The role of tumor burden (TB) for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) receiving immunotherapy is still unknown. The aim of this analysis was to analyze the prognostic value of TB in a real-world sample of advanced NSCLC patients.
Sixty-five consecutive patients with advanced NSCLC treated with immunotherapy as first or second line therapy were retrospectively analyzed between August 2015 and February 2018. TB was recorded at baseline considering sites and number of metastases, thoracic vs. extrathoracic disease, measurable disease (MD) vs. not-MD (NMD) and evaluating dimensional aspects as maximum lesion diameter (cut-off = 6.3 cm), sum of the 5 major lesions diameters (cut-off = 14.3 cm), and number of sites of metastases (cut-off > 4). All cut-offs were calculated by receiver operating characteristic curves. Median overall survival (OS) was estimated using Kaplan-Meier method. A Cox regression model was carried out for univariate and multivariate analyses.
Median age was 70 years and most patients (86.2%) had a good performance status (PS-Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group < 2). No significant difference in OS was noted between subgroups of patients according to TB. Bone metastases (BM) had a negative prognostic impact [median OS (mOS), 13.8 vs. 70.0 months, P = 0.0009; median progression free survival in the second line (mPFS2) 2.97 vs. 8.63 months; P = 0.0037]. Patients with NMD had a poorer prognosis (mOS, 15.9 months vs. not reached, P < 0.0001; mPFS2 3.8 vs. 12.2 months; P = 0.0199). Patients with disease limited to the thorax had a better prognosis compared to patients with involvement of extrathoracic sites (mOS, 70 vs. 17.3 months; P = 0.0136). Having more than 4 metastatic sites resulted as a negative prognostic factor (mOS, 15.9 vs. 25.2 months; P = 0.0106). At multivariate analysis, BM, NMD, extrathoracic disease and number of sites of metastases > 4 were negative prognostic factors (P < 0.0001).
This study underlines the negative prognostic impact of specific metastatic sites, presence of NMD and extrathoracic disease in advanced NSCLC patients treated with immunotherapy. However, TB does not appear to affect the outcome of these patients.
Lynch syndrome is a hereditary cancer predisposition syndrome caused by germline alterations in mismatch repair (MMR) genes leading to increased risk of colon cancer as well as other cancer types. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is not among typical Lynch syndrome-associated tumors: pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor, is actually approved for the treatment of NSCLC patients and represents a promising treatment option for patients with advanced metastatic MMR-deficient cancer, regardless of tumor origin. This case report describes the clinical presentation and management of a 74-year-old female with a history of rectal adenocarcinoma and ovarian cancer, who has a documented frameshift pathogenic variant in the exon 8 of MSH6 gene and an intronic variant in the BRCA2 gene (classified as a variant of uncertain significance), affected by NSCLC with brain metastases. Despite these premises, the patient was treated with pembrolizumab and she did not benefit from this kind of treatment.
Intracellular Ca2+ ions that are thought to be one of the most important second messengers for cellular signaling, have a substantial diversity of roles in regulating a plethora of fundamental cellular physiology such as gene expression, cell division, cell motility and apoptosis. It has been suggestive of the Ca2+ signaling-dependent cellular processes to be tightly regulated by the numerous types of Ca2+ channels, pumps, exchangers and sensing receptors. Consequently, dysregulated Ca2+ homeostasis leads to a series of events connected to elevated malignant phenotypes including uncontrolled proliferation, migration, invasion and metastasis, all of which are frequently observed in advanced stage lung cancer cells. The incidence of bone metastasis in patients with advanced stage lung cancer is estimated in a range of 30% to 40%, bringing about a significant negative impact on both morbidity and survival. This review dissects and summarizes the important roles of Ca2+ signaling transduction in contributing to lung cancer progression, and address the question: if and how Ca2+ signaling might have been engaged in metastatic lung cancer with bone metastasis, thereby potentially providing the multifaceted and promising solutions for therapeutic intervention.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most malignant subtype of breast cancer with high heterogeneity, rapid progression, and paucity of treatment options. The most effective chemotherapeutic drug used to treat TNBC is doxorubicin (Doxo) which is an anthracycline antibiotic. However, Doxo treatment alters cytosolic calcium dynamics leading to drug-resistance condition. The aim of this study is to capture the alterations in the activity of various calcium channels and pumps during Doxo treatment and their consequences on cytosolic calcium dynamics that ultimately result in drug resistance.
In the present study, a mathematical model is proposed to capture the complex dynamical landscape of intracellular calcium during Doxo treatment. This study provides an insight into Doxo remodeling of calcium dynamics and associated drug-resistance effect. The model was first analyzed analytically and then explored through numerical simulation using techniques like global sensitivity analysis, parameter recalibration, etc.
The model is used to predict the potential combination therapy for Doxo that can overcome Doxo associated drug resistance. The results show targeting the dysregulated Ca2+ channels and pumps might provide efficient chemotherapy in TNBC. It was also observed that the indispensability of calcium influx rate is paramount in the Doxo drug resistance. Finally, three drugs were identified from existing literature that could be used as a combination therapy along with Doxo.
