Therapeutic targeting of ependymoma as informed by oncogenic enhancer profiling

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Abstract

Genomic sequencing has driven precision-based oncology therapy; however, the genetic drivers of many malignancies remain unknown or non-targetable, so alternative approaches to the identification of therapeutic leads are necessary. Ependymomas are chemotherapy-resistant brain tumours, which, despite genomic sequencing, lack effective molecular targets. Intracranial ependymomas are segregated on the basis of anatomical location (supratentorial region or posterior fossa) and further divided into distinct molecular subgroups that reflect differences in the age of onset, gender predominance and response to therapy1,2,3. 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 but have favourable clinical outcomes1,3. More than 70% of supratentorial ependymomas are defined by highly recurrent gene fusions in the NF-κB subunit geneRELA(ST-EPN-RELA), and a smaller number 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 supratetorial and posterior fossa compartments, and account for the majority of tumours in the molecular subgroups ST-EPN-SE and PF-EPN-SE. Here we describe mapping of 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 depend. Enhancer regions revealed putative oncogenes, molecular targets and pathways; inhibition of these targets with small molecule inhibitors or short hairpin RNA diminished the 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 that lack known genetic drivers and are therefore difficult to treat.

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