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Clinical Cancer Research

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Clinical Cancer Research

Molecular prostate cancer subtypes have been proposed on the basis of mutually exclusive SPINK1 and ERG overexpression, with conflicting reports on their prognostic ability. Flavin and colleagues report that SPINK1 is neither prognostic nor absolutely mutually exclusive with ERG, raising important questions about prostate cancer molecular subtyping and prognostic biomarker evaluation. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4733–6. ©2014 AACR.


Anthracyclines are active clinical agents that have multiple mechanisms of cytotoxicity. Cardiotoxicity by anthracyclines limits the therapeutic potential of these agents, but mechanisms leading to cardiotoxicity remain controversial. Transgenic mice that lack mitochondrial topoisomerase I are hypersensitive to doxorubicin cardiotoxicity, providing support for cardiotoxicity arising from damage of mitochondrial DNA. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4737–9. ©2014 AACR.


Cancers driven by oncogenic Ras proteins encompass some of the most deadly human cancer types, and there is a pressing need to develop therapies for these diseases. Although recent studies suggest that mutant Ras proteins may yet be druggable, the most promising and advanced efforts involve inhibitors of Ras effector signaling. Most efforts to target Ras signaling have been aimed at the ERK mitogen-activated protein kinase and the phosphoinositide 3-kinase signaling networks. However, to date, no inhibitors of these Ras effector pathways have been effective against RAS-mutant cancers. This ineffectiveness is due, in part, to the involvement of additional effectors in Ras-dependent cancer growth, such as the Rac small GTPase and the p21-activated serine–threonine kinases (PAK). PAK proteins are involved in many survival, cell motility, and proliferative pathways in the cell and may present a viable new target in Ras-driven cancers. In this review, we address the role and therapeutic potential of Rac and group I PAK proteins in driving mutant Ras cancers. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4740–6. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: This phase I, multicenter, open-label, single-arm, dose-escalation, and dose-expansion study evaluated the safety, tolerability, and antitumor activity of MEDI-573 in adults with advanced solid tumors refractory to standard therapy or for which no standard therapy exists.

Experimental Design: Patients received MEDI-573 in 1 of 5 cohorts (0.5, 1.5, 5, 10, or 15 mg/kg) dosed weekly or 1 of 2 cohorts (30 or 45 mg/kg) dosed every 3 weeks. Primary end points included the MEDI-573 safety profile, maximum tolerated dose (MTD), and optimal biologic dose (OBD). Secondary end points included MEDI-573 pharmacokinetics (PK), pharmacodynamics, immunogenicity, and antitumor activity.

Results: In total, 43 patients (20 with urothelial cancer) received MEDI-573. No dose-limiting toxicities were identified, and only 1 patient experienced hyperglycemia related to treatment. Elevations in levels of insulin and/or growth hormone were not observed. Adverse events observed in >10% of patients included fatigue, anorexia, nausea, diarrhea, and anemia. PK evaluation demonstrated that levels of MEDI-573 increased with dose at all dose levels tested. At doses >5 mg/kg, circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and IGFII were fully suppressed. Of 39 patients evaluable for response, none experienced partial or complete response and 13 had stable disease as best response.

Conclusions: The MTD of MEDI-573 was not reached. The OBD was 5 mg/kg weekly or 30 or 45 mg/kg every 3 weeks. MEDI-573 showed preliminary antitumor activity in a heavily pretreated population and had a favorable tolerability profile, with no notable perturbations in metabolic homeostasis. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4747–57. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Phase I clinical trials are generally conducted to identify the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) or the biologically active dose (BAD) using a traditional dose-escalation design. This design may not be applied to cancer vaccines, given their unique mechanism of action. The FDA recently published "Guidance for Industry: Clinical Considerations for Therapeutic Cancer Vaccines." However, many questions about the design of cancer vaccine studies remain unanswered.

Experimental Design: We analyzed the toxicity profile in 239 phase I therapeutic cancer vaccine trials. We addressed the ability of dose escalation to determine the MTD or the BAD in trials that used a dose-escalation design.

Results: The rate of grade 3/4 vaccine-related systemic toxicities was 1.25 adverse events per 100 patients and 2 per 1,000 vaccines. Only two of the 127 dose-escalation trials reported vaccine-related dose limiting toxicities, both of which used bacterial vector vaccines. Out of the 116 trials analyzed for the dose–immune response relationship, we found a statistically significant dose–immune response correlation only when the immune response was measured by antibodies (P < 0.001) or delayed type hypersensitivity (P < 0.05). However, the increase in cellular immune response did not appear further sustainable with the continued increase in dose.

