Despite their extensive clinical and pathological heterogeneity, all malignant germ cell tumors (GCTs) are thought to originate from primordial germ cells. However, no common biological abnormalities have been identified to date. We profiled 615 microRNAs (miRNAs) in pediatric malignant GCTs, controls and GCT cell lines (48 samples in total) and re-analyzed available miRNA expression data in adult gonadal malignant GCTs. We applied the bioinformatic algorithm Sylamer to identify miRNAs that are of biological importance by inducing global shifts in mRNA levels. The most significant differentially expressed miRNAs in malignant GCTs were all from the miR-371~373 and miR-302 clusters (adjusted p<0.00005), which were over-expressed regardless of histological subtype [yolk sac tumor (YST)/seminoma/embryonal carcinoma (EC)], site (gonadal/extragonadal) or patient age (pediatric/adult). Sylamer revealed that the hexamer GCACTT, complementary to the 2-7 nucleotide miRNA seed AAGUGC shared by six members of the miR-371~373 and miR-302 clusters, was the only sequence significantly enriched in the 3′untranslated region (3′UTR) of mRNAs down-regulated in pediatric malignant GCTs (as a group), YSTs and ECs; and in adult YSTs (all versus non-malignant tissue controls; p<0.05). For the pediatric samples, down-regulated genes containing 3′UTR GCACTT showed significant over-representation of Gene Ontology (GO) terms related to cancer–associated processes, whereas for down-regulated genes lacking GCACTT, GO terms generally represented metabolic processes only, with few genes per term (adjusted p<0.05). We conclude that the miR-371~373 and miR-302 clusters are universally over-expressed in malignant GCTs and coordinately down-regulate mRNAs involved in biologically significant pathways.
AAGUGC; embryonic stem cell; germ cell tumor; miRNA; mRNA
We hypothesised that differences in microRNA expression profiles contribute to the contrasting natural history and clinical outcome of the two most common types of malignant germ cell tumour (GCT), yolk sac tumours (YSTs) and germinomas.
By direct comparison, using microarray data for paediatric GCT samples and published qRT-PCR data for adult samples, we identified microRNAs significantly up-regulated in YSTs (n = 29 paediatric, 26 adult, 11 overlapping) or germinomas (n = 37 paediatric). By Taqman qRT-PCR we confirmed differential expression of 15 of 16 selected microRNAs and further validated six of these (miR-302b, miR-375, miR-200b, miR-200c, miR-122, miR-205) in an independent sample set. Interestingly, the miR-302 cluster, which is over-expressed in all malignant GCTs, showed further over-expression in YSTs versus germinomas, representing six of the top eight microRNAs over-expressed in paediatric YSTs and seven of the top 11 in adult YSTs. To explain this observation, we used mRNA expression profiles of paediatric and adult malignant GCTs to identify 10 transcription factors (TFs) consistently over-expressed in YSTs versus germinomas, followed by linear regression to confirm associations between TF and miR-302 cluster expression levels. Using the sequence motif analysis environment iMotifs, we identified predicted binding sites for four of the 10 TFs (GATA6, GATA3, TCF7L2 and MAF) in the miR-302 cluster promoter region. Finally, we showed that miR-302 family over-expression in YST is likely to be functionally significant, as mRNAs down-regulated in YSTs were enriched for 3' untranslated region sequences complementary to the common seed of miR-302a~miR-302d. Such mRNAs included mediators of key cancer-associated processes, including tumour suppressor genes, apoptosis regulators and TFs.
Differential microRNA expression is likely to contribute to the relatively aggressive behaviour of YSTs and may enable future improvements in clinical diagnosis and/or treatment.
Intracranial germ cell tumors (GCTs) represent less than 5% of pediatric brain tumors. Neurosurgical treatment remains essential in the management of patients with intracranial nongerminomatous GCT.
A 12-year-old girl presented with clinical features of neurohypophyseal dysfunction and rapidly progressive visual worsening. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a lesion arising from the sella with a significant suprasellar component, compressing the optic chiasm and extending into the third ventricle. The tumor was removed via an endoscopic endonasal transtuberculum-transplanum approach and the histology revealed a mixed germinoma. In the postoperative course, a conspicuous improvement of visual function was observed; an early postoperative MRI showed near-total removal of the lesion. The patient was referred to pediatric oncologist for the adjunctive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The management of primary intracranial sellar and suprasellar germinomas still remains controversial. With this report we highlighted another possible surgical option among therapeutic strategies for these highly malignant tumors.
