All Publications

  • A synthetic lethal screen for Snail-induced enzalutamide resistance identifies JAK/STAT signaling as a therapeutic vulnerability in prostate cancer. Frontiers in molecular biosciences Ware, K. E., Thomas, B. C., Olawuni, P. D., Sheth, M. U., Hawkey, N., Yeshwanth, M., Miller, B. C., Vietor, K. J., Jolly, M. K., Kim, S. Y., Armstrong, A. J., Somarelli, J. A. 2023; 10: 1104505


    Despite substantial improvements in the treatment landscape of prostate cancer, the evolution of hormone therapy-resistant and metastatic prostate cancer remains a major cause of cancer-related death globally. The mainstay of treatment for advanced prostate cancer is targeting of androgen receptor signaling, including androgen deprivation therapy plus second-generation androgen receptor blockade (e.g., enzalutamide, apalutamide, darolutamide), and/or androgen synthesis inhibition (abiraterone). While these agents have significantly prolonged the lives of patients with advanced prostate cancer, is nearly universal. This therapy resistance is mediated by diverse mechanisms, including both androgen receptor-dependent mechanisms, such as androgen receptor mutations, amplifications, alternative splicing, and amplification, as well as non-androgen receptor-mediated mechanisms, such as lineage plasticity toward neuroendocrine-like or epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-like lineages. Our prior work identified the EMT transcriptional regulator Snail as critical to hormonal therapy resistance and is commonly detected in human metastatic prostate cancer. In the current study, we sought to interrogate the actionable landscape of EMT-mediated hormone therapy resistant prostate cancer to identify synthetic lethality and collateral sensitivity approaches to treating this aggressive, therapy-resistant disease state. Using a combination of high-throughput drug screens and multi-parameter phenotyping by confluence imaging, ATP production, and phenotypic plasticity reporters of EMT, we identified candidate synthetic lethalities to Snail-mediated EMT in prostate cancer. These analyses identified multiple actionable targets, such as XPO1, PI3K/mTOR, aurora kinases, c-MET, polo-like kinases, and JAK/STAT as synthetic lethalities in Snail+ prostate cancer. We validated these targets in a subsequent validation screen in an LNCaP-derived model of resistance to sequential androgen deprivation and enzalutamide. This follow-up screen provided validation of inhibitors of JAK/STAT and PI3K/mTOR as therapeutic vulnerabilities for both Snail+ and enzalutamide-resistant prostate cancer.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fmolb.2023.1104505

    View details for PubMedID 37228586

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10203420

  • Loss of ATRX promotes aggressive features of osteosarcoma with increased NF-κB signaling and integrin binding. JCI insight Bartholf DeWitt, S., Hoskinson Plumlee, S., Brighton, H. E., Sivaraj, D., Martz, E. J., Zand, M., Kumar, V., Sheth, M. U., Floyd, W., Spruance, J. V., Hawkey, N., Varghese, S., Ruan, J., Kirsch, D. G., Somarelli, J. A., Alman, B., Eward, W. C. 2022; 7 (17)


    Osteosarcoma (OS) is a lethal disease with few known targeted therapies. Here, we show that decreased ATRX expression is associated with more aggressive tumor cell phenotypes, including increased growth, migration, invasion, and metastasis. These phenotypic changes correspond with activation of NF-κB signaling, extracellular matrix remodeling, increased integrin αvβ3 expression, and ETS family transcription factor binding. Here, we characterize these changes in vitro, in vivo, and in a data set of human OS patients. This increased aggression substantially sensitizes ATRX-deficient OS cells to integrin signaling inhibition. Thus, ATRX plays an important tumor-suppression role in OS, and loss of function of this gene may underlie new therapeutic vulnerabilities. The relationship between ATRX expression and integrin binding, NF-κB activation, and ETS family transcription factor binding has not been described in previous studies and may impact the pathophysiology of other diseases with ATRX loss, including other cancers and the ATR-X α thalassemia intellectual disability syndrome.

    View details for DOI 10.1172/jci.insight.151583

    View details for PubMedID 36073547

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9536280

  • Treatment of Chondroblastoma with Denosumab: A Case Report with a Correlative Analysis of Effect on the RANK Signaling Pathway. JBJS case connector Visgauss, J. D., Lazarides, A., Dickson, B., Cardona, D., Sheth, M., DeWitt, S. B., Somarelli, J. A., Eward, W. C. 2021; 11 (2)


    A 15-year-old boy with chondroblastoma of the right hemipelvis presented with significant periacetabular bone destruction. Neoadjuvant denosumab treatment facilitated initial joint preserving surgery. Unfortunately, he experienced 2 local recurrences and underwent wide surgical resection 2 years after his initial diagnosis.Inhibition of the receptor activator of NF-κB (RANK)/RANK ligand (RANK-L) pathway with denosumab has been used neoadjuvantly for the treatment of giant cell tumor of bone, but its role in the treatment of chondroblastoma is less understood. This patient's clinical response and effect on cellular RANK/RANK-L activity support the consideration of denosumab in the treatment algorithm for other osteolytic bone tumors such as chondroblastoma.

    View details for DOI 10.2106/JBJS.CC.20.00178

    View details for PubMedID 33999872

  • A Comparative Oncology Drug Discovery Pipeline to Identify and Validate New Treatments for Osteosarcoma CANCERS Somarelli, J. A., Rupprecht, G., Altunel, E., Flamant, E. M., Rao, S., Sivaraj, D., Lazarides, A. L., Hoskinson, S. M., Sheth, M. U., Cheng, S., Kim, S., Ware, K. E., Agarwal, A., Cullen, M. M., Selmic, L. E., Everitt, J. I., McCall, S. J., Eward, C., Eward, W. C., Hsu, D. S. 2020; 12 (11)


    Osteosarcoma is a rare but aggressive bone cancer that occurs primarily in children. Like other rare cancers, treatment advances for osteosarcoma have stagnated, with little improvement in survival for the past several decades. Developing new treatments has been hampered by extensive genomic heterogeneity and limited access to patient samples to study the biology of this complex disease.To overcome these barriers, we combined the power of comparative oncology with patient-derived models of cancer and high-throughput chemical screens in a cross-species drug discovery pipeline.Coupling in vitro high-throughput drug screens on low-passage and established cell lines with in vivo validation in patient-derived xenografts we identify the proteasome and CRM1 nuclear export pathways as therapeutic sensitivities in osteosarcoma, with dual inhibition of these pathways inducing synergistic cytotoxicity.These collective efforts provide an experimental framework and set of new tools for osteosarcoma and other rare cancers to identify and study new therapeutic vulnerabilities.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/cancers12113335

    View details for Web of Science ID 000592722600001

    View details for PubMedID 33187254

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7696249

  • From the Clinic to the Bench and Back Again in One Dog Year: How a Cross-Species Pipeline to Identify New Treatments for Sarcoma Illuminates the Path Forward in Precision Medicine FRONTIERS IN ONCOLOGY Rao, S. R., Somarelli, J. A., Altunel, E., Selmic, L. E., Byrum, M., Sheth, M. U., Cheng, S., Ware, K. E., Kim, S., Prinz, J. A., Devos, N., Corcoran, D. L., Moseley, A., Soderblom, E., Hsu, S., Eward, W. C. 2020; 10: 117


    Cancer drug discovery is an inefficient process, with more than 90% of newly-discovered therapies failing to gain regulatory approval. Patient-derived models of cancer offer a promising new approach to identify new treatments; however, for rare cancers, such as sarcomas, access to patient samples is limited, which precludes development of patient-derived models. To address the limited access to patient samples, we have turned to pet dogs with naturally-occurring sarcomas. Although sarcomas make up <1% of all human cancers, sarcomas represent 15% of cancers in dogs. Because dogs have similar immune systems, an accelerated pace of cancer progression, and a shared environment with humans, studying pet dogs with cancer is ideal for bridging gaps between mouse models and human cancers. Here, we present our cross-species personalized medicine pipeline to identify new therapies for sarcomas. We explore this process through the focused study of a pet dog, Teddy, who presented with six synchronous leiomyosarcomas. Using our pipeline we identified proteasome inhibitors as a potential therapy for Teddy. Teddy was treated with bortezomib and showed a varied response across tumors. Whole exome sequencing revealed substantial genetic heterogeneity across Teddy's recurrent tumors and metastases, suggesting that intra-patient heterogeneity and tumoral adaptation were responsible for the heterogeneous clinical response. Ubiquitin proteomics coupled with exome sequencing revealed multiple candidate driver mutations in proteins related to the proteasome pathway. Together, our results demonstrate how the comparative study of canine sarcomas offers important insights into the development of personalized medicine approaches that can lead to new treatments for sarcomas in both humans and canines.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fonc.2020.00117

    View details for Web of Science ID 000517490400001

    View details for PubMedID 32117764

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7026496

  • Improving Cancer Drug Discovery by Studying Cancer across the Tree of Life MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION Somarelli, J. A., Boddy, A. M., Gardner, H. L., DeWitt, S., Tuohy, J., Megquier, K., Sheth, M. U., Hsu, S., Thorne, J. L., London, C. A., Eward, W. C. 2020; 37 (1): 11-17


    Despite a considerable expenditure of time and resources and significant advances in experimental models of disease, cancer research continues to suffer from extremely low success rates in translating preclinical discoveries into clinical practice. The continued failure of cancer drug development, particularly late in the course of human testing, not only impacts patient outcomes, but also drives up the cost for those therapies that do succeed. It is clear that a paradigm shift is necessary if improvements in this process are to occur. One promising direction for increasing translational success is comparative oncology-the study of cancer across species, often involving veterinary patients that develop naturally-occurring cancers. Comparative oncology leverages the power of cross-species analyses to understand the fundamental drivers of cancer protective mechanisms, as well as factors contributing to cancer initiation and progression. Clinical trials in veterinary patients with cancer provide an opportunity to evaluate novel therapeutics in a setting that recapitulates many of the key features of human cancers, including genomic aberrations that underly tumor development, response and resistance to treatment, and the presence of comorbidities that can affect outcomes. With a concerted effort from basic scientists, human physicians and veterinarians, comparative oncology has the potential to enhance the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of pipelines for cancer drug discovery and other cancer treatments.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/molbev/msz254

    View details for Web of Science ID 000515121200003

    View details for PubMedID 31688937

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8204703

  • Bioengineering a Future Free of Marine Plastic Waste FRONTIERS IN MARINE SCIENCE Sheth, M. U., Kwartler, S. K., Schmaltz, E. R., Hoskinson, S. M., Martz, E. J., Dunphy-Daly, M. M., Schultz, T. F., Read, A. J., Eward, W. C., Somarelli, J. A. 2019; 6
  • An Integrative Systems Biology and Experimental Approach Identifies Convergence of Epithelial Plasticity, Metabolism, and Autophagy to Promote Chemoresistance JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MEDICINE Xu, S., Ware, K. E., Ding, Y., Kim, S., Sheth, M. U., Rao, S., Chan, W., Armstrong, A. J., Eward, W. C., Jolly, M., Somarelli, J. A. 2019; 8 (2)


    The evolution of therapeutic resistance is a major cause of death for cancer patients. The development of therapy resistance is shaped by the ecological dynamics within the tumor microenvironment and the selective pressure of the host immune system. These selective forces often lead to evolutionary convergence on pathways or hallmarks that drive progression. Thus, a deeper understanding of the evolutionary convergences that occur could reveal vulnerabilities to treat therapy-resistant cancer. To this end, we combined phylogenetic clustering, systems biology analyses, and molecular experimentation to identify convergences in gene expression data onto common signaling pathways. We applied these methods to derive new insights about the networks at play during transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-mediated epithelial⁻mesenchymal transition in lung cancer. Phylogenetic analyses of gene expression data from TGF-β-treated cells revealed convergence of cells toward amine metabolic pathways and autophagy during TGF-β treatment. Knockdown of the autophagy regulatory, ATG16L1, re-sensitized lung cancer cells to cancer therapies following TGF-β-induced resistance, implicating autophagy as a TGF-β-mediated chemoresistance mechanism. In addition, high ATG16L expression was found to be a poor prognostic marker in multiple cancer types. These analyses reveal the usefulness of combining evolutionary and systems biology methods with experimental validation to illuminate new therapeutic vulnerabilities for cancer.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/jcm8020205

    View details for Web of Science ID 000460295400078

    View details for PubMedID 30736412

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6406733

  • Hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal phenotypes promote metastasis and therapy resistance across carcinomas PHARMACOLOGY & THERAPEUTICS Jolly, M., Somarelli, J. A., Sheth, M., Biddle, A., Tripathi, S. C., Armstrong, A. J., Hanash, S. M., Bapat, S. A., Rangarajan, A., Levine, H. 2019; 194: 161-184


    Cancer metastasis and therapy resistance are the major unsolved clinical challenges, and account for nearly all cancer-related deaths. Both metastasis and therapy resistance are fueled by epithelial plasticity, the reversible phenotypic transitions between epithelial and mesenchymal phenotypes, including epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET). EMT and MET have been largely considered as binary processes, where cells detach from the primary tumor as individual units with many, if not all, traits of a mesenchymal cell (EMT) and then convert back to being epithelial (MET). However, recent studies have demonstrated that cells can metastasize in ways alternative to traditional EMT paradigm; for example, they can detach as clusters, and/or occupy one or more stable hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) phenotypes that can be the end point of a transition. Such hybrid E/M cells can integrate various epithelial and mesenchymal traits and markers, facilitating collective cell migration. Furthermore, these hybrid E/M cells may possess higher tumor-initiation and metastatic potential as compared to cells on either end of the EMT spectrum. Here, we review in silico, in vitro, in vivo and clinical evidence for the existence of one or more hybrid E/M phenotype(s) in multiple carcinomas, and discuss their implications in tumor-initiation, tumor relapse, therapy resistance, and metastasis. Together, these studies drive the emerging notion that cells in a hybrid E/M phenotype may occupy 'metastatic sweet spot' in multiple subtypes of carcinomas, and pathways linked to this (these) hybrid E/M state(s) may be relevant as prognostic biomarkers as well as a promising therapeutic targets.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2018.09.007

    View details for Web of Science ID 000457951500010

    View details for PubMedID 30268772