EndoPredict (EP) is a clinically validated multianalyte gene expression test to predict distant metastasis in ER-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer treated with endocrine therapy alone. The test is based on the combined analysis of 12 genes in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue by reverse transcription-quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR). Recently, it was shown that EP is feasible for reliable decentralized assessment of gene expression. The aim of this study was the analytical validation of the performance characteristics of the assay and its verification in a molecular-pathological routine laboratory.
Gene expression values to calculate the EP score were assayed by one-step RT-qPCR using RNA from FFPE tumor tissue. Limit of blank, limit of detection, linear range, and PCR efficiency were assessed for each of the 12 PCR assays using serial samples dilutions. Different breast cancer samples were used to evaluate RNA input range, precision and inter-laboratory variability.
PCR assays were linear up to Cq values between 35.1 and 37.2. Amplification efficiencies ranged from 75% to 101%. The RNA input range without considerable change of the EP score was between 0.16 and 18.5 ng/μl. Analysis of precision (variation of day, day time, instrument, operator, reagent lots) resulted in a total noise (standard deviation) of 0.16 EP score units on a scale from 0 to 15. The major part of the total noise (SD 0.14) was caused by the replicate-to-replicate noise of the PCR assays (repeatability) and was not associated with different operating conditions (reproducibility). Performance characteristics established in the manufacturer’s laboratory were verified in a routine molecular pathology laboratory. Comparison of 10 tumor samples analyzed in two different laboratories showed a Pearson coefficient of 0.995 and a mean deviation of 0.15 score units.
The EP test showed reproducible performance characteristics with good precision and negligible laboratory-to-laboratory variation. This study provides further evidence that the EP test is suitable for decentralized testing in specialized molecular pathological laboratories instead of a reference laboratory. This is a unique feature and a technical advance in comparison with existing RNA-based prognostic multigene expression tests.
Breast cancer; Prognostic multigene expression test; Analytical validation; PCR; Pathology
The validated EndoPredict assay is a novel tool to predict the risk of metastases of patients with estrogen receptor positive, HER2 negative breast cancer treated with endocrine therapy alone. It has been designed to integrate genomic and clinical information and includes clinico-pathological factors such as tumor size and nodal status. The test is feasible in a decentral setting in molecular pathology laboratories. In this project, we investigated the performance of this test in clinical practice, and performed a retrospective evaluation of its impact on treatment decisions in breast cancer. During one year, EndoPredict assays from 167 patients could be successfully performed. For retrospective evaluation of treatment decisions, a questionnaire was sent to the clinical partner. Regarding the molecular EP class, samples from 56 patients (33.5%) had a low-risk, whereas 111 patients (66.5%) showed a high-risk gene profile. After integration of the clinicopathological factors the combined clinical and molecular score (EPclin) resulted in a low-risk group of 77 patients (46.4%), while 89 (53.6%) had a high risk EPclin score. The EPclin-based estimated median 10-year-risk for metastases with endocrine therapy alone was 11% for the whole cohort. The median handling time averaged three days (range: 0 to 11 days), 59.3% of the tests could be performed in three or less than three days. Comparison of pre- and post-test therapy decisions showed a change of therapy in 37.7% of patients. 16 patients (12.3%) had a change to an additional chemotherapy while 25.4% of patients (n = 33) changed to an endocrine therapy alone. In 73 patients (56.2%) no change of therapy resulted. In 6.1% of patients (n = 8), the patients did not agree to the recommendation of the tumor board. Our results show that the EndoPredict assay could be routinely performed in decentral molecular pathology laboratories and the results markedly change treatment decisions.
Several multigene expression-based tests offering prognostic and predictive information in hormone-receptor positive early breast cancer were established during the last years. These tests provide prognostic information on distant recurrences and can serve as an aid in therapy decisions. We analyzed the recently validated reverse-transcription-quantitative-real-time PCR-based multigene-expression Endopredict (EP)-test on 34 hormone-receptor positive breast-cancer cases and compared the EP scores with the Oncotype DX Recurrence-scores (RS) obtained from the same cancer samples.
Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded invasive breast-cancer tissues from 34 patients were analyzed by the EP-test. Representative tumor blocks were analyzed with Oncotype DX prior to this study. Tumor tissue was removed from unstained slides, total-RNA was isolated and EP-analysis was performed blinded to Oncotype DX results.
Extraction of sufficient amounts of RNA and generation of valid EP-scores were possible for all 34 samples. EP classified 11 patients as low-risk and 23 patients as high-risk. RS Score defined 15 patients as low-risk, 10 patients as intermediate-risk in and 9 patients as high-risk. Major-discrepancy occurred in 6 of 34 cases (18%): Low-risk RS was classified as high-risk by EP in 6 cases. Combining the RS intermediate-risk and high-risk groups to a common group, the concordance between both tests was 76%. Correlation between continuous EP and RS-scores was moderate (Pearson-coefficient: 0.65 (p<0.01).
