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1.  Decentral gene expression analysis for ER+/Her2− breast cancer: results of a proficiency testing program for the EndoPredict assay 
Virchows Archiv  2012;460(3):251-259.
Gene expression profiles provide important information about the biology of breast tumors and can be used to develop prognostic tests. However, the implementation of quantitative RNA-based testing in routine molecular pathology has not been accomplished, so far. The EndoPredict assay has recently been described as a quantitative RT-PCR-based multigene expression test to identify a subgroup of hormone–receptor-positive tumors that have an excellent prognosis with endocrine therapy only. To transfer this test from bench to bedside, it is essential to evaluate the test–performance in a multicenter setting in different molecular pathology laboratories. In this study, we have evaluated the EndoPredict (EP) assay in seven different molecular pathology laboratories in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A set of ten formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumors was tested in the different labs, and the variance and accuracy of the EndoPredict assays were determined using predefined reference values. Extraction of a sufficient amount of RNA and generation of a valid EP score was possible for all 70 study samples (100%). The EP scores measured by the individual participants showed an excellent correlation with the reference values, respectively, as reflected by Pearson correlation coefficients ranging from 0.987 to 0.999. The Pearson correlation coefficient of all values compared to the reference value was 0.994. All laboratories determined EP scores for all samples differing not more than 1.0 score units from the pre-defined references. All samples were assigned to the correct EP risk group, resulting in a sensitivity and specificity of 100%, a concordance of 100%, and a kappa of 1.0. Taken together, the EndoPredict test could be successfully implemented in all seven participating laboratories and is feasible for reliable decentralized assessment of gene expression in luminal breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3306560  PMID: 22371223
Breast cancer; Prognosis; mRNA; Quality control
2.  Preanalytical variables and performance of diagnostic RNA-based gene expression analysis in breast cancer 
Virchows Archiv  2014;465(4):409-417.
Prognostic multigene expression assays have become widely available to provide additional information to standard clinical parameters and to support clinicians in treatment decisions. In this study, we analyzed the impact of variations in tissue handling on the diagnostic EndoPredict test results. EndoPredict is a quantitative reverse transcription PCR assay conducted on RNA from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue that predicts the likelihood of distant recurrence in patients with ER-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer. In this study, we performed a total of 138 EndoPredict assays to study the effects of preanalytical variables such as time to fixation, fixation time, tumor cell content, and section storage time on the EndoPredict test results. A time to fixation of up to 12 h and fixation of up to 5 days did not affect the results of the gene expression test. Paired samples of FFPE sections with tumor cell content ranging from 15 to 95 % and tumor-enriched samples showed a correlation coefficient of 0.97. Test results of tissue sections that have been stored for 12 months at +4 or +20 °C showed a correlation of 0.99 when compared to results of nonstored sections. In conclusion, preanalytical tissue handling is not a critical factor for diagnostic gene expression analysis with the EndoPredict assay. The test can therefore be easily integrated into the standard workflow of molecular pathology.
PMCID: PMC4180906  PMID: 25218890
Breast cancer; Preanalytical; EndoPredict; Molecular pathology; Gene expression
3.  Decentral gene expression analysis: analytical validation of the Endopredict genomic multianalyte breast cancer prognosis test 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:456.
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.
PMCID: PMC3534340  PMID: 23039280
Breast cancer; Prognostic multigene expression test; Analytical validation; PCR; Pathology
4.  The EndoPredict Gene-Expression Assay in Clinical Practice - Performance and Impact on Clinical Decisions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68252.
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.
PMCID: PMC3694878  PMID: 23826382
5.  Comparison of EndoPredict and Oncotype DX Test Results in Hormone Receptor Positive Invasive Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58483.
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.
PMCID: PMC3591350  PMID: 23505515
6.  Clinical validation of the EndoPredict test in node-positive, chemotherapy-treated ER+/HER2− breast cancer patients: results from the GEICAM 9906 trial 
EndoPredict (EP) is an RNA-based multigene test that predicts the likelihood of distant recurrence in patients with estrogen receptor-positive (ER+), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2–negative (HER2−) breast cancer (BC) who are being treated with adjuvant endocrine therapy. Herein we report the prospective-retrospective clinical validation of EP in the node-positive, chemotherapy-treated, ER+/HER2− BC patients in the GEICAM 9906 trial.
The patients (N = 1,246) were treated either with six cycles of fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide (FEC) or with four cycles of FEC followed by eight weekly courses of paclitaxel (FEC-P), as well as with endocrine therapy if they had hormone receptor–positive disease. The patients were assigned to EP risk categories (low or high) according to prespecified cutoff levels. The primary endpoint in the clinical validation of EP was distant metastasis-free survival (MFS). Metastasis rates were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method, and multivariate analysis was performed using Cox regression.