Endoscopic endonasal surgery; intracranial germinoma; pediatric brain tumor; skull base surgery
Intracranial germ cell tumors (GCTs) are relatively rare. Their incidence has been considered to be higher in East Asia than in the United States. This study estimates the incidence of CNS GCTs in Japan and the United States, investigates gender discrepancies in each country, and describes treatment outcomes. Data on primary CNS GCTs from 4 databases were utilized: population-based malignant incidence data from (1) the Japan Cancer Surveillance Research Group (2004–2006; 14 registries), malignant and nonmalignant incidence data from (2) the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (2004–2008; 17 registries), and hospital-based observed survival data from (3) the Brain Tumor Registry of Japan (1984–2000) and (4) the US National Cancer Data Base (1990–2003). Incidence rates per 100 000 for malignant GCTs were not statistically significantly different between Japan (males = 0.143, females = 0.046) and the United States (males = 0.118, females = 0.030). The malignant incidence-rate ratio was higher for pineal GCTs versus nonpineal (ie, the rest of the brain) GCTs in Japan (11.5:1 vs 1.9:1, respectively) and the United States (16.0:1 vs 1.7:1, respectively). In general, 5-year survival estimates were high: over 75% for all GCTs, and over 81% for germinomas, regardless of the type of treatment in either Japan or the United States. The incidence of primary GCTs is similar between Japan and the United States and has the same gender-based patterns by location. High rates of survival were observed in both countries.
brain tumor; epidemiology; germ cell tumors; germinoma; mixed germ cell tumors; pineal gland; teratoma; tumor registry
Despite their clinico-pathologic heterogeneity, malignant germ-cell-tumors (GCTs) share molecular abnormalities that are likely to be functionally important. In this study, we investigated the potential significance of down-regulation of the let-7 family of tumor-suppressor microRNAs in malignant-GCTs. Microarray results from pediatric and adult samples (n=45) showed that LIN28, the negative-regulator of let-7 biogenesis, was abundant in malignant-GCTs, regardless of patient age, tumor site or histologic subtype. Indeed, a strong negative-correlation existed between LIN28 and let-7 levels in specimens with matched datasets. Low let-7 levels were biologically significant, since the sequence complementary to the 2-7nt common let-7 seed ‘GAGGUA’ was enriched in the 3′untranslated regions of mRNAs up-regulated in pediatric and adult malignant-GCTs, compared with normal gonads (a mixture of germ cells and somatic cells). We identified 27 mRNA targets of let-7 that were up-regulated in malignant-GCT cells, confirming significant negative-correlations with let-7 levels. Among 16 mRNAs examined in a largely independent set of specimens by qRT-PCR, we defined negative-associations with let-7e levels for six oncogenes, including MYCN, AURKB, CCNF, RRM2, MKI67 and C12orf5 (when including normal control tissues). Importantly, LIN28 depletion in malignant-GCT cells restored let-7 levels and repressed all of these oncogenic let-7 mRNA targets, with LIN28 levels correlating with cell proliferation and MYCN levels. Conversely, ectopic expression of let-7e was sufficient to reduce proliferation and down-regulate MYCN, AURKB and LIN28, the latter via a double-negative feedback loop. We concluded that the LIN28/let-7 pathway has a critical pathobiological role in malignant-GCTs and therefore offers a promising target for therapeutic intervention.
germ cell tumor; let-7; LIN28; microRNA
Aberrant DNA methylation is a prominent feature of many cancers, and may be especially relevant in germ cell tumors (GCTs) due to the extensive epigenetic reprogramming that occurs in the germ line during normal development.
We used the Illumina GoldenGate Cancer Methylation Panel to compare DNA methylation in the three main histologic subtypes of pediatric GCTs (germinoma, teratoma and yolk sac tumor (YST); N = 51) and used recursively partitioned mixture models (RPMM) to test associations between methylation pattern and tumor and demographic characteristics. We identified genes and pathways that were differentially methylated using generalized linear models and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. We also measured global DNA methylation at LINE1 elements and evaluated methylation at selected imprinted loci using pyrosequencing.
Methylation patterns differed by tumor histology, with 18/19 YSTs forming a distinct methylation class. Four pathways showed significant enrichment for YSTs, including a human embryonic stem cell pluripotency pathway. We identified 190 CpG loci with significant methylation differences in mature and immature teratomas (q < 0.05), including a number of CpGs in stem cell and pluripotency-related pathways. Both YST and germinoma showed significantly lower methylation at LINE1 elements compared with normal adjacent tissue while there was no difference between teratoma (mature and immature) and normal tissue. DNA methylation at imprinted loci differed significantly by tumor histology and location.
Understanding methylation patterns may identify the developmental stage at which the GCT arose and the at-risk period when environmental exposures could be most harmful. Further, identification of relevant genetic pathways could lead to the development of new targets for therapy.