Conclusions: Our analysis suggests that the risks of serious toxicities with therapeutic cancer vaccines are extremely low and that toxicities do not correlate with dose levels. Accordingly, the conventional dose-escalation design is not suitable for cancer vaccines with few exceptions. Here, we propose an alternative design for therapeutic cancer vaccine development. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4758–67. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Elderly oncology patients are not enrolled in early-phase trials in proportion to the numbers of geriatric patients with cancer. There may be concern that elderly patients will not tolerate investigational agents as well as younger patients, resulting in a disproportionate number of dose-limiting toxicities (DLT). Recent single-institution studies provide conflicting data on the relationship between age and DLT.

Experimental Design: We retrospectively reviewed data about patients treated on single-agent, dose-escalation, phase I clinical trials sponsored by the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP) of the National Cancer Institute. Patients' dose levels were described as a percentage of maximum tolerated dose, the highest dose level at which <33% of patients had a DLT, or recommended phase II dose (RP2D). Mixed-effect logistic regression models were used to analyze relationships between the probability of a DLT and age and other explanatory variables.

Results: Increasing dose, increasing age, and worsening performance status (PS) were significantly related to an increased probability of a DLT in this model (P < 0.05). There was no association between dose level administered and age (P = 0.57).

Conclusions: This analysis of phase I dose-escalation trials, involving more than 500 patients older than 70 years of age, is the largest reported. As age and dose level increased and PS worsened, the probability of a DLT increased. Although increasing age was associated with occurrence of DLT, this risk remained within accepted thresholds of risk for phase I trials. There was no evidence of age bias on enrollment of patients on low or high dose levels. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4768–75. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: RGB-286638 is a multitargeted inhibitor with targets comprising the family of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) and a range of other cancer-relevant tyrosine and serine/threonine kinases. The objectives of this first in human trial of RGB-286638, given i.v. on days 1 to 5 every 28 days, were to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) and to evaluate the pharmacokinetic (PK) and pharmacodynamic (PD) profiles of this new drug.

Experimental Design: Sequential cohorts of 3 to 6 patients were treated per dose level. Blood, urine samples, and skin biopsies for full PK and/or PD analyses were collected.

Results: Twenty-six patients were enrolled in 6-dose levels from 10 to 160 mg/d. Four dose-limiting toxicities were observed in 2 of the 6 patients enrolled at the highest dose level. These toxicities were AST/ALT elevations in 1 patient, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardias (SVTs), hypotension, and an increase in troponin T in another patient. The plasma PK of RGB-286638 was shown to be linear over the studied doses. The interpatient variability in clearance was moderate (variation coefficient 7%–36%). The PD analyses in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, serum (apoptosis induction) and skin biopsies (Rb, p-Rb, Ki-67, and p27KIP1 expression) did not demonstrate a consistent modulation of mechanism-related biomarkers with the exception of lowered Ki-67 levels at the MTD level. The recommended MTD for phase II studies is 120 mg/d.

Conclusions: RGB-286638 is tolerated when administered at 120 mg/d for 5 days every 28 days. Prolonged disease stabilization (range, 2–14 months) was seen across different dose levels. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4776–83. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: To examine the clinical utility of intratumor microRNAs (miRNA) as a biomarker for predicting responses to platinum-based doublet chemotherapy in patients with recurring lung adenocarcinoma (LADC).

Experimental Design: The expression of miRNAs was examined in LADC tissues surgically resected from patients treated with platinum-based doublet chemotherapy at the time of LADC recurrence. Microarray-based screening of 904 miRNAs followed by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR–based verification in 40 test cohort samples, including 16 (40.0%) responders, was performed to identify miRNAs that are differentially expressed in chemotherapy responders and nonresponders. Differential expression was confirmed in a validation cohort (n = 63 samples), including 18 (28.6%) responders. An miRNA signature that predicted responses to platinum-based doublet chemotherapy was identified and its accuracy was examined by principal component and support vector machine analyses. Genotype data for the TP53-Arg72Pro polymorphism, which is associated with responses to platinum-based doublet chemotherapy, were subsequently incorporated into the prediction analysis.