The investigation highlights the importance of integrating the calcium signaling of various calcium regulating compounds for their effective anti-tumor effects deliverance along with chemotherapeutic agents. The results from this study might provide a new direction to the experimental biologists to explore different combination therapies with Doxo to enhance its anti-tumor effect.
Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) is a key component in the cell’s response to oxidative and electrophilic stress and is a transcription factor regulating the expression of a collection of anti-oxidative and cytoprotective genes. Human epidermal growth factor receptor 4 (HER4/erbB4) regulates growth and differentiation in many cancer types. Here, NRF2 and HER4 receptor interactions were investigated in a panel of ovarian cancer cell lines.
Pharmacological [tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) and retinoid/rexinoid, bexarotene] and genetic [small interfering RNA (siRNA)] manipulations were used to activate or inhibit NRF2 function in the cell line panel (PE01, OVCAR3, SKOV3). Activity of the HER-targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors, erlotinib (ERL) and lapatinib (LAP), was evaluated after NRF2 activation.
While tBHQ increased the levels of both phosphorylated-NRF2 (pNRF2) and HER4 in PE01, OVCAR3 and SKOV3 cells, bexatorene and NRF2-target siRNA treatment decreased pNRF2 and total HER4 levels. The tBHQ-dependent pharmacological activation of NRF2 attenuated the therapeutic effectiveness of ERL and LAP. Analyses of gene expression data from a HER4 driven reporter system and in vitro or in vivo cancer models, support NRF2 regulation of HER4 expression.
These results support the presence of signaling interaction between the NRF2 and HER4 receptor pathways and suggest that intervention modulating this cross-talk could have anticancer therapeutic value.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. To date, tissue biopsy has been the gold standard for the diagnosis and the identification of specific molecular mutations, to guide choice of therapy. However, this procedure has several limitations. Liquid biopsy could represent a solution to the intrinsic limits of traditional biopsy. It can detect cancer markers such as circulating tumor DNA or RNA (ctDNA, ctRNA), and circulating tumor cells, in plasma, serum or other biological fluids. This procedure is minimally invasive, reproducible and can be used repeatedly. The main clinical applications of liquid biopsy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients are the early diagnosis, stratification of the risk of relapse, identification of mutations to guide application of targeted therapy and the evaluation of the minimum residual disease. In this review, the current role of liquid biopsy and associated markers in the management of NSCLC patients was analyzed, with emphasis on ctDNA and CTCs, and radiotherapy.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 inhibitors, programmed cell death 1 inhibitors and programmed cell death-ligand 1 inhibitors, have recently emerged as novel drugs in the anti-cancer therapy. Their use in different types of advanced cancer has shown good results and an increase in survival rates. However, immune-related adverse events (irAEs) are frequent and often require special care. IrAEs may affect all the organs, but they are most commonly seen in skin, lungs, endocrine glands and in the gastrointestinal tract where small bowel, colon, the liver and/or the pancreas can be involved. Despite being usually mild and self-resolving, irAEs may present in severe and life-threatening forms, causing the withdrawal of anti-cancer therapy. IrAEs, therefore, represent a challenging condition to manage that often requires the cooperation between the oncologists and the gastroenterologists in order to identify and treat them adequately.
About 15–20% of all breast cancers (BCs) are defined human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive, based on the overexpression of HER2 protein and/or amplification of ERBB2 gene. Such alterations lead to a more aggressive behavior of the disease, but also predict response to treatments targeting HER2. Indeed, several anti-HER2 compounds have been developed and approved in the last two decades, significantly improving our ability to cure patients in the early setting, and greatly extending their survival in the advanced setting. However, recent evolutions in this field promise to improve outcomes even further, through advancements in established HER2-targeting strategies, as well as the exploration of novel strategies. In particular, the engineering of new antibody-drug conjugates, with higher drug-to-antibody ratios (DARs) and cleavable linkers, has already led to the development of a highly effective drug, namely trastuzumab deruxtecan, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the treatment of advanced HER2-positive (HER2+) BC, and currently in study in the early setting. Moreover, the novel tyrosine kinase inhibitor tucatinib was recently approved by FDA and EMA, showing to improve survival of HER2+ advanced BC patients, particularly in those with brain metastasis. Immunotherapy is also being investigated in the HER2+ subtype, through immune-checkpoint inhibition, cancer vaccines and adoptive-cell therapies. Overall, the enlarging arsenal of promising anti-HER2 compounds is expected to deliver significant improvements in the prognosis of both early and advanced HER2+ BC in the years to come. Moreover, some of such agents are showing encouraging activity in the much wider population of HER2-low advanced BC patients, challenging current BC classifications. If confirmed, this new paradigm would potentially expand the population deriving benefit from HER2-targeted treatments to up to 70% of all advanced BC patients, leading to a revolution in current treatment algorithms, and possibly to a redefinition of HER2 classification.