Germ Cell Tumor; Teratoma; DNA Methylation; Imprinting
Central nervous system (CNS) germ cell tumors (GCT) have not been epidemiologically well described. Our study describes 2 population-based series of nonpineal CNS GCT. Data on all primary (malignant and nonmalignant) CNS (ICD-O-3 sites: C70.0–C72.9, C75.1–C75.3) GCT diagnosed between 2000 and 2004 from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS) and on all malignant GCT diagnosed between 1992 and 2005 from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) were analyzed. Of 234 nonpineal GCT in CBTRUS, the most common site was brain, NOS (31.6%). Males had a greater frequency (59.7%) than females (40.3%). However, by age group, the male-to-female incidence rate ratio (IRR) differed: children (0–14 years) had an IRR of 1.1, young adults (15–29 years) an IRR of 2.3, and adults (aged 30+) an IRR of 1.0. For children and young adults, most tumors were malignant (86.8% and 89.0%, respectively), whereas for adults, more than half were nonmalignant (56.8%). Germinoma was the most frequent diagnosis (61.5%). In SEER, the frequency of malignant GCT in the CNS (2.5%) was greater than that in the mediastinum (2.1%). Of 408 malignant CNS GCT, 216 (52.9%) were nonpineal. The male-to-female IRR was 1.5. Overall relative survival for nonpineal CNS malignant GCT was 85.3% at 2 years, 77.3% at 5 years, and 67.6% at 10 years. Previous studies of GCT that have not stratified by site have suggested greater gender disparity. Nonpineal CNS GCT show no significant gender preference, yet have outcomes similar to pineal GCT.
brain tumor; epidemiology; germ cell tumors; germinoma; teratoma
We reviewed the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) experience with salvage high-dose chemotherapy (HDC) in paediatric patients with extragonadal germ-cell tumour (GCT). A total of 23 children with extragonadal GCT, median age 12 years (range 1–20), were treated with salvage HDC with haematopoietic progenitor cell support. The GCT primary location was intracranial site in nine cases, sacrococcyx in eight, retroperitoneum in four, and mediastinum in two. In all, 22 patients had a nongerminomatous GCT and one germinoma. Nine patients received HDC in first- and 14 in second- or third-relapse situation. No toxic deaths occurred. Overall, 16 of 23 patients (70%) achieved a complete remission. With a median follow-up of 66 months (range 31–173 months), 10 (43%) are continuously disease-free. Of six patients who had a disease recurrence after HDC, one achieved a disease-free status with surgical resection followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In total, 11 patients (48%) are currently disease-free. Eight of 14 patients (57%) with extracranial primary and three of nine patients (33%) with intracranial primary GCT are currently disease-free. HDC induced impressive long-term remissions as salvage treatment in children with extragonadal extracranial GCTs. Salvage HDC should be investigated in prospective trials in these patients.
extragonadal germ cell tumour; high-dose chemotherapy; salvage therapy; children
This review focuses on the molecular characteristics and development of rare malignant ovarian germ cell tumors (mOGCTs). We provide an overview of the genomic aberrations assessed by ploidy, cytogenetic banding, and comparative genomic hybridization. We summarize and discuss the transcriptome profiles of mRNA and microRNA (miRNA), and biomarkers (DNA methylation, gene mutation, individual protein expression) for each mOGCT histological subtype. Parallels between the origin of mOGCT and their male counterpart testicular GCT (TGCT) are discussed from the perspective of germ cell development, endocrinological influences, and pathogenesis, as is the GCT origin in patients with disorders of sex development. Integrated molecular profiles of the 3 main histological subtypes, dysgerminoma (DG), yolk sac tumor (YST), and immature teratoma (IT), are presented. DGs show genomic aberrations comparable to TGCT. In contrast, the genome profiles of YST and IT are different both from each other and from DG/TGCT. Differences between DG and YST are underlined by their miRNA/mRNA expression patterns, suggesting preferential involvement of the WNT/β-catenin and TGF-β/bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathways among YSTs. Characteristic protein expression patterns are observed in DG, YST and IT. We propose that mOGCT develop through different developmental pathways, including one that is likely shared with TGCT and involves insufficient sexual differentiation of the germ cell niche. The molecular features of the mOGCTs underline their similarity to pluripotent precursor cells (primordial germ cells, PGCs) and other stem cells. This similarity combined with the process of ovary development, explain why mOGCTs present so early in life, and with greater histological complexity, than most somatic solid tumors.
