• Home
  • News
  • Calendar
  • About DF/HCC
  • Membership
  • Visitor Center
 

Member Resources

Publications

Clinical Cancer Research

Clinical Cancer Research RSS feed -- current issue
Clinical Cancer Research

In the August 15, 2004, issue of Clinical Cancer Research, Nielsen and colleagues demonstrated how a cancer subtype identified by gene expression profiling could be validated using a widely accessible technology (immunohistochemistry). This opened the door to large-scale studies of archival cohorts and clinical trials, which allowed detailed clinical understanding of a new genomic discovery. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1779–81. ©2015 AACR.

See related article by Nielsen et al., Clin Cancer Res 2004;10(16) Aug 15, 2004;5367–74


Utilizing genomic signatures from diagnostic tumor samples to forecast clinical behavior and response to therapy has long been a goal, and we are now poised to further refine how we can identify the relatively rare patients with aggressive neuroblastoma masquerading as patients with a more benign form of the disease. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1782–5. ©2014 AACR.

See related article by Oberthuer et al., p. 1904


Hepatocellular carcinoma is a highly heterogeneous disease both at the molecular and clinical levels. Intratumor morphologic and genetic heterogeneity adds a new level of complexity in our understanding of liver carcinogenesis, and it is likely an important determinant of primary and secondary resistance to targeted therapies. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1786–8. ©2015 AACR.

See related article by Friemel et al., p. 1951


The Cbl proteins are a family of ubiquitin ligases (E3s) that regulate signaling through many tyrosine kinase–dependent pathways. A predominant function is to negatively regulate receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling by ubiquitination of active RTKs, targeting them for trafficking to the lysosome for degradation. Also, Cbl-mediated ubiquitination can regulate signaling protein function by altered cellular localization of proteins without degradation. In addition to their role as E3s, Cbl proteins play a positive role in signaling by acting as adaptor proteins that can recruit signaling molecules to the active RTKs. Cbl-b, a second family member, negatively regulates the costimulatory pathway of CD8 T cells and also negatively regulates natural killer cell function. The different functions of Cbl proteins and their roles both in the development of cancer and the regulation of immune responses provide multiple therapeutic opportunities. Mutations in Cbl that inactivate the negative E3 function while maintaining the positive adaptor function have been described in approximately 5% of myeloid neoplasms. An improved understanding of how the signaling pathways [e.g., Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (Flt3), PI3K, and signal transducer and activator of transcription (Stat)] are dysregulated by these mutations in Cbl has helped to identify potential targets for therapy of myeloid neoplasms. Conversely, the loss of Cbl-b leads to increased adaptive and innate antitumor immunity, suggesting that inhibiting Cbl-b may be a means to increase antitumor immunity across a wide variety of tumors. Thus, targeting the pathways regulated by Cbl proteins may provide attractive opportunities for treating cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1789–94. ©2014 AACR.



KRAS proteins play a major role in human cancer, but have not yielded to therapeutic attack. New technologies in drug discovery and insights into signaling pathways that KRAS controls have promoted renewed efforts to develop therapies through direct targeting of KRAS itself, new ways of blocking KRAS processing, or by identifying targets that KRAS cancers depend on for survival. Although drugs that block the well-established downstream pathways, RAF–MAPK and PI3K, are being tested in the clinic, new efforts are under way to exploit previously unrecognized vulnerabilities, such as altered metabolic networks, or novel pathways identified through synthetic lethal screens. Furthermore, new ways of suppressing KRAS gene expression and of harnessing the immune system offer further hope that new ways of treating KRAS are finally coming into view. These issues are discussed in this edition of CCR Focus. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1797–801. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Targeting RAS-Driven Cancers."


