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Clinical Cancer Research

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Clinical Cancer Research

The control of cell death involves a complex interaction of multiple proteins. In a study published in the January 1, 2000, issue of Clinical Cancer Research, Tanaka and colleagues demonstrated that one of the proapoptotic proteins, survivin, was frequently expressed in breast cancer. In the subsequent years, effectors of apoptosis have translated into important prognostic indicators and potential therapeutic targets. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 665–6. ©2015 AACR.

See related article by Tanaka et al., Clin Cancer Res 2000;6(1) January 2000;127–34


Inhibition of the type I IGF receptor (IGF1R) has been the focus of numerous clinical trials. Two reports in this issue describe the results of phase I trials of an IGF1R tyrosine kinase inhibitor OSI-906. This commentary will describe the complex endocrine changes induced by these types of agents. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 667–9. ©2014 AACR.

See related articles by Jones et al., p. 693, and Puzanov et al., p. 701


Over the past decade, the non–small cell lung cancer therapeutics landscape has been dominated by the increasing focus on identification and validation of molecular targets, as well as the identification of the best candidate agents to address these targets. Among the notable successes have been the approval of erlotinib, gefitinib, and afatinib for the EGFR mutation, and more recently crizotinib for anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangement. Despite the excellent efficacy of crizotinib, several mechanisms of resistance, including secondary mutation in the ALK gene, eventually result in disease progression, and several second-generation ALK inhibitors, notably ceritinib, have demonstrated evidence of clinical activity in this setting. This review discusses the data associated with the recent accelerated approval of ceritinib for treatment of patients with ALK-positive, metastatic lung adenocarcinoma with disease progression on or who are intolerant to crizotinib. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 670–4. ©2015 AACR.


The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a highly specialized organelle that provides an oxidizing, profolding environment for protein synthesis and maturation. The ER also hosts a dynamic signaling network that can sense and respond to physiologic changes that affect its environment, thereby influencing overall cell fate. Limitation of nutrients and oxygen have a direct effect on the efficiency of protein folding in the ER, and are classic inducers of the ER resident signaling pathway, the unfolded protein response (UPR). Not only does the UPR regulate ER homeostasis in normal cells experiencing such stress, but strong evidence also suggests that tumor cells can co-opt the cytoprotective aspects of this response to survive the hypoxic, nutrient-restricted conditions of the tumor microenvironment. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 675–9. ©2014 AACR.


A model of tumor metabolism is proposed that describes how the complementary metabolic functions of the local stroma and the tumor cells contribute to cancer progression. Cancer cells alter the metabolism of cancer-associated fibroblasts to obtain lactate and amino acids, which are utilized for energy production, rapid growth, and resistance to chemotherapy drugs. Cancer cells use glutamine supplied by cancer-associated fibroblasts to replenish tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates and as a nitrogen source for nucleotide synthesis. Moreover, adipocytes in the microenvironment attract cancer cells through the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and proteases. The cancer cells then induce metabolic changes in the adipocytes to acquire free fatty acids that are oxidized by cancer cells to generate energy for proliferation. Increasing knowledge about the metabolic symbiosis within the tumor has led to novel therapeutic strategies designed to restrict metabolic adaptation, including inhibiting lactate transporters and repurposing antidiabetic drugs (thiazolidinediones, metformin). Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 680–6. ©2015 AACR.


Immunotherapy has demonstrated impressive outcomes for some patients with cancer. However, selecting patients who are most likely to respond to immunotherapy remains a clinical challenge. Here, we discuss immune escape mechanisms exploited by cancer and present strategies for applying this knowledge to improving the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 687–92. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: We determined the maximum tolerated dose (MTD), safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and preliminary activity of OSI-906, a potent, oral, dual inhibitor of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF1R) and insulin receptor (IR), in patients with advanced solid tumors.

Experimental Design: This was a multicenter, open-label, dose escalation phase I study evaluating three intermittent dosing schedules of once-daily OSI-906 [schedule (S) 1, days 1–3 every 14 days; S2, days 1–5 every 14 days; S3, days 1–7 every 14 days]. A fed-fasting expansion cohort was included in the study.

Results: Seventy-nine patients were enrolled: 62 in S1, 4 in S2, and 13 in S3. S2 was discontinued. Dose-limiting toxicity comprised grade 3–4 hyperglycemia, vomiting, fatigue, and prolonged QTc interval. The MTD and recommended phase II dose of OSI-906 was 600 mg for both S1 and S3 schedules. Other common adverse events were grade 1–2 nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and diarrhea. The pharmacokinetics of OSI-906 was dose linear, and the terminal half-life ranged between 2 and 6 hours. High-fat meals had a moderate effect on the pharmacokinetics of OSI-906. At the MTD, inhibition of IGF1R and IR was observed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. An increase in plasma IGF1 concentrations, an indirect measure of IGF1R signaling inhibition, was seen at doses ≥ 450 mg. Two patients with adrenocortical carcinoma achieved partial responses.

Conclusion: The MTD of 600 mg was well tolerated and associated with preliminary antitumor activity. These data support further evaluation of OSI-906 in solid tumors. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 693–700. ©2014 AACR.

See related commentary by Yee, p. 667


Purpose: OSI-906 is a potent inhibitor of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF1R) and insulin receptor (IR). The purpose of this study was to determine the MTD, safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and preliminary activity of OSI-906 in patients with advanced solid tumors.

