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1.  Intrinsic molecular signature of breast cancer in a population-based cohort of 412 patients 
Breast Cancer Research  2006;8(4):R34.
Background
Molecular markers and the rich biological information they contain have great potential for cancer diagnosis, prognostication and therapy prediction. So far, however, they have not superseded routine histopathology and staging criteria, partly because the few studies performed on molecular subtyping have had little validation and limited clinical characterization.
Methods
We obtained gene expression and clinical data for 412 breast cancers obtained from population-based cohorts of patients from Stockholm and Uppsala, Sweden. Using the intrinsic set of approximately 500 genes derived in the Norway/Stanford breast cancer data, we validated the existence of five molecular subtypes – basal-like, ERBB2, luminal A/B and normal-like – and characterized these subtypes extensively with the use of conventional clinical variables.
Results
We found an overall 77.5% concordance between the centroid prediction of the Swedish cohort by using the Norway/Stanford signature and the k-means clustering performed internally within the Swedish cohort. The highest rate of discordant assignments occurred between the luminal A and luminal B subtypes and between the luminal B and ERBB2 subtypes. The subtypes varied significantly in terms of grade (p < 0.001), p53 mutation (p < 0.001) and genomic instability (p = 0.01), but surprisingly there was little difference in lymph-node metastasis (p = 0.31). Furthermore, current users of hormone-replacement therapy were strikingly over-represented in the normal-like subgroup (p < 0.001). Separate analyses of the patients who received endocrine therapy and those who did not receive any adjuvant therapy supported the previous hypothesis that the basal-like subtype responded to adjuvant treatment, whereas the ERBB2 and luminal B subtypes were poor responders.
Conclusion
We found that the intrinsic molecular subtypes of breast cancer are broadly present in a diverse collection of patients from a population-based cohort in Sweden. The intrinsic gene set, originally selected to reveal stable tumor characteristics, was shown to have a strong correlation with progression-related properties such as grade, p53 mutation and genomic instability.
doi:10.1186/bcr1517
PMCID: PMC1779468  PMID: 16846532
2.  Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of published literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: www.health.gov.on.ca/mas or at www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Ecopnomic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Objective
To review and synthesize the available evidence regarding the laboratory performance, prognostic value, and predictive value of Oncotype-DX for the target population.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
The target population of this review is women with newly diagnosed early stage (stage I–IIIa) invasive breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and/or progesterone-receptor (PR) positive. Much of this review, however, is relevant for women with early stage (I and II) invasive breast cancer that is specifically ER positive, lymph node (LN) negative and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2/neu) negative. This refined population represents an estimated incident population of 3,315 new breast cancers in Ontario (according to 2007 data). Currently it is estimated that only 15% of these women will develop a distant metastasis at 10 years; however, a far great proportion currently receive adjuvant chemotherapy, suggesting that more women are being treated with chemotherapy than can benefit. There is therefore a need to develop better prognostic and predictive tools to improve the selection of women that may benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.
Technology of Concern
The Oncotype-DX Breast Cancer Assay (Genomic Health, Redwood City, CA) quantifies gene expression for 21 genes in breast cancer tissue by performing reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumour blocks that are obtained during initial surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy, or core biopsy) of women with early breast cancer that is newly diagnosed. The panel of 21 genes include genes associated with tumour proliferation and invasion, as well as other genes related to HER-2/neu expression, ER expression, and progesterone receptor (PR) expression.
Research Questions
What is the laboratory performance of Oncotype-DX?
How reliable is Oncotype-DX (i.e., how repeatable and reproducible is Oncotype-DX)?
How often does Oncotype-DX fail to give a useable result?
What is the prognostic value of Oncotype-DX?*
Is Oncotype-DX recurrence score associated with the risk of distant recurrence or death due to any cause in women with early breast cancer receiving tamoxifen?
What is the predictive value of Oncotype-DX?*
Does Oncoytpe-DX recurrence score predict significant benefit in terms of improvements in 10-year distant recurrence or death due to any cause for women receiving tamoxifen plus chemotherapy in comparison to women receiving tamoxifen alone?
How does Oncotype-DX compare to other known predictors of risk such as Adjuvant! Online?
How does Oncotype-DX impact patient quality of life and clinical/patient decision-making?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on March 19th, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1st, 2006 to March 19th, 2010. A starting search date of January 1st, 2006 was because a comprehensive systematic review of Oncotype-DX was identified in preliminary literature searching. This systematic review, by Marchionni et al. (2008), included literature up to January 1st, 2007. All studies identified in the review by Marchionni et al. as well as those identified in updated literature searching were used to form the evidentiary base of this review. The quality of the overall body of evidence was identified as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Inclusion Criteria
Any observational trial, controlled clinical trial, randomized controlled trial (RCT), meta-analysis or systematic review that reported on the laboratory performance, prognostic value and/or predictive value of Oncotype-DX testing, or other outcome relevant to the Key Questions, specific to the target population was included.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that did not report original data or original data analysis,
Studies published in a language other than English,
Studies reported only in abstract or as poster presentations (such publications were not sought nor included in this review since the MAS does not generally consider evidence that is not subject to peer review nor does the MAS consider evidence that lacks detailed description of methodology).
Outcomes of Interest
Outcomes of interest varied depending on the Key Question. For the Key Questions of prognostic and predictive value (Key Questions #2 and #3), the prospectively defined primary outcome was risk of 10-year distant recurrence. The prospectively defined secondary outcome was 10-year death due to any cause (i.e., overall survival). All additional outcomes such as risk of locoregional recurrence or disease-free survival (DFS) were not prospectively determined for this review but were reported as presented in included trials; these outcomes are referenced as tertiary outcomes in this review. Outcomes for other Key Questions (i.e., Key Questions #1, #4 and #5) were not prospectively defined due to the variability in endpoints relevant for these questions.
Summary of Findings
A total of 26 studies were included. Of these 26 studies, only five studies were relevant to the primary questions of this review (Key Questions #2 and #3). The following conclusions were drawn from the entire body of evidence:
There is a lack of external validation to support the reliability of Oncotype-DX; however, the current available evidence derived from internal industry validation studies suggests that Oncotype-DX is reliable (i.e., Oncotype-DX is repeatable and reproducible).
Current available evidence suggests a moderate failure rate of Oncotype-DX testing; however, the failure rate observed across clinical trials included in this review is likely inflated; the current Ontario experience suggests an acceptably lower rate of test failure.
In women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer (stage I–II) that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node negative:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole (the latter for postmenopausal women only),
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX can predict which women will benefit from adjuvant CMF/MF chemotherapy in women being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
In postmenopausal women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node positive:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole,
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited predictive value for predicting which women will benefit from adjuvant CAF chemotherapy in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
There are methodological and statistical limitations that affect both the generalizability of the current available evidence, as well as the magnitude and statistical strength of the observed effect sizes; in particular:
Of the major predictive trials, Oncotype-DX scores were only produced for a small subset of women (<40% of the original randomized population) potentially disabling the effects of treatment randomization and opening the possibility of selection bias;
Data is not specific to HER-2/neu-negative women;
There were limitations with multivariate statistical analyses.
Additional trials of observational design may provide further validation of the prognostic and predictive value of Oncotype-DX; however, it is unlikely that prospective or randomized data will become available in the near future due to ethical, time and resource considerations.
There is currently insufficient evidence investigating how Oncoytpe-DX compares to other known prognostic estimators of risk, such as Adjuvant! Online, and there is insufficient evidence investigating how Oncotype-DX would impact clinician/patient decision-making in a setting generalizable to Ontario.
PMCID: PMC3382301  PMID: 23074401
3.  DEAR1 Is a Dominant Regulator of Acinar Morphogenesis and an Independent Predictor of Local Recurrence-Free Survival in Early-Onset Breast Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000068.
Ann Killary and colleagues describe a new gene that is genetically altered in breast tumors, and that may provide a new breast cancer prognostic marker.
Background
Breast cancer in young women tends to have a natural history of aggressive disease for which rates of recurrence are higher than in breast cancers detected later in life. Little is known about the genetic pathways that underlie early-onset breast cancer. Here we report the discovery of DEAR1 (ductal epithelium–associated RING Chromosome 1), a novel gene encoding a member of the TRIM (tripartite motif) subfamily of RING finger proteins, and provide evidence for its role as a dominant regulator of acinar morphogenesis in the mammary gland and as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival in early-onset breast cancer.
Methods and Findings
Suppression subtractive hybridization identified DEAR1 as a novel gene mapping to a region of high-frequency loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in a number of histologically diverse human cancers within Chromosome 1p35.1. In the breast epithelium, DEAR1 expression is limited to the ductal and glandular epithelium and is down-regulated in transition to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early histologic stage in breast tumorigenesis. DEAR1 missense mutations and homozygous deletion (HD) were discovered in breast cancer cell lines and tumor samples. Introduction of the DEAR1 wild type and not the missense mutant alleles to complement a mutation in a breast cancer cell line, derived from a 36-year-old female with invasive breast cancer, initiated acinar morphogenesis in three-dimensional (3D) basement membrane culture and restored tissue architecture reminiscent of normal acinar structures in the mammary gland in vivo. Stable knockdown of DEAR1 in immortalized human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) recapitulated the growth in 3D culture of breast cancer cell lines containing mutated DEAR1, in that shDEAR1 clones demonstrated disruption of tissue architecture, loss of apical basal polarity, diffuse apoptosis, and failure of lumen formation. Furthermore, immunohistochemical staining of a tissue microarray from a cohort of 123 young female breast cancer patients with a 20-year follow-up indicated that in early-onset breast cancer, DEAR1 expression serves as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival and correlates significantly with strong family history of breast cancer and the triple-negative phenotype (ER−, PR−, HER-2−) of breast cancers with poor prognosis.
Conclusions
Our data provide compelling evidence for the genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 in breast cancer, for the functional role of DEAR1 in the dominant regulation of acinar morphogenesis in 3D culture, and for the potential utility of an immunohistochemical assay for DEAR1 expression as an independent prognostic marker for stratification of early-onset disease.
