Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology - Research Publications

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    Tissue-resident memory T cells from a metastatic vaginal melanoma patient are tumor-responsive T cells and increase after anti-PD-1 treatment
    Pizzolla, A ; Keam, SP ; Vergara, IA ; Caramia, F ; Thio, N ; Wang, M ; Kocovski, N ; Tantalo, D ; Jabbari, J ; Au-Yeung, G ; Sandhu, S ; Gyorki, DE ; Weppler, A ; Perdicchio, M ; McArthur, GA ; Papenfuss, AT ; Neeson, PJ (BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2022-05-01)
    BACKGROUND: Vaginal melanoma (VM) is a rare cancer and has a poor response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB). CD8+Tissue Resident Memory (TRM) T cells proliferate in response to ICB and correlate with longer survival in metastatic cutaneous melanoma. However, their capacity to respond to VM and their neoantigens is not known. METHODS: Using longitudinal samples, we explored the evolution of VM mutations by whole-exome sequencing and RNAseq, we also defined the immune context using multiplex immunohistochemistry and nanostring pan cancer immune profile. Then using fresh single cell suspensions of the metastatic samples, we explored VM T cells via mass cytometry and single cell RNAseq and T cell receptor sequencing (TCRseq). Finally, we investigated TRM, pre-TRM and exhausted T cell function against melanoma neo-antigens and melanoma differentiation antigens in vitro. RESULTS: Primary VM was non-inflamed and devoid of CD8+ TRM cells. In contrast, both metastases showed proliferating CD8+ TRM were clustered at the tumor margin, with increased numbers in the second ICB-refractory metastasis. The first metastasis showed dense infiltration of CD8+ T cells, the second showed immune exclusion with loss of melanoma cell Major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-I expression associated with downregulation of antigen presentation pathway gene expression. CD8+ TRM from both metastases responded to autologous melanoma cells more robustly than all other CD8+ T cell subsets. In addition, CD8+ TRM shared TCR clones across metastases, suggesting a response to common antigens, which was supported by recognition of the same neoantigen by expanded tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we identified TRM clusters in VM metastases from a patient, but not primary disease. We showed TRM location at the tumor margin, and their superior functional response to autologous tumor cells, predicted neoantigens and melanoma differentiation antigens. These CD8+ TRM exhibited the highest tumor-responsive potential and shared their TCR with tumor-infiltrating effector memory T cells. This suggests VM metastases from this patient retain strong antitumor T cell functional responses; however, this response is suppressed in vivo. The loss of VG MHC-I expression is a common immune escape mechanism which was not addressed by anti-PD-1 monotherapy; rather an additional targeted approach to upregulate MHC-I expression is required.
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    Harnessing the immunotherapeutic potential of CDK4/6 inhibitors in melanoma: is timing everything?
    Lelliott, EJ ; Sheppard, KE ; McArthur, GA (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2022-04-20)
    CDK4/6 inhibitors (CDK4/6i) were developed as a cancer therapeutic on the basis of their tumor-intrinsic cytostatic potential, but have since demonstrated profound activity as immunomodulatory agents. While currently approved to treat hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, these inhibitors are under investigation in clinical trials as treatments for a range of cancer types, including melanoma. Melanoma is a highly immunogenic cancer, and has always been situated at the forefront of cancer immunotherapy development. Recent revelations into the immunotherapeutic activity of CDK4/6i, therefore, have significant implications for the utility of these agents as melanoma therapies. In recent studies, we and others have proven the immunomodulatory effects of CDK4/6i to be multifaceted and complex. Among the most notable effects, CDK4/6 inhibition induces transcriptional reprogramming in both tumor cells and immune cells to enhance tumor cell immunogenicity, promote an immune-rich tumor microenvironment, and skew T cell differentiation into a stem-like phenotype that is more amenable to immune checkpoint inhibition. However, in some contexts, the specific immunomodulatory effects of CDK4/6i may impinge on anti-tumor immunity. For example, CDK4/6 inhibition restricts optimal T cells expansion, and when used in combination with BRAF/MEK-targeted therapies, depletes immune-potentiating myeloid subsets from the tumor microenvironment. We propose that such effects, both positive and negative, may be mitigated or exacerbated by altering the CDK4/6i dosing regimen. Here, we discuss what the most recent insights mean for clinical trial design, and propose clinical considerations and strategies that may exploit the full immunotherapeutic potential of CDK4/6 inhibitors.
