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.
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.
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 (https://depmap.org/repurposing) is a starting point to develop new oncology therapeutics, and more rarely, for potential direct clinical translation.