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The presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in triple-negative breast cancers is correlated with improved outcomes. Ras/MAPK pathway activation is associated with significantly lower levels of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in triple-negative breast cancers and while MEK inhibition can promote recruitment of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes to the tumor, here we show that MEK inhibition adversely affects early onset T-cell effector function. We show that α-4-1BB and α-OX-40 T-cell agonist antibodies can rescue the adverse effects of MEK inhibition on T cells in both mouse and human T cells, which results in augmented anti-tumor effects in vivo. This effect is dependent upon increased downstream p38/JNK pathway activation. Taken together, our data suggest that although Ras/MAPK pathway inhibition can increase tumor immunogenicity, the negative impact on T-cell activity is functionally important. This undesirable impact is effectively prevented by combination with T-cell immune agonist immunotherapies resulting in superior therapeutic efficacy.MEK inhibition in breast cancer is associated with increased tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), however, MAPK activity is required for T cells function. Here the authors show that TILs activity following MEK inhibition can be enhanced by agonist immunotherapy resulting in synergic therapeutic effects.
Because of inherent disease heterogeneity, targeted therapies have eluded triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), and biomarkers predictive of treatment response have not yet been identified. This study was designed to determine whether the mTOR inhibitor everolimus with cisplatin and paclitaxel would provide synergistic antitumor effects in TNBC. Patients with stage II/III TNBC were enrolled in a randomized phase II trial of preoperative weekly cisplatin, paclitaxel and daily everolimus or placebo for 12 weeks, until definitive surgery. Tumor specimens were obtained at baseline, cycle 1, and surgery. Primary endpoint was pathologic complete response (pCR); secondary endpoints included clinical responses, breast conservation rate, safety, and discovery of molecular features associated with outcome. Between 2009 and 2013, 145 patients were accrued; 36% of patients in the everolimus arm and 49% of patients in the placebo arm achieved pCR; in each arm, 50% of patients achieved complete responses by imaging. Higher rates of neutropenia, mucositis, and transaminase elevation were seen with everolimus. Clinical response to therapy and long-term outcome correlated with increased frequency of DNA damage response (DDR) gene mutations, Basal-like1 and Mesenchymal TNBC-subtypes, AR-negative status, and high Ki67, but not with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. The paclitaxel/cisplatin combination was well tolerated and active, but addition of everolimus was associated with more adverse events without improvement in pCR or clinical response. However, discoveries made from correlative studies could lead to predictive TNBC biomarkers that may impact clinical decision-making and provide new avenues for mechanistic exploration that could lead to clinical utility. .
©2017 American Association for Cancer Research.
Tumor-induced immune tolerance poses a major challenge for therapeutic interventions aimed to manage cancer. We explored approaches to overcome T-cell suppression in murine breast and kidney adenocarcinomas, and lung fibrosarcoma expressing immunogenic antigens. We observed that treatment with a reversible proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (1 mg/kg body weight) in tumor-bearing mice significantly enhanced the expression of lymphocyte-stimulatory cytokines IL-2, IL-12, and IL-15. Notably, bortezomib administration reduced pulmonary nodules of mammary adenocarcinoma 4T1.2 expressing hemagglutinin (HA) model antigen (4T1HA) in mice. Neutralization of IL-12 and IL-15 cytokines with a regimen of blocking antibodies pre- and post-adoptive transfer of low-avidity HA518-526-specific CD8+T-cells following intravenous injection of 4T1HA cells increased the number of pulmonary tumor nodules. This neutralization effect was counteracted by the tumor metastasis-suppressing action of bortezomib treatments. In bortezomib-treated 4T1HA tumor-bearing mice, CD4+T-cells showed increased IL-2 production, CD11c+ dendritic cells showed increased IL-12 and IL-15 production, and HA-specific activated CD8+T-cells showed enhanced expression of IFNγ, granzyme-B and transcription factor eomesodermin. We also noted a trend of increased expression of IL-2, IL-12 and IL-15 receptors as well as increased phosphorylation of STAT5 in tumor-infiltrating CD8+T-cells following bortezomib treatment. Furthermore, bortezomib-treated CD8+T-cells showed increased phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase p38, and Akt, which was abrogated by phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor. These data support the therapeutic potential of bortezomib in conjunction with other immunotherapies to augment the strength of convergent signals from CD8+T-cell signaling molecules including TCR, cytokine receptors and downstream PI3K/Akt/STAT5 pathways to sustain CD8+T-cell effector function in the tumor microenvironment.