We observed a significant but moderate concordance (76%) and moderate correlation (0.65) between RS and EP Score. Differences in results can be explained by different weighting of biological motives covered by the two tests. Further studies are needed to explore the clinical relevance of discrepant test results with respect of outcome.
This study compared the perfomance of the RNA-based EndoPredict multigene test on core biopsies and surgical breast cancer specimens and analysed the influence of biopsy-induced tissue injuries on the test result.
80 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples comprising paired biopsies and surgical specimens from 40 ER-positive, HER2-negative patients were evaluated. Total RNA was extracted and the EndoPredict score was determined.
RNA yield was considerably lower in core biopsies, but sufficient to measure the assay in all samples. The EndoPredict score was highly correlated between paired samples (Pearson r=0.92), with an excellent concordance of classification into a low or high risk of metastasis (overall agreement 95%).
The measurements are comparable between core biopsies and surgical sections, which suggest that the EndoPredict assay can be performed on core biopsy tissue. Inflammatory changes induced by presurgical biopsies had no significant effect on the RNA-based risk assessment in surgical specimens.
Breast; breast cancer; breast pathology; cancer; cancer genetics; cancer research; EGFR; endocrine pathology; gynaecological pathology; molecular oncology; molecular pathology; oncology; ovary; statistics; tumour markers
In early estrogen receptor (ER)-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer, the decision to administer chemotherapy is largely based on prognostic criteria. The combined molecular/clinical EndoPredict test (EPclin) has been validated to accurately assess prognosis in this population. In this study, the clinical relevance of EPclin in relation to well-established clinical guidelines is assessed.
Patients and methods
We assigned risk groups to 1702 ER-positive/HER2-negative postmenopausal women from two large phase III trials treated only with endocrine therapy. Prognosis was assigned according to National Comprehensive Cancer Center Network-, German S3-, St Gallen guidelines and the EPclin. Prognostic groups were compared using the Kaplan–Meier survival analysis.
After 10 years, absolute risk reductions (ARR) between the high- and low-risk groups ranged from 6.9% to 11.2% if assigned according to guidelines. It was at 18.7% for EPclin. EPclin reassigned 58%–61% of women classified as high-/intermediate-risk (according to clinical guidelines) to low risk. Women reclassified to low risk showed a 5% rate of distant metastasis at 10 years.
The EPclin score is able to predict favorable prognosis in a majority of patients that clinical guidelines would assign to intermediate or high risk. EPclin may reduce the indications for chemotherapy in ER-positive postmenopausal women with a limited number of clinical risk factors.
adjuvant treatment; breast cancer; endocrine therapy; EndoPredict gene; expression
We report here the results of the analytical validation of assays that measure HER2 total protein (H2T) and HER2 homodimer (H2D) expression in Formalin Fixed Paraffin Embedded (FFPE) breast cancer tumors as well as cell line controls. The assays are based on the VeraTag technology platform and are commercially available through a central CAP-accredited clinical reference laboratory. The accuracy of H2T measurements spans a broad dynamic range (2-3 logs) as evaluated by comparison with cross-validating technologies. The measurement of H2T expression demonstrates a sensitivity that is approximately 7–10 times greater than conventional immunohistochemistry (IHC) (HercepTest). The HERmark assay is a quantitative assay that sensitively and reproducibly measures continuous H2T and H2D protein expression levels and therefore may have the potential to stratify patients more accurately with respect to response to HER2-targeted therapies than current methods which rely on semiquantitative protein measurements (IHC) or on indirect assessments of gene amplification (FISH).
The secreted enzyme EndoS, an endoglycosidase from Streptococcus pyogenes, hydrolyzes the N-linked glycan of the constant region of immunoglobulin G (IgG) heavy chain and renders the antibody unable to interact with Fc receptors and elicit effector functions. In this study we couple targeted allelic replacement mutagenesis and heterologous expression to elucidate the contribution of EndoS to group A Streptococcus (GAS) phagocyte resistance and pathogenicity in vitro and in vivo.
Knocking out the EndoS gene in GAS M1T1 background revealed no significant differences in bacterial survival in immune cell killing assays or in a systemic mouse model of infection. However, exogenous addition and heterologous expression of EndoS was found to increase GAS resistance to killing by neutrophils and monocytes in vitro. Additionally, heterologous expression of EndoS in M49 GAS increased mouse virulence in vivo.
We conclude that in a highly virulent M1T1 background, EndoS has no significant impact on GAS phagocyte resistance and pathogenicity. However, local accumulation or high levels of expression of EndoS in certain GAS strains may contribute to virulence.
