Publications by authors named "Luca Novara"

9 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Adaptive mutability of colorectal cancers in response to targeted therapies.

Science 2019 12 7;366(6472):1473-1480. Epub 2019 Nov 7.

Candiolo Cancer Institute, FPO-IRCCS, Candiolo (TO) 10060, Italy.

The emergence of drug resistance limits the efficacy of targeted therapies in human tumors. The prevalent view is that resistance is a fait accompli: when treatment is initiated, cancers already contain drug-resistant mutant cells. Bacteria exposed to antibiotics transiently increase their mutation rates (adaptive mutability), thus improving the likelihood of survival. We investigated whether human colorectal cancer (CRC) cells likewise exploit adaptive mutability to evade therapeutic pressure. We found that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)/BRAF inhibition down-regulates mismatch repair (MMR) and homologous recombination DNA-repair genes and concomitantly up-regulates error-prone polymerases in drug-tolerant (persister) cells. MMR proteins were also down-regulated in patient-derived xenografts and tumor specimens during therapy. EGFR/BRAF inhibition induced DNA damage, increased mutability, and triggered microsatellite instability. Thus, like unicellular organisms, tumor cells evade therapeutic pressures by enhancing mutability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aav4474DOI Listing
December 2019

Patient-Derived Xenografts and Matched Cell Lines Identify Pharmacogenomic Vulnerabilities in Colorectal Cancer.

Clin Cancer Res 2019 10 2;25(20):6243-6259. Epub 2019 Aug 2.

Department of Oncology, University of Torino, Candiolo, Torino, Italy.

Purpose: Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models accurately recapitulate the tumor of origin in terms of histopathology, genomic landscape, and therapeutic response, but some limitations due to costs associated with their maintenance and restricted amenability for large-scale screenings still exist. To overcome these issues, we established a platform of 2D cell lines (xeno-cell lines, XL), derived from PDXs of colorectal cancer with matched patient germline gDNA available.

Experimental Design: Whole-exome and transcriptome sequencing analyses were performed. Biomarkers of response and resistance to anti-HER therapy were annotated. Dependency on the helicase gene was assessed in MSS, MSI-H, and MSI-like XLs using a reverse genetics functional approach.

Results: XLs recapitulated the entire spectrum of colorectal cancer transcriptional subtypes. Exome and RNA-seq analyses delineated several molecular biomarkers of response and resistance to EGFR and HER2 blockade. Genotype-driven responses observed in XLs were confirmed in the matched PDXs. MSI-H models were dependent upon gene expression, while loss of did not affect MSS XLs growth. Interestingly, one MSS XL with transcriptional MSI-like traits was sensitive to depletion.

Conclusions: The XL platform represents a preclinical tool for functional gene validation and proof-of-concept studies to identify novel druggable vulnerabilities in colorectal cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-18-3440DOI Listing
October 2019

Evolving neoantigen profiles in colorectal cancers with DNA repair defects.

Genome Med 2019 06 28;11(1):42. Epub 2019 Jun 28.

Candiolo Cancer Institute, FPO-IRCCS, 10060, Candiolo (TO), Italy.

Background: Neoantigens that arise as a consequence of tumor-specific mutations can be recognized by T lymphocytes leading to effective immune surveillance. In colorectal cancer (CRC) and other tumor types, a high number of neoantigens is associated with patient response to immune therapies. The molecular processes governing the generation of neoantigens and their turnover in cancer cells are poorly understood. We exploited CRC as a model system to understand how alterations in DNA repair pathways modulate neoantigen profiles over time.

Methods: We performed whole exome sequencing (WES) and RNA sequencing (RNAseq) in CRC cell lines, in vitro and in vivo, and in CRC patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) to track longitudinally genomic profiles, clonal evolution, mutational signatures, and predicted neoantigens.

Results: The majority of CRC models showed remarkably stable mutational and neoantigen profiles; however, those carrying defects in DNA repair genes continuously diversified. Rapidly evolving and evolutionary stable CRCs displayed characteristic genomic signatures and transcriptional profiles. Downregulation of molecules implicated in antigen presentation occurred selectively in highly mutated and rapidly evolving CRC.

