Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients harboring the most common deletion mutation of the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), F508del, are poor responders to potentiators of CFTR channel activity which can be used to treat a small subset of CF patients who genetically carry plasma membrane (PM)-resident CFTR mutants. The misfolded F508del-CFTR protein is unstable in the PM even if rescued by pharmacological agents that prevent its intracellular retention and degradation. CF is a conformational disease in which defective CFTR induces an impressive derangement of general proteostasis resulting from disabled autophagy. In this review, we discuss how rescuing Beclin 1 (BECN1), a major player of autophagosome formation, either by means of direct gene transfer or indirectly by administration of proteostasis regulators, could stabilize F508del-CFTR at the PM. We focus on the relationship between the improvement of peripheral proteostasis and CFTR PM stability in F508del-CFTR homozygous bronchial epithelia or mouse lungs. Moreover, this article reviews recent pre-clinical evidence indicating that targeting the intracellular environment surrounding the misfolded mutant CFTR instead of protein itself could constitute an attractive therapeutic option to sensitize patients carrying the F508del-CFTR mutation to the beneficial action of CFTR potentiators on lung inflammation.
cystic fibrosis; CFTR; proteostasis regulators; autophagy; BECN1
Spermidine is a naturally occurring polyamine involved in multiple biological processes, including DNA metabolism, autophagy and aging. Like other polyamines, spermidine is also indispensable for successful reproduction at several stages. However, a direct influence on the actual fertilization process, i.e., the fusion of an oocyte with a spermatocyte, remains uncertain. To explore this possibility, we established the mating process in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model for fertilization in higher eukaryotes. During human fertilization, the sperm capacitates and the acrosome reaction is necessary for penetration of the oocyte. Similarly, sexually active yeasts form a protrusion called “shmoo” as a prerequisite for mating. In this study, we demonstrate that pheromone-induced shmoo formation requires spermidine. In addition, we show that spermidine is essential for mating in yeast as well as for egg fertilization in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In both cases, this occurs independently from autophagy. In synthesis, we identify spermidine as an important mating component in unicellular and multicellular model organisms, supporting an unprecedented evolutionary conservation of the mechanisms governing fertilization-related cellular fusion.
Caenorhabditis elegans; spermidine; mating; fertilization; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; shmoo; autophagy; sexual reproduction
The illicit generation of tetraploid cells constitutes a prominent driver of oncogenesis, as it often precedes the development of aneuploidy and genomic instability. In addition, tetraploid (pre-)malignant cells display an elevated resistance against radio- and chemotherapy. Here, we report a strategy to preferentially kill tetraploid tumor cells based on the broad-spectrum kinase inhibitor SP600125. Live videomicroscopy revealed that SP600125 affects the execution of mitosis, impedes proper cell division and/or activates apoptosis in near-to-tetraploid, though less so in parental, cancer cells. We propose a novel graphical model to quantify the differential response of diploid and tetraploid cells to mitotic perturbators, including SP600125, which we baptized “transgenerational cell fate profiling.” We speculate that this representation constitutes a valid alternative to classical “single-cell fate” and “genealogical” profiling and, hence, may facilitate the analysis of cell fate within a heterogeneous population as well as the visual examination of cell cycle alterations.
cell death; cytokinesis failure; mitotic catastrophe; microtubules; polyploidy; time-lapse microscopy
One of the driving forces of oncogenesis is tetraploidy, a duplication of the DNA content that, upon asymmetric cell division or progressive chromosome loss, can originate aneuploidy. Recent findings from our group indicate the existence of an immunosurveillance system that eliminates tetraploid cancer cells. We surmise that tetraploidy-inducing chemotherapeutic agents may elicit potent anticancer responses by re-activating this immunosurveillance system.