Fungal compounds have long been used for centuries as food supplements. β-glucans have been identified as the most interesting molecules with beneficial effects in several chronic diseases. In vitro studies have shown that they are able to elicit the immune cells maturation and activation with the result of an increased release of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines and a stimulation of anti-bacterial activity of macrophages and neutrophils. As β-glucans enhance pathogen elimination through non-self antigens identification, they can also direct immune response against tumor cells. These compounds also stimulate the activity on adaptive immune cells and they have been regarded as biological response modifiers. In this way, β-glucans can be exploited as adjuvant cancer therapy, in particular by a synergic action with chemotherapy or immunotherapy. In the immuno-oncology era, the need is to identify innovative drugs that can simultaneously target and inhibit different biological processes relevant for cancer cells survivors. Recent clinical studies showed promising results about the combination of β-glucans and immune checkpoint inhibitors for patients affected by different solid tumors. This review aims to investigate molecular mechanisms of action of β-glucans and is focused on their application in clinical practice as immune-adjuvants for treatment of cancer patients.
Multiple myeloma (MM), the second most common hematologic cancer, is caused by accumulation of aberrant plasma cells in the bone marrow. Its molecular causes are not fully understood and its great heterogeneity among patients complicates therapeutic decision-making. In the past decades, development of new therapies and drugs have significantly improved survival of MM patients. However, resistance to drugs and relapse remain the most common causes of mortality and are the major challenges to overcome. The advent of high throughput omics technologies capable of analyzing big amount of clinical and biological data has changed the way to diagnose and treat MM. Integration of omics data (gene mutations, gene expression, epigenetic information, and protein and metabolite levels) with clinical histories of thousands of patients allows to build scores to stratify the risk at diagnosis and predict the response to treatment, helping clinicians to make better educated decisions for each particular case. There is no doubt that the future of MM treatment relies on personalized therapies based on predictive models built from omics studies. This review summarizes the current treatments and the use of omics technologies in MM, and their importance in the implementation of personalized medicine.
The goal of an efficacious cancer therapy is to specifically target diseased cells at high accuracy while sparing normal, healthy cells. Over the past three decades, immunotherapy, based on the use of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) directed against tumor-associated antigens, to inhibit their oncogenic function, or against immune checkpoints, to modulate specific T cell responses against cancer, has proven to be an important strategy for cancer therapy. Nevertheless, the number of mAbs approved for clinical use is still limited because of significant drawbacks to their applicability. Oligonucleotide aptamers, similarly to antibodies, form high-affinity bonds with their specific protein targets, thus representing an effective tool for active cancer targeting. Compared to antibodies, aptamers’ use as therapeutic agents benefits from their low size, low/no immunogenicity, simple synthesis and design flexibility for improving efficacy and stability. This review intends to highlight recently emerged applications of aptamers as recognition elements, from biomarker discovery to targeted drug delivery and targeted treatment, showing aptamers’ potential to work in conjunction with antibodies for attacking cancer from multiple flanks.
Immunotherapy has changed the natural history of several malignancies that, a decade ago, had a very poor prognosis, such as lung cancer and melanoma. Consequently, many attempts have been done to expand the indications of immunotherapy agents, predominantly immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), in other cancers, including gynecological malignancies. Alongside promising results in cervical and endometrial neoplasms, there are not clear data on the benefit of ICIs as single agent or in combination with antiangiogenic agents in ovarian cancer (OC) and ongoing trials are focusing on combining ICIs with standard chemotherapy or PARP inhibitors. This chapter summarized the evidences of ICIs in gynecological malignancies and report the ongoing trials in cervical, endometrial and OC.
The occurrence of phenotype switch from an epithelial to a mesenchymal cell state during the activation of the epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) program in cancer cells has been closely associated with the generation of invasive tumor cells that contribute to metastatic dissemination and treatment failure. Liquid biopsy represents an emergent non-invasive tool that may improve our understanding of the molecular events leading to cancer progression and initiating the metastatic cascade through the dynamic analysis of tumor-derived components isolated from body fluids. The present review will primarily focus on the applications of liquid biopsy in lung cancer patients for identifying EMT signature, elucidating molecular mechanisms underlying the acquisition of an invasive phenotype and detecting new targets for therapy.
Transcription factors (TFs) are modular protein groups that preferably bind to DNA sequences and guide genomic expression through transcription. Among these key regulators, “pioneer factors” are an emerging class of TFs that specifically interact with nucleosomal DNA and facilitate accessible genomic binding sites for the additional TFs. There is growing evidence of these specialized modulators in particular malignancies, as highlighted by agents’ clinical efficacy, specifically targeting nuclear hormone receptors. They have been implicated in multiple cancers more recently, with a high proportion inculpating on hormone influential cancers. Moreover, extended crosstalk and cooperation between ERα pioneering factors in estrogen-dependent breast cancer (BC) remain elucidated. This review discusses on the recent advances in our understanding of pioneer TFs in cancer, especially highlighting its potentiality to modulate chromatin condensation to permit ERα recruitment in BC cells. Through the study it was concluded that the highly prospected pioneer TFs in BC, including FOXA1, TLE1, PBX1, and GATA3, possess the potential therapeutic significance and further innovations in the field could yield targeted therapy in cancer treatment.