Conclusions: These results indicate that CRCs carrying alterations in DNA repair pathways display dynamic neoantigen patterns that fluctuate over time. We define CRC subsets characterized by slow and fast evolvability and link this phenotype to downregulation of antigen-presenting cellular mechanisms. Longitudinal monitoring of the neoantigen landscape could be relevant in the context of precision medicine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13073-019-0654-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6599263PMC
June 2019

A Genomic Analysis Workflow for Colorectal Cancer Precision Oncology.

Clin Colorectal Cancer 2019 06 7;18(2):91-101.e3. Epub 2019 Mar 7.

Candiolo Cancer Institute, FPO-IRCCS, Candiolo (TO), Italy; University of Turin, Department of Oncology, Candiolo (TO), Italy. Electronic address:

Background: The diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC) is routinely accomplished through histopathologic examination. Prognostic information and treatment decisions are mainly determined by TNM classification, first defined in 1968. In the last decade, patient-specific CRC genomic landscapes were shown to provide important prognostic and predictive information. Therefore, there is a need for developing next generation sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatic workflows that can be routinely used for the assessment of prognostic and predictive biomarkers.

Materials And Methods: To foster the application of genomics in the clinical management of CRCs, the IDEA workflow has been built to easily adapt to the availability of patient specimens and the clinical question that is being asked. Initially, IDEA deploys ad-hoc NGS assays to interrogate predefined genomic target sequences (from 600 kb to 30 Mb) with optimal detection sensitivity. Next, sequencing data are processed through an integrated bioinformatic pipeline to assess single nucleotide variants, insertions and deletions, gene copy-number alterations, and chromosomal rearrangements. The overall results are gathered into a user-friendly report.

Results: We provide evidence that IDEA is capable of identifying clinically relevant molecular alterations. When optimized to analyze circulating tumor DNA, IDEA can be used to monitor response and relapse in the blood of patients with metastatic CRC receiving targeted agents. IDEA detected primary and secondary resistance mechanisms to ERBB2 blockade including sub-clonal RAS and BRAF mutations.

Conclusions: The IDEA workflow provides a flexible platform to integrate NGS and bioinformatic tools for refined diagnosis and management of patients with advanced CRC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clcc.2019.02.008DOI Listing
June 2019

Exploiting DNA repair defects in colorectal cancer.

Mol Oncol 2019 04 2;13(4):681-700. Epub 2019 Mar 2.

Candiolo Cancer Institute, FPO-IRCCS, Candiolo, Italy.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Therapies that take advantage of defects in DNA repair pathways have been explored in the context of breast, ovarian, and other tumor types, but not yet systematically in CRC. At present, only immune checkpoint blockade therapies have been FDA approved for use in mismatch repair-deficient colorectal tumors. Here, we discuss how systematic identification of alterations in DNA repair genes could provide new therapeutic opportunities for CRCs. Analysis of The Cancer Genome Atlas Colon Adenocarcinoma (TCGA-COAD) and Rectal Adenocarcinoma (TCGA-READ) PanCancer Atlas datasets identified 141 (out of 528) cases with putative driver mutations in 29 genes associated with DNA damage response and repair, including the mismatch repair and homologous recombination pathways. Genetic defects in these pathways might confer repair-deficient characteristics, such as genomic instability in the absence of homologous recombination, which can be exploited. For example, inhibitors of poly(ADP)-ribose polymerase are effectively used to treat cancers that carry mutations in BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 and have shown promising results in CRC preclinical studies. HR deficiency can also occur in cells with no detectable BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations but exhibiting BRCA-like phenotypes. DNA repair-targeting therapies, such as ATR and CHK1 inhibitors (which are most effective against cancers carrying ATM mutations), can be used in combination with current genotoxic chemotherapies in CRCs to further improve therapy response. Finally, therapies that target alternative DNA repair mechanisms, such as thiopurines, also have the potential to confer increased sensitivity to current chemotherapy regimens, thus expanding the spectrum of therapy options and potentially improving clinical outcomes for CRC patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1878-0261.12467DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6441925PMC
April 2019

Trabectedin and olaparib in patients with advanced and non-resectable bone and soft-tissue sarcomas (TOMAS): an open-label, phase 1b study from the Italian Sarcoma Group.

Lancet Oncol 2018 10 11;19(10):1360-1371. Epub 2018 Sep 11.

