Publications by authors named "Sufeng Mao"

10 Publications

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Evaluation of the Predictive Role of Tumor Immune Infiltrate in Patients with HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Treated with Neoadjuvant Anti-HER2 Therapy without Chemotherapy.

Clin Cancer Res 2020 02 25;26(3):738-745. Epub 2019 Oct 25.

Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center and Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

Purpose: Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) are associated with benefit to trastuzumab and chemotherapy in patients with early-stage HER2 breast cancer. The predictive value of TILs, TIL subsets, and other immune cells in patients receiving chemotherapy-sparing lapatinib plus trastuzumab treatment is unclear. Hematoxylin and eosin-stained slides ( = 59) were used to score stromal (s-)TILs from pretreatment biopsies of patients enrolled in the neoadjuvant TBCRC006 trial of 12-week lapatinib plus trastuzumab therapy (plus endocrine therapy for ER tumors). A 60% threshold was used to define lymphocyte-predominant breast cancer (LPBC). Multiplexed immunofluorescence (m-IF) staining (CD4, CD8, CD20, CD68, and FoxP3) and multispectral imaging were performed to characterize immune infiltrates in single formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded slides ( = 33).

Results: The pathologic complete response (pCR) rate was numerically higher in patients with LPBC compared with patients with non-LPBC (50% vs. 19%, = 0.057). Unsupervised hierarchical clustering of the five immune markers identified two patient clusters with different responses to lapatinib plus trastuzumab treatment (pCR = 7% vs. 50%, for cluster 1 vs. 2 respectively; = 0.01). In multivariable analysis, cluster 2, characterized by high CD4, CD8, CD20 s-TILs, and high CD20 intratumoral TILs, was independently associated with a higher pCR rate ( = 0.03). Analysis of single immune subpopulations revealed a significant association of pCR with higher baseline infiltration by s-CD4, intratumoral (i-) CD4, and i-CD20 TILs.

Conclusions: LPBC was marginally associated with higher pCR rate than non-LPBC in patients with lapatinib plus trastuzumab treated HER2 breast cancer. Quantitative assessment of the immune infiltrate by m-IF is feasible and may help correlate individual immune cell subpopulations and immune cell profiles with treatment response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-1402DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7002194PMC
February 2020

A CTC-Cluster-Specific Signature Derived from OMICS Analysis of Patient-Derived Xenograft Tumors Predicts Outcomes in Basal-Like Breast Cancer.

J Clin Med 2019 10 24;8(11). Epub 2019 Oct 24.

Department of Pharmacy Practice and Translational Research, University of Houston College of Pharmacy, Houston, TX 77204, USA.

Circulating tumor cell clusters (CTCcl) have a higher metastatic potential compared to single CTCs and predict long-term outcomes in breast cancer (BC) patients. Because of the rarity of CTCcls, molecular characterization of primary tumors that give rise to CTCcl hold significant promise for better diagnosis and target discovery to combat metastatic BC. In our study, we utilized the reverse-phase protein array (RPPA) and transcriptomic (RNA-Seq) data of 10 triple-negative BC patient-derived xenograft (TNBC PDX) transplantable models with CTCs and evaluated expression of upregulated candidate protein Bcl2 (B-cell lymphoma 2) by immunohistochemistry (IHC). The sample-set consisted of six CTCcl-negative (CTCcl-) and four CTCcl-positive (CTCcl+) models. We analyzed the RPPA and transcriptomic profiles of CTCcl- and CTCcl+ TNBC PDX models. In addition, we derived a CTCcl-specific gene signature for testing if it predicted outcomes using a publicly available dataset from 360 patients with basal-like BC. The RPPA analysis of CTCcl+ vs. CTCcl- TNBC PDX tumors revealed elevated expression of Bcl2 (false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.0001, fold change (FC) = 3.5) and reduced acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase-1 (ACC1) (FDR = 0.0005, FC = 0.3) in CTCcl+ compared to CTCcl- tumors. Genome-wide transcriptomic analysis of CTCcl+ vs. CTCcl- tumors revealed 549 differentially expressed genes associated with the presence of CTCcls. Apoptosis was one of the significantly downregulated pathways (normalized enrichment score (NES) = -1.69; FDR < 0.05) in TNBC PDX tumors associated with CTCcl positivity. Two out of four CTCcl+ TNBC PDX primary tumors had high Bcl2 expression by IHC (H-score > 34); whereas, only one of six CTCcl- TNBC PDX primary tumors met this criterion. Evaluation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-specific signature did not show significant differences between CTCcl+ and CTCcl- tumors. However, a gene signature associated with the presence of CTCcls in TNBC PDX models was associated with worse relapse-free survival in the publicly available dataset from 360 patients with basal-like BC. In summary, we identified the multigene signature of primary PDX tumors associated with the presence of CTCcls. Evaluation of additional TNBC PDX models and patients can further illuminate cellular and molecular pathways facilitating CTCcl formation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm8111772DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6912280PMC
October 2019

