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Clinical Cancer Research

Epigenetic targets have emerged as an exciting area for drug discovery. The discovery that histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors had marked anticancer activity in T-cell lymphoma gave impetus to the field. In a phase I study published in Clinical Cancer Research in March 2002, romidepsin (depsipeptide), a potent HDAC inhibitor, was found to be tolerable, with a side effect profile that was later understood to be characteristic of this class of agents. Evidence of activity in this key phase I trial provided momentum for the further study of epigenetic agents. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2195–7. ©2015 AACR.

See related article by Sandor et al., Clin Cancer Res 2002;8(3) Mar 2002;718–28


The study by Kelly and colleagues, published in the September 1, 2003, issue of Clinical Cancer Research, established the safety and biologic activity of the first-in-class histone deacetylase inhibitor, vorinostat, which was administered intravenously. Subsequent studies led to the development of oral vorinostat and the regulatory approval of vorinostat for cutaneous T-cell lymphomas, which opened the door for the next generation of inhibitors. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2198–200. ©2015 AACR.

See related article by Kelly et al., Clin Cancer Res 2003;9(10) September 1, 2003;3578–88


HHLA2 is a newly identified B7 family member that modulates T-cell functions through interaction with TMIGD2 and possibly a second receptor, with coinhibition in two studies and costimulation in one study. HHLA2 is expressed on a variety of human cancers, and its coinhibitory function makes it a candidate for cancer immunotherapy. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2201–3. ©2015 AACR.

See related article by Janakiram et al., p. 2359


Molecular classification of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a critical biologic, prognostic, and predictive distinction. Since the discovery of two molecular types of DLBCL in otherwise morphologically indistinguishable cases, numerous methodologies for making this distinction have been published. A method and technical platform may now be reaching consensus. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2204–6. ©2015 AACR.

See related article by Veldman-Jones et al., p. 2367


Drug resistance remains a major impediment in the development of durable cancer therapies. Studies in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) patients revealed a new form of multidrug resistance. Here, increased glioma-associated protein GLI1 leads to elevation of the UDP-glucuronosyl transferase (UGT) enzymes. UGTs add glucuronic acid to xenobiotics and metabolites. Traditionally, the loss of these enzymes is thought to contribute to cancer as a result of impaired clearance of environmental carcinogens. However, we demonstrate that overexpression of UGTs can contribute to oncogenesis by promoting drug resistance. Indeed, UGT levels in AML patients treated with ribavirin and/or cytarabine were elevated at relapse relative to diagnosis. This was reversed by GLI1 inhibition, suggesting a clinically relevant strategy to overcome drug resistance. Further, overexpression of UGTs can also lead to drug resistance in other cancers, such as certain Hsp90 inhibitors and vorinostat in colorectal and chronic lymphoblastic leukemia, respectively. Not all drugs are targets of glucuronidation, suggesting that UGT status could be relevant to treatment choice. Here, we describe several facets of UGT biology and how these could be exploited clinically. These studies demonstrate how drugs in cancer cells can be metabolized differentially than their normal counterparts. In summary, we describe a new form of drug resistance relevant to a variety of cancer contexts. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2207–10. ©2015 AACR.



The past decade has been transformative for lung cancer patients, physicians, and scientists. The discovery of EGFR mutations that confer sensitivity to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung adenocarcinomas in 2004 heralded the beginning of the era of precision medicine for lung cancer. Indeed, it precipitated concerted efforts by many investigators to define molecular subgroups of lung cancer, characterize the genomic landscape of lung cancer subtypes, identify novel therapeutic targets, and define mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to targeted therapies. The fruits of these efforts are visible every day now in lung cancer clinics: Patients receive molecular testing to determine whether their tumor harbors an actionable mutation, new and improved targeted therapies that can overcome resistance to first-generation drugs are in clinical trials, and drugs targeting the immune system are showing activity in patients. This extraordinary promise is tempered by the sobering fact that even the newest treatments for metastatic disease are rarely curative and are effective only in a small fraction of all patients. Ongoing and future efforts to find new vulnerabilities of lung cancers, unravel the complexity of drug resistance, increase the efficacy of immunotherapies, and perform biomarker-driven clinical trials are necessary to improve outcomes for patients with lung cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2213–20. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Progress in Lung Cancer."