Editors' Summary
Background
Each year, more than one million women discover that they have breast cancer. This type of cancer begins when cells in the breast that line the milk-producing glands or the tubes that take the milk to the nipples (glandular and ductal epithelial cells, respectively) acquire genetic changes that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The uncontrolled division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy. These “adjuvant” therapies are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells but can make patients very ill. Generally speaking, the outlook for women with breast cancer is good. In the US, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although breast cancer is usually diagnosed in women in their 50s or 60s, some women develop breast cancer much earlier. In these women, the disease is often very aggressive. Compared to older women, young women with breast cancer have a lower overall survival rate and their cancer is more likely to recur locally or to metastasize. It would be useful to be able to recognize those younger women at the greatest risk of cancer recurrence so that they could be offered intensive surveillance and adjuvant therapy; those women at a lower risk could have gentler treatments. To achieve this type of “stratification,” the genetic changes that underlie breast cancer in young women need to be identified. In this study, the researchers discover a gene that is genetically altered (by mutations or deletion) in early-onset breast cancer and then investigate whether its expression can predict outcomes in women with this disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “suppression subtractive hybridization” to identify a new gene in a region of human Chromosome 1 where loss of heterozygosity (LOH; a genetic alteration associated with cancer development) frequently occurs. They called the gene DEAR1 (ductal epithelium-associated RING Chromosome 1) to indicate that it is expressed in ductal and glandular epithelial cells and encodes a “RING finger” protein (specifically, a subtype called a TRIM protein; RING finger proteins such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been implicated in early cancer development and in a large fraction of inherited breast cancers). DEAR1 expression was reduced or lost in several ductal carcinomas in situ (a local abnormality that can develop into breast cancer) and advanced breast cancers, the researchers report. Furthermore, many breast tumors carried DEAR1 missense mutations (genetic changes that interfere with the normal function of the DEAR1 protein) or had lost both copies of DEAR1 (the human genome contains two copies of most genes). To determine the function of DEAR1, the researchers replaced a normal copy of DEAR1 into a breast cancer cell that had a mutation in DEAR1. They then examined the growth of these genetically manipulated cells in special three-dimensional cultures. The breast cancer cells without DEAR1 grew rapidly without an organized structure while the breast cancer cells containing the introduced copy of DEAR1 formed structures that resembled normal breast acini (sac-like structures that secrete milk). In normal human mammary epithelial cells, the researchers silenced DEAR1 expression and also showed that without DEAR1, the normal mammary cells lost their ability to form proper acini. Finally, the researchers report that DEAR1 expression (detected “immunohistochemically”) was frequently lost in women who had had early-onset breast cancer and that the loss of DEAR1 expression correlated with reduced local recurrence-free survival, a strong family history of breast cancer and with a breast cancer subtype that has a poor outcome.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 are common in breast cancer. Although laboratory experiments may not necessarily reflect what happens in people, the results from the three-dimensional culture of breast epithelial cells suggest that DEAR1 may regulate the normal acinar structure of the breast. Consequently, loss of DEAR1 expression could be an early event in breast cancer development. Most importantly, the correlation between DEAR1 expression and both local recurrence in early-onset breast cancer and a breast cancer subtype with a poor outcome suggests that it might be possible to use DEAR1 expression to identify women with early-onset breast cancer who have an increased risk of local recurrence so that they get the most appropriate treatment for their cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000068.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Senthil Muthuswamy
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer, including information on genetic alterations in breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; MedlinePlus also provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
The UK charities Cancerbackup (now merged with MacMillan Cancer Support) and Cancer Research UK also provide detailed information about breast cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000068
PMCID: PMC2673042  PMID: 19536326
4.  HOXB13:IL17BR and molecular grade index and risk of breast cancer death among patients with lymph node-negative invasive disease 
Introduction
Studies have shown that a two-gene ratio (HOXB13:IL17BR) and a five-gene (BUB1B, CENPA, NEK2, RACGAP1, RRM2) molecular grade index (MGI) are predictive of clinical outcomes among early-stage breast cancer patients. In an independent population of lymph node-negative breast cancer patients from a community hospital setting, we evaluated the performance of two risk classifiers that have been derived from these gene signatures combined, MGI+HOXB13:IL17BR and the Breast Cancer Index (BCI).
Methods
A case-control study was conducted among 4,964 Kaiser Permanente patients diagnosed with node-negative invasive breast cancer from 1985 to 1994 who did not receive adjuvant chemotherapy. For 191 cases (breast cancer deaths) and 417 matched controls, archived tumor tissues were available and analyzed for expression levels of the seven genes of interest and four normalization genes by RT-PCR. Logistic regression methods were used to estimate the relative risk (RR) and 10-year absolute risk of breast cancer death associated with prespecified risk categories for MGI+HOXB13:IL17BR and BCI.
Results
Both MGI+HOXB13:IL17BR and BCI classified over half of all ER-positive patients as low risk. The 10-year absolute risks of breast cancer death for ER-positive, tamoxifen-treated patients classified in the low-, intermediate-, and high-risk groups were 3.7% (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.9% to 5.4%), 5.9% (95% CI 3.0% to 8.6%), and 12.9% (95% CI 7.9% to 17.6%) by MGI+HOXB13:IL17BR and 3.5% (95% CI 1.9% to 5.1%), 7.0% (95% CI 3.8% to 10.1%), and 12.9% (95% CI 7.1% to 18.3%) by BCI. Those for ER-positive, tamoxifen-untreated patients were 5.7% (95% CI 4.0% to 7.4%), 13.8% (95% CI 8.4% to 18.9%), and 15.2% (95% CI 9.4% to 20.5%) by MGI+HOXB13:IL17BR and 5.1% (95% CI 3.6% to 6.6%), 18.6% (95% CI 10.8% to 25.7%), and 17.5% (95% CI 11.1% to 23.5%) by BCI. After adjusting for tumor size and grade, the RRs of breast cancer death comparing high- versus low-risk categories of both classifiers remained elevated but were attenuated for tamoxifen-treated and tamoxifen-untreated patients.
Conclusion
Among ER-positive, lymph node-negative patients not treated with adjuvant chemotherapy, MGI+HOXB13:IL17BR and BCI were associated with risk of breast cancer death. Both risk classifiers appeared to provide risk information beyond standard prognostic factors.
doi:10.1186/bcr3402
PMCID: PMC3672697  PMID: 23497539
5.  Combining Gene Signatures Improves Prediction of Breast Cancer Survival 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17845.
Background
Several gene sets for prediction of breast cancer survival have been derived from whole-genome mRNA expression profiles. Here, we develop a statistical framework to explore whether combination of the information from such sets may improve prediction of recurrence and breast cancer specific death in early-stage breast cancers. Microarray data from two clinically similar cohorts of breast cancer patients are used as training (n = 123) and test set (n = 81), respectively. Gene sets from eleven previously published gene signatures are included in the study.
Principal Findings
To investigate the relationship between breast cancer survival and gene expression on a particular gene set, a Cox proportional hazards model is applied using partial likelihood regression with an L2 penalty to avoid overfitting and using cross-validation to determine the penalty weight. The fitted models are applied to an independent test set to obtain a predicted risk for each individual and each gene set. Hierarchical clustering of the test individuals on the basis of the vector of predicted risks results in two clusters with distinct clinical characteristics in terms of the distribution of molecular subtypes, ER, PR status, TP53 mutation status and histological grade category, and associated with significantly different survival probabilities (recurrence: p = 0.005; breast cancer death: p = 0.014). Finally, principal components analysis of the gene signatures is used to derive combined predictors used to fit a new Cox model. This model classifies test individuals into two risk groups with distinct survival characteristics (recurrence: p = 0.003; breast cancer death: p = 0.001). The latter classifier outperforms all the individual gene signatures, as well as Cox models based on traditional clinical parameters and the Adjuvant! Online for survival prediction.
Conclusion
Combining the predictive strength of multiple gene signatures improves prediction of breast cancer survival. The presented methodology is broadly applicable to breast cancer risk assessment using any new identified gene set.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017845
PMCID: PMC3053398  PMID: 21423775
6.  A Six-Gene Signature Predicts Survival of Patients with Localized Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(7):e1000307.
Jen Jen Yeh and colleagues developed and validated a six-gene signature in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma that may be used to better stage the disease in these patients and assist in treatment decisions.
Background
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains a lethal disease. For patients with localized PDAC, surgery is the best option, but with a median survival of less than 2 years and a difficult and prolonged postoperative course for most, there is an urgent need to better identify patients who have the most aggressive disease.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed the gene expression profiles of primary tumors from patients with localized compared to metastatic disease and identified a six-gene signature associated with metastatic disease. We evaluated the prognostic potential of this signature in a training set of 34 patients with localized and resected PDAC and selected a cut-point associated with outcome using X-tile. We then applied this cut-point to an independent test set of 67 patients with localized and resected PDAC and found that our signature was independently predictive of survival and superior to established clinical prognostic factors such as grade, tumor size, and nodal status, with a hazard ratio of 4.1 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.7–10.0). Patients defined to be high-risk patients by the six-gene signature had a 1-year survival rate of 55% compared to 91% in the low-risk group.
Conclusions
Our six-gene signature may be used to better stage PDAC patients and assist in the difficult treatment decisions of surgery and to select patients whose tumor biology may benefit most from neoadjuvant therapy. The use of this six-gene signature should be investigated in prospective patient cohorts, and if confirmed, in future PDAC clinical trials, its potential as a biomarker should be investigated. Genes in this signature, or the pathways that they fall into, may represent new therapeutic targets.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Pancreatic cancer kills nearly a quarter of a million people every year. It begins when a cell in the pancreas (an organ lying behind the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin, which controls blood sugar levels) acquires genetic changes that allow it to grow uncontrollably and to spread around the body (metastasize). Nearly all pancreatic cancers are “pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas” (PDACs)—tumors that start in the cells that line the tubes in the pancreas that take digestive juices to the gut. Because PDAC rarely causes any symptoms early in its development, it has already metastasized in about half of patients before it is diagnosed. Consequently, the average survival time after a diagnosis of PDAC is only 5–8 months. At present, the only chance for cure is surgical removal (resection) of the tumor, part of the pancreas, and other nearby digestive organs. The operation that is needed for the majority of patients—the Whipple procedure—is only possible in the fifth of patients whose tumor is found when it is small enough to be resectable but even with postoperative chemotherapy, these patients only live for 23 months after surgery on average, possibly because they have micrometastases at the time of their operation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite this poor overall outcome, about a quarter of patients with resectable PDAC survive for more than 5 years after surgery. Might some patients, therefore, have a less aggressive form of PDAC determined by the biology of the primary (original) tumor? If this is the case, it would be useful to be able to stratify patients according to the aggressiveness of their disease so that patients with very aggressive disease could be given chemotherapy before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) to kill any micrometastases. At present neoadjuvant therapy is given to patients with locally advanced, unresectable tumors. In this study, the researchers compare gene expression patterns in primary tumor samples collected from patients with localized PDAC and from patients with metastatic PDAC between 1999 and 2007 to try to identify molecular markers that distinguish between more and less aggressive PDACs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified a six-gene signature that was associated with metastatic disease using a molecular biology approach called microarray hybridization and a statistical method called significance analysis of microarrays to analyze gene expression patterns in primary tumor samples from 15 patients with localized PDAC and 15 patients with metastatic disease. Next, they used a training set of tumor samples from another 34 patients with localized and resected PDAC, microarray hybridization, and a graphical method called X-tile to select a combination of expression levels of the six genes that discriminated optimally between high-risk (aggressive) and low-risk (less aggressive) tumors on the basis of patient survival (a “cut-point”). When the researchers applied this cut-point to an independent set of 67 tumor samples from patients with localized and resected PDAC, they found that 42 patients had high-risk tumors. These patients had an average survival time of 15 months; 55% of them were alive a year after surgery. The remaining 25 patients, who had low-risk tumors, had an average survival time of 49 months and 91% of them were alive a year after resection.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings identify a six-gene signature that can predict outcomes in patients with localized, resectable PDAC better than, and independently of, established clinical markers of outcome. If the predictive ability of this signature can be confirmed in additional patients, it could be used to help patients make decisions about their treatment. For example, a patient wondering whether to risk the Whipple procedure (2%–6% of patients die during this operation and more than 50% have serious postoperative complications), the knowledge that their tumor was low risk might help them decide to have the operation. Conversely, a patient in poor health with a high-risk tumor might decide to spare themselves the trauma of major surgery. The six-gene signature might also help clinicians decide which patients would benefit most from neoadjuvant therapy. Finally, the genes in this signature, or the biological pathways in which they participate, might represent new therapeutic targets for the treatment of PDAC.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000307.