Combinatorial inhibition of PTPN12-regulated receptors leads to a broadly effective therapeutic strategy in triple-negative breast cancer.

Nat Med 2018 05 26;24(4):505-511. Epub 2018 Mar 26.

Department of Molecular & Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, Texas, USA.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype of breast cancer diagnosed in more than 200,000 women each year and is recalcitrant to targeted therapies. Although TNBCs harbor multiple hyperactive receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), RTK inhibitors have been largely ineffective in TNBC patients thus far. We developed a broadly effective therapeutic strategy for TNBC that is based on combined inhibition of receptors that share the negative regulator PTPN12. Previously, we and others identified the tyrosine phosphatase PTPN12 as a tumor suppressor that is frequently inactivated in TNBC. PTPN12 restrains several RTKs, suggesting that PTPN12 deficiency leads to aberrant activation of multiple RTKs and a co-dependency on these receptors. This in turn leads to the therapeutic hypothesis that PTPN12-deficient TNBCs may be responsive to combined RTK inhibition. However, the repertoire of RTKs that are restrained by PTPN12 in human cells has not been systematically explored. By methodically identifying the suite of RTK substrates (MET, PDGFRβ, EGFR, and others) inhibited by PTPN12, we rationalized a combination RTK-inhibitor therapy that induced potent tumor regression across heterogeneous models of TNBC. Orthogonal approaches revealed that PTPN12 was recruited to and inhibited these receptors after ligand stimulation, thereby serving as a feedback mechanism to limit receptor signaling. Cancer-associated mutation of PTPN12 or reduced PTPN12 protein levels diminished this feedback mechanism, leading to aberrant activity of these receptors. Restoring PTPN12 protein levels restrained signaling from RTKs, including PDGFRβ and MET, and impaired TNBC survival. In contrast with single agents, combined inhibitors targeting the PDGFRβ and MET receptors induced the apoptosis in TNBC cells in vitro and in vivo. This therapeutic strategy resulted in tumor regressions in chemo-refractory patient-derived TNBC models. Notably, response correlated with PTPN12 deficiency, suggesting that impaired receptor feedback may establish a combined addiction to these proto-oncogenic receptors. Taken together, our data provide a rationale for combining RTK inhibitors in TNBC and other malignancies that lack receptor-activating mutations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.4507DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6675908PMC
May 2018

CELF1 is a central node in post-transcriptional regulatory programmes underlying EMT.

Nat Commun 2016 11 21;7:13362. Epub 2016 Nov 21.

Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.

The importance of translational regulation in tumour biology is increasingly appreciated. Here, we leverage polyribosomal profiling to prospectively define translational regulatory programs underlying epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in breast epithelial cells. We identify a group of ten translationally regulated drivers of EMT sharing a common GU-rich cis-element within the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) of their mRNA. These cis-elements, necessary for the regulatory activity imparted by these 3'-UTRs, are directly bound by the CELF1 protein, which itself is regulated post-translationally during the EMT program. CELF1 is necessary and sufficient for both mesenchymal transition and metastatic colonization, and CELF1 protein, but not mRNA, is significantly overexpressed in human breast cancer tissues. Our data present an 11-component genetic pathway, invisible to transcriptional profiling approaches, in which the CELF1 protein functions as a central node controlling translational activation of genes driving EMT and ultimately tumour progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms13362DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5121338PMC
November 2016

Upregulation of ER Signaling as an Adaptive Mechanism of Cell Survival in HER2-Positive Breast Tumors Treated with Anti-HER2 Therapy.

