Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology - Research Publications

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    A novel MYB::PAIP1 oncogenic fusion in pediatric blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) is dependent on BCL2 expression and is sensitive to venetoclax
    Kosasih, HJ ; Healey, G ; Brennan, MS ; Bjelosevic, S ; Sadras, T ; Jalud, FB ; Ibnat, T ; Ng, AP ; Mayoh, C ; Mao, J ; Tax, G ; Ludlow, LEA ; Johnstone, RW ; Herold, MJ ; Khaw, SL ; de Bock, CE ; Ekert, PG (WILEY, 2024-02)
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    A2AR eGFP reporter mouse enables elucidation of A2AR expression dynamics during anti-tumor immune responses
    Todd, KL ; Lai, J ; Sek, K ; Huang, Y-K ; Newman, DM ; Derrick, EB ; Koay, H-F ; Nguyen, D ; Hoang, TX ; Petley, EV ; Chan, CW ; Munoz, I ; House, IG ; Lee, JN ; Kim, JS ; Li, J ; Tong, J ; N. de Menezes, M ; Scheffler, CM ; Yap, KM ; Chen, AXY ; Dunbar, PA ; Haugen, B ; Parish, IA ; Johnstone, RW ; Darcy, PK ; Beavis, PA (Nature Portfolio, 2023-11-01)
    There is significant clinical interest in targeting adenosine-mediated immunosuppression, with several small molecule inhibitors having been developed for targeting the A2AR receptor. Understanding of the mechanism by which A2AR is regulated has been hindered by difficulty in identifying the cell types that express A2AR due to a lack of robust antibodies for these receptors. To overcome this limitation, here an A2AR eGFP reporter mouse is developed, enabling the expression of A2AR during ongoing anti-tumor immune responses to be assessed. This reveals that A2AR is highly expressed on all tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte subsets including Natural Killer (NK) cells, NKT cells, γδ T cells, conventional CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes and on a MHCIIhiCD86hi subset of type 2 conventional dendritic cells. In response to PD-L1 blockade, the emergence of PD-1+A2AR- cells correlates with successful therapeutic responses, whilst IL-18 is identified as a cytokine that potently upregulates A2AR and synergizes with A2AR deficiency to improve anti-tumor immunity. These studies provide insight into the biology of A2AR in the context of anti-tumor immunity and reveals potential combination immunotherapy approaches.
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    CRISPR-Cas9 screening identifies an IRF1-SOCS1-mediated negative feedback loop that limits CXCL9 expression and antitumor immunity
    House, IG ; Derrick, EB ; Sek, K ; Chen, AXY ; Li, J ; Lai, J ; Todd, KL ; Munoz, I ; Michie, J ; Chan, CW ; Huang, Y-K ; Chan, JD ; Petley, E ; Tong, J ; Nguyen, D ; Engel, S ; Savas, P ; Hogg, SJ ; Vervoort, SJ ; Kearney, CJ ; Burr, ML ; Lam, EYN ; Gilan, O ; Bedoui, S ; Johnstone, RW ; Dawson, MA ; Loi, S ; Darcy, PK ; Beavis, PA (CELL PRESS, 2023-08-29)
    CXCL9 expression is a strong predictor of response to immune checkpoint blockade therapy. Accordingly, we sought to develop therapeutic strategies to enhance the expression of CXCL9 and augment antitumor immunity. To perform whole-genome CRISPR-Cas9 screening for regulators of CXCL9 expression, a CXCL9-GFP reporter line is generated using a CRISPR knockin strategy. This approach finds that IRF1 limits CXCL9 expression in both tumor cells and primary myeloid cells through induction of SOCS1, which subsequently limits STAT1 signaling. Thus, we identify a subset of STAT1-dependent genes that do not require IRF1 for their transcription, including CXCL9. Targeting of either IRF1 or SOCS1 potently enhances CXCL9 expression by intratumoral macrophages, which is further enhanced in the context of immune checkpoint blockade therapy. We hence show a non-canonical role for IRF1 in limiting the expression of a subset of STAT1-dependent genes through induction of SOCS1.