breast carcinoma; calreticulin; HMGB1; hyperploidy; immunogenic cell death; mitotic catastrophe
During the past 20 years, dozens—if not hundreds—of monoclonal antibodies have been developed and characterized for their capacity to mediate antineoplastic effects, either as they activate/enhance tumor-specific immune responses, either as they interrupt cancer cell-intrinsic signal transduction cascades, either as they specifically delivery toxins to malignant cells or as they block the tumor-stroma interaction. Such an intense research effort has lead to the approval by FDA of no less than 14 distinct molecules for use in humans affected by hematological or solid malignancies. In the inaugural issue of OncoImmunology, we briefly described the scientific rationale behind the use of monoclonal antibodies in cancer therapy and discussed recent, ongoing clinical studies investigating the safety and efficacy of this approach in patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this exciting area of clinical research, focusing on high impact studies that have been published during the last 15 months and clinical trials launched in the same period to investigate the therapeutic profile of promising, yet hitherto investigational, monoclonal antibodies.
bevacizumab; dalotuzumab; ipilimumab; nimotuzumab; ramucirumab; trastuzumab
CTLA4; ipilimumab; L-BLP25; mucin 1; non-small cell lung carcinoma; PD1
Prophylactic vaccination constitutes one of the most prominent medical achievements of history. This concept was first demonstrated by the pioneer work of Edward Jenner, dating back to the late 1790s, after which an array of preparations that confer life-long protective immunity against several infectious agents has been developed. The ensuing implementation of nation-wide vaccination programs has de facto abated the incidence of dreadful diseases including rabies, typhoid, cholera and many others. Among all, the most impressive result of vaccination campaigns is surely represented by the eradication of natural smallpox infection, which was definitively certified by the WHO in 1980. The idea of employing vaccines as anticancer interventions was first theorized in the 1890s by Paul Ehrlich and William Coley. However, it soon became clear that while vaccination could be efficiently employed as a preventive measure against infectious agents, anticancer vaccines would have to (1) operate as therapeutic, rather than preventive, interventions (at least in the vast majority of settings), and (2) circumvent the fact that tumor cells often fail to elicit immune responses. During the past 30 y, along with the recognition that the immune system is not irresponsive to tumors (as it was initially thought) and that malignant cells express tumor-associated antigens whereby they can be discriminated from normal cells, considerable efforts have been dedicated to the development of anticancer vaccines. Some of these approaches, encompassing cell-based, DNA-based and purified component-based preparations, have already been shown to exert conspicuous anticancer effects in cohorts of patients affected by both hematological and solid malignancies. In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating purified peptides or full-length proteins as therapeutic interventions against cancer.
EGFR; MAGE-A3; NY-ESO-1; p53; RAS; WT1
Retrospective clinical data indicate that cardiac glycosides (CGs), notably digoxin, prolong the survival of carcinoma patients treated with conventional chemotherapy. CGs are known to influence the immune response at multiple levels. In addition, recent results suggest that CGs trigger the immunogenic demise of cancer cells, an effect that most likely contributes to their clinical anticancer activity.
calreticulin; digitoxin; digoxin; HMGB1; immunogenic cell death; Na+/K+ ATPase
The study of autophagy is rapidly expanding, and our knowledge of the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. The vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. In fact, it is difficult for readers—even those who work in the field—to keep up with the ever-expanding terminology associated with the various autophagy-related processes. Accordingly, we have developed a comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related terms that is meant to provide a quick reference for researchers who need a brief reminder of the regulatory effects of transcription factors and chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, and the roles of accessory components and structures that are associated with autophagy.
autophagy; lysosome; mitophagy; pexophagy; stress; vacuole
Erlotinib was originally developed as an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-specific inhibitor for the treatment of solid malignancies, yet also exerts significant EGFR-independent antileukemic effects in vitro and in vivo. The molecular mechanisms underlying the clinical antileukemic activity of erlotinib as a standalone agent have not yet been precisely elucidated. Conversely, in preclinical settings, erlotinib has been shown to inhibit the constitutive activation of SRC kinases and mTOR, as well as to synergize with the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor azacytidine (a reference therapeutic for a subset of leukemia patients) by promoting its intracellular accumulation. Here, we show that both erlotinib and gefitinib (another EGFR inhibitor) inhibit transmembrane transporters of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) family, including P-glycoprotein (P-gp), multidrug resistance-associated proteins (MRPs) and breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP), also in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells that do not overexpress these pumps. Thus, inhibition of drug efflux by erlotinib and gefitinib selectively exacerbated (in a synergistic or additive fashion) the cytotoxic response of KG-1 cells to chemotherapeutic agents that are normally extruded by ABC transporters (e.g., doxorubicin and etoposide). Erlotinib limited drug export via ABC transporters by multiple mechanisms, including the downregulation of surface-exposed pumps and the modulation of their ATPase activity. The effects of erlotinib on drug efflux and its chemosensitization profile persisted in patient-derived CD34+ cells, suggesting that erlotinib might be particularly efficient in antagonizing leukemic (stem cell) subpopulations, irrespective of whether they exhibit or not increased drug efflux via ABC transporters.
