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.