Results: A signature comprising three miRNAs (miR1290, miR196b, and miR135a*) enabled the prediction of a chemotherapeutic response (rather than progression-free and overall survival) with high accuracy in both the test and validation cohorts (82.5% and 77.8%). Examination of the latter was performed using miRNAs extracted from archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. Combining this miRNA signature with the TP53-Arg72Pro polymorphism genotype marginally improved the predictive power.

Conclusion: The three-miRNA signature in surgically resected primary LADC tissues may by clinically useful for predicting responsiveness to platinum-based doublet chemotherapy in patients with LADC recurrence. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4784–93. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: This study aimed to construct a novel platform for the detection of circulating tumor cells (CTC) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and to investigate the clinical significance of epithelial cell adhesion molecule mRNA-positive (EpCAMmRNA+) CTCs using this platform.

Experimental Design: An optimized platform for CTC detection was constructed by evaluating different negative enrichment, mRNA isolation, and cDNA synthesis procedures and compared with the CellSearch system. A total of 299 patients with HCC were recruited into this prospective study; of these, 157 who received curative resection, 76 who received transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE), and 66 who received radiotherapy were tested using our platform. The diagnostic value of EpCAMmRNA+ CTCs was investigated in 122 patients with HCC who underwent resection and 120 control subjects.

Results: The optimized negative enrichment and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR)-based CTC detection platform had high sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility and a low sample volume requirement. This platform showed a potential diagnostic value in patients with HCC and exhibited 76.7% consistency with the CellSearch system (r = 0.54, P < 0.050). Pretreatment CTC level showed prognostic significance in patients with HCC treated with resection, TACE, and radiotherapy (all P < 0.050). Most of the patients showed a decrease in CTC levels after treatment that reflected tumor response. In contrast, patients with an increased CTC level showed disease progression after treatment.

Conclusions: We established an optimized platform based on negative enrichment and qRT-PCR for highly sensitive, specific, and reproducible CTC detection. This platform might be clinically useful in auxiliary diagnosis, treatment response assessment, and early decision-making to tailor the most effective antitumor strategies. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4794–805. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: MET amplification is one of the mechanisms underlying acquired resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Here, we tested whether 3'-deoxy-3'-[18F]-fluorothymidine ([18F]FLT) positron emission tomography/computerized tomography (PET/CT) can detect MET-mediated resistance to EGFR TKIs and monitor the effects of MET inhibitors in NSCLC.

Experimental Design: H1993 and H820 NSCLC cells with high and low levels of MET amplification, respectively, and HCC827-expressing MET, but without gene amplification, were tested for the effects of MET inhibitors on the EGFR pathway and proliferation both in vitro and in vivo. Nude mice bearing NSCLCs with and without MET amplification were subjected to [18F]FLT PET/CT before and after treatment with crizotinib or erlotinib (50 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg p.o. for 3 days).

Results: H1993 cells showed high responsiveness to MET inhibitors and were resistant to erlotinib. Conversely, HCC827 cells showed high sensitivity to erlotinib and were resistant to MET inhibitors. Accordingly, H1993 tumors bearing MET amplification showed a mean reduction in [18F]FLT uptake of 28% and 41% after low- and high-dose treatment with crizotinib for 3 days, whereas no posttherapy changes of [18F]FLT uptake were observed in HCC827 tumors lacking MET amplification. Furthermore, a persistently high [18F]FLT uptake was observed in H1993 tumors after treatment with erlotinib, whereas HCC827 tumors showed up to 39% reduction of [18F]FLT uptake following erlotinib treatment. Imaging findings were confirmed by Ki67 immunostaining of tumor sections.

Conclusions: [18F]FLT PET/CT can detect MET-mediated resistance to EGFR TKIs and its reversal by MET inhibitors in NSCLC. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4806–15. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors are promising targeted treatment options for hereditary breast tumors with a homologous recombination (HR) deficiency caused by BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. However, the functional consequence of BRCA gene mutations is not always known and tumors can be HR deficient for other reasons than BRCA gene mutations. Therefore, we aimed to develop a functional test to determine HR activity in tumor samples to facilitate selection of patients eligible for PARP inhibitor treatment.

Experimental design: We obtained 54 fresh primary breast tumor samples from patients undergoing surgery. We determined their HR capacity by studying the formation of ionizing radiation induced foci (IRIF) of the HR protein RAD51 after ex vivo irradiation of these organotypic breast tumor samples. Tumors showing impaired RAD51 IRIF formation were subjected to genetic and epigenetic analysis.