The Third International Central Nervous System (CNS) Germ Cell Tumour (GCT) Symposium brought together over 100 delegates from all over the world to learn about the latest developments in these tumours and discuss future strategies for their management. Some areas of consensus were agreed upon, and controversies were discussed. Among these, the classification of GCTs and the surgical approach to their management were among the greatest areas of difference between different parts of the world. The need for radiotherapy (RT) as a part of standard first-line management for all malignant CNS GCTs was agreed, as well as the need for additional chemotherapy to maximise the cure in nongerminomatous malignant GCTs; the benefit of the addition of chemotherapy in localised germinoma to reduce the RT burden was also accepted as a good practice. The potential of biological parameters to assist the future diagnosis, treatment stratification, and disease monitoring for CNS GCTs was discussed. Such biological parameters may also represent targets for the development of novel therapies. The need for further collaboration between groups engaged in biological studies was agreed. The merits of proton beam RT were debated, and the importance of mitigating the long-term side effects of the treatment was underlined by a session on late effects.
Third International CNS GCT Symposium; central nervous system; germ cell tumour; germinoma; nongerminoma
Diverse tumors in the posterior third ventricular region (TPTVR) frequently occur in children. A decade's experience with pediatric TPTVR is presented, focusing on the Indian perspective.
Materials and Methods:
25 children (age range: 3-18 years; mean age: 13.32 years; presentation range: 7 days-2.5 years) had clinico-radiological assessment with contrast computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The ventricular/lumbar cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) alpha feto protein (AFP)/beta human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) estimation was done when radiological suspicion of a germ cell tumor was present. Extent of resection was deemed partial when some tumor mass remained at the end of surgery, near total when <10% was retained over vital neurovascular structures, and total when complete resection was attained.
Operations included infratentorial supracerebellar approach (n = 12), occipito-transtentorial approach (n = 2), endoscopic biopsy and third ventriculostomy (n = 1), frontal parasagittal craniotomy, interhemispheric transcallosal subchoroidal approach (n = 2), middle temporal gyrus transcortical transventricular approach (n = 1), fronto-temporo-zygomatic combined transylvian and subtemporal approach (n = 1) and right ventriculoperitoneal shunt and stereotactic biopsy (n = 1). Only CSF diversion was performed for five patients with a small TPTVR. CSF diversion was required in 12 (48%) patients. Tumor pathology included pinealoblastoma (n = 4; one with pineocytic differentiation), nongerminomatous germ cell tumor (NGGCT; n = 3), germinoma (n = 3), pilocytic astrocytoma (n = 2), epidermoid (n = 3) and primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET), fibrillary astrocytoma, glioblastoma, teratoma, and meningioma (n = 1, respectively). A patient with neurocysticercosis was diagnosed solely on MRI (four did not undergo biopsy). Fractionated radiotherapy was administered in 13 patients with primary pineal tumors, PNET, NGGCT, fibrillary astrocytoma and glioblastoma. Extent of excision was total in 10 (40%), near total in 5 (20%), partial in 3 (12%) and a biopsy in 2 (8%) patients.
Histopathologic characterization of TPTVR is essential prior to their further management. Benign lesions often have a good prognosis following gross total surgical resection. Pure germinomas are highly susceptible to radiotherapy. NGGCTs often have malignant components that require adjuvant therapy following surgery. The advancements in microsurgical techniques have led to gratifying perioperative results in these deep-seated lesions.
Histology; infratentorial supracerebellar approach; occipital transtentorial approach; pineal tumors; posterior third ventricle; surgery
Male germ cell tumors (GCTs) are extremely sensitive to platinum-containing chemotherapy, with only 10% of patients showing therapy resistance. However, the biological basis of the high curability of disseminated GCTs by chemotherapy is still unknown. Recently, we demonstrated that the mammalian serine/arginine-rich protein-specific kinase 1 (SRPK1) is a cisplatin-sensitive gene, inactivation of which leads to cisplatin resistance. Because, in mammalians, the expression of SRPK1 is preferentially high in testicular tissues, cisplatin responsiveness of male GCTs might be associated with SRPK1 levels. In the present study, we monitored SRPK1 protein expression in a unique series of nonseminomatous GCTs by immunohistochemistry. Randomly selected GCTs (n = 70) and tumors from patients responding to standard chemotherapy (n = 20) generally showed strong SRPK1 staining. In contrast, expression in refractory GCTs (n = 20) as well as in GCTs from poor-prognosis patients responding to high-dose chemotherapy only (n = 11) was significantly lower (two-sided Wilcoxon rank sum test: P < .001). In conclusion, our data suggest that SRPK1 expression might be an important prognostic indicator for the chemoresponsiveness of nonseminomatous GCTs.
Chemotherapy resistance; germ cell tumors; chemotherapy sensitivity; protein kinase SRPK1; immunohistochemistry
In order to predict whether tumor markers assist in the histopathologic diagnosis of germ cell tumors (GCTs), we analyzed the correlation of beta human chorionic gonadotropin (bHCG) and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples at baseline and subsequent follow-up examinations.
A retrospective study of patients diagnosed with intracranial GCTs between July 1985 and February 2011 at our institution was conducted to review clinical, surgical, radiological, laboratory and histopathologic data.
Of 67 patients eligible for the study, 42 had germinomas and 25 non germinomatous GCTs. At baseline, serum and CSF AFP agreed in 97.9% of patients (Cohen’s Kappa 0.93). Baseline bHCG samples agreed in only 72.5% of patients (Cohen’s Kappa 0.46). In most cases, values were higher in serum for AFP and in CSF for bHCG. ROC curves estimated from logistic regression model indicated that CSF and serum samples had almost equal diagnostic utility, and the DeLong test showed that the difference in area under curves was not statistically significant. During follow-up (185 paired CSF and serum values from 43 patients), 90.3% of AFP values correlated between CSF and serum (Cohen’s Kappa 0.22, showing fair agreement). For bHCG, 96.2% of values agreed in serum and CSF (Cohen’s Kappa 0.61).
In some patients, intracranial GCTs can be diagnosed based solely upon positive serum AFP values. In addition, marker values from serum only may be sufficient to predict tumor relapse at interval follow-up examinations.
germ cell tumors; tumor markers; beta human chorionic gonadotropin; alpha-fetoprotein; correlation of markers; diagnostic utility
Primary intracranial germ cell tumors are rare (ICGCTs) and usually localized in the pineal and suprasellar regions of the brain. They are divided into histologic types: Germinoma, teratoma choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac tumor, and malignant mixed germ cell tumors (MMGCTs). Neuroimaging evaluation is useful to distinguish between the types of ICGCTs. Germinoma is highly sensitive to radiotherapy or/and chemotherapy, and is potentially curable without surgery. MMGCTs are treated with the combination of chemotherapy and radiation, with a poorer prognosis. ICGCTs warrant correct pre-operative diagnosis in order to decide on appropriate management.
To report the clinicopathological and immunohistochemical findings in three cases of primary intracranial germ-cell tumor.
Materials and Methods:
Three cases of intracranial germ cell tumors inclusive of both genders and all brain regions were retrieved from the archives of the Anatomical Pathology Department at King Abdul Aziz University Hospital, Jeddah between the years, 1995-2011, through a computerized search.
Based on histological examination, they were respectively diagnosed as MMGCTs (two cases) and germinoma. Clinical, radiological, pathological characteristics and immunohistochemical profile of the three ICGCTs are presented along with the review of recent literature.
ICGCTs are rare tumors affecting males more than females, and at the end of three years follow-up in the present study, treatment morbidity appears to be low with no recurrence observed among surviving patients, indicating that suprasellar and basal ganglia ICGCTs may have a favorable prognosis regardless of histological type. Pineal MMGCTs may have an aggressive course.
Germinoma; immunohistochemical; intracranial; mixed; pineal
Patients presenting with synchronous bifocal intracranial tumors (masses in the pineal and neurohypophyseal region), detectable human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels (5–100 mIU/mL), and normal alpha feto-protein (AFP) levels (≤10 ng/mL) are often diagnosed empirically with pure germinoma. In such scenarios, pathologic confirmation is often deferred, given that bifocal nongerminomatous germ cell tumors (NGGCTs) are considered rare and because available literature and research protocols support such an approach. We sought to characterize the association between bifocal intracranial tumors and NGGCT histology.
Seventy-one patients treated for intracranial germ cell tumors at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1998–2012 were identified. Patients presenting with synchronous bifocal disease were selected for further review.
Of the 71 patients presenting with intracranial germ cell tumors, 14 (19.7%) had synchronous bifocal disease. Of these 14 patients, 7 (50.0%) had germinoma, 3 (21.4%) had NGGCT, and 4 (28.6%) had hCG levels <200 mIU/mL and normal AFP levels and were treated without pathologic confirmation. Of the 3 patients with confirmed bifocal NGGCT, 2 had detectable hCG levels with AFP <10 ng/mL and 1 patient had a detectable hCG level with a modest elevation in AFP.
NGGCTs should be considered in the differential diagnosis for patients presenting with bifocal intracranial tumors. Given differences in the management of germinomas and NGGCTs, clinicians should strongly consider a biopsy in patients presenting with bifocal masses and normal or modestly elevated biomarkers. Misclassification of such cases as germinomas could result in undertreatment and a possible increased risk for recurrence.