Molecular genetic studies on rare tumour entities, such as bone tumours, often require the use of decalcified, formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue (dFFPE) samples. Regardless of which decalcification procedure is used, this introduces a vast breakdown of DNA that precludes the possibility of further molecular genetic testing. We set out to establish a robust protocol that would overcome these intrinsic hurdles for bone tumour research.
The goal of our study was to establish a protocol, using a modified DNA isolation procedure and quality controls, to select decalcified samples suitable for array-CGH testing. Archival paraffin blocks were obtained from 9 different pathology departments throughout Europe, using different fixation, embedding and decalcification procedures, in order to preclude a bias for certain lab protocols. Isolated DNA samples were subjected to direct chemical labelling and enzymatic labelling systems and were hybridised on a high resolution oligonucleotide chip containing 44,000 reporter elements.
Genomic alterations (gains and losses) were readily detected in most of the samples analysed. For example, both homozygous deletions of 0.6 Mb and high level of amplifications of 0.7 Mb were identified.
We established a robust protocol for molecular genetic testing of dFFPE derived DNA, irrespective of fixation, decalcification or sample type used. This approach may greatly facilitate further genetic testing on rare tumour entities where archival decalcified, formalin fixed samples are the only source.
Whole genome microarray gene expression profiling is the ‘gold standard’ for the discovery of prognostic and predictive genetic markers for human cancers. However, suitable research material is lacking as most diagnostic samples are preserved as formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue (FFPET). We tested a new workflow and data analysis method optimized for use with FFPET samples.
Sixteen breast tumor samples were split into matched pairs and preserved as FFPET or fresh-frozen (FF). Total RNA was extracted and tested for yield and purity. RNA from FFPET samples was amplified using three different commercially available kits in parallel, and hybridized to Affymetrix GeneChip® Human Genome U133 Plus 2.0 Arrays. The array probe set was optimized in silico to exclude misdesigned and misannotated probes.
FFPET samples processed using the WT-Ovation™ FFPE System V2 (NuGEN) provided 80% specificity and 97% sensitivity compared with FF samples (assuming values of 100%). In addition, in silico probe set redesign improved sequence detection sensitivity and, thus, may rescue potentially significant small-magnitude gene expression changes that could otherwise be diluted by the overall probe set background.
In conclusion, our FFPET-optimized workflow enables the detection of more genes than previous, nonoptimized approaches, opening new possibilities for the discovery, validation, and clinical application of mRNA biomarkers in human diseases.
Biomarker; Breast cancer; Gene; HER2; Microarray
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. Intraepithelial lesions (IELs), such as usual ductal hyperplasia (UH), atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) are risk factors that predict a woman's chance of developing invasive breast cancer. Therefore, a comparative study that establishes an animal model of pre-invasive lesions is needed for the development of preventative measures and effective treatment for both mammary IELs and tumors. The purpose of this study was to characterize the histologic and molecular features of feline mammary IELs and compare them with those in women.
Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded specimens (n = 205) from 203 female cats with clinical mammary disease were retrieved from the archives of the Purdue University Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and Veterinary Teaching Hospital (West Lafayette, IN), and the Department of Pathology and Veterinary Clinic, School of Veterinary Medicine (Sassari, Italy). Histologic sections, stained with hematoxylin and eosin (HE), were evaluated for the presence of IELs in tissue adjacent to excised mammary tumors. Lesions were compared to those of humans. Immunohistochemistry for estrogen receptor (ER-alpha), progesterone receptor (PR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2/neu) and Ki-67 was performed in IELs and adjacent tumor tissues.
Intraepithelial lesions were found in 57 of 203 (28%) feline mammary specimens and were categorized as UH (27%), ADH (29%), and DCIS (44%). Most IELs with atypia (ADH and DCIS) were associated with mammary cancer (91%), whereas UH was associated with benign lesions in 53% of cases. Feline IELs were remarkably similar to human IELs. No ER or PR immunoreactivity was detected in intermediate-grade or high-grade DCIS or their associated malignant tumors. HER-2 protein overexpression was found in 27% of IELs.
The remarkable similarity of feline mammary IELs to those of humans, with the tendency to lose hormone receptor expression in atypical IELs, supports the cat as a possible model to study ER- and PR-negative breast lesions.
NSCLC exhibits considerable heterogeneity in its sensitivity to chemotherapy and similar heterogeneity is noted in vitro in a variety of model systems. This study has tested the hypothesis that the molecular basis of the observed in vitro chemosensitivity of NSCLC lies within the known resistance mechanisms inherent to these patients' tumors.
The chemosensitivity of a series of 49 NSCLC tumors was assessed using the ATP-based tumor chemosensitivity assay (ATP-TCA) and compared with quantitative expression of resistance genes measured by RT-PCR in a Taqman Array™ following extraction of RNA from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue.
