Preclinical approaches to study the biology and treatment of brain metastases.
ABSTRACT: Metastatic spread to the central nervous system (CNS) is a common and devastating manifestation of major cancer types. Its incidence is associated with poor prognosis manifested by neurological deterioration leading to diminished quality of life and an extremely short median survival. CNS metastasis is becoming an increasingly important clinical problem. This is especially the case for certain types of cancers for which effective treatments of visceral disease are available. As a result of the present limitations in treating CNS metastases, this manifestation of tumor progression remains an unmet clinical need. Despite its significance, our general understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the brain-metastatic phenotype is currently meager. Both the analysis of mechanistic aspects of brain metastasis and the development of effective treatments necessitate the use of appropriate in vivo models that recapitulate the interaction of the tumor cells with the microenvironment of the brain. Here we review the available preclinical models of CNS metastasis and their use as tools to advance knowledge of the biology of the disease (with the aim of identifying relevant molecular determinants, prognostic biomarkers, and therapeutic targets) as well as examining effective approaches for treatment.
Project description:Brain metastasis, the secondary growth of malignant cells within the central nervous system (CNS), exceeds the incidence of primary brain tumors (i.e., gliomas) by tenfold and are seemingly on the rise owing to the emergence of novel targeted therapies that are more effective in controlling extracranial disease relatively to intracranial lesions. Despite the fact that metastasis to the brain poses a unmet clinical problem, with afflicted patients carrying significant morbidity and a fatal prognosis, our knowledge as to how metastatic cells manage to adapt to the tissue environment of the CNS remains limited. Answering this question could pave the way for novel and more specific therapeutic modalities in brain metastasis by targeting the specific makeup of the brain metastatic niche. In regard to this, astrocytes have emerged as the major host cell type that cancer cells encounter and interact with during brain metastasis formation. Similarly to other CNS disorders, astrocytes become reactive and respond to the presence of cancer cells by changing their phenotype and significantly influencing the outcome of disseminated cancer cells within the CNS. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on the contribution of reactive astrocytes in brain metastasis by focusing on the signaling pathways and types of interactions that play a crucial part in the communication with cancer cells and how these could be translated into innovative therapies.
Project description:Brain-specific homing and direct interactions with the neural substance are prominent hypotheses for brain metastasis formation and a modern manifestation of Paget's "seed and soil" concept. However, there is little direct evidence for this "neurotropic" growth in vivo. In contrast, many experimental studies have anecdotally noted the propensity of metastatic cells to grow along the exterior of pre-existing vessels of the CNS, a process termed vascular cooption. These observations suggest the "soil" for malignant cells in the CNS may well be vascular, rather than neuronal. We used in vivo experimental models of brain metastasis and analysis of human clinical specimens to test this hypothesis. Indeed, over 95% of early micrometastases examined demonstrated vascular cooption with little evidence for isolated neurotropic growth. This vessel interaction was adhesive in nature implicating the vascular basement membrane (VBM) as the active substrate for tumor cell growth in the brain. Accordingly, VBM promoted adhesion and invasion of malignant cells and was sufficient for tumor growth prior to any evidence of angiogenesis. Blockade or loss of the beta1 integrin subunit in tumor cells prevented adhesion to VBM and attenuated metastasis establishment and growth in vivo. Our data establishes a new understanding of CNS metastasis formation and identifies the neurovasculature as the critical partner for such growth. Further, we have elucidated the mechanism of vascular cooption for the first time. These findings may help inform the design of effective molecular therapies for patients with fatal CNS malignancies.
