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1.  MUC1 in macrophage contributions to cigarette smoke-induced lung cancer 
Cancer research  2013;74(2):460-470.
Expression of the pro-oncogenic mucin MUC1 is elevated by inflammation in airway epithelial cells, but the contributions of MUC1 to the development of lung cancer are uncertain. In this study, we developed our finding that cigarette smoke (CS) increases Muc1 expression in lung macrophages, where we hypothesized it might contribute to CS-induced transformation of bronchial epithelial cells. In human macrophages, CS extract (CSE) strongly induced MUC1 expression through a mechanism involving the nuclear receptor PPAR-γ. CSE-induced ERK activation was also required for MUC1 expression, but it had little effect on MUC1 transcription. RNAi-mediated attenuation of MUC1 suppressed CSE-induced secretion of TNF-α from macrophages, by suppressing the activity of the TNF-α processing enzyme TACE, arguing that MUC1 is required for CSE-induced and TACE-mediated TNF-α secretion. Similarly, MUC1 blockade after CSE induction through suppression of PPAR-γ or ERK inhibited TACE activity and TNF-α secretion. Conditioned media from CSE-treated macrophages induced MUC1 expression and potentiated CSE-induced transformation of human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC) in a TNF-α-dependent manner. Together, our results identify a signaling pathway involving PPAR-γ, ERK and MUC1 that is used by CSE to trigger TNF-α secretion from macrophages. Further, our results show how that MUC1 contributes to smoking-induced lung cancers that are driven by inflammatory signals driven by macrophages
PMCID: PMC3947020  PMID: 24282280
MUC1; PPAR-γ; TACE; TNF-α; transformation
2.  Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Phase III Chemoprevention Trial of Selenium Supplementation in Patients With Resected Stage I Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer: ECOG 5597 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2013;31(33):4179-4187.
Selenium has been reported to have chemopreventive benefits in lung cancer. We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the incidence of second primary tumors (SPTs) in patients with resected non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) receiving selenium supplementation.
Patients and Methods
Patients with completely resected stage I NSCLC were randomly assigned to take selenized yeast 200 μg versus placebo daily for 48 months. Participation was 6 to 36 months postoperatively and required a negative mediastinal node biopsy, no excessive vitamin intake, normal liver function, negative chest x-ray, and no other evidence of recurrence.
The first interim analysis in October 2009, with 46% of the projected end points accumulated, showed a trend in favor of the placebo group with a low likelihood that the trial would become positive; thus, the study was stopped. One thousand seven hundred seventy-two participants were enrolled, with 1,561 patients randomly assigned. Analysis was updated in June 2011 with the maturation of 54% of the planned end points. Two hundred fifty-two SPTs (from 224 patients) developed, of which 98 (from 97 patients) were lung cancer (38.9%). Lung and overall SPT incidence were 1.62 and 3.54 per 100 person-years, respectively, for selenium versus 1.30 and 3.39 per 100 person-years, respectively, for placebo (P = .294). Five-year disease-free survival was 74.4% for selenium recipients versus 79.6% for placebo recipients. Grade 1 to 2 toxicity occurred in 31% of selenium recipients and 26% of placebo recipients, and grade ≥ 3 toxicity occurred in less than 2% of selenium recipients versus 3% of placebo recipients. Compliance was excellent. No increase in diabetes mellitus or skin cancer was detected.
Selenium was safe but conferred no benefit over placebo in the prevention of SPT in patients with resected NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3821010  PMID: 24002495
3.  Native American Ancestry Affects the Risk for Gene Methylation in the Lungs of Hispanic Smokers from New Mexico 
Rationale: Gene promoter methylation detected in sputum predicts lung cancer risk in smokers. Compared with non-Hispanic whites (NHW), Hispanics have a lower age-standardized incidence for lung cancer.
Objectives: This study compared the methylation prevalence in sputum of NHWs with Hispanics using the Lovelace Smokers cohort (n = 1998) and evaluated the effect of Native American ancestry (NAA) and diet on biomarkers for lung cancer risk.
