-0.96) was associated with better OS. Twofold higher expression of EOMES (HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.81-0.97) and RASGRP1 (HR 0.87, 95% CI 0.81-0.95) was also associated with better DFS. On the contrary, a doubling of FA2H (HR 1.14, 95% CI 1.06-1.22) and GSPT1 (HR 1.33, 95% CI 1.14-1.55) expression was associated with shorter DFS.
CONCLUSIONS - We identified five genes (EOMES, FA2H, GSPT1, RASGRP1, and SOD2) that may serve as potential prognostic biomarkers and/or therapeutic targets for TNBC.
This commentary was written as a collaboration between the Board of the Metastasis Research Society and two patients with metastatic breast cancer. It was conceived in response to how preclinical scientific research is sometimes presented to non-scientists in a way that can cause stress and confusion. Translation of preclinical findings to the clinic requires overcoming multiple barriers. This is irrespective of whether the findings relate to exciting responses to new therapies or problematic effects of currently used therapies. It is important that these barriers are understood and acknowledged when research findings are summarized for mainstream reporting. To minimize confusion, patients should continue to rely on their oncology care team to help them interpret whether research findings presented in mainstream media have relevance for their individual care. Researchers, both bench and clinical, should work together where possible to increase options for patients with metastatic disease, which is still in desperate need of effective therapeutic approaches.
Small-molecule inhibitors of the mTORC2 kinase (torkinibs) have shown efficacy in early clinical trials. However, the torkinibs under study also inhibit the other mTOR-containing complex mTORC1. While mTORC1/mTORC2 combined inhibition may be beneficial in cancer cells, recent reports describe compensatory cell survival upon mTORC1 inhibition due to loss of negative feedback on PI3K, increased autophagy, and increased macropinocytosis. Genetic models suggest that selective mTORC2 inhibition would be effective in breast cancers, but the lack of selective small-molecule inhibitors of mTORC2 have precluded testing of this hypothesis to date. Here we report the engineering of a nanoparticle-based RNAi therapeutic that can effectively silence the mTORC2 obligate cofactor Rictor. Nanoparticle-based Rictor ablation in HER2-amplified breast tumors was achieved following intratumoral and intravenous delivery, decreasing Akt phosphorylation and increasing tumor cell killing. Selective mTORC2 inhibition , combined with the HER2 inhibitor lapatinib, decreased the growth of HER2-amplified breast cancers to a greater extent than either agent alone, suggesting that mTORC2 promotes lapatinib resistance, but is overcome by mTORC2 inhibition. Importantly, selective mTORC2 inhibition was effective in a triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) model, decreasing Akt phosphorylation and tumor growth, consistent with our findings that RICTOR mRNA correlates with worse outcome in patients with basal-like TNBC. Together, our results offer preclinical validation of a novel RNAi delivery platform for therapeutic gene ablation in breast cancer, and they show that mTORC2-selective targeting is feasible and efficacious in this disease setting. This study describes a nanomedicine to effectively inhibit the growth regulatory kinase mTORC2 in a preclinical model of breast cancer, targeting an important pathogenic enzyme in that setting that has been undruggable to date. .
©2018 American Association for Cancer Research.
Although ribosomal protein S6 kinase A3 (RSK2) activation status positively correlates with patient responses to antiestrogen hormonal therapies, the mechanistic basis for these observations is unknown. Using multiple and models of estrogen receptor-positive (ER) breast cancer, we report that ERα sequesters active RSK2 into the nucleus to promote neoplastic transformation and facilitate metastatic tumor growth. RSK2 physically interacted with ERα through its N terminus to activate a proneoplastic transcriptional network critical to the ER lineage in the mammary gland, thereby providing a gene signature that effectively stratified patient tumors according to ERα status. ER tumor growth was strongly dependent on nuclear RSK2, and transgenic mice engineered to stably express nuclear RSK2 in the mammary gland developed high-grade ductal carcinoma Mammary cells isolated from the transgenic model and introduced systemically successfully disseminated and established metastatic lesions. Antiestrogens disrupted the interaction between RSK2 and ERα, driving RSK2 into the cytoplasm and impairing tumor formation. These findings establish RSK2 as an obligate participant of ERα-mediated transcriptional programs, tumorigenesis, and divergent patient responses to antiestrogen therapies. Nuclear accumulation of active RSK drives a protumorigenic transcriptional program and renders ER breast cancer susceptible to endocrine-based therapies. .
©2018 American Association for Cancer Research.
Estrogen receptor-α positive (ERα+) breast cancer accounts for approximately 70-80% of the nearly 25,0000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the US each year. Endocrine-targeted therapies (those that block ERα activity) serve as the first line of treatment in most cases. Despite the proven benefit of endocrine therapies, however, ERα+ breast tumors can develop resistance to endocrine therapy, causing disease progression or relapse, particularly in the metastatic setting. Anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins enhance breast tumor cell survival, often promoting resistance to targeted therapies, including endocrine therapies. Herein, we investigated whether blockade of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins could sensitize luminal breast cancers to anti-estrogen treatment. We used long-term estrogen deprivation (LTED) of human ERα+ breast cancer cell lines, an established model of sustained treatment with and acquired resistance to aromatase inhibitors (AIs), in combination with Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibition (ABT-263), finding that ABT-263 induced only limited tumor cell killing in LTED-selected cells in culture and in vivo. Interestingly, expression and activity of the Bcl-2-related factor Mcl-1 was increased in LTED cells. Genetic Mcl-1 ablation induced apoptosis in LTED-selected cells, and potently increased their sensitivity to ABT-263. Increased expression and activity of Mcl-1 was similarly seen in clinical breast tumor specimens treated with AI + the selective estrogen receptor downregulator fulvestrant. Delivery of Mcl-1 siRNA loaded into polymeric nanoparticles (MCL1 si-NPs) decreased Mcl-1 expression in LTED-selected and fulvestrant-treated cells, increasing tumor cell death and blocking tumor cell growth. These findings suggest that Mcl-1 upregulation in response to anti-estrogen treatment enhances tumor cell survival, decreasing response to therapeutic treatments. Therefore, strategies blocking Mcl-1 expression or activity used in combination with endocrine therapies would enhance tumor cell death.
Potentiating anti-tumor immunity by inducing tumor inflammation and T cell-mediated responses are a promising area of cancer therapy. Immunomodulatory agents that promote these effects function via a wide variety of mechanisms, including upregulation of antigen presentation pathways. Here, we show that major histocompatibility class-I (MHC-I) genes are methylated in human breast cancers, suppressing their expression. Treatment of breast cancer cell lines with a next-generation hypomethylating agent, guadecitabine, upregulates MHC-I expression in response to interferon-γ. In murine tumor models of breast cancer, guadecitabine upregulates MHC-I in tumor cells promoting recruitment of CD8+ T cells to the microenvironment. Finally, we show that MHC-I genes are upregulated in breast cancer patients treated with hypomethylating agents. Thus, the immunomodulatory effects of hypomethylating agents likely involve upregulation of class-I antigen presentation to potentiate CD8+ T cell responses. These strategies may be useful to potentiate anti-tumor immunity and responses to checkpoint inhibition in immune-refractory breast cancers.