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Efferocytosis is the process by which apoptotic cells are cleared from tissue by phagocytic cells. The removal of apoptotic cells prevents them from undergoing secondary necrosis and releasing their inflammation-inducing intracellular contents. Efferocytosis also limits tissue damage by increasing immunosuppressive cytokines and leukocytes and maintains tissue homeostasis by promoting tolerance to antigens derived from apoptotic cells. Thus, tumor cell efferocytosis following cytotoxic cancer treatment could impart tolerance to tumor cells evading treatment-induced apoptosis with deleterious consequences in tumor residual disease. We report here that efferocytosis cleared apoptotic tumor cells in residual disease of lapatinib-treated HER2 mammary tumors in MMTV-Neu mice, increased immunosuppressive cytokines, myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), and regulatory T cells (Treg). Blockade of efferocytosis induced secondary necrosis of apoptotic cells, but failed to prevent increased tumor MDSCs, Treg, and immunosuppressive cytokines. We found that efferocytosis stimulated expression of IFN-γ, which stimulated the expression of indoleamine-2,3-dioxegenase (IDO) 1, an immune regulator known for driving maternal-fetal antigen tolerance. Combined inhibition of efferocytosis and IDO1 in tumor residual disease decreased apoptotic cell- and necrotic cell-induced immunosuppressive phenotypes, blocked tumor metastasis, and caused tumor regression in 60% of MMTV-Neu mice. This suggests that apoptotic and necrotic tumor cells, via efferocytosis and IDO1, respectively, promote tumor 'homeostasis' and progression. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings show in a model of HER2 breast cancer that necrosis secondary to impaired efferocytosis activates IDO1 to drive immunosuppression and tumor progression.
©2018 American Association for Cancer Research.
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.
Approximately 25% of breast cancers overexpress and depend on the receptor tyrosine kinase ERBB2, one of 4 ERBB family members. Targeted therapies directed against ERBB2 have been developed and used clinically, but many patients continue to develop resistance to such therapies. Although much effort has been focused on elucidating the mechanisms of acquired resistance to ERBB2-targeted therapies, the involvement of ERBB4 remains elusive and controversial. We demonstrate that genetic ablation of ERBB4, but not ERBB1-3, led to apoptosis in lapatinib-resistant cells, suggesting that the efficacy of pan-ERBB inhibitors was, at least in part, mediated by the inhibition of ERBB4. Moreover, ERBB4 was upregulated at the protein level in ERBB2+ breast cancer cell lines selected for acquired lapatinib resistance in vitro and in MMTV-Neu mice following prolonged lapatinib treatment. Knockdown of ERBB4 caused a decrease in AKT phosphorylation in resistant cells but not in sensitive cells, suggesting that ERBB4 activated the PI3K/AKT pathway in lapatinib-resistant cells. Importantly, ERBB4 knockdown triggered apoptosis not only in lapatinib-resistant cells but also in trastuzumab-resistant cells. Our results suggest that although ERBB4 is dispensable for naïve ERBB2+ breast cancer cells, it may play a key role in the survival of ERBB2+ cancer cells after they develop resistance to ERBB2 inhibitors, lapatinib and trastuzumab.
The overexpression of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is associated with increased breast cancer recurrence and worse prognosis. Effective treatments such as trastuzumab and lapatinib for patients with HER2 overexpression target the blockade of HER2 signaling activities but are often limited by the emergence of acquired drug resistance. This study applied Raman spectroscopy to differentially identify the amplification status of HER2 in cells and to characterize the biochemical composition of lapatinib resistant and sensitive HER2+ breast cancer cells in response to the drug. Raman spectra from BT474 (HER2+ breast cancer cell), MCF-10A (HER2- control), and HER2+ MCF-10A (HER2+ control) were analyzed using lasso and elastic-net regularized generalized linear models (glmnet) for multivariate statistical analysis and were discriminated to groups of different HER2 expression status with an overall 99% sensitivity and specificity. Enhanced lipid content and decreased proteome were observed in HER2+ cells. With lapatinib treatment, lapatinib-resistant breast cancer cells demonstrated sustained lipogenesis compared with the sensitive cells.
INTRODUCTION - Despite multiple advances in the treatment of HER2+ breast cancers, resistance develops even to combinations of HER2 targeting agents. Inhibition of PI3K pathway signaling is critical for the efficacy of HER2 inhibitors. Activating mutations in PIK3CA can overlap with HER2 amplification and have been shown to confer resistance to HER2 inhibitors in preclinical studies.