Somatic, activating mutations in EGFR identify a significant minority of patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Although these mutations are associated with an approximately 70% response rate to some EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (gefitinib, erlotinib, and afatinib), patients develop resistance (i.e., "acquired resistance") after a median of 9 to 12 months. In patients with clinical acquired resistance, repeat biopsy of tumors has identified a number of relevant mechanisms of resistance, but by far the most frequent event is the acquisition of EGFR T790M, a mutation in the "gatekeeper" residue that confers resistance to gefitinib, erlotinib, and afatinib. This emphasizes the critical dependence upon EGFR signaling for some tumors, a property that has been exploited therapeutically. Dual EGFR blockade using afatinib and cetuximab led to a 29% radiographic response rate. More recently, drugs that target EGFR T790M (e.g., rociletinib, AZD9291, and others) have entered clinical trials, with impressive results observed in phase I clinical trials. The development of these newer drugs, with efficacy after resistance to first-line EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, has led to exploration of these strategies in multiple disease settings: at resistance, in the first line, and in adjuvant treatment of those with completely resected early-stage disease who would otherwise die of recurrent/metastatic disease. This example of translational research that identifies mechanisms of resistance to first-generation drugs, and then targets those mechanisms yielding clinical benefit, is a paradigm for how targeted therapies can be developed. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2221–6. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Progress in Lung Cancer."


The anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) receptor tyrosine kinase was initially discovered as a component of the fusion protein nucleophosmin (NPM)–ALK in anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL). Genomic alterations in ALK, including rearrangements, point mutations, and genomic amplification, have now been identified in several malignancies, including lymphoma, non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), neuroblastoma, inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor, and others. Importantly, ALK serves as a validated therapeutic target in these diseases. Several ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), including crizotinib, ceritinib, and alectinib, have been developed, and some of them have already been approved for clinical use. These ALK inhibitors have all shown remarkable clinical outcomes in ALK-rearranged NSCLC. Unfortunately, as is the case for other kinase inhibitors in clinical use, sensitive tumors inevitably relapse due to acquired resistance. This review focuses on the discovery, function, and therapeutic targeting of ALK, with a particular focus on ALK-rearranged NSCLC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2227–35. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Progress in Lung Cancer."


Squamous cell lung cancer (SCC) represents an area of unmet need in lung cancer research. For the past several years, therapeutic progress in SCC has lagged behind the now more common non–small cell lung cancer histologic subtype of adenocarcinoma. However, recent efforts to define the complex biology underlying SCC have begun to bear fruit in a multitude of ways, including characterization of previously unknown genomic and signaling pathways, delineation of new, potentially actionable molecular targets, and subsequent development of a large number of agents directed against unique SCC-associated molecular abnormalities. For the first time, SCC-specific prognostic gene signatures and predictive biomarkers of new therapeutic agents are emerging. In addition, recent and ongoing clinical trials, including the Lung-MAP master protocol, have been designed to facilitate approval of targeted therapy–biomarker combinations. In this comprehensive review, we describe the current status of SCC therapeutics, recent advances in the understanding of SCC biology and prognostic gene signatures, and the development of innovative new clinical trials, all of which offer new hope for patients with advanced SCC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2236–43. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Progress in Lung Cancer."


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine malignancy with a unique natural history characterized by a short doubling time, high growth fraction, and early development of widespread metastases. Although a chemotherapy- and radiation-sensitive disease, SCLC typically recurs rapidly after primary treatment, with only 6% of patients surviving 5 years from diagnosis. This disease has been notable for the absence of major improvements in its treatment: Nearly four decades after the introduction of a platinum–etoposide doublet, therapeutic options have remained virtually unchanged, with correspondingly little improvement in survival rates. Here, we summarize specific barriers and challenges inherent to SCLC research and care that have limited progress in novel therapeutic development to date. We discuss recent progress in basic and translational research, especially in the development of mouse models, which will provide insights into the patterns of metastasis and resistance in SCLC. Opportunities in clinical research aimed at exploiting SCLC biology are reviewed, with an emphasis on ongoing trials. SCLC has been described as a recalcitrant cancer, for which there is an urgent need for accelerated progress. The NCI convened a panel of laboratory and clinical investigators interested in SCLC with a goal of defining consensus recommendations to accelerate progress in the treatment of SCLC, which we summarize here. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2244–55. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Progress in Lung Cancer."