The US National Cancer Institute provides information for patients and health professionals about all aspects of pancreatic cancer (in English and Spanish), including a booklet for patients
The American Cancer Society also provides detailed information about pancreatic cancer
The UK National Health Service and Cancer Research UK include information for patients on pancreatic cancer on their Web sites
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on pancreatic cancer (in English and Spanish)
Cure Pancreatic Cancer provides information about scientific and medical research related to the diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a US organization that supports research, patient support, community outreach, and advocacy for a cure for pancreatic cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000307
PMCID: PMC2903589  PMID: 20644708
7.  Gene Expression Classification of Colon Cancer into Molecular Subtypes: Characterization, Validation, and Prognostic Value 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001453.
Background
Colon cancer (CC) pathological staging fails to accurately predict recurrence, and to date, no gene expression signature has proven reliable for prognosis stratification in clinical practice, perhaps because CC is a heterogeneous disease. The aim of this study was to establish a comprehensive molecular classification of CC based on mRNA expression profile analyses.
Methods and Findings
Fresh-frozen primary tumor samples from a large multicenter cohort of 750 patients with stage I to IV CC who underwent surgery between 1987 and 2007 in seven centers were characterized for common DNA alterations, including BRAF, KRAS, and TP53 mutations, CpG island methylator phenotype, mismatch repair status, and chromosomal instability status, and were screened with whole genome and transcriptome arrays. 566 samples fulfilled RNA quality requirements. Unsupervised consensus hierarchical clustering applied to gene expression data from a discovery subset of 443 CC samples identified six molecular subtypes. These subtypes were associated with distinct clinicopathological characteristics, molecular alterations, specific enrichments of supervised gene expression signatures (stem cell phenotype–like, normal-like, serrated CC phenotype–like), and deregulated signaling pathways. Based on their main biological characteristics, we distinguished a deficient mismatch repair subtype, a KRAS mutant subtype, a cancer stem cell subtype, and three chromosomal instability subtypes, including one associated with down-regulated immune pathways, one with up-regulation of the Wnt pathway, and one displaying a normal-like gene expression profile. The classification was validated in the remaining 123 samples plus an independent set of 1,058 CC samples, including eight public datasets. Furthermore, prognosis was analyzed in the subset of stage II–III CC samples. The subtypes C4 and C6, but not the subtypes C1, C2, C3, and C5, were independently associated with shorter relapse-free survival, even after adjusting for age, sex, stage, and the emerging prognostic classifier Oncotype DX Colon Cancer Assay recurrence score (hazard ratio 1.5, 95% CI 1.1–2.1, p = 0.0097). However, a limitation of this study is that information on tumor grade and number of nodes examined was not available.
Conclusions
We describe the first, to our knowledge, robust transcriptome-based classification of CC that improves the current disease stratification based on clinicopathological variables and common DNA markers. The biological relevance of these subtypes is illustrated by significant differences in prognosis. This analysis provides possibilities for improving prognostic models and therapeutic strategies. In conclusion, we report a new classification of CC into six molecular subtypes that arise through distinct biological pathways.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Cancer of the large bowel (colorectal cancer) is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Despite recent advances in the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of colorectal cancer, an estimated 608,000 people die every year from this form of cancer—8% of all cancer deaths. The prognosis and treatment options for colorectal cancer depend on five pathological stages (0–IV), each of which has a different treatment option and five year survival rate, so it is important that the stage is correctly identified. Unfortunately, pathological staging fails to accurately predict recurrence (relapse) in patients undergoing surgery for localized colorectal cancer, which is a concern, as 10%–20% of patients with stage II and 30%–40% of those with stage III colorectal cancer develop recurrence.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous studies have investigated whether there are any possible gene expression profiles (identified through microarray techniques) that can help predict prognosis of colorectal cancer, but so far, there have been no firm conclusions that can aid clinical practice. In this study, the researchers used genetic information from a French multicenter study to identify a standard, reproducible molecular classification based on gene expression analysis of colorectal cancer. The authors also assessed whether there were any associations between the identified molecular subtypes and clinical and pathological factors, common DNA alterations, and prognosis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used genetic information from a cohort of 750 patients with stage I to IV colorectal cancer who underwent surgery between 1987 and 2007 in seven centers in France. The researchers identified relevant clinical and pathological staging information for each patient from the medical records and calculated recurrence-free survival (the time from surgery to the first recurrence) for patients with stage II or III disease. In the genetic analysis, 566 tumor samples were suitable—443 were used in a discovery set, to create the classification, and the remainder were used in a validation set, to test the classification. The researchers also used information from eight public datasets to validate their findings.
Using these methods, the researchers classified the colon cancer samples into six molecular subtypes (based on gene expression data) and, on further analysis and validation, were able to distinguish the main biological characteristics and deregulated pathways associated with each subtype. Importantly, the researchers found that that these six subtypes were associated with distinct clinical and pathological characteristics, molecular alterations, specific gene expression signatures, and deregulated signaling pathways. In the prognostic analysis based on recurrence-free survival, the researchers found that patients whose tumors were classified in one of two clusters (C4 and C6) had poorer recurrence-free survival than the other patients.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that it is possible to classify colorectal cancer into six robust molecular subtypes that might help identify new prognostic subgroups and could provide a basis for developing robust prognostic genetic signatures for stage II and III colorectal cancer and for identifying specific markers for the different subtypes that might be targets for future drug development. However, as this study was retrospective and did not include some known predictors of colorectal cancer prognosis, such as tumor grade and number of nodes examined, the significance and robustness of the prognostic classification requires further confirmation with large prospective patient cohorts.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001453.
The American Cancer Society provides information about colorectal cancer and also about how colorectal cancer is staged
The US National Cancer Institute also provides information on colon and rectal cancer and colon cancer stages
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001453
PMCID: PMC3660251  PMID: 23700391
8.  E2F4 regulatory program predicts patient survival prognosis in breast cancer 
Introduction
Genetic and molecular signatures have been incorporated into cancer prognosis prediction and treatment decisions with good success over the past decade. Clinically, these signatures are usually used in early-stage cancers to evaluate whether they require adjuvant therapy following surgical resection. A molecular signature that is prognostic across more clinical contexts would be a useful addition to current signatures.
Methods
We defined a signature for the ubiquitous tissue factor, E2F4, based on its shared target genes in multiple tissues. These target genes were identified by chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) experiments using a probabilistic method. We then computationally calculated the regulatory activity score (RAS) of E2F4 in cancer tissues, and examined how E2F4 RAS correlates with patient survival.
Results
Genes in our E2F4 signature were 21-fold more likely to be correlated with breast cancer patient survival time compared to randomly selected genes. Using eight independent breast cancer datasets containing over 1,900 unique samples, we stratified patients into low and high E2F4 RAS groups. E2F4 activity stratification was highly predictive of patient outcome, and our results remained robust even when controlling for many factors including patient age, tumor size, grade, estrogen receptor (ER) status, lymph node (LN) status, whether the patient received adjuvant therapy, and the patient’s other prognostic indices such as Adjuvant! and the Nottingham Prognostic Index scores. Furthermore, the fractions of samples with positive E2F4 RAS vary in different intrinsic breast cancer subtypes, consistent with the different survival profiles of these subtypes.
Conclusions
We defined a prognostic signature, the E2F4 regulatory activity score, and showed it to be significantly predictive of patient outcome in breast cancer regardless of treatment status and the states of many other clinicopathological variables. It can be used in conjunction with other breast cancer classification methods such as Oncotype DX to improve clinical outcome prediction.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13058-014-0486-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13058-014-0486-7
PMCID: PMC4303196  PMID: 25440089
9.  Nuclear Receptor Expression Defines a Set of Prognostic Biomarkers for Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000378.
David Mangelsdorf and colleagues show that nuclear receptor expression is strongly associated with clinical outcomes of lung cancer patients, and this expression profile is a potential prognostic signature for lung cancer patient survival time, particularly for individuals with early stage disease.
Background
The identification of prognostic tumor biomarkers that also would have potential as therapeutic targets, particularly in patients with early stage disease, has been a long sought-after goal in the management and treatment of lung cancer. The nuclear receptor (NR) superfamily, which is composed of 48 transcription factors that govern complex physiologic and pathophysiologic processes, could represent a unique subset of these biomarkers. In fact, many members of this family are the targets of already identified selective receptor modulators, providing a direct link between individual tumor NR quantitation and selection of therapy. The goal of this study, which begins this overall strategy, was to investigate the association between mRNA expression of the NR superfamily and the clinical outcome for patients with lung cancer, and to test whether a tumor NR gene signature provided useful information (over available clinical data) for patients with lung cancer.
Methods and Findings
Using quantitative real-time PCR to study NR expression in 30 microdissected non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) and their pair-matched normal lung epithelium, we found great variability in NR expression among patients' tumor and non-involved lung epithelium, found a strong association between NR expression and clinical outcome, and identified an NR gene signature from both normal and tumor tissues that predicted patient survival time and disease recurrence. The NR signature derived from the initial 30 NSCLC samples was validated in two independent microarray datasets derived from 442 and 117 resected lung adenocarcinomas. The NR gene signature was also validated in 130 squamous cell carcinomas. The prognostic signature in tumors could be distilled to expression of two NRs, short heterodimer partner and progesterone receptor, as single gene predictors of NSCLC patient survival time, including for patients with stage I disease. Of equal interest, the studies of microdissected histologically normal epithelium and matched tumors identified expression in normal (but not tumor) epithelium of NGFIB3 and mineralocorticoid receptor as single gene predictors of good prognosis.
