Cancer Research

Färkkilä A, Rodríguez A, Oikkonen J, Gulhan DC, Nguyen H, Domínguez J, Ramos S, Mills CE, Perez-Villatoro F, Lazaro J-B, Zhou J, Clairmont CS, Moreau LA, Park PJ, Sorger PK, Hautaniemi S, Frias S, D'Andrea AD. Heterogeneity and clonal evolution of acquired PARP inhibitor resistance in TP53- and BRCA1-deficient cells. Cancer Research 2021;Abstract
Homologous recombination (HR)-deficient cancers are sensitive to inhibitors of Poly-ADP Ribose Polymerase (PARPi), which have shown clinical efficacy in the treatment of high-grade serous cancers (HGSC). However, the majority of patients will relapse, and acquired PARPi resistance is emerging as a pressing clinical problem. Here we generated seven single-cell clones with acquired PARPi resistance derived from a PARPi-sensitive, TP53-/- and BRCA1-/- epithelial cell line generated using CRISPR/Cas9. These clones showed diverse resistance mechanisms, and some clones presented with multiple mechanisms of resistance at the same time. Genomic analysis of the clones revealed unique transcriptional and mutational profiles and increased genomic instability in comparison to a PARPi-sensitive cell line. Clonal evolutionary analyses suggested that acquired PARPi resistance arose via clonal selection from an intrinsically unstable and heterogenous cell population in the sensitive cell line, which contained pre-existing drug tolerant cells. Similarly, clonal and spatial heterogeneity in tumor biopsies from a clinical BRCA1-mutant HGSC patient with acquired PARPi resistance were observed. In an imaging-based drug screening, the clones showed heterogenous responses to targeted therapeutic agents, indicating that not all PARPi-resistant clones can be targeted with just one therapy. Furthermore, PARPi-resistant clones showed mechanism-dependent vulnerabilities to the selected agents, demonstrating that a deeper understanding on the mechanisms of resistance could lead to improved targeting and biomarkers for HGSC with acquired PARPi resistance.
Howard TP, Arnoff TE, Song MR, Giacomelli AO, Wang X, Hong AL, Dharia NV, Wang S, Vazquez F, Pham M-T, Morgan AM, Wachter F, Bird GH, Kugener G, Oberlick EM, Rees MG, Tiv HL, Hwang JH, Walsh KH, Cook A, Krill-Burger JM, Tsherniak A, Gokhale PC, Park PJ, Stegmaier K, Walensky LD, Hahn WC, Roberts CWM. MDM2 and MDM4 Are Therapeutic Vulnerabilities in Malignant Rhabdoid Tumors. Cancer Research 2019;79(9)Abstract
Malignant rhabdoid tumors (MRT) are highly aggressive pediatric cancers that respond poorly to current therapies. In this study, we screened several MRT cell lines with large-scale RNAi, CRISPR-Cas9, and small-molecule libraries to identify potential drug targets specific for these cancers. We discovered MDM2 and MDM4, the canonical negative regulators of p53, as significant vulnerabilities. Using two compounds currently in clinical development, idasanutlin (MDM2-specific) and ATSP-7041 (MDM2/4-dual), we show that MRT cells were more sensitive than other p53 wild-type cancer cell lines to inhibition