There was considerable heterogeneity between tumors within the ATP-TCA, and while this showed no direct correlation with individual gene expression, there was strong correlation of multi-gene signatures for many of the single agents and combinations tested. For instance, docetaxel activity showed some dependence on the expression of drug pumps, while cisplatin activity showed some dependence on DNA repair enzyme expression. Activity of both drugs was influenced more strongly still by the expression of anti- and pro-apoptotic genes by the tumor for both docetaxel and cisplatin. The doublet combinations of cisplatin with gemcitabine and cisplatin with docetaxel showed gene expression signatures incorporating resistance mechanisms for both agents.
Genes predicted to be involved in known mechanisms drug sensitivity and resistance correlate well with in vitro chemosensitivity and may allow the definition of predictive signatures to guide individualized chemotherapy in lung cancer.
In most pathology laboratories worldwide, formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples are the only tissue specimens available for routine diagnostics. Although commercial kits for diagnostic molecular pathology testing are becoming available, most of the current diagnostic tests are laboratory-based assays. Thus, there is a need for standardized procedures in molecular pathology, starting from the extraction of nucleic acids. To evaluate the current methods for extracting nucleic acids from FFPE tissues, 13 European laboratories, participating to the European FP6 program IMPACTS (www.impactsnetwork.eu), isolated nucleic acids from four diagnostic FFPE tissues using their routine methods, followed by quality assessment. The DNA-extraction protocols ranged from homemade protocols to commercial kits. Except for one homemade protocol, the majority gave comparable results in terms of the quality of the extracted DNA measured by the ability to amplify differently sized control gene fragments by PCR. For array-applications or tests that require an accurately determined DNA-input, we recommend using silica based adsorption columns for DNA recovery. For RNA extractions, the best results were obtained using chromatography column based commercial kits, which resulted in the highest quantity and best assayable RNA. Quality testing using RT-PCR gave successful amplification of 200 bp–250 bp PCR products from most tested tissues. Modifications of the proteinase-K digestion time led to better results, even when commercial kits were applied. The results of the study emphasize the need for quality control of the nucleic acid extracts with standardised methods to prevent false negative results and to allow data comparison among different diagnostic laboratories.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00428-010-0917-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
FFPE; Multicentre study; Molecular analyses standardisation; PCR; DNA; RNA; Isolation
Ovarian cancer shows considerable heterogeneity in its sensitivity to chemotherapy both clinically and in vitro. This study tested the hypothesis that the molecular basis of this difference lies within the known resistance mechanisms inherent to these patients' tumours.
The chemosensitivity of a series of 31 ovarian tumours, all previously treated with platinum-based chemotherapy, was assessed using the ATP-based tumour chemosensitivity assay (ATP-TCA) and correlated with resistance gene expression measured by quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) in a TaqMan Array following extraction of mRNA from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue. The results were standardised against a housekeeping gene (PBGD), and assessed by multiple linear regression.
Predictive multiple linear regression models were derived for four single agents (cisplatin, gemcitabine, topotecan, and treosulfan), and for the combinations of cisplatin+gemcitabine and treosulfan+gemcitabine. Particularly strong correlations were obtained for cisplatin, gemcitabine, topotecan, and treosulfan+gemcitabine. No individual gene expression showed direct correlation with activity in the ATP-TCA. Genes involved in DNA repair and apoptosis were strongly represented, with some drug pumps also involved.
The chemosensitivity of ovarian cancer to drugs is related to the expression of genes involved in sensitivity and resistance mechanisms.
ovarian cancer; chemosensitivity; chemoresistance; gene expression; ATP; RT–PCR
Epigenetics acts as an interface between environmental / exogenous factors, cellular responses and pathological processes. Aberrant epigenetic signatures are a hallmark of complex multifactorial diseases, including non-neoplastic disorders (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune diseases, and some infectious diseases) and neoplasms (e.g., leukemias, lymphomas, sarcomas, and breast, lung, prostate, liver and colorectal cancers). Epigenetic signatures (DNA methylation, mRNA and microRNA expression, etc.) may serve as biomarkers for risk stratification, early detection, and disease classification, as well as targets for therapy and chemoprevention. DNA methylation assays are widely applied to formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded archival tissue specimens as clinical pathology tests. To better understand the interplay between etiologic factors, cellular molecular characteristics, and disease evolution, the field of “Molecular Pathological Epidemiology (MPE)” has emerged as an interdisciplinary integration of “molecular pathology” and “epidemiology”, with a similar conceptual framework to systems biology and network medicine. In contrast to traditional epidemiologic research including genome-wide association studies (GWAS), MPE is founded on the unique disease principle; that is, each disease process results from unique profiles of exposomes, epigenomes, transcriptomes, proteomes, metabolomes, microbiomes, and interactomes in relation to the macro-environment and tissue microenvironment. The widespread application of epigenomics (e.g., methylome) analyses will enhance our understanding of disease heterogeneity, epigenotypes (CpG island methylator phenotype, LINE-1 hypomethylation, etc.), and host-disease interactions. MPE may represent a logical evolution of GWAS, termed “GWAS-MPE approach”. Though epigenome-wide association study attracts increasing attention, currently, it has a fundamental problem in that each cell within one individual has a unique, time-varying epigenome. This article will illustrate increasing contribution of modern pathology to broader public health sciences, which attests pivotal roles of pathologists in the new integrated MPE science towards our ultimate goal of personalized medicine and prevention.