The introduction of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in non-oncogene addicted non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has revolutionized the treatment scenario and led to a meaningful improvement in patient prognosis. Disappointingly, the success of ICI therapy in NSCLC has not been fully replicated in other thoracic malignancies as small cell lung cancer (SCLC), malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), and thymic epithelial tumors (TETs), due to the peculiar biological features of these disease and to the difficulties in the conduction of well-designed, biomarker-driven clinical trials. Therefore, combination strategies of ICIs plus conventional therapies (either chemotherapy, alternative ICIs or targeted agents) have been implemented. Although first approvals of ICI therapy have been recently granted in SCLC and MPM (in combination with chemotherapy and different ICIs), results remain somewhat modest and limited to a small proportion of patients. This work reviews the trial results of ICI therapy in mesothelioma, SCLC, and TETs and discusses the potential of combining ICIs with old drugs.
Hyperprogressive disease (HPD) is a novel pattern of response during immunotherapy treatment. Several retrospective studies have evaluated its prevalence among various cancer types and, in particular, in non-small cell lung cancer patients, based on different definition criteria. If HPD is a just a typical phenomenon of immunotherapy is still an unsolved concern. This paper summarized the available data about HPD in other cancer treatments.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive tumor strictly connected to asbestos exposure. Prognosis is dismal as diagnosis commonly occurs in advanced stage. Radiological screenings have not proven to be effective and also pathological diagnosis may be challenging. In the era of precision oncology, validation of robust non-invasive biomarkers for screening of asbestos-exposed individuals, assessment of prognosis and prediction of response to treatments remains an important unmet clinical need. This review provides an overview on current understanding and possible applications of liquid biopsy in MPM, mostly focused on the utility as diagnostic and prognostic test.
Although breast cancer is not traditionally considered an immunogenic type of tumor, the combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy has recently emerged as a novel treatment option in triple-negative subtype in the advanced setting and other similar combinations of immune checkpoint inhibitors with chemotherapy are expected to become part of the neoadjuvant management in the near future. In addition, encouraging results have been observed with the combination of immune checkpoint blockade with diverse biological agents, including anti-HER2 agents, CDK 4/6 inhibitors, PARP-inhibitors. The present review summarized the available evidence coming from clinical trials on the role of immune checkpoint inhibitors in the management of breast cancer, both in advanced and early setting.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality, contributing to 9.6 million deaths globally in 2018 alone. Although several cancer treatments exist, they are often associated with severe side effects and high toxicities, leaving room for significant advancements to be made in the field. In recent years, several phytochemicals from plants and natural bioresources have been extracted and tested against various human malignancies using both in vitro and in vivo preclinical model systems. Cardamonin, a chalcone extracted from the Alpinia species, is an example of a natural therapeutic agent that has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects against human cancer cell lines, including breast, lung, colon, and gastric, in both in vitro culture systems as well as xenograft mouse models. Earlier, cardamonin was used as a natural medicine against stomach related issues, diarrhea, insulin resistance, nephroprotection against cisplatin treatment, vasorelaxant and antinociceptive. The compound is well-known to inhibit proliferation, migration, invasion, and induce apoptosis, through the involvement of Wnt/β-catenin, NF-κB, and PI3K/Akt pathways. The good biosafety and pharmacokinetic profiling of cardamonin satisfy it as an attractive molecule for the development of an anticancer agent. The present review has summarized the chemo-preventive ability of cardamonin as an anticancer agent against numerous human malignancies.
Cancer drug discovery is currently dominated by clinical trials or clinical research. Several potential drug candidates have been brought into the pipeline of drug discovery after showing very promising results at the pre-clinical level and are waiting to be tested in human clinical trials. Interestingly, among the potential drug candidates, a few of them have targeted transcription factors highlighting the fundamental undruggable nature of these molecules. However, using advanced technologies, researchers were recently successful in partly unlocking this undruggable nature, which was considered as a ‘grey area’ in the early days of drug discovery, and as a result, several potential candidates have emerged recently. The purpose of the review is to highlight some of the recently reported studies of targeting transcription factors in cancer and their promising outcomes.
Liquid biopsy has emerged as a minimally invasive alternative to tumor tissue analysis for the management of lung cancer patients, especially for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) oncogene addicted tumor. In these patients, despite the clear benefits of tyrosine kinase inhibitors therapy, the development of acquired resistance and progressive disease is inevitable in most cases and liquid biopsy is important for molecular characterization at resistance and, being non-invasive, may be useful for disease monitoring. In this review, the authors will focus on the applications of liquid biopsy in EGFR-mutated non small cells lung cancer at diagnosis, during treatment and at progression, describing available data and possible future scenarios.
Proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) represent a promising class of hetero-bivalent molecules that facilitate ubiquitination of a target protein by simultaneously binding and bringing together both the E3 enzyme and the target. These compounds consist of three structural components: two ligands one of which binds the protein of interest (POI) while the other binds an E3 ubiquitin ligase to promote POI ubiquitination, and a linker connecting both moieties. Recent developments in the field highlight the fact that linker composition and length play a crucial role in achieving optimal PROTAC properties, modulate binding kinetics and substantially impacts the potency and selectivity. In this review, the authors briefly discuss the recent findings in PROTAC design approaches with focus on the linker. For each PROTAC such linker parameters as chemical nature, length, hydrophilicity and rigidity have to be optimized to achieve improved stability, bioavailability cell membrane permeability and suitable spatial orientation between the target POI and the E3 ubiquitin ligase. Thus rational linker design with respect to composition, length and attachment sites is essential for the development of potent PROTAC compounds. Computer-aided design and novel innovative linker strategies, such as PROTAC shortening, photo-switchable PROTACs, in-cell click-formed CLIPTACs, “click chemistry” approaches are also discussed in the review.
