TRD 1: Imaging Cancer Heterogeneity

N Agar C Tempany Alexandra Golby S Maier
Nathalie Y. R. Agar PhD Clare M. Tempany MD Alexandra Golby MD Stephan E. Maier MD, PhD
Junichi Tokuda Fiona Sandro Santagata
Junichi Tokuda PhD Fiona M. Fennessy MD, PhD Sandro Santagata MD, PhD Filip Szczepankiewicz PhD

Led by Nathalie Agar, the focus areas for the Imaging Cancer Heterogeneity TRD are:

  • Integrating mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) of tissue metabolism, MRI, and histopathology for the assessment of brain tumor heterogeneity.

  • New diffusion imaging sequences to characterize cell architecture traits in prostate cancer.

  • New MRI pulse sequence for blood oxygenation mapping that accelerates acquisition speed more than ten-fold, without sacrificing volume coverage.


Select Publications

Sebastian C, Ferrer C, Serra M, Choi J-E, Ducano N, Mira A, Shah MS, Stopka SA, Perciaccante AJ, Isella C, et al. A Non-Dividing Cell Population With High Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Kinase Activity Regulates Metabolic Heterogeneity and Tumorigenesis in the Intestine. Nat Commun. 2022;13 (1) :1503.Abstract
Although reprogramming of cellular metabolism is a hallmark of cancer, little is known about how metabolic reprogramming contributes to early stages of transformation. Here, we show that the histone deacetylase SIRT6 regulates tumor initiation during intestinal cancer by controlling glucose metabolism. Loss of SIRT6 results in an increase in the number of intestinal stem cells (ISCs), which translates into enhanced tumor initiating potential in APCmin mice. By tracking down the connection between glucose metabolism and tumor initiation, we find a metabolic compartmentalization within the intestinal epithelium and adenomas, where a rare population of cells exhibit features of Warburg-like metabolism characterized by high pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK) activity. Our results show that these cells are quiescent cells expressing +4 ISCs and enteroendocrine markers. Active glycolysis in these cells suppresses ROS accumulation and enhances their stem cell and tumorigenic potential. Our studies reveal that aerobic glycolysis represents a heterogeneous feature of cancer, and indicate that this metabolic adaptation can occur in non-dividing cells, suggesting a role for the Warburg effect beyond biomass production in tumors.
Abdelmoula WM, Stopka SA, Randall EC, Regan M, Agar JN, Sarkaria JN, Wells WM, Kapur T, Agar NYR. massNet: Integrated Processing and Classification of Spatially Resolved Mass Spectrometry Data Using Deep Learning for Rapid Tumor Delineation. Bioinformatics. 2022;38 (7) :2015-21.Abstract
MOTIVATION: Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) provides rich biochemical information in a label-free manner and therefore holds promise to substantially impact current practice in disease diagnosis. However, the complex nature of MSI data poses computational challenges in its analysis. The complexity of the data arises from its large size, high dimensionality, and spectral non-linearity. Preprocessing, including peak picking, has been used to reduce raw data complexity, however peak picking is sensitive to parameter selection that, perhaps prematurely, shapes the downstream analysis for tissue classification and ensuing biological interpretation. RESULTS: We propose a deep learning model, massNet, that provides the desired qualities of scalability, non-linearity, and speed in MSI data analysis. This deep learning model was used, without prior preprocessing and peak picking, to classify MSI data from a mouse brain harboring a patient-derived tumor. The massNet architecture established automatically learning of predictive features, and automated methods were incorporated to identify peaks with potential for tumor delineation. The model's performance was assessed using cross-validation, and the results demonstrate higher accuracy and a substantial gain in speed compared to the established classical machine learning method, support vector machine. AVAILABILITY AND IMPLEMENTATION: AVAILABILITY OF DATA: The data underlying this article are available in the NIH Common Fund's National Metabolomics Data Repository (NMDR) Metabolomics Workbench under project id (PR001292) with SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Sefcikova V, Sporrer JK, Juvekar P, Golby A, Samandouras G. Converting Sounds to Meaning With Ventral Semantic Language Networks: Integration of Interdisciplinary Data on Brain Connectivity, Direct Electrical Stimulation and Clinical Disconnection Syndromes. Brain Struct Funct. 2022;227 (5) :1545-64.Abstract
Numerous traditional linguistic theories propose that semantic language pathways convert sounds to meaningful concepts, generating interpretations ranging from simple object descriptions to communicating complex, analytical thinking. Although the dual-stream model of Hickok and Poeppel is widely employed, proposing a dorsal stream, mapping speech sounds to articulatory/phonological networks, and a ventral stream, mapping speech sounds to semantic representations, other language models have been proposed. Indeed, despite seemingly congruent models of semantic language pathways, research outputs from varied specialisms contain only partially congruent data, secondary to the diversity of applied disciplines, ranging from fibre dissection, tract tracing, and functional neuroimaging to neuropsychiatry, stroke neurology, and intraoperative direct electrical stimulation. The current review presents a comprehensive, interdisciplinary synthesis of the ventral, semantic connectivity pathways consisting of the uncinate, middle longitudinal, inferior longitudinal, and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi, with special reference to areas of controversies or consensus. This is achieved by describing, for each tract, historical concept evolution, terminations, lateralisation, and segmentation models. Clinical implications are presented in three forms: (a) functional considerations derived from normal subject investigations, (b) outputs of direct electrical stimulation during awake brain surgery, and (c) results of disconnection syndromes following disease-related lesioning. The current review unifies interpretation of related specialisms and serves as a framework/thinking model for additional research on language data acquisition and integration.
