Molecular biology and immunology of head and neck cancer.
ABSTRACT: In recent years, our knowledge and understanding of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) has expanded dramatically. New high-throughput sequencing technologies have accelerated these discoveries since the first reports of whole-exome sequencing of HNSCC tumors in 2011. In addition, the discovery of human papillomavirus in relationship with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma has shifted our molecular understanding of the disease. New investigation into the role of immune evasion in HNSCC has also led to potential novel therapies based on immune-specific systemic therapies.
Project description:The immune system plays a key role in the development, establishment, and progression of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). A greater understanding of the dysregulation and evasion of the immune system in the evolution and progression of HNSCC provides the basis for improved therapies and outcomes for patients. HNSCC cells evade the host immune system through manipulation of their own immunogenicity, production of immunosuppressive mediators, and promotion of immunomodulatory cell types. Through the tumor's influence on the microenvironment, the immune system can be exploited to promote metastasis, angiogenesis, and growth. This article provides a brief overview of key components of the immune infiltrating cells in the tumor microenvironment, reviewing immunological principles related to head and neck cancer, including the concept of cancer immunosurveillance and immune escape. Current immunotherapeutic strategies and emerging results from ongoing clinical trials are presented.
Project description:Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) is a member of the fibroblast growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase family. It has been identified as a promising therapeutic target in multiple types of cancer. We have investigated FGFR3 protein expression and FGFR3 gene copy-numbers in a single well-documented cohort of oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Tissue microarray sets containing 452 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues were immunohistochemically stained with an anti-FGFR3 antibody and hybridized with a FGFR3 fluorescence in situ hybridization probe. FGFR3 protein expression was correlated with clinicopathological and survival data, which were retrieved from electronic medical records. FGFR3 mRNA data of 522 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) were retrieved from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) protein was overexpressed in 48% (89/185) of oral and 59% (124/211) of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Overexpression of FGFR3 protein was not related to overall survival or disease-free survival in oral (HR[hazard ratio]: 0.94; 95% CI: 0.64-1.39; P = 0.77, HR: 0.94; 95% CI: 0.65-1.36; P = 0.75) and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (HR: 1.21; 95% CI: 0.81-1.80; P = 0.36, HR: 0.42; 95% CI: 0.79-1.77; P = 0.42). FGFR3 mRNA was upregulated in 3% (18/522) of HNSCC from the TCGA. The FGFR3 gene was gained in 0.6% (1/179) of oral squamous cell carcinoma but no amplification was found in oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. In conclusion, FGFR3 protein is frequently overexpressed in oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Therefore, it may serve as a potential therapeutic target for FGFR3-directed therapies in oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma.
Project description:The lack of reliable animal models to assess the safety and efficacy of drugs and to explore the underlying molecular mechanisms is one of the most severe impediments in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) tumor immunology research. The majority of xenograft tumor models established using immunodeficient mice neglect the effects of T cells. To date, to the best of our knowledge, there is no syngeneic tumor model available that reflects the immune microenvironmental features of HNSCC tumors. To solve this issue, the present study used 4?nitroquinoline?1?oxide (4?NQO) to induce squamous cell carcinoma in C57BL/6 mice. Three HNSCC cell lines were then established, and one of these, termed JC1, was selected for further analysis due to its enhanced proliferative ability and tumorigenicity in immunodeficient nude mice. However, none of the 3 cell lines could form tumors in immunocompetent mice. Due to the different tumorigenicities in nude and C57BL/6 mice, the immune system may play an important role in inoculated JC1 tumor progression. Chemical induction was used to establish the tumorigenicity?enhanced cell line, JC1?2, which can form syngeneic tumors in immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice. Next?generation sequencing (NGS) was used to perform the immunogenomic and transcriptomic characterization of the JC1?2 cells. Splenocytes were isolated from C57BL/6 mice and co?cultured with JC1?2 cells to verify the responsiveness of the interferon (IFN)?? pathway in the JC1?2 cell line. Unlike the majority of syngeneic mouse tumors, the JC1?2?formed tumors resembled 'inflamed tumors' due to the abundancy of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. Moreover, more intense immune responses were observed in the orthotopic mouse model than in the heterotopic model. Thus, this model could be used to delineate the interactions between HNSCC and lymphocytes, and to validate novel immunotherapy targets.
