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1.  FGFR1 and NTRK3 actionable alterations in “Wild-Type” gastrointestinal stromal tumors 
About 10–15% of adult, and most pediatric, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) lack mutations in KIT, PDGFRA, SDHx, or RAS pathway components (KRAS, BRAF, NF1). The identification of additional mutated genes in this rare subset of tumors can have important clinical benefit to identify altered biological pathways and select targeted therapies.
We performed comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) for coding regions in more than 300 cancer-related genes of 186 GISTs to assess for their somatic alterations.
We identified 24 GIST lacking alterations in the canonical KIT/PDGFRA/RAS pathways, including 12 without SDHx alterations. These 24 patients were mostly adults (96%). The tumors had a 46% rate of nodal metastases. These 24 GIST were more commonly mutated at 7 genes: ARID1B, ATR, FGFR1, LTK, SUFU, PARK2 and ZNF217. Two tumors harbored FGFR1 gene fusions (FGFR1–HOOK3, FGFR1–TACC1) and one harbored an ETV6–NTRK3 fusion that responded to TRK inhibition. In an independent sample set, we identified 5 GIST cases lacking alterations in the KIT/PDGFRA/SDHx/RAS pathways, including two additional cases with FGFR1–TACC1 and ETV6–NTRK3 fusions.
Using patient demographics, tumor characteristics, and CGP, we show that GIST lacking alterations in canonical genes occur in younger patients, frequently metastasize to lymph nodes, and most contain deleterious genomic alterations, including gene fusions involving FGFR1 and NTRK3. If confirmed in larger series, routine testing for these translocations may be indicated for this subset of GIST. Moreover, these findings can be used to guide personalized treatments for patients with GIST.
Trial registration NCT 02576431. Registered October 12, 2015
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1075-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5157084  PMID: 27974047
Gene sequencing; Mutation; GIST; FGFR1; ETV6–NTRK3
2.  MET abnormalities in patients with genitourinary malignancies and outcomes with c-MET inhibitors 
Clinical genitourinary cancer  2014;13(1):e19-e26.
To determine the prevalence of MET amplification and mutation among genitourinary (GU) malignancies and its association with clinical factors and responses to c-MET inhibitors.
Patients with genitourinary (GU) malignancies referred to the Phase I Clinic were evaluated for MET mutation and amplification and outcomes on protocols with c-MET inhibitors.
MET amplification was found in 7 of 97 (7.2%) patients (4/27 renal [all clear cell], 1/18 urothelial and 2/12 adrenocortical carcinoma), with MET mutation/variant in 3 of 54 (5.6%) (2/20 RCC [1 clear cell and 1 papillary] and 1/16 prostate cancer). No demographic characteristics were associated with specific MET abnormalities, but patients testing positive for mutation or amplification had more metastatic sites (median, 4 vs. 3 for wild-type MET). Median overall survival after phase I consultation was 6.1 and 11.5 months for patients with and without a MET alteration, respectively (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.8; 95% CI, 1.1 to 6.9; P=.034). Twenty-nine (25%) patients were treated on a c-MET inhibitor protocol. Six (21%) had a partial response (prostate and RCC) and 10 (34%) had stable disease as best response. Median time to tumor progression was 2.3 months (0.4 – 19.7) for all treated patients with no responses in patients with a MET abnormality or single-agent c-MET inhibitor treatment.
MET genetic abnormalities occur in diverse GU malignancies and are associated with a worse prognosis in a phase I setting. Efficacy of c-MET inhibitors was more pronounced in patients without MET abnormalities and when combined with other targets/drugs.
Graphical abstract
MET mutation and/or amplification can be found in diverse GU malignancies, and is potentially targetable. We explored the prevalence of MET abnormalities and its association with demographics and targeted therapy response in patients with GU tumors. We found that patients with a MET alteration present poor survival in a phase I setting. Although c-MET inhibitors showed activity, efficacy of these drugs was more pronounced when combined with other targets and in the absence of MET alterations.
PMCID: PMC5144738  PMID: 25087088
bladder cancer; c-MET inhibitor; MET mutation; MET amplification; prostate cancer; renal cell cancer
3.  Metastatic basal cell carcinoma with amplification of PD-L1: exceptional response to anti-PD1 therapy 
NPJ genomic medicine  2016;1:16037.
Metastatic basal cell carcinomas are rare malignancies harbouring Hedgehog pathway alterations targetable by SMO antagonists (vismodegib/sonidegib). We describe, for the first time, the molecular genetics and response of a patient with Hedgehog inhibitor-resistant metastatic basal cell carcinoma who achieved rapid tumour regression (ongoing near complete remission at 4 months) with nivolumab (anti-PD1 antibody). He had multiple hallmarks of anti-PD1 responsiveness including high mutational burden (> 50 mutations per megabase; 19 functional alterations in tissue next-generation sequencing (NGS; 315 genes)) as well as PDL1/PDL2/JAK2 amplification (as determined by both tissue NGS and by analysis of plasma-derived cell-free DNA). The latter was performed using technology originally developed for the genome-wide detection of sub-chromosomal copy-number alterations (CNAs) in noninvasive prenatal testing and showed numerous CNAs including amplification of the 9p24.3-9p22.2 region containing PD-L1, PD-L2 and JAK2. Of interest, PD-L1, PD-L2 and JAK2 amplification is a characteristic of Hodgkin lymphoma, which is exquisitely sensitive to nivolumab. In conclusion, selected SMO antagonist-resistant metastatic basal cell carcinomas may respond to nivolumab based on underlying molecular genetic mechanisms that include PD-L1 amplification and high tumour mutational burden.