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    IL-15 Preconditioning Augments CAR T Cell Responses to Checkpoint Blockade for Improved Treatment of Solid Tumors
    Giuffrida, L ; Sek, K ; Henderson, MA ; House, IG ; Lai, J ; Chen, AXY ; Todd, KL ; Petley, E ; Mardiana, S ; Todorovski, I ; Gruber, E ; Kelly, MJ ; Solomon, BJ ; Vervoort, SJ ; Johnstone, RW ; Parish, IA ; Neeson, PJ ; Kats, LM ; Darcy, PK ; Beavis, PA (CELL PRESS, 2020-11-04)
    Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy has been highly successful in hematological malignancies leading to their US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. However, the efficacy of CAR T cells in solid tumors is limited by tumor-induced immunosuppression, leading to the development of combination approaches, such as adjuvant programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) blockade. Current FDA-approved methods for generating CAR T cells utilize either anti-CD3 and interleukin (IL)-2 or anti-CD3/CD28 beads, which can generate a T cell product with an effector/exhausted phenotype. Whereas different cytokine preconditioning milieu, such as IL-7/IL-15, have been shown to promote T cell engraftment, the impact of this approach on CAR T cell responses to adjuvant immune-checkpoint blockade has not been assessed. In the current study, we reveal that the preconditioning of CAR T cells with IL-7/IL-15 increased CAR T cell responses to anti-PD-1 adjuvant therapy. This was associated with the emergence of an intratumoral CD8+CD62L+TCF7+IRF4- population that was highly responsive to anti-PD-1 therapy and mediated the vast majority of transcriptional and epigenetic changes in vivo following PD-1 blockade. Our data indicate that preservation of CAR T cells in a TCF7+ phenotype is crucial for their responsiveness to adjuvant immunotherapy approaches and should be a key consideration when designing clinical protocols.
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    JAK2 is dispensable for maintenance of JAK2 mutant B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias
    Kim, S-K ; Knight, DA ; Jones, LR ; Vervoort, S ; Ng, AP ; Seymour, JF ; Bradner, JE ; Waibel, M ; Kats, L ; Johnstone, RW (COLD SPRING HARBOR LAB PRESS, PUBLICATIONS DEPT, 2018-06-01)
    Activating JAK2 point mutations are implicated in the pathogenesis of myeloid and lymphoid malignancies, including high-risk B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). In preclinical studies, treatment of JAK2 mutant leukemias with type I JAK2 inhibitors (e.g., Food and Drug Administration [FDA]-approved ruxolitinib) provided limited single-agent responses, possibly due to paradoxical JAK2Y1007/1008 hyperphosphorylation induced by these agents. To determine the importance of mutant JAK2 in B-ALL initiation and maintenance, we developed unique genetically engineered mouse models of B-ALL driven by overexpressed Crlf2 and mutant Jak2, recapitulating the genetic aberrations found in human B-ALL. While expression of mutant Jak2 was necessary for leukemia induction, neither its continued expression nor enzymatic activity was required to maintain leukemia survival and rapid proliferation. CRLF2/JAK2 mutant B-ALLs with sustained depletion or pharmacological inhibition of JAK2 exhibited enhanced expression of c-Myc and prominent up-regulation of c-Myc target genes. Combined indirect targeting of c-Myc using the BET bromodomain inhibitor JQ1 and direct targeting of JAK2 with ruxolitinib potently killed JAK2 mutant B-ALLs.