bifocal; germ cell; multiple midline; NGGCT; nongerminomatous
This study investigated the clinical outcome of intracranial non-germinomatous malignant germ cell tumors (NGMGCTs). All histologically proven cases of NGMGCTs treated in Shanghai Huashan Hospital, Fudan University were reviewed. A total of 39 cases were analyzed. There were 15 mixed germ cell tumors, 15 immature teratomas, 7 embryonal carcinomas and 2 yolk sac tumors. Patients were treated surgically first, followed by radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. Some patients also received gamma knife surgery. The common 5-year survival rate was 36.8%. According to Matsutani’s grading system, the 5-year actuarial survival rate for patients in the intermediate and poor prognosis groups were 45.8 and 14.3%, respectively. Individual analysis of each type of tumor showed that the median survival time of embryonal carcinoma was 27 months, which is very close to that of the intermediate group (28 months). We therefore classified embryonal carcinoma into the intermediate group where the 5-year actuarial survival rate for patients in the new intermediate prognosis group was 42.6%. Further analysis of immature teratoma cases found that the 5-year survival rate of patients with immature teratoma who received gamma knife surgery is 100%. This rate exhibited a significant difference (P=0.0049) compared to that of patients who did not undergo gamma knife surgery. In conclusion, we consider surgery as the first choice of treatment although for different histologis, the type of the tumor should be treated separately.
germ cell tumor; surgery; gamma knife surgery; radiotherapy; chemotherapy
OCT3/4 (POU5F1) is an established diagnostic immunohistochemical marker for specific histological variants of human malignant germ cell tumours (GCTs), including the seminomatous types and the stem cell component of non-seminomas, known as embryonal carcinoma. OCT3/4 is crucial for the regulation of pluripotency and the self-renewal of normal embryonic stem- and germ cells. Detection of expression of this transcription factor is complicated by the existence of multiple pseudogenes and isoforms. Various claims have been made about OCT3/4 expression in non-GCTs, possibly related to using nonspecific detection methods. False-positive findings undermine the applicability of OCT3/4 as a specific diagnostic tool in a clinical setting. In addition, false-positive findings could result in misinterpretation of pluripotency regulation in solid somatic cancers and their stem cells. Of the three identified isoforms – OCT4A, OCT4B and OCT4B1 – only OCT4A proved to regulate pluripotency. Up until now, no convincing nuclear OCT4A protein expression has been shown in somatic cancers or tissues.
This study investigates expression of the various OCT3/4 isoforms in GCTs (both differentiated and undifferentiated) and somatic (non-germ cell) cancers, including representative cell lines and xenografts.
Using specific methods, OCT4A and OCT4B1 are shown to be preferentially expressed in undifferentiated GCTs. The OCT4B variant shows no difference in expression between GCTs (either differentiated or undifferentiated) and somatic cancers. In spite of the presence of OCT4A mRNA in somatic cancer-derived cell lines, no OCT3/4 protein is detected. Significant positive correlations between all isoforms of OCT3/4 were identified in both tumours with and without a known stem cell component, possibly indicating synergistic roles of these isoforms.
This study confirms that OCT4A protein only appears in seminomatous GCTs, embryonal carcinoma and representative cell lines. Furthermore, it emphasises that in order to correctly assess the presence of functional OCT3/4, both isoform specific mRNA and protein detection are required.
OCT3/4; isoforms; germ cell tumour; somatic cancers; mRNA expression
Germ cell tumors (GCTs) affect infants, children, and adults and are the most common cancer type in young men. Progress in understanding the molecular basis of GCTs has been hampered by a lack of suitable animal models. Here we report the identification of a zebrafish model of highly penetrant, heritable testicular GCT isolated as part of a forward genetic screen for cancer susceptibility genes. The mutant line develops spontaneous testicular tumors at a median age of 7 months, and pedigree analysis indicates dominant inheritance of the GCT susceptibility trait. The zebrafish model exhibits disruption of testicular tissue architecture and the accumulation of primitive, spermatogonial-like cells with loss of spermatocytic differentiation. Radiation treatment leads to apoptosis of the tumor cells and tumor regression. The GCT-susceptible line can serve as a model for understanding the mechanisms regulating germ cells in normal development and disease and as a platform investigating new therapeutic approaches for GCTs.
Male germ cell tumor (GCT) is a highly curable malignancy, which exhibits exquisite sensitivity to cisplatin treatment. The genetic pathway(s) that determine the chemotherapy sensitivity in GCT remain largely unknown.
We studied epigenetic changes in relation to cisplatin response by examining promoter hypermethylation in a cohort of resistant and sensitive GCTs. Here, we show that promoter hypermethylation of RASSF1A and HIC1 genes is associated with resistance. The promoter hypermethylation and/or the down-regulated expression of MGMT is seen in the majority of tumors. We hypothesize that these epigenetic alterations affecting MGMT play a major role in the exquisite sensitivity to cisplatin, characteristic of GCTs. We also demonstrate that cisplatin treatment induce de novo promoter hypermethylation in vivo. In addition, we show that the acquired cisplatin resistance in vitro alters the expression of specific genes and the highly resistant cells fail to reactivate gene expression after treatment to demethylating and histone deacetylase inhibiting agents.
