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 Joshua H. Cook et al
DATE 22 March 2021
Microbiome Analysis of More Than 2,000 NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme Samples Shows the Potential to Improve Screening…

Purpose: There is potential for fecal microbiome profiling to improve colorectal cancer screening. This has been demonstrated by research studies, but it has not been quantified at scale using samples collected and processed routinely by a national screening program.

Experimental Design: Between 2016 and 2019, the largest of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme hubs prospectively collected processed guaiac fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) samples with subsequent colonoscopy outcomes: blood-negative [n = 491 (22%)]; colorectal cancer [n = 430 (19%)]; adenoma [n = 665 (30%)]; colonoscopy-normal [n = 300 (13%)]; nonneoplastic [n = 366 (16%)]. Samples were transported and stored at room temperature. DNA underwent 16S rRNA gene V4 amplicon sequencing. Taxonomic profiling was performed to provide features for classification via random forests (RF).

Results: Samples provided 16S amplicon-based microbial profiles, which confirmed previously described colorectal cancer–microbiome associations. Microbiome-based RF models showed potential as a first-tier screen, distinguishing colorectal cancer or neoplasm (colorectal cancer or adenoma) from blood-negative with AUC 0.86 (0.82–0.89) and AUC 0.78 (0.74–0.82), respectively. Microbiome-based models also showed potential as a second-tier screen, distinguishing from among gFOBT blood-positive samples, colorectal cancer or neoplasm from colonoscopy-normal with AUC 0.79 (0.74–0.83) and AUC 0.73 (0.68–0.77), respectively. Models remained robust when restricted to 15 taxa, and performed similarly during external validation with metagenomic datasets.

Conclusions: Microbiome features can be assessed using gFOBT samples collected and processed routinely by a national colorectal cancer screening program to improve accuracy as a first- or second-tier screen. The models required as few as 15 taxa, raising the potential of an inexpensive qPCR test. This could reduce the number of colonoscopies in countries that use fecal occult blood test screening.

Journal AACR: Clinical Cancer Research
Authors Caroline Young et al
DATE 04 March 2021
Variability in grading of ductal carcinoma in situ among an international group of pathologists

The prognostic value of cytonuclear grade in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is debated, partly due to high interobserver variability and the use of multiple guidelines. The aim of this study was to evaluate interobserver agreement in grading DCIS between Dutch, British, and American pathologists. Haematoxylin and eosin‐stained slides of 425 women with primary DCIS were independently reviewed by nine breast pathologists based in the Netherlands, the UK, and the USA. Chance‐corrected kappa (κma) for association between pathologists was calculated based on a generalised linear mixed model using the ordinal package in R. Overall κma for grade of DCIS (low, intermediate, or high) was estimated to be 0.50 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.44–0.56), indicating a moderate association between pathologists. When the model was adjusted for national guidelines, the association for grade did not change (κma = 0.53; 95% CI 0.48–0.57); subgroup analysis for pathologists using the UK pathology guidelines only had significantly higher association (κma = 0.58; 95% CI 0.56–0.61). To assess if concordance of grading relates to the expression of the oestrogen receptor (ER) and HER2, archived immunohistochemistry was analysed on a subgroup (n = 106). This showed that non‐high grade according to the majority opinion was associated with ER positivity and HER2 negativity (100 and 89% of non‐high grade cases, respectively). In conclusion, DCIS grade showed only moderate association using whole slide images scored by nine breast pathologists. As therapeutic decisions and inclusion in ongoing clinical trials are guided by DCIS grade, there is a pressing need to reduce interobserver variability in grading. ER and HER2 might be supportive to prevent the accidental and unwanted inclusion of high‐grade DCIS in such trials.

Journal The Journal of Pathology
Authors Maartje van Seijen et al
DATE 24 February 2021