EML4-ALK fusions drive lung adeno-to-squamous transition through JAK-STAT activation
Human lung adenosquamous cell carcinoma (LUAS), containing both adenomatous and squamous pathologies, exhibits strong cancer plasticity. We find that ALK rearrangement is detectable in 5.1-7.5% of human LUAS, and transgenic expression of EML4-ALK drives lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) formation initially and squamous transition at late stage. We identify club cells as the main cell-of-origin for squamous transition. Through recapitulating lineage transition in organoid system, we identify JAK-STAT signaling, activated by EML4-ALK phase separation, significantly promotes squamous transition. Integrative study with scRNA-seq and immunostaining identify a plastic cell subpopulation in ALK-rearranged human LUAD showing squamous biomarker expression. Moreover, those relapsed ALK-rearranged LUAD show notable upregulation of squamous biomarkers. Consistently, mouse squamous tumors or LUAD with squamous signature display certain resistance to ALK inhibitor, which can be overcome by combined JAK1/2 inhibitor treatment. This study uncovers strong plasticity of ALK-rearranged tumors in orchestrating phenotypic transition and drug resistance and proposes a potentially effective therapeutic strategy.
Acquired Cross-resistance in Small Cell Lung Cancer due to Extrachromosomal DNA Amplification of MYC paralogs
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) presents as a highly chemosensitive malignancy but acquires cross-resistance after relapse. This transformation is nearly inevitable in patients but has been difficult to capture in laboratory models. Here, we present a pre-clinical system that recapitulates acquired cross-resistance, developed from 51 patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models. Each model was tested in vivo against three clinical regimens: cisplatin plus etoposide, olaparib plus temozolomide, and topotecan. These drug-response profiles captured hallmark clinical features of SCLC, such as the emergence of treatment-refractory disease after early relapse. For one patient, serial PDX models revealed that cross-resistance was acquired through MYC amplification on extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA). Genomic and transcriptional profiles of the full PDX panel revealed that MYC paralog amplifications on ecDNAs were recurrent in relapsed cross-resistant SCLC, and this was corroborated in tumor biopsies from relapsed patients. We conclude that ecDNAs with MYC paralogs are recurrent drivers of cross-resistance in SCLC.
EZH2 inhibition promotes tumor immunogenicity in lung squamous cell carcinomas
Two important factors that contribute to resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are an immune-suppressive microenvironment and limited antigen presentation by tumor cells. In this study, we examine if inhibition of the methyltransferase EZH2 can increase ICI response in lung squamous cell carcinomas (LSCCs). Our in vitro experiments using 2D human cancer cell lines as well as 3D murine and patient derived organoids treated with two inhibitors of the EZH2 plus interferon- (IFN) showed that EZH2 inhibition leads to expression of both major histocompatibility complex class I and II (MHCI/II) expression at both the mRNA and protein levels. ChIP-sequencing confirmed loss of EZH2-mediated histone marks and gain of activating histone marks at key loci. Further, we demonstrate strong tumor control in models of both autochthonous and syngeneic LSCC treated with anti-PD1 immunotherapy with EZH2 inhibition. Single-cell RNA sequencing and immune cell profiling demonstrated phenotypic changes towards more tumor suppressive phenotypes in EZH2 inhibitor treated tumors. These results indicate that EZH2 inhibitors could increase ICI responses in patients undergoing treatment for LSCC.
FGFR inhibition augments anti-PD-1 efficacy in murine FGFR3-mutant bladder cancer by abrogating immunosuppression
The combination of targeted therapy with immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) is an area of intense interest. We studied the interaction of fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibition with ICI in urothelial carcinoma (UC) of the bladder, in which FGFR3 is altered in 50% of cases. Using an FGFR3-driven, Trp53-mutant genetically engineered murine model (UPFL), we demonstrate that UPFL tumors recapitulate the histology and molecular subtype of their FGFR3-altered human counterparts. Additionally, UPFL1 allografts exhibit hyperprogression to ICI associated with an expansion of T regulatory cells (Tregs). Erdafitinib blocked Treg proliferation in vitro, while in vivo ICI-induced Treg expansion was fully abrogated by FGFR inhibition. Combined erdafitinib and ICI resulted in high therapeutic efficacy. In aggregate, our work establishes that, in mice, co-alteration of FGFR3 and Trp53 results in high-grade, non-muscle-invasive UC and presents a previously underappreciated role for FGFR inhibition in blocking ICI-induced Treg expansion.
Genome-Wide CRISPR Screens Identify Multiple Synthetic Lethal Targets That Enhance KRASG12C Inhibitor Efficacy
UNLABELLED:Non-small lung cancers (NSCLC) frequently (∼30%) harbor KRAS driver mutations, half of which are KRASG12C. KRAS-mutant NSCLC with comutated STK11 and/or KEAP1 is particularly refractory to conventional, targeted, and immune therapy. Development of KRASG12C inhibitors (G12Ci) provided a major therapeutic advance, but resistance still limits their efficacy. To identify genes whose deletion augments efficacy of the G12Cis adagrasib (MRTX-849) or adagrasib plus TNO155 (SHP2i), we performed genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 screens on KRAS/STK11-mutant NSCLC lines. Recurrent, potentially targetable, synthetic lethal (SL) genes were identified, including serine-threonine kinases, tRNA-modifying and proteoglycan synthesis enzymes, and YAP/TAZ/TEAD pathway components. Several SL genes were confirmed by siRNA/shRNA experiments, and the YAP/TAZ/TEAD pathway was extensively validated in vitro and in mice. Mechanistic studies showed that G12Ci treatment induced gene expression of RHO paralogs and activators, increased RHOA activation, and evoked ROCK-dependent nuclear translocation of YAP. Mice and patients with acquired G12Ci- or G12Ci/SHP2i-resistant tumors showed strong overlap with SL pathways, arguing for the relevance of the screen results. These findings provide a landscape of potential targets for future combination strategies, some of which can be tested rapidly in the clinic. SIGNIFICANCE/UNASSIGNED:Identification of synthetic lethal genes with KRASG12C using genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 screening and credentialing of the ability of TEAD inhibition to enhance KRASG12C efficacy provides a roadmap for combination strategies. See related commentary by Johnson and Haigis, p. 4005.
