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Molecular homology between canine spontaneous oral squamous cell carcinomas and human head-and-neck squamous cell carcinomas reveals disease drivers and therapeutic vulnerabilities


Guscetti, Franco; Nassiri, Sina; Beebe, Erin; Rito Brandao, Inês; Graf, Ramona; Markkanen, Enni (2020). Molecular homology between canine spontaneous oral squamous cell carcinomas and human head-and-neck squamous cell carcinomas reveals disease drivers and therapeutic vulnerabilities. Neoplasia, 22(12):778-788.

Abstract

Spontaneously occurring canine oral squamous cell carcinomas (COSCC) are viewed as a useful model for human head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). To date however, the molecular basis of COSCC remains poorly understood. To identify changes pertinent to cancer cells in COSCC, we specifically analyzed tumor cells and matched normal epithelium from clinical formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens using laser-capture-microdissection coupled with RNA-sequencing (RNAseq). Our results identify strong contributions of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), classical tumor-promoting (such as E2F, KRAS, MYC, mTORC1, and TGFB1 signaling) and immune-related pathways in the tumor epithelium of COSCC. Comparative analyses of COSCC with 43 paired tumor/normal HNSCC from The Cancer Genome Atlas revealed a high homology in transcriptional reprogramming, and identified processes associated with cell cycle progression, immune processes, and loss of cellular differentiation as likely central drivers of the disease. Similar to HNSCC, our analyses suggested a ZEB2-driven partial EMT in COSCC and identified selective upregulation of KRT14 and KRT17 in COSCC. Beyond homology in transcriptional signatures, we also found therapeutic vulnerabilities strongly conserved between the species: these included increased expression of PD-L1 and CTLA-4, coinciding with EMT and revealing the potential for immune checkpoint therapies, and overexpression of CDK4/6 that sensitized COSCC to treatment with palbociclib. In summary, our data significantly extend the current knowledge of molecular aberrations in COSCC and underline the potential of spontaneous COSCC as a model for HNSCC to interrogate therapeutic vulnerabilities and support translation of novel therapies from bench to bedside.

Abstract

Spontaneously occurring canine oral squamous cell carcinomas (COSCC) are viewed as a useful model for human head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). To date however, the molecular basis of COSCC remains poorly understood. To identify changes pertinent to cancer cells in COSCC, we specifically analyzed tumor cells and matched normal epithelium from clinical formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens using laser-capture-microdissection coupled with RNA-sequencing (RNAseq). Our results identify strong contributions of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), classical tumor-promoting (such as E2F, KRAS, MYC, mTORC1, and TGFB1 signaling) and immune-related pathways in the tumor epithelium of COSCC. Comparative analyses of COSCC with 43 paired tumor/normal HNSCC from The Cancer Genome Atlas revealed a high homology in transcriptional reprogramming, and identified processes associated with cell cycle progression, immune processes, and loss of cellular differentiation as likely central drivers of the disease. Similar to HNSCC, our analyses suggested a ZEB2-driven partial EMT in COSCC and identified selective upregulation of KRT14 and KRT17 in COSCC. Beyond homology in transcriptional signatures, we also found therapeutic vulnerabilities strongly conserved between the species: these included increased expression of PD-L1 and CTLA-4, coinciding with EMT and revealing the potential for immune checkpoint therapies, and overexpression of CDK4/6 that sensitized COSCC to treatment with palbociclib. In summary, our data significantly extend the current knowledge of molecular aberrations in COSCC and underline the potential of spontaneous COSCC as a model for HNSCC to interrogate therapeutic vulnerabilities and support translation of novel therapies from bench to bedside.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Institute of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology
05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Institute of Veterinary Pathology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Cancer Research
Uncontrolled Keywords:Cancer Research
Language:English
Date:1 December 2020
Deposited On:18 Dec 2020 15:45
Last Modified:01 Jan 2021 20:57
Publisher:Neoplasia Press
ISSN:1476-5586
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neo.2020.10.003
PubMed ID:33142242

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