Cancer is one of the most dreadful diseases in the world with a mortality of 9.6 million annually. Despite the advances in diagnosis and treatment during the last couple of decades, it still remains a serious concern due to the limitations associated with currently available cancer management strategies. Therefore, alternative strategies are highly required to overcome these glitches. The importance of medicinal plants as primary healthcare has been well-known from time immemorial against various human diseases, including cancer. Commiphora wightii that belongs to Burseraceae family is one such plant which has been used to cure various ailments in traditional systems of medicine. This plant has diverse pharmacological properties such as antioxidant, antibacterial, antimutagenic, and antitumor which mostly owes to the presence of its active compound guggulsterone (GS) that exists in the form of Z- and E-isomers. Mounting evidence suggests that this compound has promising anticancer activities and was shown to suppress several cancer signaling pathways such as NF-κB/ERK/MAPK/AKT/STAT and modulate the expression of numerous signaling molecules such as the farnesoid X receptor, cyclin D1, survivin, caspases, HIF-1α, MMP-9, EMT proteins, tumor suppressor proteins, angiogenic proteins, and apoptotic proteins. The current review is an attempt to summarize the biological activities and diverse anticancer activities (both in vitro and in vivo) of the compound GS and its derivatives, along with its associated mechanism against various cancers.
Immunotherapy dramatically changed the management of several malignancies including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Since immune checkpoint inhibitors have a different mechanism of action from cytotoxic agents or small molecules against NSCLC, also tumor response may present with atypical features. Pseudoprogression (PP) is a distinct response pattern defined by a transient enlargement of the tumor burden, sustained by inflammatory cells and usually not associated with worsening of performance status (PS). Here the authors describe the case of a lung adenocarcinoma patient treated with pembrolizumab, who developed an early symptomatic PP with a dramatic global worsening of PS. Subsequently an improvement in general condition and a brilliant tumor response were observed. Tumor re-biopsy was collected after the treatment in order to support the identification of PP and to describe microenvironment modifications induce by immunotherapy.
Tamoxifen (TAM) resistance remains a clinical issue in breast cancer. The authors previously reported that 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (HPGD) was significantly downregulated in tamoxifen-resistant (TAMr) breast cancer cell lines. Here, the authors investigated the relationship between HPGD expression, TAM resistance and prediction of outcome in breast cancer.
HPGD overexpression and silencing studies were performed in isogenic TAMr and parental human breast cancer cell lines to establish the impact of HPGD expression on TAM resistance. HPGD expression and clinical outcome relationships were explored using immunohistochemistry and in silico analysis.
Restoration of HPGD expression and activity sensitised TAMr MCF-7 cells to TAM and 17β-oestradiol, whilst HPGD silencing in parental MCF-7 cells reduced TAM sensitivity. TAMr cells released more prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) than controls, which was reduced in TAMr cells stably transfected with HPGD. Exogenous PGE2 signalled through the EP4 receptor to reduce breast cancer cell sensitivity to TAM. Decreased HPGD expression was associated with decreased overall survival in ERα-positive breast cancer patients.
HPGD downregulation in breast cancer is associated with reduced response to TAM therapy via PGE2-EP4 signalling and decreases patient survival. The data offer a potential target to develop combination therapies that may overcome acquired tamoxifen resistance.
PROteolysis TArgeting Chimeras (PROTACs) are heterobifunctional molecules consisting of two ligands; an “anchor” to bind to an E3 ubiquitin ligase and a “warhead” to bind to a protein of interest, connected by a chemical linker. Targeted protein degradation by PROTACs has emerged as a new modality for the knock down of a range of proteins, with the first agents now reaching clinical evaluation. It has become increasingly clear that the length and composition of the linker play critical roles on the physicochemical properties and bioactivity of PROTACs. While linker design has historically received limited attention, the PROTAC field is evolving rapidly and currently undergoing an important shift from synthetically tractable alkyl and polyethylene glycol to more sophisticated functional linkers. This promises to unlock a wealth of novel PROTAC agents with enhanced bioactivity for therapeutic intervention. Here, the authors provide a timely overview of the diverse linker classes in the published literature, along with their underlying design principles and overall influence on the properties and bioactivity of the associated PROTACs. Finally, the authors provide a critical analysis of current strategies for PROTAC assembly. The authors highlight important limitations associated with the traditional “trial and error” approach around linker design and selection, and suggest potential future avenues to further inform rational linker design and accelerate the identification of optimised PROTACs. In particular, the authors believe that advances in computational and structural methods will play an essential role to gain a better understanding of the structure and dynamics of PROTAC ternary complexes, and will be essential to address the current gaps in knowledge associated with PROTAC design.