Therapies targeting immune checkpoints have recently shown encouraging activity in patients with heavily pretreated advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), independently of NSCLC histology or mutational status, with low toxicity profiles when used as monotherapy. Objective response rates of approximately 20% have been reported in patients with advanced NSCLC treated with antagonist antibodies targeting the immune checkpoint, programmed death 1 (PD-1) on activated T cells, or its primary ligand, programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expressed within the tumor microenvironment. Response rates appear to be higher in patients with tumor PD-L1 expression documented by immunohistochemistry, although responses have been appreciated in patients with reportedly PD-L1–negative tumor specimens. Antibodies directed against cytotoxic T-lymphocyte–associated protein 4 (CTLA-4), another immunosuppressive T-cell signaling molecule, are also being evaluated in clinical trials, with one randomized phase II trial demonstrating improved immune-related progression-free survival in lung cancer patients when added to standard chemotherapy. Additional clinical trials are combining anti–CTLA-4 antibodies with either anti–PD-1 or anti–PD-L1 antibodies. Combinations of other immune checkpoint antagonists or agonist antibodies with anti–PD-1 or anti–PD-L1 antibodies are also being pursued. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2256–62. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Progress in Lung Cancer."


Significant progress has been made in the past 50 years across the field of oncology, and, as a result, the number of cancer survivors in the United States is more than 14.5 million. In fact, the number of cancer survivors continues to grow on an annual basis, which is due in part to improved treatments that help people with cancer live longer, and improvements in early detection that allow doctors to find cancer earlier when the disease is easier to treat. However, in spite of this progress, innovation in cancer research and care is at risk as the rise in health care spending is leading to significant pressure to contain costs. As the oncology community seeks to ensure that innovation in cancer research and care continues, it is imperative that stakeholders focus their attention on the value that the research and care continuum provides. Over the past several years, the Turning the Tide Against Cancer initiative has worked with the cancer community to accelerate the delivery of patient-centered, high-quality cancer research and care, while addressing value and cost. This article highlights policy recommendations that resulted from the convening of an expert working group comprising leaders from across the oncology field. Of the recommendations, the co-conveners have identified several issue areas that merit particular focus in 2015:

  • Support FDA's efforts to modernize its framework for bringing new medicines to patients, through facilitating and implementing innovative approaches to drug development and regulatory review.

  • Ensure that cancer clinical pathways or similar decision-support tools are transparent; developed through a physician-driven process that includes patient input; and meet minimum standards for clinical appropriateness, timeliness, and patient centeredness.

  • Support oncology decision-support tools that are timely, clinically appropriate, and patient centered.

  • Build on existing efforts to convene a multistakeholder committee and develop a report on ways to define and measure value in oncology care, taking into account many of the complex dynamics associated with measuring value, including the interests and needs of patients, as well as the importance of committed and ongoing support for innovative research.

  • These policy options are intended to further the national dialogue and represent meaningful and actionable steps toward supporting cancer research and care that is innovative, efficient, and focused on the patient. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2263–7. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: Preparative lymphodepletion, the temporal ablation of the immune system, has been reported to promote persistence of transferred cells along with increased rates of tumor regression in patients treated with adoptive T-cell therapy. However, it remains unclear whether lymphodepletion is indispensable for immunotherapy with T-cell receptor (TCR) gene–engineered T cells.

    Experimental Design: We conducted a first-in-man clinical trial of TCR gene-transduced T-cell transfer in patients with recurrent MAGE-A4–expressing esophageal cancer. The patients were given sequential MAGE-A4 peptide vaccinations. The regimen included neither lymphocyte-depleting conditioning nor administration of IL2. Ten patients, divided into 3 dose cohorts, received T-cell transfer.

    Results: TCR-transduced cells were detected in the peripheral blood for 1 month at levels proportional to the dose administered, and in 5 patients they persisted for more than 5 months. The persisting cells maintained ex vivo antigen-specific tumor reactivity. Despite the long persistence of the transferred T cells, 7 patients exhibited tumor progression within 2 months after the treatment. Three patients who had minimal tumor lesions at baseline survived for more than 27 months.