Conclusions
NR expression is strongly associated with clinical outcomes for patients with lung cancer, and this expression profile provides a unique prognostic signature for lung cancer patient survival time, particularly for those with early stage disease. This study highlights the potential use of NRs as a rational set of therapeutically tractable genes as theragnostic biomarkers, and specifically identifies short heterodimer partner and progesterone receptor in tumors, and NGFIB3 and MR in non-neoplastic lung epithelium, for future detailed translational study in lung cancer.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer-related death, kills 1.3 million people annually. Most lung cancers are “non-small-cell lung cancers” (NSCLCs), and most are caused by smoking. Exposure to chemicals in smoke causes changes in the genes of the cells lining the lungs that allow the cells to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. How NSCLC is treated and responds to treatment depends on its “stage.” Stage I tumors, which are small and confined to the lung, are removed surgically, although chemotherapy is also sometimes given. Stage II tumors have spread to nearby lymph nodes and are treated with surgery and chemotherapy, as are some stage III tumors. However, because cancer cells in stage III tumors can be present throughout the chest, surgery is not always possible. For such cases, and for stage IV NSCLC, where the tumor has spread around the body, patients are treated with chemotherapy alone. About 70% of patients with stage I and II NSCLC but only 2% of patients with stage IV NSCLC survive for five years after diagnosis; more than 50% of patients have stage IV NSCLC at diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Patient responses to treatment vary considerably. Oncologists (doctors who treat cancer) would like to know which patients have a good prognosis (are likely to do well) to help them individualize their treatment. Consequently, the search is on for “prognostic tumor biomarkers,” molecules made by cancer cells that can be used to predict likely clinical outcomes. Such biomarkers, which may also be potential therapeutic targets, can be identified by analyzing the overall pattern of gene expression in a panel of tumors using a technique called microarray analysis and looking for associations between the expression of sets of genes and clinical outcomes. In this study, the researchers take a more directed approach to identifying prognostic biomarkers by investigating the association between the expression of the genes encoding nuclear receptors (NRs) and clinical outcome in patients with lung cancer. The NR superfamily contains 48 transcription factors (proteins that control the expression of other genes) that respond to several hormones and to diet-derived fats. NRs control many biological processes and are targets for several successful drugs, including some used to treat cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed the expression of NR mRNAs using “quantitative real-time PCR” in 30 microdissected NSCLCs and in matched normal lung tissue samples (mRNA is the blueprint for protein production). They then used an approach called standard classification and regression tree analysis to build a prognostic model for NSCLC based on the expression data. This model predicted both survival time and disease recurrence among the patients from whom the tumors had been taken. The researchers validated their prognostic model in two large independent lung adenocarcinoma microarray datasets and in a squamous cell carcinoma dataset (adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are two major NSCLC subtypes). Finally, they explored the roles of specific NRs in the prediction model. This analysis revealed that the ability of the NR signature in tumors to predict outcomes was mainly due to the expression of two NRs—the short heterodimer partner (SHP) and the progesterone receptor (PR). Expression of either gene could be used as a single gene predictor of the survival time of patients, including those with stage I disease. Similarly, the expression of either nerve growth factor induced gene B3 (NGFIB3) or mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in normal tissue was a single gene predictor of a good prognosis.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the expression of NR mRNA is strongly associated with clinical outcomes in patients with NSCLC. Furthermore, they identify a prognostic NR expression signature that provides information on the survival time of patients, including those with early stage disease. The signature needs to be confirmed in more patients before it can be used clinically, and researchers would like to establish whether changes in mRNA expression are reflected in changes in protein expression if NRs are to be targeted therapeutically. Nevertheless, these findings highlight the potential use of NRs as prognostic tumor biomarkers. Furthermore, they identify SHP and PR in tumors and two NRs in normal lung tissue as molecules that might provide new targets for the treatment of lung cancer and new insights into the early diagnosis, pathogenesis, and chemoprevention of lung cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000378.
The Nuclear Receptor Signaling Atlas (NURSA) is consortium of scientists sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health that provides scientific reagents, datasets, and educational material on nuclear receptors and their co-regulators to the scientific community through a Web-based portal
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) provides information and resources to anyone interested in the prevention and treatment of lung and other cancers
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and professionals about all aspects of lung cancer, including information on non-small-cell carcinoma and on tumor markers (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK also provides information about lung cancer and information on how cancer starts
MedlinePlus has links to other resources about lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on nuclear receptors (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000378
PMCID: PMC3001894  PMID: 21179495
10.  aThe dyslexia candidate gene DYX1C1 is a potential marker of poor survival in breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:79.
Background
The dyslexia candidate gene, DYX1C1, shown to regulate and interact with estrogen receptors and involved in the regulation of neuronal migration, has recently been proposed as a putative cancer biomarker. This study was undertaken to assess the prognostic value and therapy-predictive potential of DYX1C1 mRNA and protein expression in breast cancer.
Methods
DYX1C1 mRNA expression was assessed at the mRNA level in three independent population-derived patient cohorts. An association to estrogen/progesterone receptor status, Elston grade, gene expression subtype and lymph node status was analyzed within these cohorts. DYX1C1 protein expression was examined using immunohistochemistry in cancer and normal breast tissue. The statistical analyses were performed using the non-parametric Wilcoxon rank-sum test, ANOVA, Fisher's exact test and a multivariate proportional hazard (Cox) model.
Results
DYX1C1 mRNA is significantly more highly expressed in tumors that have been classified as estrogen receptor α and progesterone receptor-positive. The expression of DYX1C1 among the molecular subtypes shows the lowest median expression within the basal type tumors, which are considered to have the worst prognosis. The expression of DYX1C1 is significantly lower in tumors graded as Elston grade 3 compared with grades 1 and 2. DYX1C1 protein is expressed in 88% of tumors and in all 10 normal breast tissues examined. Positive protein expression was significantly correlated to overall survival (Hazard ratio 3.44 [CI 1.84-6.42]) of the patients but not to any of the variables linked with mRNA expression.
Conclusion
We show that the expression of DYX1C1 in breast cancer is associated with several clinicopathological parameters and that loss of DYX1C1 correlates with a more aggressive disease, in turn indicating that DYX1C1 is a potential prognostic biomarker in breast cancer.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-79
PMCID: PMC3337251  PMID: 22375924
DYX1C1; Breast cancer; Estrogen receptor; Dyslexia
11.  A pharmacogenomic method for individualized prediction of drug sensitivity 
Using valproic acid as an example, the authors demonstrate that drug response signatures derived from genome-wide expression data can identify individuals likely to respond to a drug, and propose that this method could select optimal populations for clinical trials of new therapies.
Drug response signatures that accurately reflect the cellular response to a drug can be generated from Connectivity Map and publically available gene expression data.Predictions from the drug response signature for valproic acid correlate with sensitivity to valproic acid in breast cancer cell lines and patient tumors grown in three-dimensional culture and mouse xenografts.The MATCH algorithm provides an efficient approach for using genome-wide gene expression data to identify a target population for a drug prior to clinical trials.MATCH can predict drug sensitivity in tumors without knowledge of mechanism of action.
Unlike traditional chemotherapy, targeted cancer therapies are expected to work in only a subset of people with a particular cancer. However, biomarkers of response are not always known before clinical trial initiation. We present MATCH (Merging genomic and pharmacologic Analyses for Therapy CHoice), an algorithm for using genome-wide gene expression data to identify and validate a genomic biomarker of sensitivity (see Figure 1). Our proof-of-principle example is valproic acid (VPA), but we also show that an estrogen blocking drug currently used for breast cancer and a B-RAF inhibitor in trials for melanoma give predictions that correspond to their clinical uses.
We use genome-wide gene expression data from treated and untreated samples from the Connectivity Map to generate a VPA response signature. We validate that the VPA signature can identify treated and untreated cells in an independent data set of normal cells and in independent samples from the Connectivity Map. The AUC for the ROC curve is 0.86. We then apply the VPA signature to publically available data sets from a panel of cancer cell lines and from primary tumor and normal tissue samples. These data suggest that there is a subset of women with breast cancer who will be sensitive to VPA. Finally, we validate that our predictions correlate with sensitivity to VPA in breast cancer cell lines grown in two-dimensional culture, primary breast tumor samples grown in three-dimensional culture, and in vivo mouse breast cancer xenografts. Together, these studies show that MATCH can identify cancer patients most likely to respond to a specific drug treatment.
Identifying the best drug for each cancer patient requires an efficient individualized strategy. We present MATCH (Merging genomic and pharmacologic Analyses for Therapy CHoice), an approach using public genomic resources and drug testing of fresh tumor samples to link drugs to patients. Valproic acid (VPA) is highlighted as a proof-of-principle. In order to predict specific tumor types with high probability of drug sensitivity, we create drug response signatures using publically available gene expression data and assess sensitivity in a data set of >40 cancer types. Next, we evaluate drug sensitivity in matched tumor and normal tissue and exclude cancer types that are no more sensitive than normal tissue. From these analyses, breast tumors are predicted to be sensitive to VPA. A meta-analysis across breast cancer data sets shows that aggressive subtypes are most likely to be sensitive to VPA, but all subtypes have sensitive tumors. MATCH predictions correlate significantly with growth inhibition in cancer cell lines and three-dimensional cultures of fresh tumor samples. MATCH accurately predicts reduction in tumor growth rate following VPA treatment in patient tumor xenografts. MATCH uses genomic analysis with in vitro testing of patient tumors to select optimal drug regimens before clinical trial initiation.
doi:10.1038/msb.2011.47
PMCID: PMC3159972  PMID: 21772261
biomarkers; cancer; pharmacogenomics
12.  Gene Expression Signatures That Predict Outcome of Tamoxifen-Treated Estrogen Receptor-Positive, High-Risk, Primary Breast Cancer Patients: A DBCG Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54078.
Background
Tamoxifen significantly improves outcome for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, but the 15-year recurrence rate remains 30%. The aim of this study was to identify gene profiles that accurately predicted the outcome of ER+ breast cancer patients who received adjuvant Tamoxifen mono-therapy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Post-menopausal breast cancer patients diagnosed no later than 2002, being ER+ as defined by >1% IHC staining and having a frozen tumor sample with >50% tumor content were included. Tumor samples from 108 patients treated with adjuvant Tamoxifen were analyzed for the expression of 59 genes using quantitative-PCR. End-point was clinically verified recurrence to distant organs or ipsilateral breast. Gene profiles were identified using a model building procedure based on conditional logistic regression and leave-one-out cross-validation, followed by a non-parametric bootstrap (1000x re-sampling). The optimal profiles were further examined in 5 previously-reported datasets containing similar patient populations that were either treated with Tamoxifen or left untreated (n = 623). Three gene signatures were identified, the strongest being a 2-gene combination of BCL2-CDKN1A, exhibiting an accuracy of 75% for prediction of outcome. Independent examination using 4 previously-reported microarray datasets of Tamoxifen-treated patient samples (n = 503) confirmed the potential of BCL2-CDKN1A. The predictive value was further determined by comparing the ability of the genes to predict recurrence in an additional, previously-published, cohort consisting of Tamoxifen-treated (n = 58, p = 0.015) and untreated patients (n = 62, p = 0.25).
Conclusions/Significance
A novel gene expression signature predictive of outcome of Tamoxifen-treated patients was identified. The validation suggests that BCL2-CDKN1A exhibit promising predictive potential.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054078
PMCID: PMC3546921  PMID: 23342080
13.  Risk estimation of distant metastasis in node-negative, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer patients using an RT-PCR based prognostic expression signature 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:339.
Background
Given the large number of genes purported to be prognostic for breast cancer, it would be optimal if the genes identified are not confounded by the continuously changing systemic therapies. The aim of this study was to discover and validate a breast cancer prognostic expression signature for distant metastasis in untreated, early stage, lymph node-negative (N-) estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) patients with extensive follow-up times.