Medical Oncology-Sarcoma Unit, Istituto di Candiolo-Fondazione del Piemonte per l'Oncologia, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), Candiolo, Italy; Department of Oncology, University of Torino, Regione Gonzole, Orbassano, Italy.

Background: Trabectedin is an alkylating drug with a unique mechanism of action causing single-strand and double-strand DNA breaks that activate DNA damage-response pathways. Based on our preclinical data, we hypothesised that poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) inhibitors might be an ideal partner of trabectedin and aimed to assess the safety, identify the recommended phase 2 dose, and explore preliminary signs of activity of trabectedin and olaparib combination treatment in patients with bone and soft-tissue sarcoma.

Methods: We did an open-label, multicentre, phase 1b study, recruiting patients from the national Italian sarcoma network aged 18 years and older with histologically confirmed bone and soft-tissue sarcoma progressing after standard treatments with Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 1 or less. In a classic 3 + 3 design, patients received a 24 h infusion of trabectedin on day 1 and olaparib orally twice a day in 21-day cycles across six dose levels (trabectedin 0·675-1·3 mg/m every 3 weeks; olaparib 100-300 mg twice a day from day 1 to 21). Intermediate dose levels were permitted to improve safety and tolerability. The primary endpoint was determination of the recommended phase 2 dose (the maximum tolerated dose). Safety and antitumour activity were assessed in all patients who received at least one dose of the study drugs. We report the results of the dose-escalation and dose-expansion cohorts. The trial is still active but closed to enrolment, and follow-up for patients who completed treatment is ongoing. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02398058.

Findings: Between Nov 17, 2014, and Jan 30, 2017, of 54 patients assessed for eligibility, we enrolled 50 patients: 28 patients in the dose-escalation cohort and 22 patients in the dose-expansion cohort. Patients received a median of four cycles of treatment (IQR 2-6; range 1-17 [the patients who received the highest number of cycles are still on treatment]) with a median follow-up of 10 months (IQR 5-23). Considering all dose levels, the most common grade 3-4 adverse events were lymphopenia (32 [64%] of 50 patients), neutropenia (31 [62%]), thrombocytopenia (14 [28%]), anaemia (13 [26%]), hypophosphataemia (20 [40%]), and alanine aminotransferase concentration increase (9 [18%]). No treatment-related life-threatening adverse events or deaths occurred. One (2%) patient interrupted treatment without progression without reporting any specific toxicity. Observed dose-limiting toxicities were thrombocytopenia, neutropenia for more than 7 days, and febrile neutropenia. We selected intermediate dose level 4b (trabectedin 1·1 mg/m every 3 weeks plus olaparib 150 mg twice a day) as the recommended phase 2 dose. Seven (14%; 95% CI 6-27) of 50 patients achieved a partial response according to Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors 1.1.

Interpretation: Trabectedin and olaparib in combination showed manageable toxicities at active dose levels for both drugs. Preliminary data on antitumour activity are encouraging. Two dedicated phase 2 studies are planned to assess activity of this combination in both ovarian cancer (EudraCT2018-000230-35) and soft-tissue sarcomas.

Funding: Italian Association for Cancer Research, Italian Sarcoma Group, Foundation for Research on Musculoskeletal and Rare Tumors, and Italian Ministry of Health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30438-8DOI Listing
October 2018

ALK, ROS1, and NTRK Rearrangements in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer.

J Natl Cancer Inst 2017 12;109(12)

Medical Oncology Department, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy.

Background: ALK, ROS1, and NTRK fusions occur in 0.2% to 2.4% of colorectal cancers. Pioneer cases of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients bearing rearrangements who benefited from anti-ALK, ROS, and TrkA-B-C therapies have been reported previously. Here we aimed at characterizing the clinical and molecular landscape of ALK, ROS1, and NTRK rearranged mCRC.