molecular pathologic epidemiology; genetics; omics; hypermethylation; hypomethylation; personalized therapy; unique tumor principle; CIMP; long interspersed nucleotide element
The invasiveness of breast cancer cells was shown to be associated with the suppressed ability to develop apoptosis. The role of cell death DNases/endonucleases has not been previously examined in relation with the invasiveness of breast cancer cells. We have compared the activity of the endonucleases in seven human breast cancer cell lines different in the level of invasiveness and differentiation. The invasiveness of cell lines was confirmed by an in vitro Matrigel-based assay. The total endonuclease activity in the differentiated non-invasive (WDNI) cell lines was higher than that in the poorly differentiated invasive (PDI) cells. The expression of EndoG strongly correlated with the degree of estrogen receptor expression and showed an inverse correlation with vimentin and matrix metalloproteinase-13. The EndoG-positive WDNI cells were more sensitive to etoposide- or camptothecin-induced cell death than EndoG-negative PDI cells. Silencing of EndoG caused inhibited of SK-BR-3 WDNI cell death induced by etoposide. Human ductal carcinomas in situ expressed high levels of EndoG, while invasive medullar and ductal carcinomas had significantly decreased expression of EndoG. This correlated with decreased apoptosis as measured by TUNEL assay. Our findings suggest that the presence of EndoG in non-invasive breast cancer cells determines their sensitivity to apoptosis, which may be taken into consideration for developing the chemotherapeutic strategy for cancer treatment.
endonuclease G; DNase I; breast cancer; invasiveness; differentiation; chemotherapy; apoptosis
Gene expression profiling of human breast tumors has uncovered several molecular signatures that can divide breast cancer patients into good and poor outcome groups. However, these signatures typically comprise many genes (~50-100), and the prognostic tests associated with identifying these signatures in patient tumor specimens require complicated methods, which are not routinely available in most hospital pathology laboratories, thus limiting their use. Hence, there is a need for more practical methods to predict patient survival.
We modified a feature selection algorithm and used survival analysis to derive a 2-gene signature that accurately predicts breast cancer patient survival.
We developed a tree based decision method that segregated patients into various risk groups using KIAA0191 expression in the context of E2F1 expression levels. This approach led to highly accurate survival predictions in a large cohort of breast cancer patients using only a 2-gene signature.
Our observations suggest a possible relationship between E2F1 and KIAA0191 expression that is relevant to the pathogenesis of breast cancer. Furthermore, our findings raise the prospect that the practicality of patient prognosis methods may be improved by reducing the number of genes required for analysis. Indeed, our E2F1/KIAA0191 2-gene signature would be highly amenable for an immunohistochemistry based test, which is commonly used in hospital laboratories.
Due to enormous advances in quantitative proteomics and in immunohistochemistry (pathology), the two research areas have now reached the state to be successfully interwoven in order to tackle challenges in toponostics and to open tumor-targeted systems pathology approaches. In this study the differential expressions of candidate proteins nucleophosmin, nucleoside diphosphate kinase A/B (NDKA/B), osteoinducive factor (mimecan), and pyru-vate kinase M2 from a quantitative proteome signature for invasive ductal breast cancer were determined by immunohistochemistry on 53 tissue slices from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tumor and control tissue samples from ten patients and fourteen controls. In addition, 87 images from the Human Protein Atlas representing seven tumor and nine normal breast tissue samples were investigated by computer-assisted semi-quantitative density measurements on nucleophosmin, nucleoside diphosphate kinase A/B (NDKA/B), osteoinducive factor (mimecan), pyruvate kinase M2, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydro-genase (GAP-DH), and mimecan (osteoinductive factor). Both IHC data sets match well to each other and support the quantitative proteome analysis data. Determining spatial distribution of signature protein expressions by protein imaging on morphologically intact tissue samples at the sub-cellular level and, hence, keeping all topological information, presents an added value to quantitative proteome data. Such comprehensive data sets are needed for both, pathway analyses and for “next generation clinical diagnostics” approaches.