The molecular EP score and the combined molecular and clinical EPclin score were successfully determined in 555 ER+/HER2− tumors from the 800 available samples in the GEICAM 9906 trial. On the basis of the EP, 25% of patients (n = 141) were classified as low risk. MFS was 93% in the low-risk group and 70% in the high-risk group (absolute risk reduction = 23%, hazard ratio (HR) = 4.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.5 to 9.5; P < 0.0001). Multivariate analysis showed that, in this ER+/HER2− cohort, EP results are an independent prognostic parameter after adjustment for age, grade, lymph node status, tumor size, treatment arm, ER and progesterone receptor (PR) status and proliferation index (Ki67). Using the predefined EPclin score, 13% of patients (n = 74) were assigned to the low-risk group, who had excellent outcomes and no distant recurrence events (absolute risk reduction vs high-risk group = 28%; P < 0.0001). Furthermore, EP was prognostic in premenopausal patients (HR = 6.7, 95% CI = 2.4 to 18.3; P = 0.0002) and postmenopausal patients (HR = 3.3, 95% CI = 1.3 to 8.5; P = 0.0109). There were no statistically significant differences in MFS between treatment arms (FEC vs FEC-P) in either the high- or low-risk groups. The interaction test results between the chemotherapy arm and the EP score were not significant.
EP is an independent prognostic parameter in node-positive, ER+/HER2− BC patients treated with adjuvant chemotherapy followed by hormone therapy. EP did not predict a greater efficacy of FEC-P compared to FEC alone.
PMCID: PMC4076639  PMID: 24725534
7.  Developing a new generation of breast cancer clinical gene expression tests 
When treatment decisions are based purely on clinicopathological factors, many women with estrogen receptor-positive/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative cancers are overtreated. Gene expression profiles are valuable clinical tools that stratify the recurrence risk to identify patients most likely to benefit from adjuvant systemic therapies. Building upon greater understanding of tumor biology and more rigorous approaches to validation (including independent studies with a high level of evidence), several second-generation multigene tests have been developed. In the previous issue, Martin and colleagues report the third clinical validation study for EndoPredict, a distributed assay to assess risk of distant recurrences in estrogen receptor-positive/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative women. The authors confirm the assay’s independent prognostic value in premenopausal and postmenopausal, node-positive women treated with contemporary chemotherapy followed by endocrine therapy. EndoPredict did not, however, predict benefit from adding paclitaxel. Predictive signatures for selecting among chemotherapy regimens remain an area needing further development.
PMCID: PMC4100317  PMID: 25928431
8.  Multigene prognostic tests in breast cancer: past, present, future 
There is growing consensus that multigene prognostic tests provide useful complementary information to tumor size and grade in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers. The tests primarily rely on quantification of ER and proliferation-related genes and combine these into multivariate prediction models. Since ER-negative cancers tend to have higher proliferation rates, the prognostic value of current multigene tests in these cancers is limited. First-generation prognostic signatures (Oncotype DX, MammaPrint, Genomic Grade Index) are substantially more accurate to predict recurrence within the first 5 years than in later years. This has become a limitation with the availability of effective extended adjuvant endocrine therapies. Newer tests (Prosigna, EndoPredict, Breast Cancer Index) appear to possess better prognostic value for late recurrences while also remaining predictive of early relapse. Some clinical prediction problems are more difficult to solve than others: there are no clinically useful prognostic signatures for ER-negative cancers, and drug-specific treatment response predictors also remain elusive. Emerging areas of research involve the development of immune gene signatures that carry modest but significant prognostic value independent of proliferation and ER status and represent candidate predictive markers for immune-targeted therapies. Overall metrics of tumor heterogeneity and genome integrity (for example, homologue recombination deficiency score) are emerging as potential new predictive markers for platinum agents. The recent expansion of high-throughput technology platforms including low-cost sequencing of circulating and tumor-derived DNA and RNA and rapid reliable quantification of microRNA offers new opportunities to build extended prediction models across multiplatform data.
PMCID: PMC4307898  PMID: 25848861
9.  Late Recurrences in Early Breast Cancer: For Whom and How Long Is Endocrine Therapy Beneficial? 
Breast Care  2014;9(2):97-100.
During the last decade, besides the well-established clinical-pathological predictors for the risk of late recurrence in breast cancer, such as estrogen receptor status, and T and N stage, a variety of multigene assays have been shown to improve prognostication and prediction in this setting. Several clinical trials have evaluated the role of extended endocrine therapy with tamoxifen (ATLAS) or aromatase inhibitors (MA.17, NSABP-B33 and ABCSG 6a), and other randomized studies are still ongoing. However, among this patient population, it is still not clear who could benefit from extended therapy and what the optimal treatment duration should be. New multigene assays such as EndoPredict, PAM50 ROR-score, HOXB13/IL17BR ratio and Breast Cancer Index provide significant and relevant prognostic information concerning the likelihood of recurrence beyond 5 years after surgery. The identified low-risk subgroups not only show a very favorable prognosis, they also seem to have only little benefit from extended aromatase inhibitor therapy. Many of these reverse transcriptase/polymerase chain reaction-based techniques have been validated in archived tumor material from large phase III trials, and will soon be available to routine pathology laboratories as an aid in clinical decision-making for patients.
PMCID: PMC4038313  PMID: 24944551
Breast neoplasms; Late metastasis; Endocrine therapy; Prediction
10.  The EndoPredict score provides prognostic information on late distant metastases in ER+/HER2− breast cancer patients 
British Journal of Cancer  2013;109(12):2959-2964.
