This perspective examines the report by Zhang et al. in this issue of the journal (beginning on page XiXiX) on the validation and refinement of a set of risk markers for oral premalignant lesion progression that incorporates loss of heterozygosity (LOH) markers. The perspective also discusses some of the challenges and opportunities of incorporating predictive biomarkers into monitoring and refined enrollment criteria for prevention studies.
Screening and recruitment of qualified subjects for clinical trials is an essential component of translational research, and it can be quite challenging if the most efficient recruitment method is not utilized. In this report, we describe a successful web-based screening and accrual method used in a randomized prospective chemoprevention clinical trial with urinary biomarker endpoints. The targeted study population was a group of at-risk healthy current smokers with no evidence of lung disease. Craigslist was used as the sole recruitment modality for this study. All interested subjects were directed to a pre-screening website, in which subject questionnaire responses were linked to the study coordinator's secure e-mail account. Of the 429 initial inquiries, 189 individuals were initially eligible based on the questionnaire response. One hundred twenty-two people were telephone-screened, of whom 98 subjects were consented, 84 were randomized and 77 subjects completed the study successfully. Utilizing this single web-based advertising strategy, accrual for the trial was completed 7 months prior to the projected date. Craigslist is a cost effective and efficient web-based resource that can be utilized in accruing subjects to some chemoprevention trials.
Clinical trial; Accrual; Recruitment; Advertising; Craigslist; Internet
Although only a subset of smokers develop lung cancer, we cannot determine which smokers are at highest risk for cancer development, nor do we know the signaling pathways altered early in the process of tumorigenesis in these individuals. On the basis of the concept that cigarette smoke creates a molecular field of injury throughout the respiratory tract, this study explores oncogenic pathway deregulation in cytologically normal proximal airway epithelial cells of smokers at risk for lung cancer. We observed a significant increase in a genomic signature of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway activation in the cytologically normal bronchial airway of smokers with lung cancer and smokers with dysplastic lesions, suggesting that PI3K is activated in the proximal airway before tumorigenesis. Further, PI3K activity is decreased in the airway of high-risk smokers who had significant regression of dysplasia after treatment with the chemopreventive agent myo-inositol, and myo-inositol inhibits the PI3K pathway in vitro. These results suggest that deregulation of the PI3K pathway in the bronchial airway epithelium of smokers is an early, measurable, and reversible event in the development of lung cancer and that genomic profiling of these relatively accessible airway cells may enable personalized approaches to chemoprevention and therapy. Our work further suggests that additional lung cancer chemoprevention trials either targeting the PI3K pathway or measuring airway PI3K activation as an intermediate endpoint are warranted.
Ample studies suggest that the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)/prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) pathway plays a pivotal role in carcinogenesis and that COX-2 inhibition may help prevent lung cancer. Therefore, we conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of the COX-2 selective inhibitor celecoxib (400 mg bid for 6 months) in former-smokers (age ≥45, ≥30 pack-years of smoking, ≥1 year of sustained abstinence from smoking). We assessed the impact of celecoxib on cellular and molecular events associated with lung cancer pathogenesis; the primary endpoint was bronchial Ki-67 labeling index (Ki-67 LI). Of 137 randomized subjects, 101 completed both baseline and 6-month bronchoscopies and were evaluable for the primary endpoint analysis. The beneficial effect on Ki-67 LI was greater in the celecoxib arm (versus placebo) in a mixed-effects analysis (P = 0.0006), and celecoxib significantly decreased Ki-67 LI by an average of 34%, whereas placebo increased Ki-67 LI by an average of 3.8% (P = 0.04; t-test). Participants crossed over to the other study arm at 6 months. Therefore, at 12 months all remaining participants had received 6 months of celecoxib, and their decreases in Ki-67 LI correlated with a reduction and/or resolution of lung nodules on computed tomography. Celecoxib significantly reduced plasma c-reactive protein and interleukin-6 mRNA and protein and increased 15(S)-hydroxy-eicosatetraenoic acid levels in BAL samples. The baseline ratio of COX-2 to 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase mRNA in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells was a significant predictive marker of Ki-67 response to celecoxib (P = 0.002). Our collective findings support the continued investigation of celecoxib for lung cancer chemoprevention in former smokers at a low risk of cardiovascular disease.