The RAS genes are critical oncogenic drivers activated by point mutation in some 20% of human malignancies. However, no pharmacologic approaches to targeting RAS proteins directly have yet succeeded, leading to suggestions that these proteins may be "undruggable." This has led to two alternative indirect approaches to targeting RAS function in cancer. One has been to target RAS signaling pathways downstream at tractable enzymes such as kinases, particularly in combination. The other, which is the focus of this review, has been to seek targets that are essential in cells bearing an activated RAS oncogene, but not those without. This synthetic lethal approach, while rooted in ideas from invertebrate genetics, has been inspired most strongly by the successful use of PARP inhibitors, such as olaparib, in the clinic to treat BRCA defective cancers. Several large-scale screens have been carried out using RNA interference-mediated expression silencing to find genes that are uniquely essential to RAS-mutant but not wild-type cells. These screens have been notable for the low degree of overlap between their results, with the possible exception of proteasome components, and have yet to lead to successful new clinical approaches to the treatment of RAS-mutant cancers. Possible reasons for these disappointing results are discussed here, along with a reevaluation of the approaches taken. On the basis of experience to date, RAS synthetic lethality has so far fallen some way short of its original promise and remains unproven as an approach to finding effective new ways of tackling RAS-mutant cancers. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1802–9. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Targeting RAS-Driven Cancers."


The crystal structure of RAS was first solved 25 years ago. In spite of tremendous and sustained efforts, there are still no drugs in the clinic that directly target this major driver of human cancers. Recent success in the discovery of compounds that bind RAS and inhibit signaling has fueled renewed enthusiasm, and in-depth understanding of the structure and function of RAS has opened new avenues for direct targeting. To succeed, we must focus on the molecular details of the RAS structure and understand at a high-resolution level how the oncogenic mutants impair function. Structural networks of intramolecular communication between the RAS active site and membrane-interacting regions on the G-domain are disrupted in oncogenic mutants. Although conserved across the isoforms, these networks are near hot spots of protein–ligand interactions with amino acid composition that varies among RAS proteins. These differences could have an effect on stabilization of conformational states of interest in attenuating signaling through RAS. The development of strategies to target these novel sites will add a fresh direction in the quest to conquer RAS-driven cancers. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1810–8. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Targeting RAS-Driven Cancers."


RAS proteins require membrane association for their biologic activity, making this association a logical target for anti-RAS therapeutics. Lipid modification of RAS proteins by a farnesyl isoprenoid is an obligate step in that association, and is an enzymatic process. Accordingly, farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTI) were developed as potential anti-RAS drugs. The lack of efficacy of FTIs as anticancer drugs was widely seen as indicating that blocking RAS membrane association was a flawed approach to cancer treatment. However, a deeper understanding of RAS modification and trafficking has revealed that this was an erroneous conclusion. In the presence of FTIs, KRAS and NRAS, which are the RAS isoforms most frequently mutated in cancer, become substrates for alternative modification, can still associate with membranes, and can still function. Thus, FTIs failed not because blocking RAS membrane association is an ineffective approach, but because FTIs failed to accomplish that task. Recent findings regarding RAS isoform trafficking and the regulation of RAS subcellular localization have rekindled interest in efforts to target these processes. In particular, improved understanding of the palmitoylation/depalmitoylation cycle that regulates RAS interaction with the plasma membrane, endomembranes, and cytosol, and of the potential importance of RAS chaperones, have led to new approaches. Efforts to validate and target other enzymatically regulated posttranslational modifications are also ongoing. In this review, we revisit lessons learned, describe the current state of the art, and highlight challenging but promising directions to achieve the goal of disrupting RAS membrane association and subcellular localization for anti-RAS drug development. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1819–27. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Targeting RAS-Driven Cancers."


The ability to inhibit the RAS oncogene has been the holy grail of oncology because of the critical role of this gene in a multitude of tumor types. In addition, RAS-mutant tumors are among the most aggressive and refractory to treatment. Although directly targeting the RAS oncogene has proven challenging, an alternative approach for treating RAS-driven cancers is to inhibit critical downstream events that are required for tumor maintenance. Indeed, much focus has been put on inhibiting signaling cascades downstream of RAS. Recent studies have shown that oncogenic RAS promotes a metabolic reprogramming of tumor cells, shifting them toward an anabolic metabolism necessary to produce biomass to support unconstrained proliferation. These cancers also use a diverse set of fuel sources to meet their metabolic needs and have even developed a variety of mechanisms to act as metabolic scavengers to obtain necessary metabolic substrates from both extracellular and intracellular sources. Collectively, these adaptations can create "metabolic bottlenecks" whereby tumor cells rely on particular pathways or rate-limiting metabolites. In this regard, inhibiting individual or combinations of these metabolic pathways can attenuate growth in preclinical models. Because these dependencies are tumor selective and downstream of oncogenic RAS, there is the opportunity for therapeutic intervention. Although targeting tumor metabolism is still in the early days of translation to patients, our continued advances in understanding critical metabolic adaptations in RAS-driven cancers, as well as the ability to study this altered metabolism in relevant tumor models, will accelerate the development of new therapeutic approaches. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1828–34. ©2015 AACR.