Patients and Methods: This was a nonrandomized, open-label, phase I, dose-escalation study in patients with advanced solid tumors. The study also included a diabetic expansion cohort and a biomarker expansion cohort of patients with colorectal cancer. Patients were treated with OSI-906 by once- or twice-daily continuous dosing schedules.

Results: Of 95 patients enrolled in the study, 86 received at least one dose of OSI-906. Dose-limiting toxicities included QTc prolongation, grade 2 abdominal pain and nausea, hyperglycemia, and elevation of aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase (all grade 3). The MTDs were established to be 400 mg once daily and 150 mg twice daily. The recommended phase II dose was determined as 150 mg twice daily. OSI-906 was rapidly absorbed with a half-life of 5 hours, and steady-state plasma concentrations were achieved by day 8. Pharmacodynamic effects on IGF1R and IR phosphorylation were levels observed and correlated with plasma concentrations of OSI-906. Thirty-one patients had stable disease as their best response. One patient with melanoma had a radiographic partial response and underwent resection, during which only melanocytic debris but no viable tumor tissue was identified.

Conclusions: At the established MTD, OSI-906 was well tolerated and antitumor activity was observed. These results support further evaluation of OSI-906 in solid tumors. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 701–11. ©2014 AACR.

See related commentary by Yee, p. 667


Purpose: The anti-programmed death-1 (PD-1) antibody nivolumab (BMS-936558) has clinical activity in patients with metastatic melanoma. Nivolumab plus vaccine was investigated as adjuvant therapy in resected stage IIIC and IV melanoma patients.

Experimental Design: HLA-A*0201 positive patients with HMB-45, NY-ESO-1, and/or MART-1 positive resected tumors received nivolumab (1 mg/kg, 3 mg/kg, or 10 mg/kg i.v.) with a multi-peptide vaccine (gp100, MART-1, and NY-ESO-1 with Montanide ISA 51 VG) every 2 weeks for 12 doses followed by nivolumab maintenance every 12 weeks for 8 doses. Primary objective was safety and determination of a maximum tolerated dose (MTD). Secondary objectives included relapse-free survival (RFS), overall survival (OS), and immunologic correlative studies.

Results: Thirty-three patients were enrolled. Median age was 47 years; 55% were male. Two patients had stage IIIC disease; 31 patients had stage IV disease. Median follow-up was 32.1 months. MTD was not reached. Most common related adverse events (>40%) were vaccine injection site reaction, fatigue, rash, pruritus, nausea, and arthralgias. Five related grade 3 adverse events [hypokalemia (1), rash (1), enteritis (1), and colitis (2)] were observed. Ten of 33 patients relapsed. Estimated median RFS was 47.1 months; median OS was not reached. Increases in CTLA-4+/CD4+, CD25+Treg/CD4+, and tetramer specific CD8+ T-cell populations were observed with treatment (P < 0.05). Trends for lower baseline myeloid-derived suppressor cell and CD25+Treg/CD4+ populations were seen in nonrelapsing patients; PD-L1 tumor status was not significantly associated with RFS.

Conclusions: Nivolumab with vaccine is well tolerated as adjuvant therapy and demonstrates immunologic activity with promising survival in high-risk resected melanoma, justifying further study. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 712–20. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: DMS612 is a dimethane sulfonate analog with bifunctional alkylating activity and preferential cytotoxicity to human renal cell carcinoma (RCC) in the NCI-60 cell panel. This first-in-human phase I study aimed to determine dose-limiting toxicity (DLT), maximum tolerated dose (MTD), pharmacokinetics (PK), and pharmacodynamics (PD) of DMS612 administered by 10-minute intravenous infusion on days 1, 8, and 15 of an every-28-day schedule.

Experimental Design: Patients with advanced solid malignancies were eligible. Enrollment followed a 3+3 design. PKs of DMS612 and metabolites were assessed by mass spectroscopy and PD by -H2AX immunofluorescence.

Results: A total of 31 patients, including those with colorectal (11), RCC (4), cervical (2), and urothelial (1) cancers, were enrolled. Six dose levels were studied, from 1.5 mg/m2 to 12 mg/m2. DLTs of grade 4 neutropenia and prolonged grade 3 thrombocytopenia were observed at 12 mg/m2. The MTD was determined to be 9 mg/m2 with a single DLT of grade 4 thrombocytopenia in 1 of 12 patients. Two patients had a confirmed partial response at the 9 mg/m2 dose level, in renal (1) and cervical (1) cancer. DMS612 was rapidly converted into active metabolites. -H2AX immunofluorescence revealed dose-dependent DNA damage in both peripheral blood lymphocytes and scalp hairs.

Conclusions: The MTD of DMS12 on days 1, 8, and 15 every 28 days was 9 mg/m2. DMS612 appears to be an alkylating agent with unique tissue specificities. Dose-dependent PD signals and two partial responses at the MTD support further evaluation of DMS612 in phase II trials. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 721–9. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: MAPK and PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathways play important roles in many tumors. In this study, safety, antitumor activity, and pharmacokinetics of buparlisib (pan class PI3K inhibitor) and trametinib (MEK inhibitor) were evaluated.

Experimental Design: This open-label, dose-finding, phase Ib study comprised dose escalation, followed by expansion part in patients with RAS- or BRAF-mutant non–small cell lung, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer.