calcein; cytarabine; DiOC2(3); KO-143; MK-571; verapamil; VP16
Tumors have developed multiple immunosuppressive mechanisms to turn down the innate and the effector arms of the immune system, thus compromising most of the immunotherapeutic strategies that have been proposed during the last decade. Right after the pioneering success of Ipilimumab (anti-CTLA4) in metastatic melanoma, several groups have conducted trials aiming at subverting other immune checkpoints. Two articles that recently appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.1,2 highlight the therapeutic potential of agents that target PD-1 or its ligand PD-L1 in patients with advanced cancer, even individuals with lung or brain metastases. If confirmed, this clinical breakthrough will open novel avenues for cancer immunotherapy.
Solid tumors are constituted of a variety of cellular components, including bona fide malignant cells as well as endothelial, structural and immune cells. On one hand, the tumor stroma exerts major pro-tumorigenic and immunosuppressive functions, reflecting the capacity of cancer cells to shape the microenvironment to satisfy their own metabolic and immunological needs. On the other hand, there is a component of tumor-infiltrating leucocytes (TILs) that has been specifically recruited in the attempt to control tumor growth. Along with the recognition of the critical role played by the immune system in oncogenesis, tumor progression and response to therapy, increasing attention has been attracted by the potential prognostic and/or predictive role of the immune infiltrate in this setting. Data from large clinical studies demonstrate indeed that a robust infiltration of neoplastic lesions by specific immune cell populations, including (but not limited to) CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes, Th1 and Th17 CD4+ T cells, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and M1 macrophages constitutes an independent prognostic indicator in several types of cancer. Conversely, high levels of intratumoral CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ regulatory T cells, Th2 CD4+ T cells, myeloid-derived suppressor cells, M2 macrophages and neutrophils have frequently been associated with dismal prognosis. So far, only a few studies have addressed the true predictive potential of TILs in cancer patients, generally comforting the notion that—at least in some clinical settings—the immune infiltrate can reliably predict if a specific patient will respond to therapy or not. In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating the prognostic and predictive value of the immune infiltrate in the context of solid malignancies.
biomarker; chemotherapy; cytokines; interferon γ; interleukin-10; plasmacytoid dendritic cells; transforming growth factor
The aim of this study was to evaluate the long-term effects of lithium treatment on neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, inflammation, and neural stem/progenitor cell (NSPC) proliferation and survival. Nine-day-old male rats were subjected to unilateral hypoxia-ischemia (HI) and 2 mmol/kg lithium chloride was injected intraperitoneally immediately after the insult. Additional lithium injections, 1 mmol/kg, were administered at 24-hour intervals for 7 days. Animals were killed 6, 24, 72 hours, or 7 weeks after HI. Lithium reduced total tissue loss by 69%, from 89.4±14.6 mm3 in controls (n=15) to 27.6±6.2 mm3 in lithium-treated animals (n=14) 7 weeks after HI (P<0.001). Microglia activation was inhibited by lithium treatment, as judged by Iba-1 and galectin-3 immunostaining, and reduced interleukin-1β and CCL2 levels. Lithium increased progenitor, rather than stem cell, proliferation in both nonischemic and ischemic brains, as judged by 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine labeling 24 and 72 hours as well as by phospho-histone H3 and brain lipid-binding protein labeling 7 weeks after HI. Lithium treatment also promoted survival of newborn NSPCs, without altering the relative levels of neuronal and astroglial differentiation. In summary, lithium conferred impressive, morphological long-term protection against neonatal HI, at least partly by inhibiting inflammation and promoting NSPC proliferation and survival.
