Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology - Research Publications

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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, 2022-07-13)
    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 IFN gamma-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, 2022-12-01)
    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, 2022-05-06)
    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.
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    Dual Targeting of Chromatin Stability By The Curaxin CBL0137 and Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Panobinostat Shows Significant Preclinical Efficacy in Neuroblastoma
    Xiao, L ; Somers, K ; Murray, J ; Pandher, R ; Karsa, M ; Ronca, E ; Bongers, A ; Terry, R ; Ehteda, A ; Gamble, LD ; Issaeva, N ; Leonova, KI ; O'Connor, A ; Mayoh, C ; Venkat, P ; Quek, H ; Brand, J ; Kusuma, FK ; Pettitt, JA ; Mosmann, E ; Kearns, A ; Eden, G ; Alfred, S ; Allan, S ; Zhai, L ; Kamili, A ; Gifford, AJ ; Carter, DR ; Henderson, MJ ; Fletcher, JI ; Marshall, G ; Johnstone, RW ; Cesare, AJ ; Ziegler, DS ; Gudkov, AV ; Gurova, KV ; Norris, MD ; Haber, M (AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, 2021-08-01)
    PURPOSE: We investigated whether targeting chromatin stability through a combination of the curaxin CBL0137 with the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, panobinostat, constitutes an effective multimodal treatment for high-risk neuroblastoma. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: The effects of the drug combination on cancer growth were examined in vitro and in animal models of MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma. The molecular mechanisms of action were analyzed by multiple techniques including whole transcriptome profiling, immune deconvolution analysis, immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, assays to assess cell growth and apoptosis, and a range of cell-based reporter systems to examine histone eviction, heterochromatin transcription, and chromatin compaction. RESULTS: The combination of CBL0137 and panobinostat enhanced nucleosome destabilization, induced an IFN response, inhibited DNA damage repair, and synergistically suppressed cancer cell growth. Similar synergistic effects were observed when combining CBL0137 with other HDAC inhibitors. The CBL0137/panobinostat combination significantly delayed cancer progression in xenograft models of poor outcome high-risk neuroblastoma. Complete tumor regression was achieved in the transgenic Th-MYCN neuroblastoma model which was accompanied by induction of a type I IFN and immune response. Tumor transplantation experiments further confirmed that the presence of a competent adaptive immune system component allowed the exploitation of the full potential of the drug combination. CONCLUSIONS: The combination of CBL0137 and panobinostat is effective and well-tolerated in preclinical models of aggressive high-risk neuroblastoma, warranting further preclinical and clinical investigation in other pediatric cancers. On the basis of its potential to boost IFN and immune responses in cancer models, the drug combination holds promising potential for addition to immunotherapies.
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    Targeting histone acetylation dynamics and oncogenic transcription by catalytic P300/CBP inhibition
    Hogg, SJ ; Motorna, O ; Cluse, LA ; Johanson, TM ; Coughlan, HD ; Raviram, R ; Myers, RM ; Costacurta, M ; Todorovski, I ; Pijpers, L ; Bjelosevic, S ; Williams, T ; Huskins, SN ; Kearney, CJ ; Devlin, JR ; Fan, Z ; Jabbari, JS ; Martin, BP ; Fareh, M ; Kelly, MJ ; Dupere-Richer, D ; Sandow, JJ ; Feran, B ; Knight, D ; Khong, T ; Spencer, A ; Harrison, SJ ; Gregory, G ; Wickramasinghe, VO ; Webb, A ; Taberlay, PC ; Bromberg, KD ; Lai, A ; Papenfuss, AT ; Smyth, GK ; Allan, RS ; Licht, JD ; Landau, DA ; Abdel-Wahab, O ; Shortt, J ; Vervoort, SJ ; Johnstone, RW (CELL PRESS, 2021-05-20)
    To separate causal effects of histone acetylation on chromatin accessibility and transcriptional output, we used integrated epigenomic and transcriptomic analyses following acute inhibition of major cellular lysine acetyltransferases P300 and CBP in hematological malignancies. We found that catalytic P300/CBP inhibition dynamically perturbs steady-state acetylation kinetics and suppresses oncogenic transcriptional networks in the absence of changes to chromatin accessibility. CRISPR-Cas9 screening identified NCOR1 and HDAC3 transcriptional co-repressors as the principal antagonists of P300/CBP by counteracting acetylation turnover kinetics. Finally, deacetylation of H3K27 provides nucleation sites for reciprocal methylation switching, a feature that can be exploited therapeutically by concomitant KDM6A and P300/CBP inhibition. Overall, this study indicates that the steady-state histone acetylation-methylation equilibrium functions as a molecular rheostat governing cellular transcription that is amenable to therapeutic exploitation as an anti-cancer regimen.