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    Characterization of the treatment-naive immune microenvironment in melanoma with BRAF mutation
    Wang, M ; Zadeh, S ; Pizzolla, A ; Thia, K ; Gyorki, DE ; McArthur, GA ; Scolyer, RA ; Long, G ; Wilmott, JS ; Andrews, MC ; Au-Yeung, G ; Weppler, A ; Sandhu, S ; Trapani, JA ; Davis, MJ ; Neeson, PJ (BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2022-04-01)
    BACKGROUND: Patients with BRAF-mutant and wild-type melanoma have different response rates to immune checkpoint blockade therapy. However, the reasons for this remain unknown. To address this issue, we investigated the precise immune composition resulting from BRAF mutation in treatment-naive melanoma to determine whether this may be a driver for different response to immunotherapy. METHODS: In this study, we characterized the treatment-naive immune context in patients with BRAF-mutant and BRAF wild-type (BRAF-wt) melanoma using data from single-cell RNA sequencing, bulk RNA sequencing, flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry (IHC). RESULTS: In single-cell data, BRAF-mutant melanoma displayed a significantly reduced infiltration of CD8+ T cells and macrophages but also increased B cells, natural killer (NK) cells and NKT cells. We then validated this finding using bulk RNA-seq data from the skin cutaneous melanoma cohort in The Cancer Genome Atlas and deconvoluted the data using seven different algorithms. Interestingly, BRAF-mutant tumors had more CD4+ T cells than BRAF-wt samples in both primary and metastatic cohorts. In the metastatic cohort, BRAF-mutant melanoma demonstrated more B cells but less CD8+ T cell infiltration when compared with BRAF-wt samples. In addition, we further investigated the immune cell infiltrate using flow cytometry and multiplex IHC techniques. We confirmed that BRAF-mutant melanoma metastases were enriched for CD4+ T cells and B cells and had a co-existing decrease in CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, we then identified B cells were associated with a trend for improved survival (p=0.078) in the BRAF-mutant samples and Th2 cells were associated with prolonged survival in the BRAF-wt samples. CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, treatment-naive BRAF-mutant melanoma has a distinct immune context compared with BRAF-wt melanoma, with significantly decreased CD8+ T cells and increased B cells and CD4+ T cells in the tumor microenvironment. These findings indicate that further mechanistic studies are warranted to reveal how this difference in immune context leads to improved outcome to combination immune checkpoint blockade in BRAF-mutant melanoma.
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    Adaptive translational reprogramming of metabolism limits the response to targeted therapy in BRAF(V600) melanoma
    Smith, LK ; Parmenter, T ; Kleinschmidt, M ; Kusnadi, EP ; Kang, J ; Martin, CA ; Lau, P ; Patel, R ; Lorent, J ; Papadopoli, D ; Trigos, A ; Ward, T ; Rao, AD ; Lelliott, EJ ; Sheppard, KE ; Goode, D ; Hicks, RJ ; Tiganis, T ; Simpson, KJ ; Larsson, O ; Blythe, B ; Cullinane, C ; Wickramasinghe, VO ; Pearson, RB ; McArthur, GA (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2022-03-01)
    Despite the success of therapies targeting oncogenes in cancer, clinical outcomes are limited by residual disease that ultimately results in relapse. This residual disease is often characterized by non-genetic adaptive resistance, that in melanoma is characterised by altered metabolism. Here, we examine how targeted therapy reprograms metabolism in BRAF-mutant melanoma cells using a genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screen and global gene expression profiling. Using this systematic approach we demonstrate post-transcriptional regulation of metabolism following BRAF inhibition, involving selective mRNA transport and translation. As proof of concept we demonstrate the RNA processing kinase U2AF homology motif kinase 1 (UHMK1) associates with mRNAs encoding metabolism proteins and selectively controls their transport and translation during adaptation to BRAF-targeted therapy. UHMK1 inactivation induces cell death by disrupting therapy induced metabolic reprogramming, and importantly, delays resistance to BRAF and MEK combination therapy in multiple in vivo models. We propose selective mRNA processing and translation by UHMK1 constitutes a mechanism of non-genetic resistance to targeted therapy in melanoma by controlling metabolic plasticity induced by therapy.
