Restoration of BECN1/Beclin 1-dependent autophagy and depletion of SQSTM1/p62 by genetic manipulation or autophagy-stimulatory proteostasis regulators, such as cystamine, have positive effects on mouse models of human cystic fibrosis (CF). These measures rescue the functional expression of the most frequent pathogenic CFTR mutant, F508del, at the respiratory epithelial surface and reduce lung inflammation in Cftr(F508del) homozygous mice. Cysteamine, the reduced form of cystamine, is an FDA-approved drug. Here, we report that oral treatment with cysteamine greatly reduces the mortality rate and improves the phenotype of newborn mice bearing the F508del-CFTR mutation. Cysteamine was also able to increase the plasma membrane expression of the F508del-CFTR protein in nasal epithelial cells from F508del homozygous CF patients, and these effects persisted for 24 h after cysteamine withdrawal. Importantly, this cysteamine effect after washout was further sustained by the sequential administration of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a green tea flavonoid, both in vivo, in mice, and in vitro, in primary epithelial cells from CF patients. In a pilot clinical trial involving 10 F508del-CFTR homozygous CF patients, the combination of cysteamine and EGCG restored BECN1, reduced SQSTM1 levels and improved CFTR function from nasal epithelial cells in vivo, correlating with a decrease of chloride concentrations in sweat, as well as with a reduction of the abundance of TNF/TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor) and CXCL8 (chemokine [C-X-C motif] ligand 8) transcripts in nasal brushing and TNF and CXCL8 protein levels in the sputum. Altogether, these results suggest that optimal schedules of cysteamine plus EGCG might be used for the treatment of CF caused by the F508del-CFTR mutation.
Cell-in-cell structures, also referred to as 'entosis', are frequently found in human malignancies, although their prognostic impact remains to be defined. Two articles recently published in Cell Research report the stimulation of entosis by one prominent oncogene, Kras, as well as by one class of tumor suppressors, namely epithelial cadherins E and P, illustrating the complex regulation of this biological process.
In healthy individuals, cells that lose expression of MHC class I molecules are quickly targeted for elimination by NK lymphocytes. A paradox in cancer immunology is the observation that many tumor cells often have a drastic reduction of MHC class I molecules, yet these cells are not eliminated by NK cells, as they should be. In this issue of the JCI, Ardolino et al. demonstrate that NK cells that infiltrate MHC class I-deficient tumors acquire an anergic state that can be reversed by particular combinations of exogenous cytokines. These results indicate that IL-12 plus IL-18 or a recombinant interleukin engineered to stimulate the IL-2 receptor ?/? heterodimer (but not the IL-2 receptor ?/?/? complex) have the potential to be used clinically to reinstate immunosurveillance against MHC class I-deficient tumors.
Transforming growth factor ? (TGF-?) is a canonical immunosuppressive cytokine secreted by tumors. In this issue of Immunity, Stephen et al. (2014) reveal that tumor-derived TGF-? deactivates antitumor CD8(+) T cell responses through T cell upregulation of the FoxP1 transcription factor.
Beyond their contribution to basic metabolism, the major cellular organelles, in particular mitochondria, can determine whether cells respond to stress in an adaptive or suicidal manner. Thus, mitochondria can continuously adapt their shape to changing bioenergetic demands as they are subjected to quality control by autophagy, or they can undergo a lethal permeabilization process that initiates apoptosis. Along similar lines, multiple proteins involved in metabolic circuitries, including oxidative phosphorylation and transport of metabolites across membranes, may participate in the regulated or catastrophic dismantling of organelles. Many factors that were initially characterized as cell death regulators are now known to physically or functionally interact with metabolic enzymes. Thus, several metabolic cues regulate the propensity of cells to activate self-destructive programs, in part by acting on nutrient sensors. This suggests the existence of "metabolic checkpoints" that dictate cell fate in response to metabolic fluctuations. Here, we discuss recent insights into the intersection between metabolism and cell death regulation that have major implications for the comprehension and manipulation of unwarranted cell loss.
Caloric restriction, be it constant or intermittent, is reputed to have health-promoting and lifespan-extending effects. Caloric restriction mimetics (CRMs) are compounds that mimic the biochemical and functional effects of caloric restriction. In this Opinion article, we propose a unifying definition of CRMs as compounds that stimulate autophagy by favouring the deacetylation of cellular proteins. This deacetylation process can be achieved by three classes of compounds that deplete acetyl coenzyme A (AcCoA; the sole donor of acetyl groups), that inhibit acetyl transferases (a group of enzymes that acetylate lysine residues in an array of proteins) or that stimulate the activity of deacetylases and hence reverse the action of acetyl transferases. A unifying definition of CRMs will be important for the continued development of this class of therapeutic agents.
The selection of human cancer cell lines in cis-diamminedichloroplatinum(II) (CDDP, best known as cisplatin) is accompanied by stereotyped alterations that contribute to the acquisition of a CDDP-resistant state. Thus, CDDP resistance often leads to the upregulation of the DNA repair enzyme poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP1) with the consequent intracellular accumulation of poly (ADP-ribose) (PAR)-modified proteins. Here we report another frequent alteration accompanying CDDP resistance, namely upregulation of the antiapoptotic BCL-2 family protein MCL-1. Six out of 8 CDDP resistant cancer cell lines manifested an increase in MCL-1 protein expression level, while only a minority of cell lines overexpressed BCL-2 or BCL-XL. BCL-XL was decreased in six out of 8 cancer cell lines. Importantly, MCL-1 overexpressing, CDDP resistant cells appear to be 'addicted' to MCL-1 because they died upon depletion of MCL-1 by RNA interference or pharmacological inhibition of MCL-1 expression by the BH3 mimetic obatoclax. Knockdown of PARP1 did not succeed in reducing MCL-1 expression, while depletion or inhibition of MCL-1 failed to affect the activity of PARP1. Hence, the two resistance mechanisms are not linked to each other by a direct cause-effect relationship. Importantly, CDDP-resistant, MCL-1 overexpressing human non-small cell lung cancers responded to monotherapy with obatoclax in vivo, in xenotransplanted mice, underscoring the probable therapeutic relevance of these findings.
In a majority of pathophysiological settings, cell death is not accidental - it is controlled by a complex molecular apparatus. Such a system operates like a computer: it receives several inputs that inform on the current state of the cell and the extracellular microenvironment, integrates them and generates an output. Thus, depending on a network of signals generated at specific subcellular sites, cells can respond to stress by attemptinwg to recover homeostasis or by activating molecular cascades that lead to cell death by apoptosis or necrosis. Here, we discuss the mechanisms whereby cellular compartments - including the nucleus, mitochondria, plasma membrane, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, cytoskeleton and cytosol - sense homeostatic perturbations and translate them into a cell-death-initiating signal.
Increasing evidence indicates that cancer cells rewire their metabolism during tumorigenesis. The high intracellular levels of lactate and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated during enhanced aerobic glycolysis and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation respectively led to oxidative stress. The detoxification of these accumulating metabolites and the equilibrium between reduced and oxidized nicotine adenine dinucleotide (NADH and NAD(+)) are two prominent mechanisms regulating redox status and hence energy homeostasis in tumors. Targeting both processes may thus be selectively cytotoxic for cancer cells. In this context, the impact of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors, a class of anticancer agents employed for the treatment of DNA repair deficient tumors, on energy homeostasis and mitochondrial respiration regulation has potential clinical implications. Here we provide an overview of the metabolic reprogramming occurring in cancer cells and discuss the translational perspectives of targeting tumor metabolism and redox balance for antineoplastic therapy.