See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Targeting RAS-Driven Cancers."


Purpose: Lenalidomide, an immunomodulatory agent that enhances antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity, has the potential to synergize with rituximab, an anti-CD20 mAb. We hypothesized that the addition of lenalidomide to rituximab would improve clinical outcomes in patients with B-cell lymphomas who were previously rituximab resistant, defined as no response to or progression of lymphoma within 6 months of rituximab-based therapy.

Experimental Design: We conducted a single-center, phase II trial in patients with indolent B-cell or mantle cell lymphomas who were previously rituximab resistant. Patients received 10 mg lenalidomide daily for 8 weeks, and then received four weekly doses of 375 mg/m2 rituximab; lenalidomide continued during and after rituximab. Response to therapy was assessed after 8 weeks of lenalidomide and 12 weeks after first dose of rituximab. The primary endpoint was overall response rate (ORR) after lenalidomide and rituximab.

Results: Fifty patients were enrolled and 43 patients completed both response assessments. ORR after 8 weeks of lenalidomide was 30.2%; 12 weeks after the addition of rituximab to lenalidomide, ORR increased to 62.8% (N = 43). For all patients (N = 50), median progression-free survival (PFS) is 22.2 months (median follow-up, 39.2 months). PFS after lenalidomide–rituximab was significantly longer than the PFS for the antecedent regimen used to define rituximab resistance (22.2 vs. 9.13 months, P = 0.0004).

Conclusions: This trial is the first to show that the combination of lenalidomide and rituximab overcomes prior rituximab resistance in patients with indolent B-cell and mantle cell lymphomas. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1835–42. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: This phase I/II study investigated JNJ-40346527, a selective inhibitor of the colony-stimulating factor-1 receptor (CSF-1R) tyrosine kinase as treatment for relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL).

Experimental Design: Patients ≥18 years with histopathologically confirmed initial diagnosis of cHL that had relapsed or was refractory after ≥1 appropriate therapies were assigned to sequential cohorts of oral daily doses of JNJ-40346527 (150, 300, 450, 600 mg every day, and 150 mg twice a day). For the dose-escalation phase, the primary endpoint was to establish the recommended phase II dose. Secondary endpoints included safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics.

Results: Twenty-one patients [(150 mg: 3; 300 mg: 5; 450 mg: 3, 600 mg: 3) every day, and 150 mg twice a day: 7] were enrolled, 10 men, median age 40 (range, 19–75) years, median number of prior systemic therapies 6 (range, 3–14). No dose-limiting toxicities were observed; maximum-tolerated dose was not established. Best overall response was complete remission in 1 patient (duration, +352 days) and stable disease in 11 patients: (duration, 1.5–8 months). Median number of cycles: 4 (range, 1–16). Most common (≥20% patients) possibly drug-related adverse events (per investigator assessment) were nausea (n = 6), headache, and pyrexia (n = 5 each). JNJ-40346527 exposure increased in near dose-proportional manner over a dose range of 150 to 450 mg every day, but plateaued at 600 mg every day. Target engagement was confirmed (>80% inhibition of CSF-1R phosphorylation, 4 hours after dosing).

Conclusions: JNJ-40346527, a selective inhibitor of CSF-1R was well tolerated, and preliminary antitumor results suggested limited activity in monotherapy for the treatment of cHL. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1843–50. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: We hypothesized that a window period between bevacizumab and cytotoxic agents may enhance drug delivery into tumor tissue through bevacizumab-induced vascular normalization in patients with brain metastases of breast cancer (BMBC).

Experimental Design: A single-arm phase II study was conducted in which BMBC patients refractory to whole-brain radiotherapy (WBRT) were enrolled. In a 21-day cycle, patients received bevacizumab (15 mg/kg) on day 1, which, with a 1-day window period, was followed by etoposide (70 mg/m2/day; days 2–4) and cisplatin (70 mg/m2; day 2; BEEP regimen). The BEEP regimen was administered for a maximum of 6 cycles. The primary endpoint was the central nervous system (CNS)–objective response rate according to volumetric response criteria.

