Purpose: Gene fusions are important oncogenic drivers and many are actionable. Whole-genome and transcriptome (WGS and RNA-seq, respectively) sequencing can discover novel clinically relevant fusions.
Experimental design: Using WGS and RNA-seq, we reviewed the prevalence of fusions in a cohort of 570 patients with cancer, and compared prevalence to that predicted with commercially available panels. Fusions were annotated using a consensus variant calling pipeline (MAVIS) and required that a contig of the breakpoint could be constructed and supported from ≥2 structural variant detection approaches.
Results: In 570 patients with advanced cancer, MAVIS identified 81 recurrent fusions by WGS and 111 by RNA-seq, of which 18 fusions by WGS and 19 by RNA-seq were noted in at least 3 separate patients. The most common fusions were EML4-ALK in thoracic malignancies (9/69, 13%), and CMTM8-CMTM7 in colorectal cancer (4/73, 5.5%). Combined genomic and transcriptomic analysis identified novel fusion partners for clinically relevant genes, such as NTRK2 (novel partners: SHC3, DAPK1), and NTRK3 (novel partners: POLG, PIBF1).
Conclusions: Utilizing WGS/RNA-seq facilitates identification of novel fusions in clinically relevant genes, and detected a greater proportion than commercially available panels are expected to find. A significant benefit of WGS and RNA-seq is the innate ability to retrospectively identify variants that becomes clinically relevant over time, without the need for additional testing, which is not possible with panel-based approaches.
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The practical application of genome-scale technologies to precision oncology research requires flexible tissue processing strategies that can be used to differentially select both tumour and normal cell populations from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. As tumour sequencing scales towards clinical implementation, practical difficulties in scheduling and obtaining fresh tissue biopsies at scale, including blood samples as surrogates for matched 'normal' DNA, have focused attention on the use of formalin-preserved clinical samples collected routinely for diagnostic purposes. In practice, such samples often contain both tumour and normal cells which, if correctly partitioned, could be used to profile both tumour and normal genomes, thus identifying somatic alterations. Here we report a semi-automated method for laser microdissecting entire slide-mounted tissue sections to enrich for cells of interest with sufficient yield for whole genome and transcriptome sequencing. Using this method, we demonstrated enrichment of tumour material from mixed tumour-normal samples by up to 67%. Leveraging new methods that allow for the extraction of high-quality nucleic acids from small amounts of formalin-fixed tissues, we further showed that the method was successful in yielding sequence data of sufficient quality for use in BC Cancer's Personalized OncoGenomics (POG) program.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are uncommon in precision oncology. We provide an introduction and illustrative example of matching methods for evaluating precision oncology in the absence of RCTs. We focus on British Columbia's Personalized OncoGenomics (POG) program, which applies whole-genome and transcriptome analysis (WGTA) to inform advanced cancer care.
Assessment of autophagy activity has historically been limited to investigations of fixed tissue or bulk cell populations. To address questions of heterogeneity and relate measurements to functional properties of viable cells isolated from primary tissue, we created a lentiviral (RFP-GFP-MAP1LC3B) vector that allows the autophagosome and autolysosome content of transduced cells to be monitored at the single-cell level. Use of this strategy to analyze purified subsets of normal human mammary cells showed that both the luminal progenitor-containing (LP) subset and the basal cells (BCs) display highly variable but overall similar autophagic flux activity despite differences suggested by measurements of the proteins responsible (i.e., LC3B, ATG7 and BECLIN1) in bulk lysates. Autophagosome content was also highly variable in the clonogenic cells within both the LPs and BCs, but the proliferative response of the BCs was more sensitive to autophagy inhibition. In addition, use of this vector showed cells with the lowest autophagosome content elicited the fastest tumor growth in 2 different models of human mammary tumorigenesis. These results illustrate the utility of this vector to define differences in the autophagy properties of individual cells in primary tissue and couple these with their responses to proliferative and oncogenic stimuli.
Immunosuppression of unknown aetiology is a hallmark feature of glioblastoma and is characterized by decreased CD4 T-cell counts and downregulation of major histocompatibility complex class II expression on peripheral blood monocytes in patients. This immunosuppression is a critical barrier to the successful development of immunotherapies for glioblastoma. We recapitulated the immunosuppression observed in glioblastoma patients in the C57BL/6 mouse and investigated the aetiology of low CD4 T-cell counts. We determined that thymic involution was a hallmark feature of immunosuppression in three distinct models of brain cancer, including mice harbouring GL261 glioma, B16 melanoma, and in a spontaneous model of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. In addition to thymic involution, we determined that tumour growth in the brain induced significant splenic involution, reductions in peripheral T cells, reduced MHC II expression on blood leucocytes, and a modest increase in bone marrow resident CD4 T cells. Using parabiosis we report that thymic involution, declines in peripheral T-cell counts, and reduced major histocompatibility complex class II expression levels were mediated through circulating blood-derived factors. Conversely, T-cell sequestration in the bone marrow was not governed through circulating factors. Serum isolated from glioma-bearing mice potently inhibited proliferation and functions of T cells both in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, the factor responsible for immunosuppression in serum is non-steroidal and of high molecular weight. Through further analysis of neurological disease models, we determined that the immunosuppression was not unique to cancer itself, but rather occurs in response to brain injury. Non-cancerous acute neurological insults also induced significant thymic involution and rendered serum immunosuppressive. Both thymic involution and serum-derived immunosuppression were reversible upon clearance of brain insults. These findings demonstrate that brain cancers cause multifaceted immunosuppression and pinpoint circulating factors as a target of intervention to restore immunity.