ER+/HER2− breast cancers have a proclivity for late recurrence. A personalised estimate of relapse risk after 5 years of endocrine treatment can improve patient selection for extended hormonal therapy.
A total of 1702 postmenopausal ER+/HER2− breast cancer patients from two adjuvant phase III trials (ABCSG6, ABCSG8) treated with 5 years of endocrine therapy participated in this study. The multigene test EndoPredict (EP) and the EPclin score (which combines EP with tumour size and nodal status) were predefined in independent training cohorts. All patients were retrospectively assigned to risk categories based on gene expression and on clinical parameters. The primary end point was distant metastasis (DM). Kaplan–Meier method and Cox regression analysis were used in an early (0–5 years) and late time interval (>5 years post diagnosis).
EP is a significant, independent, prognostic parameter in the early and late time interval. The expression levels of proliferative and ER signalling genes contribute differentially to the underlying biology of early and late DM. The EPclin stratified 64% of patients at risk after 5 years into a low-risk subgroup with an absolute 1.8% of late DM at 10 years of follow-up.
The EP test provides additional prognostic information for the identification of early and late DM beyond what can be achieved by combining the commonly used clinical parameters. The EPclin reliably identified a subgroup of patients who have an excellent long-term prognosis after 5 years of endocrine therapy. The side effects of extended therapy should be weighed against this projected outcome.
PMCID: PMC3859949  PMID: 24157828
EndoPredict; endocrine therapy; late relapse
11.  HER2 testing on core needle biopsy specimens from primary breast cancers: interobserver reproducibility and concordance with surgically resected specimens 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:534.
Accurate evaluation of human epidermal growth factor receptor type-2 (HER2) status based on core needle biopsy (CNB) specimens is mandatory for identification of patients with primary breast cancer who will benefit from primary systemic therapy with trastuzumab. The aim of the present study was to validate the application of HER2 testing with CNB specimens from primary breast cancers in terms of interobserver reproducibility and comparison with surgically resected specimens.
A total of 100 pairs of archival formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded CNB and surgically resected specimens of invasive breast carcinomas were cut into sections. All 100 paired sections were subjected to HER2 testing by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and 27 paired sections were subjected to that by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), the results being evaluated by three and two observers, respectively. Interobserver agreement levels in terms of judgment and the concordance of consensus scores between CNB samples and the corresponding surgically resected specimens were estimated as the percentage agreement and κ statistic.
In CNB specimens, the percentage interobserver agreement of HER2 scoring by IHC was 76% (κ = 0.71) for 3 × 3 categories (0-1+ versus 2+ versus 3+) and 90% (κ = 0.80) for 2 × 2 categories (0-2+ versus 3+). These levels were close to the corresponding ones for the surgically resected specimens: 80% (κ = 0.77) for 3 × 3 categories and 92% (κ = 0.88) for 2 × 2 categories. Concordance of consensus for HER2 scores determined by IHC between CNB and the corresponding surgical specimens was 87% (κ = 0.77) for 3 × 3 categories, and 94% (κ = 0.83) for 2 × 2 categories. Among the 13 tumors showing discordance in the mean IHC scores between the CNB and surgical specimens, the results of consensus for FISH results were concordant in 11. The rate of successful FISH analysis and the FISH positivity rate in cases with a HER2 IHC score of 2+ differed among specimens processed at different institutions.
It is mandatory to study HER2 on breast cancers, and either CNB or surgical specimen can be used.
PMCID: PMC2958945  PMID: 20925963
12.  EndoPredict improves the prognostic classification derived from common clinical guidelines in ER-positive, HER2-negative early breast cancer 
Annals of Oncology  2012;24(3):640-647.
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.
PMCID: PMC3574544  PMID: 23035151
adjuvant treatment; breast cancer; endocrine therapy; EndoPredict gene; expression
13.  Ki67 proliferation in core biopsies versus surgical samples - a model for neo-adjuvant breast cancer studies 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:341.
An increasing number of neo-adjuvant breast cancer studies are being conducted and a novel model for tumor biological studies, the "window-of-opportunity" model, has revealed several advantages. Change in tumor cell proliferation, estimated by Ki67-expression in pre-therapeutic core biopsies versus post-therapeutic surgical samples is often the primary end-point. The aim of the present study was to investigate potential differences in proliferation scores between core biopsies and surgical samples when patients have not received any intervening anti-cancer treatment. Also, a lack of consensus concerning Ki67 assessment may raise problems in the comparison of neo-adjuvant studies. Thus, the secondary aim was to present a novel model for Ki67 assessment.
Fifty consecutive breast cancer cases with both a core biopsy and a surgical sample available, without intervening neo-adjuvant therapy, were collected and tumor proliferation (Ki67, MIB1 antibody) was assessed immunohistochemically. A theoretical model for the assessment of Ki67 was constructed based on sequential testing of the null hypothesis 20% Ki67-positive cells versus the two-sided alternative more or less than 20% positive cells..