Results: A total of 35 patients were enrolled between January 2011 and January 2013. The median age was 54.3 years (range, 33–75); 19 patients (54.3%) had an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 2 or 3. Twenty-seven patients [77.1%; 95% confidence interval (CI), 59.9–89.6] achieved a CNS-objective response, including 13 patients (37.1%) with a ≥80% volumetric reduction of CNS lesions. With a median follow-up of 16.1 months, the median CNS progression-free survival and overall survival times were 7.3 months (95% CI, 6.5–8.1) and 10.5 months (95% CI, 7.8–13.2), respectively. Common grade 3 or 4 toxicities included neutropenia (30.8%) and infection (21.3%).

Conclusions: By administering bevacizumab 1 day before etoposide and cisplatin, the BEEP regimen appeared highly effective in BMBC refractory to WBRT. Further study of vascular normalization window concept is warranted. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1851–8. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: The altered PI3K/mTOR pathway is implicated in lung cancer, but mTOR inhibitors have failed to demonstrate efficacy in advanced lung cancer. We studied the pharmacodynamic effects of everolimus in resectable non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to inform further development of these agents in lung cancer.

Experimental Design: We enrolled 33 patients and obtained baseline tumor biopsy and 2[18F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose-positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) imaging followed by everolimus treatment (5 or 10 mg daily, up to 28 days), or without intervening treatment for controls. Target modulation by everolimus was quantified in vivo and ex vivo by comparing metabolic activity on paired PET scans and expression of active phosphorylated forms of mTOR, Akt, S6, eIF4e, p70S6K, 4EBP1, and total Bim protein between pretreatment and posttreatment tissue samples.

Results: There were 23 patients on the treatment arm and 10 controls; median age 64 years; 22 tumors (67%) were adenocarcinomas. There was a dose-dependent reduction in metabolic activity (SUVmax: 29.0%, –21%, –24%; P = 0.014), tumor size (10.1%, 5.8%, –11.6%; P = 0.047), and modulation of S6 (–36.1, –13.7, –77.0; P = 0.071) and pS6 (–41.25, –61.57, –47.21; P = 0.063) in patients treated in the control, 5-mg, and 10-mg cohorts, respectively. Targeted DNA sequencing in all patients along with exome and whole transcriptome RNA-seq in an index patient with hypersensitive tumor was employed to further elucidate the mechanism of everolimus activity.

Conclusions: This "window-of-opportunity" study demonstrated measurable, dose-dependent, biologic, metabolic, and antitumor activity of everolimus in early-stage NSCLC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1859–68. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: Novel antitumor therapies against the PI3K–AKT–mTOR pathway are increasingly used to treat cancer, either as single agents or in combination with chemotherapy or other targeted therapies. Although these agents are not known to be myelosuppressive, an increased risk of infection has been reported with rapamycin analogues. However, the risk of infection with new inhibitors of this pathway such as PI3K, AKT, mTORC 1/2, or multikinase inhibitors is unknown.

Experimental Design: In this retrospective case–control study, we determined the incidence of infection in a group of 432 patients who were treated on 15 phase I clinical trials involving PI3K–AKT–mTOR pathway inhibitors (cases) versus a group of 100 patients on 10 phase I clinical trials of single agent non-PI3K–AKT–mTOR pathway inhibitors (controls) which did not involve conventional cytotoxic agents. We also collected data from 42 patients who were treated with phase I trials of combinations of PI3K–AKT–mTOR inhibitors and MEK inhibitors and 24 patients with combinations of PI3K–AKT–mTOR inhibitors and cytotoxic chemotherapies.

Results: The incidence of all grade infection was significantly higher with all single-agent PI3K–AKT–mTOR inhibitors compared with the control group [27% vs. 8%, respectively, OR, 4.26; 95% confidence intervals (CI), 1.9–9.1, P = 0.0001]. The incidence of grade 3 and 4 infection was also significantly higher with PI3K–AKT–mTOR inhibitors compared with the control group (10.3% vs. 3%, OR, 3.74; 95% CI, 1.1–12.4; P = 0.02). Also, the combination of PI3K–AKT–mTOR inhibitors and chemotherapy was associated with a significantly higher incidence of all grade (OR, 4.79; 95% CI, 2.0–11.2; P = 0.0001) and high-grade (OR, 2.87; 95% CI, 1.0–7.6; P = 0.03) infection when compared with single-agent PI3K–AKT–mTOR inhibitors.