Breast carcinoma; proteome analysis; proteomics; protein expression signature; mass spectrometry; immunohistochemistry; tissue microarrays; image analysis; toponomics; toponostics
Besides typing and grading of breast cancer, Pathologists are involved in the determination of biomarkers, such as steroid hormone receptors and HER2, which are of utmost importance in adjuvant therapy. There have been concerns with regard to security and reproducibility of the biomarker assays done on tissue sections applying either immunohistochemistry or in-situ hybridisation. In order to assure the quality of these biomarker assays, a number of measures are required, among them external proficiency testing. Therefore, external quality assurance trials have been implemented in Germany. In the period of 2002-2007, 5 consecutive trials were conducted with up to 180 participating laboratories. Tissue microarrays with 20–24 different breast cancer samples including cell lines enabled that a huge number of pathologists were challenged with identical samples which provides the prerequisite for comparability. Because there is no legal duress to undergo external proficiency testing in histopathology, all laboratories that took part volunteered to do so. These innovative quality assurance trials (Qualitätsinitiative Pathologie, QuIP) will be continued in the future on an annual or bi-annual basis. Participation is recommended for pathology departments involved in the service for breast units. The organisational frame work of the trials is described here.
Steroid receptor; HER2; Immunohistochemistry; Quality assurance
Apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease (Ap endo) is a key DNA repair activity that confers radiation resistance in human cells. Here we examined the association between Ap endo activity and response to radiotherapy in pediatric ependymomas, tumors for which treatment options are limited and survival rates are only about 50%. We assayed Ap endo activity in 36 ependymomas and expression of Ape1/Ref-1, the predominant Ap endo activity in humans, in 44 tumors by immunostaining. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to analyze the association of activity or expression with progression-free survival or with overall survival. Activity varied 13-fold and was not associated with tumor or patient characteristics. In univariate models with Ap endo activity entered as a continuous variable, the hazard ratio for progression increased by a factor of 2.18 for every 0.01 unit increase in activity (P ≤ 0.003) in 24 grade II ependymomas. Risk for death increased by a factor of 1.89 (P ≤ 0.02) in the same population. The fraction of Ape1/Ref-1 immunopositive cells varied widely within individual tumors and was not associated with either progression-free or with overall survival. Suppressing Ap endo activity in pediatric ependymoma cells significantly increased radiation sensitivity, suggesting that the association of activity with radiation response reflected, at least in part, repair of radiation-induced DNA lesions. Our data indicate that Ap endo activity is predictive of outcome following radiotherapy, and suggest that Ape1/Ref-1 promotes radiation resistance in pediatric ependymomas. Our findings support the use of inhibitors of Ap endo activity to overcome resistance.
Ape1/Ref-1; brain tumor; DNA repair; γ-ray resistance
Ligand-bound and phosphorylated ErbB/HER heterodimers are potent signaling forms of this receptor family, and quantitative measurements of these active receptors may be predictive of patient response to targeted therapies. Using VeraTag™ technology, we developed and characterized quantitative assays measuring epidermal growth factor (EGF)-dependent increases in activated HER receptors in tumor cell line lysates and formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumor sections. We demonstrated the ability of the assays to quantitatively measure changes in activated HER1 and HER2 receptor levels in cell lines following treatment with 2C4, erlotinib, and lapatinib. We utilized these assays to determine the prevalence and distribution of activated HER1, HER2, and HER1-HER2 heterodimers in 43 HER2-positive breast tumors.
Assays for activated HER1 and HER2 receptors in FFPE and cell lysate formats were developed using VeraTag™ technology, which requires the proximity of an antibody pair for light-dependent release of a fluorescently labeled tag, followed by capillary electrophoresis-based quantitation.
Ligand-dependent and independent HER1-HER2 heterodimer levels measured by lysate and FFPE VeraTag™ assays trended with HER1 and HER2 expression levels in tumor cell lines, which was confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation. The formation of EGF-dependent HER1-HER2 heterodimers were inhibited by the HER2-targeted monoclonal antibody 2C4 and stabilized by the HER1 tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) erlotinib. EGF-dependent HER1 and HER2 phosphorylation was inhibited by lapatinib and erlotinib. Further, we observed that dominant receptor signaling patterns may switch between HER1-HER1 and HER1-HER2, depending on drug mechanism of action and relative levels of HER receptors. In FFPE breast tumors that expressed both HER1 and HER2, HER1-HER2 heterodimers were detected in 25 to 50% of tumors, depending on detection method. The levels of activated phospho-HER1-HER2 heterodimers correlated with HER1 or HER2 levels in an analysis of 43 HER2-positive breast tumors.
VeraTag™ lysate assays can be used as a tool for understanding the mechanism of action of targeted HER-family inhibitors in the preclinical setting, while VeraTag™ FFPE assays of activated HER receptors combined with total HER2 measurements (HERmark®) in tumor samples may provide a more accurate prediction of clinical response to both HER1 and HER2 targeted therapies.
Reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) is widely recognized to be the gold standard method for quantifying gene expression. Studies using RT-PCR technology as a discovery tool have historically been limited to relatively small gene sets compared to other gene expression platforms such as microarrays. We have recently shown that TaqMan® RT-PCR can be scaled up to profile expression for 192 genes in fixed paraffin-embedded (FPE) clinical study tumor specimens. This technology has also been used to develop and commercialize a widely used clinical test for breast cancer prognosis and prediction, the Onco typeDX™ assay. A similar need exists in colon cancer for a test that provides information on the likelihood of disease recurrence in colon cancer (prognosis) and the likelihood of tumor response to standard chemotherapy regimens (prediction). We have now scaled our RT-PCR assay to efficiently screen 761 biomarkers across hundreds of patient samples and applied this process to biomarker discovery in colon cancer. This screening strategy remains attractive due to the inherent advantages of maintaining platform consistency from discovery through clinical application.
RNA was extracted from formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FPE) tissue, as old as 28 years, from 354 patients enrolled in NSABP C-01 and C-02 colon cancer studies. Multiplexed reverse transcription reactions were performed using a gene specific primer pool containing 761 unique primers. PCR was performed as independent TaqMan® reactions for each candidate gene. Hierarchal clustering demonstrates that genes expected to co-express form obvious, distinct and in certain cases very tightly correlated clusters, validating the reliability of this technical approach to biomarker discovery.
We have developed a high throughput, quantitatively precise multi-analyte gene expression platform for biomarker discovery that approaches low density DNA arrays in numbers of genes analyzed while maintaining the high specificity, sensitivity and reproducibility that are characteristics of RT-PCR. Biomarkers discovered using this approach can be transferred to a clinical reference laboratory setting without having to re-validate the assay on a second technology platform.
The development of predictive biomarkers for IGF targeted anti-cancer therapeutics remains a critical unmet need. The insulin receptor A isoform (InsR-A) has been identified as a possible biomarker candidate but quantification of InsR-A in widely available formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissues is complicated by its similarities with the metabolic signaling insulin receptor isoform B (InsR-B). In the present study, qPCR based assays specific for InsR-A, InsR-B and IGF-1R were developed for use in FFPE tissues and tested for feasible use in clinical archived FFPE estrogen receptor (ER) + and ER− breast cancer tumors.
FFPE compatible primer sets were designed with amplicon sizes of less than 60 base pairs and validated for target specificity, assay repeatability and amplification efficiency. FFPE tumors from ER+ (n=83) and ER− (n=64) primary untreated breast cancers, and ER+ hormone refractory (HR ER+) (n=61) breast cancers were identified for feasibility testing. The feasible use of InsR-A and InsR-B qPCRs were tested using all tumor groups and the feasibility of IGF-1R qPCR was determined using HR ER+ tumors.
All qPCR assays were highly reproducible with amplification efficiencies between 96–104% over a 6 log range with limits of detection of 4 or 5 copies per reaction. Greater than 90% of samples were successfully amplified using InsR-A, InsR-B or IGF-1R qPCR primer sets and greater than 88% of samples tested amplified both InsR isoforms or both isoforms and IGF-1R. InsR-A was the predominant isoform in 82% ER+, 68% ER− and 100% HR ER+ breast cancer. Exploratory analyses demonstrated significantly more InsR-A expression in ER+ and HR ER+ groups compared to InsR-B (ER+ p< 0.05, HR ER+ p< 0.0005) and both groups had greater InsR-A expression when compared to ER− tumors (ER+ p< 0.0005, HR ER+ p< 0.05). IGF-1R expression of HR ER+ tumors was lower than InsR-A (p<0.0005) but higher than InsR-B (p<0.0005). The InsR-B expression of HR ER+ tumors was significantly reduced compared other tumor subgroups (ER+ and ER−, p< 0.0005) and lead to a significant elevation of HR ER+ InsR-A:InsR-B ratios (ER+ and ER−, p< 0.0005).
The validated, highly sensitive InsR-A and InsR-B qPCR based assays presented here are the first to demonstrate the feasible amplification of InsR isoforms in FFPE tissues. Quantification data generated from this feasibility study indicating InsR-A is more predominant than InsR-B in breast cancer support the use of these assays for further investigation of InsR-A and InsR-B as predictive biomarkers for IGF targeted therapeutics.
Real-time; qPCR; breast cancer; receptor; insulin; receptor; IGF Type 1; monoclonal antibodies; therapeutic use; protein kinase inhibitors
Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumour tissue represents an immense but mainly untapped resource with respect to molecular profiling. The DASL (cDNA-mediated Annealing, Selection, extension, and Ligation) assay is a recently described, RT–PCR-based, highly multiplexed high-throughput gene expression platform developed by Illumina specifically for fragmented RNA typically obtained from FFPE specimens, which enables expression profiling. In order to extend the utility of the DASL assay for breast cancer, we have custom designed and validated a 512-gene human breast cancer panel.
