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Clinical Cancer Research

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Clinical Cancer Research


In germ cell cancers, the unique reversibility of malignancy and the balance between somatic differentiation and dedifferentiation may be critical to late relapse that is dominated by non–germ cell elements. Targeting regulators of differentiation may provide a solution, and this may be elucidated via serial liquid biopsies (via circulating tumor cells). Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3630–1. ©2014 AACR.


Accelerated approval for agents that improve the frequency of complete pathologic response in the primary breast cancer setting heralds a broadening of the opportunities to get effective agents to the market more quickly. However, these new pathways will require identifying the signature or subtype for which the agent is most effective, and evidence of enrollment of patients to a trial that enables the ascertainment of event-free survival. The recent approval of pertuzumab for use in the neoadjuvant setting is evidence that the FDA is committed to supporting the accelerated approval pathway. The situations in which approval is likely to be granted are discussed. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3632–6. ©2014 AACR.


Pathologic organ fibrosis is a condition that can affect all major tissues and is typically ascribed to the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix components, predominantly collagens. It typically leads to compromise of organ function and subsequent organ failure, and it is estimated that 45% of deaths in the developed world are linked to fibrotic disease. Fibrosis and cancer are known to be inextricably linked; however, we are only just beginning to understand the common and overlapping molecular pathways between the two. Here, we discuss what is known about the intersection of fibrosis and cancer, with a focus on cancer metastasis, and highlight some of the exciting new potential clinical targets that are emerging from analysis of the molecular pathways associated with these two devastating diseases. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3637–43. ©2014 AACR.


Induction of terminal proliferation arrest, senescence, is important for in vivo tumor-suppressive function of p53. Moreover, p53-mutant cells are highly resistant to senescence induction by either oncogenic signaling during cellular transformation or in response to different therapies. Senescence resistance in p53-mutant cells has been attributed mostly to inhibition of the checkpoint function of p53 in response to senescence-inducing stress signals. Here, we review very recent evidence that offers an alternative explanation for senescence resistance in p53-defective cancer cells: p21-mediated E2F1 expression. We discuss the potential relevance of these findings for senescence-inducing therapies and highlight cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) and mechanisms downstream of retinoblastoma protein (RB) as prospective prosenescence therapeutic targets. In particular, we discuss recent findings indicating an important role for the E2F1–CIP2A feedback loop in causing senescence resistance in p53-compromised cancer cells. We further propose that targeting of the E2F1–CIP2A feedback loop could provide a prosenescence therapeutic approach that is effective in both p53-deficient and RB-deficient cancer cells, which together constitute the great majority of all cancer cells. Diagnostic evaluation of the described senescence resistance mechanisms in human tumors might also be informative for patient stratification for already existing therapies. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3644–50. ©2014 AACR.


Immunotherapy is emerging as the newest pillar of cancer treatment, with the potential to assume a place alongside surgical debulking, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Early experiences with antitumor vaccines demonstrated the feasibility and potential efficacy of this approach, and newer agents, such as immune checkpoint blocking antibodies and modern vaccine platforms, have ushered in a new era. These efforts are headlined by work in melanoma, prostate cancer, and renal cell carcinoma; however, substantial progress has been achieved in a variety of other cancers, including high-grade gliomas. A recurrent theme of this work is that immunotherapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, dynamic, tumor-specific interactions within the tumor microenvironment continually shape the immunologic balance between tumor elimination and escape. High-grade gliomas are a particularly fascinating example. These aggressive, universally fatal tumors are highly resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy and inevitably recur after surgical resection. Located in the immune-privileged central nervous system, high-grade gliomas also use an array of defenses that serve as direct impediments to immune attack. Despite these challenges, vaccines have shown activity against high-grade gliomas, and anecdotal, preclinical, and early clinical data bolster the notion that durable remission is possible with immunotherapy. Realizing this potential, however, will require an approach tailored to the unique aspects of glioma biology. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3651–9. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Racotumomab-alum is an anti-idiotype vaccine targeting the NeuGcGM3 tumor-associated ganglioside. This clinical trial was conducted to provide a preliminary estimate of efficacy and safety of racotumomab as switch maintenance for patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Experimental design: Patients with stage IIIb/IV NSCLC who have at least stable disease after first-line chemotherapy were randomized 1:1 to racotumomab-alum (5 immunizations every 2 weeks and re-immunizations every 4 weeks) or placebo. Treatment was administered beyond progressive disease, until severe performance status worsening or toxicity. At progression, only five patients per group received further anticancer therapy. The primary endpoint was overall survival (OS).