Methods: Clinical features and molecular characteristics of 27 mCRC patients bearing ALK, ROS1, and NTRK rearranged tumors were compared with those of a cohort of 319 patients not bearing rearrangements by means of Fisher's exact, χ2 test, or Mann-Whitney test as appropriate. Overall survival curves were estimated with the Kaplan-Meier method and compared using the log-rank test. A Cox proportional hazard model was adopted in the multivariable analysis. Deep molecular and immunophenotypic characterizations of rearranged cases, including those described in The Cancer Genome Atlas database, were performed. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: Closely recalling the "BRAF history," ALK, ROS1, and NTRK rearrangements more frequently occurred in elderly patients (P = .02) with right-sided tumors (P < .001) and node-spreading (P = .03), RAS wild-type (P < .001), and MSI-high (P < .001) cancers. All patients bearing ALK, ROS1, and NTRK fusions had shorter overall survival (15.6 months, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.0 to 20.4 months) than negative patients (33.7 months, 95% CI = 28.3 to 42.1 months), both in the univariate (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.17, 95% CI = 1.03 to 4.57, P < .001) and multivariable models (HR = 2.33, 95% CI = 1.10 to 4.95, P = .02). All four evaluable patients with rearrangements showed primary resistance to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor agents. Frequent association with potentially targetable RNF43 mutations was observed in MSI-high rearranged tumors.

Conclusions: ALK, ROS1, and NTRK rearrangements define a new rare subtype of mCRC with extremely poor prognosis. Primary tumor site, MSI-high, and RAS and BRAF wild-type status may help to identify patients bearing these alterations. While sensitivity to available treatments is limited, targeted strategies inhibiting ALK, ROS, and TrkA-B-C provided encouraging results.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djx089DOI Listing
December 2017

Loss of AXIN1 drives acquired resistance to WNT pathway blockade in colorectal cancer cells carrying RSPO3 fusions.

EMBO Mol Med 2017 03;9(3):293-303

Candiolo Cancer Institute - FPO IRCCS, Candiolo, Torino, Italy

In colorectal cancer (CRC), WNT pathway activation by genetic rearrangements of RSPO3 is emerging as a promising target. However, its low prevalence severely limits availability of preclinical models for in-depth characterization. Using a pipeline designed to suppress stroma-derived signal, we find that RSPO3 "outlier" expression in CRC samples highlights translocation and fusion transcript expression. Outlier search in 151 CRC cell lines identified VACO6 and SNU1411 cells as carriers of, respectively, a canonical PTPRK(e1)-RSPO3(e2) fusion and a novel PTPRK(e13)-RSPO3(e2) fusion. Both lines displayed marked and sensitivity to WNT blockade by the porcupine inhibitor LGK974, associated with transcriptional and morphological evidence of WNT pathway suppression. Long-term treatment of VACO6 cells with LGK974 led to the emergence of a resistant population carrying two frameshift deletions of the WNT pathway inhibitor AXIN1, with consequent protein loss. Suppression of AXIN1 in parental VACO6 cells by RNA interference conferred marked resistance to LGK974. These results provide the first mechanism of secondary resistance to WNT pathway inhibition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.15252/emmm.201606773DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331210PMC
March 2017

Acquired Resistance to the TRK Inhibitor Entrectinib in Colorectal Cancer.

Cancer Discov 2016 Jan 6;6(1):36-44. Epub 2015 Nov 6.

Department of Oncology, University of Torino, Torino, Italy. Candiolo Cancer Institute, FPO, IRCCS, Torino, Italy.

Unlabelled: Entrectinib is a first-in-class pan-TRK kinase inhibitor currently undergoing clinical testing in colorectal cancer and other tumor types. A patient with metastatic colorectal cancer harboring an LMNA-NTRK1 rearrangement displayed a remarkable response to treatment with entrectinib, which was followed by the emergence of resistance. To characterize the molecular bases of the patient's relapse, circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) was collected longitudinally during treatment, and a tissue biopsy, obtained before entrectinib treatment, was transplanted in mice (xenopatient), which then received the same entrectinib regimen until resistance developed. Genetic profiling of ctDNA and xenopatient samples showed acquisition of two point mutations in the catalytic domain of NTRK1, p.G595R and p.G667C. Biochemical and pharmacologic analysis in multiple preclinical models confirmed that either mutation renders the TRKA kinase insensitive to entrectinib. These findings can be immediately exploited to design next-generation TRKA inhibitors.

Significance: We provide proof of principle that analyses of xenopatients (avatar) and liquid biopsies allow the identification of drug resistance mechanisms in parallel with clinical treatment of an individual patient. We describe for the first time that p.G595R and p.G667C TRKA mutations drive acquired resistance to entrectinib in colorectal cancers carrying NTRK1 rearrangements.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2159-8290.CD-15-0940DOI Listing
January 2016