Prensner JR, Enache OM, Luria, V, Krug, K, Clauser KR, Dempster JM, Karger, A, Wang, L, Stumbraite, K, Wang, L VM, et al. Noncanonical open reading frames encode functional proteins essential for cancer cell survival. Nature Biotechnology. 2021.
Although genomic analyses predict many noncanonical open reading frames (ORFs) in the human genome, it is unclear whether they encode biologically active proteins. Here we experimentally interrogated 553 candidates selected from noncanonical ORF datasets. Of these, 57 induced viability defects when knocked out in human cancer cell lines. Following ectopic expression, 257 showed evidence of protein expression and 401 induced gene expression changes. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) tiling and start codon mutagenesis indicated that their biological effects required translation as opposed to RNA-mediated effects. We found that one of these ORFs, G029442-renamed glycine-rich extracellular protein-1 (GREP1)-encodes a secreted protein highly expressed in breast cancer, and its knockout in 263 cancer cell lines showed preferential essentiality in breast cancer-derived lines. The secretome of GREP1-expressing cells has an increased abundance of the oncogenic cytokine GDF15, and GDF15 supplementation mitigated the growth-inhibitory effect of GREP1 knockout. Our experiments suggest that noncanonical ORFs can express biologically active proteins that are potential therapeutic targets.
Cohen-Sharir, Y, McFarland JM, Abdusamad, M, Marquis, C, Bernhard SV, Kazachkova, M, Tang, H, Ippolito MR, Laue, K, Zerbib, J, et al. Aneuploidy renders cancer cells vulnerable to mitotic checkpoint inhibition. Nature. 2021;590(7846):486-491.
Selective targeting of aneuploid cells is an attractive strategy for cancer treatment1. However, it is unclear whether aneuploidy generates any clinically relevant vulnerabilities in cancer cells. Here we mapped the aneuploidy landscapes of about 1,000 human cancer cell lines, and analysed genetic and chemical perturbation screens2-9 to identify cellular vulnerabilities associated with aneuploidy. We found that aneuploid cancer cells show increased sensitivity to genetic perturbation of core components of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC), which ensures the proper segregation of chromosomes during mitosis10. Unexpectedly, we also found that aneuploid cancer cells were less sensitive than diploid cells to short-term exposure to multiple SAC inhibitors. Indeed, aneuploid cancer cells became increasingly sensitive to inhibition of SAC over time. Aneuploid cells exhibited aberrant spindle geometry and dynamics, and kept dividing when the SAC was inhibited, resulting in the accumulation of mitotic defects, and in unstable and less-fit karyotypes. Therefore, although aneuploid cancer cells could overcome inhibition of SAC more readily than diploid cells, their long-term proliferation was jeopardized. We identified a specific mitotic kinesin, KIF18A, whose activity was perturbed in aneuploid cancer cells. Aneuploid cancer cells were particularly vulnerable to depletion of KIF18A, and KIF18A overexpression restored their response to SAC inhibition. Our results identify a therapeutically relevant, synthetic lethal interaction between aneuploidy and the SAC.


Neggers JE, Paolella BR, Asfaw A, Rothberg MV, Skipper TA, Yang A, Kalekar RL, Krill-Burger JM, Dharia NV, Kugener G, et al. Correction Synthetic Lethal Interaction between the ESCRTParalog Enzymes VPS4A and VPS4B in CancersHarboring Loss of Chromosome 18q or 16q. 2020. p. 109367.

n the originally published version of this paper, the CHMP4B sgRNA sequence listed in the STAR Methods section was incorrect. Theincorrect sequence was 50-TCGATGGCACAAGCCATGAA, which is an sgRNA designed to targetCHMP2A. The correctCHMP4B-targeting sgRNA sequence that was used in the experiments for this paper is 50- TATCAACCATCGAGTTCCAG. This change does notaffect the data or conclusions of the study and now appears in the paper online.

The authors apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused.

McFarland JM, Paolella BR, Warren A, Geiger-Schuller K, Shibue T, Rothberg M, Kuksenko O, Colgan WN, Jones A, Chambers E, et al. Multiplexed single-cell transcriptional response profiling to define cancer vulnerabilities and therapeutic mechanism of action. Nat Commun. 2020;11:4296.