Quantitative proteomics approaches have been developed-and now begin to be implemented on a high-throughput basis-to fill-in the large gap between the genomic/transcriptomic setup of (cancer) cells and their phenotypic/behavioral traits, reflecting a significant degree of posttranscriptional regulation in gene expression as well as a robust posttranslational regulation of protein function. However, proteomic profiling assays not only fail to detect labile posttranslational modifications as well as unstable protein-to-protein interactions but also are intrinsically incapable of assessing the enzymatic activity, as opposed to the mere abundance, of a given protein. Thus, determining the abundance of theoretically all the metabolites contained in a cell/tissue/organ/organism may significantly improve the informational value of proteomic approaches. Several techniques have been developed to this aim, including high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-TOF) high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS). This approach is particularly advantageous for metabolomic profiling as it offers elevated accuracy and improved sensitivity. Here, we describe a simple procedure to determine the complete complement of intracellular metabolites in cultured malignant cells by HPLC coupled to Q-TOF HRMS. According to this method, (1) cells are collected and processed to minimize contaminations as well as fluctuations in their metabolic profile; (2) samples are separated by HPLC and analyzed on a Q-TOF spectrometer; and (3) data are extracted, normalized, and deconvoluted according to refined mathematical methods. This protocol constitutes a simple approach to determine the intracellular metabolomic profile of cultured cancer cells. With minimal variations (mostly related to sample collection and processing), this method is expected to provide reliable metabolomic data on a variety of cellular samples.
Glucocorticoids, such as dexamethasone, enhance protein breakdown via ubiquitin-proteasome system. However, the role of autophagy in organelle and protein turnover in the glucocorticoid-dependent atrophy program remains unknown. Here, we show that dexamethasone stimulates an early activation of autophagy in L6 myotubes depending on protein kinase, AMPK, and glucocorticoid receptor activity. Dexamethasone increases expression of several autophagy genes, including ATG5, LC3, BECN1, and SQSTM1 and triggers AMPK-dependent mitochondrial fragmentation associated with increased DNM1L protein levels. This process is required for mitophagy induced by dexamethasone. Inhibition of mitochondrial fragmentation by Mdivi-1 results in disrupted dexamethasone-induced autophagy/mitophagy. Furthermore, Mdivi-1 increases the expression of genes associated with the atrophy program, suggesting that mitophagy may serve as part of the quality control process in dexamethasone-treated L6 myotubes. Collectively, these data suggest a novel role for dexamethasone-induced autophagy/mitophagy in the regulation of the muscle atrophy program.
The multifaceted process of aging inevitably leads to disturbances in cellular metabolism and protein homeostasis. To meet this challenge, cells make use of autophagy, which is probably one of the most important pathways preserving cellular protection under stressful conditions. Thus, efficient autophagic flux is required for healthy aging in many if not all eukaryotic organisms. The regulation of autophagy itself is affected by changing metabolic conditions, but the precise metabolic circuitries are poorly understood. Recently, we found that the nucleocytosolic pool of acetyl-coenzyme A (AcCoA) functions as a major and dominant suppressor of cytoprotective autophagy during aging. Here, we propose an epigenetic mechanism for AcCoA-mediated autophagy suppression that causally involves the regulation of histone acetylation and changes in the autophagy-relevant transcriptome.
As the major lysosomal degradation pathway, autophagy represents the guardian of cellular homeostasis, removing damaged and potentially harmful material and replenishing energy reserves in conditions of starvation. Given its vast physiological importance, autophagy is crucially involved in the process of aging and associated pathologies. Although the regulation of autophagy strongly depends on nutrient availability, specific metabolites that modulate autophagic responses are poorly described. Recently, we revealed nucleo-cytosolic acetyl-coenzyme A (AcCoA) as a phylogenetically conserved inhibitor of starvation-induced and age-associated autophagy. AcCoA is the sole acetyl-group donor for protein acetylation, explaining why pharmacological or genetic manipulations that modify the concentrations of nucleo-cytosolic AcCoA directly affect the levels of protein acetylation. The acetylation of histones and cytosolic proteins inversely correlates with the rate of autophagy in yeast and mammalian cells, respectively, despite the fact that the routes of de novo AcCoA synthesis differ across phyla. Thus, we propose nucleo-cytosolic AcCoA to act as a conserved metabolic rheostat, linking the cellular metabolic state to the regulation of autophagy via effects on protein acetylation.
Pharmacological activation of autophagy is becoming an attractive strategy to induce the selective degradation of aggregate-prone proteins. Recent evidence also suggests that autophagy impairment may underlie the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases. Mutations in the gene encoding SOD1 (superoxide disumutase 1) trigger familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), inducing its misfolding and aggregation and the progressive loss of motoneurons. It is still under debate whether autophagy has a protective or detrimental role in ALS. Here we evaluate the impact of BECN1/Beclin 1, an essential autophagy regulator, in ALS. BECN1 levels were upregulated in both cells and animals expressing mutant SOD1. To evaluate the impact of BECN1 to the pathogenesis of ALS in vivo, we generated mutant SOD1 transgenic mice heterozygous for Becn1. We observed an unexpected increase in life span of mutant SOD1 transgenic mice haploinsufficient for Becn1 compared with littermate control animals. These effects were accompanied by enhanced accumulation of SQSTM1/p62 and reduced levels of LC3-II, and an altered equilibrium between monomeric and oligomeric mutant SOD1 species in the spinal cord. At the molecular level, we detected an abnormal interaction of mutant SOD1 with the BECN1-BCL2L1 complex that may impact autophagy stimulation. Our data support a dual role of BECN1 in ALS and depict a complex scenario in terms of predicting the effects of manipulating autophagy in a disease context.
Reduced supply of the amino acid methionine increases longevity across species through an as yet elusive mechanism. Here, we report that methionine restriction (MetR) extends yeast chronological lifespan in an autophagy-dependent manner. Single deletion of several genes essential for autophagy (ATG5, ATG7 or ATG8) fully abolished the longevity-enhancing capacity of MetR. While pharmacological or genetic inhibition of TOR1 increased lifespan in methionine-prototroph yeast, TOR1 suppression failed to extend the longevity of methionine-restricted yeast cells. Notably, vacuole-acidity was specifically enhanced by MetR, a phenotype that essentially required autophagy. Overexpression of vacuolar ATPase components (Vma1p or Vph2p) suffices to increase chronological lifespan of methionine-prototrophic yeast. In contrast, lifespan extension upon MetR was prevented by inhibition of vacuolar acidity upon disruption of the vacuolar ATPase. In conclusion, autophagy promotes lifespan extension upon MetR and requires the subsequent stimulation of vacuolar acidification, while it is epistatic to the equally autophagy-dependent anti-aging pathway triggered by TOR1 inhibition or deletion.
Epidemiological studies and clinical trials revealed that chronic consumption coffee is associated with the inhibition of several metabolic diseases as well as reduction in overall and cause-specific mortality. We show that both natural and decaffeinated brands of coffee similarly rapidly trigger autophagy in mice. One to 4 h after coffee consumption, we observed an increase in autophagic flux in all investigated organs (liver, muscle, heart) in vivo, as indicated by the increased lipidation of LC3B and the reduction of the abundance of the autophagic substrate sequestosome 1 (p62/SQSTM1). These changes were accompanied by the inhibition of the enzymatic activity of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), leading to the reduced phosphorylation of p70(S6K), as well as by the global deacetylation of cellular proteins detectable by immunoblot. Immunohistochemical analyses of transgenic mice expressing a GFP-LC3B fusion protein confirmed the coffee-induced relocation of LC3B to autophagosomes, as well as general protein deacetylation. Altogether, these results indicate that coffee triggers 2 phenomena that are also induced by nutrient depletion, namely a reduction of protein acetylation coupled to an increase in autophagy. We speculate that polyphenols contained in coffee promote health by stimulating autophagy.
Tumors are not immunologically silent but evolve and respond to therapy in the context of a continuous, bi-directional interaction with the host immune system. In line with this notion, several clinically successful chemotherapeutics have been shown to mediate antineoplastic effects as they (re)activate an anticancer immune response that is generally executed by lymphoid cells. Myeloid cells play a central role in this process, not only because they critically regulate the activity of T and B lymphocytes, but also because they exert direct tumoricidal effects, at least in some settings. Here, we discuss the impact of various myeloid cell populations, including macrophages, dendritic cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells, on the efficacy of anticancer chemotherapy.
