Recent studies demonstrate an unexpected connection between aberrant transcription of noncoding RNA in tumors and innate immune system activation in the tumor microenvironment. Such RNA is often of unknown function and may consist of typically silenced interspersed elements, satellite repeats, and endogenous retroviruses. For instance, satellite RNA from the pericentromere (particularly HSATII) is abundantly transcribed in several solid tumors - such as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma - yet it is virtually silent in normal tissue. The genomic DNA repetitive regions this RNA is transcribed from frequently expand during tumorigenesis. Using novel quantitative methods, we have shown that a set of such repetitive elements, abundantly expressed in tumors, display sequence patterns typically associated with viruses. We therefore predicted they are immunogenic, particularly HSATII. In a novel, theory-experiment collaboration between the laboratories of Professors Benjamin Greenbaum and Nina Bhardwaj, the most significant set of these RNA have been validated as immunostimulatory (HSATII and murine GSAT), capable of activating antigen presenting cells - HSATII stimulated production of IL-6, IL-12 and TNFalpha (Tanne, et al., PNAS, 2015).
At the same time a set of recent papers has shown that ERV transcription may be a predictor of immunotherapy response in melanoma. Hence, it is critical to profile key immunostimulatory endogenous RNA in the tumor microenviroment, understand which immune pathways different sets of such RNA activate, and assess the link between the specific pathways activated, prognosis, and immunotherapy. We further profile the landscape of activation and expression for endogenous elements. We have currently demonstrated a key set of noncoding RNAs preferentially expressed in cancer cells have sequence features that are immunostimulatory in humans, and have characterized the range and breadth of the expression of such elements in several solid tumors. We present several new results on the topic and the potential consequences of the aberrant expression of endogenous RNA that mimic pathogen features in cancer.
Citation Format: Alexander Solovyov, Antoine Tanne, Luciana Muniz, Simona Cocco, Remi Monasson, Arnold Levine, David T. Ting, Nina Bhardwaj, Benjamin Greenbaum. Quantifying the landscape of immunostimulatory tumoral RNA [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Second CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival; 2016 Sept 25-28; New York, NY. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2016;4(11 Suppl):Abstract nr A087.
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