First-line treatment of EGFR-mutated nonsmall cell lung cancer: critical review on study methodology
- Recent advances in understanding the mechanisms of nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has led to the development of targeted treatments, including the reversible epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors gefitinib and erlotinib, and the irreversible ErbB family blocker afatinib. Several important activating EGFR mutations have now been identified, which correlate strongly with response to treatment with these agents. Multiple randomised controlled trials have confirmed the association between the presence of activating EGFR mutations and objective response to gefitinib, erlotinib and afatinib, thus demonstrating their superiority over platinum-based chemotherapy as first-line treatment for NSCLC patients with EGFR mutation-positive tumours, and resulting in approval of these agents for use in this setting. It can be tempting to compare outcome data across multiple clinical trials and agents; however, substantial differences in methodology between studies, including investigator versus independent assessment and differences in patient eligibility, makes such comparisons fraught with difficulty. This critical review provides an overview of the evolution of the methodology used in eight phase III trials investigating first-line targeted treatment of NSCLC, identifies key differences in methodology and reporting, and critically assesses how these differences should be taken into account when interpreting the findings from such trials.
Targeted ultra-deep sequencing reveals recurrent and mutually exclusive mutations of cancer genes in blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm
Jochen K. Lennerz
- Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) is a rare haematopoietic malignancy characterized by dismal prognosis and overall poor therapeutic response. Since the biology of BPDCN is barely understood, our study aims to shed light on the genetic make-up of these highly malignant tumors. Using targeted high-coverage massive parallel sequencing, we investigated 50 common cancer genes in 33 BPDCN samples. We detected point mutations in NRAS (27.3% of cases), ATM (21.2%), MET, KRAS, IDH2, KIT (9.1% each), APC and RB1 (6.1% each), as well as in VHL, BRAF, MLH1, TP53 and RET (3% each). Moreover, NRAS, KRAS and ATM mutations were found to be mutually exclusive and we observed recurrent mutations in NRAS, IDH2, APC and ATM. CDKN2A deletions were detected in 27.3% of the cases followed by deletions of RB1 (9.1%), PTEN and TP53 (3% each). The mutual exclusive distribution of some mutations may point to different subgroups of BPDCN whose biological significance remains to be explored.
1D-3D hybrid modeling-from multi-compartment models to full resolution models in space and time
Markus M. Knodel
- Investigation of cellular and network dynamics in the brain by means of modeling and simulation has evolved into a highly interdisciplinary field, that uses sophisticated modeling and simulation approaches to understand distinct areas of brain function. Depending on the underlying complexity, these models vary in their level of detail, in order to cope with the attached computational cost. Hence for large network simulations, single neurons are typically reduced to time-dependent signal processors, dismissing the spatial aspect of each cell. For single cell or networks with relatively small numbers of neurons, general purpose simulators allow for space and time-dependent simulations of electrical signal processing, based on the cable equation theory. An emerging field in Computational Neuroscience encompasses a new level of detail by incorporating the full three-dimensional morphology of cells and organelles into three-dimensional, space and time-dependent, simulations. While every approach has its advantages and limitations, such as computational cost, integrated and methods-spanning simulation approaches, depending on the network size could establish new ways to investigate the brain. In this paper we present a hybrid simulation approach, that makes use of reduced 1D-models using e.g., the NEURON simulator—which couples to fully resolved models for simulating cellular and sub-cellular dynamics, including the detailed three-dimensional morphology of neurons and organelles. In order to couple 1D- and 3D-simulations, we present a geometry-, membrane potential- and intracellular concentration mapping framework, with which graph- based morphologies, e.g., in the swc- or hoc-format, are mapped to full surface and volume representations of the neuron and computational data from 1D-simulations can be used as boundary conditions for full 3D simulations and vice versa. Thus, established models and data, based on general purpose 1D-simulators, can be directly coupled to the emerging field of fully resolved, highly detailed 3D-modeling approaches. We present the developed general framework for 1D/3D hybrid modeling and apply it to investigate electrically active neurons and their intracellular spatio-temporal calcium dynamics.
