NOTUM from Apc-mutant cells biases clonal competition to initiate cancer

The tumour suppressor APC is the most commonly mutated gene in colorectal cancer. Loss of Apc in intestinal stem cells drives the formation of adenomas in mice via increased WNT signalling, but reduced secretion of WNT ligands increases the ability of Apc-mutant intestinal stem cells to colonize a crypt (known as fixation). Here we investigated how Apc-mutant cells gain a clonal advantage over wild-type counterparts to achieve fixation. We found that Apc-mutant cells are enriched for transcripts that encode several secreted WNT antagonists, with Notum being the most highly expressed. Conditioned medium from Apc-mutant cells suppressed the growth of wild-type organoids in a NOTUM-dependent manner. Furthermore, NOTUM-secreting Apc-mutant clones actively inhibited the proliferation of surrounding wild-type crypt cells and drove their differentiation, thereby outcompeting crypt cells from the niche. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of NOTUM abrogated the ability of Apc-mutant cells to expand and form intestinal adenomas. We identify NOTUM as a key mediator during the early stages of mutation fixation that can be targeted to restore wild-type cell competitiveness and provide preventative strategies for people at a high risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Journal Nature
Authors Dustin Flanagan et al
DATE 03 June 2021
Aspirin Modulation of the Colorectal Cancer-Associated Microbe Fusobacterium nucleatum

Aspirin is a chemopreventive agent for colorectal adenoma and cancer (CRC) that, like many drugs inclusive of chemotherapeutics, has been investigated for its effects on bacterial growth and virulence gene expression. Given the evolving recognition of the roles for bacteria in CRC, in this work, we investigate the effects of aspirin with a focus on one oncomicrobe—Fusobacterium nucleatum. We show that aspirin and its primary metabolite salicylic acid alter F. nucleatum strain Fn7-1 growth in culture and that aspirin can effectively kill both actively growing and stationary Fn7-1. We also demonstrate that, at levels that do not inhibit growth, aspirin influences Fn7-1 gene expression. To assess whether aspirin modulation of F. nucleatum may be relevant in vivo, we use the ApcMin/1 mouse intestinal tumor model in which Fn7-1 is orally inoculated daily to reveal that aspirin-supplemented chow is sufficient to inhibit F. nucleatum-potentiated colonic tumorigenesis. We expand our characterization of aspirin sensitivity across other F. nucleatum strains, including those isolated from human CRC tissues, as well as other CRC-associated microbes, enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis, and colibactin-producing Escherichia coli. Finally, we determine that individuals who use aspirin daily have lower fusobacterial abundance in colon adenoma tissues, as determined by quantitative PCR performed on adenoma DNA. Together, our data support that aspirin has direct antibiotic activity against F. nucleatum strains and suggest that consideration of the potential effects of aspirin on the microbiome holds promise in optimizing risk-benefit assessments for use of aspirin in CRC prevention and management

Journal mBio Journal
Authors Caitlin Brennan et al
DATE 16 April 2021
Landscapes of cellular phenotypic diversity in breast cancer xenografts and their impact on drug response

The heterogeneity of breast cancer plays a major role in drug response and resistance and has been extensively characterized at the genomic level. Here, a single-cell breast cancer mass cytometry (BCMC) panel is optimized to identify cell phenotypes and their oncogenic signalling states in a biobank of patient-derived tumour xenograft (PDTX) models representing the diversity of human breast cancer. The BCMC panel identifies 13 cellular phenotypes (11 human and 2 murine), associated with both breast cancer subtypes and specific genomic features. Pre-treatment cellular phenotypic composition is a determinant of response to anticancer therapies. Single-cell profiling also reveals drug-induced cellular phenotypic dynamics, unravelling previously unnoticed intra-tumour response diversity. The comprehensive view of the landscapes of cellular phenotypic heterogeneity in PDTXs uncovered by the BCMC panel, which is mirrored in primary human tumours, has profound implications for understanding and predicting therapy response and resistance.

Journal Nature Communications
Authors Dimitra Georgopoulou et al
DATE 31 March 2021
Breast adipocyte size associates with ipsilateral invasive breast cancer risk after ductal carcinoma in situ

Although ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-obligate precursor to ipsilateral invasive breast cancer (iIBC), most DCIS lesions remain indolent. Hence, overdiagnosis and overtreatment of DCIS is a major concern. There is an urgent need for prognostic markers that can distinguish harmless from potentially hazardous DCIS. We hypothesised that features of the breast adipose tissue may be associated with risk of subsequent iIBC. We performed a case–control study nested in a population-based DCIS cohort, consisting of 2658 women diagnosed with primary DCIS between 1989 and 2005, uniformly treated with breast conserving surgery (BCS) alone. We assessed breast adipose features with digital pathology (HALO®, Indica Labs) and related these to iIBC risk in 108 women that developed subsequent iIBC (cases) and 168 women who did not (controls) by conditional logistic regression, accounting for clinicopathological and immunohistochemistry variables. Large breast adipocyte size was significantly associated with iIBC risk (odds ratio (OR) 2.75, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) = 1.25–6.05). High cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 protein expression in the DCIS cells was also associated with subsequent iIBC (OR 3.70 (95% CI = 1.59–8.64). DCIS with both high COX-2 expression and large breast adipocytes was associated with a 12-fold higher risk (OR 12.0, 95% CI = 3.10–46.3, P < 0.001) for subsequent iIBC compared with women with smaller adipocyte size and low COX-2 expression. Large breast adipocytes combined with high COX-2 expression in DCIS is associated with a high risk of subsequent iIBC. Besides COX-2, adipocyte size has the potential to improve clinical management in patients diagnosed with primary DCIS.

Journal NPJ Breast Cancer
Authors Mathilde M. M. Almekinders et al
DATE 22 March 2021
The origins and genetic interactions of KRAS mutations are allele- and tissue-specific

Mutational activation of KRAS promotes the initiation and progression of cancers, especially in the colorectum, pancreas, lung, and blood plasma, with varying prevalence of specific activating missense mutations. Although epidemiological studies connect specific alleles to clinical outcomes, the mechanisms underlying the distinct clinical characteristics of mutant KRAS alleles are unclear. Here, we analyze 13,492 samples from these four tumor types to examine allele- and tissue-specific genetic properties associated with oncogenic KRAS mutations. The prevalence of known mutagenic mechanisms partially explains the observed spectrum of KRAS activating mutations. However, there are substantial differences between the observed and predicted frequencies for many alleles, suggesting that biological selection underlies the tissue-specific frequencies of mutant alleles. Consistent with experimental studies that have identified distinct signaling properties associated with each mutant form of KRAS, our genetic analysis reveals that each KRAS allele is associated with a distinct tissue-specific comutation network. Moreover, we identify tissue-specific genetic dependencies associated with specific mutant KRAS alleles. Overall, this analysis demonstrates that the genetic interactions of oncogenic KRAS mutations are allele- and tissue-specific, underscoring the complexity that drives their clinical consequences.

Journal Nature Communications
Authors Peter J Park et al
DATE 22 March 2021