asphyxia; inflammation; microglia; neurogenesis; stem cell
Dendritic cells (DCs) occupy a central position in the immune system, orchestrating a wide repertoire of responses that span from the development of self-tolerance to the elicitation of potent cellular and humoral immunity. Accordingly, DCs are involved in the etiology of conditions as diverse as infectious diseases, allergic and autoimmune disorders, graft rejection and cancer. During the last decade, several methods have been developed to load DCs with tumor-associated antigens, ex vivo or in vivo, in the attempt to use them as therapeutic anticancer vaccines that would elicit clinically relevant immune responses. While this has not always been the case, several clinical studies have demonstrated that DC-based anticancer vaccines are capable of activating tumor-specific immune responses that increase overall survival, at least in a subset of patients. In 2010, this branch of clinical research has culminated with the approval by FDA of a DC-based therapeutic vaccine (sipuleucel-T, Provenge®) for use in patients with asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer. Intense research efforts are currently dedicated to the identification of the immunological features of patients that best respond to DC-based anticancer vaccines. This knowledge may indeed lead to personalized combination strategies that would extend the benefit of DC-based immunotherapy to a larger patient population. In addition, widespread enthusiasm has been generated by the results of the first clinical trials based on in vivo DC targeting, an approach that holds great promises for the future of DC-based immunotherapy. In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of recently completed clinical trials and discuss the progress of ongoing studies that have evaluated/are evaluating DC-based interventions for cancer therapy.
CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes; Provenge®; Toll-like receptors; antigen-presenting cells; immunotherapy; pulsed dendritic cells
Neither the molecular mechanisms whereby cancer cells intrinsically are or become resistant to the DNA-damaging agent cisplatin nor the signaling pathways that account for cisplatin cytotoxicity have thus far been characterized in detail. In an attempt to gain further insights into the molecular cascades elicited by cisplatin (leading to resistance or underpinning its antineoplastic properties), we comparatively investigated the ability of cisplatin, C2-ceramide and cadmium dichloride, alone or in the presence of an array of mitochondrion-protective agents, to trigger the permeabilization of purified mitochondria. In addition, we compared the transcriptional response triggered by cisplatin, C2-ceramide and cadmium dichloride in non-small cell lung carcinoma A549 cells. Finally, we assessed the capacity of cisplatin, C2-ceramide and cadmium dichloride to reduce the clonogenic potential of a battery of yeast strains lacking proteins involved in the regulation of cell death, DNA damage signaling and stress management. This multipronged experimental approach revealed that cisplatin elicits signaling pathways that are for the most part “private,” i.e., that manifest limited overlap with the molecular cascades ignited by other inducers of mitochondrial apoptosis, and triggers apoptosis mainly in a transcription-independent fashion. Indeed, bona fide cisplatin-response modifiers that we have recently identified by a functional genome-wide siRNA screen are either not transcriptionally regulated during cisplatin-induced cell death or their transcriptional modulation reflects the activation of an adaptive response promoting cisplatin resistance
N-acetyl-cysteine; autophagy; bongkrekic acid; cyclosporine A; glutathione; large-amplitude swelling
aneuploidy; depolyploidization; tetraploidy; oncogenesis; polyploidy
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an extremely deadly disease for which all treatments available have failed to improve life expectancy significantly. This may be explained by the high metastatic potential of PDAC cells, which results from their dedifferentiation towards a mesenchymal phenotype. Some PDAC present cell-in-cell structures whose origin and significance are currently unknown. We show here that cell-in-cells form after homotypic cell cannibalism (HoCC). We found PDAC patients whose tumours display HoCC develop less metastasis than those without. In vitro, HoCC was promoted by inactivation of the nuclear protein 1 (Nupr1), and was enhanced by treatment with transforming growth factor β. HoCC ends with death of PDAC cells, consistent with a metastasis suppressor role for this phenomenon. Hence, our data indicates a protective role for HoCC in PDAC and identifies Nupr1 as a molecular regulator of this process.
cell cannibalism; metastasis; Nupr1; pancreatic cancer; TGFβ
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have first been characterized for their capacity to detect conserved microbial components like lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and double-stranded RNA, resulting in the elicitation of potent (innate) immune responses against invading pathogens. More recently, TLRs have also been shown to promote the activation of the cognate immune system against cancer cells. Today, only three TLR agonists are approved by FDA for use in humans: the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL) and imiquimod. BCG (an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis) is mainly used as a vaccine against tuberculosis, but also for the immunotherapy of in situ bladder carcinoma. MPL (derived from the LPS of Salmonella minnesota) is included in the formulation of Cervarix®, a vaccine against human papillomavirus-16 and -18. Imiquimod (a synthetic imidazoquinoline) is routinely employed for actinic keratosis, superficial basal cell carcinoma, and external genital warts (condylomata acuminata). In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of recently completed clinical trials and discuss the progress of ongoing studies that have evaluated/are evaluating FDA-approved TLR agonists as off-label medications for cancer therapy.
Coley’s toxin; HPV; MyD88; Mycobacterium bovis; dsRNA; resiquimod
Human cancers carry hundreds of non-synonymous mutations, several dozens among which may lead to the generation of tumor-specific MHC Class I-restricted epitopes. Hence every patient’s tumor harbors a highly specific mutational and antigenic signature and up to 95% of these mutations are unique. This “mutanome” can be identified by deep sequencing and can be subjected to systematic analyses of the immunogenicity of mutated proteins/peptides. We anticipate that this approach will lead to individualized immunotherapies by means of tailored vaccines.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are prototypic pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) best known for their ability to activate the innate immune system in response to conserved microbial components such as lipopolysaccharide and double-stranded RNA. Accumulating evidence indicates that the function of TLRs is not restricted to the elicitation of innate immune responses against invading pathogens. TLRs have indeed been shown to participate in tissue repair and injury-induced regeneration as well as in adaptive immune responses against cancer. In particular, TLR4 signaling appears to be required for the efficient processing and cross-presentation of cell-associated tumor antigens by dendritic cells, which de facto underlie optimal therapeutic responses to some anticancer drugs. Thus, TLRs constitute prominent therapeutic targets for the activation/intensification of anticancer immune responses. In line with this notion, long-used preparations such as the Coley toxin (a mixture of killed Streptococcus pyogenes and Serratia marcescens bacteria) and the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG, an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis originally developed as a vaccine against tuberculosis), both of which have been associated with consistent anticancer responses, potently activate TLR2 and TLR4 signaling. Today, besides BCG, only one TLR agonist is FDA-approved for therapeutic use in cancer patients: imiquimod. In this Trial Watch, we will briefly present the role of TLRs in innate and cognate immunity and discuss the progress of clinical studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of experimental TLR agonists as immunostimulatory agents for oncological indications.
agatolimod; CpG-7909; MYD88; resiquimod; TRIF; VTX-2337
Alterations of mitochondrial functions are linked to multiple degenerative or acute diseases. As mitochondria age in our cells, they become progressively inefficient and potentially toxic, and acute damage can trigger the permeabilization of mitochondrial membranes to initiate apoptosis or necrosis. Moreover, mitochondria have an important role in pro-inflammatory signaling. Autophagic turnover of cellular constituents, be it general or specific for mitochondria (mitophagy), eliminates dysfunctional or damaged mitochondria, thus counteracting degeneration, dampening inflammation, and preventing unwarranted cell loss. Decreased expression of genes that regulate autophagy or mitophagy can cause degenerative diseases in which deficient quality control results in inflammation and the death of cell populations. Thus, a combination of mitochondrial dysfunction and insufficient autophagy may contribute to multiple aging-associated pathologies.
Radiotherapy applies ionizing irradiation to selected areas of the body with the scope of destroying cancer cells, either as part of curative therapies to remove a primary malignant tumor and to prevent tumor recurrence after surgery, or as part of palliative measures to avoid local advancement of bone and brain metastases. Intriguingly, radiotherapy does not only have local effects but may lead to the delayed regression of distant non-irradiated lesions. Most likely, these “abscopal” effects are mediated by the immune system.