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Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Pathology, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2024 | Viewed by 19054

Special Issue Editors

Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Center, Cancer Research Center, Saint Savas Cancer Hospital, 171 Alexandras Av., 11522 Athens, Greece
Interests: cancer biology; cancer immunology; cancer immunotherapy; targeted therapy; cancer theranostics; anti-cancer treatment; stem cell biology; miRNAs and cancer; cancer biomarkers
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Center, Cancer Research Center, Saint Savas Cancer Hospital, 171 Alexandras Avenue, 11522 Athens, Greece
Interests: Immune genes in tumor microenvironment; tumor antigen-specific T-cell receptor frequencies in tumor microenvironment; targeted therapies for cancer; biomarkers
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Despite significant advances in the field of cancer research, the development of substantially effective anti-cancer modalities continues to present significant obstacles, which are mainly attributed to the diverse nature of the disease. Consequently, research has currently focused on two directions; the evolution of current anti-cancer treatments and the development of novel therapeutic strategies. Among these, small molecule inhibitors and immune checkpoint inhibitors, as well as innovative cell-based therapies are a significant part of anti-cancer research and have proven quite effective in pre-clinical and clinical settings. More recently, cancer theranostics have been highlighted as a novel approach to cancer treatment, comprising early diagnosis, high-throughput imaging and targeted therapy through the use of cellular vehicles and/or nanosized materials. Altogether, these may pave the way for more effective treatments with fewer side effects. This Special Issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences aims to provide all significant updates on the field of both pre-clinical and clinical cancer therapy. Submissions highlighting novel research approaches are most welcome. Clinical and basic science contributions, consisting either of original research papers or reviews, will be equally considered.

Dr. Maria Goulielmaki
Dr. Sotirios P. Fortis
Dr. Constantin N. Baxevanis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Molecular Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. There is an Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal. For details about the APC please see here. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • cancer
  • anti-cancer molecules
  • cellular therapy of cancer
  • cancer immunotherapy
  • cancer research
  • novel anti-cancer therapeutics
  • precision oncology
  • cancer biomarkers
  • cancer theranostics

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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16 pages, 2352 KiB  
Article
The Prognostic Significance of Selected HLA Alleles on Prostate Cancer Outcome
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(19), 14454; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241914454 - 22 Sep 2023
Viewed by 574
Abstract
Recently, we have shown that HLA-A*02:01 and HLA-A*24:02 in de novo metastatic prostate cancer (MPCa) have an important role in disease progression. Since de novo MPCa represents a small group among patients diagnosed with prostate cancer (PCa), it was obvious to try to [...] Read more.
Recently, we have shown that HLA-A*02:01 and HLA-A*24:02 in de novo metastatic prostate cancer (MPCa) have an important role in disease progression. Since de novo MPCa represents a small group among patients diagnosed with prostate cancer (PCa), it was obvious to try to extend the validity of our results to larger cohorts of PCa patients. Herein, we analyzed patients irrespective of their disease status at diagnosis to include, besides patients with MPCa, those with localized PCa (LPCa). Our goal was to specify the prognostic value of HLA-A*02:01 and HLA-A*24:02 for overall survival (OS) prospectively and for early biochemical recurrence (BCR) and castrate resistance (CR) as additional clinical endpoints in a prospective/retrospective manner, to improve clinical decisions for patients covering all stages of PCa. On univariate analysis, HLA-A alleles were significantly associated as prognostic biomarkers with early BCR (p = 0.028; HR = 1.822), OS (p = 0.013; HR = 1.547) and showed a trend for CR (p = 0.150; HR = 1.239). On multivariate analysis, HLA-A alleles proved to be independent prognosticators for early BCR (p = 0.017; HR = 2.008), CR (p = 0.005; HR = 1.615), and OS (p = 0.002; HR = 2.063). Kaplan–Meier analyses revealed that patients belonging to the HLA-A*02:01+HLA-A*24:02 group progressed much faster to BCR and CR and had also shorter OS compared to HLA-A*24:02+ patients. Patients being HLA-A*02:01HLA-A*24:02 exhibited varying clinical outcomes, pointing to the presence of additional HLA-A alleles with potential prognostic value. Our data underline the HLA-A alleles as valuable prognostic biomarkers for PCa that may assist with the appropriate treatment and follow-up schedule based on the risk for disease progression to avoid over-diagnosis and over-treatment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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15 pages, 3464 KiB  
Article
Scopoletin Reactivates Latent HIV-1 by Inducing NF-κB Expression without Global T Cell Activation
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(16), 12649; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241612649 - 10 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 762
Abstract
Reversing HIV-1 latency promotes the killing of infected cells and is essential for cure strategies. However, current latency-reversing agents (LRAs) are not entirely effective and safe in activating latent viruses in patients. In this study, we investigated whether Scopoletin (6-Methoxy-7-hydroxycoumarin), an important coumarin [...] Read more.