Methods: Genetic ancestry was estimated using 48 ancestry markers. Diet was assessed by the Harvard University Dietary Assessment questionnaire. Methylation of 12 genes was measured in sputum using methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction. The association between NAA and risk for methylation was assessed using generalized estimating equations. The ethnic difference in the association between pack-years and risk for lung cancer was assessed in the New Mexico lung cancer study.
Measurements and Main Results: Overall Hispanics had a significantly increased risk for methylation across the 12 genes analyzed (odds ratio, 1.18; P = 0.007). However, the risk was reduced by 32% (P = 0.032) in Hispanics with high versus low NAA. In the New Mexico lung cancer study, Hispanic non–small cell lung cancer cases have significantly lower pack-years than NHW counterparts (P = 0.007). Furthermore, compared with NHW smokers, Hispanic smokers had a more rapidly increasing risk for lung cancer as a function of pack-years (P = 0.058).
Conclusions: NAA may be an important risk modifier for methylation in Hispanic smokers. Smoking intensity may have a greater impact on risk for lung cancer in Hispanics compared with NHWs.
PMCID: PMC3863742  PMID: 24032348
ethnicity; sputum; diet; risk; lung cancer
4.  Methylation of the RARB Gene Increases Prostate Cancer Risk in Black Americans 
The Journal of urology  2013;190(1):317-324.
Gene promoter hypermethylation may be useful as a biomarker for cancer risk in histopathologically benign prostate specimens.
Materials and Methods
We performed a nested case-control study of gene promoter methylation status for 5 genes (APC, RARB, CCND2, RASSF1 and MGMT) measured in benign biopsy specimens from 511 prostate cancer case-control pairs. We estimated the overall and race stratified risk of subsequent prostate cancer associated with methylation status.
On race stratified analysis RARB methylation was associated with a higher cancer risk in black American men (OR 2.18, 95% CI 1.39–3.44). APC methylation was associated with an increased risk of high grade tumors (OR 2.43, 95% CI 1.20–4.90), which was higher in black than in white men (OR 3.21 vs 2.04). In cases RARB and APC gene methylation in benign prostate samples persisted in matched malignant specimens. In black cases the combined risk associated with RARB and APC methylation (OR 3.04, 95% CI 1.44–6.42) was greater than the individual risk of each gene and significantly different from that in white cases (OR 1.14, 95% CI 0.56–2.30).
RARB gene methylation in histopathologically benign prostate samples was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of subsequent prostate cancer in black men. Methylation data on additional genes may improve risk stratification and clinical decision making algorithms for cancer screening and diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3779133  PMID: 23376149
prostate; prostatic neoplasms; risk; DNA methylation; African Americans
5.  Genetic variation in SIRT1 affects susceptibility of lung squamous cell carcinomas in former uranium miners from the Colorado plateau 
Carcinogenesis  2013;34(5):1044-1050.
Epidemiological studies of underground miners suggested that occupational exposure to radon causes lung cancer with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) as the predominant histological type. However, the genetic determinants for susceptibility of radon-induced SCC in miners are unclear. Double-strand breaks induced by radioactive radon daughters are repaired primarily by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) that is accompanied by the dynamic changes in surrounding chromatin, including nucleosome repositioning and histone modifications. Thus, a molecular epidemiological study was conducted to assess whether genetic variation in 16 genes involved in NHEJ and related histone modification affected susceptibility for SCC in radon-exposed former miners (267 SCC cases and 383 controls) from the Colorado plateau. A global association between genetic variation in the haplotype block where SIRT1 resides and the risk for SCC in miners (P = 0.003) was identified. Haplotype alleles tagged by the A allele of SIRT1 rs7097008 were associated with increased risk for SCC (odds ratio = 1.69, P = 8.2×10−5) and greater survival in SCC cases (hazard ratio = 0.79, P = 0.03) in miners. Functional validation of rs7097008 demonstrated that the A allele was associated with reduced gene expression in bronchial epithelial cells and compromised DNA repair capacity in peripheral lymphocytes. Together, these findings substantiate genetic variation in SIRT1 as a risk modifier for developing SCC in miners and suggest that SIRT1 may also play a tumor suppressor role in radon-induced cancer in miners.