It has been a longstanding problem to identify specific and efficient pharmacological modulators of autophagy. Recently, we found that depletion of acetyl-coenzyme A (AcCoA) induced autophagic flux, while manipulations designed to increase cytosolic AcCoA efficiently inhibited autophagy. Thus, the cell permeant ester dimethyl ?-ketoglutarate (DMKG) increased the cytosolic concentration of ?-ketoglutarate, which was converted into AcCoA through a pathway relying on either of the 2 isocitrate dehydrogenase isoforms (IDH1 or IDH2), as well as on ACLY (ATP citrate lyase). DMKG inhibited autophagy in an IDH1-, IDH2- and ACLY-dependent fashion in vitro, in cultured human cells. Moreover, DMKG efficiently prevented autophagy induced by starvation in vivo, in mice. Autophagy plays a maladaptive role in the dilated cardiomyopathy induced by pressure overload, meaning that genetic inhibition of autophagy by heterozygous knockout of Becn1 suppresses the pathological remodeling of heart muscle responding to hemodynamic stress. Repeated administration of DMKG prevents autophagy in heart muscle responding to thoracic aortic constriction (TAC) and simultaneously abolishes all pathological and functional correlates of dilated cardiomyopathy: hypertrophy of cardiomyocytes, fibrosis, dilation of the left ventricle, and reduced contractile performance. These findings indicate that DMKG may be used for therapeutic autophagy inhibition.
In 1997, for the first time in history, a monoclonal antibody (mAb), i.e., the chimeric anti-CD20 molecule rituximab, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in cancer patients. Since then, the panel of mAbs that are approved by international regulatory agencies for the treatment of hematopoietic and solid malignancies has not stopped to expand, nowadays encompassing a stunning amount of 15 distinct molecules. This therapeutic armamentarium includes mAbs that target tumor-associated antigens, as well as molecules that interfere with tumor-stroma interactions or exert direct immunostimulatory effects. These three classes of mAbs exert antineoplastic activity via distinct mechanisms, which may or may not involve immune effectors other than the mAbs themselves. In previous issues of OncoImmunology, we provided a brief scientific background to the use of mAbs, all types confounded, in cancer therapy, and discussed the results of recent clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of this approach. Here, we focus on mAbs that primarily target malignant cells or their interactions with stromal components, as opposed to mAbs that mediate antineoplastic effects by activating the immune system. In particular, we discuss relevant clinical findings that have been published during the last 13 months as well as clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to investigate the therapeutic profile of hitherto investigational tumor-targeting mAbs.
Some of the anti-neoplastic effects of anthracyclines in mice originate from the induction of innate and T cell-mediated anticancer immune responses. Here we demonstrate that anthracyclines stimulate the rapid production of type I interferons (IFNs) by malignant cells after activation of the endosomal pattern recognition receptor Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3). By binding to IFN-? and IFN-? receptors (IFNARs) on neoplastic cells, type I IFNs trigger autocrine and paracrine circuitries that result in the release of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 10 (CXCL10). Tumors lacking Tlr3 or Ifnar failed to respond to chemotherapy unless type I IFN or Cxcl10, respectively, was artificially supplied. Moreover, a type I IFN-related signature predicted clinical responses to anthracycline-based chemotherapy in several independent cohorts of patients with breast carcinoma characterized by poor prognosis. Our data suggest that anthracycline-mediated immune responses mimic those induced by viral pathogens. We surmise that such 'viral mimicry' constitutes a hallmark of successful chemotherapy.
Healthy aging depends on removal of damaged cellular material that is in part mediated by autophagy. The nutritional status of cells affects both aging and autophagy through as-yet-elusive metabolic circuitries. Here, we show that nucleocytosolic acetyl-coenzyme A (AcCoA) production is a metabolic repressor of autophagy during aging in yeast. Blocking the mitochondrial route to AcCoA by deletion of the CoA-transferase ACH1 caused cytosolic accumulation of the AcCoA precursor acetate. This led to hyperactivation of nucleocytosolic AcCoA-synthetase Acs2p, triggering histone acetylation, repression of autophagy genes, and an age-dependent defect in autophagic flux, culminating in a reduced lifespan. Inhibition of nutrient signaling failed to restore, while simultaneous knockdown of ACS2 reinstated, autophagy and survival of ach1 mutant. Brain-specific knockdown of Drosophila AcCoA synthetase was sufficient to enhance autophagic protein clearance and prolong lifespan. Since AcCoA integrates various nutrition pathways, our findings may explain diet-dependent lifespan and autophagy regulation.
During the past 2 decades, the possibility that preparations capable of eliciting tumor-specific immune responses would mediate robust therapeutic effects in cancer patients has received renovated interest. In this context, several approaches to vaccinate cancer patients against their own malignancies have been conceived, including the administration of DNA constructs coding for one or more tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). Such DNA-based vaccines conceptually differ from other types of gene therapy in that they are not devised to directly kill cancer cells or sensitize them to the cytotoxic activity of a drug, but rather to elicit a tumor-specific immune response. In spite of an intense wave of preclinical development, the introduction of this immunotherapeutic paradigm into the clinical practice is facing difficulties. Indeed, while most DNA-based anticancer vaccines are well tolerated by cancer patients, they often fail to generate therapeutically relevant clinical responses. In this Trial Watch, we discuss the latest advances on the use of DNA-based vaccines in cancer therapy, discussing the literature that has been produced around this topic during the last 13 months as well as clinical studies that have been launched in the same time frame to assess the actual therapeutic potential of this intervention.
Immunostimulatory monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) exert antineoplastic effects by eliciting a novel or reinstating a pre-existing antitumor immune response. Most often, immunostimulatory mAbs activate T lymphocytes or natural killer (NK) cells by inhibiting immunosuppressive receptors, such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA4) or programmed cell death 1 (PDCD1, best known as PD-1), or by engaging co-stimulatory receptors, like CD40, tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, member 4 (TNFRSF4, best known as OX40) or TNFRSF18 (best known as GITR). The CTLA4-targeting mAb ipilimumab has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma in 2011. The therapeutic profile of ipilimumab other CTLA4-blocking mAbs, such as tremelimumab, is currently being assessed in subjects affected by a large panel of solid neoplasms. In the last few years, promising clinical results have also been obtained with nivolumab, a PD-1-targeting mAb formerly known as BMS-936558. Accordingly, the safety and efficacy of nivolumab and other PD-1-blocking molecules are being actively investigated. Finally, various clinical trials are underway to test the therapeutic potential of OX40- and GITR-activating mAbs. Here, we summarize recent findings on the therapeutic profile of immunostimulatory mAbs and discuss clinical trials that have been launched in the last 14 months to assess the therapeutic profile of these immunotherapeutic agents.
There is ample evidence that neoadjuvant chemotherapy of breast carcinoma is particularly efficient if the tumor presents signs of either a pre-existent or therapy-induced anticancer immune response. Antineoplastic chemotherapies are particularly beneficial if they succeed in inducing immunogenic cell death, hence converting the tumor into its own therapeutic vaccine. Immunogenic cell death is characterized by a pre-mortem stress response including endoplasmic reticulum stress and autophagy. Based on these premises, we attempted to identify metagenes that reflect an intratumoral immune response or local stress responses in the transcriptomes of breast cancer patients. No consistent correlations between immune- and stress-related metagenes could be identified across several cohorts of patients, representing a total of 1045 mammary carcinomas. Moreover, few if any, of the stress-relevant metagenes influenced the probability of pathological complete response to chemotherapy. In contrast, several immune-relevant metagenes had a significant positive impact on response rates. This applies in particular to a CXCL13-centered, highly reproducible metagene signature reflecting the intratumoral presence of interferon-?-producing T cells.
Accumulating evidence suggests that the clinical efficacy of selected anticancer drugs, including conventional chemotherapeutics as well as targeted anticancer agents, originates (at least in part) from their ability to elicit a novel or reinstate a pre-existing tumor-specific immune response. One of the mechanisms whereby chemotherapy can stimulate the immune system to recognize and destroy malignant cells is commonly known as immunogenic cell death (ICD). Cancer cells succumbing to ICD are de facto converted into an anticancer vaccine and as such elicit an adaptive immune response. Several common chemotherapeutics share the ability of triggering ICD, as demonstrated in vaccination experiments relying on immunocompetent mice and syngeneic cancer cells. A large number of ongoing clinical trials involve such ICD inducers, often (but not always) as they are part of the gold standard therapeutic approach against specific neoplasms. In this Trial Watch, we summarize the latest advances on the use of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, epirubicin, oxaliplatin, and mitoxantrone in cancer patients, discussing high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 months as well as clinical trials that have been initiated in the same period to assess the antineoplastic profile of these immunogenic drugs as off-label therapeutic interventions.