Clin Cancer Res 2015 Sep 26;21(17):3995-4003. Epub 2015 May 26.

Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

Purpose: To investigate the direct effect and therapeutic consequences of epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeting therapy on expression of estrogen receptor (ER) and Bcl2 in preclinical models and clinical tumor samples.

Experimental Design: Archived xenograft tumors from two preclinical models (UACC812 and MCF7/HER2-18) treated with ER and HER2-targeting therapies and also HER2+ clinical breast cancer specimens collected in a lapatinib neoadjuvant trial (baseline and week 2 posttreatment) were used. Expression levels of ER and Bcl2 were evaluated by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. The effects of Bcl2 and ER inhibition, by ABT-737 and fulvestrant, respectively, were tested in parental versus lapatinib-resistant UACC812 cells in vitro.

Results: Expression of ER and Bcl2 was significantly increased in xenograft tumors with acquired resistance to anti-HER2 therapy compared with untreated tumors in both preclinical models (UACC812: ER P = 0.0014; Bcl2 P < 0.001 and MCF7/HER2-18: ER P = 0.0007; Bcl2 P = 0.0306). In the neoadjuvant clinical study, lapatinib treatment for 2 weeks was associated with parallel upregulation of ER and Bcl2 (Spearman coefficient: 0.70; P = 0.0002). Importantly, 18% of tumors originally ER-negative (ER(-)) converted to ER(+) upon anti-HER2 therapy. In ER(-)/HER2(+) MCF7/HER2-18 xenografts, ER reexpression was primarily observed in tumors responding to potent combination of anti-HER2 drugs. Estrogen deprivation added to this anti-HER2 regimen significantly delayed tumor progression (P = 0.018). In the UACC812 cells, fulvestrant, but not ABT-737, was able to completely inhibit anti-HER2-resistant growth (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: HER2 inhibition can enhance or restore ER expression with parallel Bcl2 upregulation, representing an ER-dependent survival mechanism potentially leading to anti-HER2 resistance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-2728DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4558260PMC
September 2015

Circulating and disseminated tumor cells from breast cancer patient-derived xenograft-bearing mice as a novel model to study metastasis.

Breast Cancer Res 2015 Jan 9;17. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.

Introduction: Real-time monitoring of biologic changes in tumors may be possible by investigating the transitional cells such as circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow (BM-DTCs). However, the small numbers of CTCs and the limited access to bone marrow aspirates in cancer patients pose major hurdles. The goal of this study was to determine whether breast cancer (BC) patient-derived xenograft (PDX) mice could provide a constant and renewable source of CTCs and BM-DTCs, thereby representing a unique system for the study of metastatic processes.

Methods: CTCs and BM-DTCs, isolated from BC PDX-bearing mice, were identified by immunostaining for human pan-cytokeratin and nuclear counterstaining of red blood cell-lysed blood and bone marrow fractions, respectively. The rate of lung metastases (LM) was previously reported in these lines. Associations between the presence of CTCs, BM-DTCs, and LM were assessed by the Fisher's Exact and Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel tests. Two separate genetic signatures associated with the presence of CTC clusters and with lung metastatic potential were computed by using the expression arrays of primary tumors from different PDX lines and subsequently overlapped to identify common genes.

Results: In total, 18 BC PDX lines were evaluated. CTCs and BM-DTCs, present as either single cells or clusters, were detected in 83% (15 of 18) and 62.5% (10 to16) of the lines, respectively. A positive association was noted between the presence of CTCs and BM-DTCs within the same mice. LM was previously found in 9 of 18 (50%) lines, of which all nine had detectable CTCs. The presence of LM was strongly associated with the detection of CTC clusters but not with individual cells or detection of BM-DTCs. Overlapping of the two genetic signatures of the primary PDX tumors associated with the presence of CTC clusters and with lung metastatic potential identified four genes (HLA-DP1A, GJA1, PEG3, and XIST). This four-gene profile predicted distant metastases-free survival in publicly available datasets of early BC patients.