Results: Five of 45 primary breast tumors with sufficient numbers of proliferating tumor cells were RAD51 IRIF formation deficient (11%, 95% CI, 5%–24%). This HR defect was significantly associated with triple-negative breast cancer (OR, 57; 95% CI, 3.9–825; P = 0.003). Two of five HR-deficient tumors were not caused by mutations in the BRCA genes, but by BRCA1 promoter hypermethylation.

Conclusion: The functional RAD51 IRIF assay faithfully identifies HR-deficient tumors and has clear advantages over gene sequencing. It is a relatively easy assay that can be performed on biopsy material, making it a powerful tool to select patients with an HR-deficient cancer for PARP inhibitor treatment in the clinic. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4816–26. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to confirm our previous results that targeted agents matched with tumor molecular alterations were associated with improved outcomes compared with nonmatched therapy in patients with advanced cancer.

Experimental Design: Outcomes of patients who were referred for treatment on phase I clinical trials at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX) from March 2011 to January 2012 were compared between those who had received targeted therapy and those for whom no targeted therapy was available. Two-month landmark analyses for overall and progression-free survival (PFS) combining previously published and validation cohort patient data were performed.

Results: In patients with one alteration, matched therapy (n = 143) compared with treatment without matching (n = 236) was associated with a higher objective response rate (12% vs. 5%; P < 0.0001), longer PFS (median, 3.9 vs. 2.2 months; P = 0.001), and longer survival (median, 11.4 vs. 8.6 months; P = 0.04). In multivariate analysis, matched therapy was an independent factor predicting response (P < 0.015) and PFS (P < 0.004). Two-month landmark analyses in the matched therapy group demonstrated that the median survival of responders was 30.5 months compared with 11.3 months for nonresponders (P = 0.01); and the median PFS was 38.7 months compared with 5.9 months, respectively (P < 0.0001). The respective values in the nonmatched therapy group were 9.8 and 9.4 months (P = 0.46) and 8.5 and 4.2 months (P = 0.18).

Conclusion: This validation analysis confirms our previous observations. In the matched therapy group, 2-month landmark analyses demonstrated that responders have longer survival and PFS than nonresponders. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4827–36. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: We sought to systematically define determinants of the response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy to elucidate predictive biomarkers for breast cancer.

Experimental Design: An unbiased systematic analysis was performed in multiple independent datasets to define genes predictive of complete pathologic response (pCR) following treatment with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. These genes were interrogated across estrogen receptor (ER)–positive and ER-negative breast cancer and those in common across three different treatment regimens were analyzed for optimal predictive power. Subsequent validation was performed on independent cohorts by gene expression and IHC analyses.

Results: Genes that were highly associated with the response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer were readily defined using a computational method ranking individual genes by their respective ROC. Such predictive genes of the response to taxane-associated therapies were strongly enriched for cell-cycle control processes in both ER-positive and ER-negative breast cancer and correlated with pCR. However, other genes that were specifically associated with residual disease were also identified under other treatment conditions. Using the intersection between treatment groups, nine genes were identified that harbored strong predictive power in multiple contexts and validation cohort. In particular, the nuclear oncogene DEK was strongly associated with pCR, whereas the cell surface protein BCAM was strongly associated with residual disease. By IHC staining, these markers exhibited potent predictive power that remained significant in multivariate analysis.

Conclusion: Systematic computational approaches can define key genes that will be able to predict the response to chemotherapy across multiple treatment modalities yielding a small collection of biomarkers that can be readily deployed by IHC analyses. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4837–48. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The aim of this study is to explore the efficacy and define mechanisms of action of coadministration of the PI3K/mTOR inhibitor BEZ235 and pan-HDAC inhibitor panobinostat in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) cells.

Experimental Design: Various DLBCL cells were exposed to panobinostat and BEZ235 alone or together after which apoptosis and signaling/survival pathway perturbations were monitored by flow cytometry and Western blot analysis. Genetic strategies defined the functional significance of such changes, and xenograft mouse models were used to assess tumor growth and animal survival.