Reversing HIV-1 latency promotes the killing of infected cells and is essential for cure strategies. However, current latency-reversing agents (LRAs) are not entirely effective and safe in activating latent viruses in patients. In this study, we investigated whether Scopoletin (6-Methoxy-7-hydroxycoumarin), an important coumarin phytoalexin found in plants with multiple pharmacological activities, can reactivate HIV-1 latency and elucidated its underlying mechanism. Using the Jurkat T cell model of HIV-1 latency, we found that Scopoletin can reactivate latent HIV-1 replication with a similar potency to Prostratin and did so in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Moreover, we provide evidence indicating that Scopoletin-induced HIV-1 reactivation involves the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signaling pathway. Importantly, Scopoletin did not have a stimulatory effect on T lymphocyte receptors or HIV-1 receptors. In conclusion, our study suggests that Scopoletin has the potential to reactivate latent HIV-1 without causing global T-cell activation, making it a promising treatment option for anti-HIV-1 latency strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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18 pages, 1839 KiB  
Article
In Vitro and In Vivo Efficacy of a Stroma-Targeted, Tumor Microenvironment Responsive Oncolytic Adenovirus in Different Preclinical Models of Cancer
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(12), 9992; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24129992 - 10 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1473
Abstract
More than one million women are diagnosed annually worldwide with a gynecological cancer. Most gynecological cancers are diagnosed at a late stage, either because a lack of symptoms, such as in ovarian cancer or limited accessibility to primary prevention in low-resource countries, such [...] Read more.
More than one million women are diagnosed annually worldwide with a gynecological cancer. Most gynecological cancers are diagnosed at a late stage, either because a lack of symptoms, such as in ovarian cancer or limited accessibility to primary prevention in low-resource countries, such as in cervical cancer. Here, we extend the studies of AR2011, a stroma-targeted and tumor microenvironment responsive oncolytic adenovirus (OAdV), whose replication is driven by a triple hybrid promoter. We show that AR2011 was able to replicate and lyse in vitro fresh explants obtained from human ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and cervical cancer. AR2011 was also able to strongly inhibit the in vitro growth of ovarian malignant cells obtained from human ascites fluid. The virus could synergize in vitro with cisplatin even on ascites-derived cells obtained from patients heavily pretreated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. AR2011(h404), a dual transcriptionally targeted derived virus armed with hCD40L and h41BBL under the regulation of the hTERT promoter, showed a strong efficacy in vivo both on subcutaneous and intraperitoneally established human ovarian cancer in nude mice. Preliminary studies in an immunocompetent murine tumor model showed that AR2011(m404) expressing the murine cytokines was able to induce an abscopal effect. The present studies suggest that AR2011(h404) is a likely candidate as a novel medicine for intraperitoneal disseminated ovarian cancer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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25 pages, 4511 KiB  
Article
Preconditioned Chorionic Villus Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cells (CVMSCs) Minimize the Invasive Phenotypes of Breast Cancer Cell Line MDA231 In Vitro
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(11), 9569; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24119569 - 31 May 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1150
Abstract
Among the newer choices of targeted therapies against cancer, stem cell therapy is gaining importance because of their antitumor properties. Stem cells suppress growth, metastasis, and angiogenesis, and induce apoptosis in cancer cells. In this study, we have examined the impact of the [...] Read more.