PMCID: PMC5142752  PMID: 27942391
4.  Combined BRAF and MEK Inhibition With Dabrafenib and Trametinib in BRAF V600–Mutant Colorectal Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2015;33(34):4023-4031.
To evaluate dabrafenib, a selective BRAF inhibitor, combined with trametinib, a selective MEK inhibitor, in patients with BRAF V600–mutant metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).
Patients and Methods
A total of 43 patients with BRAF V600–mutant mCRC were treated with dabrafenib (150 mg twice daily) plus trametinib (2 mg daily), 17 of whom were enrolled onto a pharmacodynamic cohort undergoing mandatory biopsies before and during treatment. Archival tissues were analyzed for microsatellite instability, PTEN status, and 487-gene sequencing. Patient-derived xenografts were established from core biopsy samples.
Of 43 patients, five (12%) achieved a partial response or better, including one (2%) complete response, with duration of response > 36 months; 24 patients (56%) achieved stable disease as best confirmed response. Ten patients (23%) remained in the study > 6 months. All nine evaluable during-treatment biopsies had reduced levels of phosphorylated ERK relative to pretreatment biopsies (average decrease ± standard deviation, 47% ± 24%). Mutational analysis revealed that the patient achieving a complete response and two of three evaluable patients achieving a partial response had PIK3CA mutations. Neither PTEN loss nor microsatellite instability correlated with efficacy. Responses to dabrafenib plus trametinib were comparable in patient-derived xenograft–bearing mice and the biopsied lesions from each corresponding patient.
The combination of dabrafenib plus trametinib has activity in a subset of patients with BRAF V600–mutant mCRC. Mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling was inhibited in all patients evaluated, but to a lesser degree than observed in BRAF-mutant melanoma with dabrafenib alone. PIK3CA mutations were identified in responding patients and thus do not preclude response to this regimen. Additional studies targeting the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in this disease are warranted.
PMCID: PMC4669588  PMID: 26392102
5.  Impact of Precision Medicine in Diverse Cancers: A Meta-Analysis of Phase II Clinical Trials 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2015;33(32):3817-3825.
The impact of a personalized cancer treatment strategy (ie, matching patients with drugs based on specific biomarkers) is still a matter of debate.
We reviewed phase II single-agent studies (570 studies; 32,149 patients) published between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2012 (PubMed search). Response rate (RR), progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS) were compared for arms that used a personalized strategy versus those that did not.
Multivariable analysis (both weighted multiple linear regression and random effects meta-regression) demonstrated that the personalized approach, compared with a nonpersonalized approach, consistently and independently correlated with higher median RR (31% v 10.5%, respectively; P < .001) and prolonged median PFS (5.9 v 2.7 months, respectively; P < .001) and OS (13.7 v 8.9 months, respectively; P < .001). Nonpersonalized targeted arms had poorer outcomes compared with either personalized targeted therapy or cytotoxics, with median RR of 4%, 30%, and 11.9%, respectively; median PFS of 2.6, 6.9, and 3.3 months, respectively (all P < .001); and median OS of 8.7, 15.9, and 9.4 months, respectively (all P < .05). Personalized arms using a genomic biomarker had higher median RR and prolonged median PFS and OS (all P ≤ .05) compared with personalized arms using a protein biomarker. A personalized strategy was associated with a lower treatment-related death rate than a nonpersonalized strategy (median, 1.5% v 2.3%, respectively; P < .001).
Comprehensive analysis of phase II, single-agent arms revealed that, across malignancies, a personalized strategy was an independent predictor of better outcomes and fewer toxic deaths. In addition, nonpersonalized targeted therapies were associated with significantly poorer outcomes than cytotoxic agents, which in turn were worse than personalized targeted therapy.
PMCID: PMC4737863  PMID: 26304871
6.  Dosing targeted and cytotoxic two‐drug combinations: Lessons learned from analysis of 24,326 patients reported 2010 through 2013 
International Journal of Cancer  2016;139(9):2135-2141.
Combining agents has the potential to attenuate resistance in metastatic cancer. However, knowledge of appropriate starting doses for novel drug combinations in clinical trials and practice is lacking. Analysis of 372 published studies was used to ascertain safe starting doses for doublets involving a cytotoxic and targeted agent. Phase I–III adult oncology clinical trial publications (January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2013) were identified (PubMed). The dose of drug used in each combination was compared to the single agent recommended dose [FDA‐approved/recommended phase 2 dose (RP2D)/maximum tolerated dose (MTD)]. Dose percentages were calculated as: (safe dose of drug in combination/dose of drug as single agent at FDA/RP2D/MTD) × 100. Additive dose percentages were the sum of the dose percentage for each drug. A total of 24,326 patients (248 drug combinations) were analyzed. In 38% of studies, both drugs could be administered at 100% of their FDA‐approved/RP2D/MTD dose. The lowest safe additive dose percentage was 41% with poly‐ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) or histone deacetylase inhibitors as the targeted agents; 82%, in the absence of these agents; and 97%, with an antibody in the combination. If one drug was administered at 100% of the single agent dose, the lowest safe dose percentage for the second drug was 17% (cytotoxic at 100%) or 36% (targeted at 100%) of the FDA‐approved/RP2D/MTD dose. The current findings can help inform safe starting doses for novel two‐drug combinations (cytotoxic and targeted agents) in the context of clinical trials and practice.