Correction to: Identification of TAZ as the essential molecular switch in orchestrating SCLC phenotypic transition and metastasis
[This corrects the article DOI: 10.1093/nsr/nwab232.].
KEAP1 mutation in lung adenocarcinoma promotes immune evasion and immunotherapy resistance
Lung cancer treatment has benefited greatly through advancements in immunotherapies. However, immunotherapy often fails in patients with specific mutations like KEAP1, which are frequently found in lung adenocarcinoma. We established an antigenic lung cancer model and used it to explore how Keap1 mutations remodel the tumor immune microenvironment. Using single-cell technology and depletion studies, we demonstrate that Keap1-mutant tumors diminish dendritic cell and T cell responses driving immunotherapy resistance. This observation was corroborated in patient samples. CRISPR-Cas9-mediated gene targeting revealed that hyperactivation of the NRF2 antioxidant pathway is responsible for diminished immune responses in Keap1-mutant tumors. Importantly, we demonstrate that combining glutaminase inhibition with immune checkpoint blockade can reverse immunosuppression, making Keap1-mutant tumors susceptible to immunotherapy. Our study provides new insight into the role of KEAP1 mutations in immune evasion, paving the way for novel immune-based therapeutic strategies for KEAP1-mutant cancers.
Inflammation in the tumor-adjacent lung as a predictor of clinical outcome in lung adenocarcinoma
Approximately 30% of early-stage lung adenocarcinoma patients present with disease progression after successful surgical resection. Despite efforts of mapping the genetic landscape, there has been limited success in discovering predictive biomarkers of disease outcomes. Here we performed a systematic multi-omic assessment of 143 tumors and matched tumor-adjacent, histologically-normal lung tissue with long-term patient follow-up. Through histologic, mutational, and transcriptomic profiling of tumor and adjacent-normal tissue, we identified an inflammatory gene signature in tumor-adjacent tissue as the strongest clinical predictor of disease progression. Single-cell transcriptomic analysis demonstrated the progression-associated inflammatory signature was expressed in both immune and non-immune cells, and cell type-specific profiling in monocytes further improved outcome predictions. Additional analyses of tumor-adjacent transcriptomic data from The Cancer Genome Atlas validated the association of the inflammatory signature with worse outcomes across cancers. Collectively, our study suggests that molecular profiling of tumor-adjacent tissue can identify patients at high risk for disease progression.
Bi-steric mTORC1 inhibitors induce apoptotic cell death in tumor models with hyperactivated mTORC1
The PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway is commonly dysregulated in cancer. Rapalogs exhibit modest clinical benefit, likely owing to their lack of effects on 4EBP1. We hypothesized that bi-steric mTORC1-selective inhibitors would have greater potential for clinical benefit than rapalogs in tumors with mTORC1 dysfunction. We assessed this hypothesis in tumor models with high mTORC1 activity both in vitro and in vivo. Bi-steric inhibitors had strong growth inhibition, eliminated phosphorylated 4EBP1, and induced more apoptosis than rapamycin or MLN0128. Multiomics analysis showed extensive effects of the bi-steric inhibitors in comparison with rapamycin. De novo purine synthesis was selectively inhibited by bi-sterics through reduction in JUN and its downstream target PRPS1 and appeared to be the cause of apoptosis. Hence, bi-steric mTORC1-selective inhibitors are a therapeutic strategy to treat tumors driven by mTORC1 hyperactivation.
Neuroendocrine lineage commitment of small cell lung cancers can be leveraged into p53-independent non-cytotoxic therapy
Small cell lung cancers (SCLCs) rapidly resist cytotoxic chemotherapy and immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) treatments. New, non-cross-resistant therapies are thus needed. SCLC cells are committed into neuroendocrine lineage then maturation arrested. Implicating DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) in the maturation arrests, we find (1) the repression mark methylated CpG, written by DNMT1, is retained at suppressed neuroendocrine-lineage genes, even as other repression marks are erased; (2) DNMT1 is recurrently amplified, whereas Ten-Eleven-Translocation 2 (TET2), which functionally opposes DNMT1, is deleted; (3) DNMT1 is recruited into neuroendocrine-lineage master transcription factor (ASCL1, NEUROD1) hubs in SCLC cells; and (4) DNMT1 knockdown activated ASCL1-target genes and released SCLC cell-cycling exits by terminal lineage maturation, which are cycling exits that do not require the p53/apoptosis pathway used by cytotoxic chemotherapy. Inhibiting DNMT1/corepressors with clinical compounds accordingly extended survival of mice with chemorefractory and ICI-refractory, p53-null, disseminated SCLC. Lineage commitment of SCLC cells can hence be leveraged into non-cytotoxic therapy able to treat chemo/ICI-refractory SCLC.