Depending on tumor type, stage and immunological contexture, the inhibition of chemokines or their receptors may yield positive or deleterious effects on disease progression. We have recently demonstrated in several murine models of anthracycline-based chemotherapy that the inhibition of chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2) or chemokine (C-C motif) receptor 2 (CCR2) may impair the elicitation of anticancer immune responses that contribute to therapeutic success.
Oncolytic viruses are natural or genetically modified viral species that selectively infect and kill neoplastic cells. Such an innate or exogenously conferred specificity has generated considerable interest around the possibility to employ oncolytic viruses as highly targeted agents that would mediate cancer cell-autonomous anticancer effects. Accumulating evidence, however, suggests that the therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy is not a simple consequence of the cytopathic effect, but strongly relies on the induction of an endogenous immune response against transformed cells. In line with this notion, superior anticancer effects are being observed when oncolytic viruses are engineered to express (or co-administered with) immunostimulatory molecules. Although multiple studies have shown that oncolytic viruses are well tolerated by cancer patients, the full-blown therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy, especially when implemented in the absence of immunostimulatory interventions, remains unclear. Here, we cover the latest advances in this active area of translational investigation, summarizing high-impact studies that have been published during the last 12 months and discussing clinical trials that have been initiated in the same period to assess the therapeutic potential of oncolytic virotherapy in oncological indications.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are an evolutionarily conserved group of enzymatically inactive, single membrane-spanning proteins that recognize a wide panel of exogenous and endogenous danger signals. Besides constituting a crucial component of the innate immune response to bacterial and viral pathogens, TLRs appear to play a major role in anticancer immunosurveillance. In line with this notion, several natural and synthetic TLR ligands have been intensively investigated for their ability to boost tumor-targeting immune responses elicited by a variety of immunotherapeutic and chemotherapeutic interventions. Three of these agents are currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or equivalent regulatory agencies for use in cancer patients: the so-called bacillus Calmette-Guérin, monophosphoryl lipid A, and imiquimod. However, the number of clinical trials testing the therapeutic potential of both FDA-approved and experimental TLR agonists in cancer patients is stably decreasing, suggesting that drug developers and oncologists are refocusing their interest on alternative immunostimulatory agents. Here, we summarize recent findings on the use of TLR agonists in cancer patients and discuss how the clinical evaluation of FDA-approved and experimental TLR ligands has evolved since the publication of our first Trial Watch dealing with this topic.
Tumor-targeting immune responses provide a significant contribution to (when they do not entirely account for) the clinical activity of diverse antineoplastic regimens, encompassing not only a large panel of immunotherapeutic strategies but also conventional cytotoxic molecules, targeted anticancer agents and irradiation. In line with this notion, several approaches have been devised to elicit novel or boost existing anticancer immune responses, including the administration of immunomodulatory cytokines. Such a relatively unspecific intervention suffices to mediate clinical effects in (at least a subset of) patients bearing particularly immunogenic tumors, like melanoma and renal cell carcinoma. More often, however, immunostimulatory cytokines are administered to boost the immunogenic potential of other agents, including (but not limited to) immune checkpoint-blocking antibodies, anticancer vaccines, oncolytic viruses and immunogenic chemotherapeutics. Here, we summarize the latest advances in the clinical development of recombinant cytokines as an immunomodulatory intervention for cancer therapy.
Immunogenic cell death (ICD) inducers can be defined as agents that exert cytotoxic effects while stimulating an immune response against dead cell-associated antigens. When initiated by anthracyclines, ICD is accompanied by stereotyped molecular changes, including the pre-apoptotic exposure of calreticulin (CRT) on the cell surface, the lysosomal secretion of ATP during the blebbing phase of apoptosis, and the release of high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) from dead cells. By means of genetically engineered human osteosarcoma U2OS cells, we screened the 879 anticancer compounds of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Mechanistic Diversity Set for their ability to promote all these hallmarks of ICD in vitro. In line with previous findings from our group, several cardiac glycosides exhibit a robust propensity to elicit the major manifestations of ICD in cultured neoplastic cells. This screen pointed to septacidin, an antibiotic produced by Streptomyces fibriatus, as a novel putative inducer of ICD. In low-throughput validation experiments, septacidin promoted CRT exposure, ATP secretion and HGMB1 release from both U2OS cells and murine fibrosarcoma MCA205 cells. Moreover, septacidin-killed MCA205 cells protected immunocompetent mice against a re-challenge with living cancer cells of the same type. Finally, the antineoplastic effects of septacidin on established murine tumors were entirely dependent on T lymphocytes. Altogether, these results underscore the suitability of the high-throughput screening system described here for the identification of novel ICD inducers.
The expression "adoptive cell transfer" (ACT) is commonly employed to indicate an immunotherapeutic regimen involving the isolation of autologous blood-borne or tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, their selection/expansion/activation ex vivo, and their reinfusion into the patient, most often in the context of lymphodepleting pre-conditioning and in combination with immunostimulatory treatments. Optionally, the cellular material for ACT is genetically manipulated before expansion to (1) target specific tumor-associated antigens; (2) endogenously express immunostimulatory molecules; and/or (3) persist for long periods upon reinfusion. Consistent efforts have been dedicated at the amelioration of this immunotherapeutic regimen throughout the past decade, resulting in the establishment of ever more efficient and safer ACT protocols. Accordingly, the number of clinical trials testing ACT in oncological indications does not cease to increase. In this Trial Watch, we summarize recent developments in this exciting area of research, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 12 months and clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to evaluate the safety and therapeutic potential of ACT in cancer patients.
Cis-diamminedichloridoplatinum(II) (CDDP), commonly referred to as cisplatin, is a chemotherapeutic drug used for the treatment of a wide range of solid cancers. CDDP is a relatively poor inducer of immunogenic cell death (ICD), a cell death modality that converts dying cells into a tumor vaccine, stimulating an immune response against residual cancer cells that permits long-lasting immunity and a corresponding reduction in tumor growth. The incapacity of CDDP to trigger ICD is at least partially due to its failure to stimulate the premortem endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-stress response required for the externalization of the "eat-me" signal calreticulin (CRT) on the surface of dying cancer cells. Here, we developed a murine cancer cell line genetically modified to express the ER resident protein reticulon-1c (Rtn-1c) by virtue of tetracycline induction and showed that enforced Rtn-1c expression combined with CDDP treatment promoted CRT externalization to the surface of cancer cells. In contrast to single agent treatments, the tetracycline-mediated Rtn-1c induction combined with CDDP chemotherapy stimulated ICD as measured by the capacity of dying tumor cells, inoculated into syngenic immunocompetent mice, to mount an immune response to tumor re-challenge 1 week later. More importantly, established tumors, forced to constitutively express Rtn-1c in vivo by continuous treatment with tetracycline, became responsive to CDDP and exhibited a corresponding reduction in the rate of tumor growth. The combined therapeutic effects of Rtn-1c induction with CDDP treatment was only detected in the context of an intact immune system and not in nu/nu mice lacking thymus-dependent T lymphocytes. Altogether, these results indicate that the artificial or "synthetic" induction of immunogenic cell death by genetic manipulation of the ER-stress response can improve the efficacy of chemotherapy with CDDP by stimulating anticancer immunity.
The therapeutic efficacy of anthracyclines relies, at least partially, on the induction of a dendritic cell (DC)- and T lymphocyte-dependent anticancer immune response. Here, we show that anthracycline-based chemotherapy promotes the recruitment of functional CD11b+CD11c+Ly6ChighLy6G-MHCII+ DC-like antigen-presenting cells (APCs) into the tumor bed, but not into lymphoid organs. Accordingly, draining lymph nodes turned out to be dispensable for the proliferation of tumor antigen-specific T cells within neoplastic lesions as induced by anthracyclines. In addition, we found that tumors treated with anthracyclines manifest increased expression levels of the chemokine Ccl2. Such a response is important as neoplasms growing in Ccl2-/- mice failed to accumulate DC-like APCs in response to chemotherapy. Moreover, cancers developing in mice lacking Ccl2 or its receptor (Ccr2) exhibited suboptimal therapeutic responses to anthracycline-based chemotherapy. Altogether, our results underscore the importance of the CCL2/CCR2 signaling axis for therapeutic anticancer immune responses as elicited by immunogenic chemotherapy.
