Ependymomas are common childhood brain tumours that occur throughout the nervous system, but are most common in the paediatric hindbrain. Current standard therapy comprises surgery and radiation, but not cytotoxic chemotherapy as it does not further increase survival. Whole-genome and whole-exome sequencing of 47 hindbrain ependymomas reveals an extremely low mutation rate, and zero significant recurrent somatic single nucleotide variants. Although devoid of recurrent single nucleotide variants and focal copy number aberrations, poor-prognosis hindbrain ependymomas exhibit a CpG island methylator phenotype. Transcriptional silencing driven by CpG methylation converges exclusively on targets of the Polycomb repressive complex 2 which represses expression of differentiation genes through trimethylation of H3K27. CpG island methylator phenotype-positive hindbrain ependymomas are responsive to clinical drugs that target either DNA or H3K27 methylation both in vitro and in vivo. We conclude that epigenetic modifiers are the first rational therapeutic candidates for this deadly malignancy, which is epigenetically deregulated but genetically bland.
We recently reported that atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors (ATRTs) comprise at least two transcriptional subtypes with different clinical outcomes; however, the mechanisms underlying therapeutic heterogeneity remained unclear. In this study, we analyzed 191 primary ATRTs and 10 ATRT cell lines to define the genomic and epigenomic landscape of ATRTs and identify subgroup-specific therapeutic targets. We found ATRTs segregated into three epigenetic subgroups with distinct genomic profiles, SMARCB1 genotypes, and chromatin landscape that correlated with differential cellular responses to a panel of signaling and epigenetic inhibitors. Significantly, we discovered that differential methylation of a PDGFRB-associated enhancer confers specific sensitivity of group 2 ATRT cells to dasatinib and nilotinib, and suggest that these are promising therapies for this highly lethal ATRT subtype.
Genomic sequencing has driven precision-based oncology therapy; however, genetic drivers remain unknown or non-targetable for many malignancies, demanding alternative approaches to identify therapeutic leads. Ependymomas are chemotherapy-resistant brain tumours, which, despite genomic sequencing, lack effective molecular targets. Intracranial ependymomas are segregated based on anatomical location – supratentorial region (ST) or posterior fossa (PF) – and further divided into distinct molecular subgroups that reflect differences in age of onset, gender predominance, and response to therapy1–3. The most common and aggressive subgroup, Posterior Fossa Ependymoma Group A (PF-EPN-A), occurs in young children and appears to lack recurrent somatic mutations2. Conversely, Posterior Fossa Ependymoma Group B (PF-EPN-B) tumours display frequent large-scale copy number gains and losses yet favourable clinical outcomes1,3. Greater than 70% of supratentorial ependymomas are defined by highly recurrent gene fusions in the NFκB subunit RELA (ST-EPN-RELA), and less frequently involve fusion of the gene encoding the transcriptional activator YAP1 (ST-EPN-YAP1).1,3,4 Subependymomas, a distinct histologic variant, can also be found within the ST and PF compartments accounting for the majority of tumours in the molecular subgroups ST-EPN-SE and PF-EPN-SE, respectively1. Here, we mapped active chromatin landscapes in 42 primary ependymomas in two non-overlapping primary ependymoma cohorts with the goal of identifying essential super enhancer associated genes on which tumour cells were dependent. Enhancer regions revealed putative oncogenes, molecular targets, and pathways, which when subjected to small molecule inhibitor or shRNA treatment, diminished proliferation of patient-derived neurospheres and increased survival in mouse models of ependymomas. Through profiling of transcriptional enhancers, our study provides a framework for target and drug discovery in other cancers recalcitrant to therapeutic development because of their lack of known genetic drivers.
Embryonal tumors with multilayered rosettes (ETMRs) are rare, deadly pediatric brain tumors characterized by high-level amplification of the microRNA cluster C19MC. We performed integrated genetic and epigenetic analyses of 12 ETMR samples and identified, in all cases, C19MC fusions to TTYH1 driving expression of the microRNAs. ETMR tumors, cell lines and xenografts showed a specific DNA methylation pattern distinct from those of other tumors and normal tissues. We detected extreme overexpression of a previously uncharacterized isoform of DNMT3B originating at an alternative promoter that is active only in the first weeks of neural tube development. Transcriptional and immunohistochemical analyses suggest that C19MC-dependent DNMT3B deregulation is mediated by RBL2, a known repressor of DNMT3B. Transfection with individual C19MC microRNAs resulted in DNMT3B upregulation and RBL2 downregulation in cultured cells. Our data suggest a potential oncogenic re-engagement of an early developmental program in ETMR via epigenetic alteration mediated by an embryonic, brain-specific DNMT3B isoform.
Amplification of the C19MC oncogenic miRNA cluster and high LIN28 expression has been linked to a distinctly aggressive group of cerebral CNS-PNETs (group 1 CNS-PNETs) arising in young children. In this study, we sought to evaluate the diagnostic specificity of C19MC and LIN28, and the clinical and biological spectra of C19MC amplified and/or LIN28+ CNS-PNETs. We interrogated 450 pediatric brain tumors using FISH and IHC analyses and demonstrate that C19MC alteration is restricted to a sub-group of CNS-PNETs with high LIN28 expression; however, LIN28 immunopositivity was not exclusive to CNS-PNETs but was also detected in a proportion of other malignant pediatric brain tumors including rhabdoid brain tumors and malignant gliomas. C19MC amplified/LIN28+ group 1 CNS-PNETs arose predominantly in children <4 years old; a majority arose in the cerebrum but 24 % (13/54) of tumors had extra-cerebral origins. Notably, group 1 CNS-PNETs encompassed several histologic classes including embryonal tumor with abundant neuropil and true rosettes (ETANTR), medulloepithelioma, ependymoblastoma and CNS-PNETs with variable differentiation. Strikingly, gene expression and methylation profiling analyses revealed a common molecular signature enriched for primitive neural features, high LIN28/LIN28B and DNMT3B expression for all group 1 CNS-PNETs regardless of location or tumor histology. Our collective findings suggest that current known histologic categories of CNS-PNETs which include ETANTRs, medulloepitheliomas, ependymoblastomas in various CNS locations, comprise a common molecular and diagnostic entity and identify inhibitors of the LIN28/let7/PI3K/mTOR axis and DNMT3B as promising therapeutics for this distinct histogenetic entity.Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-014-1291-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
BT183 retains key genetic and histologic features of ETMR. In ETMR, Lin28 is not only a diagnostic marker but also a regulator of genes involved in growth and metabolism. Our findings indicate that inhibitors of the IGF/PI3K/mTOR pathway may be promising novel therapies for these fatal embryonal tumors. As the first patient-derived cell line of these rare tumors, BT183 is an important, unique reagent for investigating ETMR biology and therapeutics.
Highlights d C19MC alterations and chr2 gains comprise the most frequent genetic events in ETMRs d C19MC-TTYH1 gene fusion and MYCN DNA interactions create super-enhancers d Super-enhancers and multiple feedback loops fortify a C19MC-LIN28A-MYCN circuitry d BET domain inhibitors abrogate C19MC-LIN28A-MYCN circuit to induce ETMR cell death
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