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Cancer Prevention Month

Cancer is a major public health challenge and a leading cause of death worldwide. In 2018, about 1 in 6 deaths was due to cancer. On 4 February we celebrate World Cancer Day 2020, a global initiative to raise awareness and to encourage cancer prevention, detection, and treatment.

In the US, February is also National Cancer Prevention Month. Over the last few years, research has demonstrated that some cancers can be prevented by reducing exposure to cancer risk factors and implementing prevention strategies. Simple steps, including healthy lifestyle changes (cessation of smoking, regular exercise, body weight controlling and reduced sun exposure) and vaccinations against viruses that cause certain cancers can indeed reduce risk. Cancer burden can also be reduced through early detection and management of patients who develop cancer, as it has been demonstrated that many cancers have a better chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.

It is therefore imperative to increase dissemination of our current knowledge of cancer causes, treatment and prevention. With this aim, this month we would like to highlight the latest research articles published in Nature Communications covering all aspects from ‘omics studies and disease mechanisms to diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

Featured articles

In metastatic urothelial carcinoma, it has not been established whether circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) can replace archival primary tissue to assess mutations and biomarkers. Here, the authors show high mutation concordance between ctDNA and tumour tissue, with high consistency in serial samples.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Patients with solid cancers have high rates of clonal haematopoiesis associated with increased risk of secondary leukemias. Here, by using peripheral blood sequencing data from patients with solid non-hematologic cancer, the authors profile the landscape of mosaic chromosomal alterations and gene mutations, defining patients at high risk of leukemia progression.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Osteosarcomas are difficult to treat and have a limited response to immunotherapy. Here, the authors analyse osteosarcomas at the single-cell level, and identify both the transdifferentiation of malignant cells and an array of immune cells that could have implications for metastasis and immunotherapy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Antibody-drug conjugates targeting high expression receptors can suffer from poor tumour penetration. Here, the authors use unconjugated antibody to improve the penetration of an antibody-dye conjugate in a clinical study, supporting further clinical investigation of the co-administration strategy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Antigen-specific IL9-secreting CD4 Th9 and CD8 Tc9 cells have been previously characterized for their anti-tumour properties. Here, the authors show that ex vivo polarized Th9/Tc9 human CAR-T cells display increased anti-tumor activity in pre-clinical haematological and solid cancer models compared to conventional IL-2 activated CAR-T cells.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

HER2+ breast cancer patients can often develop resistance to trastuzumab and therefore potential combination therapies need to be explored. Here, the authors report the results of a multi-center randomized phase II clinical trial evaluating the pathological and molecular responses associated with trastuzumab and/or lapatinib in combination with chemotherapy in HER2+ breast cancer patients.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

MYCN amplification is common in neuroblastomas. Here the authors analyse the MYCN amplicon structure and its epigenetic regulation by integrating short- and longread genomic and epigenomic data and find two classes of MYCN amplicons in neuroblastomas, one driven by local enhancers and the other by hijacking of distal regulatory elements.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Cancer patient classification using predictive biomarkers for anti-cancer drug responses is essential for improving therapeutic outcomes. Here, the authors present a machine-learning framework to identify robust drug biomarkers by taking advantage of network-based analyses using pharmacogenomic data.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Fusion oncogenes (FO) are common in cancers, but specific targeting of these chimeric genes are challenging. Here the authors report a CRISPR/Cas9 strategy that targets two intronic regions to disrupt the FOs in cancer cells and show that this approach reduces tumour growth and prolongs survival in animal models of cancer.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The role of long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) in AKT-driven tumor development is unclear. Here, the authors identify VAL (Vimentin associated lncRNA) to be directly induced by AKT/STAT3 signaling and report a lncRNA-mediated mechanism for active AKT-driven EMT-independent lung adenocarcinoma metastasis.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

With the generation of large pan-cancer whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing projects, a question remains about how comparable these datasets are. Here, using The Cancer Genome Atlas samples analysed as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project, the authors explore the concordance of mutations called by whole exome sequencing and whole genome sequencing techniques.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

All-trans retinoic acid - ATRA- is known to remodulate the stroma of pancreatic cancer in mice. Here, the authors carried out a Phase Ib trial in pancreatic patients and show that ATRA in combination with chemotherapy is a safe potential treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, and demonstrate a stromal modulatory effect.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The circular RNA named ciRS-7 is overexpressed in human cancers, however, its spatial cellular expression patterns have not been explored. Here, the authors show that ciRS-7 is not expressed in colon cancer cells, but abundant in stromal cells within tumours, and that cancer-to-stromal cell ratios contribute to correlations between ciRS-7 and miR-7 target genes.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Mongolia has the highest incidence of—and mortality from—hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in the world. Here, the authors examine the genomic and transcriptomic landscape of Mongolian HCC, uncover novel driver mutations, and suggest distinct disease etiologies.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

There are currently only a few biomarkers to predict the response of muscle invasive bladder cancer to therapy. Here, the authors analyse 300 tumors using exome and RNA sequencing and find that tumors with a high degree of genomic instability and a non-basal/squamous gene expression subtype are most likely to respond to treatment.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The early detection and accurate histopathological diagnosis of gastric cancer are essential factors that can help increase the chances of successful treatment. Here, the authors report on a digital pathology tool achieving high performance on a real world test dataset and show that the system can aid pathologists in improving diagnostic accuracy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Cancers evolve as they progress under differing selective pressures. Here, as part of the ICGC/TCGA Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium, the authors present the method TrackSig the estimates evolutionary trajectories of somatic mutational processes from single bulk tumour data.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