PMCID: PMC3643420  PMID: 23354305
6.  Increased methylation of lung cancer-associated genes in sputum DNA of former smokers with chronic mucous hypersecretion 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):2.
Chronic mucous hypersecretion (CMH) contributes to COPD exacerbations and increased risk for lung cancer. Because methylation of gene promoters in sputum has been shown to be associated with lung cancer risk, we tested whether such methylation was more common in persons with CMH.
Eleven genes commonly silenced by promoter methylation in lung cancer and associated with cancer risk were selected. Methylation specific PCR (MSP) was used to profile the sputum of 900 individuals in the Lovelace Smokers Cohort (LSC). Replication was performed in 490 individuals from the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study (PLuSS).
CMH was significantly associated with an overall increased number of methylated genes, with SULF2 methylation demonstrating the most consistent association. The association between SULF2 methylation and CMH was significantly increased in males but not in females both in the LSC and PLuSS (OR = 2.72, 95% CI = 1.51-4.91, p = 0.001 and OR = 2.97, 95% CI = 1.48-5.95, p = 0.002, respectively). Further, the association between methylation and CMH was more pronounced among 139 male former smokers with persistent CMH compared to current smokers (SULF2; OR = 3.65, 95% CI = 1.59-8.37, p = 0.002).
These findings demonstrate that especially male former smokers with persistent CMH have markedly increased promoter methylation of lung cancer risk genes and potentially could be at increased risk for lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3893562  PMID: 24405663
Methylation of gene promoters; Persistent cough and phlegm; Sputum DNA; Former smoker; Lung cancer genes
7.  Sex-specific association of sequence variants in CBS and MTRR with risk for promoter hypermethylation in the lung epithelium of smokers 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(8):1542-1547.
Gene promoter hypermethylation is now regarded as a promising biomarker for the risk and progression of lung cancer. The one-carbon metabolism pathway is postulated to affect deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation because it is responsible for the generation of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), the methyl donor for cellular methylation reactions. This study investigated the association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in six one-carbon metabolism-related genes with promoter hypermethylation in sputum DNA from non-Hispanic white smokers in the Lovelace Smokers Cohort (LSC) (n = 907). Logistic regression was used to assess the association of SNPs with hypermethylation using a high/low methylation cutoff. SNPs in the cystathionine beta synthase (CBS) and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate-homocysteine methyltransferase reductase (MTRR) genes were significantly associated with high methylation in males [CBS rs2850146 (-8283G > C), 
OR = 4.9; 95% CI: 1.98, 12.2, P = 0.0006] and low methylation in females [MTRR rs3776467 (7068A > G), OR = 0.57, 95% CI: 0.42, 0.77, P = 0.0003]. The variant allele of rs2850146 was associated with reduced gene expression and increased plasma homocysteine (Hcy) concentrations. Three plasma metabolites, Hcy, methionine and dimethylglycine, were associated with increased risk for gene methylation. These studies suggest that SNPs in CBS and MTRR have sex-specific associations with aberrant methylation in the lung epithelium of smokers that could be mediated by the affected one-carbon metabolism and transsulfuration in the cells.
Abbreviations:CBScystathionine beta synthaseDNAdeoxyribonucleic acidHBEChuman bronchial epithelial cellHcyhomocysteineLD, linkage disequilibrium; LSClovelace Smokers CohortMAFminor allele frequencyMTHFRmethylenetetrahydrofolate reductaseMTRRmethyltransferase reductaseSNPsingle nucleotide polymorphismsSAHS-adenosylhomocysteineSAMS-adenosylmethionine
PMCID: PMC3499054  PMID: 22665368
8.  Defining a Gene Promoter Methylation Signature in Sputum for Lung Cancer Risk Assessment 
To evaluate the methylation state of 31 genes in sputum as biomarkers in an expanded nested, case-control study from the Colorado Cohort and to assess the replication of results from the most promising genes in an independent case-control study of asymptomatic Stage I lung cancer patients from New Mexico.