Lung cancer is still one of the main causes of cancer-related death, together with prostate and colorectal cancers in males and breast and colorectal cancers in females. The prognosis for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is strictly dependent on feasibility of a complete surgical resection of the tumor at diagnosis. Since surgery is indicated only in early stages tumors, it is necessary to anticipate the timing of diagnosis in clinical practice. In the diagnostic and therapeutic pathway for NSCLC, sampling of neoplastic tissue is usually obtained using invasive methods that are not free from disadvantages and complications. A valid alternative to the standard biopsy is the liquid biopsy (LB), that is, the analysis of samples from peripheral blood, urine, and other biological fluids, with a simple and non-invasive collection. In particular, it is possible to detect in the blood different tumor derivatives, such as cell-free DNA (cfDNA) with its subtype circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), cell-free RNA (cfRNA), and circulating tumor cells (CTCs). Plasma-based testing seems to have several advantages over tumor tissue biopsy; firstly, it reduces medical costs, risk of complications related to invasive procedures, and turnaround times; moreover, the analysis of genes alteration, such as EGFR, ALK, ROS1, and BRAF is faster and safer with this method, compared to tissue biopsy. Despite all these advantages, the evidences in literatures indicate that assays performed on liquid biopsies have a low sensitivity, making them unsuitable for screening in lung cancer at the current state. This is caused by lack of standardization in sampling and preparation of specimen and by the low concentration of biomarkers in the bloodstream. Instead, routinely use of LB should be preferred in revaluation of patients with advanced NSCLC resistant to chemotherapy, due to onset of new mutations.
Cancer is the second death causing disease worldwide after cardiovascular abnormalities. The difficulty in treating tumor cells with more precise targeted interventions and recurrence of cancer after treatment may pose great difficulty in developing sustainable therapeutic regimens. These limitations have prompted the need to explore several compounds with ability to cease tumor growth while at the same time induce apoptosis of tumor cells. Several studies have emphasized the use of natural compounds as antitumor agents due to their high efficacy against cancer cells and low toxicity in normal cells. Salvianolic acid B (SAB), a naturally occurring phenolic compound extracted from the radix of Chinese herb Salvia miltiorrhiza can induce apoptosis in different types of tumor cells. It can be used to treat cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders, hepatic fibrosis, and cancers. Several studies have shown that SAB can mitigate tumorigenesis by modulating MAPK, PI3K/AKT, and NF-ĸB signaling pathways. It also sensitizes the tumor cells to different anti-cancer agents by reversing the multi-drug resistance mechanisms found in tumor cells. This review summarizes the studies showing antitumor potential of SAB in different types of cancer cell lines, animal models and highlights the possible mechanisms through which SAB can induce apoptosis, inhibit growth and metastasis in tumor cells. Moreover, the possible role of nano-technological approaches to induce targeted delivery of SAB to eradicate tumor cells has been also discussed.
BCL-XL is an anti-apoptotic protein that plays an important role in tumorigenesis, metastasis, and intrinsic or therapy-induced cancer drug resistance. More recently, BCL-XL has also been identified as a key survival factor in senescent cells. Accumulation of senescent cells has been indicated as a causal factor of aging and many age-related diseases and contributes to tumor relapse and metastasis. Thus, inhibition of BCL-XL is an attractive strategy for the treatment of cancer and extension of healthspan. However, development of BCL-XL inhibitors such as navitoclax for clinical use has been challenging because human platelets depend on BCL-XL for survival. In this review, the authors discuss how BCL-XL-targeted proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) afford a novel approach to mitigate the on-target thrombocytopenia associated with BCL-XL inhibition. The authors summarize the progress in the development of BCL-XL PROTACs. The authors highlight the in vitro and in vivo data supporting that by hijacking the ubiquitin protein ligase (E3) that are poorly expressed in human platelets, BCL-XL PROTACs can significantly improve the therapeutic window compared to conventional BCL-XL inhibitors. These findings demonstrated the potentially broad utility of PROTAC technology to achieve tissue selectivity through recruiting differentially expressed E3 ligases and to reduce on-target toxicity.
Lung cancer represents the world’s most common cause of cancer death. In recent years, we moved from a generic therapeutic strategy to a personalized approach, based on the molecular characterization of the tumor. In this view, liquid biopsy is becoming an important tool for assessing the progress or onset of lung disease. Liquid biopsy is a non-invasive procedure able to isolate circulating tumor cells, tumor educated platelets, exosomes and free circulating tumor DNA from body fluids. The characterization of these liquid biomarkers can help to choose the therapeutic strategy for each different case. In this review, the authors will analyze the main aspects of lung cancer and the applications currently in use focusing on the benefits associated with this approach for predicting the prognosis and monitoring the clinical conditions of lung cancer disease.