Results: One-hundred and seventy-six patients were randomized to racotumomab-alum (n = 87) and placebo (n = 89). Median OS was 8.23 and 6.80 months, respectively [HR, 0.63; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.46–0.87; P = 0.004]. Median progression-free survival (PFS) in vaccinated patients was 5.33 versus 3.90 months for placebo (HR, 0.73; 95% CI 0.53–0.99; P = 0.039). The most common adverse events in the racotumomab-alum arm were burning and pain at the injection site, bone pain, and asthenia. A high antibody response of IgM and IgG isotype against the NeuGcGM3 ganglioside was obtained. Hyperimmune sera were able to specifically recognize and kill the NeuGcGM3-expressing L1210 cell line. Patients who developed anti-NeuGcGM3 antibodies capable to bind and kill ≥30% L1210 cells showed longer median survival times.

Conclusions: Switch maintenance with racotumomab-alum is an effective and a well-tolerated treatment option for patients with advanced NSCLC. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3660–71. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Local transdermal therapy to the breast may achieve effective target-organ drug delivery, while diminishing systemic effects. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase II trial comparing transdermal 4-hydroxytamoxifen gel (4-OHT) to oral tamoxifen (oral-T) in women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Methods: Twenty-seven pre- and postmenopausal women were randomized to 4-OHT (4 mg/day) or oral-T (20 mg/day) for 6 to 10 weeks before surgery. Plasma, nipple aspirate fluid, and breast adipose tissue concentrations of tamoxifen and its major metabolites were determined by liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry. The primary endpoint was Ki67 labeling in DCIS lesions, measured by immunohistochemistry. In plasma, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGFI), sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG), and coagulation protein concentrations were determined.

Results: Posttherapy Ki67 decreased by 3.4% in the 4-OHT and 5.1% in the oral-T group (P ≤ 0.03 in both, between-group P = 0. 99). Mean plasma 4-OHT was 0.2 and 1.1 ng/mL in 4-OHT and oral groups, respectively (P = 0.0003), whereas mean breast adipose tissue concentrations of 4-OHT were 5.8 ng/g in the 4-OHT group and 5.4 ng/g in the oral group (P = 0.88). There were significant increases in plasma SHBG, factor VIII, and von Willebrand factor and a significant decrease in plasma IGFI with oral-T, but not with 4-OHT. The incidence of hot flashes was similar in both groups.

Conclusions: The antiproliferative effect of 4-OHT gel applied to breast skin was similar to that of oral-T, but effects on endocrine and coagulation parameters were reduced. These findings support the further evaluation of local transdermal therapy for DCIS and breast cancer prevention. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3672–82. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: This phase I, open-label, uncontrolled, ascending-dose study explored the safety, maximum tolerated dose (MTD), pharmacokinetics, and pharmacology of the TLR8 agonist VTX-2337 in subjects with advanced solid tumors or lymphoma.

Experimental Design: VTX-2337 doses (0.1–3.9 mg/m2) were administered subcutaneously on days 1, 8, and 15 of each 28-day cycle. Safety/tolerability assessments included adverse events (AE); physical, ophthalmologic, and laboratory evaluations; and electrocardiograms. Dose-limiting toxicities (DLT) were evaluated during the first cycle. Pharmacokinetics were evaluated after the first dose. Plasma samples were quantitatively assessed for chemokines, cytokines, and other inflammatory mediators. Antitumor activity was assessed.

Results: Thirty-three subjects were enrolled in 8 cohorts and received an average of 2 treatment cycles (range, 1–8 cycles). Most AEs were grades 1 to 2; the most common drug-related AEs were injection site reactions, chills, pyrexia, and influenza-like illness. One DLT was reported: grade 3 hypotension (3.9 mg/m2). The MTD was considered the highest dose administered. Peak drug plasma levels and total systemic exposure were generally dose proportional. At doses ≥0.4 mg/m2, increases above baseline levels were observed for plasma levels of G-CSF, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, macrophage inflammatory protein-1β, and TNFα. Eight subjects (24.2%) had a best response of stable disease (median duration, 54.5 days).

Conclusions: VTX-2337 is clinically well tolerated and biologically active with a predictable pharmacokinetic profile. Suitable doses for testing in combination studies were identified. Phase II placebo-controlled studies of VTX-2337 in combination with doxorubicin in ovarian cancer, and in combination with platinum chemotherapy, 5 FU, and cetuximab in head and neck cancer have been initiated (NCT #01666444 and NCT#01836029). Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3683–91. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: We have previously reported that a DNA vaccine encoding prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) could elicit PAP-specific T cells in patients with early recurrent prostate cancer. In the current pilot trial, we sought to evaluate whether prolonged immunization with regular booster immunizations, or "personalized" schedules of immunization determined using real-time immune monitoring, could elicit persistent, antigen-specific T cells, and whether treatment was associated with changes in PSA doubling time (PSA DT).

Experimental Design: Sixteen patients with castration-resistant, nonmetastatic prostate cancer received six immunizations at 2-week intervals and then either quarterly (arm 1) or as determined by multiparameter immune monitoring (arm 2).