Results: Panobinostat and BEZ235 interacted synergistically in ABC-, GC-, and double-hit DLBCL cells and MCL cells but not in normal CD34+ cells. Synergism was associated with pronounced AKT dephosphorylation, GSK3 dephosphorylation/activation, Mcl-1 downregulation, Bim upregulation, increased Bcl-2/Bcl-xL binding, diminished Bax/Bak binding to Bcl-2/Bcl-xL/Mcl-1, increased H2A.X phosphorylation and histone H3/H4 acetylation, and abrogation of p21CIP1 induction. BEZ235/panobinostat lethality was not susceptible to stromal/microenvironmental forms of resistance. Genetic strategies confirmed significant functional roles for AKT inactivation, Mcl-1 downregulation, Bim upregulation, and Bax/Bak in synergism. Finally, coadministration of BEZ235 with panobinostat in immunocompromised mice bearing SU-DHL4–derived tumors significantly reduced tumor growth in association with similar signaling changes observed in vitro, and combined treatment increased animal survival compared with single agents.

Conclusions: BEZ235/panobinostat exhibits potent anti-DLBCL activity, including in poor-prognosis ABC- and double-hit subtypes, but not in normal CD34+ cells. Synergism is most likely multifactorial, involving AKT inactivation/GSK3 activation, Bim upregulation, Mcl-1 downregulation, enhanced DNA damage, and is operative in vivo. Combined PI3K/mTOR and HDAC inhibition warrants further attention in DLBCL. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4849–60. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) remains incurable despite advances in therapy. In this study, we characterize the effect of nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) inhibition by FK866 in primary CLL cells from patients with various clinical prognostic markers.

Experimental Design: CLL cells were treated with FK866 to assess viability by Annexin V/PI staining. Functional analysis of FK866 included time- and concentration-dependent evaluation of cellular NAD, ATP, mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), reactive oxygen species (ROS), and apoptotic signaling. Chemosensitization potential by FK866 to fludarabine was also assessed. Prognostic markers were correlated with drug response.

Results: FK866 induced CLL cell death by depleting cellular NAD content by day 1, followed by a drop in ATP on day 2. We observed loss of MMP, ROS increase, and induction of apoptotic signaling at day 3. On-target activity of FK866 was confirmed by NAD-mediated rescue of NAD and ATP loss, apoptotic signaling, and viability. The response to FK866 was independent of most prognostic markers. Higher doses were required with short lymphocyte doubling time and positive CD38 status, whereas CLL cells resistant to fludarabine in vitro and from patients with del17p13.1 were equally sensitive to FK866. FK866 did not upregulate the p53-target p21, nor did the p53 activator Nutlin improve FK866-mediated cell death. Furthermore, fludarabine and FK866 were synergistic at clinically relevant concentrations.

Conclusions: NAMPT inhibition by FK866 may be a potential treatment for CLL, including patients with del17p13.1 or other high-risk features. FK866 may complement standard agents to enhance their efficacy and/or allow dose reduction for improved tolerability. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4861–72. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Doxorubicin is one of the most effective chemotherapeutic agents. However, up to 30% of the patients treated with doxorubicin suffer from congestive heart failure. The mechanism of doxorubicin cardiotoxicity is likely multifactorial and most importantly, the genetic factors predisposing to doxorubicin cardiotoxicity are unknown. On the basis of the fact that mtDNA lesions and mitochondrial dysfunctions have been found in human hearts exposed to doxorubicin and that mitochondrial topoisomerase 1 (Top1mt) specifically controls mtDNA homeostasis, we hypothesized that Top1mt knockout (KO) mice might exhibit hypersensitivity to doxorubicin.

Experimental Design: Wild-type (WT) and KO Top1mt mice were treated once a week with 4 mg/kg doxorubicin for 8 weeks. Heart tissues were analyzed one week after the last treatment.

Results: Genetic inactivation of Top1mt in mice accentuates mtDNA copy number loss and mtDNA damage in heart tissue following doxorubicin treatment. Top1mt KO mice also fail to maintain respiratory chain protein production and mitochondrial cristae ultrastructure organization. These mitochondrial defects result in decreased O2 consumption, increased reactive oxygen species production, and enhanced heart muscle damage in animals treated with doxorubicin. Accordingly, Top1mt KO mice die within 45 days after the last doxorubicin injection, whereas the WT mice survive.

Conclusions: Our results provide evidence that Top1mt, which is conserved across vertebrates, is critical for cardiac tolerance to doxorubicin and adaptive response to doxorubicin cardiotoxicity. They also suggest the potential of Top1mt single-nucleotide polymorphisms testing to investigate patient susceptibility to doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4873–81. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: In this study, we evaluated the analgesic potential of demethylating drugs on oral cancer pain. Although demethylating drugs could affect expression of many genes, we focused on the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene pathway, because of its role in pain processing. We determined the antinociceptive effect of OPRM1 re-expression in a mouse oral cancer model.

Experimental Design: Using a mouse oral cancer model, we determined whether demethylating drugs produced antinociception through re-expression of OPRM1. We then re-expressed OPRM1 with adenoviral transduction and determined if, and by what mechanism, OPRM1 re-expression produced antinociception. To determine the clinical significance of OPRM1 on cancer pain, we quantified OPRM1 methylation in painful cancer tissues and nonpainful contralateral normal tissues of patients with oral cancer, and nonpainful dysplastic tissues of patients with oral dysplasia.

Results: We demonstrated that OPRM1 was methylated in cancer tissue, but not normal tissue, of patients with oral cancer, and not in dysplastic tissues from patients with oral dysplasia. Treatment with demethylating drugs resulted in mechanical and thermal antinociception in the mouse cancer model. This behavioral change correlated with OPRM1 re-expression in the cancer and associated neurons. Similarly, adenoviral-mediated OPRM1 re-expression on cancer cells resulted in naloxone-reversible antinociception. OPRM1 re-expression on oral cancer cells in vitro increased β-endorphin secretion from the cancer, and decreased activation of neurons that were treated with cancer supernatant.

Conclusion: Our study establishes the regulatory role of methylation in cancer pain. OPRM1 re-expression in cancer cells produces antinociception through cancer-mediated endogenous opioid secretion. Demethylating drugs have an analgesic effect that involves OPRM1. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4882–93. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The current standard of care for glioblastoma (GBM) involves a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, and temozolomide chemotherapy, but this regimen fails to achieve long-term tumor control. Resistance to temozolomide is largely mediated by expression of the DNA repair enzyme MGMT; however, emerging evidence suggests that inactivation of MSH6 and other mismatch repair proteins plays an important role in temozolomide resistance. Here, we investigate endogenous MSH6 mutations in GBM, anaplastic oligodendroglial tumor tissue, and corresponding brain tumor–initiating cell lines (BTIC).

Experimental Design: MSH6 sequence and MGMT promoter methylation were determined in human tumor samples and BTICs. Sensitivity to temozolomide was evaluated in vitro using BTICs in the absence and presence of O6-benzylguanine to deplete MGMT. The influence of MGMT and MSH6 status on in vivo sensitivity to temozolomide was evaluated using intracranial BTIC xenografts.

Results: We identified 11 previously unreported mutations in MSH6 in nine different glioma samples and six paired BTIC lines from adult patients. In addition, MSH6 mutations were documented in three oligodendrogliomas and two treatment-naïve gliomas, both previously unreported findings. These mutations were found to influence the sensitivity of BTICs to temozolomide both in vitro and in vivo, independent of MGMT promoter methylation status.

Conclusions: These data demonstrate that endogenous MSH6 mutations may be present before alkylator therapy and occur in at least two histologic subtypes of adult glial neoplasms, with this report serving as the first to note these mutations in oligodendroglioma. These findings broaden our understanding of the clinical response to temozolomide in gliomas. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4894–903. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: SPINK1 overexpression has been described in prostate cancer and is linked with poor prognosis in many cancers. The objective of this study was to characterize the association between SPINK1 overexpression and prostate cancer–specific survival.

Experimental Design: The study included 879 participants in the U.S. Physicians' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, diagnosed with prostate cancer (1983–2004) and treated by radical prostatectomy. Protein tumor expression of SPINK1 was evaluated by immunohistochemistry on tumor tissue microarrays.

Results: Seventy-four of 879 (8%) prostate cancer tumors were SPINK1 positive. Immunohistochemical data were available for PTEN, p-Akt, pS6, stathmin, androgen receptor (AR), and ERG (as a measure of the TMPRSS2:ERG translocation). Compared with SPINK1-negative tumors, SPINK1-positive tumors showed higher PTEN and stathmin expression, and lower expression of AR (P < 0.01). SPINK1 overexpression was seen in 47 of 427 (11%) ERG-negative samples and in 19 of 427 (4%) ERG-positive cases (P = 0.0003). We found no significant associations between SPINK1 status and Gleason grade or tumor stage. There was no association between SPINK1 expression and biochemical recurrence (P = 0.56). Moreover, there was no association between SPINK1 expression and prostate cancer mortality (there were 75 lethal cases of prostate cancer during a mean of 13.5 years follow-up; HR = 0.71; 95% confidence interval, 0.29–1.76).