Results: Of note, 113 patients were enrolled, 66 and 47 in dose-escalation and -expansion parts, respectively. MTD was established as buparlisib 70 mg + trametinib 1.5 mg daily [5/15, 33% patients with dose-limiting toxicities (DLT)] and recommended phase II dose (RP2D) buparlisib 60 mg + trametinib 1.5 mg daily (1/10, 10% patients with DLTs). DLTs included stomatitis (8/103, 8%), diarrhea, dysphagia, and creatine kinase (CK) increase (2/103, 2% each). Treatment-related grade 3/4 adverse events (AEs) occurred in 73 patients (65%); mainly CK increase, stomatitis, AST/ALT (aspartate aminotransferase/alanine aminotransferase) increase, and rash. For all (21) patients with ovarian cancer, overall response rate was 29% [1 complete response, 5 partial responses (PR)], disease control rate 76%, and median progression-free survival was 7 months. Minimal activity was observed in patients with non–small cell lung cancer (1/17 PR) and pancreatic cancer (best overall response was SD). Relative to historical data, buparlisib exposure increased and trametinib exposure slightly increased with the combination.

Conclusions: At RP2D, buparlisib 60 mg + trametinib 1.5 mg daily shows promising antitumor activity for patients with KRAS-mutant ovarian cancer. Long-term tolerability of the combination at RP2D is challenging, due to frequent dose interruptions and reductions for toxicity. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 730–8. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: KRAS is the most commonly mutated oncogene in human tumors. KRAS-mutant cells may exhibit resistance to the allosteric MEK1/2 inhibitor selumetinib (AZD6244; ARRY-142886) and allosteric AKT inhibitors (such as MK-2206), the combination of which may overcome resistance to both monotherapies.

Experimental Design: We conducted a dose/schedule-finding study evaluating MK-2206 and selumetinib in patients with advanced treatment-refractory solid tumors. Recommended dosing schedules were defined as MK-2206 at 135 mg weekly and selumetinib at 100 mg once daily.

Results: Grade 3 rash was the most common dose-limiting toxicity (DLT); other DLTs included grade 4 lipase increase, grade 3 stomatitis, diarrhea, and fatigue, and grade 3 and grade 2 retinal pigment epithelium detachment. There were no meaningful pharmacokinetic drug–drug interactions. Clinical antitumor activity included RECIST 1.0–confirmed partial responses in non–small cell lung cancer and low-grade ovarian carcinoma.

Conclusion: Responses in KRAS-mutant cancers were generally durable. Clinical cotargeting of MEK and AKT signaling may be an important therapeutic strategy in KRAS-driven human malignancies (Trial NCT number NCT01021748). Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 739–48. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: To examine the onset and outcome of ipilimumab-related hypophysitis and the response to treatment with systemic high-dose corticosteroids (HDS).

Experimental Design: Twenty-five patients who developed ipilimumab-related hypophysitis were analyzed for the incidence, time to onset, time to resolution, frequency of resolution, and the effect of systemic HDS on clinical outcome. To calculate the incidence, the total number (187) of patients with metastatic melanoma treated with ipilimumab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI; Boston, MA) was retrieved from the DFCI oncology database. Comparisons between corticosteroid treatment groups were performed using the Fisher exact test. The distributions of overall survival were based on the method of Kaplan–Meier.

Results: The overall incidence of ipilimumab-related hypophysitis was 13%, with a higher rate in males (16.1%) than females (8.7%). The median time to onset of hypophysitis after initiation of ipilimumab treatment was 9 weeks (range, 5–36 weeks). Resolution of pituitary enlargement, secondary adrenal insufficiency, secondary hypothyroidism, male secondary hypogonadism, and hyponatremia occurred in 73%, 0%, 64%, 45%, and 92% of patients, respectively. Systemic HDS treatment did not improve the outcome of hypophysitis as measured by resolution frequency and time to resolution. One-year overall survival in the cohort of patients was 83%, and while it was slightly higher in patients who did not receive HDS, there was no statistically significant difference between treatment arms.

Conclusion: Systemic HDS therapy in patients with ipilimumab-related hypophysitis may not be indicated. Instead, supportive treatment of hypophysitis-related hormone deficiencies with the corresponding hormone replacement should be given. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 749–55. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: A recent meta-analysis showed that aspirin was associated with reduced prostate cancer risk. As anti-inflammatory medications lower PSA levels, whether these findings reflect reduced prostate cancer detection or lower prostate cancer risk is unknown. We tested the association between aspirin and nonaspirin NSAID use on prostate cancer diagnosis in REDUCE, where all men received biopsies at 2 and 4 years largely independent of PSA. REDUCE tested dutasteride for prostate cancer risk reduction in men with a PSA of 2.5 to 10.0 ng/mL and a negative prestudy biopsy.

Experimental Design: We examined the association between aspirin, NSAIDs, or both and total, low-grade (Gleason < 7), or high-grade (Gleason ≥ 7) prostate cancer versus no prostate cancer using multinomial logistic regression among 6,390 men who underwent ≥1 on-study biopsy. Multivariable analyses were adjusted for age, race, geographic region, PSA, prostate volume, digital rectal examination, body mass index, treatment arm, smoking, alcohol, statins, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Results: Overall, 3,169 men (50%) were nonusers, 1,368 (21%) used aspirin, 1,176 (18%) used NSAIDs, and 677 (11%) used both. In unadjusted models, aspirin was associated with reduced prostate cancer risk (OR = 0.85, P = 0.036). In multivariable analyses, aspirin was associated with reduced total prostate cancer risk (OR = 0.81, P = 0.015). Use of NSAIDs or NSAIDs and aspirin was not associated with total, low-grade, or high-grade prostate cancer, though all ORs were <1 (all P ≥ 0.08). Therefore, we created a dichotomous variable of aspirin and/or NSAID users versus nonusers. On multivariable analysis, the use of aspirin and/or NSAIDs was significantly associated with decreased total (OR = 0.87, P = 0.030) and high-grade (OR = 0.80, P = 0.040), but not with low-grade, prostate cancer risk (OR = 0.90, P = 0.15). Results were similar in placebo and dutasteride arms.