Identification of DR5 as a critical, NF-κB-regulated mediator of Smac-induced apoptosis
- Smac mimetic promotes apoptosis by neutralizing inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins and is considered as a promising cancer therapeutic. Although an autocrine/paracrine tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) loop has been implicated in Smac mimetic-induced cell death, little is yet known about additional factors that determine sensitivity to Smac mimetic. Using genome-wide gene expression analysis, we identify death receptor 5 (DR5) as a novel key mediator of Smac mimetic-induced apoptosis. Although several cell lines that are sensitive to the Smac mimetic BV6 die in a TNFα-dependent manner, A172 glioblastoma cells undergo BV6-induced apoptosis largely independently of TNFα/TNFR1, as the TNFα-blocking antibody Enbrel or TNFR1 knockdown provide little protection. Yet, BV6-stimulated nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activation is critically required for apoptosis, as inhibition of NF-κB by overexpression of dominant-negative IκBα superrepressor (IκBα-SR) blocks BV6-induced apoptosis. Unbiased genome-wide gene expression studies in IκBα-SR-overexpressing cells versus vector control cells reveal that BV6 increases DR5 expression in a NF-κB-dependent manner. Importantly, this BV6-stimulated upregulation of DR5 is critically required for apoptosis, as transient or stable knockdown of DR5 significantly inhibits BV6-triggered apoptosis. In addition, DR5 silencing attenuates formation of a RIP1/FADD/caspase-8 cytosolic cell death complex and activation of caspase-8, -3 and -9. By identifying DR5 as a critical mediator of Smac mimetic-induced apoptosis, our findings provide novel insights into the determinants that control susceptibility of cancer cells to Smac mimetic.
The MLL recombinome of acute leukemias in 2013
M Pombo de Oliveira
E De Braekeleer
M De Braekeleer
VH van der Velden
JJ van Dongen
G Te Kronnie
U zur Stadt
L Lo Nigro
MM van den Heuvel-Eibrink
Michael N. Dworzak
- Chromosomal rearrangements of the human MLL (mixed lineage leukemia) gene are associated with high-risk infant, pediatric, adult and therapy-induced acute leukemias. We used long-distance inverse-polymerase chain reaction to characterize the chromosomal rearrangement of individual acute leukemia patients. We present data of the molecular characterization of 1590 MLL-rearranged biopsy samples obtained from acute leukemia patients. The precise localization of genomic breakpoints within the MLL gene and the involved translocation partner genes (TPGs) were determined and novel TPGs identified. All patients were classified according to their gender (852 females and 745 males), age at diagnosis (558 infant, 416 pediatric and 616 adult leukemia patients) and other clinical criteria. Combined data of our study and recently published data revealed a total of 121 different MLL rearrangements, of which 79 TPGs are now characterized at the molecular level. However, only seven rearrangements seem to be predominantly associated with illegitimate recombinations of the MLL gene (≈ 90%): AFF1/AF4, MLLT3/AF9, MLLT1/ENL, MLLT10/AF10, ELL, partial tandem duplications (MLL PTDs) and MLLT4/AF6, respectively. The MLL breakpoint distributions for all clinical relevant subtypes (gender, disease type, age at diagnosis, reciprocal, complex and therapy-induced translocations) are presented. Finally, we present the extending network of reciprocal MLL fusions deriving from complex rearrangements.
Bortezomib antagonizes microtubule-interfering drug-induced apoptosis by inhibiting G2/M transition and MCL-1 degradation
- Inhibition of the proteasome is considered as a promising strategy to sensitize cancer cells to apoptosis. Recently, we demonstrated that the proteasome inhibitor Bortezomib primes neuroblastoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. In the present study, we investigated whether Bortezomib increases chemosensitivity of neuroblastoma cells. Unexpectedly, we discover an antagonistic interaction of Bortezomib and microtubule-interfering drugs. Bortezomib significantly attenuates the loss of cell viability and induction of apoptosis on treatment with Taxol and different vinca alkaloids but not with other chemotherapeutics, that is, Doxorubicin and Cisplatinum. Importantly, Bortezomib inhibits G2/M transition by inhibiting proteasomal degradation of cell cycle regulatory proteins such as p21, thereby preventing cells to enter mitosis, the cell cycle phase in which they are most vulnerable to antitubulin chemotherapeutics. Consequently, Bortezomib counteracts Taxol-induced mitotic arrest and polyploidy, as shown by reduced expression of PLK1 and phosphorylated histone H3. In addition, Bortezomib antagonizes Taxol-mediated degradation of MCL-1 during mitotic arrest by preventing cells to enter mitosis and by inhibiting the proteasome. Downregulation of MCL-1 is critically required for Taxol-induced apoptosis, as overexpression of a phosphomutant MCL-1 variant, which is resistant to degradation, significantly diminishes Taxol-triggered apoptosis. Vice versa, attenuation of Bortezomib-mediated accumulation of MCL-1 by knockdown of MCL-1 significantly enhances Taxol/Bortezomib-induced apoptosis. Thus, Bortezomib rescues Taxol-induced apoptosis by inhibiting G2/M transition and mitigating MCL-1 degradation. The identification of this antagonistic interaction of Bortezomib and microtubule-targeted drugs has important implications for the design of Bortezomib-based combination therapies.