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    Melanoma brain metastases that progress on BRAF-MEK inhibitors demonstrate resistance to ipilimumab-nivolumab that is associated with the Innate PD-1 Resistance Signature (IPRES)
    Lau, PKH ; Feran, B ; Smith, L ; Lasocki, A ; Molania, R ; Smith, K ; Weppler, A ; Angel, C ; Kee, D ; Bhave, P ; Lee, B ; Young, RJ ; Iravani, A ; Yeang, HA ; Vergara, IA ; Kok, D ; Drummond, K ; Neeson, PJ ; Sheppard, KE ; Papenfuss, T ; Solomon, BJ ; Sandhu, S ; McArthur, GA (BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2021-10-01)
    BACKGROUND: Melanoma brain metastases (MBMs) are a challenging clinical problem with high morbidity and mortality. Although first-line dabrafenib-trametinib and ipilimumab-nivolumab have similar intracranial response rates (50%-55%), central nervous system (CNS) resistance to BRAF-MEK inhibitors (BRAF-MEKi) usually occurs around 6 months, and durable responses are only seen with combination immunotherapy. We sought to investigate the utility of ipilimumab-nivolumab after MBM progression on BRAF-MEKi and identify mechanisms of resistance. METHODS: Patients who received first-line ipilimumab-nivolumab for MBMs or second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab for intracranial metastases with BRAFV600 mutations with prior progression on BRAF-MEKi and MRI brain staging from March 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018 were included. Modified intracranial RECIST was used to assess response. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples of BRAFV600 mutant MBMs that were naïve to systemic treatment (n=18) or excised after progression on BRAF-MEKi (n=14) underwent whole transcriptome sequencing. Comparative analyses of MBMs naïve to systemic treatment versus BRAF-MEKi progression were performed. RESULTS: Twenty-five and 30 patients who received first and second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab, were included respectively. Median sum of MBM diameters was 13 and 20.5 mm for the first and second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab groups, respectively. Intracranial response rate was 75.0% (12/16), and median progression-free survival (PFS) was 41.6 months for first-line ipilimumab-nivolumab. Efficacy of second/third line ipilimumab-nivolumab after BRAF-MEKi progression was poor with an intracranial response rate of 4.8% (1/21) and median PFS of 1.3 months. Given the poor activity of ipilimumab-nivolumab after BRAF-MEKi MBM progression, we performed whole transcriptome sequencing to identify mechanisms of drug resistance. We identified a set of 178 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between naïve and MBMs with progression on BRAF-MEKi treatment (p value <0.05, false discovery rate (FDR) <0.1). No distinct pathways were identified from gene set enrichment analyses using Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes, Gene Ontogeny or Hallmark libraries; however, enrichment of DEG from the Innate Anti-PD1 Resistance Signature (IPRES) was identified (p value=0.007, FDR=0.03). CONCLUSIONS: Second-line ipilimumab-nivolumab for MBMs after BRAF-MEKi progression has poor activity. MBMs that are resistant to BRAF-MEKi that also conferred resistance to second-line ipilimumab-nivolumab showed enrichment of the IPRES gene signature.
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    PRMT5: An Emerging Target for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma
    Lee, MKC ; Grimmond, SM ; McArthur, GA ; Sheppard, KE (MDPI, 2021-10-01)
    The overall survival of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains poor and its incidence is rising. Targetable mutations in PDAC are rare, thus novel therapeutic approaches are needed. Protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5) overexpression is associated with worse survival and inhibition of PRMT5 results in decreased cancer growth across multiple cancers, including PDAC. Emerging evidence also suggests that altered RNA processing is a driver in PDAC tumorigenesis and creates a partial dependency on this process. PRMT5 inhibition induces altered splicing and this vulnerability can be exploited as a novel therapeutic approach. Three possible biological pathways underpinning the action of PRMT5 inhibitors are discussed; c-Myc regulation appears central to its action in the PDAC setting. Whilst homozygous MTAP deletion and symmetrical dimethylation levels are associated with increased sensitivity to PRMT5 inhibition, neither measure robustly predicts its growth inhibitory response. The immunomodulatory effect of PRMT5 inhibitors on the tumour microenvironment will also be discussed, based on emerging evidence that PDAC stroma has a significant bearing on disease behaviour and response to therapy. Lastly, with the above caveats in mind, current knowledge gaps and the implications and rationales for PRMT5 inhibitor development in PDAC will be explored.