Cancer remains the second leading cause of mortality globally. In combating cancer, conventional chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy are administered as first-line therapy. However, these are usually accompanied with adverse side effects that decrease the quality of patient’s lives. As such, natural bioactive compounds have gained an attraction in the scientific and medical community as evidence of their anticancer properties and attenuation of side effects mounted. In particular, quassinoids have been found to exhibit a plethora of inhibitory activities such as anti-proliferative effects on tumor development and metastasis. Recently, bruceine D, a quassinoid isolated from the shrub Brucea javanica (L.) Merr. (Simaroubaceae), has come under immense investigation on its antineoplastic properties in various human cancers including pancreas, breast, lung, blood, bone, and liver. In this review, we have highlighted the antineoplastic effects of bruceine D and its mode of actions in different tumor models.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a common form of leukemia and is dependent on growth-promoting signaling via the B-cell receptor. The Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) is an important mediator of B-cell receptor signaling and the irreversible BTK inhibitor ibrutinib can trigger dramatic clinical responses in treated patients. However, emergence of resistance and toxicity are major limitations which lead to treatment discontinuation. There remains, therefore, a clear need for new therapeutic options. In this review, we discuss recent progress in the development of BTK-targeted proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) describing how such agents may provide advantages over ibrutinib and highlighting features of PROTACs that are important for the development of effective BTK degrading agents. Overall, PROTACs appear to be an exciting new approach to target BTK. However, development is at a very early stage and considerable progress is required to refine these agents and optimize their drug-like properties before progression to clinical testing.
Tanshinone is a herbal medicinal compound described in Chinese medicine, extracted from the roots of Salvia miltiorrhiza (Danshen). This family of compounds, including Tanshinone IIA and Tanshinone I, have shown remarkable potential as anti-cancer molecules, especially against breast, cervical, colorectal, gastric, lung, and prostate cancer cell lines, as well as leukaemia, melanoma, and hepatocellular carcinoma among others. Recent data has indicated that Tanshinones can modulate multiple molecular pathways such as PI3K/Akt, MAPK and JAK/STAT3, and exert their pharmacological effects against different malignancies. In addition, preclinical and clinical data, together with the safety profile of Tanshinones, encourage further applications of these compounds in cancer therapeutics. In this review article, the effect of Tanshinones on different cancers, challenges in their pharmacological development, and opportunities to harness their clinical potential have been documented.
Immunotherapy has shifted the therapeutic landscape in thoracic cancers. However, assessment of biomarkers for patient selection and disease monitoring remain challenging, especially considering the lack of tissue sample availability for clinical and research purposes. In this scenario, liquid biopsy (LB), defined as the study and characterization of biomarkers in body fluids, represents a useful alternative strategy. In other malignancies such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer or melanoma, the potential of LB has been more extensively explored for monitoring minimal residual disease or response to treatment, and to investigate mechanisms of resistance to targeted agents. Even if various experiences have already been published about the applications of LB in immunotherapy in thoracic cancers, the standardization of methodology and assessment of its clinical utility is still pending. In this review, the authors will focus on the applications of LB in immunotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer, and malignant pleural mesothelioma, describing available data and future perspectives.
Poly-ADP-ribose polymerase inhibitors (PARP-I) represent one of the most attractive and promising class of biological agents studied both in relapsed ovarian cancer (OC) and in the advanced setting. The availability of this new class of drugs has changed the clinical management of OC ensuring an unprecedented advance in such an aggressive cancer. Three oral PARP-I are currently available: olaparib, niraparib and rucaparib. Another two are in active clinical exploration: veliparib and talazoparib. Here the authors report clinical data with PARP-I with a particular emphasis on the phase II and III trials that support PARP-I approval by regulatory agencies in OC patients.
All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) induces complete remission in a high proportion of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Nevertheless it is be associated with adverse drug reactions that might be life-threatening including differentiation syndrome, myocarditis, myositis, Sweet’s syndrome and ulcers. We describe a case of APL who during induction therapy developed ATRA syndrome, cardiac arrhythmia and multiple episodes of intestinal necrosis that required surgery. In particular, we report here for the first intestinal necrosis attributable to ATRA treatment in the absence of histological evidence of promyelocytes infiltration or leukocytoclastic vasculitis.
Several preclinical studies suggested a potential benefit from combined treatment with inhibitors of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and angiogenesis, both effective in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In pretreated patients with advanced EGFR wild type NSCLC, bevacizumab plus erlotinib improved progression-free survival as second-line therapy in the BeTa study and as maintenance therapy in the ATLAS trial, although the benefit was modest and did not translate into an advantage in overall survival. Disappointing results were reported with oral VEGF inhibitors plus erlotinib in pretreated patients with EGFR wild type NSCLC. On the contrary, erlotinib plus bevacizumab or ramucirumab showed a clinically relevant improvement of progression-free survival in naïve patients with EGFR mutations, leading to the approval of these two regimens as first-line treatment of NSCLC patients with EGFR mutant tumors. Several clinical studies are evaluating the feasibility and activity of osimertinib plus bevacizumab or ramucirumab. However, limits that could affect its use in clinical practice are the need of an intravenous infusion for angiogenesis inhibitors, the increased incidence of treatment associated adverse events, the exclusion of patients with tumors located in central position or at risk of hemorrhage. The identification of predictive biomarkers is an important goal of research to optimize the combined use of these agents.