COX-2; 15-PGDH; PGE2; CRP; IL-6; 15-HETE
The history of lung cancer chemoprevention trials has been uniformly disappointing in that the large phase III studies showed no effect or harm in actively smoking participants, and smaller phase II studies have also been negative. In the current issue of the journal (beginning on page XXX), Keith and colleagues report their randomized placebo-controlled trial of the oral prostacyclin analogue iloprost, the first trial to show an improvement in bronchial histology (i.e., regression), which occurred in former, but not current, smokers with sputum atypia. This Perspective discusses the strength of the clinical signal provided by this observation and its implications for further drug development.
Thymic epithelial tumors are rare malignancies, and there is no standard treatment for patients with advanced disease in whom chemotherapy has failed. Antitumor activity of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors in this disease has been documented, including one patient with thymoma treated with the pan-HDAC inhibitor belinostat.
Patients and Methods
Patients with advanced thymic epithelial malignancies in whom at least one line of platinum-containing chemotherapy had failed were eligible for this study. Other eligibility criteria included adequate organ function and good performance status. Belinostat was administered intravenously at 1 g/m2 on days 1 to 5 of a 21-day cycle until disease progression or development of intolerance. The primary objective was response rate in patients with thymoma.
Of the 41 patients enrolled, 25 had thymoma, and 16 had thymic carcinoma; patients had a median of two previous systemic regimens (range, one to 10 regimens). Treatment was well tolerated, with nausea, vomiting, and fatigue being the most frequent adverse effects. Two patients achieved partial response (both had thymoma; response rate, 8%; 95% CI, 2.2% to 25%), 25 had stable disease, and 13 had progressive disease; there were no responses among patients with thymic carcinoma. Median times to progression and survival were 5.8 and 19.1 months, respectively. Survival of patients with thymoma was significantly longer than that of patients with thymic carcinoma (median not reached v 12.4 months; P = .001). Protein acetylation, regulatory T-cell numbers, and circulating angiogenic factors did not predict outcome.
Belinostat has modest antitumor activity in this group of heavily pretreated thymic malignancies. However, the duration of response and disease stabilization is intriguing, and additional testing of belinostat in this disease is warranted.
This paper endeavors to clarify the current requirements and status of regulatory approval for chemoprevention (risk reduction) drugs and discusses possible improvements to the regulatory pathway for chemoprevention. Covering a wide range of topics in as much depth as space allows, this report is written in a style to facilitate the understanding of non-scientists and to serve as a framework for informing the directions of experts engaged more deeply with this issue. Key topics we cover here are as follows: a history of definitive cancer chemoprevention trials and their influence on the evolution of regulatory assessments; a brief review of the long-standing success of pharmacologic risk reduction of cardiovascular diseases and its relevance to approval for cancer risk reduction drugs; the use and limitations of biomarkers for developing and the approval of cancer risk reduction drugs; the identification of individuals at a high(er) risk for cancer and who are appropriate candidates for risk reduction drugs; business models that should incentivize pharmaceutical-industry investment in cancer risk reduction; a summary of scientific and institutional barriers to development of cancer risk reduction drugs; and a summary of major recommendations that should help facilitate the pathway to regulatory approval for pharmacologic cancer risk reduction drugs.
SR13668, an orally active AKT pathway inhibitor, has demonstrated cancer chemopreventive potential in preclinical studies. To accelerate the clinical development of this promising agent, we designed and conducted the first-ever phase 0 chemoprevention trial to evaluate and compare the effects of food and formulation on SR13668 bioavailability.