What's new?
Cytotoxic and targeted cancer drugs act through distinct mechanisms, and when used in combination they can potentially augment therapeutic effectiveness while minimally impacting toxicity. However, whereas algorithms for safe starting doses for new single‐agent therapies are well established, there are few guidelines for combination therapies. Here, analyses of data from published Phase I–III clinical trials shows that about 38% of patients tolerated combinations in which both drugs were administered at full starting doses. In the majority of patients, significant dose reductions were required to guard against toxicity. Intrapatient dose escalation is possible, however, potentially allowing for increased efficacy.
PMCID: PMC5096042  PMID: 27389805
targeted therapy; cytotoxic chemotherapy; maximum tolerated dose; recommended Phase 2 dose; precision medicine
7.  Phase I dose-escalation study of the multikinase inhibitor lenvatinib in patients with advanced solid tumors and in an expanded cohort of patients with melanoma 
This “3+3” phase I study evaluated the safety, biologic, and clinical activity of lenvatinib, an oral multikinase inhibitor, in patients with solid tumors.
Experimental Design
Ascending doses of lenvatinib were administered po bid in 28-day cycles. Safety and response were assessed for all patients. Angiogenic and apoptotic factors were tested as possible biomarkers in an expanded melanoma cohort.
Seventy-seven patients were treated in 3 cohorts: 18 with intermittent bid dosing (7 days on, 7 days off) of 0.1–3.2 mg; 33 with bid dosing of 3.2–12 mg; and 26 with bid dosing of 10 mg (expanded melanoma cohort). Maximum tolerated dose was established at 10 mg po bid. Prominent drug-related toxicities included hypertension (43%), fatigue (42%), proteinuria (39%), and nausea (25%); dose-limiting toxicities included hypertension, fatigue, and proteinuria. Twelve patients (15.6%) achieved partial response (PR, n=9) or unconfirmed PR (uPR, n=3), and 19 (24.7%) achieved stable disease (SD) ≥23 weeks. Total PR/uPR/SD≥23 weeks was 40.3% (n=31). Responses (PR/uPR) by disease were: melanoma, 5/29 patients (includes 1 patient with NRAS mutation); thyroid, 3/6; pancreatic, 1/2; lung, 1/1; renal, 1/1; endometrial, 1/4; and ovarian, 1/5. AUC0-24 and Cmax increased dose-proportionally. In multivariate Cox proportional hazard model analyses, increased baseline systolic blood pressure and decreased angiopoietin-1 ratio (2 hours:baseline) were associated with longer progression-free survival (PFS) in the expanded melanoma cohort (P=0.041 and P=0.03, respectively).
The toxicity profile, pharmacokinetics, and antitumor activity of lenvatinib are encouraging. Decreases in the angiopoietin-1 ratio correlated with longer PFS in melanoma patients.
PMCID: PMC4840931  PMID: 26169970
lenvatinib; melanoma; pharmacodynamic; phase I; advanced solid tumors; E7080; thyroid cancer; VEGFR; FGFR; PDGFR; RET; KIT
8.  Impact of a Biomarker-Based Strategy on Oncology Drug Development: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials Leading to FDA Approval 
In order to ascertain the impact of a biomarker-based (personalized) strategy, we compared outcomes between US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved cancer treatments that were studied with and without such a selection rationale.
Anticancer agents newly approved (September 1998 to June 2013) were identified at the Drugs@FDA website. Efficacy, treatment-related mortality, and hazard ratios (HRs) for time-to-event endpoints were analyzed and compared in registration trials for these agents. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Fifty-eight drugs were included (leading to 57 randomized [32% personalized] and 55 nonrandomized trials [47% personalized], n = 38 104 patients). Trials adopting a personalized strategy more often included targeted (100% vs 65%, P < .001), oral (68% vs 35%, P = .001), and single agents (89% vs 71%, P = .04) and more frequently permitted crossover to experimental treatment (67% vs 28%, P = .009). In randomized registration trials (using a random-effects meta-analysis), personalized therapy arms were associated with higher relative response rate ratios (RRRs, compared with their corresponding control arms) (RRRs = 3.82, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.51 to 5.82, vs RRRs = 2.08, 95% CI = 1.76 to 2.47, adjusted P = .03), longer PFS (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.33 to 0.51, vs HR = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.53 to 0.65, adjusted P < .001) and a non-statistically significantly longer OS (HR = 0.71, 95% CI = 0.61 to 0.83, vs HR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.77 to 0.85, adjusted P = .07) compared with nonpersonalized trials. Analysis of experimental arms in all 112 registration trials (randomized and nonrandomized) demonstrated that personalized therapy was associated with higher response rate (48%, 95% CI = 42% to 55%, vs 23%, 95% CI = 20% to 27%, P < .001) and longer PFS (median = 8.3, interquartile range [IQR] = 5 vs 5.5 months, IQR = 5, adjusted P = .002) and OS (median = 19.3, IQR = 17 vs 13.5 months, IQR = 8, Adjusted P = .04). A personalized strategy was an independent predictor of better RR, PFS, and OS, as demonstrated by multilinear regression analysis. Treatment-related mortality rate was similar for personalized and nonpersonalized trials.
