Molecular signatures have identified several subsets of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) and rational targets within the B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling axis. The OxPhos-DLBCL subset, which harbors the signature of genes involved in mitochondrial metabolism, is insensitive to inhibition of BCR survival signaling, but is functionally undefined. We show that compared with BCR-DLBCLs, OxPhos-DLBCLs display enhanced mitochondrial energy transduction, greater incorporation of nutrient-derived carbons into the TCA cycle and increased glutathione levels. Importantly, perturbation of the fatty acid oxidation program and glutathione synthesis proved selectively toxic to this tumor subset. Our analysis provides evidence for distinct metabolic fingerprints and associated survival mechanisms in DLBCL and may have therapeutic implications.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is an aggressive skeletal muscle-lineage tumor composed of malignant myoblasts that fail to exit the cell cycle and are blocked from fusing into syncytial muscle. Rhabdomyosarcoma includes two histolopathologic subtypes: alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, driven by the fusion protein PAX3-FOXO1 or PAX7-FOXO1, and embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS), which is genetically heterogeneous. Here, we show that adipocyte-restricted activation of Sonic Hedgehog signaling through expression of a constitutively active Smoothened allele in mice gives rise to aggressive skeletal muscle tumors that display the histologic and molecular characteristics of human ERMS with high penetrance. Our findings suggest that adipocyte progenitors can be a cell of origin for Sonic Hedgehog-driven ERMS, showing that RMS can originate from non-skeletal muscle precursors.
Expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) is under stringent regulation at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Disturbance at either level could cause dysregulation of miRNAs. Here we show that MLL fusion proteins negatively regulate production of miR-150, an miRNA widely repressed in acute leukemia, by blocking miR-150 precursors from being processed to mature miRNAs through MYC/LIN28 functional axis. Forced expression of miR-150 dramatically inhibited leukemic cell growth and delayed MLL-fusion-mediated leukemogenesis, likely through targeting FLT3 and MYB and thereby interfering with the HOXA9/MEIS1/FLT3/MYB signaling network, which in turn caused downregulation of MYC/LIN28. Collectively, we revealed a MLL-fusion/MYC/LIN28⊣miR-150⊣FLT3/MYB/HOXA9/MEIS1 signaling circuit underlying the pathogenesis of leukemia, where miR-150 functions as a pivotal gatekeeper and its repression is required for leukemogenesis.
miR-150; MLL-associated leukemia; MYC; LIN28; FLT3; MYB; HOXA9; MEIS1; microRNA maturation; signaling axis; leukemogenesis
Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin (TSLP), a cytokine implicated in induction of T helper 2 (Th2)-mediated allergic inflammation, has recently been shown to stimulate solid tumor growth and metastasis. Conversely, studying mice with clonal loss of Notch signaling in their skin revealed that high levels of TSLP released by barrier-defective skin caused a severe inflammation, resulting in gradual elimination of Notch-deficient epidermal clones and resistance to skin tumorigenesis. We found CD4+ T cells to be both required and sufficient to mediate these effects of TSLP. Importantly, TSLP overexpression in wild-type skin also caused resistance to tumorigenesis, confirming that TSLP functions as a tumor suppressor in the skin.
TSLP; Notch; inflammation; tumor suppressor; CD4+ T cell; Calcipotriol
The childhood cancer embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma can arise in tissue without skeletal muscle elements. In this issue of Cancer Cell, Hatley and colleagues report that non-skeletal muscle progenitors can be a cell of origin for Sonic Hedgehog-driven embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma in an adipocyte-restricted conditional mouse model.
D-cyclins represent components of cell cycle machinery. To test the efficacy of targeting D-cyclins in cancer treatment, we engineered mouse strains which allow acute and global ablation of individual D-cyclins in a living animal. Ubiquitous shutdown of cyclin D1 or inhibition of cyclin D-associated kinase activity in mice bearing ErbB2-driven mammary carcinomas triggered tumor cell senescence, without compromising the animals’ health. Ablation of cyclin D3 in mice bearing Notch1-driven T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL) triggered tumor cell apoptosis. Such selective killing of leukemic cells can also be achieved by inhibiting cyclin D-associated kinase activity in mouse and human T-ALL models. Inhibition of cyclin D-kinase activity represents a highly-selective anti-cancer strategy that specifically targets cancer cells without significantly affecting normal tissues.