Patients and Methods
Healthy adult volunteers were randomly assigned to receive a single, 38 mg oral dose of SR13668 in one of five different formulations, with or without food. Based on existing animal data, SR13668 in a PEG400/Labrasol® oral solution was defined as the reference formulation. Blood samples were obtained pre- and post-agent administration for pharmacokinetic analyses. Area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC0-∞) was defined as the primary endpoint. Data were analyzed and compared using established statistical methods for phase 0 trials with a limited sample size.
Participants (N=20) were rapidly accrued over a 5-month period. Complete pharmacokinetic data were available for 18 randomized participants. AUC0-∞ values were highest in the fed state (range = 122–439 ng/mL × hours) and were statistically significantly different across formulations (p = 0.007), with Solutol® HS15 providing the highest bioavailability. SR13668 time to peak plasma concentration (3 hours; range, 2 – 6 hours) and half-life were (11.2 ± 3.1 hours) were not formulation dependent.
Using a novel, highly efficient study design, we rapidly identified a lead formulation of SR13668 for further clinical testing. Our findings support application of the phase 0 trial paradigm to accelerate chemoprevention agent development.
Screening-CT identifies small peripheral lung nodules, some of which may be pre- or early invasive neoplasia. Secondary endpoint analysis of a previous chemoprevention trial in individuals with bronchial dysplasia showed reduction in size of peripheral nodules by inhaled budesonide.
We performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase IIb trial of inhaled budesonide in current and former smokers with CT-detected lung nodules that were persistent for at least one year. A total of 202 individuals received inhaled budesonide 800 µg twice daily or placebo for one year. The primary endpoint was the effect of treatment on target nodule size in a per-person analysis after one year.
The per-person analysis showed no significant difference between the budesonide and placebo arms (response rate 2% and 1%, respectively). Although the per-lesion analysis revealed a significant effect of budesonide on regression of existing target nodules (p=0.02), the appearance of new lesions was similar in both groups and thus the significance was lost in the analysis of all lesions. The evaluation by nodule type revealed a non-significant trend toward regression of non-solid and partially solid lesions after budesonide treatment. Budesonide was well tolerated with no unexpected side effects identified.
Treatment with inhaled budesonide for one year did not significantly affect peripheral lung nodule size. There was a trend toward regression of non-solid and partially solid nodules after budesonide treatment. Since a subset of these nodules is more likely to represent precursors of adenocarcinoma, additional follow-up is needed. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00321893)
chemoprevention; lung cancer; helical CT; budesonide
Screening-CT is able to discover small peripheral lung nodules. The nature of these nodules is uncertain but it is reasonable that some of them, in particular the non solid ones, could represent precancerous lesions. A previous trial showed a reduction in size of peripheral nodules by inhaled budesonide in subjects with bronchial dysplasia.
The primary objective of the study was the evaluation of the effect of Budesonide as a chemopreventive agent for lung lesions. The primary endpoint was the modification of lung lesions at ld-CT scan (according to RECIST criteria) after one year of treatment in a person-specific analysis.
We performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial to evaluate whether inhaled budesonide was able to reduce size and number of persistent, undetermined CT-detected lung nodules in high-risk asymptomatic subjects currently undergoing a five-year CT scan screening program at the European Institute of Oncology.
Trial enrollment started in April 2006 and ended in July 2007 with the randomization of 202 current or former smokers with stable CT detected lung nodules set to receive budesonide 800µg or placebo twice-daily for 12 months.
Our trial represents the first phase II study of a chemopreventive intervention focusing on the peripheral lung, where the majority of lung cancers arise. The research was nested into a screening project with clear advantages in participant accrual and reduction of costs. This paper describes the rationale and design of the study, thus focusing on the methodology and operational aspects of the clinical trial. (Clinicaltrials.gov number. NCT00321893)
budesonide; lung cancer; chemoprevention; low dose CT scan; screening
The development of agents to prevent cancer requires an iterative process of target identification, preclinical testing, and early and late phase clinical trials to establish efficacy and safety. Since phase III definitive efficacy trials with cancer endpoints require a lengthy timeframe and considerable resources for completion, it is critical to first optimize agent delivery and trial design and to determine preliminary efficacy via the conduct of phase II trials. Phase II trials vary considerably in their endpoints, cohorts, and designs due to differences in the process of carcinogenesis and ability to sample tissues across different target organs. The goal of all such trials, however, is to provide evidence of interference with the development of cancer and to identify safety signals that would limit the benefit from interventions.