    Conclusions: These results suggest that TCR-engineered T cells created by relatively short-duration in vitro culture of polyclonal lymphocytes in peripheral blood retained the capacity to survive in a host. The discordance between T-cell survival and tumor regression suggests that multiple mechanisms underlie the benefits of preparative lymphodepletion in adoptive T-cell therapy. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2268–77. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: Infusion of interleukin-12 (IL12) can mediate antitumor immunity in animal models, yet its systemic administration to patients with cancer results in minimal efficacy and severe toxicity. Here, we evaluated the antitumor activity of adoptively transferred human tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) genetically engineered to secrete single-chain IL12 selectively at the tumor site.

    Experimental Design: Thirty-three patients with metastatic melanoma were treated in a cell dose–escalation trial of autologous TILs transduced with a gene encoding a single-chain IL12 driven by a nuclear factor of the activated T cells promoter (NFAT.IL12). No IL2 was administered.

    Results: The administration of 0.001 to 0.1 x 109 NFAT.IL12–transduced TILs to 17 patients resulted in a single, objective response (5.9%). However, at doses between 0.3 and 3 x 109 cells, 10 of 16 patients (63%) exhibited objective clinical responses. The responses tended to be short, and the administered IL12-producing cells rarely persisted at 1 month. Increasing cell doses were associated with high serum levels of IL12 and IFN as well as clinical toxicities, including liver dysfunction, high fevers, and sporadic life-threatening hemodynamic instability.

    Conclusions: In this first-in-man trial, administration of TILs transduced with an inducible IL12 gene mediated tumor responses in the absence of IL2 administration using cell doses 10- to 100-fold lower than conventional TILs. However, due to toxicities, likely attributable to the secreted IL12, further refinement will be necessary before this approach can be safely used in the treatment of cancer patients. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2278–88. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: Although durable responses can be achieved with tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as imatinib in melanomas harboring KIT mutations, the efficacy of alternative inhibitors after progression to imatinib and the activity of these agents on brain metastases are unknown.

    Experimental Design: We conducted a phase II study of nilotinib 400 mg twice a day in two cohorts of patients with melanomas harboring KIT mutations or amplification: (A) those refractory or intolerant to a prior KIT inhibitor; and (B) those with brain metastases. The primary endpoint was 4-month disease control rate. Secondary endpoints included response rate, time-to-progression (TTP), and overall survival (OS). A Simon two-stage and a single-stage design was planned to assess for the primary endpoint in cohorts A and B, respectively.

    Results: Twenty patients were enrolled and 19 treated (11 in cohort A; 8 in cohort B). Three patients on cohort A [27%; 95% confidence interval (CI), 8%–56%] and 1 on cohort B (12.5%; 90% CI, 0.6%–47%) achieved the primary endpoint. Two partial responses were observed in cohort A (18.2%; 90% CI, 3%–47%); none were observed in cohort B. The median TTP and OS was 3.3 (90% CI, 2.1–3.9 months) and 9.1 months (90% CI, 4.3–14.2 months), respectively, in all treated patients.

    Conclusions: Nilotinib may achieve disease control in patients with melanoma harboring KIT alterations and whose disease progressed after imatinib therapy. The efficacy of this agent in KIT-altered melanoma with brain metastasis is limited. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2289–96. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: The receptor tyrosine kinase c-Met plays an important role in tumorigenesis and is a novel target for anticancer treatment. This phase I, first-in-human trial, explored safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and initial antitumor activity of JNJ-38877605, a potent and selective c-Met inhibitor.

    Experimental Design: We performed a phase I dose-escalation study according to the standard 3+3 design.

    Results: Even at subtherapeutic doses, mild though recurrent renal toxicity was observed in virtually all patients. Renal toxicity had not been observed in preclinical studies in rats and dogs. Additional preclinical studies pointed toward the rabbit as a suitable toxicology model, as the formation of the M10 metabolite of JNJ-38877605 specifically occurred in rabbits and humans. Additional toxicology studies in rabbits clearly demonstrated that JNJ-38877605 induced species-specific renal toxicity. Histopathological evaluation in rabbits revealed renal crystal formation with degenerative and inflammatory changes. Identification of the components of these renal crystals revealed M1/3 and M5/6 metabolites. Accordingly, it was found that humans and rabbits showed significantly increased systemic exposure to these metabolites relative to other species. These main culprit insoluble metabolites were generated by aldehyde oxidase activity. Alternative dosing schedules of JNJ-3877605 and concomitant probenecid administration in rabbits failed to prevent renal toxicity at dose levels that could be pharmacologically active.