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    Inhibition of mutant IDH1 promotes cycling of acute myeloid leukemia stem cells
    Gruber, E ; So, J ; Lewis, AC ; Franich, R ; Cole, R ; Martelotto, LG ; Rogers, AJ ; Vidacs, E ; Fraser, P ; Stanley, K ; Jones, L ; Trigos, A ; Thio, N ; Li, J ; Nicolay, B ; Daigle, S ; Tron, AE ; Hyer, ML ; Shortt, J ; Johnstone, RW ; Kats, LM (CELL PRESS, 2022-08-16)
    Approximately 20% of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients carry mutations in IDH1 or IDH2 that result in over-production of the oncometabolite D-2-hydroxyglutarate (2-HG). Small molecule inhibitors that block 2-HG synthesis can induce complete morphological remission; however, almost all patients eventually acquire drug resistance and relapse. Using a multi-allelic mouse model of IDH1-mutant AML, we demonstrate that the clinical IDH1 inhibitor AG-120 (ivosidenib) exerts cell-type-dependent effects on leukemic cells, promoting delayed disease regression. Although single-agent AG-120 treatment does not fully eradicate the disease, it increases cycling of rare leukemia stem cells and triggers transcriptional upregulation of the pyrimidine salvage pathway. Accordingly, AG-120 sensitizes IDH1-mutant AML to azacitidine, with the combination of AG-120 and azacitidine showing vastly improved efficacy in vivo. Our data highlight the impact of non-genetic heterogeneity on treatment response and provide a mechanistic rationale for the observed combinatorial effect of AG-120 and azacitidine in patients.
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    Epigenetic modulators of B cell fate identified through coupled phenotype-transcriptome analysis
    Kong, IY ; Trezise, S ; Light, A ; Todorovski, I ; Arnau, GM ; Gadipally, S ; Yoannidis, D ; Simpson, KJ ; Dong, X ; Whitehead, L ; Tempany, JC ; Farchione, AJ ; Sheikh, AA ; Groom, JR ; Rogers, KL ; Herold, MJ ; Bryant, VL ; Ritchie, ME ; Willis, SN ; Johnstone, RW ; Hodgkin, PD ; Nutt, SL ; Vervoort, SJ ; Hawkins, ED (SPRINGERNATURE, 2022-12)
    High-throughput methodologies are the cornerstone of screening approaches to identify novel compounds that regulate immune cell function. To identify novel targeted therapeutics to treat immune disorders and haematological malignancies, there is a need to integrate functional cellular information with the molecular mechanisms that regulate changes in immune cell phenotype. We facilitate this goal by combining quantitative methods for dissecting complex simultaneous cell phenotypic effects with genomic analysis. This combination strategy we term Multiplexed Analysis of Cells sequencing (MAC-seq), a modified version of Digital RNA with perturbation of Genes (DRUGseq). We applied MAC-seq to screen compounds that target the epigenetic machinery of B cells and assess altered humoral immunity by measuring changes in proliferation, survival, differentiation and transcription. This approach revealed that polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) inhibitors promote antibody secreting cell (ASC) differentiation in both murine and human B cells in vitro. This is further validated using T cell-dependent immunization in mice. Functional dissection of downstream effectors of PRC2 using arrayed CRISPR screening uncovered novel regulators of B cell differentiation, including Mybl1, Myof, Gas7 and Atoh8. Together, our findings demonstrate that integrated phenotype-transcriptome analyses can be effectively combined with drug screening approaches to uncover the molecular circuitry that drives lymphocyte fate decisions.
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    Distinct modulation of IFNγ-induced transcription by BET bromodomain and catalytic P300/CBP inhibition in breast cancer
    Hogg, SJ ; Motorna, O ; Kearney, CJ ; Derrick, EB ; House, IG ; Todorovski, I ; Kelly, MJ ; Zethoven, M ; Bromberg, KD ; Lai, A ; Beavis, PA ; Shortt, J ; Johnstone, RW ; Vervoort, SJ (BMC, 2022-12)
    BACKGROUND: Interferon gamma (IFNγ) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that directly activates the JAK/STAT pathway. However, the temporal dynamics of chromatin remodeling and transcriptional activation initiated by IFNγ have not been systematically profiled in an unbiased manner. Herein, we integrated transcriptomic and epigenomic profiling to characterize the acute epigenetic changes induced by IFNγ stimulation in a murine breast cancer model. RESULTS: We identified de novo activation of cis-regulatory elements bound by Irf1 that were characterized by increased chromatin accessibility, differential usage of pro-inflammatory enhancers, and downstream recruitment of BET proteins and RNA polymerase II. To functionally validate this hierarchical model of IFNγ-driven transcription, we applied selective antagonists of histone acetyltransferases P300/CBP or acetyl-lysine readers of the BET family. This highlighted that histone acetylation is an antecedent event in IFNγ-driven transcription, whereby targeting of P300/CBP acetyltransferase activity but not BET inhibition could curtail the epigenetic remodeling induced by IFNγ through suppression of Irf1 transactivation. CONCLUSIONS: These data highlight the ability for epigenetic therapies to reprogram pro-inflammatory gene expression, which may have therapeutic implications for anti-tumor immunity and inflammatory diseases.