Cyclophosphamide is one of several clinically important cancer drugs whose therapeutic efficacy is due in part to their ability to stimulate antitumor immune responses. Studying mouse models, we demonstrate that cyclophosphamide alters the composition of microbiota in the small intestine and induces the translocation of selected species of Gram-positive bacteria into secondary lymphoid organs. There, these bacteria stimulate the generation of a specific subset of "pathogenic" T helper 17 (pT(H)17) cells and memory T(H)1 immune responses. Tumor-bearing mice that were germ-free or that had been treated with antibiotics to kill Gram-positive bacteria showed a reduction in pT(H)17 responses, and their tumors were resistant to cyclophosphamide. Adoptive transfer of pT(H)17 cells partially restored the antitumor efficacy of cyclophosphamide. These results suggest that the gut microbiota help shape the anticancer immune response.
Malignant cells exhibit metabolic changes, when compared to their normal counterparts, owing to both genetic and epigenetic alterations. Although such a metabolic rewiring has recently been indicated as yet another general hallmark of cancer, accumulating evidence suggests that the metabolic alterations of each neoplasm represent a molecular signature that intimately accompanies and allows for different facets of malignant transformation. During the past decade, targeting cancer metabolism has emerged as a promising strategy for the development of selective antineoplastic agents. Here, we discuss the intimate relationship between metabolism and malignancy, focusing on strategies through which this central aspect of tumour biology might be turned into cancers Achilles heel.
mTOR pathway hyperactivation occurs in approximately 90% of glioblastomas, but the allosteric mTOR inhibitor rapamycin has failed in the clinic. Here, we examine the efficacy of the newly discovered ATP-competitive mTOR kinase inhibitors CC214-1 and CC214-2 in glioblastoma, identifying molecular determinants of response and mechanisms of resistance, and develop a pharmacologic strategy to overcome it.
In a recent paper published in Cell, He and colleagues reported the identification and functional characterization of Beclin 2, a mammal-specific homolog of the evolutionarily conserved autophagy-regulatory and oncosuppressive factor Beclin 1. In spite of a non-negligible degree of sequence identity, Beclin 1 and Beclin 2 differ from each other in multiple aspects, including their functional profile as well as the genomic organization of the respective loci.
ERCC1 (excision repair cross-complementation group 1) plays essential roles in the removal of DNA intrastrand crosslinks by nucleotide excision repair, and that of DNA interstrand crosslinks by the Fanconi anemia (FA) pathway and homology-directed repair processes (HDR). The function of ERCC1 thus impacts on the DNA damage response (DDR), particularly in anticancer therapy when DNA damaging agents are employed. ERCC1 expression has been proposed as a predictive biomarker of the response to platinum-based therapy. However, the assessment of ERCC1 expression in clinical samples is complicated by the existence of 4 functionally distinct protein isoforms, which differently impact on DDR. Here, we explored the functional competence of each ERCC1 protein isoform and obtained evidence that the 202 isoform is the sole one endowed with ERCC1 activity in DNA repair pathways. The ERCC1 isoform 202 interacts with RPA, XPA, and XPF, and XPF stability requires expression of the ERCC1 202 isoform (but none of the 3 others). ERCC1-deficient non-small cell lung cancer cells show abnormal mitosis, a phenotype reminiscent of the FA phenotype that can be rescued by isoform 202 only. Finally, we could not observe any dominant-negative interaction between ERCC1 isoforms. These data suggest that the selective assessment of the ERCC1 isoform 202 in clinical samples should accurately reflect the DDR-related activity of the gene and hence constitute a useful biomarker for customizing anticancer therapies.
It has been a long-standing enigma which scramblase causes phosphatidylserine residues to be exposed on the surface of apoptotic cells, thereby facilitating the phagocytic recognition, engulfment and destruction of apoptotic corpses. In a recent paper in Science, Nagata and coworkers reveal that the scramblases Xkr8 and its C. elegans ortholog, CED-8, are activated by caspase cleavage in apoptotic cells.
ATP not only represents a key molecule for the intracellular storage and utilization of energy, but also plays a central role in the extracellular milieu, as it both recruits and activates immune cells. The secretion of ATP in the course of immunogenic cell death (ICD), a peculiar type of apoptosis that elicits adaptive immune responses, critically relies on the molecular machinery for autophagy. We have recently demonstrated that autophagy allows for the ICD-associated secretion of ATP as it contributes to the maintenance of lysosomal ATP stores. In addition, we found that ATP release in this setting is mediated by a molecular mechanism that involves lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1 (LAMP1)- and pannexin 1 (PANX1)-dependent lysosomal exocytosis.
By means of an unbiased, automated fluorescence microscopy-based screen, we identified the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors erlotinib and gefitinib as potent enhancers of the differentiation of HL-60 acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells exposed to suboptimal concentrations of vitamin A (all-trans retinoic acid, ATRA) or vitamin D (1?,25-hydroxycholecalciferol, VD). Erlotinib and gefitinib alone did not promote differentiation, yet stimulated the acquisition of morphological and biochemical maturation markers (including the expression of CD11b and CD14 as well as increased NADPH oxidase activity) when combined with either ATRA or VD. Moreover, the combination of erlotinib and ATRA or VD synergistically induced all the processes that are normally linked to terminal hematopoietic differentiation, namely, a delayed proliferation arrest in the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle, cellular senescence, and apoptosis. Erlotinib potently inhibited the (auto)phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase 14 (MAPK14, best known as p38(MAPK)) and SRC family kinases (SFKs). If combined with the administration of ATRA or VD, the inhibition of p38(MAPK) or SFKs with specific pharmacological agents mimicked the pro-differentiation activity of erlotinib. These data were obtained with 2 distinct AML cell lines (HL-60 and MOLM-13 cells) and could be confirmed on primary leukemic blasts isolated from the circulation of AML patients. Altogether, these findings point to a new regimen for the treatment of AML, in which naturally occurring pro-differentiation agents (ATRA or VD) may be combined with EGFR inhibitors.
Missense mutations in the gene TP53, which encodes p53, one of the most important tumor suppressors, are common in human cancers. Accumulated mutant p53 proteins are known to actively contribute to tumor development and metastasis. Thus, promoting the removal of mutant p53 proteins in cancer cells may have therapeutic significance. Here we investigated the mechanisms that govern the turnover of mutant p53 in nonproliferating tumor cells using a combination of pharmacological and genetic approaches. We show that suppression of macroautophagy by multiple means promotes the degradation of mutant p53 through chaperone-mediated autophagy in a lysosome-dependent fashion. In addition, depletion of mutant p53 expression due to macroautophagy inhibition sensitizes the death of dormant cancer cells under nonproliferating conditions. Taken together, our results delineate a novel strategy for killing tumor cells that depend on mutant p53 expression by the activation of chaperone-mediated autophagy and potential pharmacological means to reduce the levels of accumulated mutant p53 without the restriction of mutant p53 conformation in quiescent tumor cells.
Although chemically non-reactive, inert noble gases may influence multiple physiological and pathological processes via hitherto uncharacterized physical effects. Here we report a cell-based detection system for assessing the effects of pre-defined gas mixtures on the induction of apoptotic cell death. In this setting, the conventional atmosphere for cell culture was substituted with gas combinations, including the same amount of oxygen (20%) and carbon dioxide (5%) but 75% helium, neon, argon, krypton, or xenon instead of nitrogen. The replacement of nitrogen with noble gases per se had no effects on the viability of cultured human osteosarcoma cells in vitro. Conversely, argon and xenon (but not helium, neon, and krypton) significantly limited cell loss induced by the broad-spectrum tyrosine kinase inhibitor staurosporine, the DNA-damaging agent mitoxantrone and several mitochondrial toxins. Such cytoprotective effects were coupled to the maintenance of mitochondrial integrity, as demonstrated by means of a mitochondrial transmembrane potential-sensitive dye and by assessing the release of cytochrome c into the cytosol. In line with this notion, argon and xenon inhibited the apoptotic activation of caspase-3, as determined by immunofluorescence microscopy coupled to automated image analysis. The antiapoptotic activity of argon and xenon may explain their clinically relevant cytoprotective effects.