Cancers often arise as the end stage of inflammation in adults, but not in children. As such there is a complex interplay between host immune cells during neoplastic development, with both an ability to promote cancer as well as limit or eliminate it, most often complicit with the host. In humans, defining inflammation and the presence of inflammatory cells within or surrounding the tumor is a critical aspect of modern pathology. Groups defining staging for neoplasms are strongly encouraged to assess and incorporate measures of the presence of apoptosis, autophagy, and necrosis as well as the nature and quality of the immune infiltrate. Both environmental as well as genetic factors enhance the risk of cigarette smoking, H. pylori, hepatitis B/C, human papilloma virus, solar irradiation, asbestos, pancreatitis, or other causes of chronic inflammation. Identifying suitable genetic polymorphisms in cytokines, cytokine receptors, and Toll-like receptors among other immune response genes is also seen as high value as genomic sequencing becomes less expensive. Animal models which incorporate and assess not only the genetic anlagen but also the inflammatory cells and the presence of microbial pathogen [PAMPs] and damage associated molecular pattern molecules [DAMPs] are necessary. Identifying micro-RNAs involved in regulating the response to damage or injury are seen as highly promising. Although no therapeutic strategies to prevent or treat cancers based on insights into inflammatory pathways are currently approved for the common epithelial malignancies, there remains substantial interest in agents targeting COX2 or PPARγ, ethyl pyruvate, as well as steroids and several novel agents on the horizon.
Chronic inflammation; damage associated molecular pattern molecules; pathogen associated molecular pattern molecules; miRNAs; cytokine polymorphisms; eosinophils; mast cells; NK cells; dendritic cells; COX2; ethyl pyruvate; steroids; HMGB1; TGFβ
This perspective on Kim et al. (beginning on p. XX in this issue of the journal) examines the value of the Ki-67 proliferation index as a surrogate endpoint in early-phase clinical lung-cancer prevention trials. The clinical trial of Kim et al. demonstrates an effect of the cyclooxygenase-2–selective inhibitor celecoxib at a high dose on Ki-67 expression in the normal bronchial epithelium of current and former smokers. The critical issue of how these data can be used to further drug development is discussed.
Two randomized controlled trials of lung cancer screening initiated in the 1970's, the Johns Hopkins Lung Project and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Lung Study, compared one arm which received annual chest x-ray and four-monthly sputum cytology (dual-screen) to a second arm which received annual chest x-ray only. Previous publications from these trials reported similar lung cancer mortality between the two groups. However, these findings were based on incomplete follow-up, and each trial on its own was underpowered to detect a modest mortality benefit.
We estimated the efficacy of lung cancer screening with sputum cytology in an intention-to-screen analysis of lung cancer mortality, using combined data from these trials (n=20,426).
Over one-half of squamous cell lung cancers diagnosed in the dual-screen group were identified by cytology; these cancers tended to be more localized than squamous cancers diagnosed in the x-ray only arm. After nine years of follow-up, lung cancer mortality was slightly lower in the dual-screen than in the x-ray only arm (rate ratio (RR) 0.88, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.74-1.05). Reductions were seen for squamous cell cancer deaths (RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.54-1.14) and in the heaviest smokers (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.67-1.00). There were also fewer deaths from large cell carcinoma in the dual-screen group, though the reason for this is unclear.
These data are suggestive of a modest benefit of sputum cytology screening, though we cannot rule out chance as an explanation for these findings.
lung cancer; screening; sputum cytology; chest x-ray
Carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma is a rare histologic subtype of salivary gland cancer with an overall poor prognosis. Limited histopathologic analyses have shown that some such tumors exhibit significant HER2/neu immunoreactivity, suggesting a potential role for HER2-based therapy. We report here a case of a 58-year old man with metastatic carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma who achieved a sustained long term response to combination therapy with trastuzumab and capecitabine.