Assessment of Ki67 in 200 tumor cells showed an absolute average proliferation difference of 3.9% between core biopsies and surgical samples (p = 0.046, paired t-test) with the core biopsies being the more proliferative sample type. A corresponding analysis on the log-scale showed the average relative decrease from the biopsy to the surgical specimen to be 19% (p = 0.063, paired t-test on the log-scale). The difference was significant when using the more robust Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-ranks test (p = 0.029). After dichotomization at 20%, 12 of the 50 sample pairs had discrepant proliferation status, 10 showed high Ki67 in the core biopsy compared to two in the surgical specimen (p = 0.039, McNemar's test). None of the corresponding results for 1000 tumor cells were significant - average absolute difference 2.2% and geometric mean of the ratios 0.85 (p = 0.19 and p = 0.18, respectively, paired t-tests, p = 0.057, Wilcoxon's test) and an equal number of discordant cases after dichotomization. Comparing proliferation values for the initial 200 versus the final 800 cancer cells showed significant absolute differences for both core biopsies and surgical samples 5.3% and 3.2%, respectively (p < 0.0001, paired t-test).
A significant difference between core biopsy and surgical sample proliferation values was observed despite no intervening therapy. Future neo-adjuvant breast cancer studies may have to take this into consideration.
PMCID: PMC3163632  PMID: 21819622
core biopsy; Ki67; breast cancer; proliferation; neo-adjuvant
14.  Systematic assessment of prognostic gene signatures for breast cancer shows distinct influence of time and ER status 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:211.
The aim was to assess and compare prognostic power of nine breast cancer gene signatures (Intrinsic, PAM50, 70-gene, 76-gene, Genomic-Grade-Index, 21-gene-Recurrence-Score, EndoPredict, Wound-Response and Hypoxia) in relation to ER status and follow-up time.
A gene expression dataset from 947 breast tumors was used to evaluate the signatures for prediction of Distant Metastasis Free Survival (DMFS). A total of 912 patients had available DMFS status. The recently published METABRIC cohort was used as an additional validation set.
Survival predictions were fairly concordant across most signatures. Prognostic power declined with follow-up time. During the first 5 years of followup, all signatures except for Hypoxia were predictive for DMFS in ER-positive disease, and 76-gene, Hypoxia and Wound-Response were prognostic in ER-negative disease. After 5 years, the signatures had little prognostic power. Gene signatures provide significant prognostic information beyond tumor size, node status and histological grade.
Generally, these signatures performed better for ER-positive disease, indicating that risk within each ER stratum is driven by distinct underlying biology. Most of the signatures were strong risk predictors for DMFS during the first 5 years of follow-up. Combining gene signatures with histological grade or tumor size, could improve the prognostic power, perhaps also of long-term survival.
PMCID: PMC4000128  PMID: 24645668
Breast cancer; Prognosis; Gene signature; Long-term survival prediction; Molecular subtype
15.  Plasma endotoxin core antibody concentration and linear growth are unrelated in rural Malawian children aged 2–5 years 
BMC Research Notes  2015;8:258.
Environmental enteropathy is subclinical inflammation of the upper gastrointestinal tract associated with reduced linear growth in developing countries. Usually investigators have used biopsy or a dual sugar absorption test to assess environmental enteropathy. Such tests are time and resource intensive, restricting their utility as screening methods. Serum endotoxin core antibody (EndoCab) concentration is a potential indicator of intestinal inflammation and integrity, and thus may be useful to predict environmental enteropathy. We analyzed the association of serum EndoCab levels versus linear growth and lactulose-mannitol assay results in 2–5 year old rural Malawian children.
This was an observational study of 388 rural, asymptomatic Malawian children who had anthropometric measurements taken at least every 3 months since birth. In June and July 2011, dual sugar permeability tests were performed and serum samples were drawn for EndoCab assays. Pearson correlation, Student’s t test and multivariable linear regression were used to compare ln EndoCab concentrations with height-for-age z scores (HAZ) at time of sampling and 3 months later. Identical analysis was also performed for ln EndoCab versus measurements from dual sugar permeability testing performed in conjunction with serum sampling. In a subgroup of children with anthropometric data in the months prior to serum sampling, Pearson correlation was used to estimate the relationship between ln EndoCab and recent linear growth.
Ln EndoCab concentrations were not correlated with HAZ at time of measurement (B = −0.078, P = 0.14) nor change in HAZ over the subsequent 3 months HAZ (B = −0.018, P = 0.27). EndoCab concentration was not associated with %lactulose excretion (B < 0.001, P = 0.98) nor the lactulose:mannitol ratio (B = 0.021, P = 0.62). Subgroup analysis also did not reveal any significant association between EndoCab and recent growth.
EndoCab titers were not correlated with measurements of growth or intestinal permeability in rural pre-school aged Malawian children.
PMCID: PMC4477295  PMID: 26103960
Endotoxin core antibody; Environmental enteropathy; Growth; Malawi
16.  Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Prognostic Gene Expression Signature-Based Stratification of Early Breast Cancer Patients 
Pharmacoeconomics  2014;33:179-190.
The individual risk of recurrence in hormone receptor-positive primary breast cancer patients determines whether adjuvant endocrine therapy should be combined with chemotherapy. Clinicopathological parameters and molecular tests such as EndoPredict® (EPclin) can support decision making in patients with estrogen receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative cancer.
Using a life-long Markov state transition model, we determined the health economic impact and incremental cost effectiveness of EPclin-based risk stratification in combination with clinical guidelines [German-S3, National Comprehensive Cancer Center Network (NCCN), and St. Gallen] to decide on chemotherapy use.