    Conclusions: Combined clinical and correlative preclinical studies suggest that renal toxicity of JNJ-38877605 is caused by the formation of species-specific insoluble metabolites. These observations preclude further clinical development of JNJ-38877605. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2297–304. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: This study reports a phase I immunotherapy trial in 23 women with metastatic breast cancer consisting of eight infusions of anti-CD3 x anti-HER2 bispecific antibody (HER2Bi) armed anti-CD3–activated T cells (ATC) in combination with low-dose IL-2 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor to determine safety, maximum tolerated dose (MTD), technical feasibility, T-cell trafficking, immune responses, time to progression, and overall survival (OS).

    Experimental Design: ATC were expanded from leukapheresis product using IL2 and anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody and armed with HER2Bi. In 3+3 dose escalation design, groups of 3 patients received 5, 10, 20, or 40 x 109 armed ATC (aATC) per infusion.

    Results: There were no dose-limiting toxicities and the MTD was not defined. It was technically feasible to grow 160 x 109 ATC from a single leukapheresis. aATC persisted in the blood for weeks and trafficked to tumors. Infusions of aATC induced anti-breast cancer responses and increases in immunokines. At 14.5 weeks after enrollment, 13 of 22 (59.1%) evaluable patients had stable disease and 9 of 22 (40.9%) had progressive disease. The median OS was 36.2 months for all patients, 57.4 months for HER2 3+ patients, and 27.4 months for HER2 0–2+ patients.

    Conclusions: Targeting HER2+ and HER2 tumors with aATC infusions induced antitumor responses, increases in Th1 cytokines, and IL12 serum levels that suggest that aATC infusions vaccinated patients against their own tumors. These results provide a strong rationale for conducting phase II trials. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2305–14. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: Although novel agents targeting the androgen–androgen receptor (AR) axis have altered the treatment paradigm of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), development of therapeutic resistance is inevitable. In this study, we examined whether AR gene aberrations detectable in circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) are associated with resistance to abiraterone acetate and enzalutamide in mCRPC patients.

    Experimental Design: Plasma was collected from 62 mCRPC patients ceasing abiraterone acetate (n = 29), enzalutamide (n = 19), or other agents (n = 14) due to disease progression. DNA was extracted and subjected to array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) for chromosome copy number analysis, and Roche 454 targeted next-generation sequencing of exon 8 in the AR.

    Results: On aCGH, AR amplification was significantly more common in patients progressing on enzalutamide than on abiraterone or other agents (53% vs. 17% vs. 21%, P = 0.02, 2). Missense AR exon 8 mutations were detected in 11 of 62 patients (18%), including the first reported case of an F876L mutation in an enzalutamide-resistant patient and H874Y and T877A mutations in 7 abiraterone-resistant patients. In patients switched onto enzalutamide after cfDNA collection (n = 39), an AR gene aberration (copy number increase and/or an exon 8 mutation) in pretreatment cfDNA was associated with adverse outcomes, including lower rates of PSA decline ≥ 30% (P = 0.013, 2) and shorter time to radiographic/clinical progression (P = 0.010, Cox proportional hazards regression).

    Conclusions: AR gene aberrations in cfDNA are associated with resistance to enzalutamide and abiraterone in mCRPC. Our data illustrate that genomic analysis of cfDNA is a minimally invasive method for interrogating mechanisms of therapeutic resistance in mCRPC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2315–24. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a cancer of the exocrine pancreas with unmet medical need and is strongly promoted by tumor-associated macrophages (TAM). The presence of TAMs is associated with poor clinical outcome, and their overall role, therefore, appears to be protumorigenic. The "don't eat me" signal CD47 on cancer cells communicates to the signal regulatory protein-α on macrophages and prevents their phagocytosis. Thus, inhibition of CD47 may offer a new opportunity to turn TAMs against PDAC cells, including cancer stem cells (CSC), as the exclusively tumorigenic population.

    Experimental Design: We studied in vitro and in vivo the effects of CD47 inhibition on CSCs using a large set of primary pancreatic cancer (stem) cells as well as xenografts of primary human PDAC tissue.

