Noah Earland

MSTP in PhD Training

Program: Immunology

Current advisor: Aadel A. Chaudhuri, MD, PhD

Undergraduate university: Southern Methodist University, 2017

Enrollment year: 2018

Research summary
Primary: Develop a post-op liquid biopsy that analyzes tumor-associated cell free DNA and circulating immune cells in surgical drainage fluid from HPV(+) OPSCC patients.

The incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPC) driven by high-risk (HR) HPV strains continues to rise. As HPV (+) disease is prognostic for good post-treatment outcomes and arises in relatively young patients with fewer co-morbidities, clinicians now recognize it as a distinct clinical entity from tobacco-associated HPV (-) disease. But despite improved survival following surgery and adjuvant chemoradiation (CRT), many HPV (+) OPC patients suffer prolonged morbidity from severe treatment-associated toxicities. This has led to many treatment de-intensification clinical trials, which seek to reduce toxic side effects while maintaining historic survival rates. Ideally, high-risk patients would remain on standard regimens while low to intermediate-risk patients would receive de-escalated therapy. However, there is a great clinical need for an objective biomarker of risk to aid the subjective clinical assessments: pre-treatment imaging and postoperative pathology. Liquid biopsies can offer such objectivity; they quantify cell-free DNA (cfDNA) shed by cancer cells, called circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), in biofluids like saliva or plasma. Further, in HPV (+) OPC, cell-free HPV DNA (cf-HPV) parallels ctDNA as a measure of minimal residual disease (MRD). But plasma and saliva assays lack sensitivity to detect this cf-HPV MRD after surgery. To this clinical challenge, we offer our novel liquid biopsy assay of Jackson Pratt (JP) surgical drain fluid (SDF). We believe SDF will be enriched with cf-HPV compared to plasma because it’s more proximal to the primary tumor resection site and to the lymph nodes, where locoregional micrometastases are seeded. Additionally, because the JP drains also capture lymph fluid from the lacerated cervical lymphatic system, we also believe the SDF contains informative effector leukocytes that were in transit to the tumor microenvironments (TMEs) of metastatic nodes and the primary tumor. To begin to elucidate the prognostic potential of SDF, we have collected paired SDF, plasma, tumor biopsy, and metastatic lymph node samples. First, using PCR and next-generation sequencing approaches we will quantify the cf-HPV burden in paired plasma and SDF samples. Then we will compare cf-HPV in each sample type individually to histopathological markers of risk (extranodal extension and tumor stage) and recurrences. We will then track tumor-informed variants on ctDNA, isolated from plasma and SDF, to show that ctDNA levels align with cf-HPV and further validate that cf-HPV is a good proxy for MRD. Lastly, we will use digital cytometry tools and mass cytometry to immunophenotype the immune cells within the SDF to determine if they reflect immune response gene expression levels in paired metastatic nodes and tumors. If confirmed, our study has the potential to demonstrate that tri-biomarker analysis (immune cell, cf-HPV, and ctDNA) in a novel liquid analyte (SDF) can provide precision risk-stratification to aid subjective clinical diagnostics.

Graduate publications
Lozano AX, Chaudhuri AA, Nene A, Bacchiocchi A, Earland N, Vesely MD, Usmani A, Turner BE, Steen CB, Luca BA, Badri T, Gulati GS, Vahid MR, Khameneh F, Harris PK, Chen DY, Dhodapkar K, Sznol M, Halaban R, Newman AM. 2022 T cell characteristics associated with toxicity to immune checkpoint blockade in patients with melanoma. Nat Med, 28(2):353-362. PMCID: PMC8866214

Earland N, Ramirez RJ, Harris PK, Gerndt SP, Xu Z, Hearn A, Szymanski JJ, Semenkovich N, Wahle BM, Chang KM, Chaudhuri AA, Zevallos JP. 2022 Detection of Locoregional Minimal Residual Disease Immediately after Surgery through Multi-omic Analysis of Tumor-associated Cell-Free HPV DNA in Surgical Drain Fluid. , ():

Earland N, Ramirez RJ, Harris PK, Gerndt SP, Hearn A, Szymanski JJ, Semenkovich N, Wahle BM, Chang KM, Zevallos JP, Chaudhuri AA. 2021 Surgical drain fluid (SDF) liquid biopsy analysis of locoregional residual disease after surgery in HPV+ oropharyngeal cancer for adjuvant radiotherapy risk stratification. , ():

Earland N, Ramirez RJ, Harris PK, Gerndt SP, Szymanski JJ, Wahle BM, Chang KM, Zevallos JP, Chaudhuri AA. 2021 Surgical drain fluid liquid biopsy analysis of locoregional residual disease after surgery in HPV+ oropharyngeal cancer for adjuvant radiotherapy risk stratification. , ():

Pellini B, Hasan S, Samson P, Earland N, Ward J, Waqar S, Baggstrom M, Robinson CG, Govindan R, Devarakonda S, Morgensztern D. 2021 P49.03 Chemoradiation with Cisplatin-Etoposide versus Carboplatin-Etoposide in Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer. J Thorac Oncol, 16(3):s511. PMCID:

Szymanski JJ, Sundby RT, Jones PA, Srihari D, Earland N, Harris PK, Feng W, Qaium F, Lei H, Roberts D, Landeau M, Bell J, Huang Y, Hoffman L, Spencer M, Spraker MB, Ding L, Widemann BC, Shern JF, Hirbe AC, Chaudhuri AA. 2021 Cell-free DNA ultra-low-pass whole genome sequencing to distinguish malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) from its benign precursor lesion: A cross-sectional study. PLoS Med, 18(8):e1003734. PMCID: PMC8407545

Pellini B, Pejovic N, Feng W, Earland N, Harris PK, Usmani A, Szymanski JJ, Qaium F, Mudd J, Petty M, Jiang Y, Singh A, Maher CA, Henke LE, Park H, Ciorba MA, Kim H, Mutch MG, Pedersen KS, Tan BR, Hawkins WG, Fields RC, Chaudhuri AA. 2021 ctDNA MRD Detection and Personalized Oncogenomic Analysis in Oligometastatic Colorectal Cancer From Plasma and Urine. JCO Precis Oncol, 5():PO.20.00276. PMCID: PMC8232837