Conclusions: Our results suggest that SPINK1 protein expression may not be a predictor of recurrence or lethal prostate cancer amongst men treated by radical prostatectomy. SPINK1 and ERG protein expression do not seem to be entirely mutually exclusive, as some previous studies have suggested. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4904–11. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Cigarette smoking is the major pathogenic factor for lung cancer. The precise mechanisms of tobacco-related carcinogenesis and its effect on the genomic and transcriptional landscape in lung cancer are not fully understood.

Experimental Design: A total of 1,398 (277 never-smokers and 1,121 smokers) genomic and 1,449 (370 never-smokers and 1,079 smokers) transcriptional profiles were assembled from public lung adenocarcinoma cohorts, including matched next-generation DNA-sequencing data (n = 423). Unsupervised and supervised methods were used to identify smoking-related copy-number alterations (CNAs), predictors of smoking status, and molecular subgroups.

Results: Genomic meta-analyses showed that never-smokers and smokers harbored a similar frequency of total CNAs, although specific regions (5q, 8q, 16p, 19p, and 22q) displayed a 20% to 30% frequency difference between the two groups. Importantly, supervised classification analyses based on CNAs or gene expression could not accurately predict smoking status (balanced accuracies ~60% to 80%). However, unsupervised multicohort transcriptional profiling stratified adenocarcinomas into distinct molecular subgroups with specific patterns of CNAs, oncogenic mutations, and mutation transversion frequencies that were independent of the smoking status. One subgroup included approximately 55% to 90% of never-smokers and approximately 20% to 40% of smokers (both current and former) with molecular and clinical features of a less aggressive and smoking-unrelated disease. Given the considerable intragroup heterogeneity in smoking-defined subgroups, especially among former smokers, our results emphasize the clinical importance of accurate molecular characterization of lung adenocarcinoma.

Conclusions: The landscape of smoking-related CNAs and transcriptional alterations in adenocarcinomas is complex, heterogeneous, and with moderate differences. Our results support a molecularly distinct less aggressive adenocarcinoma entity, arising in never-smokers and a subset of smokers. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4912–24. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare the frequency of ERG rearrangement, PTEN deletion, SPINK1 overexpression, and SPOP mutation in prostate cancer in African American and Caucasian men.

Experimental design: Dominant tumor nodules from radical prostatectomy specimens of 105 African American men (AAM) were compared with 113 dominant nodules from Caucasian men (CaM). Clinical and pathologic characteristics of the two groups were similar. SPINK1 overexpression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry, ERG rearrangement and PTEN deletion by FISH, and SPOP mutation by Sanger sequencing.

Results: ERG rearrangement was identified in 48 of 113 tumors (42.5%) in CaM and 29 of 105 tumors (27.6%) in AAM (P = 0.024). PTEN deletion was seen in 19 of 96 tumors (19.8%) in CaM and 7 of 101 tumors (6.9%) in AAM (P = 0.011). SPINK1 overexpression was present in 9 of 110 tumors (8.2%) in CaM and 25 of 105 tumors (23.4%) in AAM (P = 0.002). SPOP mutation was identified in 8 of 78 (10.3%) tumors in CaM and 4 of 88 (4.5%) tumors in AAM (P = 0.230). When adjusted for age, body mass index, Gleason score, and pathologic stage, ERG rearrangement and SPINK1 overexpression remain significantly different (P = 0.018 and P = 0.008, respectively), and differences in PTEN deletion and SPOP mutation approach significance (P = 0.061 and P = 0.087, respectively).

Conclusions: Significant molecular differences exist between prostate cancers in AAM and CaM. SPINK1 overexpression, an alteration associated with more aggressive prostate cancers, was more frequent in AAM, whereas ERG rearrangement and PTEN deletion were less frequent in this cohort. Further investigation is warranted to determine whether these molecular differences explain some of the disparity in incidence and mortality between these two ethnic groups. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4925–34. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Genetic analysis of bladder cancer has revealed a number of frequently altered genes, including frequent alterations of the telomerase (TERT) gene promoter, although few altered genes have been functionally evaluated. Our objective is to characterize alterations observed by exome sequencing and sequencing of the TERT promoter, and to examine the functional relevance of histone lysine (K)–specific demethylase 6A (KDM6A/UTX), a frequently mutated histone demethylase, in bladder cancer.