Project description:Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) represents a model of escape from anti-tumor immunity. The high frequency of p53 tumor suppressor loss in HNSCC leads to genomic instability and immune stimulation through the generation of neoantigens. However, the aggressive nature of HNSCC tumors and significant rates of resistance to conventional therapies highlights the ability of HNSCC to evade this immune response. Advances in understanding the role of co-stimulatory and immune checkpoint receptors in HNSCC-mediated immunosuppression lay the foundation for development of novel therapeutic approaches. This article provides an overview of these co-stimulatory and immune checkpoint pathways, as well as a review of preclinical and clinical evidence supporting the modulation of these pathways in HNSCC. Finally, the synergistic potential of combining these approaches is discussed, along with an update of current clinical trials evaluating combinations of immune-based therapies in HNSCC patients.
Project description:Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is characterized by significant genomic instability that could lead to clonal diversity. Intratumor clonal heterogeneity has been proposed as a major attribute underlying tumor evolution, progression, and resistance to chemotherapy and radiation. Understanding genetic heterogeneity could lead to treatments specific to resistant and metastatic tumor cells. To characterize the degree of intratumor genetic heterogeneity within a single tumor, we performed whole-genome sequencing on three separate regions of an human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma and two separate regions from one corresponding cervical lymph node metastasis. This approach achieved coverage of approximately 97.9% of the genome across all samples. In total, 5701 somatic point mutations (SPMs) and 4347 small somatic insertions and deletions (indels)were detected in at least one sample. Ninety-two percent of SPMs and 77% of indels were validated in a second set of samples adjacent to the discovery set. All five tumor samples shared 41% of SPMs, 57% of the 1805 genes with SPMs, and 34 of 55 cancer genes. The distribution of SPMs allowed phylogenetic reconstruction of this tumor's evolutionary pathway and showed that the metastatic samples arose as a late event. The degree of intratumor heterogeneity showed that a single biopsy may not represent the entire mutational landscape of HNSCC tumors. This approach may be used to further characterize intratumor heterogeneity in more patients, and their sample-to-sample variations could reveal the evolutionary process of cancer cells, facilitate our understanding of tumorigenesis, and enable the development of novel targeted therapies.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Human papillomavirus positive (HPV+) head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is an emerging disease, representing a distinct clinical and epidemiological entity. Understanding the genetic basis of this specific subtype of cancer could allow therapeutic targeting of affected pathways for a stratified medicine approach. METHODS:Twenty HPV+ and 20 HPV- laser-capture microdissected oropharyngeal carcinomas were used for paired-end sequencing of hybrid-captured DNA, targeting 3,230 exons in 182 genes often mutated in cancer. Copy number alteration (CNA) profiling, Sequenom MassArray sequencing and immunohistochemistry were used to further validate findings. RESULTS:HPV+ and HPV- oropharyngeal carcinomas cluster into two distinct subgroups. TP53 mutations are detected in 100% of HPV negative cases and abrogation of the G1/S checkpoint by CDKN2A/B deletion and/or CCND1 amplification occurs in the majority of HPV- tumors. CONCLUSION:These findings strongly support a causal role for HPV, acting via p53 and RB pathway inhibition, in the pathogenesis of a subset of oropharyngeal cancers and suggest that studies of CDK inhibitors in HPV- disease may be warranted. Mutation and copy number alteration of PI3 kinase (PI3K) pathway components appears particularly prevalent in HPV+ tumors and assessment of these alterations may aid in the interpretation of current clinical trials of PI3K, AKT, and mTOR inhibitors in HNSCC.