A 58 year old man presented with T1N2bM0 carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma and underwent surgery followed by adjuvant radiation therapy. Multiple metastases to bone were documented one year later. Since the original tumor was strongly HER2/neu positive by immunohistochemistry, the patient was treated with trastuzumab, capecitabine, and zoledronic acid. He experienced total resolution of symptoms and repeat FDG-PET scan after three cycles revealed interval disease resolution. Continued treatment has resulted in maintenance of disease control for over 2 years.
This case illustrates the successful long term treatment of carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma with targeted therapy with trastuzumab in combination with chemotherapy. In the absence of definitive clinical trials which are unlikely to be performed due to the rarity of this tumor, case reports such as this one suggest potential utility for trastuzumab in combination with chemotherapy in the treatment of HER2/neu-overexpressing carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma.
Lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States and worldwide. They share a common environmental risk factor in cigarette smoke exposure and a genetic predisposition represented by the incidence of these diseases in only a fraction of smokers. The presence of COPD increases the risk of lung cancer up to 4.5-fold. To investigate commonalities in disease mechanisms and perspectives for disease chemoprevention, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) held a workshop. The participants identified four research objectives: 1) clarify common epidemiological characteristics of lung cancer and COPD; 2) identify shared genetic and epigenetic risk factors; 3) identify and validate biomarkers, molecular signatures, and imaging-derived measurements of each disease; and 4) determine common and disparate pathogenetic mechanisms. These objectives should be reached via four research approaches: 1) identify, publicize, and enable the evaluation and analysis of existing datasets and repositories of biospecimens; 2) obtain phenotypic and outcome data and biospecimens from large studies of subjects with and/or at risk for COPD and lung cancer; 3) develop and use animal and other preclinical models to investigate pathogenetic links between the diseases; and 4) conduct early-phase clinical trials of potential chemopreventive agents. To foster much needed research interactions, two final recommendations were made by the participants: 1) incorporate baseline phenotyping and outcome measures for both diseases in future longitudinal studies of each disease and 2) expand collaborative efforts between the NCI and NHLBI.
During human development, signals that govern lineage specification versus expansion of cells committed to a cell fate are poorly understood. We demonstrate that activation of canonical Wnt signaling by Wnt-3a promotes proliferation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) -precursors already committed to the hematopoietic lineage. In contrast, non-canonical Wnt signals, activated by Wnt11, control exit from the pluripotent state and entry towards mesoderm specification. Unique to embryoid body (EB) formation of hESCs, Wnt11 induces development and arrangement of cells expressing Brachyury that co-express E-cadherin and Frizzled-7 (Fzd7). Knockdown of Fzd7 expression blocks Wnt-11 dependent specification. Our study reveals an unappreciated role for non-canonical Wnt signaling in hESC specification that involves development of unique mesoderm precursors via morphogenic organization within human EBs.
human embryonic stem cell; hematopoiesis; Wnt3a; Wnt11; proliferation; specification and patterning
The cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme appears to be an important target for cancer chemoprevention. Given the recent emergence of potentially serious cardiovascular toxicity associated with selective COX-2 inhibitors, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2, have received renewed attention as candidate chemoprevention agents. Sulindac has demonstrated consistent chemopreventive potential in preclinical studies, as well as in a limited number of clinical trials reported to date. For the current pharmacokinetic study, sulindac capsules were prepared to facilitate ample agent supplies for future intervention studies. Encapsulation of the parent compound (sulindac sulfoxide) can be readily accomplished, but the effects of alternate formulations on bioavailability have not been rigorously examined. In the present single-dose, two-period crossover trial, we conducted pharmacokinetic analyses of sulindac in capsule (test) versus tablet (reference) formulations. Overall, bioavailability appeared to be higher for the capsule compared to the tablet formulation, based on test-to-reference pharmacokinetic parameter ratios for the parent compound. However, additional analyses based on the sulfide and sulfone metabolites of sulindac with the same pharmacokinetic parameters indicated similar chemopreventive exposures between the capsule and tablet formulations. These data support the use of sulindac capsules, which can be readily prepared with matching placebos, in future blinded chemoprevention trials.