Experimental Design: We analyzed bladder cancer samples from 54 U.S. patients by exome and targeted sequencing and confirmed somatic variants using normal tissue from the same patient. We examined the biologic function of KDM6A using in vivo and in vitro assays.

Results: We observed frequent somatic alterations in BRCA1 associated protein-1 (BAP1) in 15% of tumors, including deleterious alterations to the deubiquitinase active site and the nuclear localization signal. BAP1 mutations contribute to a high frequency of tumors with breast cancer (BRCA) DNA repair pathway alterations and were significantly associated with papillary histologic features in tumors. BAP1 and KDM6A mutations significantly co-occurred in tumors. Somatic variants altering the TERT promoter were found in 69% of tumors but were not correlated with alterations in other bladder cancer genes. We examined the function of KDM6A, altered in 24% of tumors, and show depletion in human bladder cancer cells, enhanced in vitro proliferation, in vivo tumor growth, and cell migration.

Conclusions: This study is the first to identify frequent BAP1 and BRCA pathway alterations in bladder cancer, show TERT promoter alterations are independent of other bladder cancer gene alterations, and show KDM6A loss is a driver of the bladder cancer phenotype. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4935–48. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Successful therapy of patients with prostate cancer is highly dependent on reliable diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. Brachyury is considered a negative prognostic factor in colon and lung cancer; however, there are no reports on Brachyury's expression in prostate cancer.

Experimental Design: In this study, we aimed to assess the impact of Brachyury expression in prostate tumorigenesis using a large series of human prostate samples comprising benign tissue, prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) lesions, localized tumor, and metastatic tissues. The results obtained were compared with what can be inferred from the Oncomine database. In addition, multiple in vitro models of prostate cancer were used to dissect the biologic role of Brachyury in prostate cancer progression.

Results: We found that Brachyury is significantly overexpressed in prostate cancer and metastatic tumors when compared with normal tissues, both at protein and at mRNA levels. Brachyury expression in the cytoplasm correlates with highly aggressive tumors, whereas the presence of Brachyury in the nucleus is correlated with tumor invasion. We found that Brachyury-positive cells present higher viability, proliferation, migration, and invasion rates than Brachyury-negative cells. Microarray analysis further showed that genes co-expressed with Brachyury are clustered in oncogenic-related pathways, namely cell motility, cell-cycle regulation, and cell metabolism.

Conclusions: Collectively, the present study suggests that Brachyury plays an important role in prostate cancer aggressiveness and points, for the first time, to Brachyury as a significant predictor of poor prostate cancer prognosis. Our work paves the way for future studies assessing Brachyury as a possible prostate cancer therapeutic target. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4949–61. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: African Americans (AA) have the highest incidence of colorectal cancer compared with other U.S. populations and more proximal colorectal cancers. The objective is to elucidate the basis of these cancer disparities.

Experimental design: Of note, 566 AA and 328 non-Hispanic White (NHW) colorectal cancers were ascertained in five Chicago hospitals. Clinical and exposure data were collected. Microsatellite instability (MSI) and BRAF (V600E) and KRAS mutations were tested. Statistical significance of categorical variables was tested by the Fisher exact test or logistic regression and age by the Mann–Whitney U test.

Results: Over a 10-year period, the median age at diagnosis significantly decreased for both AAs (68–61; P < 0.01) and NHWs (64.5– 62; P = 0.04); more AA patients were diagnosed before age 50 than NHWs (22% vs. 15%; P = 0.01). AAs had more proximal colorectal cancer than NHWs (49.5% vs. 33.7%; P < 0.01), but overall frequencies of MSI, BRAF and KRAS mutations were not different nor were they different by location in the colon. Proximal colorectal cancers often presented with lymphocytic infiltrate (P < 0.01) and were diagnosed at older ages (P = 0.02). Smoking, drinking, and obesity were less common in this group, but results were not statistically significant.

Conclusions: Patients with colorectal cancer have gotten progressively younger. The excess of colorectal cancer in AAs predominantly consists of more proximal, microsatellite stable tumors, commonly presenting lymphocytic infiltrate and less often associated with toxic exposures or a higher BMI. Younger AAs had more distal colorectal cancers than older ones. These data suggest two different mechanisms driving younger age and proximal location of colorectal cancers in AAs. Clin Cancer Res; 20(18); 4962–70. ©2014 AACR.