The RNA from FFPE breast tumour specimens were analysed using the DASL assay. Breast cancer subtype was defined from pathology immunohistochemical (IHC) staining. Differentially expressed genes between the IHC-defined subtypes were assessed by prediction analysis of microarrays (PAM) and then used in the analysis of two published data sets with clinical outcome data.
Gene expression signatures on our custom breast cancer panel were very reproducible between replicates (average Pearson's R2=0.962) and the 152 genes common to both the standard cancer DASL panel (Illumina) and our breast cancer DASL panel were similarly expressed for samples run on both panels (average R2=0.877). Moreover, expression of ESR1, PGR and ERBB2 corresponded well with their respective pathology-defined IHC status. A 30-gene set indicative of IHC-defined breast cancer subtypes was found to segregate samples based on their subtype in our data sets and published data sets. Furthermore, several of these genes were significantly associated with overall survival (OS) and relapse-free survival (RFS) in these previously published data sets, indicating that they are biomarkers of the different breast cancer subtypes and the prognostic outcomes associated with these subtypes.
We have demonstrated the ability to expression profile degraded RNA transcripts derived from FFPE tissues on the DASL platform. Importantly, we have identified a 30-biomarker gene set that can classify breast cancer into subtypes and have shown that a subset of these markers is prognostic of OS and RFS.
breast cancer; DASL assay; bead array; formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE); relapse-free survival (RFS); overall survival (OS)
During the past decade, genomic microarrays have been applied with some success to the molecular profiling of breast tumours, which has resulted in a much more detailed classification scheme as well as in the identification of potential gene signature sets. These gene sets have been applied to both the prognosis and prediction of outcome to treatment and have performed better than the current clinical criteria. One of the main limitations of microarray analysis, however, is that frozen tumour samples are required for the assay. This imposes severe limitations on access to samples and precludes large scale validation studies from being conducted. Quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), on the other hand, can be used with degraded RNAs derived from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumour samples, the most important and abundant source of clinical material available. More recently, the novel DASL (cDNA-mediated Annealing, Selection, extension and Ligation) assay has been developed as a high throughput gene expression profiling system specifically designed for use with FFPE tumour tissue samples.
However, we do not believe that genomics is adequate as a sole prognostic and predictive platform in breast cancer. The key proteins driving oncogenesis, for example, can undergo post-translational modifications; moreover, if we are ever to move individualization of therapy into the practical world of blood-based assays, serum proteomics becomes critical. Proteomic platforms, including tissue micro-arrays (TMA) and protein chip arrays, in conjunction with surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF/MS), have been the technologies most widely applied to the characterization of tumours and serum from breast cancer patients, with still limited but encouraging results.
This review will focus on these genomic and proteomic platforms, with an emphasis placed on the utilization of FFPE tumour tissue samples and serum, as they have been applied to the study of breast cancer for the discovery of gene signatures and biomarkers for the early diagnosis, prognosis and prediction of treatment outcome. The ultimate goal is to be able to apply a systems biology approach to the information gleaned from the combination of these techniques in order to select the best treatment strategy, monitor its effectiveness and make changes as rapidly as possible where needed to achieve the optimal therapeutic results for the patient.
While viral load testing has gained widespread acceptance, a primary limitation remains the variability of results, particularly between different laboratories. While some work has demonstrated the importance of standardized quantitative control material in reducing this variability, little has been done to explore other important factors in the molecular amplification process. Results of 185 laboratories enrolled in the College of American Pathologists (CAP) 2009 viral load proficiency testing (PT) survey (VLS) were examined. This included 165 labs (89.2%) testing for cytomegalovirus (CMV), 99 (53.5%) for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and 64 (34.6%) for BK virus (BKV). At the time of PT, laboratories were asked a series of questions to characterize their testing methods. The responses to these questions were correlated to mean viral load (MVL) and result variability (RV). Contribution of individual factors to RV was estimated through analysis of variance (ANOVA) modeling and the use of backward selection of factors to fit those models. Selection of the quantitative calibrator, commercially prepared primers and probes, and amplification target gene were found most prominently associated with changes in MVL or RV for one or more of the viruses studied. Commercially prepared primers and probes and amplification target gene made the largest contribution to overall variability. Factors contributing to MVL and RV differed among viruses, as did relative contribution of each factor to overall variability. The marked variability seen in clinical quantitative viral load results is associated with multiple aspects of molecular testing design and performance. The reduction of such variability will require a multifaceted approach to improve the accuracy, reliability, and clinical utility of these important tests.