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a heterogeneous disease that can be classified into distinct molecular subtypes by gene expression profiling. Considered a difficult-to-treat cancer, a fraction of TNBC patients benefit significantly from neoadjuvant chemotherapy and have far better overall survival. Outside of BRCA1/2 mutation status, biomarkers do not exist to identify patients most likely to respond to current chemotherapy; and, to date, no FDA-approved targeted therapies are available for TNBC patients. Previously, we developed an approach to identify six molecular subtypes TNBC (TNBCtype), with each subtype displaying unique ontologies and differential response to standard-of-care chemotherapy. Given the complexity of the varying histological landscape of tumor specimens, we used histopathological quantification and laser-capture microdissection to determine that transcripts in the previously described immunomodulatory (IM) and mesenchymal stem-like (MSL) subtypes were contributed from infiltrating lymphocytes and tumor-associated stromal cells, respectively. Therefore, we refined TNBC molecular subtypes from six (TNBCtype) into four (TNBCtype-4) tumor-specific subtypes (BL1, BL2, M and LAR) and demonstrate differences in diagnosis age, grade, local and distant disease progression and histopathology. Using five publicly available, neoadjuvant chemotherapy breast cancer gene expression datasets, we retrospectively evaluated chemotherapy response of over 300 TNBC patients from pretreatment biopsies subtyped using either the intrinsic (PAM50) or TNBCtype approaches. Combined analysis of TNBC patients demonstrated that TNBC subtypes significantly differ in response to similar neoadjuvant chemotherapy with 41% of BL1 patients achieving a pathological complete response compared to 18% for BL2 and 29% for LAR with 95% confidence intervals (CIs; [33, 51], [9, 28], [17, 41], respectively). Collectively, we provide pre-clinical data that could inform clinical trials designed to test the hypothesis that improved outcomes can be achieved for TNBC patients, if selection and combination of existing chemotherapies is directed by knowledge of molecular TNBC subtypes.
BACKGROUND - Tumor cell senescence is a common outcome of anticancer therapy. Here we investigated how therapy-induced senescence (TIS) affects tumor-infiltrating leukocytes (TILs) and the efficacy of immunotherapy in melanoma.
METHODS - Tumor senescence was induced by AURKA or CDK4/6 inhibitors (AURKAi, CDK4/6i). Transcriptomes of six mouse tumors with differential response to AURKAi were analyzed by RNA sequencing, and TILs were characterized by flow cytometry. Chemokine RNA and protein expression were determined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Therapeutic response was queried in immunodeficient mice, in mice with CCL5-deficient tumors, and in mice cotreated with CD137 agonist to activate TILs. CCL5 expression in reference to TIS and markers of TILs was studied in human melanoma tumors using patient-derived xenografts (n = 3 patients, n = 3 mice each), in AURKAi clinical trial samples (n = 3 patients, before/after therapy), and in The Cancer Genome Atlas (n = 278). All statistical tests were two-sided.
RESULTS - AURKAi response was associated with induction of the immune transcriptome (P = 3.5 x 10-29) while resistance inversely correlated with TIL numbers (Spearman r = -0.87, P < .001). AURKAi and CDK4/6i promoted the recruitment of TILs by inducing CCL5 secretion in melanoma cells (P ≤ .005) in an NF-κB-dependent manner. Therapeutic response to AURKAi was impaired in immunodeficient compared with immunocompetent mice (0% vs 67% tumors regressed, P = .01) and in mice bearing CCL5-deficient vs control tumors (P = .61 vs P = .02); however, AURKAi response was greatly enhanced in mice also receiving T-cell-activating immunotherapy (P < .001). In human tumors, CCL5 expression was also induced by AURKAi (P ≤ .02) and CDK4/6i (P = .01) and was associated with increased immune marker expression (P = 1.40 x 10-93).
CONCLUSIONS - Senescent melanoma cells secret CCL5, which promotes recruitment of TILs. Combining TIS with immunotherapy that enhances tumor cell killing by TILs is a promising novel approach to improve melanoma outcomes.
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PURPOSE - Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) in the residual disease (RD) of triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) are associated with improved survival, but insight into tumor cell-autonomous molecular pathways affecting these features are lacking.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN - We analyzed TILs in the RD of clinically and molecularly characterized TNBCs after NAC and explored therapeutic strategies targeting combinations of MEK inhibitors with PD-1/PD-L1-targeted immunotherapy in mouse models of breast cancer.
