OX40 is a Potent Immune Stimulating Target in Late Stage Cancer Patients

“OX40 is a potent co-stimulatory receptor that can potentiate T cell receptor signaling on the surface of T lymphocytes, leading to their activation by a specifically recognized antigen. In particular, OX40 engagement by ligands present on dendritic cells dramatically increases the proliferation, effector function and survival of T cells. Preclinical studies have shown that OX40 agonists increase anti-tumor immunity and improve tumor-free survival. In this study, we performed a Phase I clinical trial using a mouse monoclonal antibody (mAb) that agonizes human OX40 signaling in patients with advanced cancer. Patients treated with one course of the anti-OX40 mAb showed an acceptable toxicity profile and regression of at least one metastatic lesion in 12/30 patients. Mechanistically, this treatment increased T and B cell responses to reporter antigen immunizations, led to preferential upregulation of OX40 on CD4+ FoxP3+ regulatory T cells in tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes andincreased the anti-tumor reactivity of T and B cells in patients with melanoma. Our findings clinically validate OX40 as a potent immune-stimulating target for treatment in cancer patients, providing a generalizable tool to favorably influence the antitumor properties of circulating T cells, B cells and intratumoral regulatory T cells.”


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.”


BRD4 Sustains Melanoma Proliferation and Represents a New Target for Epigenetic Therapy

“Metastatic melanoma remains a mostly incurable disease. Although newly approved targeted therapies are efficacious in a subset of patients, resistance and relapse rapidly ensue. Alternative therapeutic strategies to manipulate epigenetic regulators and disrupt the transcriptional program that maintains tumor cell identity are emerging. Bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) proteins are epigenome readers known to exert key roles at the interface between chromatin remodeling and transcriptional regulation. Here, we report that BRD4, a BET family member, is significantly upregulated in primary and metastatic melanoma tissues compared with melanocytes and nevi. Treatment with BET inhibitors impaired melanoma cell proliferation in vitro and tumor growth and metastatic behavior in vivo, effects that were mostly recapitulated by individual silencing of BRD4. RNA sequencing of BET inhibitor–treated cells followed by Gene Ontology analysis showed a striking impact on transcriptional programs controlling cell growth, proliferation, cell-cycle regulation, and differentiation. In particular, we found that, rapidly after BET displacement, key cell-cycle genes (SKP2ERK1, and c-MYC) were downregulated concomitantly with the accumulation of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors (p21 and p27), followed by cell-cycle arrest. Importantly, BET inhibitor efficacy was not influenced by BRAF or NRAS mutational status, opening the possibility of using these small-molecule compounds to treat patients for whom no effective targeted therapy exists. Collectively, our study reveals a critical role for BRD4 in melanoma tumor maintenance and renders it a legitimate and novel target for epigenetic therapy directed against the core transcriptional program of melanoma.”


Evaluation of ERG Responsive Proteome in Prostate Cancer

“Background: Gene fusion between TMPRSS2 promoter and the ERG proto-oncogene is a major genomic alteration found in over half of prostate cancers (CaP), which leads to aberrant androgen dependent ERG expression. Despite extensive analysis for the biological functions of ERG in CaP, there is no systematic evaluation of the ERG responsive proteome (ERP). ERP has the potential to define new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for prostate tumors stratified by ERG expression. METHODS: Global proteome analysis was performed by using ERG (+) and ERG (-) CaP cells isolated by ERG immunohistochemistry defined laser capture microdissection and by using TMPRSS2-ERG positive VCaP cells treated with ERG and control siRNA…Conclusions: This study delineates the global proteome for prostate tumors stratified by ERG expression status. The ERP data confirm the functions of ERG in inhibiting cell differentiation and activating cell growth, and identify potentially novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets.”


Molecular Pathways: SWI/SNF (BAF) Complexes are Frequently Mutated in Cancer-Mechanisms and Potential Therapeutic Insights

“SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes are pleomorphic multi-subunit cellular machines that utilize the energy of ATP hydrolysis to modulate chromatin structure. The complexes interact with transcription factors at promoters and enhancers to modulate gene expression and contribute to lineage specification, differentiation and development. Initial clues to a role in tumor suppression for SWI/SNF complexes came over a decade ago when the gene encoding the SMARCB1/SNF5 core subunit was found specifically inactivated in nearly all pediatric rhabdoid tumors. In the last 3 years, cancer genome sequencing efforts have revealed an unexpectedly high mutation rate of SWI/SNF subunit genes, which are collectively mutated in 20% of all human cancers and approach the frequency of p53 mutations. Here we provide a background on these newly recognized tumor suppressor complexes, discuss mechanisms implicated in the tumor suppressor activity, and highlight findings that may lead to potential therapeutic targets for SWI/SNF mutant cancers.”


Molecular Pathways: SWI/SNF (BAF) Complexes are Frequently Mutated in Cancer-Mechanisms and Potential Therapeutic Insights

“SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes are pleomorphic multi-subunit cellular machines that utilize the energy of ATP hydrolysis to modulate chromatin structure. The complexes interact with transcription factors at promoters and enhancers to modulate gene expression and contribute to lineage specification, differentiation and development. Initial clues to a role in tumor suppression for SWI/SNF complexes came over a decade ago when the gene encoding the SMARCB1/SNF5 core subunit was found specifically inactivated in nearly all pediatric rhabdoid tumors. In the last 3 years, cancer genome sequencing efforts have revealed an unexpectedly high mutation rate of SWI/SNF subunit genes, which are collectively mutated in 20% of all human cancers and approach the frequency of p53 mutations. Here we provide a background on these newly recognized tumor suppressor complexes, discuss mechanisms implicated in the tumor suppressor activity, and highlight findings that may lead to potential therapeutic targets for SWI/SNF mutant cancers.”


Why Melanoma Strikes Redheads

People with red hair and very fair skin are 10 to 100 times more likely to get melanoma—and new research pins this on a mutated protein. The normal protein, called MC1R, helps suppress tumors. But, in a lab, cells with the mutant protein divided abnormally fast after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is a risk factor for melanoma. This abnormal cell division is driven by a known cancer pathway, opening the way to developing targeted treatments for redheads with melanomas. Underscoring the urgency, the researchers found that this cancer pathway was even more active in cells with both the mutant ‘redhead’ protein and the BRAF mutation found in nearly 70% of melanomas.


Targeting Aggressive Prostate Cancer

“A team of researchers from UC Davis, UC San Diego, and other institutions has identified a key mechanism behind aggressive prostate cancer. Published on August 14, 2013 in Nature, the study shows that two long, non-coding RNAs (PRNCR1 and PCGEM1) activate androgen receptors, circumventing androgen-deprivation therapy. In their active state, these receptors turn on genes that spur growth and metastasis, making these cancers highly treatment-resistant. The study illustrates how prostate cancer can thrive, even when deprived of hormones, and provides tempting targets for new therapies.”


Prostate Cancer Might Need a Little Help from the Nerves


For many years, researchers have known that cancers need a system of support to grow and metastasize. The so-called tumor microenvironment—the still normal tissue in which tumors grow, the blood vessels that feed this tissue (and the tumor), and the immune cells found in most tissues—is co-opted by the cancer cells to change in such a way as to support their growth. Analysis of the tumor microenvironment and how it affects the tumor (and vice versa) is the focus of intense research. Continue reading…