Conclusions: Among men with a negative biopsy, aspirin and/or NSAID use was associated with decreased prostate cancer risk. Additional studies are warranted. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 756–62. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Breast cancers in carriers of inactivating mutations of the BRCA1 gene carry a specific DNA copy-number signature ("BRCA1-like"). This signature is shared with cancers that inactivate BRCA1 through other mechanisms. Because BRCA1 is important in repair of DNA double-strand breaks through error-free homologous recombination, patients with a BRCA1-like tumor may benefit from high-dose alkylating (HD) chemotherapy, which induces DNA double-strand breaks.

Experimental Design: We investigated a single institution cohort of high-risk patients that received tandem HD chemotherapy schedule comprising ifosfamide, epirubicin, and carboplatin or conventional chemotherapy. We classified copy-number profiles to be BRCA1-like or non–BRCA1-like and analyzed clinical associations and performed survival analysis with a treatment by biomarker interaction design.

Results: BRCA1-like status associated with high-grade and triple-negative breast cancers. BRCA1-like cases benefitted from the HD compared with a conventional regimen on disease-free survival (DFS): [hazard ratio (HR), 0.05; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.01–0.38; P = 0.003]; distant DFS (DDFS): (HR, 0.06; 95% CI, 0.01–0.43; P = 0.01); and overall survival (OS; HR, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.03–0.83; P = 0.03) after correction for prognostic factors. No such benefit was observed in the non–BRCA1-like cases on DFS (HR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.38–1.46; P = 0.39), DDFS (HR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.41–1.52; P = 0.47), and OS (HR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.52–1.64; P = 0.79). The P values for interaction were 0.01 (DFS), 0.01 (DDFS), and 0.045 (OS).

Conclusions: BRCA1-like tumors recurred significantly less often after HD than conventional chemotherapy. BRCA1-like copy-number profile classification may be a predictive marker for HD alkylating chemotherapy. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 763–70. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is a surface glycoprotein overexpressed on malignant prostate cells, as well as in the neovasculature of many tumors. Recent efforts to target PSMA for imaging prostate cancer rely on suitably functionalized low-molecular-weight agents. YC-27 is a low-molecular-weight, urea-based agent that enables near-infrared (NIR) imaging of PSMA in vivo.

Experimental Design: We have developed and validated a laparoscopic imaging system (including an optimized light source, LumiNIR) that is capable of imaging small tumor burdens with minimal background fluorescence in real-time laparoscopic extirpative surgery of small prostate tumor xenografts in murine and porcine models.

Results: In a mouse model, we demonstrate the feasibility of using real-time NIR laparoscopic imaging to detect and surgically remove PSMA-positive xenografts. We then validate the use of our laparoscopic real-time NIR imaging system in a large animal model. Our novel light source, which is optimized for YC-27, is capable of detecting as little as 12.4 pg/mL of the compound (2.48-pg YC-27 in 200-μL agarose). Finally, in a mouse xenograft model, we demonstrate that the use of real-time NIR imaging can reduce positive surgical margins (PSM).

Conclusions: These data indicate that a NIR-emitting fluorophore targeted to PSMA may allow improved surgical treatment of human prostate cancer, reduce the rate of PSMs, and alleviate the need for adjuvant radiotherapy postoperatively. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 771–80. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Cancer immunotherapy, such as vaccination, is an increasingly successful treatment modality, but its interaction with chemotherapy remains largely undefined. Therefore, we explored the mechanism of synergy between vaccination with synthetic long peptides (SLP) of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) and cisplatin in a preclinical tumor model for HPV16.

Experimental Design: SLP vaccination in this preclinical tumor model allowed the elucidation of novel mechanisms of synergy between chemo- and immunotherapy. By analyzing the tumor immune infiltrate, we focused on the local intratumoral effects of chemotherapy, vaccination, or the combination.

Results: Of several chemotherapeutic agents, cisplatin synergized best with SLP vaccination in tumor eradication, without requirement for the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD). Upon SLP vaccination, tumors were highly infiltrated with HPV-specific, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα)- and interferon- (IFN)–producing T cells. Upon combined treatment, tumor cell proliferation was significantly decreased compared with single treated and untreated tumors. Furthermore, we showed that TNFα strongly enhanced cisplatin-induced apoptotic tumor cell death in a JNK-dependent manner. This is consistent with upregulation of proapoptotic molecules and with enhanced cell death in vivo upon combined SLP vaccination and cisplatin treatment. In vivo neutralization of TNFα significantly reduced the antitumor responses induced by the combined treatment.