Experimental Design
Cases and controls from Colorado and New Mexico were interrogated for methylation of up to 31 genes using nested, methylation specific PCR. Individual genes and methylation indices were used to assess the association between methylation and lung cancer with logistic regression modeling.
Seventeen genes with odds ratios of 1.4 – 3.6 were identified and selected for replication in the New Mexico study. Overall, the direction of effects seen in New Mexico was similar to Colorado with the largest increase in case discrimination (odds ratios, 3.2 – 4.2) seen for the PAX5α, GATA5, and SULF2 genes. ROC curves generated from seven gene panels from Colorado and New Mexico studies showed prediction accuracy of 71% and 77%, respectively. A 22-fold increase in lung cancer risk was seen for a subset of New Mexico cases with five or more genes methylated. Sequence variants associated with lung cancer did not improve the accuracy of this gene methylation panel.
These studies have identified and replicated a panel of methylated genes whose integration with other promising biomarkers could initially identify the highest risk smokers for computed tomography screening for early detection of lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3483793  PMID: 22510351
gene methylation; sputum; lung cancer; biomarker
9.  HIF1α regulated expression of XPA contributes to cisplatin resistance in lung cancer 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(6):1187-1192.
Factors regulating nucleotide excision repair probably contribute to the heterogenous response of advanced stage lung cancer patients to drugs such as cisplatin. Studies to identify the genes in the nucleotide excision repair pathway most closely associated with resistance to cisplatin have not been conclusive. We hypothesized that Xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group A (XPA), because of its dual role in sensing and recruiting other DNA repair proteins to the damaged template, would be critical in defining sensitivity to cisplatin. Studies were conducted to identify factors regulating transcription of XPA, to assess its role in modulating sensitivity to cisplatin and its expression in primary lung tumors. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF1α) subunit was found to bind with strong affinity to a hypoxia response element sequence in the promoter of XPA. Modulating expression of HIF1α by small interfering RNA or cobalt chloride markedly reduced or increased transcription of XPA in lung cancer cell lines, respectively. Protein levels of XPA were strongly correlated with sensitivity to cisplatin (r = 0.88; P < 0.001) in cell lines and sensitivity could be increased by small interfering RNA depletion of XPA. Expression of XPA determined in 54 primary lung tumors was elevated on average 5.2-fold when compared with normal bronchial epithelial cells and correlated with levels of HIF1α (r = 0.58; P < 0.01). Together, these studies identify XPA as a novel target for regulation by HIF1α whose modulation could impact lung cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3388491  PMID: 22467238
10.  Difference in airflow obstruction between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white female smokers 
COPD  2008;5(5):274-281.
Smoking-related respiratory diseases are a major cause of morbidity and mortality. However, the relationship between smoking and respiratory disease has not been well-studied among ethnic minorities in general and among women in particular.
The objective of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate the risk of airflow obstruction and to assess lung function among Hispanic and non-Hispanic white (NHW) female smokers in a New Mexico cohort.
Participants completed a questionnaire detailing smoking history and underwent spirometry testing. Outcomes studied included airflow obstruction, selected lung function parameters, and chronic mucus hyper-secretion. Chi square, logistic, and linear regression techniques were utilized.
Main findings
Of the 1,433 eligible women participants, 248 (17.3%) were Hispanic; and 319 had airflow obstruction (22.3%). Hispanic smokers were more likely to be current smokers, and report lower pack-years of smoking, compared to NHW smokers (p < 0.05 for all analyses). Further, Hispanic smokers were at a reduced risk of airflow obstruction compared to NHW smokers, with an O.R. of 0.51, 95% C.I. 0.34, 0.78 (p = 0.002) after adjustment for age, BMI, pack-years and duration of smoking, and current smoking status. Following adjustment for covariates, Hispanic smokers also had a higher mean absolute and percent predicted post-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC ratio, as well as higher mean percent predicted FEV1 (p < 0.05 for all analyses).