Deregulated energetics is a hallmark of malignancy, but metabolic heterogeneity among individual tumors is unknown. A study by Caro et al. in this issue of Cancer Cell demonstrates that a subset of lymphomas is defined by reliance on mitochondrial energy generation and is selectively killed when this pathway is impaired.
Taguchi et al. describe, in this issue of Cancer Cell, a quantitative comparative biomarker discovery approach that integrates animal lung cancer models with validation in well-controlled human clinical study sets. This approach overcomes many of the major barriers that have held back the field of cancer biomarkers in the past.
Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a clinically and biologically heterogeneous disease with a high proliferation rate. By integrating copy number data with transcriptional profiles and performing pathway analysis in primary DLBCLs, we identified a comprehensive set of copy number alterations (CNAs) that decreased p53 activity and perturbed cell cycle regulation. Primary tumors either had multiple complementary alterations of p53 and cell cycle components or largely lacked these lesions. DLBCLs with p53 and cell cycle pathway CNAs had decreased abundance of p53 target transcripts and increased expression of E2F target genes and the Ki67 proliferation marker. CNAs of the CDKN2A-TP53-RB-E2F axis provide a structural basis for increased proliferation in DLBCL, predict outcome with current therapy and suggest targeted treatment approaches.
The molecular mechanisms regulating leukemia-initiating cell (LIC) function are of important clinical significance. We use chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), as a model of LIC-dependent malignancy and identify the interaction between the ubiquitin ligase Fbw7 and its substrate c-Myc as a regulator of LIC homeostasis. Deletion of Fbw7 leads to c-Myc overexpression, p53-dependent LIC-specific apoptosis and the eventual inhibition of tumor progression. Decrease of either c-Myc protein levels or attenuation of the p53 response rescues LIC activity and disease progression. Further experiments showed that Fbw7 expression is required for survival and maintenance of human CML LIC. These studies identify a ubiquitin ligase:substrate pair regulating LIC activity, suggesting that targeting of the Fbw7:c-Myc axis is an attractive therapy target in refractory CML.
Initiation of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is definitively linked to activating mutations in the KRAS oncogene. However, PDA mouse models show that mutant Kras expression early in development gives rise to a normal pancreas, with tumors forming only after a long latency or pancreatitis induction. Here we show that oncogenic KRAS upregulates endogenous EGFR expression and activation, the latter being dependent upon the EGFR ligand sheddase, ADAM17. Genetic ablation or pharmacological inhibition of EGFR or ADAM17 effectively eliminates KRAS-driven tumorigenesis in vivo. Without EGFR activity, active RAS levels are not sufficient to induce robust MEK/ERK activity, a requirement for epithelial transformation.
Portal vein tumor thrombus (PVTT) is strongly correlated to a poor prognosis for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this study, we uncovered a causative link between hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and development of PVTT. Mechanistically, elevated TGF-β activity, associated with the persistent presence of HBV in the liver tissue, suppresses the expression of microRNA-34a, leading to enhanced production of chemokine CCL22, which recruits regulatory T (Treg) cells to facilitate immune escape. These findings strongly suggest that HBV infection and activity of the TGF-β-miR-34a-CCL22 axis serve as potent etiological factors to predispose HCC patients for the development of PVTT, possibly through the creation of an immune-subversive microenvironment to favor colonization of disseminated HCC cells in the portal venous system.
Bortezomib therapy has proven successful for the treatment of relapsed/refractory, relapsed and newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (MM); however, dose-limiting toxicities and the development of resistance limit its long-term utility. Here we show that P5091 is an inhibitor of deubiquitylating enzyme USP7, which induces apoptosis in MM cells resistant to conventional and bortezomib therapies. Biochemical and genetic studies show that blockade of HDM2 and p21 abrogates P5091-induced cytotoxicity. In animal tumor model studies, P5091 is well tolerated, inhibits tumor growth, and prolongs survival. Combining P5091 with lenalidomide, HDAC inhibitor SAHA, or dexamethasone triggers synergistic anti-MM activity. Our preclinical study therefore supports clinical evaluation of USP7 inhibitor, alone or in combination, as a potential MM therapy.
Acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) results from pancreatic injury or KRAS activation, and is an early step in pancreatic cancer progression. In this Cancer Cell issue, Ardito et al. and Navas et al. demonstrate that ADM and KRAS-driven pancreatic cancer require EGFR signaling, revealing a mechanism for developmental reprogramming that primes tumorigenesis.
Tumors successfully adapt to constantly changing intra- and extra-cellular environments, but the wirings of this process are still largely elusive. Here, we show that Heat Shock Protein 90 (HSP90)-directed protein folding in mitochondria, but not cytosol, maintains energy production in tumor cells. Interference with this process activates a signaling network that involves phosphorylation of nutrient-sensing AMP-activated kinase (AMPK), inhibition of rapamycin-sensitive mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1), induction of autophagy, and expression of an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) unfolded protein response (UPR). This signaling network confers a survival and proliferative advantage to genetically disparate tumors, and correlates with worse outcome in lung cancer patients. Therefore, mitochondrial HSP90s are adaptive regulators of tumor bioenergetics, and tractable targets for cancer therapy.
HSP90; mitochondria; bioenergetics; ER; unfolded protein response; AMPK; autophagy
NLRP12 is a member of the intracellular Nod-like receptor (NLR) family that has been suggested to down-regulate the production of inflammatory cytokines, but its physiological role in regulating inflammation has not been characterized. We generated mice deficient in Nlrp12 and studied its role in inflammatory diseases such as colitis and colorectal tumorigenesis. We show that Nlrp12-deficient mice are highly susceptible to colon inflammation and tumorigenesis, which is associated with increased production of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and tumorigenic factors. Enhanced colon inflammation and colorectal tumor development in Nlrp12-deficient mice are due to a failure to dampen NF-κB and ERK activation in macrophages. These results reveal a critical role for NLRP12 in maintaining intestinal homeostasis and providing protection against colorectal tumorigenesis.
NLRP12; NLR; colon; inflammation; tumorigenesis; colitis; NF-κB; ERK
Elevated Aurora kinase-A expression is correlated with abrogation of DNA damage induced apoptotic response and mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) override in human tumor cells. We report that Aurora-A phosphorylation of p73 at serine235 abrogates its transactivation function and causes cytoplasmic sequestration in a complex with the chaperon protein mortalin. Aurora-A phosphorylated p73 also facilitates inactivation of SAC through dissociation of the MAD2-CDC20 complex in cells undergoing mitosis. Cells expressing phosphor-mimetic mutant (S235D) of p73 manifest altered growth properties, resistance to cisplatin induced apoptosis, as well as premature dissociation of the MAD2-CDC20 complex, and accelerated mitotic exit with SAC override in the presence of spindle damage. Elevated cytoplasmic p73 in Aurora-A overexpressing primary human tumors corroborates the experimental findings.
Increased transcription of ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) by RNA Polymerase I is a common feature of human cancer, but whether it is required for the malignant phenotype remains unclear. We show that rDNA transcription can be therapeutically targeted with the small molecule CX-5461 to selectively kill B-lymphoma cells in vivo while maintaining a viable wild-type B cell population. The therapeutic effect is a consequence of nucleolar disruption and activation of p53-dependent apoptotic signaling. Human leukemia and lymphoma cell lines also show high sensitivity to inhibition of rDNA transcription that is dependent on p53 mutational status. These results identify selective inhibition of rDNA transcription as a therapeutic strategy for the cancer specific activation of p53 and treatment of hematologic malignancies.
The oncogenic transcription factor TAL1/SCL is aberrantly expressed in over 40% of cases of human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), emphasizing its importance in the molecular pathogenesis of T-ALL. Here we identify the core transcriptional regulatory circuit controlled by TAL1 and its regulatory partners HEB, E2A, LMO1/2, GATA3 and RUNX1. We show that TAL1 forms a positive interconnected auto-regulatory loop with GATA3 and RUNX1, and that the TAL1 complex directly activates the MYB oncogene, forming a positive feed-forward regulatory loop that reinforces and stabilizes the TAL1-regulated oncogenic program. One of the critical downstream targets in this circuitry is the TRIB2 gene, which is oppositely regulated by TAL1 and E2A/HEB and is essential for the survival of T-ALL cells.