Our findings suggest that promoter hypermethylation of RASSF1A and HIC1 genes play a role in resistance of GCT, while the transcriptional inactivation of MGMT by epigenetic alterations confer exquisite sensitivity to cisplatin. These results also implicate defects in epigenetic pathways that regulate gene transcription in cisplatin resistant GCT.
Cisplatin (CDDP) resistance in testicular germ cell tumors (GCTs) is still a clinical challenge, and one associated with poor prognosis. The purpose of this work was to test pazopanib, an anti-tumoral and anti-angiogenic multikinase inhibitor, and its combination with lapatinib (an anti-ErbB inhibitor) in mouse orthotopic models of human testicular GCTs.
We used two different models of human testicular GCTs orthotopically grown in nude mice; a CDDP-sensitive choriocarcinoma (TGT38) and a new orthotopic model generated from a metastatic GCT refractory to first-line CDDP chemotherapy (TGT44). Nude mice implanted with these orthotopic tumors were treated with the inhibitors and the effect on tumoral growth and angiogenesis was evaluated.
TGT44 refractory tumor had an immunohistochemical profile similar to the original metastasis, with characteristics of yolk sac tumor. TGT44 did not respond when treated with cisplatin. In contrast, pazopanib had an anti-angiogenic effect and anti-tumor efficacy in this model. Pazopanib in combination with lapatinib in TGT38, an orthotopic model of choriocarcinoma had an additive effect blocking tumor growth.
We present pazopanib as a possible agent for the alternative treatment of CDDP-sensitive and CDDP-refractory GCT patients, alone or in combination with anti-ErbB therapies.
Pazopanib; Lapatinib; Testicular cancer; Germ-cell tumors; Cisplatin; Refractory
Cisplatin-based chemotherapy has been commonly used for the treatment of intracranial germ cell tumors (IC-GCTs). However, this treatment exhibits some adverse effects such as renal problems and hearing difficulty. Carboplatin-based chemotherapy was administered to pediatric patients with IC-GCTs from August 2004 at the Samsung Medical Center. In this study, we assessed the responses and adverse effects of carboplatin-based chemotherapy in pediatric IC-GCTs patients according to the risk group, and compared the results with those of the previous cisplatin-based chemotherapy.
We examined 35 patients (27 men and 8 women) diagnosed with IC-GCTs between August 2004 and April 2008 and received risk-adapted carboplatin-based chemotherapy at the Samsung Medical Center. Patients were divided into either low-risk (LR) or high-risk (HR) groups and a retrospective analysis was performed using information from the medical records.
Although hematological complications were common, hearing difficulties or grade 3 or 4 creatinine level elevation were not observed in patients who underwent carboplatin-based chemotherapy. The frequency of febrile neutropenia did not differ between the risk groups. The overall survival was 100% and event-free survival (EFS) was 95.7%. The EFS rate was 100% in the LR group and 90% in the HR group, respectively.
Despite their common occurrence in high-risk patients, no lethal hematological complications were associated with carboplatin-based treatment. The current carboplatin-based chemotherapy protocol is safe and effective for the treatment of pediatric patients with IC-GCTs.
Intracranial germ cell tumor; Carboplatin; Adverse effects
Maternal vitamin supplementation has been linked to a reduced risk of several pediatric malignancies. We examined this relationship in a study of childhood germ cell tumors (GCTs). Subjects included 278 GCT cases diagnosed <15 years during 1993-2001 at a United States or Canadian Children's Oncology Group Institution and 423 controls that were ascertained through random digit dialing matched to cases on sex, and age within one year. Unconditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% Confidence Intervals (CIs) for the association between GCTs and maternal vitamin use at several time points during and around pregnancy. In models controlling for the child's age, sex, household income, and maternal education, any maternal vitamin use during the 6 months prior to conception through nursing was associated with a non-significant reduced risk of GCTs (OR=0.7; 95% CI 0.0.4-1.2). Inverse associations were observed for both extragonadal (OR=0.8; 95% CI 0.4-1.6) and gonadal (OR=0.6; 95% CI 0.3-1.1) tumors and for dysgerminoma/seminoma (OR=0.6; 95% CI 0.2-1.3) and teratoma (OR=0.5; 95% CI 0.2-0.9) but not yolk sac tumors (OR=1.1; 95% CI 0.5-2.3). No consistent patterns were found with respect to vitamin use during the periconceptional period (6 months before pregnancy and first trimester) or first trimester specifically. In conclusion, while our study suggests that maternal vitamin supplementation may reduce the risk or pediatric GCTs in the offspring, the small study size and limitations inherent to observational studies must be considered when interpreting these results.