Methods
197 genes previously associated with metastasis and ER status were profiled from 142 untreated breast cancer subjects. A "metastasis score" (MS) representing fourteen differentially expressed genes was developed and evaluated for its association with distant-metastasis-free survival (DMFS). Categorical risk classification was established from the continuous MS and further evaluated on an independent set of 279 untreated subjects. A third set of 45 subjects was tested to determine the prognostic performance of the MS in tamoxifen-treated women.
Results
A 14-gene signature was found to be significantly associated (p < 0.05) with distant metastasis in a training set and subsequently in an independent validation set. In the validation set, the hazard ratios (HR) of the high risk compared to low risk groups were 4.02 (95% CI 1.91–8.44) for the endpoint of DMFS and 1.97 (95% CI 1.28 to 3.04) for overall survival after adjustment for age, tumor size and grade. The low and high MS risk groups had 10-year estimates (95% CI) of 96% (90–99%) and 72% (64–78%) respectively, for DMFS and 91% (84–95%) and 68% (61–75%), respectively for overall survival. Performance characteristics of the signature in the two sets were similar. Ki-67 labeling index (LI) was predictive for recurrent disease in the training set, but lost significance after adjustment for the expression signature. In a study of tamoxifen-treated patients, the HR for DMFS in high compared to low risk groups was 3.61 (95% CI 0.86–15.14).
Conclusion
The 14-gene signature is significantly associated with risk of distant metastasis. The signature has a predominance of proliferation genes which have prognostic significance above that of Ki-67 LI and may aid in prioritizing future mechanistic studies and therapeutic interventions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-339
PMCID: PMC2631011  PMID: 19025599
14.  KRAS Testing for Anti-EGFR Therapy in Advanced Colorectal Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: www.health.gov.on.ca/mas or at www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis.
Objective
The objective of this systematic review is to determine the predictive value of KRAS testing in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) with two anti-EGFR agents, cetuximab and panitumumab. Economic analyses are also being conducted to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of KRAS testing.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) is usually defined as stage IV disease according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer tumour node metastasis (TNM) system or stage D in the Duke’s classification system. Patients with advanced colorectal cancer (mCRC) either present with metastatic disease or develop it through disease progression.
KRAS (Kristen-RAS, a member of the rat sarcoma virus (ras) gene family of oncogenes) is frequently mutated in epithelial cancers such as colorectal cancer, with mutations occurring in mutational hotspots (codons 12 and 13) of the KRAS protein. Involved in EGFR-mediated signalling of cellular processes such as cell proliferation, resistance to apoptosis, enhanced cell motility and neoangiogenesis, a mutation in the KRAS gene is believed to be involved in cancer pathogenesis. Such a mutation is also hypothesized to be involved in resistance to targeted anti-EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor with tyrosine kinase activity) treatments such as cetuximab and panitumumab, hence, the important in evaluating the evidence on the predictive value of KRAS testing in this context.
KRAS Mutation Testing in Advanced Colorectal Cancer
Both cetuximab and panitumumab are indicated by Health Canada in the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer whose tumours are WT for the KRAS gene. Cetuximab may be offered as monotherapy in patients intolerant to irinotecan-based chemotherapy or in patients who have failed both irinotecan and oxaliplatin-based regimens and who received a fluoropyrimidine. It can also be administered in combination with irinotecan in patients refractory to other irinotecan-based chemotherapy regimens. Panitumumab is only indicated as a single agent after failure of fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and irinotecan-containing chemotherapy regimens.
In Ontario, patients with advanced colorectal cancer who are refractory to chemotherapy may be offered the targeted anti-EGFR treatments cetuximab or panitumumab. Eligibility for these treatments is based on the KRAS status of their tumour, derived from tissue collected from surgical or biopsy specimens. It is believed that KRAS status is not affected by treatments, therefore, for patients for whom surgical tissue is available for KRAS testing, additional biopsies prior to treatment with these targeted agents is not necessary. For patients that have not undergone surgery or for whom surgical tissue is not available, a biopsy of either the primary or metastatic site is required to determine their KRAS status. This is possible as status at the metastatic and primary tumour sites is considered to be similar.
Research Question
To determine if there is predictive value of KRAS testing in guiding treatment decisions with anti-EGFR targeted therapies in advanced colorectal cancer patients refractory to chemotherapy.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and on May 18, 2010, searched the following electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment database.
The subject headings and keywords searched included colorectal cancer, cetuximab, panitumumab, and KRAS testing. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between January 1, 2009 and May 18, 2010 resulting in 1335 articles for review. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters. Studies published from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2008 were identified in a health technology assessment conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), published in 2010. In total, 14 observational studies were identified for inclusion in this EBA: 4 for cetuximab monotherapy, 7 for the cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy, and 3 to be included in the review for panitumumab monotherapy
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English or French-language HTAs published from January 2005 to May 2010, inclusive.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or observational studies, including single arm treatment studies that include KRAS testing.
Studies with data on main outcomes of interest, overall and progression-free survival.
Studies of third line treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab in patients with advanced colorectal cancer refractory to chemotherapy.
For the cetuximab-irinotecan evaluation, studies in which at least 70% of patients in the study received this combination therapy.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies whose entire sample was included in subsequent publications which have been included in this EBA.
Studies in pediatric populations.
Case reports, comments, editorials, or letters.
Outcomes of Interest
Overall survival (OS), median
Progression-free-survival (PFS), median.
Response rates.
Adverse event rates.
Quality of life (QOL).
Summary of Findings of Systematic Review
Cetuximab or Panitumumab Monotherapy
Based on moderate GRADE observational evidence, there is improvement in PFS and OS favouring patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
Cetuximab-Irinotecan Combination Therapy
There is low GRADE evidence that testing for KRAS may optimize survival benefits in patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
However, cetuximab-irinotecan combination treatments based on KRAS status discount any effect of cetuximab in possibly reversing resistance to irinotecan in patients with the mutation, as observed effects were lower than for patients without the mutation. Clinical experts have raised concerns about the biological plausibility of this observation and this conclusion would, therefore, be regarded as hypothesis generating.
Economic Analysis
Cost-effectiveness and budget impact analyses were conducted incorporating estimates of effectiveness from this systematic review. Evaluation of relative cost-effectiveness, based on a decision-analytic cost-utility analysis, assessed testing for KRAS genetic mutations versus no testing in the context of treatment with cetuximab monotherapy, panitumumab monotherapy, cetuximab in combination with irinotecan, and best supportive care.
Of importance to note is that the cost-effectiveness analysis focused on the impact of testing for KRAS mutations compared to no testing in the context of different treatment options, and does not assess the cost-effectiveness of the drug treatments alone.
Conclusions
KRAS status is predictive of outcomes in cetuximab and panitumumab monotherapy, and in cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy.
While KRAS testing is cost-effective for all strategies considered, it is not equally cost-effective for all treatment options.
PMCID: PMC3377508  PMID: 23074403
15.  A multigene predictor of metastatic outcome in early stage hormone receptor-negative and triple-negative breast cancer 
Introduction
Various multigene predictors of breast cancer clinical outcome have been commercialized, but proved to be prognostic only for hormone receptor (HR) subsets overexpressing estrogen or progesterone receptors. Hormone receptor negative (HRneg) breast cancers, particularly those lacking HER2/ErbB2 overexpression and known as triple-negative (Tneg) cases, are heterogeneous and generally aggressive breast cancer subsets in need of prognostic subclassification, since most early stage HRneg and Tneg breast cancer patients are cured with conservative treatment yet invariably receive aggressive adjuvant chemotherapy.
Methods
An unbiased search for genes predictive of distant metastatic relapse was undertaken using a training cohort of 199 node-negative, adjuvant treatment naïve HRneg (including 154 Tneg) breast cancer cases curated from three public microarray datasets. Prognostic gene candidates were subsequently validated using a different cohort of 75 node-negative, adjuvant naïve HRneg cases curated from three additional datasets. The HRneg/Tneg gene signature was prognostically compared with eight other previously reported gene signatures, and evaluated for cancer network associations by two commercial pathway analysis programs.
Results
A novel set of 14 prognostic gene candidates was identified as outcome predictors: CXCL13, CLIC5, RGS4, RPS28, RFX7, EXOC7, HAPLN1, ZNF3, SSX3, HRBL, PRRG3, ABO, PRTN3, MATN1. A composite HRneg/Tneg gene signature index proved more accurate than any individual candidate gene or other reported multigene predictors in identifying cases likely to remain free of metastatic relapse. Significant positive correlations between the HRneg/Tneg index and three independent immune-related signatures (STAT1, IFN, and IR) were observed, as were consistent negative associations between the three immune-related signatures and five other proliferation module-containing signatures (MS-14, ONCO-RS, GGI, CSR/wound and NKI-70). Network analysis identified 8 genes within the HRneg/Tneg signature as being functionally linked to immune/inflammatory chemokine regulation.
Conclusions
A multigene HRneg/Tneg signature linked to immune/inflammatory cytokine regulation was identified from pooled expression microarray data and shown to be superior to other reported gene signatures in predicting the metastatic outcome of early stage and conservatively managed HRneg and Tneg breast cancer. Further validation of this prognostic signature may lead to new therapeutic insights and spare many newly diagnosed breast cancer patients the need for aggressive adjuvant chemotherapy.
doi:10.1186/bcr2753
PMCID: PMC3096978  PMID: 20946665
16.  Tumour size and vascular invasion predict distant metastasis in stage I breast cancer. Grade distinguishes early and late metastasis 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  2005;58(2):196-201.
Background: Recent Dutch guidelines recommend adjuvant systemic treatment (AST) for women with high grade stage I breast carcinoma ⩾1 cm. High grade is defined as Bloom and Richardson grade 3 (B&R3), Nottingham modification, or mitotic activity (MAI) ⩾10/1.59 mm2.
Aims: To investigate the validity of these histological prognostic factors as the exclusive defining criteria.
Materials/methods: Fifty patients with stage I breast carcinoma who developed distant metastases and 50 matched controls without metastasis were studied; none had received AST.
Results: Cases more often had tumours ⩾1 cm (p = 0,019), B&R3 tumours (p = 0.059), grade 3 nuclei (p = 0.005), and vascular invasion (p = 0.007). No differences were found for MAI ⩾10 (p = 0.46). In multivariate analysis, the only significant variables were vascular invasion and tumour size (odds ratios: 8.21 and 5.35, respectively). In a separate analysis, the 50 cases were divided into 25 patients with early and 25 with late metastasis. Those with early metastasis more often had B&R3 tumours (p = 0.009) and grade 3 nuclei (p = 0.006). No differences were found for tumours ⩾1 cm, vessel invasion, or MAI ⩾10. Using the present Dutch guidelines for AST, based on B&R3, 20 cases and 11 controls would have received AST. Based on MAI ⩾10, 14 cases and 11 controls would have received AST.