Dendritic cells (DCs) occupy a privileged position at the interface between innate and adaptive immunity, orchestrating a large panel of responses to both physiological and pathological cues. In particular, whereas the presentation of antigens by immature DCs generally results in the development of immunological tolerance, mature DCs are capable of priming robust, and hence therapeutically relevant, adaptive immune responses. In line with this notion, functional defects in the DC compartment have been shown to etiologically contribute to pathological conditions including (but perhaps not limited to) infectious diseases, allergic and autoimmune disorders, graft rejection and cancer. Thus, the possibility of harnessing the elevated immunological potential of DCs for anticancer therapy has attracted considerable interest from both researchers and clinicians over the last decade. Alongside, several methods have been developed not only to isolate DCs from cancer patients, expand them, load them with tumor-associated antigens and hence generate highly immunogenic clinical grade infusion products, but also to directly target DCs in vivo. This intense experimental effort has culminated in 2010 with the approval by the US FDA of a DC-based preparation (sipuleucel-T, Provenge(®)) for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castration-refractory prostate cancer. As an update to the latest Trial Watch dealing with this exciting field of research (October 2012), here we summarize recent advances in DC-based anticancer regimens, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to assess the antineoplastic potential of this variant of cellular immunotherapy.
Radiotherapy has extensively been employed as a curative or palliative intervention against cancer throughout the last century, with a varying degree of success. For a long time, the antineoplastic activity of X- and ?-rays was entirely ascribed to their capacity of damaging macromolecules, in particular DNA, and hence triggering the (apoptotic) demise of malignant cells. However, accumulating evidence indicates that (at least part of) the clinical potential of radiotherapy stems from cancer cell-extrinsic mechanisms, including the normalization of tumor vasculature as well as short- and long-range bystander effects. Local bystander effects involve either the direct transmission of lethal signals between cells connected by gap junctions or the production of diffusible cytotoxic mediators, including reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide and cytokines. Conversely, long-range bystander effects, also known as out-of-field or abscopal effects, presumably reflect the elicitation of tumor-specific adaptive immune responses. Ionizing rays have indeed been shown to promote the immunogenic demise of malignant cells, a process that relies on the spatiotemporally defined emanation of specific damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Thus, irradiation reportedly improves the clinical efficacy of other treatment modalities such as surgery (both in neo-adjuvant and adjuvant settings) or chemotherapy. Moreover, at least under some circumstances, radiotherapy may potentiate anticancer immune responses as elicited by various immunotherapeutic agents, including (but presumably not limited to) immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies, cancer-specific vaccines, dendritic cell-based interventions and Toll-like receptor agonists. Here, we review the rationale of using radiotherapy, alone or combined with immunomodulatory agents, as a means to elicit or boost anticancer immune responses, and present recent clinical trials investigating the therapeutic potential of this approach in cancer patients.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is most frequently due to homozygous ?F508-CFTR mutation. The ?F508-CFTR protein is unstable in the plasma membrane (PM), even if it is rescued by pharmacological agents that prevent its intracellular retention and degradation. Restoring defective autophagy in CF airways by proteostasis regulators (such as cystamine and its reduced form, cysteamine) can rescue and stabilize ?F508-CFTR at the PM, thus enabling the action of CFTR potentiators, which are pharmacological agents that stimulate the function of CFTR as an ion channel. The effects of cystamine extend for days (in vitro) and weeks (in vivo) beyond washout, suggesting that once peripheral proteostasis has been re-established, PM-resident ?F508-CFTR sustains its own stability. We demonstrated that the pharmacological inhibition of wild-type CFTR [cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (ATP-binding cassette subfamily C, member 7)], in bronchial epithelial cells decreases the stability of the CFTR protein by inhibiting autophagy, elevating the abundance of SQSTM1/p62 and its interaction with CFTR at the PM, increasing the ubiqutination of CFTR, stimulating the lysosomal degradation of CFTR and avoiding its recycling. All these effects could be inhibited by cystamine. Moreover, CFTR-sufficient epithelia generate permissive conditions for incorporating ?F508-CFTR into the PM and stabilizing it at this location. These results provide the rationale for a combination therapy of CF in which pretreatment with cystamine or cysteamine enables the later action of CFTR potentiators.
Immunotherapy has entered a new phase in its history, i.e. the phase of being broadly accepted as a key component of therapeutic strategies to control and cure cancer. Immune-modulation by checkpoint inhibitors have demonstrated to be capable of inducing long lasting tumour responses. Breaking tolerance by ipilimumab has been a crucial event in the past recent years, but PD-1/PD-L1 antibodies have forever changed the landscape in oncology in 2013. The most mature results have been obtained in advanced melanoma patients. High response rates of high quality with prolonged duration have been demonstrated in melanoma, renal cancer and in lung cancer. The broad potential is now being explored across a wide range of tumours. Importantly, synergy with ipilimumab has been demonstrated in melanoma, indicating a bright further future. Long term tumour control now seems achievable and thus the concept of a "clinical cure" is emerging. These antibodies bring immunotherapy to the forefront and indicate that immune-modulation will be a key component of therapeutic strategies from now on. All these observations indicate that "clinical cures" can only be achieved when the immune system is involved, and so the true renaissance of immunotherapy has arrived.
Preclinical and clinical findings suggest that tumor-specific immune responses may be responsible--at least in part--for the clinical success of therapeutic regimens that rely on immunogenic cell death (ICD) inducers, including anthracyclines and oxaliplatin. The molecular pathways whereby some, but not all, cytotoxic agents promote bona fide ICD remain to be fully elucidated. Nevertheless, a central role for the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response has been revealed in all scenarios of ICD described thus far. Hence, components of the ER stress machinery may constitute clinically relevant druggable targets for the induction of ICD. In this review, we will summarize recent findings in the field of ICD research with a special focus on ER stress mechanisms and their implication for cancer therapy.
Aging is characterized by a progressive loss of physiological integrity, leading to impaired function and increased vulnerability to death. This deterioration is the primary risk factor for major human pathologies, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. Aging research has experienced an unprecedented advance over recent years, particularly with the discovery that the rate of aging is controlled, at least to some extent, by genetic pathways and biochemical processes conserved in evolution. This Review enumerates nine tentative hallmarks that represent common denominators of aging in different organisms, with special emphasis on mammalian aging. These hallmarks are: genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis, deregulated nutrient sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication. A major challenge is to dissect the interconnectedness between the candidate hallmarks and their relative contributions to aging, with the final goal of identifying pharmaceutical targets to improve human health during aging, with minimal side effects.
Mitochondrial dysfunctions decisively contribute to the progression of human diseases, implying that functional tests of isolated mitochondria may furnish conclusive information for diagnosis and therapy. Classical mitochondrial isolation methods, however, lack precisely adjustable settings for cell rupture, which is the most critical step in this procedure, and this complicates subsequent analyses. Here, we present an efficient method to isolate functionally active, intact mitochondria from cultured or primary cells and minute tissue samples in a rapid, highly reproducible manner.
During necrosis and following some instances of apoptosis (in particular in the absence of a proficient phagocytic system), the nonhistone chromatin component high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is released in the extracellular space. In vivo, extracellular HMGB1 can bind Toll-like receptor 4 on the surface of dendritic cells, de facto operating as a danger-associated molecular pattern and alarming the organism to the presence of stressful conditions. Recent results indicate that the release of HMGB1 is one of the key features for cell death to be perceived as immunogenic, i.e., to be capable of triggering a cognate immune response in vivo. Thus, only anticancer agents that-among other features-allow for the release of HMGB1 as they induce cell death are expected to stimulate anticancer immune responses. To investigate the immunogenic potential of conventional anticancer agents and novel cell death inducers on a high-throughput scale, we engineered human osteosarcoma U2OS cells to express HMGB1 fused at the N-terminus of the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Coupled to fluorescence microscopy workstations for automated image acquisition and analysis, this HMGB1-GFP-based biosensor is amenable for the identification of potential inducers of immunogenic cell death among large chemical libraries.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have long been known for their ability to initiate innate immune responses upon exposure to conserved microbial components such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and double-stranded RNA. More recently, this family of pattern recognition receptors has been attributed a critical role in the elicitation of anticancer immune responses, raising interest in the development of immunochemotherapeutic regimens based on natural or synthetic TLR agonists. In spite of such an intense wave of preclinical and clinical investigation, only three TLR agonists are currently licensed by FDA for use in cancer patients: bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis that operates as a mixed TLR2/TLR4 agonist; monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL), a derivative of Salmonella minnesota that functions as a potent agonist of TLR4; and imiquimod, a synthetic imidazoquinoline that activates TLR7. One year ago, in the August and September issues of OncoImmunology, we described the main biological features of TLRs and discussed the progress of clinical studies evaluating the safety and therapeutic potential of TLR agonists in cancer patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this exciting area of research, focusing on preclinical studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to investigate the antineoplastic activity of TLR agonists.