Conclusions: Inhibitors of the PI3K–AKT–mTOR pathway can be associated with a higher risk of infection. Combinations of PI3K–AKT–mTOR inhibitors and cytotoxic chemotherapy significantly increase the risk of infection. This should be taken into consideration during the design and conduct of trials involving PI3K–AKT–mTOR pathway inhibitors, particularly when combined with chemotherapy or myelosuppressive agents. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1869–76. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: Epidemiologic studies indicate that dietary factors, such as coffee, may influence breast cancer and modulate hormone receptor status. The purpose of this translational study was to investigate how coffee may affect breast cancer growth in relation to estrogen receptor-α (ER) status.

Experimental Design: The influence of coffee consumption on patient and tumor characteristics and disease-free survival was assessed in a population-based cohort of 1,090 patients with invasive primary breast cancer in Sweden. Cellular and molecular effects by the coffee constituents caffeine and caffeic acid were evaluated in ER+ (MCF-7) and ER (MDA-MB-231) breast cancer cells.

Results: Moderate (2–4 cups/day) to high (≥5 cups/day) coffee intake was associated with smaller invasive primary tumors (Ptrend = 0.013) and lower proportion of ER+ tumors (Ptrend = 0.018), compared with patients with low consumption (≤1 cup/day). Moderate to high consumption was associated with lower risk for breast cancer events in tamoxifen-treated patients with ER+ tumors (adjusted HR, 0.51; 95% confidence interval, 0.26–0.97). Caffeine and caffeic acid suppressed the growth of ER+ (P ≤ 0.01) and ER (P ≤ 0.03) cells. Caffeine significantly reduced ER and cyclin D1 abundance in ER+ cells. Caffeine also reduced the insulin-like growth factor-I receptor (IGFIR) and pAkt levels in both ER+ and ER cells. Together, these effects resulted in impaired cell-cycle progression and enhanced cell death.

Conclusions: The clinical and experimental findings demonstrate various anticancer properties of caffeine and caffeic acid against both ER+ and ER breast cancer that may sensitize tumor cells to tamoxifen and reduce breast cancer growth. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1877–87. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: To evaluate safety (primary endpoint), tolerability, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamic profile, and preliminary activity of the intravenous, pan-class I isoform PI3K/mTOR inhibitor PF-05212384 in patients with advanced solid tumors.

Experimental Design: Part 1 of this open-label phase I study was designed to estimate the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD) in patients with nonselected solid tumors, using a modified continual reassessment method to guide dose escalation. Objectives of part 2 were MTD confirmation and assessment of preliminary activity in patients with selected tumor types and PI3K pathway dysregulation.

Results: Seventy-seven of the 78 enrolled patients received treatment. The MTD for PF-05212384, administered intravenously once weekly, was estimated to be 154 mg. The most common treatment-related adverse events (AE) were mucosal inflammation/stomatitis (58.4%), nausea (42.9%), hyperglycemia (26%), decreased appetite (24.7%), fatigue (24.7%), and vomiting (24.7%). The majority of patients treated at the MTD experienced only grade 1 treatment-related AEs. Grade 3 treatment-related AEs occurred in 23.8% of patients at the MTD. No treatment-related grade 4–5 AEs were reported at any dose level. Antitumor activity was noted in this heavily pretreated patient population, with two partial responses (PR) and an unconfirmed PR. Eight patients had long-lasting stable disease (>6 months). Pharmacokinetic analyses showed a biphasic concentration–time profile for PF-05212384 (half-life, 30–37 hours after multiple dosing). PF-05212384 inhibited downstream effectors of the PI3K pathway in paired tumor biopsies.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the manageable safety profile and antitumor activity of the PI3K/mTOR inhibitor PF-05212384, supporting further clinical development for patients with advanced solid malignancies. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1888–95. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: The phase II prospective, noncomparative BRAIN study (NCT00800202) investigated efficacy and safety of bevacizumab in chemotherapy-naïve or pretreated patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and asymptomatic untreated brain metastases to provide data in this previously unexplored subgroup.