    Results: CD47 was highly expressed on CSCs, but not on other nonmalignant cells in the pancreas. Targeting CD47 efficiently enhanced phagocytosis of a representative set of primary human pancreatic cancer (stem) cells and, even more intriguingly, also directly induced their apoptosis in the absence of macrophages during long-term inhibition of CD47. In patient-derived xenograft models, CD47 targeting alone did not result in relevant slowing of tumor growth, but the addition of gemcitabine or Abraxane resulted in sustained tumor regression and prevention of disease relapse long after discontinuation of treatment.

    Conclusions: These data are consistent with efficient in vivo targeting of CSCs, and strongly suggest that CD47 inhibition could be a novel adjuvant treatment strategy for PDAC independent of underlying and highly variable driver mutations. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2325–37. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: The MUC1-C oncoprotein is an intracellular target that is druggable with cell-penetrating peptide inhibitors. However, development of peptidyl drugs for treating cancer has been a challenge because of unfavorable pharmacokinetic parameters and limited cell-penetrating capabilities.

    Experimental Design: Encapsulation of the MUC1-C inhibitor GO-203 in novel polymeric nanoparticles was studied for effects on intracellular targeting of MUC1-C signaling and function.

    Results: Our results show that loading GO-203 into tetrablock polylactic acid (PLA)-polyethylene glycol (PEG)-polypropylene glycol (PPG)-PEG copolymers is achievable and, notably, is enhanced by increasing PEG chain length. In addition, we found that release of GO-203 from these nanoparticles is controllable over at least 7 days. GO-203/nanoparticle treatment of MUC1-C–positive breast and lung cancer cells in vitro was more active with less frequent dosing than that achieved with nonencapsulated GO-203. Moreover, treatment with GO-203/nanoparticles blocked MUC1-C homodimerization, consistent with on-target effects. GO-203/nanoparticle treatment was also effective in downregulating TIGAR, disrupting redox balance, and inhibiting the self-renewal capacity of cancer cells. Significantly, weekly administration of GO-203/nanoparticles to mice bearing syngeneic or xenograft tumors was associated with regressions that were comparable with those found when dosing on a daily basis with GO-203.

    Conclusions: These findings thus define an effective approach for (i) sustained administration of GO-203 in polymeric PLA-(PEG-PPG-PEG) nanoparticles to target MUC1-C in cancer cells and (ii) the potential delivery of other anticancer peptide drugs. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2338–47. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) have recently emerged as efficacious therapies that target epigenetic mechanisms in hematologic malignancies. One such hematologic malignancy, B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), may be highly dependent on epigenetic regulation for leukemia development and maintenance, and thus sensitive to small-molecule inhibitors that target epigenetic mechanisms.

    Experimental Design: A panel of B-ALL cell lines was tested for sensitivity to HDACi with varying isoform sensitivity. Isoform-specific shRNAs were used as further validation of HDACs as relevant therapeutic targets in B-ALL. Mouse xenografts of B-cell malignancy–derived cell lines and a pediatric B-ALL were used to demonstrate pharmacologic efficacy.

    Results: Nonselective HDAC inhibitors were cytotoxic to a panel of B-ALL cell lines as well as to xenografted human leukemia patient samples. Assessment of isoform-specific HDACi indicated that targeting HDAC1-3 with class I HDAC-specific inhibitors was sufficient to inhibit growth of B-ALL cell lines. Furthermore, shRNA-mediated knockdown of HDAC1 or HDAC2 resulted in growth inhibition in these cells. We then assessed a compound that specifically inhibits only HDAC1 and HDAC2. This compound suppressed growth and induced apoptosis in B-ALL cell lines in vitro and in vivo, whereas it was far less effective against other B-cell–derived malignancies.

    Conclusions: Here, we show that HDAC inhibitors are a potential therapeutic option for B-ALL, and that a more specific inhibitor of HDAC1 and HDAC2 could be therapeutically useful for patients with B-ALL. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2348–58. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: HHLA2 (B7H7/B7-H5/B7y) is a newly identified B7 family member that regulates human T-cell functions. However, its protein expression in human organs and significance in human diseases are unknown. The objective of this study was to analyze HHLA2 protein expression in normal human tissues and cancers, as well as its prognostic significance, to explore mechanisms regulating HHLA2 expression, and to identify candidate HHLA2 receptors.