Dysregulation of cellular pH is frequent in solid tumours and provides potential opportunities for therapeutic intervention. The acidic microenvironment within a tumour can promote migration, invasion and metastasis of cancer cells through a variety of mechanisms. Pathways associated with the control of intracellular pH that are under consideration for intervention include carbonic anhydrase IX, the monocarboxylate transporters (MCT, MCT1 and MCT4), the vacuolar-type H+-ATPase proton pump, and the sodium-hydrogen exchanger 1. This review will describe progress in the development of inhibitors to these targets.
Single biomarker diagnostic test of BRAFV600 locus in metastatic melanoma is mandatory for treatment decision; however, multiple-gene based techniques, such as targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) are being used to maximize the number of patients that can benefit from a targeted therapy. The main objective of this study is to investigate whether an NGS panel could be adopted in routine clinical care for advanced melanoma.
Patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma at our center from 2017 to 2019 were included. Presence of genetic alterations was performed using two methods: real-time polymerase chain reaction-based Idylla test (Biocartis) and NGS with the oncomine solid tumor DNA kit (Thermo Fisher Scientific). Total genomic DNA was extracted from formalin-fixed and paraffin embedded samples for sequencing.
A total of 155 samples were evaluated for molecular analysis but 40 samples (25.8%) were inadequate for sequencing. The clinical utility of BRAFV600 real-time polymerase chain reaction and targeted-NGS was compared in 29 samples and a very good concordance was observed (Kappa = 0.89, 95% confidence interval 0.68 ± 1.05). An oncogenic mutation by NGS was found in 75 samples (65%)–53% of whom were candidates for personalized therapies. The most prevalent mutated genes were BRAF (39%), TP53 (23%), and NRAS (14%). Other genes identified at lower incidence (< 5%) were: PIK3CA, ERBB4, CTNNB1, STK11, FGFR1, SMAD4, KRAS, FGFR3, PTEN and AKT. Co-occurrence of oncogenic mutations was detected in 40% of the samples. Among the mutations identified, TP53 was significantly more prevalent in men (men 31.8% versus women 12.2%, P = 0.03) and NRAS in women (men 9.1% versus women 24.4%, P = 0.03).
Targeted-NGS testing is a feasible technique to implement in the routine clinical practice. Based on our results, NGS has provided more information on target-genes than RT-PCR technique, maximizing the benefit for patients with advanced melanoma.
Cancer development is frequently associated with dysregulation of mRNA translation to enhance both increased global protein synthesis and translation of specific mRNAs encoding oncoproteins. Thus, targeted inhibition of mRNA translation is viewed as a promising new approach for cancer therapy. In this article we review current progress in investigating dysregulation of mRNA translation initiation in mature B-cell neoplasms, focusing on chronic lymphocytic leukemia, follicular lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. We discuss mechanisms and regulation of mRNA translation, potential pathways by which genetic alterations and the tumor microenvironment alters mRNA translation in malignant B cells, preclinical evaluation of drugs targeted against specific eukaryotic initiation factors and current progress towards clinical development. Overall, inhibition of mRNA translation initiation factors is an exciting and promising area for development of novel targeted anti-tumor drugs.
The Fanconi anaemia (FA) pathway is an important mechanism for cellular DNA damage repair, which functions to remove toxic DNA interstrand crosslinks. This is particularly relevant in the context of ovarian and other cancers which rely extensively on interstrand cross-link generating platinum chemotherapy as standard of care treatment. These cancers often respond well to initial treatment, but reoccur with resistant disease and upregulation of DNA damage repair pathways. The FA pathway is therefore of great interest as a target for therapies that aim to improve the efficacy of platinum chemotherapies, and reverse tumour resistance to these. In this review, we discuss recent advances in understanding the mechanism of interstrand cross-link repair by the FA pathway, and the potential of the component parts as targets for therapeutic agents. We then focus on the current state of play of inhibitor development, covering both the characterisation of broad spectrum inhibitors and high throughput screening approaches to identify novel small molecule inhibitors. We also consider synthetic lethality between the FA pathway and other DNA damage repair pathways as a therapeutic approach.
Colorectal carcinoma (CRC) is an heterogeneous disease in which different genetic alterations play a role in its pathogenesis and progression and offer potential for therapeutic intervention. The research on predictive biomarkers in metastatic CRC (mCRC) mainly focused on the identification of biomarkers of response or resistance to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor monoclonal antibodies. In this respect, international guidelines suggest testing mCRC patients only for KRAS, NRAS and BRAF mutations and for microsatellite instability. However, the use of novel testing methods is raising relevant issue related to these biomarkers, such as the presence of sub-clonal RAS mutations or the clinical interpretation of rare no-V600 BRAF variants. In addition, a number of novel biomarkers is emerging from recent studies including amplification of ERBB2, mutations in ERBB2, MAP2K1 and NF1 and rearrangements of ALK, ROS1, NTRK and RET. Mutations in POLE and the levels of tumor mutation burden also appear as possible biomarkers of response to immunotherapy in CRC. Finally, the consensus molecular subtypes classification of CRC based on gene expression profiling has prognostic and predictive implications. Integration of all these information will be likely necessary in the next future in order to improve precision/personalized medicine in mCRC patients.