Information on overall and metastasis-free survival came from Austrian Breast & Colorectal Cancer Study Group clinical trials 6/8 (n = 1,619) and published literature. Effectiveness was assessed as quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). Costs (2010) were assessed from a German third-party payer perspective.
Lifetime costs per patient ranged from €28,268 (St.Gallen and EPclin) to €33,756 (NCCN). Due to an imperfect prognostic value and differences in chemotherapy use, strategies achieved between 13.165 QALYs (NCCN) and 13.173 QALYs (EPclin alone) per patient. Using German-S3 as reference, three strategies showed dominant results (St. Gallen and EPclin, German-S3 and EPclin, EPclin alone). Compared to German-S3, the addition of EPclin saved €3,388 and gained 0.002 QALYs per patient. Combining guidelines with EPclin remained preferable in sensitivity analysis.
Our study suggests that molecular markers can be sensibly combined with clinical guidelines to determine the risk profile of adjuvant breast cancer patients. Compared with the current German best practice (German-S3), combinations of EPclin with the St. Gallen, German-S3 or NCCN guideline and EPclin alone were dominant from the perspective of the German healthcare system.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40273-014-0227-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4305105  PMID: 25404424
17.  Optimization of Initial Prostate Biopsy in Clinical Practice: Sampling, Labeling, and Specimen Processing 
The Journal of urology  2013;189(6):2039-2046.
An optimal prostate biopsy in clinical practice is based on a balance between adequate detection of clinically significant prostate cancers (sensitivity), assuredness regarding the accuracy of negative sampling (negative predictive value [NPV]), limited detection of clinically insignificant cancers, and good concordance with whole-gland surgical pathology results to allow accurate risk stratification and disease localization for treatment selection. Inherent within this optimization is variation of the core number, location, labeling, and processing for pathologic evaluation. To date, there is no consensus in this regard. The purpose of this review is 3-fold: 1. To define the optimal number and location of biopsy cores during primary prostate biopsy among men with suspected prostate cancer, 2. To define the optimal method of labeling prostate biopsy cores for pathologic processing that will provide relevant and necessary clinical information for all potential clinical scenarios, and 3. To determine the maximal number of prostate biopsy cores allowable within a specimen jar that would not preclude accurate histologic evaluation of the tissue.
Materials and Methods
A bibliographic search covering the period up to July, 2012 was conducted using PubMed®. This search yielded approximately 550 articles. Articles were reviewed and categorized based on which of the three objectives of this review was addressed. Data was extracted, analyzed, and summarized. Recommendations based on this literature review and our clinical experience is provided.
The use of 10–12-core extended-sampling protocols increases cancer detection rates (CDRs) compared to traditional sextant sampling methods and reduces the likelihood that patients will require a repeat biopsy by increasing NPV, ultimately allowing more accurate risk stratification without increasing the likelihood of detecting insignificant cancers. As the number of cores increases above 12 cores, the increase in diagnostic yield becomes marginal. Only limited evidence supports the use of initial biopsy schemes involving more than 12 cores or saturation. Apical and laterally directed sampling of the peripheral zone increases CDR, reduces the need for repeat biopsies, and predicts pathological features on prostatectomy while transition-zone biopsies do not. There is little data to suggest that knowing the exact site of an individual positive biopsy core provides meaningful clinical information. However, determining laterality of cancer on biopsy may be helpful for both predicting sites of extracapsular extension and therapeutic planning. Placement of multiple biopsy cores in a single container (>2) appears to compromise pathologic evaluation, which can reduce CDR and increase the likelihood of equivocal diagnoses.
A 12-core systematic biopsy that incorporates apical and far-lateral cores in the template distribution allows maximal cancer detection, avoidance of a repeat biopsy, and adequate information for both identifying men who need therapy and planning that therapy while minimizing the detection of occult, indolent prostate cancers. This literature review does not provide compelling evidence that individual site-specific labeling of cores benefits clinical decision-making regarding the management of prostate cancer. Based upon the available literature, we recommend packaging no more than two cores in each jar to avoid reduction of CDR through inadequate tissue sampling.
PMCID: PMC3925148  PMID: 23485507
18.  Novel Sampling Strategies to Enable Microarray Gene Expression Signatures in Breast Cancer: A Study to Determine Feasibility and Reproducibility in the Context of Clinical Care 
Feasibility and reproducibility of microarray biomarkers in clinical settings are doubted because of reliance on fresh frozen tissue. We sought to develop and test a paradigm of frozen tissue collection from early breast tumors to enable use of microarray in oncology practice.
Experimental Design
Frozen core needle biopsies (CNBx) were collected from 150 clinical stage I patients during image-guided diagnostic biopsy and/or surgery. Histology and tumor content from frozen cores were compared to diagnostic specimens. Twenty eight patients had microarray analysis to examine accuracy and reproducibility of predictive gene signatures developed for estrogen receptor (ER) and HER2.