of MDM2 alone as well as dual inhibition of MDM2/4. These compounds caused significant upregulation of the p53 pathway in MRT cells, and sensitivity was ablated by CRISPR-Cas9–mediated inactivation of TP53. We show that loss of SMARCB1, a subunit of the SWI/SNF (BAF) complex mutated in nearly all MRTs, sensitized cells to MDM2 and MDM2/4 inhibition by enhancing p53-mediated apoptosis. Both MDM2 and MDM2/4 inhibition slowed MRT xenograft growth in vivo, with a 5-day idasanutlin pulse causing marked regression of all xenografts, including durable complete responses in 50% of mice. Together, these studies identify a genetic connection between mutations in the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex and the tumor suppressor gene TP53 and provide preclinical evidence to support the targeting of MDM2 and MDM4 in this often-fatal pediatric cancer.
Lu H, Villafane N, Dogruluk T, Grzeskowiak CL, Kong K, Tsang YH, Zagorodna O, Pantazi A, Yang L, Neill NJ, Kim YW, Creighton CJ, Verhaak RG, Mills GB, Park PJ, Kucherlapati R, Scott KL. Engineering and Functional Characterization of Fusion Genes Identifies Novel Oncogenic Drivers of Cancer. Cancer Res 2017;Abstract
Oncogenic gene fusions drive many human cancers, but tools to more quickly unravel their functional contributions are needed. Here we describe methodology permitting fusion gene construction for functional evaluation. Using this strategy, we engineered the known fusion oncogenes, BCR-ABL1, EML4-ALK, and ETV6-NTRK3, as well as 20 previously uncharacterized fusion genes identified in The Cancer Genome Atlas datasets. In addition to confirming oncogenic activity of the known fusion oncogenes engineered by our construction strategy, we validated five novel fusion genes involving MET, NTRK2, and BRAF kinases that exhibited potent transforming activity and conferred sensitivity to FDA-approved kinase inhibitors. Our fusion construction strategy also enabled domain-function studies of BRAF fusion genes. Our results confirmed other reports that the transforming activity of BRAF fusions results from truncation-mediated loss of inhibitory domains within the N-terminus of the BRAF protein. BRAF mutations residing within this inhibitory region may provide a means for BRAF activation in cancer, therefore we leveraged the modular design of our fusion gene construction methodology to screen N-terminal domain mutations discovered in tumors that are wild-type at the BRAF mutation hotspot, V600. We identified an oncogenic mutation, F247L, whose expression robustly activated the MAPK pathway and sensitized cells to BRAF and MEK inhibitors. When applied broadly, these tools will facilitate rapid fusion gene construction for subsequent functional characterization and translation into personalized treatment strategies. Cancer Res; 77(13); 1-11. ©2017 AACR.
Kim T-M, Park PJ. A genome-wide view of microsatellite instability: old stories of cancer mutations revisited with new sequencing technologies. Cancer Res 2014;74(22):6377-82.Abstract

Microsatellites are simple tandem repeats that are present at millions of loci in the human genome. Microsatellite instability (MSI) refers to DNA slippage events on microsatellites that occur frequently in cancer genomes when there is a defect in the DNA-mismatch repair system. These somatic mutations can result in inactivation of tumor-suppressor genes or disrupt other noncoding regulatory sequences, thereby playing a role in carcinogenesis. Here, we will discuss the ways in which high-throughput sequencing data can facilitate genome- or exome-wide discovery and more detailed investigation of MSI events in microsatellite-unstable cancer genomes. We will address the methodologic aspects of this approach and highlight insights from recent analyses of colorectal and endometrial cancer genomes from The Cancer Genome Atlas project. These include identification of novel MSI targets within and across tumor types and the relationship between the likelihood of MSI events to chromatin structure. Given the increasing popularity of exome and genome sequencing of cancer genomes, a comprehensive characterization of MSI may serve as a valuable marker of cancer evolution and aid in a search for therapeutic targets.

Kim T-M, Huang W, Park R, Park PJ**, Johnson MD**. A developmental taxonomy of glioblastoma defined and maintained by MicroRNAs. Cancer Res 2011;71(9):3387-99.Abstract

mRNA expression profiling has suggested the existence of multiple glioblastoma subclasses, but their number and characteristics vary among studies and the etiology underlying their development is unclear. In this study, we analyzed 261 microRNA expression profiles from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), identifying five clinically and genetically distinct subclasses of glioblastoma that each related to a different neural precursor cell type. These microRNA-based glioblastoma subclasses displayed microRNA and mRNA expression signatures resembling those of radial glia, oligoneuronal precursors, neuronal precursors, neuroepithelial/neural crest precursors, or astrocyte precursors. Each subclass was determined to be genetically distinct, based on the significant differences they displayed in terms of patient race, age, treatment response, and survival. We also identified several microRNAs as potent regulators of subclass-specific gene expression networks in glioblastoma. Foremost among these is miR-9, which suppresses mesenchymal differentiation in glioblastoma by downregulating expression of JAK kinases and inhibiting activation of STAT3. Our findings suggest that microRNAs are important determinants of glioblastoma subclasses through their ability to regulate developmental growth and differentiation programs in several transformed neural precursor cell types. Taken together, our results define developmental microRNA expression signatures that both characterize and contribute to the phenotypic diversity of glioblastoma subclasses, thereby providing an expanded framework for understanding the pathogenesis of glioblastoma in a human neurodevelopmental context.

Claus EB, Park PJ, Carroll R, Chan J, Black PM. Specific genes expressed in association with progesterone receptors in meningioma. Cancer Res 2008;68(1):314-22.Abstract

An association between hormones and meningioma has been postulated. No data exist that examine gene expression in meningioma by hormone receptor status. The data are surgical specimens from 31 meningioma patients undergoing neurosurgical resection at Brigham and Women's Hospital from March 15, 2004 to May 10, 2005. Progesterone and estrogen hormone receptors (PR and ER, respectively) were measured via immunohistochemistry and compared with gene expression profiling results. The sample is 77% female with a mean age of 55.7 years. Eighty percent were grade 1 and the mean MIB was 6.2, whereas 33% and 84% were ER+ and PR+, respectively. Gene expression seemed more strongly associated with PR status than with ER status. Genes on the long arm of chromosome 22 and near the neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) gene (22q12) were most frequently noted to have expression variation, with significant up-regulation in PR+ versus PR- lesions, suggesting a higher rate of 22q loss in PR- lesions. Pathway analyses indicated that genes in collagen and extracellular matrix pathways were most likely to be differentially expressed by PR status. These data, although preliminary, are the first to examine gene expression for meningioma cases by hormone receptor status and indicate a stronger association with PR than with ER status. PR status is related to the expression of genes near the NF2 gene, mutations in which have been identified as the initial event in many meningiomas. These findings suggest that PR status may be a clinical marker for genetic subgroups of meningioma and warrant further examination in a larger data set.

Liu F*, Park PJ*, Lai W, Maher E, Chakravarti A, Durso L, Jiang X, Yu Y, Brosius A, Thomas M, Chin L, Brennan C, DePinho RA, Kohane I, Carroll RS, Black PM, Johnson MD. A genome-wide screen reveals functional gene clusters in the cancer genome and identifies EphA2 as a mitogen in glioblastoma. Cancer Res 2006;66(22):10815-23.Abstract

A novel genome-wide screen that combines patient outcome analysis with array comparative genomic hybridization and mRNA expression profiling was developed to identify genes with copy number alterations, aberrant mRNA expression, and relevance to survival in glioblastoma. The method led to the discovery of physical gene clusters within the cancer genome with boundaries defined by physical proximity, correlated mRNA expression patterns, and survival relatedness. These boundaries delineate a novel genomic interval called the functional common region (FCR). Many FCRs contained genes of high biological relevance to cancer and were used to pinpoint functionally significant DNA alterations that were too small or infrequent to be reliably identified using standard algorithms. One such FCR contained the EphA2 receptor tyrosine kinase. Validation experiments showed that EphA2 mRNA overexpression correlated inversely with patient survival in a panel of 21 glioblastomas, and ligand-mediated EphA2 receptor activation increased glioblastoma proliferation and tumor growth via a mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent pathway. This novel genome-wide approach greatly expanded the list of target genes in glioblastoma and represents a powerful new strategy to identify the upstream determinants of tumor phenotype in a range of human cancers.