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
Culturing Human Gut Microbiomes in the Laboratory

The human gut microbiota is a complex community of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes and viral particles that is increasingly associated with many aspects of host physiology and health. However, the classical microbiology approach of axenic culture cannot provide a complete picture of the complex interactions between microbes and their hosts in vivo. As such, recently there has been much interest in the culture of gut microbial ecosystems in the laboratory as a strategy to better understand their compositions and functions. In this review, we discuss the model platforms and methods available in the contemporary microbiology laboratory to study human gut microbiomes, as well as current knowledge surrounding the isolation of human gut microbes for the potential construction of defined communities for use in model systems.

Journal Annual Review of Microbiology
Authors Simone Renwick et al
DATE 26 May 2021
Immune evasion in HPV - head and neck precancer - cancer transition is driven by an aneuploid switch involving chromosome 9p…

An aneuploid-immune paradox encompasses somatic copy-number alterations (SCNAs), unleashing a cytotoxic response in experimental precancer systems, while conversely being associated with immune suppression and cytotoxic-cell depletion in human tumors, especially head and neck cancer (HNSC). We present evidence from patient samples and cell lines that alterations in chromosome dosage contribute to an immune hot-to-cold switch during human papillomavirus-negative (HPV) head and neck tumorigenesis. Overall SCNA (aneuploidy) level was associated with increased CD3+ and CD8+ T cell microenvironments in precancer (mostly CD3+, linked to trisomy and aneuploidy), but with T cell-deficient tumors. Early lesions with 9p21.3 loss were associated with depletion of cytotoxic T cell infiltration in TP53 mutant tumors; and with aneuploidy were associated with increased NK-cell infiltration. The strongest driver of cytotoxic T cell and Immune Score depletion in oral cancer was 9p-arm level loss, promoting profound decreases of pivotal IFN-γ-related chemokines (e.g., CXCL9) and pathway genes. Chromosome 9p21.3 deletion contributed mainly to cell-intrinsic senescence suppression, but deletion of the entire arm was necessary to diminish levels of cytokine, JAK-STAT, and Hallmark NF-κB pathways. Finally, 9p arm-level loss and JAK2-PD-L1 codeletion (at 9p24) were predictive markers of poor survival in recurrent HPV HNSC after anti–PD-1 therapy; likely amplified by independent aneuploidy-induced immune-cold microenvironments observed here. We hypothesize that 9p21.3 arm-loss expansion and epistatic interactions allow oral precancer cells to acquire properties to overcome a proimmunogenic aneuploid checkpoint, transform and invade. These findings enable distinct HNSC interception and precision-therapeutic approaches, concepts that may apply to other CN-driven neoplastic, immune or aneuploid diseases, and immunotherapies.

Journal PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Authors William N. William Jr et al
DATE 11 May 2021
SynNotch CAR circuits enhance solid tumor recognition and promote persistent antitumor activity in mouse models

The first clinically approved engineered chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies are remarkably effective in a subset of hematological malignancies with few therapeutic options. Although these clinical successes have been exciting, CAR T cells have hit roadblocks in solid tumors that include the lack of highly tumor-specific antigens to target, opening up the possibility of life-threatening “on-target/off-tumor” toxicities, and problems with T cell entry into solid tumor and persistent activity in suppressive tumor microenvironments. Here, we improve the specificity and persistent antitumor activity of therapeutic T cells with synthetic Notch (synNotch) CAR circuits. We identify alkaline phosphatase placental-like 2 (ALPPL2) as a tumor-specific antigen expressed in a spectrum of solid tumors, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. ALPPL2 can act as a sole target for CAR therapy or be combined with tumor-associated antigens such as melanoma cell adhesion molecule (MCAM), mesothelin, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) in synNotch CAR combinatorial antigen circuits. SynNotch CAR T cells display superior control of tumor burden when compared to T cells constitutively expressing a CAR targeting the same antigens in mouse models of human mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. This was achieved by preventing CAR-mediated tonic signaling through synNotch-controlled expression, allowing T cells to maintain a long-lived memory and non-exhausted phenotype. Collectively, we establish ALPPL2 as a clinically viable cell therapy target for multiple solid tumors and demonstrate the multifaceted therapeutic benefits of synNotch CAR T cells.

Team STORMing Cancer
Journal Science Translational Medicine
Authors Axel Hyrenius-Wittsten et al
DATE 28 April 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