Conclusions: Tumour size and vessel invasion are the best prognostic factors for disease free survival in patients with stage I breast cancer. Dutch selection criteria for AST for these patients need to be improved. Some prognostic factors are time dependent, making their use as selection criteria for AST more complicated.
doi:10.1136/jcp.2004.018515
PMCID: PMC1770565  PMID: 15677542
17.  Molecular Characteristics and Metastasis Predictor Genes of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: A Clinical Study of Triple-Negative Breast Carcinomas 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45831.
Background
Triple-negative breast cancer is a subtype of breast cancer with aggressive tumor behavior and distinct disease etiology. Due to the lack of an effective targeted medicine, treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer are few and recurrence rates are high. Although various multi-gene prognostic markers have been proposed for the prediction of breast cancer outcome, most of them were proven clinically useful only for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers. Reliable identification of triple-negative patients with a favorable prognosis is not yet possible.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Clinicopathological information and microarray data from 157 invasive breast carcinomas were collected at National Taiwan University Hospital from 1995 to 2008. Gene expression data of 51 triple-negative and 106 luminal breast cancers were generated by oligonucleotide microarrays. Hierarchical clustering analysis revealed that the majority (94%) of triple-negative breast cancers were tightly clustered together carrying strong basal-like characteristics. A 45-gene prognostic signature giving 98% predictive accuracy in distant recurrence of our triple-negative patients was determined using the receiver operating characteristic analysis and leave-one-out cross validation. External validation of the prognostic signature in an independent microarray dataset of 59 early-stage triple-negative patients also obtained statistical significance (hazard ratio 2.29, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.04–5.06, Cox P = 0.04), outperforming five other published breast cancer prognostic signatures. The 45-gene signature identified in this study revealed that TGF-β signaling of immune/inflammatory regulation may play an important role in distant metastatic invasion of triple-negative breast cancer.
Conclusions/Significance
Gene expression data and recurrence information of triple-negative breast cancer were collected and analyzed in this study. A novel set of 45-gene signature was found to be statistically predictive in disease recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer. The 45-gene signature, if further validated, may be a clinically useful tool in risk assessment of distant recurrence for early-stage triple-negative patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045831
PMCID: PMC3458056  PMID: 23049873
18.  A signature of epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity and stromal activation in primary tumor modulates late recurrence in breast cancer independent of disease subtype 
Introduction
Despite improvements in adjuvant therapy, late systemic recurrences remain a lethal consequence of both early- and late-stage breast cancer. A delayed recurrence is thought to arise from a state of tumor dormancy, but the mechanisms that govern tumor dormancy remain poorly understood.
Methods
To address the features of breast tumors associated with late recurrence, but not confounded by variations in systemic treatment, we compiled breast tumor gene expression data from 4,767 patients and established a discovery cohort consisting of 743 lymph node-negative patients who did not receive systemic neoadjuvant or adjuvant therapy. We interrogated the gene expression profiles of the 743 tumors and identified gene expression patterns that were associated with early and late disease recurrence among these patients. We applied this classification to a subset of 46 patients for whom expression data from microdissected tumor epithelium and stroma was available, and identified a distinct gene signature in the stroma and also a corresponding tumor epithelium signature that predicted disease recurrence in the discovery cohort. This tumor epithelium signature was then validated as a predictor for late disease recurrence in the entire cohort of 4,767 patients.
Results
We identified a novel 51-gene signature from microdissected tumor epithelium associated with late disease recurrence in breast cancer independent of the molecular disease subtype. This signature correlated with gene expression alterations in the adjacent tumor stroma and describes a process of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and tumor-stroma interactions.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that an EMT-related gene signature in the tumor epithelium is related to both stromal activation and escape from disease dormancy in breast cancer. The presence of a late recurrence gene signature in the primary tumor also suggests that intrinsic features of this tumor regulate the transition of disseminated tumor cells into a dormant phenotype with the ability to outgrowth as recurrent disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13058-014-0407-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13058-014-0407-9
PMCID: PMC4187325  PMID: 25060555
19.  A Gene Expression Signature Predicts Survival of Patients with Stage I Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e467.
Background
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Nearly 50% of patients with stages I and II non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) will die from recurrent disease despite surgical resection. No reliable clinical or molecular predictors are currently available for identifying those at high risk for developing recurrent disease. As a consequence, it is not possible to select those high-risk patients for more aggressive therapies and assign less aggressive treatments to patients at low risk for recurrence.
Methods and Findings
In this study, we applied a meta-analysis of datasets from seven different microarray studies on NSCLC for differentially expressed genes related to survival time (under 2 y and over 5 y). A consensus set of 4,905 genes from these studies was selected, and systematic bias adjustment in the datasets was performed by distance-weighted discrimination (DWD). We identified a gene expression signature consisting of 64 genes that is highly predictive of which stage I lung cancer patients may benefit from more aggressive therapy. Kaplan-Meier analysis of the overall survival of stage I NSCLC patients with the 64-gene expression signature demonstrated that the high- and low-risk groups are significantly different in their overall survival. Of the 64 genes, 11 are related to cancer metastasis (APC, CDH8, IL8RB, LY6D, PCDHGA12, DSP, NID, ENPP2, CCR2, CASP8, and CASP10) and eight are involved in apoptosis (CASP8, CASP10, PIK3R1, BCL2, SON, INHA, PSEN1, and BIK).
Conclusions
Our results indicate that gene expression signatures from several datasets can be reconciled. The resulting signature is useful in predicting survival of stage I NSCLC and might be useful in informing treatment decisions.
Meta-analysis of several lung cancer gene expression studies yields a set of 64 genes whose expression profile is useful in predicting survival of patients with early-stage lung cancer and possibly informing treatment decisions.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Most cases are of a type called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and are mainly caused by smoking. Like other cancers, how NSCLC is treated depends on the “stage” at which it is detected. Stage IA NSCLCs are small and confined to the lung and can be removed surgically; patients with slightly larger stage IB tumors often receive chemotherapy after surgery. In stage II NSCLC, cancer cells may be present in lymph nodes near the tumor. Surgery plus chemotherapy is the usual treatment for this stage and for some stage III NSCLCs. However, in this stage, the tumor can be present throughout the chest and surgery is not always possible. For such cases and in stage IV NSCLC, where the tumor has spread throughout the body, patients are treated with chemotherapy alone. The stage at which NSCLC is detected also determines how well patients respond to treatment. Those who can be treated surgically do much better than those who can't. So, whereas only 2% of patients with stage IV lung cancer survive for 5 years after diagnosis, about 70% of patients with stage I or II lung cancer live at least this long.
Why Was This Study Done?
Even stage I and II lung cancers often recur and there is no accurate way to identify the patients in which this will happen. If there was, these patients could be given aggressive chemotherapy, so the search is on for a “molecular signature” to help identify which NSCLCs are likely to recur. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells divide uncontrollably and can move around the body. These behavioral differences are caused by changes in their genetic material that alter their patterns of RNA transcription and protein expression. In this study, the researchers have investigated whether data from several microarray studies (a technique used to catalog the genes expressed in cells) can be pooled to construct a gene expression signature that predicts the survival of patients with stage I NSCLC.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers took the data from seven independent microarray studies (including a new study of their own) that recorded gene expression profiles related to survival time (less than 2 years and greater than 5 years) for stage I NSCLC. Because these studies had been done in different places with slightly different techniques, the researchers applied a statistical tool called distance-weighted discrimination to smooth out any systematic differences among the studies before identifying 64 genes whose expression was associated with survival. Most of these genes are involved in cell adhesion, cell motility, cell proliferation, and cell death, all processes that are altered in cancer cells. The researchers then developed a statistical model that allowed them to use the gene expression and survival data to calculate risk scores for nearly 200 patients in five of the datasets. When they separated the patients into high and low risk groups on the basis of these scores, the two groups were significantly different in terms of survival time. Indeed, the gene expression signature was better at predicting outcome than routine staging. Finally, the researchers validated the gene expression signature by showing that it predicted survival with more than 85% accuracy in two independent datasets.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The 64 gene expression signature identified here could help clinicians prepare treatment plans for patients with stage I NSCLC. Because it accurately predicts survival in patients with adenocarcinoma or squamous cell cancer (the two major subtypes of NSCLC), it potentially indicates which of these patients should receive aggressive chemotherapy and which can be spared this unpleasant treatment. Previous attempts to establish gene expression signatures to predict outcome have used data from small groups of patients and have failed when tested in additional patients. In contrast, this new signature seems to be generalizable. Nevertheless, its ability to predict outcomes must be confirmed in further studies before it is routinely adopted by oncologists for treatment planning.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030467.
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer for patients and health professionals.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer.
Cancer Research UK, information on patients about all aspects of lung cancer.
Wikipedia pages on DNA microarrays and expression profiling (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit).
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030467
PMCID: PMC1716187  PMID: 17194181
20.  Improved breast cancer prognosis through the combination of clinical and genetic markers 
Motivation
Accurate prognosis of breast cancer can spare a significant number of breast cancer patients from receiving unnecessary adjuvant systemic treatment and its related expensive medical costs. Recent studies have demonstrated the potential value of gene expression signatures in assessing the risk of post-surgical disease recurrence. However, these studies all attempt to develop genetic marker-based prognostic systems to replace the existing clinical criteria, while ignoring the rich information contained in established clinical markers. Given the complexity of breast cancer prognosis, a more practical strategy would be to utilize both clinical and genetic marker information that may be complementary.
Methods
A computational study is performed on publicly available microarray data, which has spawned a 70-gene prognostic signature. The recently proposed I-RELIEF algorithm is used to identify a hybrid signature through the combination of both genetic and clinical markers. A rigorous experimental protocol is used to estimate the prognostic performance of the hybrid signature and other prognostic approaches. Survival data analyses is performed to compare different prognostic approaches.
Results
The hybrid signature performs significantly better than other methods, including the 70-gene signature, clinical makers alone and the St. Gallen consensus criterion. At the 90% sensitivity level, the hybrid signature achieves 67% specificity, as compared to 47% for the 70-gene signature and 48% for the clinical makers. The odds ratio of the hybrid signature for developing distant meta-stases within five years between the patients with a good prognosis signature and the patients with a bad prognosis is 21.0 (95% CI: 6.5–68.3), far higher than either genetic or clinical markers alone.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btl543
PMCID: PMC3431620  PMID: 17130137
21.  Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenetics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/mas or at www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: an Evidence-Based Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based Analysis
Objective
The Medical Advisory Secretariat undertook a systematic review of the evidence on the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation testing compared with no EGFR mutation testing to predict response to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), gefitinib (Iressa®) or erlotinib (Tarceva®) in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
With an estimated 7,800 new cases and 7,000 deaths last year, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Ontario. Those with unresectable or advanced disease are commonly treated with concurrent chemoradiation or platinum-based combination chemotherapy. Although response rates to cytotoxic chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC are approximately 30 to 40%, all patients eventually develop resistance and have a median survival of only 8 to 10 months. Treatment for refractory or relapsed disease includes single-agent treatment with docetaxel, pemetrexed or EGFR-targeting TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib). TKIs disrupt EGFR signaling by competing with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for the binding sites at the tyrosine kinase (TK) domain, thus inhibiting the phosphorylation and activation of EGFRs and the downstream signaling network. Gefitinib and erlotinib have been shown to be either non-inferior or superior to chemotherapy in the first- or second-line setting (gefitinib), or superior to placebo in the second- or third-line setting (erlotinib).