Conclusion: Taken together, our data show that peptide vaccination with cisplatin treatment leads to decreased tumor cell proliferation and TNFα-induced enhanced cisplatin-mediated killing of tumor cells, together resulting in superior tumor eradication. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 781–94. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: To improve the outcomes of patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), there is an urgent need for more effective therapies and approaches that individualize specific treatments for patients with CRPC. These studies compared the novel taxane cabazitaxel with the previous generation docetaxel, and aimed to determine which tumors are most likely to respond.

Experimental design: Cabazitaxel and docetaxel were compared via in vitro modeling to determine the molecular mechanism, biochemical and cell biologic impact, and cell proliferation, which was further assessed ex vivo in human tumor explants. Isogenic pairs of RB knockdown and control cells were interrogated in vitro and in xenograft tumors for cabazitaxel response.

Results: The data herein show that (i) cabazitaxel exerts stronger cytostatic and cytotoxic response compared with docetaxel, especially in CRPC; (ii) cabazitaxel induces aberrant mitosis, leading to pyknotic and multinucleated cells; (iii) taxanes do not act through the androgen receptor (AR); (iv) gene-expression profiling reveals distinct molecular actions for cabazitaxel; and (v) tumors that have progressed to castration resistance via loss of RB show enhanced sensitivity to cabazitaxel.

Conclusions: Cabazitaxel not only induces improved cytostatic and cytotoxic effects, but also affects distinct molecular pathways, compared with docetaxel, which could underlie its efficacy after docetaxel treatment has failed in patients with CRPC. Finally, RB is identified as the first potential biomarker that could define the therapeutic response to taxanes in metastatic CRPC. This would suggest that loss of RB function induces sensitization to taxanes, which could benefit up to 50% of CRPC cases. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 795–807. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: Increased tumor hypoxia and hence elevated hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF1α) is thought to limit the efficacy of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) pathway–targeting drugs by upregulating adaptive resistance genes. One strategy to counteract this is to combine antiangiogenic drugs with agents able to suppress HIF1α. One such possibility is the investigational drug CRLX101, a nanoparticle–drug conjugate (NDC) containing the payload camptothecin, a known topoisomerase-I poison.

Experimental Design: CRLX101 was evaluated both as a monotherapy and combination with bevacizumab in a preclinical mouse model of advanced metastatic ovarian cancer. These preclinical studies contributed to the rationale for undertaking a phase II clinical study to evaluate CRLX101 monotherapy in patients with advanced platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.

Results: Preclinically, CRLX101 is highly efficacious as a monotherapy when administered at maximum-tolerated doses. Furthermore, chronic low-dose CRLX101 with bevacizumab reduced bevacizumab-induced HIF1α upregulation and resulted in synergistic efficacy, with minimal toxicity in mice. In parallel, initial data reported here from an ongoing phase II clinical study of CRLX101 monotherapy shows measurable tumor reductions in 74% of patients and a 16% RECIST response rate to date.

Conclusions: Given these preclinical and initial clinical results, further clinical studies are currently evaluating CRLX101 in combination with bevacizumab in ovarian cancer and warrant the evaluation of this therapy combination in other cancer types where HIF1α is implicated in pathogenesis, as it may potentially be able to improve the efficacy of antiangiogenic drugs. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 808–18. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Inhibitors of PARP, an enzyme involved in base excision repair, have demonstrated single-agent activity against tumors deficient in homologous repair processes. Ewing sarcoma cells are also sensitive to PARP inhibitors, although the mechanism is not understood. Here, we evaluated the stereo-selective PARP inhibitor, talazoparib (BMN 673), combined with temozolomide or topotecan.

Experimental Design: Talazoparib was tested in vitro in combination with temozolomide (0.3–1,000 μmol/L) or topotecan (0.03–100 nmol/L) and in vivo at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg administered twice daily for 5 days combined with temozolomide (30 mg/kg/daily x 5; combination A) or 0.25 mg/kg administered twice daily for 5 days combined with temozolomide (12 mg/kg/daily x 5; combination B). Pharmacodynamic studies were undertaken after 1 or 5 days of treatment.

Results: In vitro talazoparib potentiated the toxicity of temozolomide up to 85-fold, with marked potentiation in Ewing sarcoma and leukemia lines (30–50-fold). There was less potentiation for topotecan. In vivo, talazoparib potentiated the toxicity of temozolomide, and combination A and combination B represent the MTDs when combined with low-dose or high-dose talazoparib, respectively. Both combinations demonstrated significant synergism against 5 of 10 Ewing sarcoma xenografts. The combination demonstrated modest activity against most other xenograft models. Pharmacodynamic studies showed a treatment-induced complete loss of PARP only in tumor models sensitive to either talazoparib alone or talazoparib plus temozolomide.

Conclusions: The high level of activity observed for talazoparib plus temozolomide in Ewing sarcoma xenografts makes this an interesting combination to consider for pediatric evaluation. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 819–32. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Although tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) such as imatinib provide an effective treatment against Bcr-Abl kinase activity in the mature cells of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), TKIs probably cannot eradicate the leukemia stem cell (LSC) population. Therefore, alternative therapies are required to target both mature CML cells with wild-type (WT) or mutant Bcr-Abl and LSCs. To investigate the effect of C086, a derivative of curcumin, on imatinib-resistant cells, we explored its underlying mechanisms of Bcr-Abl kinase and heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) function inhibition.

Experimental Design: Biochemical assays were used to test ABL kinase activity; fluorescence measurements using recombinant NHsp90, Hsp90 ATPase assay, immunoprecipitation, and immunoblotting were applied to examine Hsp90 function. Colony-forming unit, long-term culture-initiating cells (LTC-IC), and flow cytometry were used to test CML progenitor and stem cells.