A biomarker-based approach was safe and associated with improved efficacy outcomes in FDA-approved anticancer agents.
PMCID: PMC4857149  PMID: 26378224
9.  Novel phase I study combining G1 phase, S phase, and G2/M phase cell cycle inhibitors in patients with advanced malignancies 
Cell Cycle  2015;14(21):3434-3440.
PURPOSE: Cancer is a manifestation of aberrant cellular proliferation, and the cell cycle is one of the most successfully drugged targets in oncology. No prior study has been reported that simultaneously targets the 3 principal cell cycle phases populated by proliferating cells - G1, S, and G2/M.
METHODS: Temsirolimus (G1 inhibitor), topotecan (S inhibitor), and bortezomib (G2/M inhibitor) were administered in combination to patients with advanced malignancies using a 3+3 dose escalation schedule to assess the safety and establish the maximum tolerated dose (primary endpoints) of this cell cycle targeting approach. An in silico pharmacodynamic model using established effects of each of these agents on the cell cycle was used to validate the regimen and to guide the dosing regimen.
RESULTS: Sixty-two subjects were enrolled. The most common adverse events and dose-limiting toxicities were cytopenias, consistent with the cell cycle targeting approach employed. All cytopenias resolved to baseline values upon holding study drug administration. The maximum tolerated dose was temsirolimus 15 mg/kg IV D1, 8, 15; topotecan 2.8 mg/m2 IV D1, 8; and bortezomib 0.9 mg/m2 IV D1, 4, 8, 11 of a 21-day cycle. In silico modeling suggests the regimen induces cell population shifts from G2/M and S phases to G1 phase and the quiescent G0 phase. Eighteen percent of subjects (11/62) achieved partial response (n = 2, serous ovarian and papillary thyroid) or stable disease for > 6 months (n = 9).
CONCLUSION: Combining drugs with inhibitory activity of G1 phase, S phase, and G2/M phase is safe and warrants further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC4825574  PMID: 26467427
bortezomib; cell cycle; oncology; phase I; pharmacodynamics; temsirolimus; topotecan
10.  The National Clinical Trials Network: Conducting Successful Clinical Trials of New Therapies for Rare Cancers 
Seminars in oncology  2015;42(5):731-739.
Rare cancers account for 27% of neoplasms diagnosed each year, and 25% of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, rare cancers show some of the highest response rates to targeted therapies, probably due to identification of oncogenic drivers with little inter-patient variability. Although the low incidence of rare cancers make large scale randomized trials involving single histologies difficult to perform, drugs have been successfully developed in rare cancers utilizing clinical trial designs that combine microscopic anatomies. Such trials are being pursued within the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), which possesses unique qualifications to perform widespread molecular screening of tumors for patient enrollment onto therapeutic clinical trials. When larger clinical trials are needed to determine optimum treatment strategies in rare cancers, the NCTN's broad reach in North America and internationally, and ability to partner with both US-based and international research organizations, can make these challenging studies feasible.
PMCID: PMC4673983  PMID: 26433554
11.  A Phase 1 Dose-Escalation, Pharmacokinetic, and Pharmacodynamic Evaluation of eIF-4E Antisense Oligonucleotide LY2275796 in Patients with Advanced Cancer 
The antisense oligonucleotide, LY2275796, blocks expression of eIF-4E, an mRNA translation regulator upregulated in tumors. This Phase I study sought an appropriate LY2275796 dose in patients with advanced tumors.
Experimental Design
A 3-day loading dose, then weekly maintenance doses, were given to 1–3 patient cohorts, beginning with 100 mg and escalating. Plasma samples were collected to determine LY2275796 concentrations; tumor biopsies, to quantify eIF-4E mRNA/protein.
Thirty patients with Stage 4 disease received ≥1 LY2275796 dose. A dose-limiting toxicity was observed at 1200 mg, with 1000 mg the maximum-tolerated dose. Across all dose levels, most patients (87%) had only grade 1–2 toxicities. LY2275796 pharmacokinetics supported the dosing regimen. Comparison of pre- and post-dose biopsies showed eIF-4E decreased in most patients. Fifteen patients had progressive disease, and seven patients achieved stable disease (minimum of 6 weeks) as best response, with two patients on therapy >3 months (one with melanoma, one with cystadenocarcinoma of the head/neck).
LY2275796 was well tolerated up to 1000 mg. Since tumor eIF-4E expression was decreased, but no tumor response observed, LY2275796 should be studied combined with other treatment modalities.
PMCID: PMC5036398  PMID: 21831956
eIF-4E; antisense oligonucleotide; LY2275796; pharmacokinetic; pharmacodynamic
12.  Dose-finding study of hepatic arterial infusion of irinotecan-based treatment in patients with advanced cancers metastatic to the liver 
Investigational new drugs  2015;33(4):911-920.
Liver metastases are associated with a poor prognosis. We investigated the use of hepatic arterial infusion (HAI) of irinotecan combination therapy in patients with liver metastases.
Patients with histologically confirmed advanced cancer with liver metastases that was refractory to standard therapy were eligible. A standard “3+3” phase I study design was used to determine the dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) and the maximum tolerated dose (MTD). Three cohorts were evaluated: HAI of irinotecan with systemic intravenous (IV) (a) bevacizumab, (b) oxaliplatin and bevacizumab, or (c) bevacizumab and cetuximab.