One hundred twenty seven (85%) of 150 patients had at least one frozen core containing cancer suitable for microarray analysis. Larger tumor size, ex vivo biopsy, and use of a new specimen device increased the likelihood of obtaining representative specimens. Sufficient quality RNA was obtained from 90% of tumor cores. Microarray signatures predictive ER and HER2 expression were developed in a training sets of up to 356 surgical samples and were applied to microarray data obtained from core samples collected in clinical settings. In these samples, a sensitivity / specificity of 94% / 100% and 82% / 72% for predicting ER and HER2, respectively was achieved. Predictions were reproducible in 83–100% of paired diagnostic and surgical samples.
Frozen CNBx can be readily obtained from most breast cancers without interfering with pathologic evaluation. Collection of tumor tissue at diagnostic biopsy and/or at surgery from lumpectomy specimens using image guidance resulted in sufficient samples for array analysis from over 90% of patients. Sampling of breast cancer for microarray data is reproducible and feasible in clinical settings and can yield signatures predictive of multiple breast cancer phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3786337  PMID: 19224362
19.  Prediction of pathological and oncological outcomes based on extended prostate biopsy results in patients with prostate cancer receiving radical prostatectomy: a single institution study 
Diagnostic Pathology  2012;7:68.
The prediction of pathological outcomes prior to surgery remains a challenging problem for the appropriate surgical indication of prostate cancer. This study was performed to identify preoperative values predictive of pathological and oncological outcomes based on standardized extended prostate biopsies with core histological results diagrammed/mapped in patients receiving radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer clinically diagnosed as localized or locally advanced disease.
In 124 patients with clinically localized or locally advanced prostate cancer (cT1c–cT3a) without prior treatment, pathological outcomes on the surgical specimen including seminal vesicle involvement (SVI), positive surgical margin (PSM), and perineural invasion (PNI) were studied in comparison with clinical parameters based on the results of 14-core prostate biopsies comprising sextant, laterally-directed sextant, and bilateral transition zone (TZ) sampling.
Concerning the association of pathological outcomes with oncological outcomes, patients with PSM and PNI on surgical specimens had poorer biochemical-progression-free survival than those without PSM (logrank p = 0.002) and PNI (p = 0.003); it was also poorer concerning SVI, although the difference was not significant (p = 0.120). Concerning the impact of clinical parameters on these pathological outcomes, positive TZ and multiple positive biopsy cores in the prostatic middle were independent values predictive of SVI with multivariate analyses (p = 0.020 and p = 0.025, respectively); both positive TZ and multiple positive prostatic middle biopsies were associated with larger tumor volume (p < 0.001 in both). The percentage of positive biopsy cores (%positive cores) and biopsy Gleason score were independent values predictive of PSM (p = 0.001) and PNI (p = 0.001), respectively. Multiple positive cores in the prostatic base were associated with proximal/bladder-side PSM (p < 0.001), and also linked to poorer biochemical-progression-free survival (p = 0.004). Clinical T stage had no association with these pathological outcomes.
%positive cores and Gleason score in extended biopsies were independent values predictive of PSM and PNI in prostate cancer clinically diagnosed as localized or locally advanced disease, respectively, which were associated with poorer oncological outcomes. When diagramming biopsy-core results, extended biopsy may provide additional information for predicting oncological and pathological outcomes including SVI in patients clinically diagnosed as having localized or locally advanced disease.
Virtual slides
The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here:
PMCID: PMC3449198  PMID: 22697234
Extended prostate biopsy; Seminal vesicle involvement; Positive surgical margin; Perineural invasion
20.  Clinical relevance of DNA microarray analyses using archival formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded breast cancer specimens 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:253.
The ability of gene profiling to predict treatment response and prognosis in breast cancers has been demonstrated in many studies using DNA microarray analyses on RNA from fresh frozen tumor specimens. In certain clinical and research situations, performing such analyses on archival formalin fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) surgical specimens would be advantageous as large libraries of such specimens with long-term follow-up data are widely available. However, FFPE tissue processing can cause fragmentation and chemical modifications of the RNA. A number of recent technical advances have been reported to overcome these issues. Our current study evaluates whether or not the technology is ready for clinical applications.
A modified RNA extraction method and a recent DNA microarray technique, cDNA-mediated annealing, selection, extension and ligation (DASL, Illumina Inc) were evaluated. The gene profiles generated from FFPE specimens were compared to those obtained from paired fresh fine needle aspiration biopsies (FNAB) of 25 breast cancers of different clinical subtypes (based on ER and Her2/neu status). Selected RNA levels were validated using RT-qPCR, and two public databases were used to demonstrate the prognostic significance of the gene profiles generated from FFPE specimens.
Compared to FNAB, RNA isolated from FFPE samples was relatively more degraded, nonetheless, over 80% of the RNA samples were deemed suitable for subsequent DASL assay. Despite a higher noise level, a set of genes from FFPE specimens correlated very well with the gene profiles obtained from FNAB, and could differentiate breast cancer subtypes. Expression levels of these genes were validated using RT-qPCR. Finally, for the first time we correlated gene expression profiles from FFPE samples to survival using two independent microarray databases. Specifically, over-expression of ANLN and KIF2C, and under-expression of MAPT strongly correlated with poor outcomes in breast cancer patients.
We demonstrated that FFPE specimens retained important prognostic information that could be identified using a recent gene profiling technology. Our study supports the use of FFPE specimens for the development and refinement of prognostic gene signatures for breast cancer. Clinical applications of such prognostic gene profiles await future large-scale validation studies.