Identification of novel base methyltransferases of the 25S rRNA in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
- RNA modifications are present in all three kingdoms of life and detected in all classes of cellular RNAs. RNA modifications are diverse, with more than 100 types of chemical modifications identified to date. These chemical modifications expand the topological repertoire of RNAs and are expected to fine-tune their functions. Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) contains two types of covalent modifications, either methylation on the sugar (Nm) or bases (mN), or base isomerization (conversion of uridine into pseudouridines, "). Pseudouridylations and ribose methylations are catalyzed by site-specific H/ACA and C/D box snoRNPs, respectively. The RNA component (snoRNA) of both types of snoRNPs is responsible for the site selection by base pairing with the rRNA substrate, whereas the protein component catalyzes the modification reaction: Nop1 in C/D box and Cbf5 in H/ACA box snoRNPs. Contrastingly, base methylations are performed by snoRNA independent, ‘protein-only’, methyltransferases (MTases). rRNA modifications occur at highly conserved positions, all clustering around functional ribosomal sites. Mutations in factors involved in rRNA modification have been linked to severe human diseases (e.g. X-linked Dyskeratosis congenita). Emerging evidences indicate that heterogeneity in RNA modification prevails, i.e. not all positions are modified at all time, and the concept of ‘specialized ribosomes’ has been coined. rRNA modification heterogeneity has been correlated with disease etiology (cancer), and shown to play a role in cell differentiation(hematopoiesis). Remarkably, alteration in rRNA modification patterns profoundly affects the preference of ribosomes for cap- versus IRESdependent translation initiation, with major consequences on cell physiology.
Epicutanoeus immunotherapy as a novel prophylactic and therapeutic strategy for birch pollen allergy
- The development of a convenient, effective and safe allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT) for birch pollen allergy, one of the most prevalent allergic diseases in Northern Europe, North
America and Northern Japan, is of crucial importance. Epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT) has gained attention as a safe and non-invasive alternative for subcutaneous immunotherapy, a conventional SIT. However, clinical studies showed a limited effcacy of EPIT, indicating the necessity of improvement of the treatment regime. In this study, we hypothesized that a combination of a hypoallergen with an appropriate adjuvant could be a strategy to improve
EPIT. To verify this hypothesis, we aimed at investigating the efficacy of epicutaneous treatment with rBet v 1, the major birch pollen allergen, plus Toll-like receptor (TLR)
agonists for prophylaxis and therapy of birch pollen allergy using a murine model of birch pollen-induced allergic asthma. Furthermore, the efficacy of rBet v 1B2, a hypoallergenic
variant of Bet v 1, as a therapeutic allergen in EPI was pre-clinically investigated. TLRs recognize conserved microbial molecules (like PAMPs), and are known to promote the
counter-regulation of TH2 responses by the induction of TH1-type and/or regulatory cytokines by immune cells.
The hypoallergen Bet v 1B2 is a folding-variant of the wild-type allergen rBet v 1 with reduced allergenicity, but retained T-cell immunogenicity. The low allergenicity, could
allow the application of hypoallergens in higher doses, and therefore provide a safer and more effective treatment to regulate T-cell immune responses. First, the expression and
purification of recombinant Bet v 1 and Bet v 1B2 was optimized. Compared to natural proteins, recombinant proteins offer the possibility to use well-defined molecules with a
consistent pharmaceutical quality. Using optimal Escherichia coli expression strains in combination with immobilized metal chelate affinity chromatography (IMAC) and size exclusion chromatography (SEC), we successfully prepared a large amount of rBet v 1 and rBet v 1B2 with a high purity. The allergenic potency of rBet v 1 and the hypoallergenic characteristics of rBet v 1B2 were confirmed by measurement of IgE reactivity and mediator release capacity using ELISA and basophil activation tests, respectively. In a second part, a murine model of birch pollen-induced allergic asthma was established. It was shown that intraperetoneal sensitization with an optimal dose of rBet v 1 and intranasal challenge with birch pollen extract induced elevated IgE levels, airway eosinophilia and pulmonary inflammation in BALB/c mice. The clinical features are comparable to those in patients with allergic asthma, indicating that sensitized and challenged mice could be used for a pre-clinical study to assess the efficacy of the treatment for birch pollen allergy. Next, we investigated the adjuvant effects of Polyadenylic:polyuridylic acid (Poly(A:U)), a TLR3 agonist, and R848 (resiquimod), a TLR7 agonist, in prophylactic EPI with rBet v 1 to intervene with birch pollen allergy. Here, we hypothesized that TLR3 and TLR7 could be possible target receptors to induce adjuvant effects in EPI, since these receptors are expressed in Langerhans cells and dermal dendritic cells, persistent antigen presenting cells