From October 2009 through December 2013, 98 patients with various tumor types were enrolled (median age, 62 years, range, 34–85; and median number of prior therapies, 4, range, 1–11). In cohorts A and C, dose escalation continued until the highest dose level—considered the MTD—was reached. In cohort B, dose escalation continued until dose level 3, and dose level 2 was considered the MTD. Rates of grade 3/4 adverse events were as follows: diarrhea, 8%; fatigue, 4%; neutropenia, 4%; thrombocytopenia, 2%; and skin rash, 2%. Seventy-seven patients were evaluable for response. Partial response was noted in 5 (6.5%) patients (neuroendocrine cancer, n=2; CRC, n=2; NSCLC, n=1); and stable disease ≥ 6 months in 17 (22.1%) patients (CRC, n=13; breast, n=1; neuroendocrine, n=1; NSCLC, n=1; pancreatic, n=1).
HAI irinotecan in combination with bevacizumab; oxaliplatin plus bevacizumab; or cetuximab plus bevacizumab was safe and may be a treatment option for selected patients with advanced cancer and liver involvement.
PMCID: PMC4492845  PMID: 25990659
Liver metastasis; Phase I trial; Hepatic arterial infusion; UGT1A
13.  Presence of both alterations in FGFR/FGF and PI3K/AKT/mTOR confer improved outcomes for patients with metastatic breast cancer treated with PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors 
Oncoscience  2016;3(5-6):164-172.
There is limited data on co-expression of FGFR/FGR amplifications and PI3K/ AKT/mTOR alterations in breast cancer. Tumors from patients with metastatic breast cancer referred to our Phase I Program were analyzed by next generation sequencing (NGS). Genomic libraries were selected for all exons of 236 (or 182) cancer-related genes sequenced to average depth of >500× in a CLIA laboratory (Foundation Medicine, Cambridge, MA, USA) and analyzed for all classes of genomic alterations. We report genomic profiles of 112 patients with metastatic breast cancer, median age 55 years (range, 27-78). Twenty-four patients (21%) had at least one amplified FGFR or FGF. Fifteen of the 24 patients (63%) also had an alteration in the PI3K/ AKT/mTOR pathway. There was no association between alterations in FGFR/FGF and PI3K/AKT/mTOR (P=0.49). Patients with simultaneous amplification in FGFR/FGF signaling and the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway had a higher rate of SD≥6 months/PR/ CR when treated with therapies targeting the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway than patients with only alterations in the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway (73% vs. 34%; P=0.0376) and remained on treatment longer (6.8 vs. 3.7 months; P=0.053). Higher response rates were seen in patients with simultaneous amplification in FGFR/FGF signaling and alterations in the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway who were treated with inhibitors of that pathway.
PMCID: PMC4965259  PMID: 27489863
breast cancer; FGFR; next-generation sequencing; PI3K
14.  Squamousness: Next-generation sequencing reveals shared molecular features across squamous tumor types 
Cell Cycle  2015;14(14):2355-2361.
In order to gain a better understanding of the underlying biology of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), we tested the hypothesis that SCC originating from different organs may possess common molecular alterations. SCC samples (N = 361) were examined using clinical-grade targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS). The most frequent SCC tumor types were head and neck, lung, cutaneous, gastrointestinal and gynecologic cancers. The most common gene alterations were TP53 (64.5% of patients), PIK3CA (28.5%), CDKN2A (24.4%), SOX2 (17.7%), and CCND1 (15.8%). By comparing NGS results of our SCC cohort to a non-SCC cohort (N = 277), we found that CDKN2A, SOX2, NOTCH1, TP53, PIK3CA, CCND1, and FBXW7 were significantly more frequently altered, unlike KRAS, which was less frequently altered in SCC specimens (all P < 0.05; multivariable analysis). Therefore, we identified “squamousness” gene signatures (TP53, PIK3CA, CCND1, CDKN2A, SOX2, NOTCH 1, and FBXW7 aberrations, and absence of KRAS alterations) that were significantly more frequent in SCC versus non-SCC histologies. A multivariable co-alteration analysis established 2 SCC subgroups: (i) patients in whom TP53 and cyclin pathway (CDKN2A and CCND1) alterations strongly correlated but in whom PIK3CA aberrations were less frequent; and (ii) patients with PIK3CA alterations in whom TP53 mutations were less frequent (all P ≤ 0 .001, multivariable analysis). In conclusion, we identified a set of 8 genes altered with significantly different frequencies when SCC and non-SCC were compared, suggesting the existence of patterns for “squamousness.” Targeting the PI3K-AKT-mTOR and/or cyclin pathway components in SCC may be warranted.
PMCID: PMC4613537  PMID: 26030731
cancer; gene signature; next-generation sequencing; squamous; SCC
15.  Precision oncology for patients with advanced cancer: the challenges of malignant snowflakes 
Cell Cycle  2015;14(14):2219-2221.
Precision oncology implies customizing treatment to the unique molecular and biologic characteristics of each individual and their cancer. Its implementation is being facilitated by remarkable technological advances in genomic sequencing, as well as the increasing availability of targeted and immunotherapeutic drugs. Yet, next generation sequencing may be a disruptive technology in that its results suggest that classic paradigms for clinical research and practice are a poor fit with the complex reality encountered in metastatic malignancies. Indeed, it is evident that advanced tumors have heterogeneous molecular landscapes that mostly differ between patients. Traditional modes of clinical research/practice are drug centered, with a strategy of finding commonalities between patients so that they can be grouped together and treated similarly. However, if each patient with metastatic cancer has a unique molecular portfolio, a new patient-centered, N-of-one approach that utilizes individually tailored treatment is needed.