Experimental Design: Patients with stage IV nonsquamous NSCLC, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 0–1, and untreated, asymptomatic brain metastases received first-line bevacizumab (15 mg/kg) plus carboplatin (area under the curve x6) and paclitaxel (200 mg/m2) every 3 weeks (B + CP), or second-line bevacizumab plus erlotinib (150 mg/d; B + E). Six-month progression-free survival (PFS) was the primary endpoint. The trial could be stopped if there were more than three (B + CP) or more than two (B + E) intracranial hemorrhages.

Results: In first-line B + CP cohort (n = 67), 6-month PFS rate was 56.5% with a median PFS of 6.7 months [95% confidence interval (CI), 5.7–7.1] and median overall survival (OS) of 16.0 months. Investigator-assessed overall response rate (ORR) was 62.7%: 61.2% in intracranial lesions and 64.2% in extracranial lesions. Because of low enrolment (n = 24), efficacy results for the second-line B + E cohort were exploratory only; 6-month PFS rate was 57.2%, median PFS was 6.3 months (95% CI, 3.0–8.4), median OS was 12.0 months, and ORR was 12.5%. Adverse events were comparable with previous trials of bevacizumab. One grade 1 intracranial hemorrhage occurred and resolved without sequelae.

Conclusions: The BRAIN study demonstrates encouraging efficacy and acceptable safety of bevacizumab with first-line paclitaxel and carboplatin in patients with NSCLC and asymptomatic, untreated brain metastases. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1896–903. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: To optimize neuroblastoma treatment stratification, we aimed at developing a novel risk estimation system by integrating gene expression–based classification and established prognostic markers.

Experimental Design: Gene expression profiles were generated from 709 neuroblastoma specimens using customized 4 x 44 K microarrays. Classification models were built using 75 tumors with contrasting courses of disease. Validation was performed in an independent test set (n = 634) by Kaplan–Meier estimates and Cox regression analyses.

Results: The best-performing classifier predicted patient outcome with an accuracy of 0.95 (sensitivity, 0.93; specificity, 0.97) in the validation cohort. The highest potential clinical value of this predictor was observed for current low-risk patients [5-year event-free survival (EFS), 0.84 ± 0.02 vs. 0.29 ± 0.10; 5-year overall survival (OS), 0.99 ± 0.01 vs. 0.76 ± 0.11; both P < 0.001] and intermediate-risk patients (5-year EFS, 0.88 ± 0.06 vs. 0.41 ± 0.10; 5-year OS, 1.0 vs. 0.70 ± 0.09; both P < 0.001). In multivariate Cox regression models for low-risk/intermediate-risk patients, the classifier outperformed risk assessment of the current German trial NB2004 [EFS: hazard ratio (HR), 5.07; 95% confidence interval (CI), 3.20–8.02; OS: HR, 25.54; 95% CI, 8.40–77.66; both P < 0.001]. On the basis of these findings, we propose to integrate the classifier into a revised risk stratification system for low-risk/intermediate-risk patients. According to this system, we identified novel subgroups with poor outcome (5-year EFS, 0.19 ± 0.08; 5-year OS, 0.59 ± 0.1), for whom we propose intensified treatment, and with beneficial outcome (5-year EFS, 0.87 ± 0.05; 5-year OS, 1.0), who may benefit from treatment de-escalation.

Conclusions: Combination of gene expression–based classification and established prognostic markers improves risk estimation of patients with low-risk/intermediate-risk neuroblastoma. We propose to implement our revised treatment stratification system in a prospective clinical trial. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1904–15. ©2014 AACR.

See related commentary by Attiyeh and Maris, p. 1782


Purpose: Wee1 regulates key DNA damage checkpoints, and in this study, the efficacy of the Wee1 inhibitor MK-1775 was evaluated in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) xenograft models alone and in combination with radiation and/or temozolomide.

Experimental Design: In vitro MK-1775 efficacy alone and in combination with temozolomide, and the impact on DNA damage, was analyzed by Western blotting and H2AX foci formation. In vivo efficacy was evaluated in orthotopic and heterotopic xenografts. Drug distribution was assessed by conventional mass spectrometry (MS) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI)-MS imaging.