Lopez BGC, Kohale IN, Du Z, Korsunsky I, Abdelmoula WM, Dai Y, Stopka SA, Gaglia G, Randall EC, Regan MS, et al. Multimodal Platform for Assessing Drug Distribution and Response in Clinical Trials. Neuro Oncol. 2022;24 (1) :64-77.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Response to targeted therapy varies between patients for largely unknown reasons. Here, we developed and applied an integrative platform using mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), phosphoproteomics, and multiplexed tissue imaging for mapping drug distribution, target engagement, and adaptive response to gain insights into heterogeneous response to therapy. METHODS: Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) lines of glioblastoma were treated with adavosertib, a Wee1 inhibitor, and tissue drug distribution was measured with MALDI-MSI. Phosphoproteomics was measured in the same tumors to identify biomarkers of drug target engagement and cellular adaptive response. Multiplexed tissue imaging was performed on sister sections to evaluate spatial co-localization of drug and cellular response. The integrated platform was then applied on clinical specimens from glioblastoma patients enrolled in the phase 1 clinical trial. RESULTS: PDX tumors exposed to different doses of adavosertib revealed intra- and inter-tumoral heterogeneity of drug distribution and integration of the heterogeneous drug distribution with phosphoproteomics and multiplexed tissue imaging revealed new markers of molecular response to adavosertib. Analysis of paired clinical specimens from patients enrolled in the phase 1 clinical trial informed the translational potential of the identified biomarkers in studying patient's response to adavosertib. CONCLUSIONS: The multimodal platform identified a signature of drug efficacy and patient-specific adaptive responses applicable to preclinical and clinical drug development. The information generated by the approach may inform mechanisms of success and failure in future early phase clinical trials, providing information for optimizing clinical trial design and guiding future application into clinical practice.
Zekelman LR, Zhang F, Makris N, He J, Chen Y, Xue T, Liera D, Drane DL, Rathi Y, Golby AJ, et al. White Matter Association Tracts Underlying Language and Theory of Mind: An Investigation of 809 Brains from the Human Connectome Project. Neuroimage. 2022;246 :118739.Abstract
Language and theory of mind (ToM) are the cognitive capacities that allow for the successful interpretation and expression of meaning. While functional MRI investigations are able to consistently localize language and ToM to specific cortical regions, diffusion MRI investigations point to an inconsistent and sometimes overlapping set of white matter tracts associated with these two cognitive domains. To further examine the white matter tracts that may underlie these domains, we use a two-tensor tractography method to investigate the white matter microstructure of 809 participants from the Human Connectome Project. 20 association white matter tracts (10 in each hemisphere) are uniquely identified by leveraging a neuroanatomist-curated automated white matter tract atlas. The mean fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and number of streamlines (NoS) are measured for each white matter tract. Performance on neuropsychological assessments of semantic memory (NIH Toolbox Picture Vocabulary Test, TPVT) and emotion perception (Penn Emotion Recognition Test, PERT) are used to measure critical subcomponents of the language and ToM networks, respectively. Regression models are constructed to examine how structural measurements of left and right white matter tracts influence performance across these two assessments. We find that semantic memory performance is influenced by the number of streamlines of the left superior longitudinal fasciculus III (SLF-III), and emotion perception performance is influenced by the number of streamlines of the right SLF-III. Additionally, we find that performance on both semantic memory & emotion perception is influenced by the FA of the left arcuate fasciculus (AF). The results point to multiple, overlapping white matter tracts that underlie the cognitive domains of language and ToM. Results are discussed in terms of hemispheric dominance and concordance with prior investigations.
Yeh F-C, Irimia A, de Bastos DCA, Golby AJ. Tractography Methods and Findings in Brain Tumors and Traumatic Brain Injury. Neuroimage. 2021;245 :118651.Abstract
White matter fiber tracking using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) provides a noninvasive approach to map brain connections, but improving anatomical accuracy has been a significant challenge since the birth of tractography methods. Utilizing tractography in brain studies therefore requires understanding of its technical limitations to avoid shortcomings and pitfalls. This review explores tractography limitations and how different white matter pathways pose different challenges to fiber tracking methodologies. We summarize the pros and cons of commonly-used methods, aiming to inform how tractography and its related analysis may lead to questionable results. Extending these experiences, we review the clinical utilization of tractography in patients with brain tumors and traumatic brain injury, starting from tensor-based tractography to more advanced methods. We discuss current limitations and highlight novel approaches in the context of these two conditions to inform future tractography developments.