Assays to study cancer cell responses to pharmacologic or genetic perturbations are typically restricted to using simple phenotypic readouts such as proliferation rate. Information-rich assays, such as gene-expression profiling, have generally not permitted efficient profiling of a given perturbation across multiple cellular contexts. Here, we develop MIX-Seq, a method for multiplexed transcriptional profiling of post-perturbation responses across a mixture of samples with single-cell resolution, using SNP-based computational demultiplexing of single-cell RNA-sequencing data. We show that MIX-Seq can be used to profile responses to chemical or genetic perturbations across pools of 100 or more cancer cell lines. We combine it with Cell Hashing to further multiplex additional experimental conditions, such as post-treatment time points or drug doses. Analyzing the high-content readout of scRNA-seq reveals both shared and context-specific transcriptional response components that can identify drug mechanism of action and enable prediction of long-term cell viability from short-term transcriptional responses to treatment.

Parsons HA, Rhoades J, Reed SC, Gydush G, Ram P, Exman P, Xiong K, Lo CC, Li T, Fleharty M, et al. Sensitive Detection of Minimal Residual Disease in Patients Treated for Early-Stage Breast Cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2020;26:2556-2564.

PURPOSE: Existing cell-free DNA (cfDNA) methods lack the sensitivity needed for detecting minimal residual disease (MRD) following therapy. We developed a test for tracking hundreds of patient-specific mutations to detect MRD with a 1,000-fold lower error rate than conventional sequencing. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We compared the sensitivity of our approach to digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) in a dilution series, then retrospectively identified two cohorts of patients who had undergone prospective plasma sampling and clinical data collection: 16 patients with ER+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer (MBC) sampled within 6 months following metastatic diagnosis and 142 patients with stage 0 to III breast cancer who received curative-intent treatment with most sampled at surgery and 1 year postoperative. We performed whole-exome sequencing of tumors and designed individualized MRD tests, which we applied to serial cfDNA samples. RESULTS: Our approach was 100-fold more sensitive than ddPCR when tracking 488 mutations, but most patients had fewer identifiable tumor mutations to track in cfDNA (median = 57; range = 2-346). Clinical sensitivity was 81% (n = 13/16) in newly diagnosed MBC, 23% (n = 7/30) at postoperative and 19% (n = 6/32) at 1 year in early-stage disease, and highest in patients with the most tumor mutations available to track. MRD detection at 1 year was strongly associated with distant recurrence [HR = 20.8; 95% confidence interval, 7.3-58.9]. Median lead time from first positive sample to recurrence was 18.9 months (range = 3.4-39.2 months). CONCLUSIONS: Tracking large numbers of individualized tumor mutations in cfDNA can improve MRD detection, but its sensitivity is driven by the number of tumor mutations available to track.

Slabicki M, Kozicka Z, Petzold G, Li YD, Manojkumar M, Bunker RD, Donovan KA, Sievers QL, Koeppel J, Suchyta D, et al. The CDK inhibitor CR8 acts as a molecular glue degrader that depletes cyclin K. Nature. 2020;585:293-297.

Molecular glue compounds induce protein-protein interactions that, in the context of a ubiquitin ligase, lead to protein degradation(1). Unlike traditional enzyme inhibitors, these molecular glue degraders act substoichiometrically to catalyse the rapid depletion of previously inaccessible targets(2). They are clinically effective and highly sought-after, but have thus far only been discovered serendipitously. Here, through systematically mining databases for correlations between the cytotoxicity of 4,518 clinical and preclinical small molecules and the expression levels of E3 ligase components across hundreds of human cancer cell lines(3-5), we identify CR8-a cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor(6)-as a compound that acts as a molecular glue degrader. The CDK-bound form of CR8 has a solvent-exposed pyridyl moiety that induces the formation of a complex between CDK12-cyclin K and the CUL4 adaptor protein DDB1, bypassing the requirement for a substrate receptor and presenting cyclin K for ubiquitination and degradation. Our studies demonstrate that chemical alteration of surface-exposed moieties can confer gain-of-function glue properties to an inhibitor, and we propose this as a broader strategy through which target-binding molecules could be converted into molecular glues.