Results: Biochemical assays with purified recombinant Abl kinase confirmed that C086 can directly inhibit the kinase activity of Abl, including WT and the Q252H, Y253F, and T315I mutations. Furthermore, we identified C086 as a novel Hsp90 inhibitor with the capacity to disrupt the Hsp90 chaperone function in CML cells. Consequently, it inhibited the growth of both imatinib-sensitive and -resistant CML cells. Interestingly, C086 has the capacity to inhibit LTC-ICs and to induce apoptosis in both CD34+CD38+ and CD34+CD38 cells in vitro. Moreover, C086 could decrease the number of CD45+, CD45+CD34+CD38+, and CD45+CD34+CD38 cells in CML NOD-SCID mice.

Conclusions: Dual suppression of Abl kinase activity and Hsp90 chaperone function by C086 provides a new therapeutic strategy for treating Bcr-Abl–induced leukemia resistant to TKIs. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 833–43. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Dysregulated signaling of nuclear transcription factors vitamin D receptor (VDR) and Forkhead box M1 (FOXM1) plays important roles in transformation and tumorigenesis. In this study, we sought to determine whether VDR signaling causally affected FOXM1 signaling in and pathogenesis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).

Experimental Design: Genetic and pharmacologic approaches were used to manipulate VDR signaling. The impacts of altered VDR signaling on FOXM1 expression and function in PDAC cells were determined using molecular and biochemical methods, whereas those on PDAC cell biology and tumorigenicity were determined using in vitro and in vivo experimental systems. The clinical relevance of our findings was validated by analyzing human PDAC specimens.

Results: There was a striking inverse correlation between reduced expression of VDR and increased expression of FOXM1 in human PDAC cells and tissues. Treatment of PDAC cells with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25D), its synthetic analogue EB1089 (EB), and VDR transgenics drastically inhibited FOXM1 signaling and markedly suppressed tumor stemness, growth, and metastasis. Mechanistically, 1,25D and EB repressed FOXM1 transcription and reduced the expression level of nuclear FOXM1 protein.

Conclusion: Inactivation of Vitamin D/VDR signaling is a critical contributor to PDAC development and progression via elevated expression and function of FOXM1 and enhanced PDAC cell stemness, invasion, and metastasis. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 844–53. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: MicroRNAs (miRNA) are involved in and are controlled by epigenetic regulation, and thereby form a reciprocal regulatory circuit. Using next-generation sequencing (NGS)–based miRNA profiling, this study aimed to discover esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC)–specific miRNAs and miRNA-related epigenetic modulations.

Experimental Design: NGS-based miRNA profiles were generated for four pairs of ESCC tissues and adjacent normal tissues. In situ hybridization was used to assess miRNA expression and its correlation with prognosis. miRNA-related DNA methylations were identified using bisulfite genomic sequencing, and the role of DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) was investigated using RNA interference. miRNA targets were screened by mRNA sequencing, and functional validation was performed in vitro and in vivo.

Results: NGS-based miRNA profiling identified 78 differentially expressed miRNAs in ESCC. Among them, microRNA126-3p (miR-126) was significantly downregulated, and its downregulation correlated with poor ESCC prognosis. Downregulation of miR-126 was due to promoter hypermethylation of its host gene, Egfl7. DNMT1 was aberrantly upregulated in ESCC and responsible for the hypermethylation of Egfl7. Intriguingly, DNMT1 was suppressed by overexpression of miR-126, indicating the existence of a regulatory feedback circuit. ADAM9 was identified as a key target of miR-126. Ectopic expression of miR-126 or silencing of ADAM9 reduced ESCC cell proliferation and migration by inhibiting epidermal growth factor receptor–AKT signaling.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that miR-126 is a potential prognostic indicator for ESCC and suggest that a novel "DNMT1–miR-126 epigenetic circuit" is involved in ESCC progression. Consequently, miR-126–based epigenetic modulations may provide a basic rationale for new approaches to antitumor therapeutics. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 854–63. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS) is defined as a sarcoma with cellular pleomorphism and no identifiable line of differentiation. It is typically a high-grade lesion with a metastatic rate of about one third. No tumor-specific rearrangement has been identified, and genetic markers that could be used for treatment stratification are lacking. We performed transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) to search for novel gene fusions.

Experimental design: RNA-Seq, FISH, and/or various PCR methodologies were used to search for gene fusions and rearrangements of the PRDM10 gene in 84 soft tissue sarcomas.

Results: Using RNA-Seq, two cases of UPS were found to display novel gene fusions, both involving the transcription factor PRDM10 as the 3' partner and either MED12 or CITED2 as the 5' partner gene. Further screening of 82 soft tissue sarcomas for rearrangements of the PRDM10 locus revealed one more UPS with a MED12/PRDM10 fusion. None of these genes has been implicated in neoplasia-associated gene fusions before.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that PRDM10 fusions are present in around 5% of UPS. Although the fusion-positive cases in our series showed the same nuclear pleomorphism and lack of differentiation as other UPS, it is noteworthy that all three were morphologically low grade and that none of the patients developed metastases. Thus, PRDM10 fusion-positive sarcomas may constitute a clinically important subset of UPS. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 864–9. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Current classification of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) based on anatomic site and stage fails to capture biologic heterogeneity or adequately inform treatment.