Autophagy constitutes a mechanism for the sequestration and lysosomal degradation of various cytoplasmic structures, including damaged organelles and invading microorganisms. Autophagy not only represents an essential cell-intrinsic mechanism to protect against internal and external stress conditions but also shapes cellular immunity. Recent evidence indicates that autophagic responses in antigen-donor cells affect the release of several cytokines and "danger signals." Thus, especially when it precedes cell death, autophagy alerts innate immune effectors to elicit cognate immune responses. Autophagy is also important for the differentiation, survival, and activation of myeloid and lymphoid cells. Accordingly, inherited mutations in autophagy-relevant genes are associated with immune diseases, whereas oncogenesis-associated autophagic defects promote the escape of developing tumors from immunosurveillance. Here, we discuss the regulation of autophagy in the course of cellular immune responses and emphasize its impact on the immunogenicity of antigen-donor cells and on the activity of antigen-presenting cells and T lymphocytes.
The identification of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) susceptibility genes by genome-wide association has linked this pathology to autophagy, a lysosomal degradation pathway that is crucial for cell and tissue homeostasis. Here, we describe autophagy-related 4B, cysteine peptidase/autophagin-1 (ATG4B) as an essential protein in the control of inflammatory response during experimental colitis. In this pathological condition, ATG4B protein levels increase in parallel with the induction of autophagy. Moreover, ATG4B expression is significantly reduced in affected areas of the colon from IBD patients. Consistently, atg4b (-/-) mice present Paneth cell abnormalities, as well as an increased susceptibility to DSS-induced colitis. atg4b-deficient mice exhibit significant alterations in proinflammatory cytokines and mediators of the immune response to bacterial infections, which are reminiscent of those found in patients with Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis. Additionally, antibiotic treatments and bone marrow transplantation from wild-type mice reduced colitis in atg4b (-/-) mice. Taken together, these results provided additional evidence for the importance of autophagy in intestinal pathologies and describe ATG4B as a novel protective protein in inflammatory colitis. Finally, we propose that atg4b-null mice are a suitable model for in vivo studies aimed at testing new therapeutic strategies for intestinal diseases associated with autophagy deficiency.
During the past two decades, the notion that cancer would merely constitute a cell-intrinsic disease has gradually been complemented by a model postulating that the immune system plays a relevant role during all stages of oncogenesis and tumor progression. Along with this conceptual shift, several strategies have been devised to stimulate tumor-specific immune responses, including relatively unselective approaches such as the systemic administration of adjuvants or immunomodulatory cytokines. One year ago, in the July issue of OncoImmunology, we described the main biological features of this large group of proteins and discussed the progress of ongoing clinical studies evaluating their safety and therapeutic potential in cancer patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this area of clinical research, focusing on high impact studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to investigate which cytokines can be employed as safe and efficient immunostimulatory interventions against cancer.
The immune system is intimately involved in the pathophysiology of several human disorders. Thus, excessive or chronic inflammation initiated by numerous insults exacerbates tissue damage and - at least in some settings - promotes oncogenesis. Nevertheless, immunosurveillance, the process whereby the immune system eliminates damaged, senescent and (pre-)malignant cells, appears to exert major homeostatic functions. Accumulating evidence indicates that defects in the molecular and cellular circuitries that underpin immune responses accelerate the course of chronic diseases, including hepatic cirrhosis and cancer. Along similar lines, the re-establishment of tissue homeostasis upon acute pathological insults such as ischemia appears to be delayed when normal immunological functions are naturally or experimentally compromised. Here, we propose that immunosurveillance is a key regulator of tissue homeostasis.
The antineoplastic effects of anthracyclines have been shown to rely, at least in part, on a local immune response that involves dendritic cells (DCs) and several distinct subsets of T lymphocytes. Here, we show that the administration of anthracyclines to mice bearing established neoplasms stimulates the intratumoral secretion of tumor necrosis factor ? (TNF?). However, blocking the TNF?/TNF receptor (TNFR) system by three different strategies-namely, (1) neutralizing antibodies, (2) etanercept, a recombinant protein in which TNFR is fused to the constant domain of an IgG1 molecule, and (3) gene knockout-failed to negatively affect the therapeutic efficacy of anthracyclines in three distinct tumor models. In particular, TNF?-blocking strategies did not influence the antineoplastic effects of doxorubicin (a prototypic anthracycline) against MCA205 fibrosarcomas growing in C57BL/6 mice, F244 sarcomas developing in 129/Sv hosts and H2N100 mammary carcinomas arising in BALB/c mice. These findings imply that, in contrast to other cytokines (such as interleukin-1?, interleukin-17 and interferon ?), TNF? is not required for anthracyclines to elicit therapeutic anticancer immune responses.
Oncolytic virotherapy is emerging as a promising approach for the treatment of several neoplasms. The term "oncolytic viruses" is generally employed to indicate naturally occurring or genetically engineered attenuated viral particles that cause the demise of malignant cells while sparing their non-transformed counterparts. From a conceptual standpoint, oncolytic viruses differ from so-called "oncotropic viruses" in that only the former are able to kill cancer cells, even though both display a preferential tropism for malignant tissues. Of note, such a specificity can originate at several different steps of the viral cycle, including the entry of virions (transductional specificity) as well as their intracellular survival and replication (post-transcriptional and transcriptional specificity). During the past two decades, a large array of replication-competent and replication-incompetent oncolytic viruses has been developed and engineered to express gene products that would specifically promote the death of infected (cancer) cells. However, contrarily to long-standing beliefs, the antineoplastic activity of oncolytic viruses is not a mere consequence of the cytopathic effect, i.e., the lethal outcome of an intense, productive viral infection, but rather involves the elicitation of an antitumor immune response. In line with this notion, oncolytic viruses genetically modified to drive the local production of immunostimulatory cytokines exert more robust therapeutic effects than their non-engineered counterparts. Moreover, the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy is significantly improved by some extent of initial immunosuppression (facilitating viral replication and spread) followed by the administration of immunostimulatory molecules (boosting antitumor immune responses). In this Trial Watch, we will discuss the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating the safety and antineoplastic potential of oncolytic virotherapy.
Tumor cells succumb to chemotherapy while releasing ATP. We have found that extracellular ATP attracts dendritic cell (DC) precursors into the tumor bed, facilitates their permanence in the proximity of dying cells and promotes their differentiation into mature DCs endowed with the capacity of presenting tumor-associated antigens.
Conventional chemotherapeutics and targeted antineoplastic agents have been developed based on the simplistic notion that cancer constitutes a cell-autonomous genetic or epigenetic disease. However, it is becoming clear that many of the available anticancer drugs that have collectively saved millions of life-years mediate therapeutic effects by eliciting de novo or reactivating pre-existing tumor-specific immune responses. Here, we discuss the capacity of both conventional and targeted anticancer therapies to enhance the immunogenic properties of malignant cells and to stimulate immune effector cells, either directly or by subverting the immunosuppressive circuitries that preclude antitumor immune responses in cancer patients. Accumulating evidence indicates that the therapeutic efficacy of several antineoplastic agents relies on their capacity to influence the tumor-host interaction, tipping the balance toward the activation of an immune response specific for malignant cells. We surmise that the development of successful anticancer therapies will be improved and accelerated by the immunological characterization of candidate agents.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process that promotes the lysosomal degradation of intracellular components including organelles and portions of the cytoplasm. Besides operating as a quality control mechanism in steady-state conditions, autophagy is upregulated in response to a variety of homeostatic perturbations. In this setting, autophagy mediates prominent cytoprotective effects as it sustains energetic homeostasis and contributes to the removal of cytotoxic stimuli, thus orchestrating a cell-wide, multipronged adaptive response to stress. In line with the critical role of autophagy in health and disease, defects in the autophagic machinery as well as in autophagy-regulatory signaling pathways have been associated with multiple human pathologies, including neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune conditions and cancer. Accumulating evidence indicates that the autophagic response to stress may proceed in two phases. Thus, a rapid increase in the autophagic flux, which occurs within minutes or hours of exposure to stressful conditions and is entirely mediated by post-translational protein modifications, is generally followed by a delayed and protracted autophagic response that relies on the activation of specific transcriptional programs. Stress-responsive transcription factors including p53, NF-?B and STAT3 have recently been shown to play a major role in the regulation of both these phases of the autophagic response. Here, we will discuss the molecular mechanisms whereby autophagy is orchestrated by stress-responsive transcription factors.