Calreticulin, an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) resident protein, affects many critical cellular functions, including protein folding and calcium homeostasis. Using embryonic stem cells and 3T3-L1 preadipocytes, we show that calreticulin modulates adipogenesis. We find that calreticulin-deficient cells show increased potency for adipogenesis when compared with wild-type or calreticulin-overexpressing cells. In the highly adipogenic crt−/− cells, the ER lumenal calcium concentration was reduced. Increasing the ER lumenal calcium concentration led to a decrease in adipogenesis. In calreticulin-deficient cells, the calmodulin–Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) pathway was up-regulated, and inhibition of CaMKII reduced adipogenesis. Calreticulin inhibits adipogenesis via a negative feedback mechanism whereby the expression of calreticulin is initially up-regulated by peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ (PPARγ). This abundance of calreticulin subsequently negatively regulates the expression of PPARγ, lipoprotein lipase, CCAAT enhancer–binding protein α, and aP2. Thus, calreticulin appears to function as a Ca2+-dependent molecular switch that regulates commitment to adipocyte differentiation by preventing the expression and transcriptional activation of critical proadipogenic transcription factors.
To determine if cardiogenesis causes endoplasmic reticulum stress, we examined chaperone expression. Many cardiac pathologies cause activation of the fetal gene program, and we asked the reverse: could activation of the fetal gene program during development induce endoplasmic reticulum stress/chaperones?
We found stress related chaperones were more abundant in embryonic compared to adult hearts, indicating endoplasmic reticulum stress during normal cardiac development. To determine the degree of stress, we investigated endoplasmic reticulum stress pathways during cardiogenesis. We detected higher levels of ATF6α, caspase 7 and 12 in adult hearts. Thus, during embryonic development, there is large protein synthetic load but there is no endoplasmic reticulum stress. In adult hearts, chaperones are less abundant but there are increased levels of ATF6α and ER stress-activated caspases. Thus, protein synthesis during embryonic development does not seem to be as intense a stress as is required for apoptosis that is found during postnatal remodelling.
Heart; endoplasmic reticulum stress; chaperones; unfolded protein response; embryonic development; apoptosis
Objective: To analyse sick leave in women at risk of primary hyperparathyroidism before its diagnosis.
Design: Case-control study nested within a screened cohort of postmenopausal women. Cases were women with hyperparathyroidism without prior knowledge of their disease and no traditional symptoms or complications. Controls were women from the screened population without hyperparathyroidism.
Setting: Population based screening within a Swedish community.
Subject: 48 case-control pairs of women aged 55-70 years.
Main outcome measure: Sick leave during the 5 years before diagnosis.
Results: Total duration of sickness benefits was longer in the cases than controls, and this discrepancy included sick leave on full time or half time and for periods of longer than a week. Cases had an increased risk of sick leave more than half of the investigated time compared with controls (odds ratio 12). Doctors’ certificates showed that the overrepresented sick leave in the cases related mainly to cardiovascular diseases.
Conclusion: Asymptomatic mild primary hyperparathyroidism in postmenopausal women is accompanied by a previously unrecognised morbidity, which has consequences for clinical management of the disorder and its impact on the health economy.
Key messages Primary hyperparathyroidism mainly affects postmenopausal women, many of whom lack classic symptoms and complications of the disorder and are currently considered suitable for conservative follow up Postmenopausal women with asymptomatic primary hyperparathyroidism drew more sickness benefit than matched controls during the 5 years before the diagnosis Cardiovascular diseases were the main cause of sick leave The duration of sick leave was not correlated with age or serum calcium concentration Mild undiagnosed hyperparathyroidism in postmenopausal women is linked with previously unrecognised ill health of importance to the clinical and economic impact of the disorder