Certain patient characteristics (adenocarcinoma, non-smoking history, Asian ethnicity, female gender) predict for better survival benefit and response to therapy with TKIs. In addition, the current body of evidence shows that somatic mutations in the EGFR gene are the most robust biomarkers for EGFR-targeting therapy selection. Drugs used in this therapy, however, can be costly, up to C$ 2000 to C$ 3000 per month, and they have only approximately a 10% chance of benefiting unselected patients. For these reasons, the predictive value of EGFR mutation testing for TKIs in patients with advanced NSCLC needs to be determined.
The Technology: EGFR mutation testing
The EGFR gene sequencing by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays is the most widely used method for EGFR mutation testing. PCR assays can be performed at pathology laboratories across Ontario. According to experts in the province, sequencing is not currently done in Ontario due to lack of adequate measurement sensitivity. A variety of new methods have been introduced to increase the measurement sensitivity of the mutation assay. Some technologies such as single-stranded conformational polymorphism, denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography, and high-resolution melting analysis have the advantage of facilitating rapid mutation screening of large numbers of samples with high measurement sensitivity but require direct sequencing to confirm the identity of the detected mutations. Other techniques have been developed for the simple, but highly sensitive detection of specific EGFR mutations, such as the amplification refractory mutations system (ARMS) and the peptide nucleic acid-locked PCR clamping. Others selectively digest wild-type DNA templates with restriction endonucleases to enrich mutant alleles by PCR. Experts in the province of Ontario have commented that currently PCR fragment analysis for deletion and point mutation conducts in Ontario, with measurement sensitivity of 1% to 5%.
Research Questions
In patients with locally-advanced or metastatic NSCLC, what is the clinical effectiveness of EGFR mutation testing for prediction of response to treatment with TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib) in terms of progression-free survival (PFS), objective response rates (ORR), overall survival (OS), and quality of life (QoL)?
What is the impact of EGFR mutation testing on overall clinical decision-making for patients with advanced or metastatic NSCLC?
What is the cost-effectiveness of EGFR mutation testing in selecting patients with advanced NSCLC for treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib in the first-line setting?
What is the budget impact of EGFR mutation testing in selecting patients with advanced NSCLC for treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib in the second- or third-line setting?
Methods
A literature search was performed on March 9, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, OVID EMBASE, Wiley Cochrane, CINAHL, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination/International Agency for Health Technology Assessment for studies published from January 1, 2004 until February 28, 2010 using the following terms:
Non-Small-Cell Lung Carcinoma
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor
An automatic literature update program also extracted all papers published from February 2010 until August 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, and then a group of epidemiologists, until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
The inclusion criteria were as follows:
Population: patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC (stage IIIB or IV)
Procedure: EGFR mutation testing before treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib
Language: publication in English
Published health technology assessments, guidelines, and peer-reviewed literature (abstracts, full text, conference abstract)
Outcomes: progression-free survival (PFS), Objective response rate (ORR), overall survival (OS), quality of life (QoL).
The exclusion criteria were as follows:
Studies lacking outcomes specific to those of interest
Studies focused on erlotinib maintenance therapy
Studies focused on gefitinib or erlotinib use in combination with cytotoxic agents or any other drug
Grey literature, where relevant, was also reviewed.
Outcomes of Interest
PFS
ORR determined by means of the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST)
OS
QoL
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the Phase II trials and observational studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Since the last published health technology assessment by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in 2007 there have been a number of phase III trials which provide evidence of predictive value of EGFR mutation testing in patients who were treated with gefitinib compared to chemotherapy in the first- or second-line setting. The Iressa Pan Asian Study (IPASS) trial showed the superiority of gefitinib in terms of PFS in patients with EGFR mutations versus patients with wild-type EGFR (Hazard ratio [HR], 0.48, 95%CI; 0.36-0.64 versus HR, 2.85; 95%CI, 2.05-3.98). Moreover, there was a statistically significant increased ORR in patients who received gefitinib and had EGFR mutations compared to patients with wild-type EGFR (71% versus 1%). The First-SIGNAL trial in patients with similar clinical characteristics as IPASS as well as the NEJ002 and WJTOG3405 trials that included only patients with EGFR mutations, provide confirmation that gefitinib is superior to chemotherapy in terms of improved PFS or higher ORR in patients with EGFR mutations. The INTEREST trial further indicated that patients with EGFR mutations had prolonged PFS and higher ORR when treated with gefitinib compared with docetaxel.
In contrast, there is still a paucity of strong evidence regarding the predictive value of EGFR mutation testing for response to erlotinib in the second- or third-line setting. The BR.21 trial randomized 731 patients with NSCLC who were refractory or intolerant to prior first- or second-line chemotherapy to receive erlotinib or placebo. While the HR of 0.61 (95%CI, 0.51-0.74) favored erlotinib in the overall population, this was not a significant in the subsequent retrospective subgroup analysis. A retrospective evaluation of 116 of the BR.21 tumor samples demonstrated that patients with EGFR mutations had significantly higher ORRs when treated with erlotinib compared with placebo (27% versus 7%; P=0.03). However, erlotinib did not confer a significant survival benefit compared with placebo in patients with EGFR mutations (HR, 0.55; 95%CI, 0.25-1.19) versus wild-type (HR, 0.74; 95%CI, 0.52-1.05). The interaction between EGFR mutation status and erlotinib use was not significant (P=0.47). The lack of significance could be attributable to a type II error since there was a low sample size that was available for subgroup analysis.
A series of phase II studies have examined the clinical effectiveness of erlotinib in patients known to have EGFR mutations. Evidence from these studies has consistently shown that erlotinib yields a very high ORR (typically 70% vs. 4%) and a prolonged PFS (9 months vs. 2 months) in patients with EGFR mutations compared with patients with wild-type EGFR. Although having a prolonged PFS and higher respond in EGFR mutated patients might be due to a better prognostic profile regardless of the treatment received. In the absence of a comparative treatment or placebo control group, it is difficult to determine if the observed differences in survival benefit in patients with EGFR mutation is attributed to prognostic or predictive value of EGFR mutation status.
Conclusions
Based on moderate quality of evidence, patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC with adenocarcinoma histology being treated with gefitinib in the first-line setting are highly likely to benefit from gefitinib if they have EGFR mutations compared to those with wild-type EGFR. This advantage is reflected in improved PFS, ORR and QoL in patients with EGFR mutation who are being treated with gefitinib relative to patients treated with chemotherapy.
Based on low quality of evidence, in patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC who are being treated with erlotinib, the identification of EGFR mutation status selects those who are most likely to benefit from erlotinib relative to patients treated with placebo in the second or third-line setting.
PMCID: PMC3377519  PMID: 23074402
22.  Birth Outcome in Women with Previously Treated Breast Cancer—A Population-Based Cohort Study from Sweden 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e336.
Background
Data on birth outcome and offspring health after the appearance of breast cancer are limited. The aim of this study was to assess the risk of adverse birth outcomes in women previously treated for invasive breast cancer compared with the general population of mothers.
Methods and Findings
Of all 2,870,932 singleton births registered in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry during 1973–2002, 331 first births following breast cancer surgery—with a mean time to pregnancy of 37 mo (range 7–163)—were identified using linkage with the Swedish Cancer Registry.
Logistic regression analysis was used. The estimates were adjusted for maternal age, parity, and year of delivery. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to estimate infant health and mortality, delivery complications, the risk of preterm birth, and the rates of instrumental delivery and cesarean section.
The large majority of births from women previously treated for breast cancer had no adverse events. However, births by women exposed to breast cancer were associated with an increased risk of delivery complications (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–1.9), cesarean section (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.0–1.7), very preterm birth (<32 wk) (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.7–6.0), and low birth weight (<1500 g) (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.4–5.8). A tendency towards an increased risk of malformations among the infants was seen especially in the later time period (1988–2002) (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.2–3.7).
Conclusions
It is reassuring that births overall were without adverse events, but our findings indicate that pregnancies in previously treated breast cancer patients should possibly be regarded as higher risk pregnancies, with consequences for their surveillance and management.
The large majority of births from women previously treated for breast cancer had no adverse events, but such pregnancies might benefit from increased surveillance and management.
Editors' Summary
Background.
More women of all ages are developing breast cancer than ever before. In the US, one woman in eight will now develop this disease during her lifetime. For most of these women, their breast cancer diagnosis will come late in life, but a fifth of breast cancers are diagnosed before the age of 50. These days, the long-term outlook for women with breast cancer is quite good; 80% of women who receive a diagnosis of breast cancer survive more than five years. These figures, together with a trend towards starting families later in life—since the late 1970s birth rates for women in their late 30s and 40s have more than doubled in the US, and in Sweden the average age for having a first baby is now 29 years—mean that many women who have had breast cancer want to have children. One estimate is that up to 7% of women who are fertile after treatment for breast cancer will later have children.
Why Was This Study Done?
Pregnancy seems to have no adverse affects on women who have had breast cancer—there is no evidence that pregnancy can trigger a relapse. However, little is known about whether the chemotherapy and radiotherapy used to treat breast cancer have any long-lasting effects that might result in a poor birth outcome such as stillbirth, low birth weight, premature delivery, or abnormalities in the baby (congenital abnormalities). In this study, the researchers assessed the risk of adverse birth outcomes in women previously treated for breast cancer in Sweden.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly three million singleton births that occurred between 1973 and 2002 are recorded in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry. The researchers linked this information with that in the Swedish Cancer Registry to identify 331 first births after treatment for invasive breast cancer (cancer that has spread from where it started to grow in the breast). The birth registry includes details on maternal age and health, child's birth weight, whether the delivery was preterm, and whether the child had any congenital abnormalities, so the researchers were able to compare birth outcomes in these 331 births with those in the general population. They discovered that most births after breast cancer treatment went smoothly. There was no increase in stillbirths, but there were slightly more delivery complications in the women who had had breast cancer than in the general population, and a slight increase in babies born prematurely or with low birth weight. Finally, a few more babies with congenital abnormalities were born to women after breast cancer treatment than to women in the general population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Overall, these results should reassure women who are thinking about having children after breast cancer about the health of their future offspring. However, they do suggest that these women may need careful monitoring during late pregnancy and delivery. This result was not predicted by the researchers who performed the study. Before starting the study, they thought that there would be no difference in birth outcomes between patients previously treated for breast cancer and the general population. Furthermore, a recently published similar study in Denmark found no increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, or congenital abnormalities after breast cancer. Differences between the two countries in the accuracy of their registries or in the use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments may account for this difference in results. Additional studies are now needed in other populations to resolve this discrepancy and to provide more information about how breast cancer treatment might affect birth outcomes. For example, the current study did not provide any information about whether specific chemotherapy regimens or different types of breast cancer might put women at a higher risk of adverse birth outcomes, or whether the time between the cancer diagnosis and treatment and the pregnancy made a difference.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030336.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on breast cancer
National Cancer Institute information for patients and physicians on breast cancer, including links to pages on breast cancer and pregnancy
Cancer Research UK's information on breast cancer for patients, and statistics on breast cancer in the UK
• Wikipedia page on breast cancer (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines for physicians on pregnancy and breast cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030336
PMCID: PMC1564170  PMID: 16968117
23.  Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes predict response to anthracycline-based chemotherapy in estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2011;13(6):R126.