    Experimental Design: An immunohistochemistry protocol and a flow cytometry assay with newly generated monoclonal antibodies were developed to examine HHLA2 protein. HHLA2 gene copy-number variation was analyzed from cancer genomic data. The combination of bioinformatics analysis and immunologic approaches was established to explore HHLA2 receptors.

    Results: HHLA2 protein was detected in trophoblastic cells of the placenta and the epithelium of gut, kidney, gallbladder, and breast, but not in most other organs. In contrast, HHLA2 protein was widely expressed in human cancers from the breast, lung, thyroid, melanoma, pancreas, ovary, liver, bladder, colon, prostate, kidney, and esophagus. In a cohort of 50 patients with stage I–III triple-negative breast cancer, 56% of patients had aberrant expression of HHLA2 on their tumors, and high HHLA2 expression was significantly associated with regional lymph node metastasis and stage. The Cancer Genome Atlas revealed that HHLA2 copy-number gains were present in 29% of basal breast cancers, providing a potential mechanism for increased HHLA2 protein expression in breast cancer. Finally, Transmembrane and Immunoglobulin Domain Containing 2 (TMIGD2) was identified as one of the receptors for HHLA2.

    Conclusions: Wide expression of HHLA2 in human malignancies, together with its association with poor prognostic factors and its T-cell coinhibitory capability, suggests that the HHLA2 pathway represents a novel immunosuppressive mechanism within the tumor microenvironment and an attractive target for human cancer therapy. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2359–66. ©2014 AACR.

    See related commentary by Xiao and Freeman, p. 2201


    Purpose: Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is a heterogeneous disease with distinct molecular subtypes. The most established subtyping approach, the "Cell of Origin" (COO) algorithm, categorizes DLBCL into activated B-cell (ABC) and germinal center B-cell (GCB)-like subgroups through gene expression profiling. Recently developed immunohistochemical (IHC) techniques and other established methodologies can deliver discordant results and have various technical limitations. We evaluated the NanoString nCounter gene expression system to address issues with current platforms.

    Experimental Design: We devised a scoring system using 145 genes from published datasets to categorize DLBCL samples. After cell line validation, clinical tissue segmentation was tested using commercially available diagnostic DLBCL samples. Finally, we profiled biopsies from patients with relapsed/refractory DLBCL enrolled in the fostamatinib phase IIb clinical trial using three independent RNA expression platforms: NanoString, Affymetrix, and qNPA.

    Results: Diagnostic samples showed a typical spread of subtypes with consistent gene expression profiles across matched fresh, frozen, and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. Results from biopsy samples across platforms were remarkably consistent, in contrast to published IHC data. Interestingly, COO segmentation of longitudinal fostamatinib biopsies taken at initial diagnosis and then again at primary relapse showed 88% concordance (15/17), suggesting that COO designation remains stable over the course of disease progression.

    Conclusions: DLBCL segmentation of patient tumor samples is possible using a number of expression platforms. However, we found that NanoString offers the most flexibility and fewest limitations in regards to robust clinical tissue subtype characterization. These subtype distinctions should help guide disease prognosis and treatment options within DLBCL clinical practice. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2367–78. ©2014 AACR.

    See related commentary by Rimsza, p. 2204


    Purpose: Although ROS1-rearranged non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is sensitive to crizotinib, development of resistance is inevitable. Here, we identified molecular alterations in crizotinib-resistant tumors from two NSCLC patients with the CD74–ROS1 rearrangement, and in HCC78 cells harboring SLC34A2–ROS1 that showed resistance to crizotinib (HCC78CR cells).

    Experimental Design: ROS1 kinase domain mutations were examined in fresh tumor tissues from two NSCLC patients and HCC78CR1-3 cells by direct sequencing. Ba/F3 cells expressing ROS1 secondary mutations were constructed to evaluate resistance to crizotinib. An upregulated pathway was identified using phospho-receptor tyrosine kinase array, EGFR signaling antibody array, and RNA sequencing (RNA-seq). Cell proliferation and ROS1 downstream signaling pathways were compared between HCC78 and HCC78CR1-3 cells.

