Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology - Research Publications

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    TERT structural rearrangements in metastatic pheochromocytomas
    Dwight, T ; Flynn, A ; Amarasinghe, K ; Benn, DE ; Lupat, R ; Li, J ; Cameron, DL ; Hogg, A ; Balachander, S ; Candiloro, ILM ; Wong, SQ ; Robinson, BG ; Papenfuss, AT ; Gill, AJ ; Dobrovic, A ; Hicks, RJ ; Clifton-Bligh, RJ ; Tothill, RW (BIOSCIENTIFICA LTD, 2018-01)
    Pheochromocytomas (PC) and paragangliomas (PGL) are endocrine tumors for which the genetic and clinicopathological features of metastatic progression remain incompletely understood. As a result, the risk of metastasis from a primary tumor cannot be predicted. Early diagnosis of individuals at high risk of developing metastases is clinically important and the identification of new biomarkers that are predictive of metastatic potential is of high value. Activation of TERT has been associated with a number of malignant tumors, including PC/PGL. However, the mechanism of TERT activation in the majority of PC/PGL remains unclear. As TERT promoter mutations occur rarely in PC/PGL, we hypothesized that other mechanisms - such as structural variations - may underlie TERT activation in these tumors. From 35 PC and four PGL, we identified three primary PCs that developed metastases with elevated TERT expression, each of which lacked TERT promoter mutations and promoter DNA methylation. Using whole genome sequencing, we identified somatic structural alterations proximal to the TERT locus in two of these tumors. In both tumors, the genomic rearrangements led to the positioning of super-enhancers proximal to the TERT promoter, that are likely responsible for the activation of the normally tightly repressed TERT expression in chromaffin cells.
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    Clinical, FDG-PET and molecular markers of immune checkpoint inhibitor response in patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma
    Weppler, AM ; Pattison, A ; Bhave, P ; De Ieso, P ; Raleigh, J ; Hatzimihalis, A ; Gill, AJ ; Balachander, S ; Callahan, J ; Chua, M ; Au-Yeung, G ; McArthur, GA ; Hicks, RJ ; Tothill, RW ; Sandhu, S (BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2020-01-01)
    BACKGROUND: Metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine malignancy of the skin with a poor prognosis. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have shown substantial efficacy and favorable safety in clinical trials. METHODS: Medical records of patients (pts) with mMCC treated with ICIs from August 2015 to December 2018 at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Australia were analyzed. Response was assessed with serial imaging, the majority with FDG-PET/CT scans. RNA sequencing and immunohistochemistry for PD-L1, CD3 and Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) on tumor samples was performed. RESULTS: 23 pts with mMCC were treated with ICIs. A median of 8 cycles (range 1 to 47) were administered, with treatment ongoing in 6 pts. Objective responses (OR) were observed in 14 pts (61%): 10 (44%) complete responses (CR) and 4 (17%) partial responses (PR). Median time to response was 8 weeks (range 6 to 12) and 12-month progression-free survival rate was 39%. Increased OR were seen in pts aged less than 75 (OR 80% vs 46%), no prior history of chemotherapy (OR 64% vs 50%), patients with an immune-related adverse event (OR 100% vs 43%) and in MCPyV-negative tumors (OR 69% vs 43%). Pts with a CR had lower mean metabolic tumor volume on baseline FDG-PET/CT scan (CR: 35.7 mL, no CR: 187.8 mL, p=0.05). There was no correlation between PD-L1 positivity and MCPyV status (p=0.764) or OR (p=0.245). 10 pts received radiation therapy (RT) during ICI: 4 pts started RT concurrently (OR 75%, CR 50%), 3 pts had isolated ICI-resistant lesions successfully treated with RT and 3 pts with multisite progression continued to progress despite RT. Overall, 6 pts (26%) had grade 1-2 immune-related adverse events. CONCLUSION: ICIs showed efficacy and safety in mMCC consistent with trial data. Clinical and imaging predictors of response were identified.