Project description:Metastatic spread of melanoma to the central nervous system (CNS) is a common and devastating manifestation of disease progression, which, despite its clinical importance, remains poorly understood with respect to underlying molecular mechanisms. Using a recently developed preclinical model of spontaneous melanoma CNS metastasis, we have identified alterations in expression of endothelin receptor B (EDNRB) as a potential factor that influences brain metastatic potential. Induced overexpression of this gene mediated enhanced overall metastatic disease, and resulted in an increased incidence of spontaneous CNS metastases. In contrast, the overexpression of other highlighted genes, such as BCL2A1, did not affect the incidence of CNS metastases but nevertheless appears to facilitate intracranial tumor growth. The prometastatic effect in the CNS associated with EDNRB appears to be mediated by the interaction with its ligands resulting in enhanced tumor cell proliferation and thus intracranial melanoma growth. That EDNRB contributes to melanoma metastasis is underscored by the fact that its therapeutic inhibition by the EDNRB-specific inhibitor A192621 translated into improved outcomes when treating mice with either visceral metastases or intracranial tumors. The identification of an influential role of EDNRB in CNS melanoma spontaneous metastasis may provide both a target for therapeutic intervention as well as a potential prognostic marker for patients having an increased predisposition for incidence of CNS melanoma metastases.
Project description:Central nervous system (CNS) or brain metastasis is an emerging area of interest in organ-specific metastasis research. Lung and breast cancers are the most common types of primary tumors to develop brain metastases. This disease complication contributes significantly to the morbidity and mortality of both of these common cancers; as such, brain metastasis is designated an unmet medical need by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recently, an increase in incidence of CNS disease has been noted in the literature for breast cancer, while it has been an ongoing major complication from lung cancer. Progress in treating brain metastases has been hampered by a lack of model systems, a lack of human tissue samples, and the exclusion of brain metastatic patients from many clinical trials. While each of those is significant, the major impediment to effectively treating brain metastatic disease is the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This barrier excludes most chemotherapeutics from the brain and creates a sanctuary site for metastatic tumors. Recent findings on the biology of this disease and translational leads identified by molecular studies are discussed in this article.
Project description:Recent breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy have led to curative efficacy and significantly prolonged survival in a subset of patients of multiple cancer types; and immunotherapy has become the newest pillar of cancer treatment in addition to surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and precision targeted therapies. In the metastatic disease setting, responses to immunotherapy are heterogeneous depending on the metastatic organ sites. The tissue-specific immuno-biology in the tumor microenvironments (TMEs) contributes to the differential therapeutic responses. Herein, we review the impact of tissue-specific tumor microenvironment on the efficacy of immunotherapy, with a focus on historically under-represented central nervous system (CNS) metastasis, which was excluded from most clinical trials. Retrospective examination of patient specimens and prospective clinical studies with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) have established that brain can harbor an "active" immune microenvironment for effective immunotherapy. Regulation by the innate immune microglial cells and remodeling of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) may contribute to immunotherapeutic responses mediated by T lymphocytes. How to convert an "inactive" (cold) brain microenvironment into an "active" (hot) brain TME should be the focus of future efforts. Thus, procurement and complete examination of clinical specimens from brain metastases as well as development of appropriate preclinical brain metastasis models susceptible to external manipulation of the TME are critical steps towards that goal. A deeper understanding of the immuno-biology in distinct organ microenvironments will help to expand the benefits of immunotherapy to more needed patients.
Project description:Breast cancer occurs in approximately 1 in 8 women and 1 in 37 women with breast cancer succumbed to the disease. Over the past decades, new diagnostic tools and treatments have substantially improved the prognosis of women with local diseases. However, women with metastatic disease still have a dismal prognosis without effective treatments. Among different molecular subtypes of breast cancer, the HER2-enriched and basal-like subtypes typically have higher rates of metastasis to the brain. Basal-like metastatic breast tumors frequently express EGFR. Consequently, HER2- and EGFR-targeted therapies are being used in the clinic and/or evaluated in clinical trials for treating breast cancer patients with brain metastases. In this review, we will first provide an overview of the HER2 and EGFR signaling pathways. The roles that EGFR and HER2 play in breast cancer metastasis to the brain will then be discussed. Finally, we will summarize the preclinical and clinical effects of EGFR- and HER2-targeted therapies on breast cancer metastasis.