RESULTS - Presence of TILs in the RD was significantly associated with improved prognosis. Genetic or transcriptomic alterations in Ras-MAPK signaling were significantly correlated with lower TILs. MEK inhibition upregulated cell surface MHC expression and PD-L1 in TNBC cells both in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, combined MEK and PD-L1/PD-1 inhibition enhanced antitumor immune responses in mouse models of breast cancer.
CONCLUSIONS - These data suggest the possibility that Ras-MAPK pathway activation promotes immune-evasion in TNBC, and support clinical trials combining MEK- and PD-L1-targeted therapies. Furthermore, Ras/MAPK activation and MHC expression may be predictive biomarkers of response to immune checkpoint inhibitors.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.
Human tumors contain populations of both cancerous and host immune cells whose malignant signaling interactions may define each patient's disease trajectory. We used multiplexed phospho-flow cytometry to profile single cells within human follicular lymphoma tumors and discovered a subpopulation of lymphoma cells with impaired B cell antigen receptor (BCR) signaling. The abundance of BCR-insensitive cells in each tumor negatively correlated with overall patient survival. These lymphoma negative prognostic (LNP) cells increased as tumors relapsed following chemotherapy. Loss of antigen receptor expression did not explain the absence of BCR signaling in LNP tumor cells, and other signaling responses were intact in these cells. Furthermore, BCR signaling responses could be reactivated in LNP cells, indicating that BCR signaling is not missing but rather specifically suppressed. LNP cells were also associated with changes to signaling interactions in the tumor microenvironment. Lower IL-7 signaling in tumor infiltrating T cells was observed in tumors with high LNP cell counts. The strength of signaling through T cell mediator of B cell function CD40 also stratified patient survival, particularly for those whose tumors contained few LNP cells. Thus, analysis of cell-cell interactions in heterogeneous primary tumors using signaling network profiles can identify and mechanistically define new populations of rare and clinically significant cells. Both the existence of these LNP cells and their aberrant signaling profiles provide targets for new therapies for follicular lymphoma.
The B-cell receptor (BCR) transmits life and death signals throughout B-cell development, and altered BCR signaling may be required for survival of B-lymphoma cells. We used single-cell signaling profiles to compare follicular lymphoma (FL) B cells and nonmalignant host B cells within individual patient biopsies and identified BCR-mediated signaling events specific to lymphoma B cells. Expression of CD20, Bcl-2, and BCR light chain isotype (kappa or lambda) distinguished FL tumor B-cell and nontumor host B-cell subsets within FL patient biopsies. BCR-mediated signaling via phosphorylation of Btk, Syk, Erk1/2, and p38 occurred more rapidly in tumor B cells from FL samples than in infiltrating nontumor B cells, achieved greater levels of per-cell signaling, and sustained this level of signaling for hours longer than nontumor B cells. The timing and magnitude of BCR-mediated signaling in nontumor B cells within an FL sample instead resembled that observed in mature B cells from the peripheral blood of healthy subjects. BCR signaling pathways that are potentiated specifically in lymphoma cells should provide new targets for therapeutic attention.
Tumors may escape immune recognition and destruction through the induction of apoptosis in activated T lymphocytes. Results from several laboratories suggest that FasL (L/CD95L) expression in tumors may be responsible for this process. In this study of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC), we provide evidence for two mechanisms of T-cell apoptosis. One mechanism involves the induction of apoptosis via FasL expression in tumor cells. This is supported by several observations, including the fact that tumor cells in situ as well as cultured cell lines expressed FasL mRNA and protein by a variety of techniques. The FasL in RCC is functional because in coculture experiments, FasL+ tumors induced apoptosis in Fas-sensitive Jurkat T cells and in activated peripheral blood T cells but not in resting peripheral blood T cells. Most importantly, antibody to FasL partially blocked apoptosis of the activated T cells. Moreover, Fas was expressed by T cells derived from the peripheral blood (53% median) and tumor (44.3% median) of RCC patients. Finally, in situ staining for DNA breaks demonstrated apoptosis in a subset of T cells infiltrating renal tumors. These studies also identified a second mechanism of apoptosis in RCC patient peripheral T cells. Whereas these cells did not display DNA breaks when freshly isolated or after culture for 24 h in medium, peripheral blood T cells from RCC patients underwent activation-induced cell death after stimulation with either phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate/ionomycin or anti-CD3/CD28 antibodies. Apoptosis mediated by exposure to FasL in tumor cells or through T-cell activation may contribute to the failure of RCC patients to develop an effective T-cell-mediated antitumor response.