germ cell tumors; pediatrics; prenatal vitamins; folic acid; risk factors
Studying chemical disturbances during neural differentiation of murine embryonic stem cells (mESCs) has been established as an alternative in vitro testing approach for the identification of developmental neurotoxicants. miRNAs represent a class of small non-coding RNA molecules involved in the regulation of neural development and ESC differentiation and specification. Thus, neural differentiation of mESCs in vitro allows investigating the role of miRNAs in chemical-mediated developmental toxicity. We analyzed changes in miRNome and transcriptome during neural differentiation of mESCs exposed to the developmental neurotoxicant sodium valproate (VPA). A total of 110 miRNAs and 377 mRNAs were identified differently expressed in neurally differentiating mESCs upon VPA treatment. Based on miRNA profiling we observed that VPA shifts the lineage specification from neural to myogenic differentiation (upregulation of muscle-abundant miRNAs, mir-206, mir-133a and mir-10a, and downregulation of neural-specific mir-124a, mir-128 and mir-137). These findings were confirmed on the mRNA level and via immunochemistry. Particularly, the expression of myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs) as well as muscle-specific genes (Actc1, calponin, myosin light chain, asporin, decorin) were found elevated, while genes involved in neurogenesis (e.g. Otx1, 2, and Zic3, 4, 5) were repressed. These results were specific for valproate treatment and―based on the following two observations―most likely due to the inhibition of histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity: (i) we did not observe any induction of muscle-specific miRNAs in neurally differentiating mESCs exposed to the unrelated developmental neurotoxicant sodium arsenite; and (ii) the expression of muscle-abundant mir-206 and mir-10a was similarly increased in cells exposed to the structurally different HDAC inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA). Based on our results we conclude that miRNA expression profiling is a suitable molecular endpoint for developmental neurotoxicity. The observed lineage shift into myogenesis, where miRNAs may play an important role, could be one of the developmental neurotoxic mechanisms of VPA.
Granulosa cell tumors (GCT) of the ovary often express aromatase and synthesize estrogen, which in turn may influence their progression. Recently a specific point mutation (C134W) in the FOXL2 protein was identified in >94% of adult-type GCT and it is likely to contribute to their development. A number of genes are known to be regulated by FOXL2, including aromatase/CYP19A1, but it is unclear which are direct targets and whether the C134W mutation alters their regulation. Recently, it has been reported that FOXL2 forms a complex with steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) which is a known regulator of aromatase in granulosa cells.
In this work, the human GCT-derived cell lines KGN and COV434 were heterozygous and wildtype for the FOXL2:C134W mutation, respectively. KGN had abundant FOXL2 mRNA expression but it was not expressed in COV434. Expression of exogenous FOXL2:C134W in COV434 cells induced higher expression of a luciferase reporter for the ovarian specific aromatase promoter, promoter II (PII) (−516bp) than expression of wildtype FOXL2, but did not alter induction of a similar reporter for the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) promoter (−1300bp). Co-immunoprecipitation confirmed that FOXL2 bound SF-1 and that it also bound its homologue, liver receptor homologue 1 (LRH-1), however, the C134W mutation did not alter these interactions or induce a selective binding of the proteins. A highly conserved putative binding site for FOXL2 was identified in PII. FOXL2 was demonstrated to bind the site by electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) and site-directed mutagenesis of this element blocked its differential induction by wildtype FOXL2 and FOXL2:C134W.
These findings suggest that aromatase is a direct target of FOXL2:C134W in adult-type GCT via a single distinctive and highly conserved binding site in PII and therefore provide insight into the pathogenic mechanism of this mutation.
Human male germ cell tumors (GCTs) arise from undifferentiated primordial germ cells (PGCs), a stage in which extensive methylation reprogramming occurs. GCTs exhibit pluripotentality and are highly sensitive to cisplatin therapy. The molecular basis of germ cell (GC) transformation, differentiation, and exquisite treatment response is poorly understood.
To assess the role and mechanism of promoter hypermethylation, we analyzed CpG islands of 21 gene promoters by methylation-specific PCR in seminomatous (SGCT) and nonseminomatous (NSGCT) GCTs. We found 60% of the NSGCTs demonstrating methylation in one or more gene promoters whereas SGCTs showed a near-absence of methylation, therefore identifying distinct methylation patterns in the two major histologies of GCT. DNA repair genes MGMT, RASSF1A, and BRCA1, and a transcriptional repressor gene HIC1, were frequently methylated in the NSGCTs. The promoter hypermethylation was associated with gene silencing in most methylated genes, and reactivation of gene expression occured upon treatment with 5-Aza-2' deoxycytidine in GCT cell lines.
Our results, therefore, suggest a potential role for epigenetic modification of critical tumor suppressor genes in pathways relevant to GC transformation, differentiation, and treatment response.
Germ cell tumor; promoter hypermethylation; MGMT; RASSF1A; BRCA1; gene expression