Principal conclusions
Hispanic female smokers in this New Mexico-based cohort had lower risk of airflow obstruction and better lung function than NHW female smokers. Further, smoking history did not completely explain these associations.
PMCID: PMC3616889  PMID: 18972275
Hispanic ethnicity; Smokers; Airflow obstruction; Pulmonary function; Chronic mucus hyper-secretion; Women
11.  SULF2 Methylation is Prognostic for Lung Cancer Survival and Increases Sensitivity to Topoisomerase-I inhibitors via Induction of ISG15 
Oncogene  2011;31(37):4107-4116.
The heparan sulfate 6-O-endosulfatase (SULF2) promotes growth and metastasis of solid tumors. We recently identified that cytosine methylation of the SULF2 promoter is associated with better survival of resected lung adenocarcinoma patients and now also demonstrate a marginal improvement in survival of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients receiving standard chemotherapy (HR = 0.63, p = 0.07). Subsequent studies focused on investigating the effect of methylation on SULF2 expression and its genome-wide impact. The genes and pathways modulated by epigenetic inactivation of SULF2 and the effects on sensitivity to chemotherapy were characterized in vitro and in vivo. Silencing SULF2 through siRNA or methylation primarily increased expression of interferon-inducible genes including ISG15, a marker for increased sensitivity to topoisomerase-1 inhibitors such as camptothecin. NSCLC cell lines with methylated SULF2 (SULF2M) express 60-fold higher ISG15 compared to SULF2 unmethylated (SULF2U) NSCLC cell lines and normal human bronchial epithelial cells. In vitro, SULF2M and high ISG15 (ISG15H) expressing NSCLC cell lines were 134-fold more sensitive to camptothecin than SULF2U and low ISG15 (ISG15L) expressing cell lines. Topotecan, a soluble analogue of camptothecin and FDA approved anti-cancer drug, dramatically arrested the growth of SULF2M-ISG15H, but not SULF2U-ISG15L lung tumors in nude mice (p < 0.002). Similarly, high ISG15 expression that is comparable to the topotecan sensitive NSCLC cell lines was found in tumors from 25% of NSCLC patients compared to normal lung indicating a potential to identify and target the most sensitive NSCLC subpopulation for personalized topotecan therapy.
PMCID: PMC3307938  PMID: 22158045
NSCLC; Camptothecin; SULF-2; Oncogene; Topotecan
12.  Randomized Phase III Study of Thoracic Radiation in Combination With Paclitaxel and Carboplatin With or Without Thalidomide in Patients With Stage III Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer: The ECOG 3598 Study 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;30(6):616-622.
The primary objective of this study was to compare the survival of patients with unresectable stage III non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with combined chemoradiotherapy with or without thalidomide.
Patients and Methods
Patients were randomly assigned to the control arm (PC) involving two cycles of induction paclitaxel 225 mg/m2 and carboplatin area under the curve (AUC) 6 followed by 60 Gy thoracic radiation administered concurrently with weekly paclitaxel 45 mg/m2 and carboplatin AUC 2, or to the experimental arm (TPC), receiving the same treatment in combination with thalidomide at a starting dose of 200 mg daily. The protocol allowed an increase in thalidomide dose up to 1,000 mg daily based on patient tolerability.
A total of 546 patients were eligible, including 275 in the PC arm and 271 in the TPC arm. Median overall survival, progression-free survival, and overall response rate were 15.3 months, 7.4 months, and 35.0%, respectively, for patients in the PC arm, in comparison with 16.0 months (P = .99), 7.8 months (P = .96), and 38.2% (P = .47), respectively, for patients in the TPC arm. Overall, there was higher incidence of grade 3 toxicities in patients treated with thalidomide. Several grade 3 or higher events were observed more often in the TPC arm, including thromboembolism, fatigue, depressed consciousness, dizziness, sensory neuropathy, tremor, constipation, dyspnea, hypoxia, hypokalemia, rash, and edema. Low-dose aspirin did not reduce the thromboembolic rate.