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    SFPQ-ABL1 and BCR-ABL1 use different signaling networks to drive B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia
    Brown, LM ; Hediyeh-Zadeh, S ; Sadras, T ; Huckstep, H ; Sandow, JJ ; Bartolo, RC ; Kosasih, HJ ; Davidson, NM ; Schmidt, B ; Bjelosevic, S ; Johnstone, R ; Webb, A ; Khaw, SL ; Oshlack, A ; Davis, MJ ; Ekert, PG (ELSEVIER, 2022-04-07)
    Philadelphia-like (Ph-like) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a high-risk subtype of B-cell ALL characterized by a gene expression profile resembling Philadelphia chromosome-positive ALL (Ph+ ALL) in the absence of BCR-ABL1. Tyrosine kinase-activating fusions, some involving ABL1, are recurrent drivers of Ph-like ALL and are targetable with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). We identified a rare instance of SFPQ-ABL1 in a child with Ph-like ALL. SFPQ-ABL1 expressed in cytokine-dependent cell lines was sufficient to transform cells and these cells were sensitive to ABL1-targeting TKIs. In contrast to BCR-ABL1, SFPQ-ABL1 localized to the nuclear compartment and was a weaker driver of cellular proliferation. Phosphoproteomics analysis showed upregulation of cell cycle, DNA replication, and spliceosome pathways, and downregulation of signal transduction pathways, including ErbB, NF-κB, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and MAPK signaling in SFPQ-ABL1-expressing cells compared with BCR-ABL1-expressing cells. SFPQ-ABL1 expression did not activate phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/AKT) signaling and was associated with phosphorylation of G2/M cell cycle proteins. SFPQ-ABL1 was sensitive to navitoclax and S-63845 and promotes cell survival by maintaining expression of Mcl-1 and Bcl-xL. SFPQ-ABL1 has functionally distinct mechanisms by which it drives ALL, including subcellular localization, proliferative capacity, and activation of cellular pathways. These findings highlight the role that fusion partners have in mediating the function of ABL1 fusions.
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    Epigenetic Activation of Plasmacytoid DCs Drives IFNAR-Dependent Therapeutic Differentiation of AML
    Salmon, JM ; Todorovski, I ; Stanley, KL ; Bruedigam, C ; Kearney, CJ ; Martelotto, LG ; Rossello, F ; Semple, T ; Arnau, GM ; Zethoven, M ; Bots, M ; Bjelosevic, S ; Cluse, LA ; Fraser, PJ ; Litalien, V ; Vidacs, E ; McArthur, K ; Matthews, AY ; Gressier, E ; de Weerd, NA ; Lichte, J ; Kelly, MJ ; Hogg, SJ ; Hertzog, PJ ; Kats, LM ; Vervoort, SJ ; De Carvalho, DD ; Scheu, S ; Bedoui, S ; Kile, BT ; Lane, SW ; Perkins, AC ; Wei, AH ; Dominguez, PM ; Johnstone, RW (AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, 2022-06-01)
    UNLABELLED: Pharmacologic inhibition of epigenetic enzymes can have therapeutic benefit against hematologic malignancies. In addition to affecting tumor cell growth and proliferation, these epigenetic agents may induce antitumor immunity. Here, we discovered a novel immunoregulatory mechanism through inhibition of histone deacetylases (HDAC). In models of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), leukemia cell differentiation and therapeutic benefit mediated by the HDAC inhibitor (HDACi) panobinostat required activation of the type I interferon (IFN) pathway. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) produced type I IFN after panobinostat treatment, through transcriptional activation of IFN genes concomitant with increased H3K27 acetylation at these loci. Depletion of pDCs abrogated panobinostat-mediated induction of type I IFN signaling in leukemia cells and impaired therapeutic efficacy, whereas combined treatment with panobinostat and IFNα improved outcomes in preclinical models. These discoveries offer a new therapeutic approach for AML and demonstrate that epigenetic rewiring of pDCs enhances antitumor immunity, opening the possibility of exploiting this approach for immunotherapies. SIGNIFICANCE: We demonstrate that HDACis induce terminal differentiation of AML through epigenetic remodeling of pDCs, resulting in production of type I IFN that is important for the therapeutic effects of HDACis. The study demonstrates the important functional interplay between the immune system and leukemias in response to HDAC inhibition. This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1397.
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    How do tumor cells respond to HDAC inhibition?
    Newbold, A ; Falkenberg, KJ ; Prince, HM ; Johnstone, RW (WILEY, 2016-11-01)
    It is now well recognized that mutations, deregulated expression, and aberrant recruitment of epigenetic readers, writers, and erasers are fundamentally important processes in the onset and maintenance of many human tumors. The molecular, biological, and biochemical characteristics of a particular class of epigenetic erasers, the histone deacetylases (HDACs), have been extensively studied and small-molecule HDAC inhibitors (HDACis) have now been clinically approved for the treatment of human hemopoietic malignancies. This review explores our current understanding of the biological and molecular effects on tumor cells following HDACi treatment. The predominant responses include induction of tumor cell death and inhibition of proliferation that in experimental models have been linked to therapeutic efficacy. However, tumor cell-intrinsic responses to HDACi, including modulating tumor immunogenicity have also been described and may have substantial roles in mediating the antitumor effects of HDACi. We posit that the field has failed to fully reconcile the biological consequences of exposure to HDACis with the molecular events that underpin these responses, however progress is being made. Understanding the pleiotrophic activities of HDACis on tumor cells will hopefully fast track the development of more potent and selective HDACi that may be used alone or in combination to improve patient outcomes.