PMCID: PMC3128009  PMID: 21679412
21.  Minimum biopsy set for HER2 evaluation in gastric and gastro-esophageal junction cancer 
Endoscopy International Open  2015;3(2):E165-E170.
Background and study aims: The HER2 status of small endoscopic biopsies is important for predicting the eligibility of patients with metastatic HER2-positive gastric cancer or gastro-esophageal junction (GEJ) cancer for anti-HER2 therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The aim of this study was to identify the minimum biopsy set required to evaluate the HER2 status with confidence.
Patients and methods: A total of 103 consecutive patients with resected gastric cancer or GEJ cancer were retrospectively selected; 2 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded samples of each surgical specimen and all paired endoscopic biopsies were analyzed for HER2 status with both immunohistochemistry (IHC) and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) methods. A total of 10 virtual biopsies were constructed by selecting areas 2.6 mm in diameter on the luminal side of digitalized slides obtained from the surgical specimens. The results of evaluating HER2 status in virtual biopsies, slides containing complete surgical specimens, and endoscopic biopsies were compared. The resulting minimum biopsy set was applied to the endoscopic biopsy series for validation.
Results: A biopsy set containing a minimum of 5 samples was identified as the most accurate in predicting HER2 status (sensitivity, 92 %; specificity, 97 %). In only 3 of the 103 cases (2.9 %) did a comparison of the HER2 evaluation of virtual biopsies and that of entire slides show inconsistent results. Overall agreement between the endoscopic biopsies and surgical samples for HER2 IHC status increased from 78.4 % to 92.3 % when biopsy sets containing 4 or fewer samples were compared with biopsy sets containing 5 or more samples.
Conclusions: Although the recommendations suggest that 8 to 10 biopsies are necessary, the results show that a minimum set of 5 biopsies may be sufficient for reliable HER2 assessment in gastric cancer and GEJ cancer. However, endoscopists should be aware that a smaller sample size may be less accurate in selecting patients eligible for anti-HER2 therapy.
PMCID: PMC4477016  PMID: 26135662
22.  HER2 and ESR1 mRNA expression levels and response to neoadjuvant trastuzumab plus chemotherapy in patients with primary breast cancer 
Recent data suggest that benefit from trastuzumab and chemotherapy might be related to expression of HER2 and estrogen receptor (ESR1). Therefore, we investigated HER2 and ESR1 mRNA levels in core biopsies of HER2-positive breast carcinomas from patients treated within the neoadjuvant GeparQuattro trial.
HER2 levels were centrally analyzed by immunohistochemistry (IHC), silver in situ hybridization (SISH) and qRT-PCR in 217 pretherapeutic formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) core biopsies. All tumors had been HER2-positive by local pathology and had been treated with neoadjuvant trastuzumab/ chemotherapy in GeparQuattro.
Only 73% of the tumors (158 of 217) were centrally HER2-positive (cHER2-positive) by IHC/SISH, with cHER2-positive tumors showing a significantly higher pCR rate (46.8% vs. 20.3%, P <0.0005). HER2 status by qRT-PCR showed a concordance of 88.5% with the central IHC/SISH status, with a low pCR rate in those tumors that were HER2-negative by mRNA analysis (21.1% vs. 49.6%, P <0.0005). The level of HER2 mRNA expression was linked to response rate in ESR1-positive tumors, but not in ESR1-negative tumors. HER2 mRNA expression was significantly associated with pCR in the HER2-positive/ESR1-positive tumors (P = 0.004), but not in HER2-positive/ESR1-negative tumors.
Only patients with cHER2-positive tumors - irrespective of the method used - have an increased pCR rate with trastuzumab plus chemotherapy. In patients with cHER2-negative tumors the pCR rate is comparable to the pCR rate in the non-trastuzumab treated HER-negative population. Response to trastuzumab is correlated to HER2 mRNA levels only in ESR1-positive tumors. This study adds further evidence to the different biology of both subsets within the HER2-positive group.
Introduction The human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is the prototype of a predictive biomarker for targeted treatment [1-8]. International initiatives have established the combination of immunohistochemistry (IHC) and in situ hybridization as the current gold standard [9,10]. As an additional approach determination of HER2 mRNA expression is technically feasible in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue [11-13]. Crosstalk between the estrogen receptor (ER) and the HER2 pathway has been suggested based on cell culture and animal models [14]. Consequently, the 2011 St Gallen panel has pointed out that HER2-positive tumors should be divided into two groups based on expression of the ER [15].
A retrospective analysis of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) B31 study has suggested that mRNA levels of HER2 and ESR1 might be relevant for the degree of benefit from adjuvant trastuzumab. By subpopulation treatment effect pattern plot (STEPP) analysis in ER-positive tumors, benefit from trastuzumab was shown to be restricted to those with higher levels of HER2 mRNA (S Paik, personal communication, results summarized in [15]).