PMCID: PMC4615125  PMID: 26030337
cancer; genomics; precision oncology; targeted therapy
16.  Xilonix, a Novel True Human Antibody Targeting the Inflammatory Cytokine Interleukin-1 alpha, in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Investigational new drugs  2015;33(3):621-631.
Advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients were treated as part of a Phase I dose escalation and expansion study evaluating a true human monoclonal antibody targeting IL-1α (Xilonix), which is intended to modulate the malignant phenotype—inhibiting tumor growth, spread and offering relief of symptoms.
Sixteen NSCLC patients were included. Patients failed a median of 4 chemotherapy regimens, including 10/16 failing anti-EGFR therapy. Disease progression was evaluated using a multi-modal approach: tumor response, patient reported outcomes (EORTC-QLQC30), and lean body mass (LBM). Patients received infusions every two or three weeks until progression, and were followed 24 months to assess survival.
There were no infusion reactions, dose-limiting toxicities, or deaths due to therapy. Albeit not statistically significant, there was a trend in IL-6 (−2.6±18.5 (0.1 [−2.8-2.4]), platelet counts (−11±54 (−4[−36.0-1.0]), CRP (−3.3±30.2 (0.4 [−10.7-1.8]) and LBM (1.0±2.5 (0.4 [−0.5-2.6]). Self-reported outcomes revealed reductions in pain, fatigue and improvement in appetite. Median survival was 7.6 (IQR 4.4-11.5) months, stratification based on prior anti-EGFR therapy revealed a median survival of 9.4 months (IQR 7.6-12.5) for those pretreated (N=10) versus a survival of 4.8 months (IQR 4.3-5.7) for those without (N=6, logrank p=0.187).
Xilonix was well tolerated, with gains in LBM and improvement in symptoms suggesting a clinically important response. Although not statistically significant, the survival outcomes observed for patients with and without prior anti-EGFR therapy raises intriguing questions about the potential synergy of IL-1α blockade and anti-EGFR therapy. Further study for this agent in NSCLC is warranted.
PMCID: PMC4482235  PMID: 25822109
17.  Next generation sequencing demonstrates association between tumor suppressor gene aberrations and poor outcome in patients with cancer 
Cell Cycle  2015;14(11):1730-1737.
Next generation sequencing is transforming patient care by allowing physicians to customize and match treatment to their patients’ tumor alterations. Our goal was to study the association between key molecular alterations and outcome parameters. We evaluated the characteristics and outcomes (overall survival (OS), time to metastasis/recurrence, and best progression-free survival (PFS)) of 392 patients for whom next generation sequencing (182 or 236 genes) had been performed. The Kaplan-Meier method and Cox regression models were used for our analysis, and results were subjected to internal validation using a resampling method (bootstrap analysis). In a multivariable analysis (Cox regression model), the parameters that were statistically associated with a poorer overall survival were the presence of metastases at diagnosis (P = 0.014), gastrointestinal histology (P < 0.0001), PTEN (P < 0.0001), and CDKN2A alterations (P = 0.0001). The variables associated with a shorter time to metastases/recurrence were gastrointestinal histology (P = 0.004), APC (P = 0.008), PTEN (P = 0.026) and TP53 (P = 0.044) alterations. TP53 (P = 0.003) and PTEN (P = 0.034) alterations were independent predictors of a shorter best PFS. A personalized treatment approach (matching the molecular aberration with a cognate targeted drug) also correlated with a longer best PFS (P = 0.046). Our study demonstrated that, across diverse cancers, anomalies in specific tumor suppressor genes (PTEN, CDKN2A, APC, and/or TP53) were independently associated with a worse outcome, as reflected by time to metastases/recurrence, best PFS on treatment, and/or overall survival. These observations suggest that molecular diagnostic tests may provide important prognostic information in patients with cancer.
PMCID: PMC4614790  PMID: 25928476
APC; cancer; CDKN2A; next-generation sequencing; patient's outcome; PTEN; tumor suppressor; TP53
18.  Advanced malignancies treated with a combination of the VEGF inhibitor bevacizumab, anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab, and the mTOR inhibitor temsirolimus 
Oncotarget  2016;7(17):23227-23238.
Bevacizumab and temsirolimus are active agents in advanced solid tumors. Temsirolimus inhibits mTOR in the PI3 kinase/AKT/mTOR pathway as well as CYP2A, which may be a resistance mechanism for cetuximab. In addition, temsirolimus attenuates upregulation of HIF-1α levels, which may be a resistance mechanism for bevacizumab.
The median age of patients was 60 years (range, 23-80 years). The median number of prior systemic therapies was 3 (range, 1-6). The maximum tolerated dose (MTD) was determined to be bevacizumab 10 mg/kg biweekly, temsirolimus 5 mg weekly and cetuximab 100/75 mg/m2 weekly. Grade 3 or 4 toxicities were seen in 52% of patients with the highest prevalence being hyperglycemia (14%) and hypophosphatemia (14%). Eighteen of the 21 patients were evaluable for response. Three patients were taken off the study before restaging for toxicities. Partial response (PR) was observed in 2/18 patients (11%) and stable disease (SD) lasting ≥ 6 months was observed in 4/18 patients (22%) (total = 6/18 (33%)). In 8 evaluable patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) there were partial responses in 2/8 (25%) patients and SD ≥ 6 months in 1/8 (13%) patients (total = 3/8, (38%)).
We analyzed safety and responses in 21 patients with advanced solid tumors treated with bevacizumab, cetuximab, and temsirolimus.
The combination of bevacizumab, cetuximab, and temsirolimus showed activity in HNSCC; however, there were numerous toxicities reported, which will require careful management for future clinical development.
PMCID: PMC5029622  PMID: 26933802
solid tumors; bevacizumab; cetuximab; temsirolimus
19.  Genomic portfolio of Merkel cell carcinoma as determined by comprehensive genomic profiling: implications for targeted therapeutics 
Oncotarget  2016;7(17):23454-23467.
Merkel cell carcinoma is an ultra-rare cutaneous neuroendocrine cancer for which approved treatment options are lacking. To better understand potential actionability, the genomic landscape of Merkel cell cancers was assessed. The molecular aberrations in 17 patients with Merkel cell carcinoma were, on physician request, tested in a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) laboratory (Foundation Medicine, Cambridge, MA) using next-generation sequencing (182 or 236 genes) and analyzed by N-of-One, Inc. (Lexington, MA). There were 30 genes harboring aberrations and 60 distinct molecular alterations identified in this patient population. The most common abnormalities involved the TP53 gene (12/17 [71% of patients]) and the cell cycle pathway (CDKN2A/B, CDKN2C or RB1) (12/17 [71%]). Abnormalities also were observed in the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway (AKT2, FBXW7, NF1, PIK3CA, PIK3R1, PTEN or RICTOR) (9/17 [53%]) and DNA repair genes (ATM, BAP1, BRCA1/2, CHEK2, FANCA or MLH1) (5/17 [29%]). Possible cognate targeted therapies, including FDA-approved drugs, could be identified in most of the patients (16/17 [94%]). In summary, Merkel cell carcinomas were characterized by multiple distinct aberrations that were unique in the majority of analyzed cases. Most patients had theoretically actionable alterations. These results provide a framework for investigating tailored combinations of matched therapies in Merkel cell carcinoma patients.
PMCID: PMC5029639  PMID: 26981779
merkel cell carcinoma; next-generation sequencing; targeted therapy; personalized therapy; genomic landscape
20.  The effects of curcumin (diferuloylmethane) on body composition of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer 
Oncotarget  2016;7(15):20293-20304.
Curcumin is a natural product that is often explored by patients with cancer. Weight loss due to fat and muscle depletion is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer and is associated with worse outcomes. Studies of curcumin's effects on muscularity show conflicting results in animal models.
Methods and results
Retrospective matched 1:2 case-control study to evaluate the effects of curcumin on body composition (determined by computerized tomography) of 66 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer (22 treated,44 controls). Average age (SEM) was 63(1.8) years, 30/66(45%) women, median number of prior therapies was 2, median (IQR) time from advanced pancreatic cancer diagnosis to baseline image was 7(2-13.5) months (p>0.2, all variables). All patients lost weight (3.3% and 1.3%, treated vs. control, p=0.13). Treated patients lost more muscle (median [IQR] percent change −4.8[−9.1,-0.1] vs. −0.05%[−4.2, 2.6] in controls,p<0.001) and fat (median [IQR] percent change −6.8%[−15,-0.6] vs. −4.0%[−7.6, 1.3] in controls,p=0.04). Subcutaneous fat was more affected in the treated patients. Sarcopenic patients treated with curcumin(n=15) had survival of 169(115-223) days vs. 299(229-369) sarcopenic controls(p=0.024). No survival difference was found amongst non-sarcopenic patients.
Patients with advanced pancreatic cancer treated with curcumin showed significantly greater loss of subcutaneous fat and muscle than matched untreated controls.
PMCID: PMC4991455  PMID: 26934122
pancreatic neoplasms; curcumin; body composition; inflammation
21.  The Conundrum of Genetic “Drivers” in Benign Conditions 
Advances in deep genomic sequencing have identified a spectrum of cancer-specific passenger and driver aberrations. Clones with driver anomalies are believed to be positively selected during carcinogenesis. Accumulating evidence, however, shows that genomic alterations, such as those in BRAF, RAS, EGFR, HER2, FGFR3, PIK3CA, TP53, CDKN2A, and NF1/2, all of which are considered hallmark drivers of specific cancers, can also be identified in benign and premalignant conditions, occasionally at frequencies higher than in their malignant counterparts. Targeting these genomic drivers can produce dramatic responses in advanced cancer, but the effects on their benign counterparts are less clear. This benign-malignant phenomenon is well illustrated in studies of BRAF V600E mutations, which are paradoxically more frequent in benign nevi (∼80%) than in dysplastic nevi (∼60%) or melanoma (∼40%-45%). Similarly, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 is more commonly overexpressed in ductal carcinoma in situ (∼27%-56%) when compared with invasive breast cancer (∼11%-20%). FGFR3 mutations in bladder cancer also decrease with tumor grade (low-grade tumors, ∼61%; high-grade, ∼11%). “Driver” mutations also occur in nonmalignant settings: TP53 mutations in synovial tissue from rheumatoid arthritis and FGFR3 mutations in seborrheic keratosis. The latter observations suggest that the oncogenicity of these alterations may be tissue context–dependent. The conversion of benign conditions to premalignant disease may involve other genetic events and/or epigenetic reprogramming. Putative driver mutations can also be germline and associated with increased cancer risk (eg, germline RAS or TP53 alterations), but germline FGFR3 or NF2 abnormalities do not predispose to malignancy. We discuss the enigma of genetic “drivers” in benign and premalignant conditions and the implications for prevention strategies and theories of tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC5017937  PMID: 27059373
22.  VEGF and dual-EGFR inhibition in colorectal cancer 
Cell Cycle  2015;14(8):1129-1130.
PMCID: PMC4614794  PMID: 25845022
23.  Dosing de novo combinations of two targeted drugs: Towards a customized precision medicine approach to advanced cancers 
Oncotarget  2016;7(10):11310-11320.
Metastatic cancers harbor complex genomic alterations. Thus, monotherapies are often suboptimal. Individualized combinations are needed in order to attenuate resistance. To help inform selection of safe starting doses for novel, two-agent, targeted drug combinations, we identified clinical trials in adult oncology patients who received targeted drug doublets (PubMed, January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2013). The dose percentage was calculated for each drug: (safe dose in combination divided by single agent full dose) X 100. Additive dose percentage represented the sum of the dose percentage for each drug. A total of 144 studies (N = 8568 patients; 95 combinations) were analyzed. In 51% of trials, each of the two drugs could be administered at 100% of their full dose. The lowest safe additive dose percentage was 60% if targets and/or class of drugs overlapped, or in the presence of mTor inhibitors, which sometimes compromised the combination dose. If neither class nor target overlapped and if mTor inhibitors were absent, the lowest safe additive dose percentage was 143%. The current observations contribute to the knowledge base that informs safe starting doses for new combinations of targeted drugs in the context of clinical trials or practice, hence facilitating customized combination therapies.
PMCID: PMC4905475  PMID: 26824502
oncology; targeted therapy; maximum tolerated dose; recommended phase 2 dose; precision medicine
24.  SU2C Phase Ib Study of Paclitaxel and MK-2206 in Advanced Solid Tumors and Metastatic Breast Cancer 
There is preclinical synergism between taxanes and MK-2206. We aim to determine the maximum tolerated dose, safety, and activity of combining MK-2206 and paclitaxel in metastatic cancer.
Patients received weekly doses of paclitaxel at 80mg/m2 on day 1, followed by MK-2206 orally on day 2 escalated at 90mg, 135mg, and 200mg. Treatment continued until progression, excessive toxicity, or patient request. Blood and tissue were collected for pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics markers. A cycle consisted of three weeks of therapy. Dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) was defined as unacceptable toxicity during the first cycle. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Twenty-two patients were treated, nine in dose escalation and 13 in dose expansion. Median age was 55 years. Median number of cycles was four. Dose escalation was completed with no DLT. CTCAE Grade 3 or higher adverse events were fatigue (n = 2), rash (n = 2), hyperglycemia (n = 1), and neutropenia (n = 7). Four patients in the expansion phase required MK-2206 dose reduction. Phase II recommended dose was established as paclitaxel 80mg/m2 weekly on day 1, and MK-2206 135mg weekly on day 2. Paclitaxel systemic exposure was similar in the presence or absence of MK-2206. Plasma MK-2206 concentrations were similar to data from previous phase I monotherapy. There was a statistically significant decrease in expression of pAKT S473 (P = .01) and pAKT T308 (P = .002) after therapy. PI3K/AKT/mTOR downregulation in tumor tissues and circulating markers did not correlate with tumor response or clinical benefit. There were five objective responses, and nine patients had stable disease.
MK-2206 was well tolerated with paclitaxel. Preliminary antitumor activity was documented.
PMCID: PMC4342675  PMID: 25688104
25.  Detection rate of actionable mutations in diverse cancers using a biopsy-free (blood) circulating tumor cell DNA assay 
Oncotarget  2016;7(9):9707-9717.
Analysis of cell-free DNA using next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a powerful tool for the detection/monitoring of alterations present in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). Plasma extracted from 171 patients with a variety of cancers was analyzed for ctDNA (54 genes and copy number variants (CNVs) in three genes (EGFR, ERBB2 and MET)). The most represented cancers were lung (23%), breast (23%), and glioblastoma (19%). Ninety-nine patients (58%) had at least one detectable alteration. The most frequent alterations were TP53 (29.8%), followed by EGFR (17.5%), MET (10.5%), PIK3CA (7%), and NOTCH1 (5.8%). In contrast, of 222 healthy volunteers, only one had an aberration (TP53). Ninety patients with non-brain tumors had a discernible aberration (65% of 138 patients; in 70% of non-brain tumor patients with an alteration, the anomaly was potentially actionable). Interestingly, nine of 33 patients (27%) with glioblastoma had an alteration (6/33 (18%) potentially actionable). Overall, sixty-nine patients had potentially actionable alterations (40% of total; 69.7% of patients (69/99) with alterations); 68 patients (40% of total; 69% of patients with alterations), by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug. In summary, 65% of diverse cancers (as well as 27% of glioblastomas) had detectable ctDNA aberration(s), with the majority theoretically actionable by an approved agent.
PMCID: PMC4891078  PMID: 26848768
cancer; liquid biopsy; ctDNA; actionable alteration; personalized therapy

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