Results: Patients were on study a median of 16 months; four received 24 vaccinations. Only one event associated with treatment >grade 2 was observed. Six of 16 (38%) remained metastasis-free at 2 years. PAP-specific T cells were elicited in 12 of 16 (75%), predominantly of a Th1 phenotype, which persisted in frequency and phenotype for at least 1 year. IFN-secreting T-cell responses measured by ELISPOT were detectable in 5 of 13 individuals at 1 year, and this was not statistically different between study arms. The overall median fold change in PSA DT from pretreatment to posttreatment was 1.6 (range, 0.6–7.0; P = 0.036).

Conclusions: Repetitive immunization with a plasmid DNA vaccine was safe and elicited Th1-biased antigen-specific T cells that persisted over time. Modifications in the immunization schedule based on real-time immune monitoring did not increase the frequency of patients developing effector and memory T-cell responses with this DNA vaccine. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3692–704. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: To investigate whether tumor volume derived from apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps (VolumeADC) and tumor mean ADC value (ADCmean) are independent predictors of prostate tumor Gleason score (GS).

Experimental Design: Tumor volume and GS were recorded from whole-mount histopathology for 131 men (median age, 60 years) who underwent endorectal diffusion-weighted MRI for local staging of prostate cancer before prostatectomy. VolumeADC and ADCmean were derived from ADC maps and correlated with histopathologic tumor volume and GS. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to evaluate prediction of tumor aggressiveness. Areas under receiver-operating characteristics curves (AUC) were calculated to evaluate the performance of VolumeADC and ADCmean in discriminating tumors of GS 6 and GS ≥7.

Results: Histopathology identified 116 tumor foci >0.5 mL. VolumeADC correlated significantly with histopathologic tumor volume ( = 0.683). The correlation increased with increasing GS ( = 0.453 for GS 6 tumors; = 0.643 for GS 7 tumors; = 0.980 for GS ≥8 tumors). Both VolumeADC ( = 0.286) and ADCmean ( = –0.309) correlated with GS. At univariate analysis, both VolumeADC (P = 0.0325) and ADCmean (P = 0.0033) could differentiate GS = 6 from GS ≥7 tumor foci. However, at multivariate analysis, only ADCmean (P = 0.0156) was a significant predictor of tumor aggressiveness (i.e., GS 6 vs. GS ≥7). For differentiating GS 6 from GS ≥7 tumors, AUCs were 0.644 and 0.704 for VolumeADC and ADCmean, respectively, and 0.749 for both parameters combined.

Conclusion: In patients with prostate cancer, ADCmean is an independent predictor of tumor aggressiveness, but VolumeADC is not. The latter parameter adds little to the ADCmean in predicting tumor GS. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3705–11. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: A previous study noted frequent B-RAF mutations among European patients with cisplatin-resistant but not cisplatin-sensitive germ cell tumors (GCT). We sought to validate this finding by assessing for these mutations among patients with GCT at our center.

Experimental Design: Adolescent and adult patients with GCT who received cisplatin-based chemotherapy and had tumor tissue available were eligible for participation. Response to cisplatin was reviewed to determine sensitivity and resistance. Tumor DNA was extracted and subjected to Sequenom analysis to detect hotspot alterations in FGFR3, AKT1, PIK3CA, KRAS, HRAS, NRAS, and BRAF with Sanger sequencing for confirmation. Nine GCT cell lines with varying degrees of cisplatin sensitivity and resistance were also assayed by Sequenom.

Results: Seventy (24 cisplatin-sensitive; 46 cisplatin-resistant) of 75 patients had tumors with sufficient quality DNA to perform Sequenom. Nineteen mutations were detected among 16 (23%) patients but no BRAF mutations were identified. Similarly, none of the cell lines harbored BRAF mutations. FGFR3 was the most frequent mutation, identified in 13% of both sensitive and resistant samples. All other mutations were exclusive to resistant cases (3 KRAS, 3 AKT1, 3 PIK3CA, and 1 HRAS).

Conclusions: BRAF mutations are rare in American patients with GCT, including those with cisplatin resistance. However, other potentially targetable mutations occur in more than 25% of cisplatin-resistant patients. FGFR3, AKT1, and PIK3CA mutations are all reported for the first time in GCT. Whereas FGFR3 mutations occurred with equal frequency in both sensitive and resistant GCTs, mutations in AKT1 and PIK3CA were observed exclusively in cisplatin-resistant tumors. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3712–20. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: To evaluate the utility of targeted photoacoustic imaging (PAI) in providing molecular information to complement intrinsic functional and anatomical details of the vasculature within prostate lesion.

Experimental Design: We developed a PAI agent, AA3G-740, that targets gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR), found to be highly overexpressed in prostate cancer. The binding specificity of the agent was evaluated in human prostate cancer cell lines, PC3 and LNCaP, and antagonist properties determined by cell internalization and intracellular calcium mobilization studies. The imaging sensitivity was assessed for the agent itself and for the PC3 cells labeled with agent. The in vivo stability of the agent was determined in human plasma and in the blood of living mice. The in vivo binding of the agent was evaluated in PC3 prostate tumor models in mice, and was validated ex vivo by optical imaging.