Immune checkpoint therapy (ICT) results in durable responses in individuals with some cancers, but not all patients respond to treatment. ICT improves CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) function, but changes in tumor antigen-specific CTLs post-ICT that correlate with successful responses have not been well characterized. Here, we studied murine tumor models with dichotomous responses to ICT. We tracked tumor antigen-specific CTL frequencies and phenotype before and after ICT in responding and non-responding animals. Tumor antigen-specific CTLs increased within tumor and draining lymph nodes after ICT, and exhibited an effector memory-like phenotype, expressing IL-7R (CD127), KLRG1, T-bet, and granzyme B. Responding tumors exhibited higher infiltration of effector memory tumor antigen-specific CTLs, but lower frequencies of regulatory T cells compared to non-responders. Tumor antigen-specific CTLs persisted in responding animals and formed memory responses against tumor antigens. Our results suggest that increased effector memory tumor antigen-specific CTLs, in the presence of reduced immunosuppression within tumors is part of a successful ICT response. Temporal and nuanced analysis of T cell subsets provides a potential new source of immune based biomarkers for response to ICT.
Colonoscopy is widely used for the diagnosis and management of colorectal disease and requires adequate bowel preparation. Ischemic colitis is a form of intestinal ischemia that presents with abdominal pain, diarrhea, and hematochezia. Risk factors include advanced age, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Both colonoscopy and bisacodyl bowel preparation have been described as rare causes of ischemic colitis with less than 35 cases collectively in the literature. Our review found that of these cases, there exists significant heterogeneity within individual patient characteristics. The majority of the cases are managed conservatively without complications or sequela. Due to the risk of ischemic colitis, the FDA has withdrawn bisacodyl bowel preparations from use in the USA. Bisacodyl bowel preparations are still used in Canada.
Despite advances in cancer therapeutics and the integration of personalized medicine, the development of chemoresistance in many patients remains a significant contributing factor to cancer mortality. Upon treatment with chemotherapeutics, the disruption of homeostasis in cancer cells triggers the adaptive response which has emerged as a key resistance mechanism. In this review, we summarize the mechanistic studies investigating the three major components of the adaptive response, autophagy, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress signaling, and senescence, in response to cancer chemotherapy. We will discuss the development of potential cancer therapeutic strategies in the context of these adaptive resistance mechanisms, with the goal of stimulating research that may facilitate the development of effective cancer therapy.
Objective: Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell strategies ideally target a surface antigen that is exclusively and uniformly expressed by tumors; however, no such antigen is known for high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSC). A potential solution involves combinatorial antigen targeting with AND or OR logic-gating. Therefore, we investigated co-expression of CA125, Mesothelin (MSLN) and Folate Receptor alpha (FOLRA) on individual tumor cells in HGSC.
Methods: RNA expression of CA125, MSLN, and FOLR1 was assessed using TCGA (HGSC) and GTEx (healthy tissues) databases. Antigen expression profiles and CD3+, CD8+ and CD20+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) patterns were assessed in primary and recurrent HGSC by multiplex immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry.
Results: At the transcriptional level, each antigen was overexpressed in >90% of cases; however, MSLN and FOLR1 showed substantial expression in healthy tissues. At the protein level, CA125 was expressed by the highest proportion of cases and tumor cells per case, followed by MSLN and FOLRA. The most promising pairwise combination was CA125 and/or MSLN (OR gate), with 51.9% of cases containing ≥90% of tumor cells expressing one or both antigens. In contrast, only 5.8% of cases contained ≥90% of tumor cells co-expressing CA125 and MSLN (AND gate). Antigen expression patterns showed modest correlations with TIL. Recurrent tumors retained expression of all three antigens and showed increased TIL densities.
Conclusions: An OR-gated CAR-T cell strategy against CA125 and MSLN would target the majority of tumor cells in most cases. Antigen expression and T-cell infiltration patterns are favorable for this strategy in primary and recurrent disease.
Keywords: Antigens; Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy; High-grade serous ovarian carcinoma; Immunotherapy; Ovarian cancer; Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.
Population sequencing often requires collaboration across a distributed network of sequencing centers for the timely processing of thousands of samples. In such massive efforts, it is important that participating scientists can be confident that the accuracy of the sequence data produced is not affected by which center generates the data. A study was conducted across three established sequencing centers, located in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, constituting Canada's Genomics Enterprise (www.cgen.ca). Whole genome sequencing was performed at each center, on three genomic DNA replicates from three well-characterized cell lines. Secondary analysis pipelines employed by each site were applied to sequence data from each of the sites, resulting in three datasets for each of four variables (cell line, replicate, sequencing center, and analysis pipeline), for a total of 81 datasets. These datasets were each assessed according to multiple quality metrics including concordance with benchmark variant truth sets to assess consistent quality across all three conditions for each variable. Three-way concordance analysis of variants across conditions for each variable was performed. Our results showed that the variant concordance between datasets differing only by sequencing center was similar to the concordance for datasets differing only by replicate, using the same analysis pipeline. We also showed that the statistically significant differences between datasets result from the analysis pipeline used, which can be unified and updated as new approaches become available. We conclude that genome sequencing projects can rely on the quality and reproducibility of aggregate data generated across a network of distributed sites.