Among the newer choices of targeted therapies against cancer, stem cell therapy is gaining importance because of their antitumor properties. Stem cells suppress growth, metastasis, and angiogenesis, and induce apoptosis in cancer cells. In this study, we have examined the impact of the cellular component and the secretome of preconditioned and naïve placenta-derived Chorionic Villus Mesenchymal Stem Cells (CVMSCs) on the functional characteristics of the Human Breast Cancer cell line MDA231. MDA231 cells were treated with preconditioned CVMSCs and their conditioned media (CM), followed by an evaluation of their functional activities and modulation in gene and protein expression. Human Mammary Epithelial Cells (HMECs) were used as a control. CM obtained from the preconditioned CVMSCs significantly altered the proliferation of MDA231 cells, yet no change in other phenotypes, such as adhesion, migration, and invasion, were observed at various concentrations and time points tested. However, the cellular component of preconditioned CVMSCs significantly inhibited several phenotypes of MDA231 cells, including proliferation, migration, and invasion. CVMSCs-treated MDA231 cells exhibited modulation in the expression of various genes involved in apoptosis, oncogenesis, and Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), explaining the changes in the invasive behavior of MDA231 cells. These studies reveal that preconditioned CVMSCs may make useful candidate in a stem cell-based therapy against cancer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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17 pages, 3279 KiB  
Article
Neuropilin-1 Knockout and Rescue Confirms Its Role to Promote Metastasis in MDA-MB-231 Breast Cancer Cells
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(9), 7792; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24097792 - 25 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1604
Abstract
Breast cancer (BC) metastasis remains a leading cause of female mortality. Neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) is a glycoprotein receptor that plays ligand-dependent roles in BC. Clinical studies indicate its correlation with metastatic disease; however, its functional role in BC metastasis remains uncertain. CRISPR-Cas9 was used [...] Read more.
Breast cancer (BC) metastasis remains a leading cause of female mortality. Neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) is a glycoprotein receptor that plays ligand-dependent roles in BC. Clinical studies indicate its correlation with metastatic disease; however, its functional role in BC metastasis remains uncertain. CRISPR-Cas9 was used to knockout the NRP-1 gene in MDA-MB-231 BC cells, and the effects on metastasis were determined using an orthotopic mouse engraftment model. NRP-1 expression in knockout cells was rescued using a recombinant cDNA with a silent mutation in the sgRNA target-adjacent PAM sequence. Differentially expressed genes between NRP-1 knockout and control cells were determined using whole-transcriptome sequencing and validated using real-time PCR. NRP-1KO cells showed a pronounced reduction in the metastasis to the lungs. KEGG pathway analysis of the transcriptome data revealed that PI3K and ECM receptor interactions were among the top altered pathways in the NRP-1KO cells. In addition, reduction in metastasis enhancers proteins, Integrin-β3 and Tenascin-C, and genes CCL20 and FN1 and upregulation of metastasis suppressor genes, ACVRL and GPX3 in NRP-1KO were detected. These findings provide evidence for a functional role for NRP-1 in BC metastasis, supporting further exploration of NRP-1 and the identified genes as targets in treating metastatic BC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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9 pages, 868 KiB  
Communication
Frequencies of an Immunogenic HER-2/neu Epitope of CD8+ T Lymphocytes Predict Favorable Clinical Outcomes in Prostate Cancer
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(6), 5954; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24065954 - 22 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1178
Abstract
HER-2/neu is the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which is associated with the progression of prostate cancer (PCa). HER-2/neu-specific T cell immunity has been shown to predict immunologic and clinical responses in PCa patients treated with HER-2/neu peptide [...] Read more.