The addition of thalidomide to chemoradiotherapy increased toxicities but did not improve survival in patients with locally advanced NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3295560  PMID: 22271472
13.  Genetic Determinants for Promoter Hypermethylation in the Lungs of Smokers: A Candidate Gene-Based Study 
Cancer Research  2011;72(3):707-715.
The detection of tumor suppressor gene promoter methylation in sputum-derived exfoliated cells predicts early lung cancer. Here we identified genetic determinants for this epigenetic process and examined their biological effects on gene regulation. A two-stage approach involving discovery and replication was employed to assess the association between promoter hypermethylation of a 12-gene panel and common variation in 40 genes involved in carcinogen metabolism, regulation of methylation, and DNA damage response in members of the Lovelace Smokers Cohort (n=1434). Molecular validation of three identified variants was conducted using primary bronchial epithelial cells. Association of study-wide significance (P<8.2×10−5) was identified for rs1641511, rs3730859, and rs1883264 in TP53, LIG1, and BIK, respectively. These SNPs were significantly associated with altered expression of the corresponding genes in primary bronchial epithelial cells. In addition, rs3730859 in LIG1 was also moderately associated with increased risk for lung cancer among Caucasian smokers. Together, our findings suggest that genetic variation in DNA replication and apoptosis pathways impacts the propensity for gene promoter hypermethylation in the aerodigestive tract of smokers. The incorporation of genetic biomarkers for gene promoter hypermethylation with clinical and somatic markers may improve risk assessment models for lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3271143  PMID: 22139380
DNA damage response; promoter hypermethylation; single nucleotide polymorphism; sputum; smoker
14.  Softwares and methods for estimating genetic ancestry in human populations 
Human Genomics  2013;7(1):1.
The estimation of genetic ancestry in human populations has important applications in medical genetic studies. Genetic ancestry is used to control for population stratification in genetic association studies, and is used to understand the genetic basis for ethnic differences in disease susceptibility. In this review, we present an overview of genetic ancestry estimation in human disease studies, followed by a review of popular softwares and methods used for this estimation.
PMCID: PMC3542037  PMID: 23289408
Ancestry; Genetic; Polymorphism; Structure
15.  Combination Epigenetic Therapy Has Efficacy in Patients with Refractory Advanced Non Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Cancer Discovery  2011;1(7):598-607.
Epigenetic alterations are strongly associated with cancer development. We conducted a phase I/II trial of combined epigenetic therapy with azacitidine and entinostat, inhibitors of DNA methylation and histone deacetylation, respectively, in extensively pretreated patients with recurrent metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. This therapy is well tolerated, and objective responses were observed, including a complete response and a partial response in a patient who remains alive and without disease progression approximately 2 years after completing protocol therapy. Median survival in the entire cohort was 6.4 months (95% CI: 3.8–9.2), comparing favorably with existing therapeutic options. Demethylation of a set of four epigenetically silenced genes known to be associated with lung cancer was detectable in serial blood samples in these patients, and was associated with improved progression-free (p=0.034) and overall survival (p=0.035). Four of 19 patients had major objective responses to subsequent anti-cancer therapies given immediately following epigenetic therapy.
PMCID: PMC3353724  PMID: 22586682
azacitidine; entinostat; demethylation; histone deacetylase inhibitor
16.  New Mexican Hispanic Smokers Have Lower Odds of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Less Decline in Lung Function Than Non-Hispanic Whites 
Rationale: The epidemiology of cigarette smoking–related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is not well characterized in Hispanics in the United States. Understanding how ethnicity influences COPD is important for a number of reasons, from informing public health policies to dissecting the genetic and environmental effects that contribute to disease.