in the cutaneous tissues. BALB/c mice received EPI with rBet v 1 alone, or plus Poly(A:U), or R848 on their depilated back using patches. Mice treated epicutaneously were then sensitized with rBet v 1 plus ALUM and intranasally challenged with birch pollen extract. We found that prophylactic EPI with rBet v 1 plus R848 inhibited the production of Bet v 1-specific IgE antibodies in sensitization, suppressed pulmonary inflammation and airway
hyperreactivity upon challenge. In contrast to R848, no adjuvant effect of Poly(A:U) on suppression of asthmatic features was observed. Our results indicated that R848, but not Poly(A:U), could be a potential adjuvant for prophylactic EPI of birch pollen induced allergic asthma. Finally, the therapeutic potency of EPI with rBet v 1, or rBet v 1B2 alone, or plus R848 was assessed. After sensitization and challenge, mice received therapeutic EPI with rBet v 1 alone, or plus R848, and re-challenge with birch pollen extract. We found that therapeutic treatment with Bet v 1B2 reduced established Bet v 1-specific IgE antibodies, pulmonary inflammation and airway hyperreactivity upon re-challenge. Therapeutic treatment with the recombinant wild-type allergen does not influence these key characteristics of allergic asthma. In contrast to the findings in the prophylactic treatment with rBet v 1 plus R848,no therapeutic benefit was found upon combination with R848. This could be due to the high number of treatment days. Reduction of this number may lead to a beneficial effect. However, these findings indicate that Bet v 1B2 could be a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of established birch pollen induced allergic asthma. In conclusion, this study demonstrates for the first time that prophylactic EPI with the recombinant form of Bet v 1 in combination with R848 could prevent and suppress asthmatic features in an established birch pollen allergy. Not only therapeutic, but also prophylactic applications of EPI could be of importance to prevent allergic sensitization, considering the high prevalence of allergic diseases. R848 could be a potential adjuvant for enhancing the prophylactic potential of EPI for the treatment of birch pollen allergy. Furthermore, the beneficial use of the hypoallergen Bet v 1B2 in therapeutic EPI was demonstrated by intervention of established asthmatic features. In the future, a combination of hypoallergens alone or together with adjuvants in EPIT could lead to a more convenient and effective therapeutic treatment of established birch pollen induced allergic asthma.
"A great poet on a great brother poet": a parallactic reading of Goethe and James Joyce
- The essay provides a contrapuntal ‘parallactic’ reading of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s ‘Bildungsroman’ Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre - with its extensions Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung and Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre - and James Joyce’s high modernist A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922). Derived from astronomy, the term parallax designates, transferred to literary history, a narrative stratagem, a metapoetical rationale, and an interpretive method. Joyce employs it as a key concept and narrative tool in Ulysses to denote a stereoscopic perspective applied to the protagonists’ actions and the world they live in. Leopold Bloom thus refl ects on it and the technique of Ulysses is determined by it. On a higher plane, literary critics, too, engage in literary historical parallax whenever they read texts intertextually — as exemplified in this essay. A parallactic reading of the novels’ protagonists Wilhelm Meister and Stephen Dedalus, as regards not just their identification with Shakespeare’s Hamlet but also the symbolic connotations embedded in their names and mythological pretexts, allows us to shed new light on the roles and significance of narrative irony, chance, and paternity in these novels.
Development of specially shaped laser beams for the optimized acceleration of particles
- The laser-driven acceleration of protons from thin foils irradiated by hollow high-intensity laser beams in the regime of target normal sheath acceleration is reported for the first time. The use of hollow beams aims at reducing the initial emission solid angle of the TNSA source, due to a flattening of the electron sheath at the target rear side. The experiments were conducted at the PHELIX laser facility at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH with laser intensities in the range from 10^18 to 10^20 W/cm^2. We observed an average reduction of the half opening angle by (3.07±0.42)° or (13.2±2)% when the targets have a thickness between 12 to 14 μm. In addition, the highest proton energies were achieved with the hollow laser beam in comparison to the typical Gaussian focal spot.