Adoptive cell transfer (ACT) represents a prominent form of immunotherapy against malignant diseases. ACT is conceptually distinct from dendritic cell-based approaches (which de facto constitute cellular vaccines) and allogeneic transplantation (which can be employed for the therapy of hematopoietic tumors) as it involves the isolation of autologous lymphocytes exhibiting antitumor activity, their expansion/activation ex vivo and their reintroduction into the patient. Re-infusion is most often performed in the context of lymphodepleting regimens (to minimize immunosuppression by host cells) and combined with immunostimulatory interventions, such as the administration of Toll-like receptor agonists. Autologous cells that are suitable for ACT protocols can be isolated from tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes or generated by engineering their circulating counterparts for the expression of transgenic tumor-specific T-cell receptors. Importantly, lymphocytes can be genetically modified prior to re-infusion for increasing their persistence in vivo, boosting antitumor responses and minimizing side effects. Moreover, recent data indicate that exhausted antitumor T lymphocytes may be rejuvenated in vitro by exposing them to specific cytokine cocktails, a strategy that might considerably improve the clinical success of ACT. Following up the Trial Watch that we published on this topic in the third issue of OncoImmunology (May 2012), here we summarize the latest developments in ACT-related research, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 months and clinical trials that have been initiated in the same period to assess the antineoplastic profile of this form of cellular immunotherapy.
Malfunctioning of the protein ?-synuclein is critically involved in the demise of dopaminergic neurons relevant to Parkinsons disease. Nonetheless, the precise mechanisms explaining this pathogenic neuronal cell death remain elusive. Endonuclease G (EndoG) is a mitochondrially localized nuclease that triggers DNA degradation and cell death upon translocation from mitochondria to the nucleus. Here, we show that EndoG displays cytotoxic nuclear localization in dopaminergic neurons of human Parkinson-diseased patients, while EndoG depletion largely reduces ?-synuclein-induced cell death in human neuroblastoma cells. Xenogenic expression of human ?-synuclein in yeast cells triggers mitochondria-nuclear translocation of EndoG and EndoG-mediated DNA degradation through a mechanism that requires a functional kynurenine pathway and the permeability transition pore. In nematodes and flies, EndoG is essential for the ?-synuclein-driven degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Moreover, the locomotion and survival of ?-synuclein-expressing flies is compromised, but reinstalled by parallel depletion of EndoG. In sum, we unravel a phylogenetically conserved pathway that involves EndoG as a critical downstream executor of ?-synuclein cytotoxicity.
The foundation of modern vaccinology dates back to the 1790s, when the English physician Edward Jenner uncovered the tremendous medical potential of prophylactic vaccination. Jenners work ignited a wave of nationwide vaccination campaigns abating the incidence of multiple life-threatening infectious diseases and culminating with the eradication of natural smallpox virus, which was definitively certified by the WHO in 1980. The possibility of using vaccines against cancer was first proposed at the end of the 19th century by Paul Ehrlich and William Coley. However, it was not until the 1990s that such a hypothesis began to be intensively investigated, following the realization that the immune system is not completely unresponsive to tumors and that neoplastic cells express immunogenic tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). Nowadays, anticancer vaccines are rapidly moving from the bench to the bedside, and a few prophylactic and therapeutic preparations have already been approved by FDA for use in humans. In this setting, one interesting approach is constituted by DNA vaccines, i.e., TAA-encoding circularized DNA constructs, often of bacterial origin, that are delivered to patients as such or by means of specific vectors, including (but not limited to) liposomal preparations, nanoparticles, bacteria and viruses. The administration of DNA vaccines is most often performed via the intramuscular or subcutaneous route and is expected to cause (1) the endogenous synthesis of the TAA by myocytes and/or resident antigen-presenting cells; (2) the presentation of TAA-derived peptides on the cell surface, in association with MHC class I molecules; and (3) the activation of potentially therapeutic tumor-specific immune responses. In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating DNA vaccines as therapeutic interventions against cancer.
In this issue of Immunity, Duprez et al. (2011) demonstrate that necroptosis, a form of regulated necrosis that is mediated by the kinases RIPK1 and RIPK3, underlies the lethal effects of tumor necrosis factor in vivo.
Antineoplastic chemotherapies are particularly efficient when they elicit immunogenic cell death, thus provoking an anticancer immune response. Here we demonstrate that autophagy, which is often disabled in cancer, is dispensable for chemotherapy-induced cell death but required for its immunogenicity. In response to chemotherapy, autophagy-competent, but not autophagy-deficient, cancers attracted dendritic cells and T lymphocytes into the tumor bed. Suppression of autophagy inhibited the release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from dying tumor cells. Conversely, inhibition of extracellular ATP-degrading enzymes increased pericellular ATP in autophagy-deficient tumors, reestablished the recruitment of immune cells, and restored chemotherapeutic responses but only in immunocompetent hosts. Thus, autophagy is essential for the immunogenic release of ATP from dying cells, and increased extracellular ATP concentrations improve the efficacy of antineoplastic chemotherapies when autophagy is disabled.
The activation of ceramide-generating enzymes, the blockade of ceramide degradation, or the addition of ceramide analogues can trigger apoptosis or necrosis in human cancer cells. Moreover, endogenous ceramide plays a decisive role in the killing of neoplastic cells by conventional anticancer chemotherapeutics. Here, we explored the possibility that membrane-permeable C2-ceramide might kill budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) cells under fermentative conditions, where they exhibit rapid proliferation and a Warburg-like metabolism that is reminiscent of cancer cells. C2-ceramide efficiently induced the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), as well as apoptotic and necrotic cell death, and this effect was not influenced by deletion of the sole yeast metacaspase. However, C2-ceramide largely failed to cause ROS hypergeneration and cell death upon deletion of the mitochondrial genome. Thus, mitochondrial function is strictly required for C2-ceramide-induced yeast lethality. Accordingly, mitochondria from C2-ceramide-treated yeast cells exhibited major morphological alterations including organelle fragmentation and aggregation. Altogether, our results point to a pivotal role of mitochondria in ceramide-induced yeast cell death.
The study of autophagy is rapidly expanding, and our knowledge of the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. The vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. In fact, it is difficult for readers--even those who work in the field--to keep up with the ever-expanding terminology associated with the various autophagy-related processes. Accordingly, we have developed a comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related terms that is meant to provide a quick reference for researchers who need a brief reminder of the regulatory effects of transcription factors and chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, and the roles of accessory components and structures that are associated with autophagy.
For a long time, anticancer therapies were believed to work (and hence convey a therapeutic benefit) either by killing cancer cells or by inducing a permanent arrest in their cell cycle (senescence). In both scenarios, the efficacy of anticancer regimens was thought to depend on cancer cell-intrinsic features only. More recently, the importance of the tumor microenvironment (including stromal and immune cells) has been recognized, along with the development of therapies that function by modulating tumor cell-extrinsic pathways. In particular, it has been shown that some chemotherapeutic and radiotherapeutic regimens trigger cancer cell death while stimulating an active immune response against the tumor. Such an immunogenic cell death relies on the coordinated emission of specific signals from dying cancer cells and their perception by the host immune system. The resulting tumor-specific immune response is critical for the eradication of tumor cells that may survive therapy. In this review, we discuss the molecular mechanisms that underlie the vaccine-like effects of some chemotherapeutic and radiotherapeutic regimens, with particular attention to the signaling pathways and genetic elements that constitute the prerequisites for immunogenic anticancer therapy.
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