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    Long term, continuous exposure to panobinostat induces terminal differentiation and long term survival in the TH-MYCN neuroblastoma mouse model
    Waldeck, K ; Cullinane, C ; Ardley, K ; Shortt, J ; Martin, B ; Tothill, RW ; Li, J ; Johnstone, RW ; McArthur, GA ; Hicks, RJ ; Wood, PJ (WILEY, 2016-07-01)
    Neuroblastoma is the most common extra-cranial malignancy in childhood and accounts for ∼15% of childhood cancer deaths. Amplification of MYCN in neuroblastoma is associated with aggressive disease and predicts for poor prognosis. Novel therapeutic approaches are therefore essential to improving patient outcomes in this setting. The histone deacetylases are known to interact with N-Myc and regulate numerous cellular processes via epigenetic modulation, including differentiation. In this study, we used the TH-MYCN mouse model of neuroblastoma to investigate the antitumor activity of the pan-HDAC inhibitor, panobinostat. In particular we sought to explore the impact of long term, continuous panobinostat exposure on the epigenetically driven differentiation process. Continuous treatment of tumor bearing TH-MYCN transgenic mice with panobinostat for nine weeks led to a significant improvement in survival as compared with mice treated with panobinostat for a three-week period. Panobinostat induced rapid tumor regression with no regrowth observed following a nine-week treatment period. Initial tumor response was associated with apoptosis mediated via upregulation of BMF and BIM. The process of terminal differentiation of neuroblastoma into benign ganglioneuroma, with a characteristic increase in S100 expression and reduction of N-Myc expression, occurred following prolonged exposure to the drug. RNA-sequencing analysis of tumors from treated animals confirmed significant upregulation of gene pathways associated with apoptosis and differentiation. Together our data demonstrate the potential of panobinostat as a novel therapeutic strategy for high-risk neuroblastoma patients.
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    Palbociclib synergizes with BRAF and MEK inhibitors in treatment naive melanoma but not after the development of BRAF inhibitor resistance
    Martin, CA ; Cullinane, C ; Kirby, L ; Abuhammad, S ; Lelliott, EJ ; Waldeck, K ; Young, RJ ; Brajanovski, N ; Cameron, DP ; Walker, R ; Sanij, E ; Poortinga, G ; Hannan, RD ; Pearson, RB ; Hicks, RJ ; McArthur, GA ; Sheppard, KE (WILEY, 2018-05-15)
    Increased CDK4 activity occurs in the majority of melanomas and CDK4/6 inhibitors in combination with BRAF and MEK inhibitors are currently in clinical trials for the treatment of melanoma. We hypothesize that the timing of the addition of CDK4/6 inhibitors to the current BRAF and MEK inhibitor regime will impact on the efficacy of this triplet drug combination. The efficacy of BRAF, MEK and CDK4/6 inhibitors as single agents and in combination was assessed in human BRAF mutant cell lines that were treatment naïve, BRAF inhibitor tolerant or had acquired resistance to BRAF inhibitors. Xenograft studies were then performed to test the in vivo efficacy of the BRAF and CDK4/6 inhibitor combination. Melanoma cells that had developed early reversible tolerance or acquired resistance to BRAF inhibition remained sensitive to palbociclib. In drug-tolerant cells, the efficacy of the combination of palbociclib with BRAF and/or MEK inhibitors was equivalent to single agent palbociclib. Similarly, acquired BRAF inhibitor resistance cells lost efficacy to the palbociclib and BRAF combination. In contrast, upfront treatment of melanoma cells with palbociclib in combination with BRAF and/or MEK inhibitors induced either cell death or senescence and was superior to a BRAF plus MEK inhibitor combination. In vivo palbociclib plus BRAF inhibitor induced rapid and sustained tumor regression without the development of therapy resistance. In summary, upfront dual targeting of CDK4/6 and mutant BRAF signaling enables tumor cells to evade resistance to monotherapy and is required for robust and sustained tumor regression. Melanoma patients whose tumors have acquired resistance to BRAF inhibition are less likely to have favorable responses to subsequent treatment with the triplet combination of BRAF, MEK and CDK4/6 inhibitors.
