Cancers of unknown primary (CUPs), featuring metastatic dissemination in the absence of a primary tumor, are a biological enigma and a fatal disease. We propose that CUPs are a distinct, yet unrecognized, pathological entity originating from stem-like cells endowed with peculiar and shared properties. These cells can be isolated in vitro (agnospheres) and propagated in vivo by serial transplantation, displaying high tumorigenicity. After subcutaneous engraftment, agnospheres recapitulate the CUP phenotype, by spontaneously and quickly disseminating, and forming widespread established metastases. Regardless of different genetic backgrounds, agnospheres invariably display cell-autonomous proliferation and self-renewal, mostly relying on unrestrained activation of the MAP kinase/MYC axis, which confers sensitivity to MEK inhibitors in vitro and in vivo. Such sensitivity is associated with a transcriptomic signature predicting that more than 70% of CUP patients could be eligible to MEK inhibition. These data shed light on CUP biology and unveil an opportunity for therapeutic intervention.

Cancer of unknown primary stem-like cells model multi-organ metastasis and unveil liability to MEK inhibition

Cascardi E.;Senetta R.;Sapino A.;Boccaccio C.
2021

Abstract

Cancers of unknown primary (CUPs), featuring metastatic dissemination in the absence of a primary tumor, are a biological enigma and a fatal disease. We propose that CUPs are a distinct, yet unrecognized, pathological entity originating from stem-like cells endowed with peculiar and shared properties. These cells can be isolated in vitro (agnospheres) and propagated in vivo by serial transplantation, displaying high tumorigenicity. After subcutaneous engraftment, agnospheres recapitulate the CUP phenotype, by spontaneously and quickly disseminating, and forming widespread established metastases. Regardless of different genetic backgrounds, agnospheres invariably display cell-autonomous proliferation and self-renewal, mostly relying on unrestrained activation of the MAP kinase/MYC axis, which confers sensitivity to MEK inhibitors in vitro and in vivo. Such sensitivity is associated with a transcriptomic signature predicting that more than 70% of CUP patients could be eligible to MEK inhibition. These data shed light on CUP biology and unveil an opportunity for therapeutic intervention.
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https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22643-w
Verginelli F.; Pisacane A.; Gambardella G.; D'Ambrosio A.; Candiello E.; Ferrio M.; Panero M.; Casorzo L.; Benvenuti S.; Cascardi E.; Senetta R.; Geuna E.; Ballabio A.; Montemurro F.; Sapino A.; Comoglio P.M.; Boccaccio C.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1795380
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