Experimental Design: Here, we use gene expression-based consensus clustering, copy number profiling, and human papillomavirus (HPV) status on a clinically homogenous cohort of 134 locoregionally advanced HNSCCs with 44% HPV+ tumors together with additional cohorts, which in total comprise 938 tumors, to identify HNSCC subtypes and discover several subtype-specific, translationally relevant characteristics.

Results: We identified five subtypes of HNSCC, including two biologically distinct HPV subtypes. One HPV+ and one HPV subtype show a prominent immune and mesenchymal phenotype. Prominent tumor infiltration with CD8+ lymphocytes characterizes this inflamed/mesenchymal subtype, independent of HPV status. Compared with other subtypes, the two HPV subtypes show low expression and no copy number events for EGFR/HER ligands. In contrast, the basal subtype is uniquely characterized by a prominent EGFR/HER signaling phenotype, negative HPV-status, as well as strong hypoxic differentiation not seen in other subtypes.

Conclusion: Our five-subtype classification provides a comprehensive overview of HPV+ as well as HPV HNSCC biology with significant translational implications for biomarker development and personalized care for patients with HNSCC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 870–81. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The tumor microenvironment is recognized as an important determinant of progression and outcome in colorectal cancer. The aim of the present study was to evaluate a novel tumor microenvironment–based prognostic score, based on histopathologic assessment of the tumor inflammatory cell infiltrate and tumor stroma, in patients with primary operable colorectal cancer.

Experimental Design: Using routine pathologic sections, the tumor inflammatory cell infiltrate and stroma were assessed using Klintrup–Mäkinen (KM) grade and tumor stroma percentage (TSP), respectively, in 307 patients who had undergone elective resection for stage I–III colorectal cancer. The clinical utility of a cumulative score based on these characteristics was examined.

Results: On univariate analysis, both weak KM grade and high TSP were associated with reduced survival (HR, 2.42; P = 0.001 and HR, 2.05; P = 0.001, respectively). A cumulative score based on these characteristics, the Glasgow Microenvironment Score (GMS), was associated with survival (HR, 1.93; 95% confidence interval, 1.36–2.73; P < 0.001), independent of TNM stage and venous invasion (both P < 0.05). GMS stratified patients in to three prognostic groups: strong KM (GMS = 0), weak KM/low TSP (GMS = 1), and weak KM/high TSP (GMS = 2), with 5-year survival of 89%, 75%, and 51%, respectively (P < 0.001). Furthermore, GMS in combination with node involvement, venous invasion, and mismatch repair status further stratified 5-year survival (92% to 37%, 93% to 27%, and 100% to 37%, respectively).

Conclusions: The present study further confirms the clinical utility of assessment of the tumor microenvironment in colorectal cancer and introduces a simple, routinely available prognostic score for the risk stratification of patients with primary operable colorectal cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 882–8. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: CD70, a member of the TNF ligand superfamily, has been shown frequently overexpressed in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). The mechanisms of CD70's upregulation and its role in ccRCC are unknown.

Experimental Design: CD70 expression was immunohistochemically analyzed in 667 RCCs and RCC metastases. Von Hippel–Lindau gene (VHL) mutations, expression patterns of VHL protein (pVHL), hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) α, and several HIF targets were studied in tissues and cell lines and correlated with CD70 overexpression. Gene promoter analysis was performed to confirm CD70 as HIF target gene. Consecutive tissue sections were immunostained to reveal the relation between CD70-expressing RCCs and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes positive for the CD70 receptor (CD27). CD70-mediated release of soluble CD27 in RCC was assessed by coculture experiments and sera analysis of patients with RCC.

Results: Elevated CD70 expression was seen in 80% of primary tumors and metastases of ccRCC and correlated with dysregulation of the pVHL/HIF pathway. In vitro analyses demonstrated that CD70 upregulation is driven by HIF. Furthermore, CD27+ lymphocytes preferentially infiltrate CD70-expressing ccRCCs. CD70-dependent release of soluble CD27 in cocultures may explain the high CD27 levels observed in sera of patients with CD70-expressing ccRCC. The combination of lymphocyte infiltration and CD70 expression in RCC was associated with worse patient outcome.

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that in ccRCC, CD70 expression is regulated by HIF as a consequence of pVHL inactivation. Increased serum levels of CD27 suggest the existence of CD70-expressing ccRCC, thus representing a potential serum marker for patients suffering from this disease. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 889–98. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: This study aimed to detect cell-surface vimentin (CSV) on the surface of epithelial–mesenchymal transitioned (EMT) circulating tumor cells (CTC) from blood of patients with epithelial cancers.

Experimental Design: In this study, 101 patients undergoing postsurgery adjuvant chemotherapy for metastatic colon cancer were recruited. EMT CTCs were detected from blood of patients using the 84-1 monoclonal antibody against CSV as a marker. EMT CTCs isolated were characterized further using EMT-specific markers, fluorescent in situ hybridization, and single-cell mutation analysis.

Results: Using the 84-1 antibody, we detected CSV exclusively on EMT CTCs from a variety of tumor types but not in the surrounding normal cells in the blood. The antibody exhibited very high specificity and sensitivity toward different epithelial cancer cells. With this antibody, we detected and enumerated EMT CTCs from patients. From our observations, we defined a cutoff of <5 or ≥5 EMT CTCs as the optimal threshold with respect to therapeutic response using ROC curves. Using this defined threshold, the presence of ≥5 EMT CTCs was associated with progressive disease, whereas patients with <5 EMT CTCs showed therapeutic response.