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    The Combination of Curaxin CBL0137 and Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Panobinostat Delays KMT2A-Rearranged Leukemia Progression
    Xiao, L ; Karsa, M ; Ronca, E ; Bongers, A ; Kosciolek, A ; El-Ayoubi, A ; Revalde, JL ; Seneviratne, JA ; Cheung, BB ; Cheung, LC ; Kotecha, RS ; Newbold, A ; Bjelosevic, S ; Arndt, GM ; Lock, RB ; Johnstone, RW ; Gudkov, AV ; Gurova, KV ; Haber, M ; Norris, MD ; Henderson, MJ ; Somers, K (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2022-05-23)
    Rearrangements of the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL/KMT2A) gene are present in approximately 10% of acute leukemias and characteristically define disease with poor outcome. Driven by the unmet need to develop better therapies for KMT2A-rearranged leukemia, we previously discovered that the novel anti-cancer agent, curaxin CBL0137, induces decondensation of chromatin in cancer cells, delays leukemia progression and potentiates standard of care chemotherapies in preclinical KMT2A-rearranged leukemia models. Based on the promising potential of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors as targeted anti-cancer agents for KMT2A-rearranged leukemia and the fact that HDAC inhibitors also decondense chromatin via an alternate mechanism, we investigated whether CBL0137 could potentiate the efficacy of the HDAC inhibitor panobinostat in KMT2A-rearranged leukemia models. The combination of CBL0137 and panobinostat rapidly killed KMT2A-rearranged leukemia cells by apoptosis and significantly delayed leukemia progression and extended survival in an aggressive model of MLL-AF9 (KMT2A:MLLT3) driven murine acute myeloid leukemia. The drug combination also exerted a strong anti-leukemia response in a rapidly progressing xenograft model derived from an infant with KMT2A-rearranged acute lymphoblastic leukemia, significantly extending survival compared to either monotherapy. The therapeutic enhancement between CBL0137 and panobinostat in KMT2A-r leukemia cells does not appear to be mediated through cooperative effects of the drugs on KMT2A rearrangement-associated histone modifications. Our data has identified the CBL0137/panobinostat combination as a potential novel targeted therapeutic approach to improve outcome for KMT2A-rearranged leukemia.
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    Inhibition of pyrimidine biosynthesis targets protein translation in acute myeloid leukemia
    So, J ; Lewis, AC ; Smith, LK ; Stanley, K ; Franich, R ; Yoannidis, D ; Pijpers, L ; Dominguez, P ; Hogg, SJ ; Vervoort, SJ ; Brown, FC ; Johnstone, RW ; McDonald, G ; Ulanet, DB ; Murtie, J ; Gruber, E ; Kats, LM (WILEY, 2022-07-07)
    The mitochondrial enzyme dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) catalyzes one of the rate-limiting steps in de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis, a pathway that provides essential metabolic precursors for nucleic acids, glycoproteins, and phospholipids. DHODH inhibitors (DHODHi) are clinically used for autoimmune diseases and are emerging as a novel class of anticancer agents, especially in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) where pyrimidine starvation was recently shown to reverse the characteristic differentiation block in AML cells. Herein, we show that DHODH blockade rapidly shuts down protein translation in leukemic stem cells (LSCs) and has potent and selective activity against multiple AML subtypes. Moreover, we find that ablation of CDK5, a gene that is recurrently deleted in AML and related disorders, increases the sensitivity of AML cells to DHODHi. Our studies provide important molecular insights and identify a potential biomarker for an emerging strategy to target AML.