Results: AA3G-740 demonstrated strong and specific binding to GRPR. The sensitivity of detection in vitro indicated suitability of the agent to image very small lesions. In mice, the agent was able to bind to GRPR even in poorly vascularized tumors leading to nearly 2-fold difference in photoacoustic signal relative to the control agent.

Conclusions: The ability to image both vasculature and molecular profile outside the blood vessels gives molecular PAI a unique advantage over currently used imaging techniques. The imaging method presented here can find application both in diagnosis and in image-guided biopsy. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3721–9. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Effective sensitizing strategies potentially can extend the benefit of temozolomide (TMZ) therapy in patients with glioblastoma (GBM). We previously demonstrated that robust TMZ-sensitizing effects of the [poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase] (PARP) inhibitor veliparib (ABT-888) are restricted to TMZ-sensitive GBM xenografts. The focus of this study is to provide an understanding for the differential sensitization in paired TMZ-sensitive and -resistant GBM models.

Experimental Design: The impact of veliparib on TMZ-induced cytotoxicity and DNA damage was evaluated in vitro and in vivo in models of acquired TMZ resistance (GBM12TMZ-mgmtHigh, GBM12TMZ-mgmtLow, and U251TMZ), inherent TMZ resistance (T98G), and TMZ-sensitive (U251 and GBM12). In vivo drug efficacy, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics were analyzed using clinically relevant dosing regimens.

Results: Veliparib enhanced TMZ cytotoxicity and DNA-damage signaling in all GBM models in vitro with more pronounced effects in TMZ-resistant lines at 3 to 10 μmol/L veliparib. In vivo, combined TMZ/veliparib, compared with TMZ alone, significantly delayed tumor growth and enhanced DNA-damage signaling and H2AX levels in the sensitive GBM12 xenograft line but not in the resistant GBM12TMZ lines. The pharmacokinetic profile of veliparib was similar for GBM12 and GBM12TMZ tumors with Cmax (~1.5 μmol/L) in tissue significantly lower than concentrations associated with optimal in vitro sensitizing effects for resistant tumors. In contrast, robust suppression of PARP-1 expression by shRNA significantly increased TMZ sensitivity of U251TMZ in vitro and in vivo.

Conclusions: In vitro cytotoxicity assays do not adequately model the therapeutic index of PARP inhibitors, as concentrations of veliparib and TMZ required to sensitize TMZ-resistant cancer cells in vivo cannot be achieved using a tolerable dosing regimen. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3730–41. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Antitumor clinical activity has been demonstrated for the MDM2 antagonist RG7112, but patient tolerability for the necessary daily dosing was poor. Here, utilizing RG7388, a second-generation nutlin with superior selectivity and potency, we determine the feasibility of intermittent dosing to guide the selection of initial phase I scheduling regimens.

Experimental Design: A pharmacokinetic–pharmacodynamic (PKPD) model was developed on the basis of preclinical data to determine alternative dosing schedule requirements for optimal RG7388-induced antitumor activity. This PKPD model was used to investigate the pharmacokinetics of RG7388 linked to the time-course of the antitumor effect in an osteosarcoma xenograft model in mice. These data were used to prospectively predict intermittent and continuous dosing regimens, resulting in tumor stasis in the same model system.

Results: RG7388-induced apoptosis was delayed relative to drug exposure with continuous treatment not required. In initial efficacy testing, daily dosing at 30 mg/kg and twice a week dosing at 50 mg/kg of RG7388 were statistically equivalent in our tumor model. In addition, weekly dosing of 50 mg/kg was equivalent to 10 mg/kg given daily. The implementation of modeling and simulation on these data suggested several possible intermittent clinical dosing schedules. Further preclinical analyses confirmed these schedules as viable options.

Conclusion: Besides chronic administration, antitumor activity can be achieved with intermittent schedules of RG7388, as predicted through modeling and simulation. These alternative regimens may potentially ameliorate tolerability issues seen with chronic administration of RG7112, while providing clinical benefit. Thus, both weekly (qw) and daily for five days (5 d on/23 off, qd) schedules were selected for RG7388 clinical testing. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3742–52. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Due to the many similarities with its human counterpart, canine malignant melanoma (cMM) is a valuable model in which to assess the efficacy of novel therapeutic strategies. The model is herein used to evaluate the immunogenicity, safety, and therapeutic efficacy of a human chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan-4 (hCSPG4) DNA-based vaccine. The fact that homology between hCSPG4 and cCSPG4 amino-acidic sequences stands at more than 80% provides the rationale for using an hCSPG4 DNA vaccine in the cMM model.

Experimental Design: Dogs with stage II–III surgically resected CSPG4-positive oral MM were subjected to monthly intramuscular plasmid administration, which was followed immediately by electroporation (electrovaccination) for at least 6, and up to 20, months. The immunogenicity, safety, and therapeutic efficacy of the vaccine have been evaluated.

