Clonal transcriptomics identifies mechanisms of chemoresistance and empowers rational design of combination therapies

Tumour heterogeneity is thought to be a major barrier to successful cancer treatment due to the presence of drug resistant clonal lineages. However, identifying the characteristics of such lineages that underpin resistance to therapy has remained challenging. Here, we utilise clonal transcriptomics with WILD-seq; Wholistic Interrogation of Lineage Dynamics by sequencing, in mouse models of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) to understand response and resistance to therapy, including BET bromodomain inhibition and taxane-based chemotherapy. These analyses revealed oxidative stress protection by NRF2 as a major mechanism of taxane resistance and led to the discovery that our tumour models are collaterally sensitive to asparagine deprivation therapy using the clinical stage drug L-asparaginase after frontline treatment with docetaxel. In summary, clonal transcriptomics with WILD-seq identifies mechanisms of resistance to chemotherapy that are also operative in patients and pin points asparagine bioavailability as a druggable vulnerability of taxane-resistant lineages.

Journal eLife
Authors Gregory J Hannon et al
DATE 16 December 2022
Ovarian cancer mutational processes drive site-specific immune phenotypes

High-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) is an archetypal cancer of genomic instability1,2,3,4 patterned by distinct mutational processes5,6, tumour heterogeneity7,8,9 and intraperitoneal spread7,8,10. Immunotherapies have had limited efficacy in HGSOC11,12,13, highlighting an unmet need to assess how mutational processes and the anatomical sites of tumour foci determine the immunological states of the tumour microenvironment. Here we carried out an integrative analysis of whole-genome sequencing, single-cell RNA sequencing, digital histopathology and multiplexed immunofluorescence of 160 tumour sites from 42 treatment-naive patients with HGSOC. Homologous recombination-deficient HRD-Dup (BRCA1 mutant-like) and HRD-Del (BRCA2 mutant-like) tumours harboured inflammatory signalling and ongoing immunoediting, reflected in loss of HLA diversity and tumour infiltration with highly differentiated dysfunctional CD8+ T cells. By contrast, foldback-inversion-bearing tumours exhibited elevated immunosuppressive TGFβ signalling and immune exclusion, with predominantly naive/stem-like and memory T cells. Phenotypic state associations were specific to anatomical sites, highlighting compositional, topological and functional differences between adnexal tumours and distal peritoneal foci. Our findings implicate anatomical sites and mutational processes as determinants of evolutionary phenotypic divergence and immune resistance mechanisms in HGSOC. Our study provides a multi-omic cellular phenotype data substrate from which to develop and interpret future personalized immunotherapeutic approaches and early detection research.

Journal Nature
Authors Sohrab P. Shah et al
DATE 14 December 2022
Somatic 9p24.1 alterations in HPV–head and neck squamouscancer dictate immune microenvironment and anti-PD-1checkpoint…

Somatic copy number alterations (SCNAs), generally (1) losses containing interferons and interferon-pathway genes, many on chromosome 9p, predict immune-cold, immune checkpoint therapy (ICT)-resistant tumors (2); however, genomic regions mediating these effects are unclear and probably tissue specific. Previously, 9p21.3 loss was found to be an early genetic driver of human papillomavirus–negative (HPV) head and neck squamous cancer (HNSC), associated with an immune-cold tumor microenvironment (TME) signal, and recent evidence suggested that this TME-cold phenotype was greatly enhanced with 9p21 deletion size, notably encompassing band 9p24.1 (3). Here, we report multi-omic, -threshold and continuous-variable dissection of 9p21 and 9p24 loci (including depth and degree of somatic alteration of each band at each locus, and each gene at each band) and TME of four HPV HNSC cohorts. Preferential 9p24 deletion, CD8 T-cell immune-cold associations were observed, driven by 9p24.1 loss, and in turn by an essential telomeric regulatory gene element, JAK2-CD274. Surprisingly, same genetic region gains were immune hot. Related 9p21-TME analyses were less evident. Inherent 9p-band-level influences on anti-PD1 ICT survival rates, coincident with TME patterns, were also observed. At a 9p24.1 whole-transcriptome expression threshold of 60th percentile, ICT survival rate exceeded that of lower expression percentiles and of chemotherapy; below this transcript threshold, ICT survival was inferior to chemotherapy, the latter unaffected by 9p24.1 expression level (P-values < 0.01, including in a PD-L1 immunohistochemistry-positive patient subgroup). Whole-exome analyses of 10 solid-tumor types suggest that these 9p-related ICT findings could be relevant to squamous cancers, in which 9p24.1 gain/immune-hot associations exist.

Journal pnas
Authors Xin Zhao et al
DATE 17 November 2022
Single-cell genomic variation induced by mutational processes in cancer

How cell-to-cell copy number alterations that underpin genomic instability1 in human cancers drive genomic and phenotypic variation, and consequently the evolution of cancer2, remains understudied. Here, by applying scaled single-cell whole-genome sequencing3 to wild-type, TP53-deficient and TP53-deficient;BRCA1-deficient or TP53-deficient;BRCA2-deficient mammary epithelial cells (13,818 genomes), and to primary triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC) cells (22,057 genomes), we identify three distinct ‘foreground’ mutational patterns that are defined by cell-to-cell structural variation. Cell- and clone-specific high-level amplifications, parallel haplotype-specific copy number alterations and copy number segment length variation (serrate structural variations) had measurable phenotypic and evolutionary consequences. In TNBC and HGSC, clone-specific high-level amplifications in known oncogenes were highly prevalent in tumours bearing fold-back inversions, relative to tumours with homologous recombination deficiency, and were associated with increased clone-to-clone phenotypic variation. Parallel haplotype-specific alterations were also commonly observed, leading to phylogenetic evolutionary diversity and clone-specific mono-allelic expression. Serrate variants were increased in tumours with fold-back inversions and were highly correlated with increased genomic diversity of cellular populations. Together, our findings show that cell-to-cell structural variation contributes to the origins of phenotypic and evolutionary diversity in TNBC and HGSC, and provide insight into the genomic and mutational states of individual cancer cells.

Journal Nature
Authors Tyler Funnell et al
DATE 26 October 2022
Uncovering novel mutational signatures by de novo extraction with SigProfilerExtractor

Mutational signature analysis is commonly performed in cancer genomic studies. Here, we present SigProfilerExtractor, an automated tool for de novo extraction of mutational signatures, and benchmark it against another 13 bioinformatics tools by using 34 scenarios encompassing 2,500 simulated signatures found in 60,000 synthetic genomes and 20,000 synthetic exomes. For simulations with 5% noise, reflecting high-quality datasets, SigProfilerExtractor outperforms other approaches by elucidating between 20% and 50% more true-positive signatures while yielding 5-fold less false-positive signatures. Applying SigProfilerExtractor to 4,643 whole-genome- and 19,184 whole-exome-sequenced cancers reveals four novel signatures. Two of the signatures are confirmed in independent cohorts, and one of these signatures is associated with tobacco smoking. In summary, this report provides a reference tool for analysis of mutational signatures, a comprehensive benchmarking of bioinformatics tools for extracting signatures, and several novel mutational signatures, including one putatively attributed to direct tobacco smoking mutagenesis in bladder tissues.

Team Mutographs
Journal Cell Genomics
Authors S.M. Ashiqul Islam et al
DATE 23 September 2022