Project description:Brain metastasis from breast cancer is usually associated with a poor prognosis and early death. Alteration of p53 may contribute to malignant progression by abrogation of apoptosis induced by oncogene activation and by acquisition of gain-of-function properties, which promote tumour aggression. Mutation in TP53 occurs at high frequency in carcinomas of the lung and gastro-intestinal tract, but is much less frequent, at 25%, in primary breast cancer. The frequency of TP53 alteration in the central nervous system (CNS) metastatic breast cancer is not known.In all, 23 cases of histologically confirmed CNS metastatic breast cancer were identified and the coding sequence of TP53 determined. TP53 was also sequenced in two control series of primary breast carcinomas from independent clinical centres.We demonstrate a strikingly high frequency of TP53 mutation in the CNS metastatic lesions with an over-representation of complex mutations (non-sense/deletions/insertions). Complex mutations occur in metastatic lesions in both triple-negative breast cancer and hormone receptor/HER2-positive cases. Analysis of paired primary carcinomas and brain metastatic lesions revealed evidence for both clonal selection and generation of new mutations (missense and complex) in progression from a primary breast carcinoma to brain metastasis.Mutation in TP53 is the most common genetic alteration reported during metastasis to the brain in breast cancer.
Project description:The high prevalence of brain disorders and the lack of their efficient treatments necessitate improved in-vivo pre-clinical models and tests. The zebrafish (Danio rerio), a vertebrate species with high genetic and physiological homology to humans, is an excellent organism for innovative central nervous system (CNS) drug discovery and small molecule screening. Here, we outline new strategies for developing higher-throughput zebrafish screens to test neuroactive drugs and predict their pharmacological mechanisms. With the growing application of automated 3D phenotyping, machine learning algorithms, movement pattern- and behavior recognition, and multi-animal video-tracking, zebrafish screens are expected to markedly improve CNS drug discovery.
Project description:Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of metastatic disease in the central nervous system (CNS). Recent advances in the biological understanding of breast cancer have facilitated an unprecedented increase of survival in a subset of patients presenting with metastatic breast cancer. Patients with HER2 positive (HER2+) or triple negative breast cancer are at highest risk of developing CNS metastasis, and typically experience a poor prognosis despite treatment with local and systemic therapies. Among the obstacles ahead in the realm of developmental therapeutics for breast cancer CNS metastasis is the improvement of our knowledge on its biological nuances and on the interaction of the blood–brain barrier with new compounds. This article reviews recent discoveries related to the underlying biology of breast cancer brain metastases, clinical progress to date and suggests rational approaches for investigational therapies.
Project description:Primary and metastatic tumors of the central nervous system present a difficult clinical challenge, and they are a common cause of disease progression and death. For most patients, treatment consists primarily of surgery and/or radiotherapy. In recent years, systemic therapies have become available or are under investigation for patients whose tumors are driven by specific genetic alterations, and some of these targeted treatments have been associated with dramatic improvements in extracranial and intracranial disease control and survival. However, the success of other systemic therapies has been hindered by inadequate penetration of the drug into the brain parenchyma. Advances in molecular characterization of oncogenic drivers have led to the identification of new gene fusions driving oncogenesis in some of the most common sources of intracranial tumors. Systemic therapies targeting many of these alterations have been approved recently or are in clinical development, and the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier is now widely recognized as an important property of such drugs. We review this rapidly advancing field with a focus on recently uncovered gene fusions and brain-penetrant systemic therapies targeting them. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:Driver gene fusions involving receptor tyrosine kinases have been identified across a wide range of tumor types, including primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors and extracranial solid tumors that are associated with high rates of metastasis to the CNS (e.g., lung, breast, melanoma). This review discusses the systemic therapies that target emerging gene fusions, with a focus on brain-penetrant agents that will target the intracranial disease and, where present, also extracranial disease.