    Results: The ROS1 G2032R mutation was identified in crizotinib-resistant tumors from one patient. Furthermore, HCC78CR1 and CR2 cells harbored a novel ROS1 L2155S mutation (73.3% and 76.2%, respectively). ROS1 G2032R and L2155S mutations conferred resistance to crizotinib in Ba/F3 cells. Evidence of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition with downregulated E-cadherin and upregulated vimentin was observed in HCC78CR1-2 cells and in the other patient. RNA-seq and EGFR signaling antibody array revealed that the EGFR pathway was significantly upregulated in HCC78CR3 versus HCC78 cells. Cells with the ROS1 mutation and upregulated EGFR were sensitive to foretinib, an inhibitor of c-MET, VEGFR2, and ROS1 and irreversible EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors plus crizotinib, respectively.

    Conclusions: Molecular changes associated with acquired crizotinib resistance in ROS1-rearranged NSCLC are heterogeneous, including ROS1 tyrosine kinase mutations, EGFR activation, and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2379–87. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: The Hedgehog pathway plays an important role in stem-cell biology and malignant transformation. Therefore, we investigated the expression and prognostic impact of Hedgehog pathway members in acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

    Experimental Design: Pretreatment samples from 104 newly diagnosed AML patients (AMLSG 07-04 trial) were analyzed by qPCR, and expression of Hedgehog family members was correlated with clinical outcome. Inhibition of GLI by GANT61 or shRNA was investigated in AML cells in vitro and in vivo.

    Results: Expression of receptors Smoothened and Patched-1 and their downstream mediators, GLI1, GLI2, and GLI3, was found in AML patients in contrast to Hedgehog ligands. GLI2 expression had a significant negative influence on event-free survival (EFS), relapse-free survival (RFS), and overall survival (OS; P = 0.037, 0.026, and 0.013, respectively) and was correlated with FLT3 mutational status (P < 0.001). Analysis of a second, independent patient cohort confirmed the negative impact of GLI2 on EFS and OS (P = 0.007 and 0.003, respectively; n = 290). Within this cohort, GLI1 had a negative prognostic impact (P < 0.001 for both EFS and OS). Although AML cells did not express Hedgehog ligands by qPCR, AML patients had significantly increased Desert Hedgehog (DHH) plasma levels compared with healthy subjects (P = 0.002), in whom DHH was presumably provided by bone marrow niche cells. Moreover, the GLI inhibitor GANT61 or knockdown of GLI1/2 by shRNA caused antileukemic effects, including induction of apoptosis, reduced proliferation, and colony formation in AML cells, and a survival benefit in mice.

    Conclusions: GLI expression is a negative prognostic factor and might represent a novel druggable target in AML. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2388–98. ©2015 AACR.


    Purpose: Deregulation of miRNA has been implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma. We identified miR-137 and miR-197, mapped to the chromosome 1p (12)–(21) deletion region, and examined their antimyeloma activity as tumor suppressors.

    Experimental Design: The expression of miR-137/197 was examined in multiple myeloma and normal plasma cells by qRT-PCR. Functional effect of miR-137/197 was analyzed by cell viability, apoptosis, clonogenic, and migration assays. Antimyeloma activity of miR-137/197 was further evaluated in vivo by lentiviral-based or lipid-based delivery in a mouse xenograft model of multiple myeloma.

    Results: miR-137/197 expression was significantly lower in multiple myeloma cell lines and multiple myeloma patient samples compared with normal plasma cells. Transfection of miR-137/197 resulted in reduction of MCL-1 protein expression, as well as alteration of apoptosis-related genes, and induction of apoptosis, inhibition of viability, colony formation, and migration in multiple myeloma cells. MCL-1 was further validated as a direct target of miR-137/197. Conversely, overexpression of MCL-1 partially reverted the effect of miR-137/197. Importantly, in vivo lentiviral-mediated or intratumor delivery of miR-137/197 induced regression of tumors in murine xenograft models of multiple myeloma.

    Conclusions: Our study reveals a novel role of miR-137/197 as tumor suppressors in mediating apoptosis in multiple myeloma cells by targeting MCL-1. Our findings provide a proof-of-principle that lentivirus-based or formulated synthetic miR-137/197 exerts therapeutic activity in preclinical models, and support a framework for development of miR-137/197-based treatment strategies in patients with multiple myeloma. Clin Cancer Res; 21(10); 2399–411. ©2015 AACR.