Marin B-M, Porath KA, Jain S, Kim M, Conage-Pough JE, Oh J-H, Miller CL, Talele S, Kitange GJ, Tian S, et al. Heterogeneous Delivery Across the Blood-Brain Barrier Limits the Efficacy of an EGFR-Targeting Antibody Drug Conjugate in Glioblastoma. Neuro Oncol. 2021;23 (12) :2042-53.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), such as depatuxizumab mafodotin (Depatux-M), is a promising therapeutic strategy for glioblastoma (GBM) but recent clinical trials did not demonstrate a survival benefit. Understanding the mechanisms of failure for this promising strategy is critically important. METHODS: PDX models were employed to study efficacy of systemic vs intracranial delivery of Depatux-M. Immunofluorescence and MALDI-MSI were performed to detect drug levels in the brain. EGFR levels and compensatory pathways were studied using quantitative flow cytometry, Western blots, RNAseq, FISH, and phosphoproteomics. RESULTS: Systemic delivery of Depatux-M was highly effective in nine of 10 EGFR-amplified heterotopic PDXs with survival extending beyond one year in eight PDXs. Acquired resistance in two PDXs (GBM12 and GBM46) was driven by suppression of EGFR expression or emergence of a novel short-variant of EGFR lacking the epitope for the Depatux-M antibody. In contrast to the profound benefit observed in heterotopic tumors, only two of seven intrinsically sensitive PDXs were responsive to Depatux-M as intracranial tumors. Poor efficacy in orthotopic PDXs was associated with limited and heterogeneous distribution of Depatux-M into tumor tissues, and artificial disruption of the BBB or bypass of the BBB by direct intracranial injection of Depatux-M into orthotopic tumors markedly enhanced the efficacy of drug treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Despite profound intrinsic sensitivity to Depatux-M, limited drug delivery into brain tumor may have been a key contributor to lack of efficacy in recently failed clinical trials.
Schilling KG, Rheault F, Petit L, Hansen CB, Nath V, Yeh F-C, Girard G, Barakovic M, Rafael-Patino J, Yu T, et al. Tractography Dissection Variability: What Happens When 42 Groups Dissect 14 White Matter Bundles on the Same Dataset?. Neuroimage. 2021;243 :118502.Abstract
White matter bundle segmentation using diffusion MRI fiber tractography has become the method of choice to identify white matter fiber pathways in vivo in human brains. However, like other analyses of complex data, there is considerable variability in segmentation protocols and techniques. This can result in different reconstructions of the same intended white matter pathways, which directly affects tractography results, quantification, and interpretation. In this study, we aim to evaluate and quantify the variability that arises from different protocols for bundle segmentation. Through an open call to users of fiber tractography, including anatomists, clinicians, and algorithm developers, 42 independent teams were given processed sets of human whole-brain streamlines and asked to segment 14 white matter fascicles on six subjects. In total, we received 57 different bundle segmentation protocols, which enabled detailed volume-based and streamline-based analyses of agreement and disagreement among protocols for each fiber pathway. Results show that even when given the exact same sets of underlying streamlines, the variability across protocols for bundle segmentation is greater than all other sources of variability in the virtual dissection process, including variability within protocols and variability across subjects. In order to foster the use of tractography bundle dissection in routine clinical settings, and as a fundamental analytical tool, future endeavors must aim to resolve and reduce this heterogeneity. Although external validation is needed to verify the anatomical accuracy of bundle dissections, reducing heterogeneity is a step towards reproducible research and may be achieved through the use of standard nomenclature and definitions of white matter bundles and well-chosen constraints and decisions in the dissection process.
Abdelmoula WM, Lopez BG-C, Randall EC, Kapur T, Sarkaria JN, White FM, Agar JN, Wells WM, Agar NYR. Peak Learning of Mass Spectrometry Imaging Data Using Artificial Neural Networks. Nat Commun. 2021;12 (1) :5544.Abstract
Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is an emerging technology that holds potential for improving, biomarker discovery, metabolomics research, pharmaceutical applications and clinical diagnosis. Despite many solutions being developed, the large data size and high dimensional nature of MSI, especially 3D datasets, still pose computational and memory complexities that hinder accurate identification of biologically relevant molecular patterns. Moreover, the subjectivity in the selection of parameters for conventional pre-processing approaches can lead to bias. Therefore, we assess if a probabilistic generative model based on a fully connected variational autoencoder can be used for unsupervised analysis and peak learning of MSI data to uncover hidden structures. The resulting msiPL method learns and visualizes the underlying non-linear spectral manifold, revealing biologically relevant clusters of tissue anatomy in a mouse kidney and tumor heterogeneity in human prostatectomy tissue, colorectal carcinoma, and glioblastoma mouse model, with identification of underlying m/z peaks. The method is applied for the analysis of MSI datasets ranging from 3.3 to 78.9 GB, without prior pre-processing and peak picking, and acquired using different mass spectrometers at different centers.