Results: GBM22 (IC50 = 68 nmol/L) was significantly more sensitive to MK-1775 compared with five other GBM xenograft lines, including GBM6 (IC50 >300 nmol/L), and this was associated with a significant difference in pan-nuclear H2AX staining between treated GBM22 (81% cells positive) and GBM6 (20% cells positive) cells. However, there was no sensitizing effect of MK-1775 when combined with temozolomide in vitro. In an orthotopic GBM22 model, MK-1775 was ineffective when combined with temozolomide, whereas in a flank model of GBM22, MK-1775 exhibited both single-agent and combinatorial activity with temozolomide. Consistent with limited drug delivery into orthotopic tumors, the normal brain to whole blood ratio following a single MK-1775 dose was 5%, and MALDI-MS imaging demonstrated heterogeneous and markedly lower MK-1775 distribution in orthotopic as compared with heterotopic GBM22 tumors.

Conclusions: Limited distribution to brain tumors may limit the efficacy of MK-1775 in GBM. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1916–24. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: VEGFR2 tyrosine kinase inhibition (TKI) is a valuable treatment approach for patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC). However, resistance to treatment is inevitable. Identification of novel targets could lead to better treatment for patients with TKI-naïve or -resistant RCC.

Experimental Design: In this study, we performed transcriptome analysis of VEGFR TKI-resistant tumors in a murine model and discovered that the SPHK–S1P pathway is upregulated at the time of resistance. We tested sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) pathway inhibition using an anti-S1P mAb (sphingomab), in two mouse xenograft models of RCC, and assessed tumor SPHK expression and S1P plasma levels in patients with metastatic RCC.

Results: Resistant tumors expressed several hypoxia-regulated genes. The SPHK1 pathway was among the most highly upregulated pathways that accompanied resistance to VEGFR TKI therapy. SPHK1 was expressed in human RCC, and the product of SPHK1 activity, S1P, was elevated in patients with metastatic RCC, suggesting that human RCC behavior could, in part, be due to overproduction of S1P. Sphingomab neutralization of extracellular S1P slowed tumor growth in both mouse models. Mice bearing tumors that had developed resistance to sunitinib treatment also exhibited tumor growth suppression with sphingomab. Sphingomab treatment led to a reduction in tumor blood flow as measured by MRI.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that S1P inhibition may be a novel therapeutic strategy in patients with treatment-naïve RCC and also in the setting of resistance to VEGFR TKI therapy. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1925–34. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: Genetic alterations affecting the MAPK/ERK pathway are common in lung adenocarcinoma (LAD). Early steps of the signaling pathway are most often affected with EGFR, KRAS, and BRAF mutations encompassing more than 70% of all alterations. Somatic mutations in MEK1, located downstream of BRAF, are rare and remain poorly defined as a distinct molecular subset.

Experimental Design: Tumors harboring MEK1 mutations were identified through targeted screening of a large LAD cohort concurrently interrogated for recurrent mutations in MEK1, EGFR, KRAS, BRAF, ERBB2/HER2, NRAS, PIK3CA, and AKT. Additional cases were identified through a search of publically available cancer genomic datasets. Mutations were correlated with patient characteristics and treatment outcomes. Overall survival was compared with stage-matched patients with KRAS- and EGFR-mutant LADs.

Results: We identified 36 MEK1-mutated cases among 6,024 LAD (0.6%; 95% confidence interval, 0.42–0.85). The majority of patients were smokers (97%, n = 35/36). There was no association with age, sex, race, or stage. The most common mutations were K57N (64%, 23/36) followed by Q56P (19%, 7/36), all mutually exclusive with other driver mutations in the targeted panel. Transversions G:C>T:A were predominant (89%, 31/35), in keeping with smoking-associated DNA damage. Additional less common somatic mutations were identified in the kinase domain, all of which are predicted to converge into a single interaction area based on in silico 3D modeling.

Conclusions: MEK1 mutations define a distinct subset of lung cancers (~1%) with potential sensitivity to MEK inhibitors. Mutations are predominantly transversions, in keeping with a strong association with smoking. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1935–43. ©2014 AACR.


Purpose: The median survival following surgical resection of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is currently <20 months. However, survival ≥10 years is achieved by a small subset of patients who are defined as very long-term survivors (VLTS). The goal of this study was to determine whether specific genetic alterations in resected PDACs determined very long-term survival.