Conclusion: This study suggests that CTCs and BM-DTCs detected in BC PDX-bearing mice may represent a valuable and unique preclinical model for investigating the role of these rare cells in tumor metastases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13058-014-0508-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318479PMC
January 2015

A renewable tissue resource of phenotypically stable, biologically and ethnically diverse, patient-derived human breast cancer xenograft models.

Cancer Res 2013 Aug 4;73(15):4885-97. Epub 2013 Jun 4.

Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, Departments of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Pathology, and Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.

Breast cancer research is hampered by difficulties in obtaining and studying primary human breast tissue, and by the lack of in vivo preclinical models that reflect patient tumor biology accurately. To overcome these limitations, we propagated a cohort of human breast tumors grown in the epithelium-free mammary fat pad of severe combined immunodeficient (SCID)/Beige and nonobese diabetic (NOD)/SCID/IL-2γ-receptor null (NSG) mice under a series of transplant conditions. Both models yielded stably transplantable xenografts at comparably high rates (∼21% and ∼19%, respectively). Of the conditions tested, xenograft take rate was highest in the presence of a low-dose estradiol pellet. Overall, 32 stably transplantable xenograft lines were established, representing 25 unique patients. Most tumors yielding xenografts were "triple-negative" [estrogen receptor (ER)-progesterone receptor (PR)-HER2+; n = 19]. However, we established lines from 3 ER-PR-HER2+ tumors, one ER+PR-HER2-, one ER+PR+HER2-, and one "triple-positive" (ER+PR+HER2+) tumor. Serially passaged xenografts show biologic consistency with the tumor of origin, are phenotypically stable across multiple transplant generations at the histologic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and genomic levels, and show comparable treatment responses as those observed clinically. Xenografts representing 12 patients, including 2 ER+ lines, showed metastasis to the mouse lung. These models thus serve as a renewable, quality-controlled tissue resource for preclinical studies investigating treatment response and metastasis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-4081DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3732575PMC
August 2013

Ductal carcinoma in situ and the emergence of diversity during breast cancer evolution.

Clin Cancer Res 2008 Jan;14(2):370-8

Department of Pathology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.

Purpose: Human invasive breast cancers (IBC) show enormous histologic and biological diversity. This study comprehensively evaluated diversity in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the immediate precursors of IBCs.

Experimental Design: The extent of diversity for conventional histologic grade and standard prognostic biomarkers assessed by immunohistochemistry was evaluated in a series of pure DCIS (n = 200) compared with a contemporaneous series of IBCs (n = 200). A subset of the DCIS (n = 25) was evaluated by DNA microarrays for the presence of luminal, basal, and erbB2 intrinsic subtypes. The extent of diversity within individual cases of DCIS (n = 120) was determined by assessing multiple regions independently for histologic (nuclear) grade and several biomarkers by immunohistochemistry, which approximate microarrays in determining intrinsic subtypes.

Results: DCIS showed a broad distribution of conventional histologic grades and standard biomarkers ranging from well to poorly differentiated, nearly identical to IBCs. Microarrays showed the same intrinsic subtypes in DCIS as in IBCs. However, higher resolution analysis showed that multiple histologic grades, biomarker phenotypes, and intrinsic subtypes often coexist within the same DCIS, and these diverse regions probably compete for dominance. Diversity within cases of DCIS was highly correlated with mutated p53 (P = 0.0007).

Conclusions: These results support the hypothesis that poorly differentiated DCIS gradually evolve from well-differentiated DCIS by randomly acquiring genetic defects resulting in increasingly abnormal cellular features. This diversity is amplified by defects resulting in genetic instability (e.g., p53 mutation), and the alterations are propagated to IBC in a manner independent of progression to invasion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-07-1127DOI Listing
January 2008

Alterations of gene expression in the development of early hyperplastic precursors of breast cancer.

