Immune checkpoint blockade is effective for some patients with cancer, but most are refractory to current immunotherapies and new approaches are needed to overcome resistance1,2. The protein tyrosine phosphatases PTPN2 and PTPN1 are central regulators of inflammation, and their genetic deletion in either tumour cells or immune cells promotes anti-tumour immunity3-6. However, phosphatases are challenging drug targets; in particular, the active site has been considered undruggable. Here we present the discovery and characterization of ABBV-CLS-484 (AC484), a first-in-class, orally bioavailable, potent PTPN2 and PTPN1 active-site inhibitor. AC484 treatment in vitro amplifies the response to interferon and promotes the activation and function of several immune cell subsets. In mouse models of cancer resistant to PD-1 blockade, AC484 monotherapy generates potent anti-tumour immunity. We show that AC484 inflames the tumour microenvironment and promotes natural killer cell and CD8+ T cell function by enhancing JAK-STAT signalling and reducing T cell dysfunction. Inhibitors of PTPN2 and PTPN1 offer a promising new strategy for cancer immunotherapy and are currently being evaluated in patients with advanced solid tumours (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT04777994 ). More broadly, our study shows that small-molecule inhibitors of key intracellular immune regulators can achieve efficacy comparable to or exceeding that of antibody-based immune checkpoint blockade in preclinical models. Finally, to our knowledge, AC484 represents the first active-site phosphatase inhibitor to enter clinical evaluation for cancer immunotherapy and may pave the way for additional therapeutics that target this important class of enzymes.
Background: Hundreds of functional genomic screens have been performed across a diverse set of cancer contexts, as part of efforts such as the Cancer Dependency Map, to identify gene dependencies-genes whose loss of function reduces cell viability or fitness. Recently, large-scale screening efforts have shifted from RNAi to CRISPR-Cas9, due to superior efficacy and specificity. However, many effective oncology drugs only partially inhibit their protein targets, leading us to question whether partial suppression of genes using RNAi could reveal cancer vulnerabilities that are missed by complete knockout using CRISPR-Cas9. Here, we compare CRISPR-Cas9 and RNAi dependency profiles of genes across approximately 400 matched cancer cell lines.
Results: We find that CRISPR screens accurately identify more gene dependencies per cell line, but the majority of each cell line's dependencies are part of a set of 1867 genes that are shared dependencies across the entire collection (pan-lethals). While RNAi knockdown of about 30% of these genes is also pan-lethal, approximately 50% have selective dependency patterns across cell lines, suggesting they could still be cancer vulnerabilities. The accuracy of the unique RNAi selectivity is supported by associations to multi-omics profiles, drug sensitivity, and other expected co-dependencies.
Conclusions: Incorporating RNAi data for genes that are pan-lethal knockouts facilitates the discovery of a wider range of gene targets than could be detected using the CRISPR dataset alone. This can aid in the interpretation of contrasting results obtained from CRISPR and RNAi screens and reinforce the importance of partial gene suppression methods in building a cancer dependency map.
Background: We aimed to examine circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and its association with residual cancer burden (RCB) using an ultrasensitive assay in patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Patients and methods: We identified responders (RCB 0/1) and matched non-responders (RCB 2/3) from the phase II TBCRC 030 prospective study of neoadjuvant paclitaxel versus cisplatin in TNBC. We collected plasma samples at baseline, 3 weeks and 12 weeks (end of therapy). We created personalized ctDNA assays utilizing MAESTRO mutation enrichment sequencing. We explored associations between ctDNA and RCB status and disease recurrence.
Results: Of 139 patients, 68 had complete samples and no additional neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Twenty-two were responders and 19 of those had sufficient tissue for whole-genome sequencing. We identified an additional 19 non-responders for a matched case-control analysis of 38 patients using a MAESTRO ctDNA assay tracking 319-1000 variants (median 1000 variants) to 114 plasma samples from 3 timepoints. Overall, ctDNA positivity was 100% at baseline, 79% at week 3 and 55% at week 12. Median tumor fraction (TFx) was 3.7 × 10-4 (range 7.9 × 10-7-4.9 × 10-1). TFx decreased 285-fold from baseline to week 3 in responders and 24-fold in non-responders. Week 12 ctDNA clearance correlated with RCB: clearance was observed in 10 of 11 patients with RCB 0, 3 of 8 with RCB 1, 4 of 15 with RCB 2 and 0 of 4 with RCB 3. Among six patients with known recurrence, five had persistent ctDNA at week 12.
Conclusions: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for TNBC reduced ctDNA TFx by 285-fold in responders and 24-fold in non-responders. In 58% (22/38) of patients, ctDNA TFx dropped below the detection level of a commercially available test, emphasizing the need for sensitive tests. Additional studies will determine whether ctDNA-guided approaches can improve outcomes.
Ferredoxins are a family of iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster proteins that serve as essential electron donors in numerous cellular processes that are conserved through evolution. The promiscuous nature of ferredoxins as electron donors enables them to participate in many metabolic processes including steroid, heme, vitamin D, and Fe-S cluster biosynthesis in different organisms. However, the unique natural function(s) of each of the two human ferredoxins (FDX1 and FDX2) are still poorly characterized. We recently reported that FDX1 is both a crucial regulator of copper ionophore-induced cell death and serves as an upstream regulator of cellular protein lipoylation, a mitochondrial lipid-based post-translational modification naturally occurring on four mitochondrial enzymes that are crucial for TCA cycle function. Here we show that FDX1 directly regulates protein lipoylation by binding the lipoyl synthase (LIAS) enzyme promoting its functional binding to the lipoyl carrier protein GCSH and not through indirect regulation of cellular Fe-S cluster biosynthesis. Metabolite profiling revealed that the predominant cellular metabolic outcome of FDX1 loss of function is manifested through the regulation of the four lipoylation-dependent enzymes ultimately resulting in loss of cellular respiration and sensitivity to mild glucose starvation. Transcriptional profiling established that FDX1 loss-of-function results in the induction of both compensatory metabolism-related genes and the integrated stress response, consistent with our findings that FDX1 loss-of-function is conditionally lethal. Together, our findings establish that FDX1 directly engages with LIAS, promoting its role in cellular protein lipoylation, a process essential in maintaining cell viability under low glucose conditions.