Experimental Design: We sequenced the exomes of eight PDACs from patients who survived ≥10 years. On the basis of the results of the exomic analysis, targeted sequencing of selected genes was performed in a series of 27 additional PDACs from VLTSs.

Results: KRAS mutations were identified in 33 of 35 cancers (94%) from VLTSs and represented the most prevalent alteration in our cohort. TP53, SMAD4, and CDKN2A mutations occurred in 69%, 26%, and 17%, respectively. Mutations in RNF43, which have been previously associated with intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms, were identified in four of the 35 cancers (11%). Taken together, our data show no difference in somatic mutations in carcinomas from VLTSs compared with available data from PDACs unselected for survival. Comparison of clinicopathologic features between VLTSs and a matching control group demonstrated that younger age, earlier stage, well/moderate grade of differentiation, and negative resection margins were associated with VLTS. However, more advanced stage, poor grade, or nodal disease did not preclude long-term survival.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that in most patients, somatic mutations in commonly mutated genes are unlikely to be the primary determinant of very long-term survival following surgical resection of PDAC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1944–50. ©2015 AACR.


Purpose: Morphologic intratumor heterogeneity is well known to exist in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but very few systematic analyses of this phenomenon have been performed. The aim of this study was to comprehensively characterize morphologic intratumor heterogeneity in HCC. Also, taken into account were well-known immunohistochemical markers and molecular changes in liver cells that are considered in proposed classifications of liver cell neoplasms or discussed as molecular therapeutic targets.

Experimental Design: In HCC of 23 patients without medical pretreatment, a total of 120 tumor areas were defined. Analyzed were cell and tissue morphology, expression of the liver cell markers cytokeratin (CK)7, CD44, α-fetoprotein (AFP), epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), and glutamine synthetase (GS) along with mutations of TP53 and CTNNB1, assayed by both Sanger and next-generation sequencing.

Results: Overall, intratumor heterogeneity was detectable in the majority of HCC cases (20 of 23, 87%). Heterogeneity solely on the level of morphology was found in 6 of 23 cases (26%), morphologic heterogeneity combined with immunohistochemical heterogeneity in 9 of 23 cases (39%), and heterogeneity with respect to morphologic, immunohistochemical, and mutational status of TP53 and CTNNB1 in 5 of 23 cases (22%).

Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that intratumor heterogeneity represents a challenge for the establishment of a robust HCC classification and may contribute to treatment failure and drug resistance in many cases of HCC. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1951–61. ©2014 AACR.

See related commentary by Nault and Villanueva, p. 1786


Purpose: Fanconi anemia is an inherited disorder associated with a constitutional defect in the Fanconi anemia DNA repair machinery that is essential for resolution of DNA interstrand crosslinks. Individuals with Fanconi anemia are predisposed to formation of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) at a young age. Prognosis is poor, partly due to patient intolerance of chemotherapy and radiation requiring dose reduction, which may lead to early recurrence of disease.

Experimental Design: Using HNSCC cell lines derived from the tumors of patients with Fanconi anemia, and murine HNSCC cell lines derived from the tumors of wild-type and Fancc–/– mice, we sought to define Fanconi anemia–dependent chemosensitivity and DNA repair characteristics. We utilized DNA repair reporter assays to explore the preference of Fanconi anemia HNSCC cells for non-homologous end joining (NHEJ).

Results: Surprisingly, interstrand crosslinker (ICL) sensitivity was not necessarily Fanconi anemia–dependent in human or murine cell systems. Our results suggest that the increased Ku-dependent NHEJ that is expected in Fanconi anemia cells did not mediate relative ICL resistance. ICL exposure resulted in increased DNA damage sensing and repair by PARP in Fanconi anemia–deficient cells. Moreover, human and murine Fanconi anemia HNSCC cells were sensitive to PARP inhibition, and sensitivity of human cells was attenuated by Fanconi anemia gene complementation.

Conclusions: The observed reliance upon PARP-mediated mechanisms reveals a means by which Fanconi anemia HNSCCs can acquire relative resistance to the ICL-based chemotherapy that is a foundation of HNSCC treatment, as well as a potential target for overcoming chemoresistance in the chemosensitive individual. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1962–72. ©2015 AACR.