In our study we evaluated this hypothesis in the neoadjuvant setting in a cohort of 217 patients from the neoadjuvant GeparQuattro trial [5]. All patients had been HER2- positive by local pathology assessment and had received 24 to 36 weeks of neoadjuvant trastuzumab plus an anthracycline/taxane-based chemotherapy. For central evaluation we used three different methods, HER2 IHC, and HER2 silver in situ hybridization (SISH), as well as measurement of HER2 mRNA by quantitative real-time (qRT)-PCR [11].
The primary objective of this analysis was to investigate if pathological complete response (pCR) rate in HER2-positive breast cancer would depend on the level of HER2 mRNA expression, with a separate analysis for HR-positive and -negative tumors. Central evaluation of the HER2 status showed that 27% of the tumors with HER2 overexpression by local pathology were HER2-negative. This enabled us to compare response rates in patients with HER2-positive and -negative tumors as a secondary objective.
PMCID: PMC3672694  PMID: 23391338
23.  Operator Dependent Choice of Prostate Cancer Biopsy Has Limited Impact on a Gene Signature Analysis for the Highly Expressed Genes IGFBP3 and F3 in Prostate Cancer Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109610.
Predicting the prognosis of prostate cancer disease through gene expression analysis is receiving increasing interest. In many cases, such analyses are based on formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded (FFPE) core needle biopsy material on which Gleason grading for diagnosis has been conducted. Since each patient typically has multiple biopsy samples, and since Gleason grading is an operator dependent procedure known to be difficult, the impact of the operator's choice of biopsy was evaluated.
Multiple biopsy samples from 43 patients were evaluated using a previously reported gene signature of IGFBP3, F3 and VGLL3 with potential prognostic value in estimating overall survival at diagnosis of prostate cancer. A four multiplex one-step qRT-PCR test kit, designed and optimized for measuring the signature in FFPE core needle biopsy samples was used. Concordance of gene expression levels between primary and secondary Gleason tumor patterns, as well as benign tissue specimens, was analyzed.
The gene expression levels of IGFBP3 and F3 in prostate cancer epithelial cell-containing tissue representing the primary and secondary Gleason patterns were high and consistent, while the low expressed VGLL3 showed more variation in its expression levels.
The assessment of IGFBP3 and F3 gene expression levels in prostate cancer tissue is independent of Gleason patterns, meaning that the impact of operator's choice of biopsy is low.
PMCID: PMC4190108  PMID: 25296164
24.  Predictive preoperative factors for positive surgical margins in robotic radical prostatectomy in low-risk prostate cancer 
Turkish journal of urology  2013;39(2):69-73.
Positive surgical margins after radical prostatectomy for localized prostate cancer is a powerful predictor of PSA recurrence. Clinical stage, Gleason score and preoperative PSA are predictive factors for positive surgical margin after radical prostatectomy. In this study, we aimed to identify preoperative factors affecting surgical margin positivity in low-risk prostate cancer after robotic radical prostatectomy (RARP).
Material and methods:
Between 2008 and 2011 (
It was observed that mean age and body mass index had no effect on positive surgical margins (p=0.2 and 0.6). According to univariate analysis, it was found that an elapsed time of less than six weeks from biopsy to surgery (p=0.07), tumor percentage of more than 5% in a biopsy specimen (p=0.003), a positive core percentage of more than 20% (p=0.045) and a prostate volume below 50 cc (p=0.037) increased the rate of positive surgical margins. Based on multivariate analysis, PSA levels above 5 ng/mL (OR: 8.006, p=0.012) and an elapsed time of less than 6 weeks between biopsy and surgery (OR: 10.814, p=0.029) increased the risk of positive surgical margins.
In low-risk prostate cancer, a waiting time of less than six weeks between biopsy and surgery and PSA levels above 5 ng/mL are predictive of high surgical margin positivity after robotic radical prostatectomy.
PMCID: PMC4548589  PMID: 26328083
Prostatectomy; robotic; surgical margin
British Journal of Cancer  2002;86(5):750-755.
Assessment of the predictive value of p53 requires the testing of large numbers of samples from patients enrolled in prospective phase III clinical trials. The goal of this study was to determine whether p53 status can be determined by p53 yeast functional assay using the limiting amounts of material that can typically be obtained in prospective phase III trials (particularly when chemotherapy is given before surgery). All patients presenting with a clinically palpable tumour which could be considered large enough to perform a trucut biopsy (⩾2 cm breast tumour) were eligible for this study. Two trucut biopsies and one incisional biopsy were performed on the surgical specimens (mastectomy or tumourectomy). Samples were snap frozen and cryostat sections were taken for histology and p53 testing. Thirty patients were included. Three samples out of 90 failed to give any p53 PCR products, probably because these samples contained almost entirely fibrous tissue. Of the 87 samples that could be tested, the incisional and trucut biopsies results were fully concordant in every case. p53 could be defined in 97% of patients by double trucut biopsy. Eight out of 30 tumours tested were mutant for p53 (27%). p53 status can be reliably determined by yeast assay from single frozen sections of trucut biopsies. Histological examination before p53 testing is essential to exclude cases where the p53 result may reflect only the status of the normal cells in the biopsy.
British Journal of Cancer (2002) 86, 750–755. DOI: 10.1038/sj/bjc/6600105
© 2002 Cancer Research UK
PMCID: PMC2375302  PMID: 11875738
p53; neoadjuvant chemotherapy; yeast assay; breast cancer

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