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Publications in Cancer by NOMIS researchers

Published in

January 25, 2024
The limited efficacy of currently approved immunotherapies in EGFR-driven lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) underscores the need to better understand alternative mechanisms governing local immunosuppression to fuel novel therapies. Elevated surfactant and GM-CSF secretion from the transformed epithelium induces tumor-associated alveolar macrophage (TA-AM) proliferation, which supports tumor growth by rewiring inflammatory functions and lipid metabolism. TA-AM properties are driven by increased GM-CSF–PPARγ signaling and inhibition of airway GM-CSF or PPARγ in TA-AMs suppresses cholesterol efflux to tumor cells, which impairs EGFR phosphorylation and restrains LUAD progression. In the absence of TA-AM metabolic support, LUAD cells compensate by increasing cholesterol synthesis, and blocking PPARγ in TA-AMs simultaneous with statin therapy further suppresses tumor progression and increases proinflammatory immune responses. These results reveal new therapeutic combinations for immunotherapy-resistant EGFR-mutant LUADs and demonstrate how cancer cells can metabolically co-opt TA-AMs through GM-CSF–PPARγ signaling to provide nutrients that promote oncogenic signaling and growth.
Significance:

Alternate strategies harnessing anticancer innate immunity are required for lung cancers with poor response rates to T cell–based immunotherapies. This study identifies a targetable, mutually supportive, metabolic relationship between macrophages and transformed epithelium, which is exploited by tumors to obtain metabolic and immunologic support to sustain proliferation and oncogenic signaling.

Research field(s)
Oncology & Carcinogenesis

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

November 6, 2023

Chromatin conformation reorganization is emerging as an important layer of regulation for gene expression and lineage specification. Yet, how lineage-specific transcription factors contribute to the establishment of cell type-specific 3D chromatin architecture in the immune cells remains unclear, especially for the late stages of T cell subset differentiation and maturation. Regulatory T cells (Treg) are mainly generated in the thymus as a subpopulation of T cells specializing in suppressing excessive immune responses. Here, by comprehensively mapping 3D chromatin organization during Treg cell differentiation, we show that Treg-specific chromatin structures were progressively established during its lineage specification, and highly associated with Treg signature gene expression. Additionally, the binding sites of Foxp3, a Treg lineage specifying transcription factor, were highly enriched at Treg-specific chromatin loop anchors. Further comparison of the chromatin interactions between wide-type Tregs versus Treg cells from Foxp3 knock-in/knockout or newly-generated Foxp3 domain-swap mutant mouse revealed that Foxp3 was essential for the establishment of Treg-specific 3D chromatin architecture, although it was not dependent on the formation of the Foxp3 domain-swapped dimer. These results highlighted an underappreciated role of Foxp3 in modulating Treg-specific 3D chromatin structure formation.

Research field(s)
Genetics & Heredity, Immunology, Oncology & Carcinogenesis

Molecular classification of gastric cancer (GC) identified a subgroup of patients showing chemoresistance and poor prognosis, termed SEM (Stem-like/Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition/Mesenchymal) type in this study. Here, we show that SEM-type GC exhibits a distinct metabolic profile characterized by high glutaminase (GLS) levels. Unexpectedly, SEM-type GC cells are resistant to glutaminolysis inhibition. We show that under glutamine starvation, SEM-type GC cells up-regulate the 3 phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH)-mediated mitochondrial folate cycle pathway to produce NADPH as a reactive oxygen species scavenger for survival. This metabolic plasticity is associated with globally open chromatin structure in SEM-type GC cells, with ATF4/CEBPB identified as transcriptional drivers of the PHGDH-driven salvage pathway. Single-nucleus transcriptome analysis of patient-derived SEM-type GC organoids revealed intratumoral heterogeneity, with stemness-high subpopulations displaying high GLS expression, a resistance to GLS inhibition, and ATF4/CEBPB activation. Notably, coinhibition of GLS and PHGDH successfully eliminated stemness-high cancer cells. Together, these results provide insight into the metabolic plasticity of aggressive GC cells and suggest a treatment strategy for chemoresistant GC patients. Copyright © 2023 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

March 4, 2022

It is widely believed that cellular senescence plays a critical role in both aging and cancer, and that senescence is a fundamental, permanent growth arrest that somatic cells cannot avoid. Here we show that Myc plays an important role in self-renewal of esophageal epithelial cells, contributing to their resistance to cellular senescence. Myc is homogeneously expressed in basal cells of the esophageal epithelium and Myc positively regulates their self-renewal by maintaining their undifferentiated state. Indeed, Myc knockout induced a loss of the undifferentiated state of esophageal epithelial cells resulting in cellular senescence while forced MYC expression promoted oncogenic cell proliferation. A superoxide scavenger counteracted Myc knockout-induced senescence, therefore suggesting that a mitochondrial superoxide takes part in inducing senescence. Taken together, these analyses reveal extremely low levels of cellular senescence and senescence-associated phenotypes in the esophageal epithelium, as well as a critical role for Myc in self-renewal of basal cells in this organ. This provides new avenues for studying and understanding the links between stemness and resistance to cellular senescence.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 11, 2022

Background: Ketogenic diet is a potential means of augmenting cancer therapy. Here, we explore ketone body metabolism and its interplay with chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer. Methods: Metabolism and therapeutic responses of murine pancreatic cancer were studied using KPC primary tumors and tumor chunk allografts. Mice on standard high-carbohydrate diet or ketogenic diet were treated with cytotoxic chemotherapy (nab-paclitaxel, gemcitabine, cisplatin). Metabolic activity was monitored with metabolomics and isotope tracing, including 2H- and 13C-tracers, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, and imaging mass spectrometry. Findings: Ketone bodies are unidirectionally oxidized to make NADH. This stands in contrast to the carbohydrate-derived carboxylic acids lactate and pyruvate, which rapidly interconvert, buffering NADH/NAD. In murine pancreatic tumors, ketogenic diet decreases glucose’s concentration and tricarboxylic acid cycle contribution, enhances 3-hydroxybutyrate’s concentration and tricarboxylic acid contribution, and modestly elevates NADH, but does not impact tumor growth. In contrast, the combination of ketogenic diet and cytotoxic chemotherapy substantially raises tumor NADH and synergistically suppresses tumor growth, tripling the survival benefits of chemotherapy alone. Chemotherapy and ketogenic diet also synergize in immune-deficient mice, although long-term growth suppression was only observed in mice with an intact immune system. Conclusions: Ketogenic diet sensitizes murine pancreatic cancer tumors to cytotoxic chemotherapy. Based on these data, we have initiated a randomized clinical trial of chemotherapy with standard versus ketogenic diet for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer (NCT04631445). Funding: NIH R01CA163591, R50CA211437, R01CA237347-01A1, R01DK057978; NJCCR; NJHF; SU2C-AACR-DT-20-16; ACS134036-RSG-19-165-01-TBG; Rutgers Busch Biomedical Grant; Freeberg Foundation; Copley Foundation; Ludwig Cancer Research.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, General & Internal Medicine

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

October 2, 2020

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Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Oncology & Carcinogenesis

NOMIS Researcher(s)

July 1, 2020

The development of clinical interventions that significantly improve human healthspan requires robust markers of biological age as well as thoughtful therapeutic targets. To promote these goals, we performed a systematic review and analysis of human aging and proteomics studies. The systematic review includes 36 different proteomics analyses, each of which identified proteins that significantly changed with age. We discovered 1,128 proteins that had been reported by at least two or more analyses and 32 proteins that had been reported by five or more analyses. Each of these 32 proteins has known connections relevant to aging and age-related disease. GDF15, for example, extends both lifespan and healthspan when overexpressed in mice and is additionally required for the anti-diabetic drug metformin to exert beneficial effects on body weight and energy balance. Bioinformatic enrichment analyses of our 1,128 commonly identified proteins heavily implicated processes relevant to inflammation, the extracellular matrix, and gene regulation. We additionally propose a novel proteomic aging clock comprised of proteins that were reported to change with age in plasma in three or more different studies. Using a large patient cohort comprised of 3,301 subjects (aged 18–76 years), we demonstrate that this clock is able to accurately predict human age.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Public Health & Health Services, Gerontology