Attacking Glioblastoma by Combining Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors with Gene Therapy Looks Promising


“Attacking an aggressive brain tumor with immunostimulatory gene therapy while enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight it with immune checkpoint inhibitors might be a promising approach to treat patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor currently associated with a very poor prognosis.

“The findings from the study, “Immunosuppressive Myeloid Cells’ Blockade in the Glioma Microenvironment Enhances the Efficacy of Immune-Stimulatory Gene Therapy,” published in Molecular Therapy, revealed that combining both these approaches in glioblastoma mice models significantly extended their survival, compared to either treatment alone.”

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Differential AKT Dependency Displayed by Mouse Models of BRAFV600E-Initiated Melanoma

“Malignant melanoma is frequently driven by mutational activation of v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1 (BRAF) accompanied by silencing of the phosphatase and tensin homology (PTEN) tumor suppressor. Despite the implied importance of PI3K signaling in PTENNull melanomas, mutational activation of the gene encoding the catalytic subunit of PI3Kα (PIK3CA), is rarely detected. Since PTEN has both PI3-lipid phosphatase–dependent and –independent tumor suppressor activities, we investigated the contribution of PI3K signaling to BRAFV600E-induced melanomagenesis using mouse models, cultured melanoma cells, and PI3K pathway–targeted inhibitors. These experiments revealed that mutationally activated PIK3CAH1047R cooperates with BRAFV600E for melanomagenesis in mice. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of PI3Ks prevented growth of BRAFV600E/PTENNull melanomas in vivo and in tissue culture. Combined inhibition of BRAFV600E and PI3K had more potent effects on the regression of established BRAFV600E/PTENNull melanomas and cultured melanoma cells than individual blockade of either pathway. Surprisingly, growth of BRAFV600E/PIK3CAH1047R melanomas was dependent on the protein kinase AKT; however, AKT inhibition had no effect on growth of BRAFV600E/PTENNull melanomas. These data indicate that PTEN silencing contributes a PI3K-dependent, but AKT-independent, function in melanomagenesis. Our findings enhance our knowledge of how BRAFV600E and PI3K signaling cooperate in melanomagenesis and provide preclinical validation for combined pathway–targeted inhibition of PI3K and BRAFV600E in the therapeutic management of BRAFV600E/PTENNull melanomas.”

New Prospects for Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients (Part II)

Small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) accounts for about 15% of lung cancers, but it is the deadliest form of lung malignancy. Only 6% of patients with SCLC survive beyond 5 years after diagnosis. In the last few years, new therapies—targeted therapies in particular—have been developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating other, more common forms of lung cancer such as adenocarcinoma. However, not much progress has been made in addressing SCLC, which is usually treated with a combination of fairly toxic chemotherapeutics and radiotherapy. Many patients respond to these harsh treatments (ie, their tumors shrink), but only transiently. The disease recurs within a few months to 1 year and, at that point, is no longer treatable. Continue reading…

Lysophosphatidic Acid Inhibits CD8 T-cell Activation and Control of Tumor Progression

“CD8 T lymphocytes are able to eliminate nascent tumor cells through a process referred to as immunosurveillance. However, multiple inhibitory mechanisms within the tumor microenvironment have been described that impede tumor rejection by CD8 T cells, including increased signaling by inhibitory receptors. Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is a bioactive lysophospholipid that has been shown repeatedly to promote diverse cellular processes benefiting tumorigenesis. Accordingly, the exaggerated expression of LPA and LPA receptors is a common feature of diverse tumor cell lineages and can result in elevated systemic LPA levels. LPA is recognized by at least six distinct G protein–coupled receptors, several of which are expressed by T cells, although the precise function of LPA signaling in CD8 T-cell activation and function has not been defined. Here, we show that LPA signaling via the LPA5 receptor expressed by CD8 T cells suppresses antigen receptor signaling, cell activation, and proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, in a mouse melanoma model tumor-specific CD8 T cells that are LPA5-deficient are able to control tumor growth significantly better than wild-type tumor-specific CD8 T cells. Together, these data suggest that the production of LPA by tumors serves not only in an autocrine manner to promote tumorigenesis, but also as a mechanism to suppress adaptive immunity and highlights a potential novel target for cancer treatment.”