Conclusion: Taken together, the number of EMT CTCs detected correlated with the therapeutic outcome of the disease. These results establish CSV as a universal marker for EMT CTCs from a wide variety of tumor types and thus provide the foundation for emerging CTC detection technologies and for studying the molecular regulation of these EMT CTCs. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 899–906. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: MET is a potential therapeutic target in lung cancer and both MET tyrosine kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies have entered clinical trials. MET signaling can be activated by various mechanisms, including gene amplification. In this study, we aimed to investigate MET amplification status in adeno- and squamous cell carcinomas of the lung. We propose clearly defined amplification scores and provide epidemiologic data on MET amplification in lung cancer.

Experimental Design: We evaluated the prevalence of increased MET gene copy numbers in 693 treatment-naïve cancers by FISH, defined clear cutoff criteria, and correlated FISH results to MET IHC.

Results: Two thirds (67%) of lung cancers do not have gains in MET gene copy numbers, whereas 3% show a clear-cut high-level amplification (MET/centromer7 ratio ≥2.0 or average gene copy number per nucleus ≥6.0 or ≥10% of tumor cells containing ≥15 MET copies). The remaining cases can be subdivided into intermediate- (6%) and low-level gains (24%). Importantly, MET amplifications occur at equal frequencies in squamous and adenocarcinomas without or with EGFR or KRAS mutations.

Conclusion: MET amplification is not a mutually exclusive genetic event in therapy-naïve non–small cell lung cancer. Our data suggest that it might be useful to determine MET amplification (i) before EGFR inhibitor treatment to identify possible primary resistance to anti-EGFR treatment, and (ii) to select cases that harbor KRAS mutations additionally to MET amplification and, thus, may not benefit from MET inhibition. Furthermore, our study provides comprehensive epidemiologic data for upcoming trials with various MET inhibitors. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 907–15. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Developing strategies to overcome resistance to sunitinib is a major challenge in human renal cell carcinoma (RCC). We hypothesized that sunitinib-induced tumor necrosis–associated hypoxia could interact with renal cancer stem cells in patients with metastatic RCC.

Experimental Design: We studied tissue samples from 7 patients with primary metastatic RCC, before and after sunitinib treatment, and from six xenograft models derived from human RCC. Two xenograft models were responders to sunitinib, the four others were nonresponders. CD133/CXCR4–coexpressing cells derived from the two responder xenograft models were used for in vitro studies.

Results: In the seven primary RCCs, we identified a significantly larger number of CD133/CXCR4–coexpressing cells in perinecrotic versus perivascular areas. Their numbers also significantly increased after treatment, in perinecrotic areas. We reproduced these clinical and pathologic results in all six RCC xenograft models with again a preferential perinecrotic distribution of CD133-expressing cells. Necrosis occurred at day 7 in the two responder models treated with sunitinib, whereas it occurred at day 21 in the untreated controls and in the four nonresponder models. Strikingly, when we studied the six RCC xenograft models at the time necrosis, whether spontaneous or sunitinib-induced, occurred, necrosis area correlated with stem-cell number in all 120 xenografted RCCs. When studied under experimental hypoxia, the number of CD133/CXCR4–coexpressing cells and their tumorigenic potency increased whereas their sensitivity to sunitinib decreased.

Conclusions: In human RCC, sunitinib was able to generate resistance to its own therapeutic effect via induced hypoxia in perinecrotic areas where cancer stem cells were found in increased numbers. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 916–24. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: Therapy resistance and associated liver disease make hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) difficult to treat with traditional cytotoxic therapies, whereas newer targeted approaches offer only modest survival benefit. We focused on DNA-dependent protein kinase, DNA-PKcs, encoded by PRKDC and central to DNA damage repair by nonhomologous end joining. Our aim was to explore its roles in hepatocarcinogenesis and as a novel therapeutic candidate.

Experimental Design: PRKDC was characterized in liver tissues from of 132 patients [normal liver (n = 10), cirrhotic liver (n = 13), dysplastic nodules (n = 18), HCC (n = 91)] using Affymetrix U133 Plus 2.0 and 500 K Human Mapping SNP arrays (cohort 1). In addition, we studied a case series of 45 patients with HCC undergoing diagnostic biopsy (cohort 2). Histological grading, response to treatment, and survival were correlated with DNA-PKcs quantified immunohistochemically. Parallel in vitro studies determined the impact of DNA-PK on DNA repair and response to cytotoxic therapy.

Results: Increased PRKDC expression in HCC was associated with amplification of its genetic locus in cohort 1. In cohort 2, elevated DNA-PKcs identified patients with treatment-resistant HCC, progressing at a median of 4.5 months compared with 16.9 months, whereas elevation of activated pDNA-PK independently predicted poorer survival. DNA-PKcs was high in HCC cell lines, where its inhibition with NU7441 potentiated irradiation and doxorubicin-induced cytotoxicity, whereas the combination suppressed HCC growth in vitro and in vivo.

Conclusions: These data identify PRKDC/DNA-PKcs as a candidate driver of hepatocarcinogenesis, whose biopsy characterization at diagnosis may impact stratification of current therapies, and whose specific future targeting may overcome resistance. Clin Cancer Res; 21(4); 925–33. ©2014 AACR.