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    Immunomodulatory Effects of BRAF, MEK, and CDK4/6 Inhibitors: Implications for Combining Targeted Therapy and Immune Checkpoint Blockade for the Treatment of Melanoma
    Lelliott, EJ ; McArthur, GA ; Oliaro, J ; Sheppard, KE (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2021-05-07)
    The recent advent of targeted and immune-based therapies has revolutionized the treatment of melanoma and transformed outcomes for patients with metastatic disease. The majority of patients develop resistance to the current standard-of-care targeted therapy, dual BRAF and MEK inhibition, prompting evaluation of a new combination incorporating a CDK4/6 inhibitor. Based on promising preclinical data, combined BRAF, MEK and CDK4/6 inhibition has recently entered clinical trials for the treatment of BRAFV600 melanoma. Interestingly, while BRAF- and MEK-targeted therapy was initially developed on the basis of potent tumor-intrinsic effects, it was later discovered to have significant immune-potentiating activity. Recent studies have also identified immune-related impacts of CDK4/6 inhibition, though these are less well defined and can be both immune-potentiating and immune-inhibitory. BRAFV600 melanoma patients are also eligible to receive immunotherapy, specifically checkpoint inhibitors against PD-1 and CTLA-4. The immunomodulatory activity of BRAF/MEK-targeted therapies has prompted interest in combination therapies incorporating these with immune checkpoint inhibitors, however recent clinical trials investigating this approach have produced variable results. Here, we summarize the immunomodulatory effects of BRAF, MEK and CDK4/6 inhibitors, shedding light on the prospective utility of this combination alone and in conjunction with immune checkpoint blockade. Understanding the mechanisms that underpin the clinical efficacy of these available therapies is a critical step forward in optimizing novel combination and scheduling approaches to combat melanoma and improve patient outcomes.
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    Co-targeting bromodomain and extra-terminal proteins and MCL1 induces synergistic cell death in melanoma
    Tseng, H-Y ; Dreyer, J ; Al Emran, A ; Gunatilake, D ; Pirozyan, M ; Cullinane, C ; Dutton-Regester, K ; Rizos, H ; Hayward, NK ; McArthur, G ; Hersey, P ; Tiffen, J ; Gallagher, S (WILEY, 2020-04-24)
    The treatment of melanoma has been markedly improved by the introduction of targeted therapies and checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. Unfortunately, resistance to these therapies remains a limitation. Novel anticancer therapeutics targeting the MCL1 anti-apoptotic protein have shown impressive responses in haematological cancers but are yet to be evaluated in melanoma. To assess the sensitivity of melanoma to new MCL1 inhibitors, we measured the response of 51 melanoma cell lines to the novel MCL1 inhibitor, S63845. Additionally, we assessed combination of this drug with inhibitors of the bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) protein family of epigenetic readers, which we postulated would assist MCL1 inhibition by downregulating anti-apoptotic targets regulated by NF-kB such as BCLXL, BCL2A1 and XIAP, and by upregulating pro-apoptotic proteins including BIM and NOXA. Only 14% of melanoma cell lines showed sensitivity to S63845, however, combination of S63845 and I-BET151 induced highly synergistic apoptotic cell death in all melanoma lines tested and in an in vivo xenograft model. Cell death was dependent on caspases and BAX/BAK. Although the combination of drugs increased the BH3-only protein, BIM, and downregulated anti-apoptotic proteins such as BCL2A1, the importance of these proteins in inducing cell death varied between cell lines. ABT-199 or ABT-263 inhibitors against BCL2 or BCL2 and BCLXL, respectively, induced further cell death when combined with S63845 and I-BET151. The combination of MCL1 and BET inhibition appears to be a promising therapeutic approach for metastatic melanoma, and presents opportunities to add further BCL2 family inhibitors to overcome treatment resistance.