Am J Pathol 2007 Jul;171(1):252-62

Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.

Enlargement of normal terminal duct lobular units (TDLUs) by hyperplastic columnar epithelial cells is one of the most common abnormalities of growth in the adult female human breast. These hyperplastic enlarged lobular units (HELUs) are important clinically as the earliest histologically identifiable potential precursor of breast cancer. The causes of the hyperplasia are unknown but may include estrogen-simulated growth mediated by estrogen receptor-alpha, which is highly elevated in HELUs and may be fundamental to their development. The present study used DNA microarray technology and RNA from microdissected pure epithelial cells to examine changes in gene expression and molecular pathways associated with the development of HELUs from TDLUs. The results suggest that HELUs evolve from TDLUs primarily by reactivation of pathways involved in embryonic development and suppression of terminal differentiation. Changes in ERBB genes were particularly prominent, including a uniform switch in ligands for the ERBB1 receptor (14-fold decrease in epidermal growth factor and 10-fold increase in amphiregulin, respectively) in HELUs compared with TDLUs. Epidermal growth factor regulates terminal differentiation in adult breast and amphiregulin is critical to normal embryonic breast development. Because HELUs are such early potential precursors of breast cancer, targeting some of these alterations may be especially promising strategies for breast cancer prevention.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1941596PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.2353/ajpath.2007.061010DOI Listing
July 2007

Hormones, receptors, and growth in hyperplastic enlarged lobular units: early potential precursors of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Res 2006 16;8(1):R6. Epub 2005 Dec 16.

Breast Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.

Introduction: The hyperplastic enlarged lobular unit (HELU) is a common alteration in adult female human breast and is the earliest histologically identifiable lesion with premalignant potential. Growth and differentiation in normal epithelium are regulated by estrogen and progesterone, whose effects are mediated through estrogen receptor (ER)-alpha and progesterone receptor (PR). We assessed correlations between growth (proliferation and apoptosis), endogenous hormone levels (using age as a surrogate for menopausal/estrogen status), and ER-alpha/PR expression in HELUs versus adjacent normal terminal duct lobular units (TDLUs) to gain insight into potentially premalignant hyperplasia.

Methods: Proliferation (Ki67 antigen), ER-alpha, and PR were assessed by immunohistochemistry, apoptosis using the TUNEL (terminal transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling) assay, and nuclear colocalization of ER-alpha and Ki67 by dual-labeled immunofluorescence in HELUs and adjacent TDLUs (n = 100-584, depending on the factor) from 324 breasts. All factors were quantified under direct microscopic visualization. ER-alpha/PR expression was semiquantified by estimating the proportion of positive cells (0 = none, 1 = or <1/100, 2 = 1/100 to 1/10, 3 = 1/10 to 1/3, 4 = 1/3 to 2/3, and 5 = or >2/3). Ki67, TUNEL, and colocalization of ER-alpha and Ki67 were scored by absolute counting (%positive).

Results: ER-alpha and PR expression were significantly elevated in HELUs versus adjacent TLDUs (average score: 4.5 versus 3.1 and 3.5 versus 2.1; P < 0.0001). Proliferation was also significantly higher in HELUs versus TDLUs (average 6.3% versus 2.0%; P < 0.0001). In contrast, apoptosis was significantly lower in HELUs versus TDLUs (average 0.61% versus 0.22%; P < 0.0001). Changes in proliferation and receptor expression were similar between premenopausal and postmenopausal TDLUs and HELUs, suggesting that hyperplastic cells remain responsive to regulation by estrogen. The proportion of ER-positive/proliferating cells was much higher in HELUs than TDLUs (27.6% vs. 4.9%; P < .0001).

Conclusion: Development of HELUs is associated with increased proliferation and decreased cell death relative to normal cells. ER-alpha and PR are highly elevated in HELUs, which may contribute to the hyperplasia because they mediate hormonal regulation of growth. An understanding of the fundamental causes of increased levels of receptors and growth may lead to new strategies to prevent breast cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/bcr1367DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1413990PMC
March 2006