Jin X, Demere Z, Nair K, Ali A, Ferraro GB, Natoli T, Deik A, Petronio L, Tang AA, Zhu C, et al. A metastasis map of human cancer cell lines. Nature. 2020;588:331-336.

Most deaths from cancer are explained by metastasis, and yet large-scale metastasis research has been impractical owing to the complexity of in vivo models. Here we introduce an in vivo barcoding strategy that is capable of determining the metastatic potential of human cancer cell lines in mouse xenografts at scale. We validated the robustness, scalability and reproducibility of the method and applied it to 500 cell lines(1,2) spanning 21 types of solid tumour. We created a first-generation metastasis map (MetMap) that reveals organ-specific patterns of metastasis, enabling these patterns to be associated with clinical and genomic features. We demonstrate the utility of MetMap by investigating the molecular basis of breast cancers capable of metastasizing to the brain-a principal cause of death in patients with this type of cancer. Breast cancers capable of metastasizing to the brain showed evidence of altered lipid metabolism. Perturbation of lipid metabolism in these cells curbed brain metastasis development, suggesting a therapeutic strategy to combat the disease and demonstrating the utility of MetMap as a resource to support metastasis research.

Neggers JE, Paolella BR, Asfaw A, Rothberg MV, Skipper TA, Yang A, Kalekar RL, Krill-Burger JM, Dharia NV, Kugener G, et al. Synthetic Lethal Interaction between the ESCRT Paralog Enzymes VPS4A and VPS4B in Cancers Harboring Loss of Chromosome 18q or 16q. Cell Rep. 2020;33:108493.

Few therapies target the loss of tumor suppressor genes in cancer. We examine CRISPR-SpCas9 and RNA-interference loss-of-function screens to identify new therapeutic targets associated with genomic loss of tumor suppressor genes. The endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT) ATPases VPS4A and VPS4B score as strong synthetic lethal dependencies. VPS4A is essential in cancers harboring loss of VPS4B adjacent to SMAD4 on chromosome 18q and VPS4B is required in tumors with co-deletion of VPS4A and CDH1 (E-cadherin) on chromosome 16q. We demonstrate that more than 30% of cancers selectively require VPS4A or VPS4B. VPS4A suppression in VPS4B-deficient cells selectively leads to ESCRT-III filament accumulation, cytokinesis defects, nuclear deformation, G2/M arrest, apoptosis, and potent tumor regression. CRISPR-SpCas9 screening and integrative genomic analysis reveal other ESCRT members, regulators of abscission, and interferon signaling as modifiers of VPS4A dependency. We describe a compendium of synthetic lethal vulnerabilities and nominate VPS4A and VPS4B as high-priority therapeutic targets for cancers with 18q or 16q loss.

Corsello SM, Nagari RT, Spangler RD, Rossen J, Kocak M, Bryan JG, Humeidi R, Peck D, Wu X, Tang AA, et al. Discovering the anti-cancer potential of non-oncology drugs by systematic viability profiling. Nat Cancer. 2020;1:235-248.

Anti-cancer uses of non-oncology drugs have occasionally been found, but such discoveries have been serendipitous. We sought to create a public resource containing the growth inhibitory activity of 4,518 drugs tested across 578 human cancer cell lines. We used PRISM, a molecular barcoding method, to screen drugs against cell lines in pools. An unexpectedly large number of non-oncology drugs selectively inhibited subsets of cancer cell lines in a manner predictable from the cell lines' molecular features. Our findings include compounds that killed by inducing PDE3A-SLFN12 complex formation; vanadium-containing compounds whose killing depended on the sulfate transporter SLC26A2; the alcohol dependence drug disulfiram, which killed cells with low expression of metallothioneins; and the anti-inflammatory drug tepoxalin, which killed via the multi-drug resistance protein ABCB1. The PRISM drug repurposing resource ( is a starting point to develop new oncology therapeutics, and more rarely, for potential direct clinical translation.