Results: hCSPG4 electrovaccination caused no clinically relevant local or systemic side effects and resulted in significantly longer overall and disease-free survival times in 14 vaccinated dogs as compared with 13 nonvaccinated controls. All vaccinated dogs developed antibodies against both hCSPG4 and cCSPG4. Seven vaccinated dogs were also tested for a cCSPG4-specific T-cell response and only two gave a detectable interferon (IFN) response.

Conclusion: Xenogeneic electrovaccination against CSPG4 is able to overcome host unresponsiveness to the "self" antigen and seems to be effective in treating cMM, laying the foundation for its translation to a human clinical setting. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3753–62. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Selective inhibition of cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) represents a promising therapeutic strategy. However, despite documented evidence of clinical activity, limited information is available on the optimal dosing strategy of CDK4/6 inhibitors. Here, we present an integrated semi-mechanistic pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic model to characterize the quantitative pharmacology of LY2835219, a CDK4/6 inhibitor, in xenograft tumors.

Experimental Design: LY2835219 plasma concentrations were connected to CDK4/6 inhibition and cell-cycle arrest in colo-205 human colorectal xenografts by incorporating the biomarkers, phospho-(ser780)-Rb, topoisomerase II α, and phosphohistone H3, into a precursor-dependent transit compartment model. This biomarker model was then connected to tumor growth inhibition (TGI) by: (i) relating the rate of tumor growth to mitotic cell density, and (ii) incorporating a concentration-dependent mixed cytostatic/cytotoxic effect driving quiescence and cell death at high doses. Model validation was evaluated by predicting LY2835219-mediated antitumor effect in A375 human melanoma xenografts.

Results: The model successfully described LY2835219-mediated CDK4/6 inhibition, cell-cycle arrest, and TGI in colo-205, and was validated in A375. The model also demonstrated that a chronic dosing strategy achieving minimum steady-state trough plasma concentrations of 200 ng/mL is required to maintain durable cell-cycle arrest. Quiescence and cell death can be induced by further increasing LY2835219 plasma concentrations.

Conclusions: Our model provides mechanistic insight into the quantitative pharmacology of LY2835219 and supports the therapeutic dose and chronic dosing strategy currently adopted in clinical studies. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3763–74. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The EGFR-independent activation of the RAS/RAF/MEK/MAPK pathway is one of the resistance mechanisms to cetuximab.

Experimental Design: We have evaluated, in vitro and in vivo, the effects of BAY 86-9766, a selective MEK1/2 inhibitor, in a panel of human colorectal cancer cell lines with primary or acquired resistance to cetuximab.

Results: Among the colorectal cancer cell lines, five with a KRAS mutation (LOVO, HCT116, HCT15, SW620, and SW480) and one with a BRAF mutation (HT29) were resistant to the antiproliferative effects of cetuximab, whereas two cells (GEO and SW48) were highly sensitive. Treatment with BAY 86-9766 determined dose-dependent growth inhibition in all cancer cells, including two human colorectal cancer cells with acquired resistance to cetuximab (GEO-CR and SW48-CR), with the exception of HCT15 cells. Combined treatment with cetuximab and BAY 86-9766 induced a synergistic antiproliferative and apoptotic effects with blockade in the MAPK and AKT pathway in cells with either primary or acquired resistance to cetuximab. The synergistic antiproliferative effects were confirmed using other two selective MEK1/2 inhibitors, selumetinib and pimasertib, in combination with cetuximab. Moreover, inhibition of MEK expression by siRNA restored cetuximab sensitivity in resistant cells. In nude mice bearing established human HCT15, HCT116, SW48-CR, and GEO-CR xenografts, the combined treatment with cetuximab and BAY 86-9766 caused significant tumor growth inhibition and increased mice survival.

Conclusion: These results suggest that activation of MEK is involved in both primary and acquired resistance to cetuximab and the inhibition of EGFR and MEK could be a strategy for overcoming anti-EGFR resistance in patients with colorectal cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3775–86. ©2014 AACR.


Background: Bortezomib is an FDA-approved proteasome inhibitor, and oncolytic herpes simplex virus-1 (oHSV) is a promising therapeutic approach for cancer. We tested the impact of combining bortezomib with oHSV for antitumor efficacy.

Experimental Design: The synergistic interaction between oHSV and bortezomib was calculated using Chou–Talalay analysis. Viral replication was evaluated using plaque assay and immune fluorescence. Western blot assays were used to evaluate induction of estrogen receptor (ER) stress and unfolded protein response (UPR). Inhibitors targeting Hsp90 were utilized to investigate the mechanism of cell killing. Antitumor efficacy in vivo was evaluated using subcutaneous and intracranial tumor xenografts of glioma and head and neck cancer. Survival was analyzed by Kaplan–Meier curves and two-sided log-rank test.