HER-2/neu is the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which is associated with the progression of prostate cancer (PCa). HER-2/neu-specific T cell immunity has been shown to predict immunologic and clinical responses in PCa patients treated with HER-2/neu peptide vaccines. However, its prognostic role in PCa patients receiving conventional treatment is unknown, and this was addressed in this study. The densities of CD8+ T cells specific for the HER-2/neu(780–788) peptide in the peripheral blood of PCa patients under standard treatments were correlated with TGF-β/IL-8 levels and clinical outcomes. We demonstrated that PCa patients with high frequencies of HER-2/neu(780–788)-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes had better progression-free survival (PFS) as compared with PCa patients with low frequencies. Increased frequencies of HER-2/neu(780–788)-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes were also associated with lower levels of TGF-β and IL-8. Our data provide the first evidence of the predictive role of HER-2/neu-specific T cell immunity in PCa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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16 pages, 5590 KiB  
Article
Chemokine Receptors CCR6 and PD1 Blocking scFv E27 Enhances Anti-EGFR CAR-T Therapeutic Efficacy in a Preclinical Model of Human Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(6), 5424; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24065424 - 12 Mar 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1754
Abstract
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells, a therapeutic agent for solid tumors, are not completely effective due to a lack of infiltration of T cells into the tumor site and immunity caused by Programmed Death Receptor 1(PD1). Here, an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) [...] Read more.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells, a therapeutic agent for solid tumors, are not completely effective due to a lack of infiltration of T cells into the tumor site and immunity caused by Programmed Death Receptor 1(PD1). Here, an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) CAR-T cell was engineered to express the chemokine receptor CCR6 and secrete PD1 blocking Single-chain antibody fragment (scFv) E27 to enhance their anti-tumor effects. The findings showed that CCR6 enhanced the migration of EGFR CAR-E27-CCR6 T cells in vitro by the Transwell migration assay. When incubated with tumor cells, EGFR CAR-E27-CCR6 T cells specifically exerted potent cytotoxicity and produced high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-2 (IL-2), and interferon-γ (IFN-γ). A non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) cell line-derived xenograft model was constructed by implanting modified A549 cell lines into immunodeficient NOD.PrkdcscidIl2rgem1/Smoc (NSG) mice. In comparison with traditional EGFR CAR-T cells, live imaging indicated that EGFR CAR-E27-CCR6 T cells displayed superior anti-tumor function. In addition, the histopathological examination of mouse organs showed no obvious organic damage. Our findings confirmed that PD1 blocking and CCR6 can enhance the anti-tumor function of EGFR CAR-T cells in an NSCLC xenograft model, providing an effective treatment strategy to improve the efficacy of CAR-T in NSCLC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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Review

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14 pages, 1331 KiB  
Review
Exploring Tumor–Immune Interactions in Co-Culture Models of T Cells and Tumor Organoids Derived from Patients
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(19), 14609; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241914609 - 27 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3214
Abstract
The use of patient-derived tumor tissues and cells has led to significant advances in personalized cancer therapy and precision medicine. The advent of genomic sequencing technologies has enabled the comprehensive analysis of tumor characteristics. The three-dimensional tumor organoids derived from self-organizing cancer stem [...] Read more.
The use of patient-derived tumor tissues and cells has led to significant advances in personalized cancer therapy and precision medicine. The advent of genomic sequencing technologies has enabled the comprehensive analysis of tumor characteristics. The three-dimensional tumor organoids derived from self-organizing cancer stem cells are valuable ex vivo models that faithfully replicate the structure, unique features, and genetic characteristics of tumors. These tumor organoids have emerged as innovative tools that are extensively employed in drug testing, genome editing, and transplantation to guide personalized therapy in clinical settings. However, a major limitation of this emerging technology is the absence of a tumor microenvironment that includes immune and stromal cells. The therapeutic efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors has underscored the importance of immune cells, particularly cytotoxic T cells that infiltrate the vicinity of tumors, in patient prognosis. To address this limitation, co-culture techniques combining tumor organoids and T cells have been developed, offering diverse avenues for studying individualized drug responsiveness. By integrating cellular components of the tumor microenvironment, including T cells, into tumor organoid cultures, immuno-oncology has embraced this technology, which is rapidly advancing. Recent progress in co-culture models of tumor organoids has allowed for a better understanding of the advantages and limitations of this novel model, thereby exploring its full potential. This review focuses on the current applications of organoid-T cell co-culture models in cancer research and highlights the remaining challenges that need to be addressed for its broader implementation in anti-cancer therapy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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18 pages, 1974 KiB  
Review
The Dilemma of HSV-1 Oncolytic Virus Delivery: The Method Choice and Hurdles
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(4), 3681; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24043681 - 12 Feb 2023
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2694
Abstract
Oncolytic viruses (OVs) have emerged as effective gene therapy and immunotherapy drugs. As an important gene delivery platform, the integration of exogenous genes into OVs has become a novel path for the advancement of OV therapy, while the herpes simplex virus type 1 [...] Read more.