A hallmark of high-risk childhood medulloblastoma is the dysregulation of RNA translation. Currently, it is unknown whether medulloblastoma dysregulates the translation of putatively oncogenic non-canonical open reading frames. To address this question, we performed ribosome profiling of 32 medulloblastoma tissues and cell lines and observed widespread non-canonical ORF translation. We then developed a step-wise approach to employ multiple CRISPR-Cas9 screens to elucidate functional non-canonical ORFs implicated in medulloblastoma cell survival. We determined that multiple lncRNA-ORFs and upstream open reading frames (uORFs) exhibited selective functionality independent of the main coding sequence. One of these, ASNSD1-uORF or ASDURF, was upregulated, associated with the MYC family oncogenes, and was required for medulloblastoma cell survival through engagement with the prefoldin-like chaperone complex. Our findings underscore the fundamental importance of non-canonical ORF translation in medulloblastoma and provide a rationale to include these ORFs in future cancer genomics studies seeking to define new cancer targets.
Detecting mutations from single DNA molecules is crucial in many fields but challenging. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) affords tremendous throughput but cannot directly sequence double-stranded DNA molecules ('single duplexes') to discern the true mutations on both strands. Here we present Concatenating Original Duplex for Error Correction (CODEC), which confers single duplex resolution to NGS. CODEC affords 1,000-fold higher accuracy than NGS, using up to 100-fold fewer reads than duplex sequencing. CODEC revealed mutation frequencies of 2.72 × 10-8 in sperm of a 39-year-old individual, and somatic mutations acquired with age in blood cells. CODEC detected genome-wide, clonal hematopoiesis mutations from single DNA molecules, single mutated duplexes from tumor genomes and liquid biopsies, microsatellite instability with 10-fold greater sensitivity and mutational signatures, and specific tumor mutations with up to 100-fold fewer reads. CODEC enables more precise genetic testing and reveals biologically significant mutations, which are commonly obscured by NGS errors.
Ferredoxins are a family of iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster proteins that serve as essential electron donors in numerous cellular processes that are conserved through evolution. The promiscuous nature of ferredoxins as electron donors enables them to participate in many metabolic processes including steroid, heme, vitamin D and Fe-S cluster biosynthesis in different organisms. However, the unique natural function(s) of each of the two human ferredoxins (FDX1 and FDX2) are still poorly characterized. We recently reported that FDX1 is both a crucial regulator of copper ionophore induced cell death and serves as an upstream regulator of cellular protein lipoylation, a mitochondrial lipid-based post translational modification naturally occurring on four mitochondrial enzymes that are crucial for TCA cycle function. Here we show that FDX1 regulates protein lipoylation by directly binding to the lipoyl synthase (LIAS) enzyme and not through indirect regulation of cellular Fe-S cluster biosynthesis. Metabolite profiling revealed that the predominant cellular metabolic outcome of FDX1 loss-of-function is manifested through the regulation of the four lipoylation-dependent enzymes ultimately resulting in loss of cellular respiration and sensitivity to mild glucose starvation. Transcriptional profiling of cells growing in either normal or low glucose conditions established that FDX1 loss-of-function results in the induction of both compensatory metabolism related genes and the integrated stress response, consistent with our findings that FDX1 loss-of-functions is conditionally lethal. Together, our findings establish that FDX1 directly engages with LIAS, promoting cellular protein lipoylation, a process essential in maintaining cell viability under low glucose conditions.
Liquid biopsies are enabling minimally invasive monitoring and molecular profiling of diseases across medicine, but their sensitivity remains limited by the scarcity of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in blood. Here, we report an intravenous priming agent that is given prior to a blood draw to increase the abundance of cfDNA in circulation. Our priming agent consists of nanoparticles that act on the cells responsible for cfDNA clearance to slow down cfDNA uptake. In tumor-bearing mice, this agent increases the recovery of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) by up to 60-fold and improves the sensitivity of a ctDNA diagnostic assay from 0% to 75% at low tumor burden. We envision that this priming approach will significantly improve the performance of liquid biopsies across a wide range of clinical applications in oncology and beyond.
Blood-based, or "liquid," biopsies enable minimally invasive diagnostics but have limits on sensitivity due to scarce cell-free DNA (cfDNA). Improvements to sensitivity have primarily relied on enhancing sequencing technology ex vivo . Here, we sought to augment the level of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) detected in a blood draw by attenuating the clearance of cfDNA in vivo . We report a first-in-class intravenous DNA-binding priming agent given 2 hours prior to a blood draw to recover more cfDNA. The DNA-binding antibody minimizes nuclease digestion and organ uptake of cfDNA, decreasing its clearance at 1 hour by over 150-fold. To improve plasma persistence and limit potential immune interactions, we abrogated its Fc-effector function. We found that it protects GC-rich sequences and DNase-hypersensitive sites, which are ordinarily underrepresented in cfDNA. In tumor-bearing mice, priming improved tumor DNA recovery by 19-fold and sensitivity for detecting cancer from 6% to 84%. These results suggest a novel method to enhance the sensitivity of existing DNA-based cancer testing using blood biopsies.