METHODS - Lapatinib-resistant cells were profiled for mutations in the PI3K pathway with the SNaPshot assay. Hotspot PIK3CA mutations were retrovirally transduced into HER2-amplified cells. The impact of PIK3CA mutations on the effect of HER2 and PI3K inhibitors was assayed by immunoblot, proliferation and apoptosis assays. Uncoupling of PI3K signaling from HER2 was investigated by ELISA for phosphoproteins in the HER2-PI3K signaling cascade. The combination of HER2 inhibitors with PI3K inhibition was studied in HER2-amplified xenograft models with wild-type or mutant PIK3CA.
RESULTS - Here we describe the acquisition of a hotspot PIK3CA mutation in cells selected for resistance to the HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib. We also show that the gain of function conferred by these PIK3CA mutations partially uncouples PI3K signaling from the HER2 receptor upstream. Drug resistance conferred by this uncoupling was overcome by blockade of PI3K with the pan-p110 inhibitor BKM120. In mice bearing HER2-amplified wild-type PIK3CA xenografts, dual HER2 targeting with trastuzumab and lapatinib resulted in tumor regression. The addition of a PI3K inhibitor further improved tumor regression and decreased tumor relapse after discontinuation of treatment. In a PIK3CA-mutant HER2+ xenograft, PI3K inhibition with BKM120 in combination with lapatinib and trastuzumab was required to achieve tumor regression.
CONCLUSION - These results suggest that the combination of PI3K inhibition with dual HER2 blockade is necessary to circumvent the resistance to HER2 inhibitors conferred by PIK3CA mutation and also provides benefit to HER2+ tumors with wild-type PIK3CA tumors.
We examined the effects of LJM716, an HER3 (ERBB3) neutralizing antibody that inhibits ligand-induced and ligand-independent HER3 dimerization, as a single agent and in combination with BYL719, an ATP competitive p110α-specific inhibitor, against HER2-overexpressing breast and gastric cancers. Treatment with LJM716 reduced HER2-HER3 and HER3-p85 dimers, P-HER3 and P-AKT, both in vitro and in vivo. Treatment with LJM716 alone markedly reduced growth of BT474 xenografts. The combination of LJM716/lapatinib/trastuzumab significantly improved survival of mice with BT474 xenografts compared with lapatinib/trastuzumab (P = 0.0012). LJM716 and BYL719 synergistically inhibited growth in a panel of HER2+ and PIK3CA mutant cell lines. The combination also inhibited P-AKT in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells and growth of HER2+ NCI-N87 gastric cancer xenografts more potently than LJM716 or BYL719 alone. Trastuzumab-resistant HER2+/PIK3CA mutant MDA453 xenografts regressed completely after 3 weeks of therapy with LJM716 and BYL719, whereas either single agent inhibited growth only partially. Finally, mice with BT474 xenografts treated with trastuzumab/LJM716, trastuzumab/BYL719, LJM716/BYL719, or trastuzumab/LJM716/BYL719 exhibited similar rates of tumor regression after 3 weeks of treatment. Thirty weeks after treatment discontinuation, 14% of mice were treated with trastuzumab/LJM716/BYL719, whereas >80% in all other treatment groups were sacrificed due to a recurrent large tumor burden (P = 0.0066). These data suggest that dual blockade of the HER2 signaling network with an HER3 antibody that inhibits HER2-HER3 dimers in combination with a p110α-specific inhibitor in the absence of a direct HER2 antagonist is an effective treatment approach against HER2-overexpressing cancers.
Mutations in PIK3CA, the gene encoding the p110α catalytic subunit of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), have been shown to transform mammary epithelial cells (MEC). Studies suggest this transforming activity requires binding of mutant p110α via p85 to phosphorylated YXXM motifs in activated receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) or adaptors. Using transgenic mice, we examined if ErbB3, a potent activator of PI3K, is required for mutant PIK3CA-mediated transformation of MECs. Conditional loss of ErbB3 in mammary epithelium resulted in a delay of PIK3CA(H1047R)-dependent mammary gland hyperplasia, but tumor latency, gene expression, and PI3K signaling were unaffected. In ErbB3-deficient tumors, mutant PI3K remained associated with several tyrosyl phosphoproteins, potentially explaining the dispensability of ErbB3 for tumorigenicity and PI3K activity. Similarly, inhibition of ErbB RTKs with lapatinib did not affect PI3K signaling in PIK3CA(H1047R)-expressing tumors. However, the p110α-specific inhibitor BYL719 in combination with lapatinib impaired mammary tumor growth and PI3K signaling more potently than BYL719 alone. Furthermore, coinhibition of p110α and ErbB3 potently suppressed proliferation and PI3K signaling in human breast cancer cells harboring PIK3CA(H1047R). These data suggest that PIK3CA(H1047R)-driven tumor growth and PI3K signaling can occur independently of ErbB RTKs. However, simultaneous blockade of p110α and ErbB RTKs results in superior inhibition of PI3K and mammary tumor growth, suggesting a rational therapeutic combination against breast cancers harboring PIK3CA activating mutations.
