Academic Appointments

All Publications

  • Aberrant promoter methylation contributes to LRIG1 silencing in basal/triple-negative breast cancer. British journal of cancer Umeh-Garcia, M., O'Geen, H., Simion, C., Gephart, M. H., Segal, D. J., Sweeney, C. A. 2022


    BACKGROUND: LRIG1, the founding member of the LRIG (leucine-rich repeat and immunoglobulin-like domain) family of transmembrane proteins, is a negative regulator of receptor tyrosine kinases and a tumour suppressor. Decreased LRIG1 expression is consistently observed in cancer, across diverse tumour types, and is linked to poor patient prognosis. However, mechanisms by which LRIG1 is repressed are not fully understood. Silencing of LRIG1 through promoter CpG island methylation has been reported in colorectal and cervical cancer but studies in breast cancer remain limited.METHODS: In silico analysis of human breast cancer patient data were used to demonstrate a correlation between DNA methylation and LRIG1 silencing in basal/triple-negative breast cancer, and its impact on patient survival. LRIG1 gene expression, protein abundance, and methylation enrichment were examined by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR, immunoblotting, and methylation immunoprecipitation, respectively, in breast cancer cell lines in vitro. We examined the impact of global demethylation on LRIG1 expression and methylation enrichment using 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. We also examined the effects of targeted demethylation of the LRIG1 CpG island, and transcriptional activation of LRIG1 expression, using the RNA guided deadCas9 transactivation system.RESULTS: Across breast cancer subtypes, LRIG1 expression is lowest in the basal/triple-negative subtype so we investigated whether differential methylation may contribute to this. Indeed, we find that LRIG1 CpG island methylation is most prominent in basal/triple-negative cell lines and patient samples. Use of the global demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine decreases methylation leading to increased LRIG1 transcript expression in basal/triple-negative cell lines, while having no effect on LRIG1 expression in luminal/ER-positive cell lines. Using a CRISPR/deadCas9 (dCas9)-based targeting approach, we demonstrate that TET1-mediated demethylation (Tet1-dCas9) along with VP64-mediated transcriptional activation (VP64-dCas9) at the CpG island, increased endogenous LRIG1 expression in basal/triple-negative breast cancer cells, without transcriptional upregulation at predicted off-target sites. Activation of LRIG1 by the dCas9 transactivation system significantly increased LRIG1 protein abundance, reduced site-specific methylation, and reduced cancer cell viability. Our findings suggest that CRISPR-mediated targeted activation may be a feasible way to restore LRIG1 expression in cancer.CONCLUSIONS: Our study contributes novel insight into mechanisms which repress LRIG1 in triple-negative breast cancer and demonstrates for the first time that targeted de-repression of LRIG1 in cancer cells is possible. Understanding the epigenetic mechanisms associated with repression of tumour suppressor genes holds potential for the advancement of therapeutic approaches.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41416-022-01812-8

    View details for PubMedID 35440669

  • A Novel Brain-Permeant Chemotherapeutic Agent for the Treatment of Brain Metastasis in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Molecular cancer therapeutics Deng, J., Chernikova, S. B., Wang, Y., Rodriguez, M. L., Andersen, S. J., Umeh-Garcia, M. C., Godfrey, B. O., Ahmadian, S. S., Fischer, W., Koller, K. J., Jandeleit, B., Ringold, G. M., Gephart, M. H. 2021


    Development of metastases to central nervous system (CNS) is an increasing clinical issue following the diagnosis of advanced breast cancer. The propensity to metastasize to CNS varies by breast cancer subtype. Of the four breast cancer subtypes, triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) have the highest rates of both parenchymal brain metastasis and leptomeningeal metastasis (LM). LM is rapidly fatal due to poor detection and limited therapeutic options. Therapy of TNBC brain metastasis and LM is challenged by multifocal brain metastasis and diffuse spread of LM, and must balance brain penetration, tumor cytotoxicity, and the avoidance of neurotoxicity. Thus, there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic options in TNBCs CNS metastasis. QBS10072S is a novel chemotherapeutic that leverages TNBC-specific defects in DNA repair and LAT1 (L-amino acid transporter type 1)-dependent transport into the brain. In our study, activity of QBS10072S was investigated in vitro with various cell lines including the human TNBC cell line MDA-MB-231 and its brain-tropic derivative MDA-MB-231-BR3. QBS10072S was preferentially toxic to TNBC cells. The efficacy of QBS10072S against brain metastasis and LM was tested using a model of brain metastasis based on the internal carotid injection of luciferase-expressing tumor cells into NuNu mice. The compound was well tolerated, delayed tumor growth and reduced leptomeningeal dissemination, resulting in significant extension of survival. Given that current treatments for LM are palliative with only few studies reporting a survival benefit, QBS10072S is planned to be investigated in clinical trials as a therapeutic for TNBC LM. SIGNIFICANCE: TNBC brain metastasis often involves dissemination into leptomeninges. Treatment options for TNBC leptomeningeal metastasis are limited and are mostly palliative. Our study demonstrates significant efficacy of the brain-penetrating agent QBS10072S against TNBC brain metastasis and leptomeningeal spread.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-21-0140

    View details for PubMedID 34635566

  • Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis: Molecular Landscape, Current Management, and Emerging Therapies. Neurosurgery clinics of North America Bhambhvani, H. P., Rodrigues, A. J., Umeh-Garcia, M. C., Hayden Gephart, M. 2020; 31 (4): 613–25


    Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is a devastating consequence of late-stage cancer, and despite multimodal treatment, remains rapidly fatal. Definitive diagnosis requires identification of malignant cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), or frank disease on MRI. Therapy is generally palliative and consists primarily of radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, which is administered intrathecally or systemically. Immunotherapies and novel experimental therapies have emerged as promising options for decreasing patient morbidity and mortality. In this review, the authors discuss a refined view of the molecular pathophysiology of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, current approaches to disease management, and emerging therapies.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/

    View details for PubMedID 32921356