Results: Combination treatment with bortezomib and oHSV (34.5ENVE), displayed strong synergistic interaction in ovarian cancer, head and neck cancer, glioma, and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) cells. Bortezomib treatment induced ER stress, evident by strong induction of Grp78, CHOP, PERK, and IRE1α (Western blot analysis) and the UPR (induction of hsp40, 70, and 90). Bortezomib treatment of cells at both sublethal and lethal doses increased viral replication (P < 0.001), but inhibition of Hsp90 ablated this response, reducing viral replication and synergistic cell killing. The combination of bortezomib and 34.5ENVE significantly enhanced antitumor efficacy in multiple different tumor models in vivo.

Conclusions: The dramatic synergy of bortezomib and 34.5ENVE is mediated by bortezomib-induced UPR and warrants future clinical testing in patients. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3787–98. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The pathogenesis of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) remains only partially understood. A number of recent studies attempted to identify novel diagnostic markers and future therapeutic targets. One group of antigens, cancer–testis (CT) antigens, normally present solely in testicular germ cells, can be ectopically expressed in a variety of cancers. Currently, only a few studies attempted to investigate the expression of CT antigens in CTCL.

Experimental Design: In the present work, we test the expression of CT genes in a cohort of patients with CTCL, normal skin samples, skin from benign inflammatory dermatoses, and in patient-derived CTCL cells. We correlate such expression with the p53 status and explore molecular mechanisms behind their ectopic expression in these cells.

Results: Our findings demonstrate that SYCP1, SYCP3, REC8, SPO11, and GTSF1 genes are heterogeneously expressed in patients with CTCL and patient-derived cell lines, whereas cTAGE1 (cutaneous T-cell lymphoma-associated antigen 1) was found to be robustly expressed in both. Mutated p53 status did not appear to be a requirement for the ectopic expression of CT antigens. While T-cell stimulation resulted in a significant upregulation of STAT3 and JUNB expression, it did not significantly alter the expression of CT antigens. Treatment of CTCL cells in vitro with vorinostat or romidepsin histone deacetylase inhibitors resulted in a significant dose-dependent upregulation of mRNA but not protein. Further expression analysis demonstrated that SYCP1, cTAGE1, and GTSF1 were expressed in CTCL, but not in normal skin or benign inflammatory dermatoses.

Conclusions: A number of CT genes are ectopically expressed in patients with CTCL and can be used as biomarkers or novel targets for immunotherapy. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3799–808. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Cancer stem–like cells have been well accepted to be involved in recurrence and metastasis of cancers, but the prognostic potential of biomarkers integrating with metastasis and cancer stem–like cells for colorectal cancer is unclear.

Experimental Design: We identified three proteins, CLIC4, ERp29, and Smac/DIABLO, from metastatic cancer stem–like cells of colorectal cancer and verified the proteins' role in metastatic behaviors. The proteins were detected by IHC in colorectal cancer tumors and matched colonic mucosa from patients with colorectal cancer who underwent radical surgery in the training cohort. The associations between proteins expression levels and five-year disease-specific survival (DSS) were evaluated to predict the survival probability in the training cohort of 421 cases and the validation cohort of 228 cases.

Results: A three-protein panel including CLIC4, ERp29, and Smac/DIABLO, which was generated from multivariate analysis by excluding clinicopathologic characteristics from the training cohort, distinguished patients with colorectal cancer into very low-, low-, middle-, and high-risk groups with significant differences in five-year DSS probability (88.6%, 63.3%, 30.4%, 11.4%; P < 0.001). The panel is independent from tumor–node–metastasis staging system and histologic grading to predict prognosis, and also enables classification of validation cohort into four risk stratifications (five-year DSS probability is 98.2%, 80.2%, 25.6%, and 2.7%; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: CLIC4, ERp29, and Smac/DIABLO integrated into a novel panel based on cancer stem–like cells in association with metastasis stratify the prognostic risks of colorectal cancer. Prediction of risks with molecular markers will benefit clinicians to make decisions of individual management with postoperative colorectal cancer patients. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3809–17. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Lymphocytic infiltration of tumors predicts improved survival in patients with breast cancer. Previous studies have suggested that this survival benefit is confined predominantly to the basal-like subtype. Immune infiltration in ovarian tumors is also associated with improved prognosis. Currently, it is unclear what aspects of the immune response mediate this improved outcome.

Experimental Design: Using The Cancer Genome Atlas mRNA-seq data and a large microarray dataset, we evaluated adaptive immune gene expression by genomic subtype in breast and ovarian cancer. To investigate B-cells observed to be prognostic within specific subtypes, we developed methods to analyze B-cell population diversity and degree of somatic hypermutation (SHM) from B-cell receptor (BCR) sequences in mRNA-seq data.