Project description:234 diagnostic formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) blocks from homogeneously treated patients with locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) within a multicentre phase III clinical trial were characterised. The mutational spectrum was examined by next generation sequencing in the 26 most frequent oncogenic drivers in cancer and correlated with treatment response and survival. Human papillomavirus (HPV) status was measured by p16INK4a immunohistochemistry in oropharyngeal tumours. Clinicopathological features and response to treatment were measured and compared with the sequencing results. The results indicated TP53 as the most mutated gene in locally advanced HNSCC. HPV-positive oropharyngeal tumours were less mutated than HPV-negative tumours in TP53 (p?<?0.01). Mutational and HPV status influences patient survival, being mutated or HPV-negative tumours associated with poor overall survival (p?<?0.05). No association was found between mutations and clinicopathological features. This study confirmed and expanded previously published genomic characterization data in HNSCC. Survival analysis showed that non-mutated HNSCC tumours associated with better prognosis and lack of mutations can be identified as an important biomarker in HNSCC. Frequent alterations in PI3K pathway in HPV-positive HNSCC could define a promising pathway for pharmacological intervention in this group of tumours.
Project description:Personalised medicine tumour boards, which leverage genomic data to improve clinical management, are becoming standard for the treatment of many cancers. This paper is designed as a primer to assist clinicians treating head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients with an understanding of the discovery and functional impact of recurrent genetic lesions that are likely to influence the management of this disease in the near future. This manuscript integrates genetic data from publicly available array comparative genome hybridization (aCGH) and next-generation sequencing genetics databases to identify the most common molecular alterations in HNSCC. The importance of these genetic discoveries is reviewed and how they may be incorporated into clinical care decisions is discussed. Considerations for the role of genetic stratification in the clinical management of head and neck cancer are maturing rapidly and can be improved by integrating data sets. This article is meant to summarise the discoveries made using multiple genomic platforms so that the head and neck cancer care provider can apply these discoveries to improve clinical care.
Project description:We aimed to reveal the prevalence and pattern of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and p53 mutations among Japanese head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients in relation to clinicopathological parameters. Human papillomavirus DNA and p53 mutations were examined in 493 HNSCCs and its subset of 283 HNSCCs. Oropharyngeal carcinoma was more frequently HPV-positive than non-oropharyngeal carcinoma (34.4% vs 3.6%, P < 0.001), and HPV16 accounted for 91.1% of HPV-positive tumors. In oropharyngeal carcinoma, which showed an increasing trend of HPV prevalence over time (P < 0.001), HPV infection was inversely correlated with tobacco smoking, alcohol drinking, p53 mutations, and a disruptive mutation (P = 0.003, <0.001, <0.001, and <0.001, respectively). The prevalence of p53 mutations differed significantly between virus-unrelated HNSCC and virus-related HNSCC consisting of nasopharyngeal and HPV-positive oropharyngeal carcinomas (48.3% vs 7.1%, P < 0.001). Although p53 mutations were associated with tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking, this association disappeared in virus-unrelated HNSCC. A disruptive mutation was never found in virus-related HNSCC, whereas it was independently associated with primary site, such as the oropharynx and hypopharynx (P = 0.01 and 0.03, respectively), in virus-unrelated HNSCC. Moreover, in virus-unrelated HNSCC, G:C to T:A transversions were more frequent in ever-smokers than in never-smokers (P = 0.04), whereas G:C to A:T transitions at CpG sites were less frequent in ever-smokers than in never-smokers (P = 0.04). In conclusion, HNSCC is etiologically classified into virus-related and virus-unrelated subgroups. In virus-related HNSCC, p53 mutations are uncommon with the absence of a disruptive mutation, whereas in virus-unrelated HNSCC, p53 mutations are common, and disruptive mutagenesis of p53 is related with oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal carcinoma.
Project description:With the understanding of the complex interaction between the tumour microenvironment and immunotherapy, there is increasing interest in the role of immune regulators in the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Activation of T cells and immune checkpoint molecules is important for the immune response to cancers. Immune checkpoint molecules include cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4), programmed death 1 (PD-1), T-cell immunoglobulin mucin protein 3 (TIM-3), lymphocyte activation gene 3 (LAG-3), T cell immunoglobin and immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif (TIGIT), glucocorticoid-induced tumour necrosis factor receptor (GITR) and V-domain Ig suppressor of T cell activation (VISTA). Many clinical trials using checkpoint inhibitors, as both monotherapies and combination therapies, have been initiated targeting these immune checkpoint molecules. This review summarizes the functional mechanism and use of various immune checkpoint molecules in HNSCC, including monotherapies and combination therapies, and provides better treatment options for patients with HNSCC.