Enhancing therapeutic activity against cancer cells and minimizing toxic effects on normal cells are critical elements in chemotherapy. In this issue of Cancer Cell, Mazzone and colleagues reveal a previously unrecognized role of a prolyl hydroxylase domain (PHD) in promoting drug delivery to tumors and reducing toxicity in normal organs.
Recurrent somatic ASXL1 mutations occur in patients with myelodysplasia (MDS), myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and are associated with adverse outcome. Despite the genetic and clinical data implicating ASXL1 mutations in myeloid malignancies, the mechanisms of transformation by ASXL1 mutations are not understood. Here we identify that ASXL1 mutations result in loss of PRC2-mediated histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27) tri-methylation. Through integration of microarray data with genome-wide histone modification ChIP-Seq data we identify targets of ASXL1 repression including the posterior HOXA cluster that is known to contribute to myeloid transformation. We demonstrate that ASXL1 associates with the Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), and that loss of ASXL1 in vivo collaborates with NRASG12D to promote myeloid leukemogenesis.
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF) regulate normal development and homeostasis, and drive disease progression in many forms of cancer. Both proteins signal by binding to receptor tyrosine kinases and heparan sulfate (HS) proteoglycans on target cell surfaces. Basic residues comprising the primary HS binding sites on HGF and VEGF provide similar surface charge distributions without underlying structural similarity. Combining three acidic amino acid substitutions in these sites in the HGF isoform NK1 or the VEGF isoform VEGF165 transformed each into potent, selective competitive antagonists of their respective normal and oncogenic signaling pathways. Our findings illustrate the importance of HS in growth factor driven cancer progression and reveal an efficient strategy for therapeutic antagonist development.
Hepatocyte growth factor; vascular endothelial cell growth factor; Met; VEGFR2; cancer; signal transduction; heparan sulfate; angiogenesis; tumor metastasis; growth factor antagonist
Genomic profiling has identified a subtype of high-risk B-progenitor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) with alteration of IKZF1, a gene expression profile similar to BCR-ABL1-positive ALL and poor outcome (Ph-like ALL). The genetic alterations that activate kinase signaling in Ph-like ALL are poorly understood. We performed transcriptome and whole genome sequencing on 15 cases of Ph-like ALL, and identified rearrangements involving ABL1, JAK2, PDGFRB, CRLF2 and EPOR, activating mutations of IL7R and FLT3, and deletion of SH2B3, which encodes the JAK2 negative regulator LNK. Importantly, several of these alterations induce transformation that is attenuated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors, suggesting the treatment outcome of these patients may be improved with targeted therapy.
We show that R-Ras, a small GTPase of the Ras family, is essential for the establishment of mature, functional blood vessels in tumors. The genetic disruption of R-Ras severely impaired the maturation processes of tumor vessels in mice. Conversely, the gain of function of R-Ras improved vessel structure and blood perfusion and blocked plasma leakage by enhanced endothelial barrier function and pericyte association with nascent blood vessels. Thus, R-Ras promotes normalization of the tumor vasculature. These findings identify R-Ras as a critical regulator of vessel integrity and function during tumor vascularization.
Homeobox domain-containing transcription factors are important regulators of hematopoiesis. Here we report that increased levels of non-clustered H2.0-like homeobox (HLX) lead to loss of functional hematopoietic stem cells and formation of aberrant progenitors with unlimited serial clonogenicity and blocked differentiation. Inhibition of HLX reduces proliferation and clonogenicity of leukemia cells, overcomes the differentiation block, and leads to prolonged survival. HLX regulates a transcriptional program, including PAK1 and BTG1, that controls cellular differentiation and proliferation. HLX is overexpressed in 87% of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and independently correlates with inferior overall survival (N=601, p=2.3×10−6). Our study identifies HLX as a key regulator in immature hematopoietic and leukemia cells, and a prognostic marker and therapeutic target in AML.