Introduction
Infiltration of breast tumors by tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) has been associated with sensitivity to anthracycline-based chemotherapy. However, it is unclear whether this is true within the estrogen receptor-alpha (ER)-negative subset of breast tumors that frequently manifest high TIL levels.
Methods
The association of TIL with short-term and long-term clinical response to anthracycline-based therapy was assessed in two independent ER-negative breast cancer cohorts in which patients were categorized as TIL-high or TIL-low. We defined an eight-gene lymphocyte mRNA expression signature (including CD19, CD3D, CD48, GZMB, LCK, MS4A1, PRF1, and SELL) and used unsupervised hierarchical clustering to examine the association between TIL and short-term response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in a previously published cohort of ER-negative tumors (n = 113). We also examined the association between TIL and long-term chemotherapeutic efficacy in a second cohort of ER-negative tumors (n = 255) with longer than 6 years of median follow-up by using tissue microarrays and immunohistochemistry (IHC) for detection of CD3, CD8, CD4, CD20, and TIA-1.
Results
In patients with ER-negative tumors treated with neoadjuvant anthracycline-based chemotherapy, pathologic complete responses (pCRs) were achieved by 23 (74%) of 31 TIL-high patients and 25 (31%) of 80 TIL-low patients (odds ratio (OR), 6.33; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.49 to 16.08; P < 0.0001). Multivariate logistic regression with standard clinicopathologic features demonstrated that only tumor size (P = 0.037) and TIL status (P = 0.001) were independent predictors of anthracycline response. In the second cohort, adjuvant anthracycline-based therapy was associated with increased disease-free survival (DFS) only in patients with high levels of intraepithelial CD3+ TIL (P = 0.0023). In contrast, outcomes after CMF treatment (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil) showed no association with CD3 status. In both cohorts, cytotoxic T-cells were the primary TIL subtype associated with anthracycline sensitivity. Finally, TIL significantly predicted anthracycline sensitivity for both the Her2-positive and triple-negative tumor phenotypes.
Conclusions
ER-negative breast cancers with high levels of TIL have heightened sensitivity to anthracycline-based chemotherapy, as assessed by the immediate response to neoadjuvant therapy and long-term outcome following adjuvant therapy. Investigations of TIL-based predictive tests to identify patients likely to benefit from anthracycline-based treatments are warranted.
doi:10.1186/bcr3072
PMCID: PMC3326568  PMID: 22151962
24.  Generation and external validation of a tumor-derived 5-gene prognostic signature for recurrence of lymph node-negative, invasive colorectal carcinoma 
Cancer  2012;118(21):5234-5244.
Abstract
BACKGROUND: One in 4 patients with lymph node-negative, invasive colorectal carcinoma (CRC) develops recurrent disease after undergoing curative surgery, and most die of advanced disease. Predicting which patients will develop a recurrence is a significantly growing, unmet medical need. METHODS: Archival formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) primary adenocarcinoma tissues obtained at surgery were retrieved from 74 patients with CRC (15 with stage I disease and 59 with stage II disease) for Training/Test Sets. In addition, FFPE tissues were retrieved from 49 patients with stage I CRC and 215 patients with stage II colon cancer for an External Validation (EV) Set (n = 264) from 18 hospitals in 4 countries. No patients had received neoadjuvant/adjuvant therapy. Proprietary genetic programming analysis of expression profiles for 225 prespecified tumor genes was used to create a 36-month recurrence risk signature. RESULTS: Using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, a 5-gene rule correctly classified 62 of 92 recurrent patients and 87 of 172 nonrecurrent patients in the EV Set (sensitivity, 0.67; specificity, 0.51). “High-risk” patients had a greater probability of 36-month recurrence (42%) than “low-risk” patients (26%; hazard ratio, 1.80; 95% confidence interval, 1.19-2.71; P = .007; Cox regression) independent of T-classification, the number of lymph nodes examined, histologic grade/subtype, anatomic location, age, sex, or race. The rule outperformed (P = .021) current National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines (hazard ratio, 0.897). The same rule also differentiated the risk of recurrence (hazard ratio, 1.63; P = .031) in a subset of patients from the EV Set who had stage I/II colon cancer only (n = 251). CONCLUSIONS: To the authors' knowledge, the 5-gene rule (OncoDefender-CRC) is the first molecular prognostic that has been validated in both stage I CRC and stage II colon cancer. It outperforms standard clinicopathologic prognostic criteria and obviates the need to retrieve ≥12 lymph nodes for accurate prognostication. It identifies those patients most likely to develop recurrent disease within 3 years after curative surgery and, thus, those most likely to benefit from adjuvant treatment. Cancer 2012. © 2012 American Cancer Society.
doi:10.1002/cncr.27628
PMCID: PMC3532613  PMID: 22605513
colorectal cancer; gene expression signatures; machine learning; recurrence; reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction; prognosis; validation studies; sensitivity and specificity; colonic polyps
25.  Genomic Predictors for Recurrence Patterns of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Model Derivation and Validation 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(12):e1001770.
In this study, Lee and colleagues develop a genomic predictor that can identify patients at high risk for late recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and provided new biomarkers for risk stratification.
Background
Typically observed at 2 y after surgical resection, late recurrence is a major challenge in the management of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We aimed to develop a genomic predictor that can identify patients at high risk for late recurrence and assess its clinical implications.
Methods and Findings
Systematic analysis of gene expression data from human liver undergoing hepatic injury and regeneration revealed a 233-gene signature that was significantly associated with late recurrence of HCC. Using this signature, we developed a prognostic predictor that can identify patients at high risk of late recurrence, and tested and validated the robustness of the predictor in patients (n = 396) who underwent surgery between 1990 and 2011 at four centers (210 recurrences during a median of 3.7 y of follow-up). In multivariate analysis, this signature was the strongest risk factor for late recurrence (hazard ratio, 2.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–3.7; p = 0.002). In contrast, our previously developed tumor-derived 65-gene risk score was significantly associated with early recurrence (p = 0.005) but not with late recurrence (p = 0.7). In multivariate analysis, the 65-gene risk score was the strongest risk factor for very early recurrence (<1 y after surgical resection) (hazard ratio, 1.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.1–2.6; p = 0.01). The potential significance of STAT3 activation in late recurrence was predicted by gene network analysis and validated later. We also developed and validated 4- and 20-gene predictors from the full 233-gene predictor. The main limitation of the study is that most of the patients in our study were hepatitis B virus–positive. Further investigations are needed to test our prediction models in patients with different etiologies of HCC, such as hepatitis C virus.
Conclusions
Two independently developed predictors reflected well the differences between early and late recurrence of HCC at the molecular level and provided new biomarkers for risk stratification.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Primary liver cancer—a tumor that starts when a liver cell acquires genetic changes that allow it to grow uncontrollably—is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, killing more than 600,000 people annually. If hepatocellular cancer (HCC; the most common type of liver cancer) is diagnosed in its early stages, it can be treated by surgically removing part of the liver (resection), by liver transplantation, or by local ablation, which uses an electric current to destroy the cancer cells. Unfortunately, the symptoms of HCC, which include weight loss, tiredness, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), are vague and rarely appear until the cancer has spread throughout the liver. Consequently, HCC is rarely diagnosed before the cancer is advanced and untreatable, and has a poor prognosis (likely outcome)—fewer than 5% of patients survive for five or more years after diagnosis. The exact cause of HCC is unclear, but chronic liver (hepatic) injury and inflammation (caused, for example, by infection with hepatitis B virus [HBV] or by alcohol abuse) promote tumor development.
Why Was This Study Done?
Even when it is diagnosed early, HCC has a poor prognosis because it often recurs. Patients treated for HCC can experience two distinct types of tumor recurrence. Early recurrence, which usually happens within the first two years after surgery, arises from the spread of primary cancer cells into the surrounding liver that left behind during surgery. Late recurrence, which typically happens more than two years after surgery, involves the development of completely new tumors and seems to be the result of chronic liver damage. Because early and late recurrence have different clinical courses, it would be useful to be able to predict which patients are at high risk of which type of recurrence. Given that injury, inflammation, and regeneration seem to prime the liver for HCC development, might the gene expression patterns associated with these conditions serve as predictive markers for the identification of patients at risk of late recurrence of HCC? Here, the researchers develop a genomic predictor for the late recurrence of HCC by examining gene expression patterns in tissue samples from livers that were undergoing injury and regeneration.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By comparing gene expression data obtained from liver biopsies taken before and after liver transplantation or resection and recorded in the US National Center for Biotechnology Information Gene Expression Omnibus database, the researchers identified 233 genes whose expression in liver differed before and after liver injury (the hepatic injury and regeneration, or HIR, signature). Statistical analyses indicate that the expression of the HIR signature in archived tissue samples was significantly associated with late recurrence of HCC in three independent groups of patients, but not with early recurrence (a significant association between two variables is one that is unlikely to have arisen by chance). By contrast, a tumor-derived 65-gene signature previously developed by the researchers was significantly associated with early recurrence but not with late recurrence. Notably, as few as four genes from the HIR signature were sufficient to construct a reliable predictor for late recurrence of HCC. Finally, the researchers report that many of the genes in the HIR signature encode proteins involved in inflammation and cell death, but that others encode proteins involved in cellular growth and proliferation such as STAT3, a protein with a well-known role in liver regeneration.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify a gene expression signature that was significantly associated with late recurrence of HCC in three independent groups of patients. Because most of these patients were infected with HBV, the ability of the HIR signature to predict late occurrence of HCC may be limited to HBV-related HCC and may not be generalizable to HCC related to other causes. Moreover, the predictive ability of the HIR signature needs to be tested in a prospective study in which samples are taken and analyzed at baseline and patients are followed to see whether their HCC recurs; the current retrospective study analyzed stored tissue samples. Importantly, however, the HIR signature associated with late recurrence and the 65-gene signature associated with early recurrence provide new insights into the biological differences between late and early recurrence of HCC at the molecular level. Knowing about these differences may lead to new treatments for HCC and may help clinicians choose the most appropriate treatments for their patients.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001770.
The US National Cancer Institute provides information about all aspects of cancer, including detailed information for patients and professionals about primary liver cancer (in English and Spanish)
The American Cancer Society also provides information about liver cancer (including information on support programs and services; available in several languages)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about primary liver cancer (including a video about coping with cancer)
Cancer Research UK (a not-for-profit organization) also provides detailed information about primary liver cancer (including information about living with primary liver cancer)
MD Anderson Cancer Center provides information about symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of primary liver cancer
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about liver cancer (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001770
PMCID: PMC4275163  PMID: 25536056

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