Results: Improved metastasis-free/progression-free survival was correlated with B-cell gene expression signatures, which were restricted mainly to the basal-like and HER2-enriched breast cancer subtypes and the immunoreactive ovarian cancer subtype. Consistent with a restricted epitope-driven response, a subset of basal-like and HER2-enriched breast tumors and immunoreactive ovarian tumors showed high expression of a low-diversity population of BCR gene segments. More BCR segments showed improved prognosis with increased expression in basal-like breast tumors and immunoreactive ovarian tumors compared with other subtypes. Basal-like and HER2-enriched tumors exhibited more BCR sequence variants in regions consistent with SHM.

Conclusion: Taken together, these data suggest the presence of a productive and potentially restricted antitumor B-cell response in basal-like breast and immunoreactive ovarian cancers. Immunomodulatory therapies that support B-cell responses may be a promising therapeutic approach to targeting these B-cell infiltrated tumors. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3818–29. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Germ cell tumors (GCTs) represent the most frequent malignancies among young men, but little is known about circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in these tumors. Considering their heterogeneity, CTCs were investigated using two independent assays targeting germ cell tumor and epithelial cell–specific markers, and results were correlated with disease stage, histology, and serum tumor markers.

Experimental Design: CTCs were enriched from peripheral blood (n = 143 patients) and testicular vein blood (TVB, n = 19 patients) using Ficoll density gradient centrifugation. For CTC detection, a combination of germ cell tumor (anti-SALL4, anti-OCT3/4) and epithelial cell–specific (anti-keratin, anti-EpCAM) antibodies was used. In parallel, 122 corresponding peripheral blood samples were analyzed using the CellSearch system.

Results: In total, CTCs were detected in 25 of 143 (17.5%) peripheral blood samples, whereas only 11.5% of patients were CTC-positive when considering exclusively the CellSearch assay. The presence of CTCs in peripheral blood correlated with clinical stage (P < 0.001) with 41% of CTC positivity in patients with metastasized tumors and 100% in patients with relapsed and chemotherapy-refractory disease. Histologically, CTC-positive patients suffered more frequently from nonseminomatous primary tumors (P < 0.001), with higher percentage of yolk sac (P < 0.001) and teratoma (P = 0.004) components. Furthermore, CTC detection was associated with elevated serum levels of α-fetoprotein (AFP; P = 0.025), β-human chorionic gonadotropin (βHCG; P = 0.002), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH; P = 0.002). Incidence and numbers of CTCs in TVB were much higher than in peripheral blood.

Conclusions: The inclusion of germ cell tumor–specific markers improves CTC detection in GCTs. CTCs occur frequently in patients with more aggressive disease, and there is a gradient of CTCs with decreasing numbers from the tumor-draining vein to the periphery. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3830–41. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Epidemiologic studies have identified an increasing incidence of squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue (SCCOT) in younger patients.

Experimental Design: DNA isolated from tongue tumors of young (<45 years, non-smokers) and old (>45 years) patients at was subjected to whole-exome sequencing and copy-number analysis. These data were compared with data from similar patients in the TCGA (The Cancer Genome Atlas) project.

Results: In this study, we found that gene-specific mutation and copy-number alteration frequencies were similar between young and old patients with SCCOT in two independent cohorts. Likewise, the types of base changes observed in the young cohort were similar to those in the old cohort even though they differed in smoking history. TCGA data also demonstrate that the genomic effects of smoking are tumor site–specific, and we find that smoking has only a minor impact on the types of mutations observed in SCCOT.

Conclusions: Overall, tumors from young patients with SCCOT appear genomically similar to those of older patients with SCCOT, and the cause for the increasing incidence of young SCCOT remains unknown. These data indicate that the functional impact of smoking on carcinogenesis in SCCOT is still poorly understood. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3842–8. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: To investigate the mechanisms of regulation and role associated with enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) expression in lung cancer cells.

Experimental Design: We investigated the mechanisms of EZH2 expression associated with the VEGF/VEGFR-2 pathway. Furthermore, we sought to determine the role of EZH2 in response of lung adenocarcinoma to platinum-based chemotherapy, as well as the effect of EZH2 depletion on VEGFR-2–targeted therapy in lung adenocarcinoma cell lines. In addition, we characterized EZH2 expression in lung adenocarcinoma specimens and correlated it with patients' clinical characteristics.

Results: In this study, we demonstrate that VEGF/VEGFR-2 activation induces expression of EZH2 through the upregulation of E2F3 and hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF1α), and downregulated expression of miR-101. EZH2 depletion by treatment with 3-deazaneplanocin A and knockdown by siRNA decreased the expression of EZH2 and H3K27me3, increased PARP-C level, reduced cell proliferation and migration, and increased sensitivity of the cells to treatment with cisplatin and carboplatin. In addition, high EZH2 expression was associated with poor overall survival in patients who received platinum-based adjuvant therapy, but not in patients who did not receive this therapy. Furthermore, we demonstrated for the first time that the inhibition of EZH2 greatly increased the sensitivity of lung adenocarcinoma cells to the anti–VEGFR-2 drug AZD2171.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that the VEGF/VEGFR-2 pathway plays a role in regulation of EZH2 expression via E2F3, HIF1α, and miR-101. EZH2 depletion decreases the malignant potential of lung adenocarcinoma and sensitivity of the cells to both platinum-based and VEGFR-2–targeted therapy. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3849–61. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Clustering of neural autoantibodies in patients with paraneoplastic neurologic disorders may predict tumor type. A mathematical analysis of neural autoantibody clusters was performed in 78,889 patients undergoing evaluation for a suspected paraneoplastic autoimmune neurologic disorder. Tumor predictive autoantibody profiles were confirmed in sera from patients with histologically proven tonsillar cancer, thymoma, and lung cancer.