There’s an emerging body of evidence to show how biological sex impacts cancer incidence, treatment and underlying biology. Here, using a large pan-cancer dataset, the authors further highlight how sex differences shape the cancer genome.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Here the authors show that stronger immune selection and immune editing in females and younger patients lead to the accumulation of poorly presented driver mutations in tumors. These results may explain why young and female patients are characterized by lower response rates to immune checkpoint blockade therapies.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The tryptophan metabolite kynurenine is an endogenous ligand of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). Here, the authors show that AHR targeting in IDO/TDO-expressing tumours counteracts a regulatory T cell/macrophage suppressive axis and synergizes with immune checkpoint blockade to hinder tumour growth.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Aberrant cell cycle machinery and loss of the CDKN2A tumor suppressor locus make CDK4/6 a potential target in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Here, the authors use ratiometrically designed nanoparticles to codeliver the CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib and the autophagy inhibitor hydroxychloroquine, and show their synergistic therapeutic effects in mouse model of PDAC.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

ER-positive breast cancer patients do not usually respond to immunotherapy. In this phase II clinical trial, the authors report the safety and efficacy of combining vorinostat and pembrolizumab with tamoxifen in ER-positive breast cancers and provide evidence that T-cell exhaustion may serve as a potential signature for the response of this combination therapy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

More featured articles

Genetic variants on chromosome 8q24 are associated with prostate cancer risk in men of African ancestry. Here the authors show that one of these variants, rs72725854 alters the enhancer activity in its region, which upon androgen stimulation, activates multiple oncogenic lncRNAs and c-myc.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Metastatic dissemination contributes to the lethality in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Here, the authors perform RNA-sequencing on patient derived circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and identify three major CTC subgroups, and show the therapeutic potential of targeting LIN28B/let-7 pathway to halt cancer metastasis.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Preclinical evidence suggests that a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) can make cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy, while protecting normal cells. In this randomized phase II clinical trial of 131 patients with HER2 negative early stage breast cancer, the authors demonstrate that FMD is safe and enhances the effects of neoadjuvant chemotherapy on radiological and pathological tumor response.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Defects in homologous recombination (HR) are found in some triple negative breast cancers, suggesting they may be sensitive to PARP inhibitors. In this phase II clinical trial of the PARP inhibitor rucaparib, changes in Ki67 levels did not correlate with markers of HR deficiency but HR deficiency was detected in 69% of tumours, indicating that PARP inhibitors may be a useful treatment.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Penile squamous cell carcinoma (PSCC) is a cancer that is associated with significant mortality. Here, the authors develop a mouse model of PSCC by co-deletion of Smad4 and Apc in the androgen-responsive penile epithelium, and show synergistic efficacy of checkpoint therapy with cabozantinib or celecoxib in their model.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The cell adhesion molecule E-selectin regulates haematopoietic stem cell self-renewal in the bone marrow vascular niche. Here, the authors show E-selectin adhesion directly induces survival signaling in acute myeloid leukaemia and therapeutic inhibition improves chemotherapy outcomes in mice.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Better tumor models are needed for the neuroendocrine subtype of castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC-NE). Here, the authors develop patient-derived model from circulating tumor cells of a CRPC-NE patient, and provide insights on the sequential acquisition of driver gene mutations promoting NE transdifferentiation.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

A Phase I/II trial previously revealed variable anti-tumor efficacy of the PARP inhibitor niraparib in combination with the PD-1 inhibitor pembrolizumab in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer patients. Here, the authors perform an integrated genomic and immunomics analysis of tumor samples from the same patients and find potential predictive biomarkers of response to such combination therapy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

A significant proportion of patients develop innate or acquired resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors. Here, the authors show that resistance to anti-PD-1 blockade is associated with TGF-beta driven major histocompatibility complex I (MHCI) down-regulation and a de-differentiated phenotype in melanoma patients.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Multi-omics datasets pose major challenges to data interpretation and hypothesis generation owing to their high-dimensional molecular profiles. Here, the authors develop ActivePathways method, which uses data fusion techniques for integrative pathway analysis of multi-omics data and candidate gene discovery.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Understanding deregulation of biological pathways in cancer can provide insight into disease etiology and potential therapies. Here, as part of the PanCancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) consortium, the authors present pathway and network analysis of 2583 whole cancer genomes from 27 tumour types.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

In this study the authors consider the structural variants (SVs) present within cancer cases of the ICGC/TCGA Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium. They report hundreds of genes, including known cancer-associated genes for which the nearby presence of a SV breakpoint is associated with altered expression.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Analysis of cancer genome sequencing data has enabled the discovery of driver mutations. Here, as part of the ICGC/TCGA Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium the authors present DriverPower, a software package that identifies coding and non-coding driver mutations within cancer whole genomes via consideration of mutational burden and functional impact evidence.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Progression from asymptomatic smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM) to symptomatic Multiple Myeloma occurs at different rates in different patients. Here, the authors report fewer NRAS and FAM46C mutations and adverse translocations in SMM compared to MM, while KRAS mutations are associated with a shorter time to progression.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications