Lindsey E Ulkus

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States

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Publications (10)160.04 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are present in the blood of patients with metastatic epithelial cancers but have been difficult to measure routinely. We report a quantitative automated imaging system for analysis of prostate CTCs, taking advantage of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a unique prostate tumor-associated marker. The specificity of PSA staining enabled optimization of criteria for baseline image intensity, morphometric measurements, and integration of multiple signals in a three-dimensional microfluidic device. In a pilot analysis, we detected CTCs in prostate cancer patients with localized disease, before surgical tumor removal in 8 of 19 (42%) patients (range, 38 to 222 CTCs per milliliter). For 6 of the 8 patients with preoperative CTCs, a precipitous postoperative decline (<24 hours) suggests a short half-life for CTCs in the blood circulation. Other patients had persistent CTCs for up to 3 months after prostate removal, suggesting early but transient disseminated tumor deposits. In patients with metastatic prostate cancer, CTCs were detected in 23 of 36 (64%) cases (range, 14 to 5000 CTCs per milliliter). In previously untreated patients followed longitudinally, the numbers of CTCs declined after the initiation of effective therapy. The prostate cancer-specific TMPRSS2-ERG fusion was detectable in RNA extracted from CTCs from 9 of 20 (45%) patients with metastatic disease, and dual staining of captured CTCs for PSA and the cell division marker Ki67 indicated a broad range for the proportion of proliferating cells among CTCs. This method for analysis of CTCs will facilitate the application of noninvasive tumor sampling to direct targeted therapies in advanced prostate cancer and warrants the initiation of long-term clinical studies to test the importance of CTCs in invasive localized disease.
    Science translational medicine 03/2010; 2(25):25ra23. · 10.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mutational inactivation of genes controlling the DNA-damage response contributes to cancer susceptibility within families and within the general population as well as to sporadic tumorigenesis. Claspin (CLSPN) encodes a recently recognized mediator protein essential for the ATR and CHK1-dependent checkpoint elicited by replicative stress or the presence of ssDNA. Here, we describe a study to determine whether mutational disruption of CLSPN contributes to cancer susceptibility and sporadic tumorigenesis. We resequenced CLSPN from the germline of selected cancer families with a history of breast cancer (n = 25) or a multicancer phenotype (n = 46) as well as from a panel of sporadic cancer cell lines (n = 52) derived from a variety of tumor types. Eight nonsynonymous variants, including a recurrent mutation, were identified from the germline of two cancer-prone individuals and five cancer cell lines of breast, ovarian, and hematopoietic origin. None of the variants was present within population controls. In contrast, mutations were rare within genes encoding the CLSPN-interacting protein ATR and its binding partner ATRIP. One variant of CLSPN, encoding the I783S missense mutation, was defective in its ability to mediate CHK1 phosphorylation following DNA damage and was unable to rescue sensitivity to replicative stress in CLSPN-depleted cells. Taken together, these observations raise the possibility that CLSPN may encode a component of the DNA-damage response pathway that is targeted by mutations in human cancers, suggesting the need for larger population-based studies to investigate whether CLSPN variants contribute to cancer susceptibility.
    Molecular Cancer Research 10/2009; 7(9):1510-6. · 4.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptors (PDGFR) and their ligands play critical roles in several human malignancies. Sunitinib is a clinically approved multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor that inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, c-KIT, and PDGFR, and has shown clinical activity in various solid tumors. Activation of PDGFR signaling has been described in gastrointestinal stromal tumors (PDGFRA mutations) as well as in chronic myeloid leukemia (BCR-PDGFRA translocation), and sunitinib can yield clinical benefit in both settings. However, the discovery of PDGFR activating mutations or gene rearrangements in other tumor types could reveal additional patient populations who might benefit from treatment with anti-PDGFR therapies, such as sunitinib. Using a high-throughput cancer cell line screening platform, we found that only 2 of 637 tested human tumor-derived cell lines show significant sensitivity to single-agent sunitinib exposure. These two cell lines [a non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and a rhabdomyosarcoma] showed expression of highly phosphorylated PDGFRA. In the sunitinib-sensitive adenosquamous NSCLC cell line, PDGFRA expression was associated with focal PFGRA gene amplification, which was similarly detected in a small fraction of squamous cell NSCLC primary tumor specimens. Moreover, in this NSCLC cell line, focal amplification of the gene encoding the PDGFR ligand PDGFC was also detected, and silencing PDGFRA or PDGFC expression by RNA interference inhibited proliferation. A similar codependency on PDGFRA and PDGFC was observed in the sunitinib-sensitive rhabdomyosarcoma cell line. These findings suggest that, in addition to gastrointestinal stromal tumors, rare tumors that show PDGFC-mediated PDGFRA activation may also be clinically responsive to pharmacologic PDGFRA or PDGFC inhibition.
    Cancer Research 05/2009; 69(9):3937-46. · 9.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors to target the epidermal growth factor receptor gene (EGFR) in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer is effective but limited by the emergence of drug-resistance mutations. Molecular characterization of circulating tumor cells may provide a strategy for noninvasive serial monitoring of tumor genotypes during treatment. We captured highly purified circulating tumor cells from the blood of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer using a microfluidic device containing microposts coated with antibodies against epithelial cells. We performed EGFR mutational analysis on DNA recovered from circulating tumor cells using allele-specific polymerase-chain-reaction amplification and compared the results with those from concurrently isolated free plasma DNA and from the original tumor-biopsy specimens. We isolated circulating tumor cells from 27 patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (median number, 74 cells per milliliter). We identified the expected EGFR activating mutation in circulating tumor cells from 11 of 12 patients (92%) and in matched free plasma DNA from 4 of 12 patients (33%) (P=0.009). We detected the T790M mutation, which confers drug resistance, in circulating tumor cells collected from patients with EGFR mutations who had received tyrosine kinase inhibitors. When T790M was detectable in pretreatment tumor-biopsy specimens, the presence of the mutation correlated with reduced progression-free survival (7.7 months vs. 16.5 months, P<0.001). Serial analysis of circulating tumor cells showed that a reduction in the number of captured cells was associated with a radiographic tumor response; an increase in the number of cells was associated with tumor progression, with the emergence of additional EGFR mutations in some cases. Molecular analysis of circulating tumor cells from the blood of patients with lung cancer offers the possibility of monitoring changes in epithelial tumor genotypes during the course of treatment.
    New England Journal of Medicine 07/2008; 359(4):366-77. · 54.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Activating BRAF kinase mutations arise in approximately 7% of all human tumors, and preclinical studies have validated the RAF-mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase-ERK signaling cascade as a potentially important therapeutic target in this setting. Selective RAF kinase inhibitors are currently undergoing clinical development, and based on the experience with other kinase-targeted therapeutics, it is expected that clinical responses to these agents, if observed, will lead to the eventual emergence of drug resistance in most cases. Thus, it is important to establish molecular mechanisms underlying such resistance to develop effective therapeutic strategies to overcome or prevent drug resistance. To anticipate potential mechanisms of acquired resistance to RAF inhibitors during the course of treatment, we established drug-resistant clones from a human melanoma-derived cell line harboring the recurrent V600E activating BRAF mutation, which exhibits exquisite sensitivity to AZ628, a selective RAF kinase inhibitor. We determined that elevated CRAF protein levels account for the acquisition of resistance to AZ628 in these cells, associated with a switch from BRAF to CRAF dependency in tumor cells. We also found that elevated CRAF protein levels may similarly contribute to primary insensitivity to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF mutant tumor cells. Interestingly, AZ628-resistant cells demonstrating either primary drug insensitivity or acquired drug resistance exhibit exquisite sensitivity to the HSP90 inhibitor geldanamycin. Geldanamycin effectively promotes the degradation of CRAF, thereby revealing a potential therapeutic strategy to overcome resistance to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF mutant tumors.
    Cancer Research 07/2008; 68(12):4853-61. · 9.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Selective kinase inhibitors have had a substantial impact on the field of medical oncology. Whereas these agents can elicit dramatic clinical responses in some settings, their activity is generally limited to a subset of treated patients whose tumor cells harbor a specific genetic lesion. We have established an automated platform for examining the sensitivity to various molecularly targeted inhibitors across a large panel of human tumor-derived cell lines to identify additional genotype-correlated responses that may be clinically relevant. Among the inhibitors tested in a panel of 602 cell lines derived from a variety of human cancers, we found that a selective inhibitor of the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) potently suppressed growth of a small subset of tumor cells. This subset included lines derived from anaplastic large cell lymphomas, non-small-cell lung cancers, and neuroblastomas. ALK is a receptor tyrosine kinase that was first identified as part of a protein fusion derived from a chromosomal translocation detected in the majority of anaplastic large cell lymphoma patients, and has recently been implicated as an oncogene in a small fraction of non-small-cell lung cancers and neuroblastomas. Significantly, sensitivity in these cell lines was well correlated with specific ALK genomic rearrangements, including chromosomal translocations and gene amplification. Moreover, in such cell lines, ALK kinase inhibition can lead to potent suppression of downstream survival signaling and an apoptotic response. These findings suggest that a subset of lung cancers, lymphomas, and neuroblastomas that harbor genomic ALK alterations may be clinically responsive to pharmacologic ALK inhibition.
    Cancer Research 06/2008; 68(9):3389-95. · 9.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) harboring activating mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) kinase domain tend to respond well to the tyrosine kinase inhibitors, gefitinib and erlotinib. However, following clinical response, these patients typically relapse within a year of treatment. In many cases, resistance is caused by an acquired secondary EGFR kinase domain mutation, T790M. In vitro studies have shown that a new class of EGFR-irreversible inhibitors could overcome the resistance conferred by T790M. Clinical trials are under way to examine the efficacy of one of these inhibitors, HKI-272, in patients with NSCLC who initially responded to gefitinib/erlotinib and subsequently relapsed. To anticipate the possibility that patients who respond to irreversible inhibitors will develop secondary resistance to such inhibitors, as has been seen in other similar settings, we modeled acquired resistance to the dual EGFR/HER2-irreversible tyrosine kinase inhibitor HKI-272 in a NSCLC cell culture model. We found that HKI-272-resistant clones fall into two biochemical groups based on the retention of EGFR phosphorylation in the presence of the drug. Cells that retain phosphorylated EGFR have acquired the secondary mutation T790M. Moreover, HKI-272 can overcome T790M resistance only at suprapharmacologic concentrations. We further model mutations at EGFR C797 as a mechanism of resistance to irreversible EGFR inhibitors and show that although these mutants are resistant to the irreversible inhibitor, they retain erlotinib sensitivity. Our findings suggest that HKI-272 treatment at maximally tolerated dosing may lead to the emergence of T790M-mediated resistance, whereas treatment with a more potent irreversible inhibitor could yield a resistance mutation at EGFR C797.
    Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 05/2008; 7(4):874-9. · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Viable tumour-derived epithelial cells (circulating tumour cells or CTCs) have been identified in peripheral blood from cancer patients and are probably the origin of intractable metastatic disease. Although extremely rare, CTCs represent a potential alternative to invasive biopsies as a source of tumour tissue for the detection, characterization and monitoring of non-haematologic cancers. The ability to identify, isolate, propagate and molecularly characterize CTC subpopulations could further the discovery of cancer stem cell biomarkers and expand the understanding of the biology of metastasis. Current strategies for isolating CTCs are limited to complex analytic approaches that generate very low yield and purity. Here we describe the development of a unique microfluidic platform (the 'CTC-chip') capable of efficient and selective separation of viable CTCs from peripheral whole blood samples, mediated by the interaction of target CTCs with antibody (EpCAM)-coated microposts under precisely controlled laminar flow conditions, and without requisite pre-labelling or processing of samples. The CTC-chip successfully identified CTCs in the peripheral blood of patients with metastatic lung, prostate, pancreatic, breast and colon cancer in 115 of 116 (99%) samples, with a range of 5-1,281 CTCs per ml and approximately 50% purity. In addition, CTCs were isolated in 7/7 patients with early-stage prostate cancer. Given the high sensitivity and specificity of the CTC-chip, we tested its potential utility in monitoring response to anti-cancer therapy. In a small cohort of patients with metastatic cancer undergoing systemic treatment, temporal changes in CTC numbers correlated reasonably well with the clinical course of disease as measured by standard radiographic methods. Thus, the CTC-chip provides a new and effective tool for accurate identification and measurement of CTCs in patients with cancer. It has broad implications in advancing both cancer biology research and clinical cancer management, including the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of cancer.
    Nature 01/2008; 450(7173):1235-9. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Kinase inhibitors constitute an important new class of cancer drugs, whose selective efficacy is largely determined by underlying tumor cell genetics. We established a high-throughput platform to profile 500 cell lines derived from diverse epithelial cancers for sensitivity to 14 kinase inhibitors. Most inhibitors were ineffective against unselected cell lines but exhibited dramatic cell killing of small nonoverlapping subsets. Cells with exquisite sensitivity to EGFR, HER2, MET, or BRAF kinase inhibitors were marked by activating mutations or amplification of the drug target. Although most cell lines recapitulated known tumor-associated genotypes, the screen revealed low-frequency drug-sensitizing genotypes in tumor types not previously associated with drug susceptibility. Furthermore, comparing drugs thought to target the same kinase revealed striking differences, predictive of clinical efficacy. Genetically defined cancer subsets, irrespective of tissue type, predict response to kinase inhibitors, and provide an important preclinical model to guide early clinical applications of novel targeted inhibitors.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2008; 104(50):19936-41. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Activating mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) characterize a subset of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) with extraordinary sensitivity to targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). A single secondary EGFR mutation, T790M, arising in cis with the primary activating mutation, confers acquired resistance to these drugs. However, the T790M mutation is also detected in the absence of drug selection, suggesting that it may provide a growth advantage. We show here that although T790M alone has only a modest effect on EGFR function, when combined with the characteristic activating mutations L858R or del746-750, it results in a dramatic enhancement of EGFR activity. The double mutants show potent ligand-independent receptor autophosphorylation associated with altered cellular phenotypes, soft agar colony formation, and tumorigenesis in nude mice. The significant gain-of-function properties of these double mutants may explain their initial presence before drug selection and their rapid selection as the single drug resistance mutation during therapy with gefitinib/erlotinib, and suggests that they may contribute to the adverse clinical course of TKI-resistant NSCLC.
    Cancer Research 09/2007; 67(15):7319-26. · 8.65 Impact Factor