Low-Dose Irradiation Programs Macrophage Differentiation to an iNOS+/M1 Phenotype that Orchestrates Effective T Cell Immunotherapy

“Inefficient T cell migration is a major limitation of cancer immunotherapy. Targeted activation of the tumor microenvironment may overcome this barrier. We demonstrate that neoadjuvant local low-dose gamma irradiation (LDI) causes normalization of aberrant vasculature and efficient recruitment of tumor-specific T cells in human pancreatic carcinomas and T-cell-mediated tumor rejection and prolonged survival in otherwise immune refractory spontaneous and xenotransplant mouse tumor models. LDI (local or pre-adoptive-transfer) programs the differentiation of iNOS+ M1 macrophages that orchestrate CTL recruitment into and killing within solid tumors through iNOS by inducing endothelial activation and the expression of TH1 chemokines and by suppressing the production of angiogenic, immunosuppressive, and tumor growth factors.”

Phenformin Enhances the Therapeutic Benefit of BRAFV600E Inhibition in Melanoma

“Inhibitors of BRAF protein kinase, such as Vemurafenib and Dabrafenib, have shown remarkable antitumor activity in patients with BRAF mutant melanoma. However, most of the patients developed drug resistance during the course of treatment, leading to resumed tumor growth. This drug resistance challenge underscores the need to improve on current BRAF-targeted therapy. In this study, we have shown that phenformin, a biguanide used for treating type 2 diabetes, enhances the antitumor activities of BRAF inhibitors in both cultured melanoma cells and a genetically engineered BRAFV600E-driven mouse model of melanoma. Our preclinical findings suggest that combining phenformin with a BRAF inhibitor may be a more effective treatment than a single-agent BRAF inhibitor for treating patients with melanoma whose tumor harbor BRAF mutations.”

Bispecific Small Molecule–Antibody Conjugate Targeting Prostate Cancer

“We have developed a semisynthetic method for the production of bispecific antibody-like therapeutics consisting of a small molecule targeting moiety conjugated to an antibody. A highly selective prostate-specific membrane antigen-binding ligand was site specifically conjugated to a mutant α cluster of differentiation 3 (αCD3) Fab containing an unnatural amino acid with orthogonal chemical reactivity. The optimized conjugate showed potent in vitro activity, good serum half-life, and potent in vivo activity in prostate cancer xenograft mouse models. This semisynthetic approach is likely to be applicable to the generation of additional bispecific agents using drug-like ligands selective for other cell-surface receptors.”

Particle Shape Dependence of CD8+ T cell Activation by Artificial Antigen Presenting Cells

“Previous work developing particle-based acellular, artificial antigen presenting cells (aAPCs) has focused exclusively on spherical platforms. To explore the role of shape, we generated ellipsoidal PLGA microparticles with varying aspect ratios (ARs) and synthesized aAPCs from them. The ellipsoidal biomimetic aAPCs with high-AR showed significantly enhanced in vitro and in vivo activity above spherical aAPCs with particle volume and antigen content held constant. Confocal imaging indicates that CD8+ T cells preferentially migrate to and are activated by interaction with the long axis of the aAPC. Importantly, enhanced activity of high-AR aAPCs was seen in a mouse melanoma model, with high-AR aAPCs improving melanoma survival compared to non-cognate aAPCs (p = 0.004) and cognate spherical aAPCs (p = 0.05). These findings indicate that particle geometry is a critical design criterion in the generation of aAPCs, and may offer insight into the essential role of geometry in the interaction between CD8+ T cells and biological APCs.”

Development of a Histone Deacetylase 6 Inhibitor and its Biological Effects

“Development of isoform-selective histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors is important in elucidating the function of individual HDAC enzymes and their potential as therapeutic agents. Among the eleven zinc-dependent HDACs in humans, HDAC6 is structurally and functionally unique. Here, we show that a hydroxamic acid-based small-molecule N-hydroxy-4-(2-[(2-hydroxyethyl)(phenyl)amino]- 2-oxoethyl)benzamide (HPOB) selectively inhibits HDAC6 catalytic activity in vivo and in vitro. HPOB causes growth inhibition of normal and transformed cells but does not induce cell death. HPOB enhances the effectiveness of DNA-damaging anticancer drugs in transformed cells but not normal cells. HPOB does not block the ubiquitin-binding activity of HDAC6. The HDAC6-selective inhibitor HPOB has therapeutic potential in combination therapy to enhance the potency of anticancer drugs.”