Oncolytic viruses (OVs) have emerged as effective gene therapy and immunotherapy drugs. As an important gene delivery platform, the integration of exogenous genes into OVs has become a novel path for the advancement of OV therapy, while the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the most commonly used. However, the current mode of administration of HSV-1 oncolytic virus is mainly based on the tumor in situ injection, which limits the application of such OV drugs to a certain extent. Intravenous administration offers a solution to the systemic distribution of OV drugs but is ambiguous in terms of efficacy and safety. The main reason is the synergistic role of innate and adaptive immunity of the immune system in the response against the HSV-1 oncolytic virus, which is rapidly cleared by the body’s immune system before it reaches the tumor, a process that is accompanied by side effects. This article reviews different administration methods of HSV-1 oncolytic virus in the process of tumor treatment, especially the research progress in intravenous administration. It also discusses immune constraints and solutions of intravenous administration with the intent to provide new insights into HSV-1 delivery for OV therapy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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12 pages, 966 KiB  
Review
CD96 as a Potential Immune Regulator in Cancers
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(2), 1303; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24021303 - 09 Jan 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2238
Abstract
The discovery of CTLA-4 and PD-1 checkpoints has prompted scientific researchers and the pharmaceutical industry to develop and conduct extensive research on tumor-specific inhibitors. As a result, the list of potential immune checkpoint molecules is growing over time. Receptors for nectin and nectin-like [...] Read more.
The discovery of CTLA-4 and PD-1 checkpoints has prompted scientific researchers and the pharmaceutical industry to develop and conduct extensive research on tumor-specific inhibitors. As a result, the list of potential immune checkpoint molecules is growing over time. Receptors for nectin and nectin-like proteins have recently emerged as promising targets for cancer immunotherapy. Potential immune checkpoints, including CD226, TIGIT, and CD96, belong to this receptor class. Among them, CD96 has received little attention. In this mini-review, we aim to discuss the basic biology of CD96 as well as the most recent relevant research on this as a promising candidate for cancer immunotherapy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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Other

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12 pages, 1611 KiB  
Case Report
Comprehensive Genetic Study of Malignant Cervical Paraganglioma
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(9), 8220; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24098220 - 04 May 2023
Viewed by 1271
Abstract
Malignant middle ear paraganglioma (MEPGL) is an exceedingly rare tumor of the neuroendocrine system. In general, MEPGLs represent as slow growing and hypervascularized benign neoplasms. The genetic basis of MEPGL tumorigenesis has been poorly investigated. We report a case of malignant MEPGL accompanied [...] Read more.
Malignant middle ear paraganglioma (MEPGL) is an exceedingly rare tumor of the neuroendocrine system. In general, MEPGLs represent as slow growing and hypervascularized benign neoplasms. The genetic basis of MEPGL tumorigenesis has been poorly investigated. We report a case of malignant MEPGL accompanied by the comprehensive genetic analysis of the primary tumor and metastasis. Based on whole-exome sequencing data, the germline pathogenic mutation p.R230H in the SDHB gene, encoding for subunit B of mitochondrial complex II, was found in a patient. Analysis of somatic mutation spectra revealed five novel variants in different genes, including a potentially deleterious variant in UNC13C that was common for the tumor and metastasis. Identified somatic variants clustered into SBS1 and SBS5 mutational signatures. Of note, the primary tumor was characterized by Ki-67 4% and had an elevated mutational load (1.4/Mb); the metastasis’ mutational load was about 4.5 times higher (6.4/Mb). In addition, we revealed somatic loss of the wild-type SDHB allele, as well as loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the 11p locus. Thus, germline mutation in SDHB combined with somatic LOH seem to be drivers that lead to the tumor’s initiation and progression. Other somatic changes identified can be additional disease-causing factors. Obtained results expand our understanding of molecular genetic mechanisms associated with the development of this rare tumor. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Research Progress in Molecular and Cellular Therapy of Cancer)
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