PURPOSE - We previously reported the eradication of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)- amplified human xenografts in mice by inhibition of the HER2 pathway with lapatinib and trastuzumab to block all homo- and heterodimer signaling as well as by blockade of estrogen receptor (ER) when expressed. In this clinical trial, we sought to translate these findings to patients using targeted therapy without chemotherapy.
PATIENTS AND METHOD - Women with stages II to III HER2-positive breast cancers were eligible. They received trastuzumab once per week (4 mg/kg loading, then 2 mg/kg) and lapatinib 1000 mg once per day for 12 weeks. Women with ER-positive tumors also received letrozole (plus a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone [LHRH] agonist if premenopausal). Pathologic response was assessed by ER status. Biopsies were obtained at baseline, weeks 2 and 8, and time of surgery.
RESULTS - Sixty-six patients were enrolled, and 64 were eligible and evaluable for response. Median tumor size was 6 cm (range, 1.5 to 30 cm). Adverse events were mainly grades 1 to 2 (GI, 63%; skin, 46%). Grade 3 metabolic, GI, and liver (18%; 12 patients) and grade 4 liver toxicities (one patient) were also observed. Overall, in-breast pathologic complete response (pCR; ypT0-is) was 27% (ER positive, 21%; ER negative, 36%). The rate of low-volume residual disease (ypT1a-b) was 22% (ER positive, 33%; ER negative, 4%).
CONCLUSION - In patients with locally advanced HER2-positive breast cancer, our approach of targeted therapy only resulted in a high pCR rate without chemotherapy. Our data support the hypothesis that selected patients with HER2-positive tumors may not need chemotherapy, and more-complete blockade of HER receptors and ER is an effective strategy worthy of further study.
PURPOSE - Dual blockade of HER2 with trastuzumab and lapatinib or with pertuzumab is a superior treatment approach compared with single-agent HER2 inhibitors. However, many HER2-overexpressing breast cancers still escape from this combinatorial approach. Inhibition of HER2 and downstream phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT causes a transcriptional and posttranslational upregulation of HER3 which, in turn, counteracts the antitumor action of the HER2-directed therapies. We hypothesized that suppression of HER3 would synergize with dual blockade of HER2 in breast cancer cells sensitive and refractory to HER2 antagonists.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN - Inhibition of HER2/HER3 in HER2(+) breast cancer cell lines was evaluated by Western blotting. We analyzed drug-induced apoptosis and two- and three-dimensional growth in vitro. Growth inhibition of PI3K was examined in vivo in xenografts treated with combinations of trastuzumab, lapatinib, and the HER3-neutralizing monoclonal antibody U3-1287.
RESULTS - Treatment with U3-1287 blocked the upregulation of total and phosphorylated HER3 that followed treatment with lapatinib and trastuzumab and, in turn, enhanced the antitumor action of the combination against trastuzumab-sensitive and -resistant cells. Mice bearing HER2(+) xenografts treated with lapatinib, trastuzumab, and U3-1287 exhibited fewer recurrences and better survival than mice treated with lapatinib and trastuzumab.
CONCLUSIONS - Dual blockade of HER2 with trastuzumab and lapatinib does not eliminate the compensatory upregulation of HER3. Therapeutic inhibitors of HER3 should be considered as part of multidrug combinations aimed at completely and rapidly disabling the HER2 network in HER2-overexpressing breast cancers.
Mutationally activated kinases define a clinically validated class of targets for cancer drug therapy. However, the efficacy of kinase inhibitors in patients whose tumours harbour such alleles is invariably limited by innate or acquired drug resistance. The identification of resistance mechanisms has revealed a recurrent theme—the engagement of survival signals redundant to those transduced by the targeted kinase. Cancer cells typically express multiple receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) that mediate signals that converge on common critical downstream cell-survival effectors—most notably, phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase (PI(3)K) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Consequently, an increase in RTK-ligand levels, through autocrine tumour-cell production, paracrine contribution from tumour stroma or systemic production, could confer resistance to inhibitors of an oncogenic kinase with a similar signalling output. Here, using a panel of kinase-'addicted' human cancer cell lines, we found that most cells can be rescued from drug sensitivity by simply exposing them to one or more RTK ligands. Among the findings with clinical implications was the observation that hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) confers resistance to the BRAF inhibitor PLX4032 (vemurafenib) in BRAF-mutant melanoma cells. These observations highlight the extensive redundancy of RTK-transduced signalling in cancer cells and the potentially broad role of widely expressed RTK ligands in innate and acquired resistance to drugs targeting oncogenic kinases.