Patients and Methods: Of note, 78,889 patient sera were tested for 15 defined neural autoantibodies (1.2 million tests). The observed and hypothesized frequencies of autoantibody clusters were compared and their tumor associations defined. A tumor validation study comprised serum from 368 patients with a variety of tumors (thymoma, lung, or tonsil).

Results: Informative oncological associations included (i) thymoma in 85% of patients with muscle striational, acetylcholine receptor antibodies plus CRMP5 autoantibodies; (ii) lung carcinoma in 80% with both P/Q-type and N-type calcium channel antibodies plus SOX1-IgG; and (iii) in men, prostate carcinoma frequency more than doubled when striational and muscle AChR specificities were accompanied by ganglionic AChR antibody. In women, amphiphysin-IgG alone was associated commonly with breast carcinoma, but amphiphysin-IgG, coexisting with antineuronal nuclear autoantibody-type 1 or CRMP5-IgG, was associated with lung cancer (P < 0.0001). In the validation cohorts, many tumor-associated profiles were encountered that matched the clusters identified in the screening study (e.g., 15% of thymoma patients had striational, acetylcholine receptor antibodies plus collapsin response-mediator protein-5 autoantibodies).

Conclusions: Neural autoantibodies commonly coexist in specific clusters that are identifiable by comprehensive screening. Signature autoantibody clusters may predict a patient's cancer risk and type. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3862–9. ©2014 AACR.


Background: PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling is being actively pursued as a therapeutic target for breast cancer. We sought to determine if tumor heterogeneity and biospecimen variables affect the evaluation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway markers.

Methods: Intraoperative image-guided core-needle biopsies (CNB), and central and peripheral surgical tumor specimens were prospectively collected in 53 patients with invasive breast cancer. Specimens were assessed with reverse-phase protein arrays (RPPA) and immunohistochemistry (IHC).

Results: There was a moderate or strong correlation between the expression of 149 (97%) of the 154 different RPPA markers in the center and periphery. Correlation was higher for smaller tumors, in patients who did not undergo neoadjuvant therapy, and with shorter cold ischemia time. Of 154 markers, 132 (86%) were not statistically different between the center and periphery, and 97 (63%) were not different between the CNB and the surgical specimen (average of the central and peripheral specimen). pAkt S473 and PTEN had a significant correlation between central and peripheral specimens, and between CNB and surgical specimen. However, pAkt S473, pS6 S235/236, and pS6 240/244 levels were significantly higher in CNB than the central specimens both by RPPA and by IHC.

Conclusions: Most individual proteomic biomarkers studied do not have significant intratumoral heterogeneity. However, protein and phosphoprotein levels are affected by biospecimen type and other preanalytic variables. PI3K pathway activation is greater in CNB compared with postexcision surgical samples suggesting a potential loss of phosphorylation during surgical manipulation, or with cold ischemia of surgical specimens. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3870–83. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma that harbors the PAX3–FOXO1 fusion gene (t-ARMS) is a common and lethal subtype of this childhood malignancy. Improvement in clinical outcomes in this disease is predicated upon the identification of novel therapeutic targets.

Experimental Design: Robust mouse models were used for in vivo analysis, and molecular studies were performed on xenografts treated in parallel. Two independent patient sets (n = 101 and 124) of clinically annotated tumor specimens were used for analysis of FANCD2 levels and its association with clinical and molecular characteristics and outcomes.

Results: Our xenograft studies reveal a selective suppression of FANCD2 by m-TOR kinase inhibition and radiosensitization of the t-ARMS line only. In the initial patient set, we show that FANCD2 transcript levels are prognostic in univariate analysis, and are significantly associated with metastatic disease and that the copresence of the translocation and high expression of FANCD2 is independently prognostic. We also demonstrate a significant and nonrandom enrichment of mTOR-associated genes that correlate with FANCD2 gene expression within the t-ARMS samples, but not within other cases. In the second patient set, we show that on a protein level, FANCD2 expression correlates with PAX3–FOXO1 fusion gene and is strongly associated with phospho-P70S6K expression in cases with the fusion gene.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that FANCD2 may have a significant role in the radiation resistance and virulence of t-ARMS. Indirectly targeting this DNA repair protein, through mTOR inhibition, may represent a novel and selective treatment strategy. Clin Cancer Res; 20(14); 3884–95. ©2014 AACR.