Objectives: The present study assessed differences in risk between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites for longitudinal and cross-sectional COPD phenotypes. Genetic ancestry was used to verify findings based on self-reported ethnicity. Hispanics in New Mexico are primarily differentiated from non-Hispanic whites by their proportion of Native American ancestry.
Methods: The study was performed in a New Mexican cohort of current and former smokers. Self-reported Hispanic and non-Hispanic white ethnicity was validated by defining genetic ancestry proportions at the individual level using 48 single-nucleotide polymorphism markers. Self-reported ethnicity and genetic ancestry were independently used to assess associations with cross-sectional and longitudinal measures of lung function. Multivariable models were adjusted for indicators of smoking behavior.
Measurements and Main Results: Self-reported Hispanic ethnicity was significantly associated with lower odds of COPD (odds ratio, 0.49; 95% confidence interval, 0.35–0.71; P = 0.007), and this protection was validated by the observation that Hispanic smokers have reduced risk of rapid decline in lung function (odds ratio, 0.48; 95% confidence interval, 0.30–0.78; P = 0.003). Similar findings were noted when Native American genetic ancestry proportions were used as predictors instead of self-report of Hispanic ethnicity.
Conclusions: Hispanic ethnicity is inversely associated with cross-sectional and longitudinal spirometric COPD phenotypes even after adjustment for smoking. Native American genetic ancestry may account for this “Hispanic protection.”
PMCID: PMC3262041  PMID: 21908412
17.  Low-Dose Gamma-Radiation Inhibits Benzo[A]Pyrene-Induced Lung Adenoma Development in A/J Mice 
Dose-Response  2012;10(4):516-526.
Low-dose ionizing radiation (LDR) may lead to suppression of smoking-related lung cancer. We examined the effects of a known cigarette smoke carcinogen Benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) alone or in combination with fractionated low-dose gamma radiation (60 – 600 mGy total dose) on the induction of lung neoplasms in the A/J mouse. Our results show that 600 mGy of gamma radiation delivered in six biweekly fractions of 100 mGy starting 1 month after B[a]P injection significantly inhibits the development of lung adenomas per animal induced by B[a]P. Our data also indicated that the six biweekly doses suppressed the occurrence of spontaneous hyperplastic foci in the lung, although this suppression failed to reach statistical significance when analyzed as average foci per lung possibly related to the small sample sizes used for the control and test groups.
PMCID: PMC3526325  PMID: 23304102
Low-dose gamma-radiation; Benzo[a]pyrene; lung cancer
19.  EMT and stem cell-like properties associated with miR-205 and miR-200 epigenetic silencing are early manifestations during carcinogen-induced transformation of human lung epithelial cells 
Cancer research  2011;71(8):3087-3097.
Epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) is strongly associated with cancer progression, but its potential role during premalignant development has not been studied. Here we show that a four-week exposure of immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) to tobacco carcinogens can induce a persistent, irreversible, and multifaceted dedifferentiation program marked by EMT and the emergence of stem cell-like properties. EMT induction was epigenetically driven, initially by chromatin remodeling through H3K27me3 enrichment and later by ensuing DNA methylation to sustain silencing of tumor suppressive microRNAs miR-200b, miR-200c, and miR-205, which were implicated in the dedifferentiation program in HBECs and also in primary lung tumors. Carcinogen-treated HBECs acquired stem-like features characterized by their ability to form spheroids with branching tubules and enrichment of the CD44high/CD24low, CD133, and ALDH1 stem cell-like markers. miRNA overexpression studies indicated that regulation of the EMT, stem-like, and transformed phenotypes in HBECs were distinct events. Our findings extend present concepts of how EMT participates in cancer pathophysiology by showing that EMT induction can participate in cancer initiation to promote the clonal expansion of premalignant lung epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3078195  PMID: 21363915
methylation; miRNA; EMT; stem cells; transformation
20.  Differential Epigenetic Regulation of TOX Subfamily High Mobility Group Box Genes in Lung and Breast Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34850.
Aberrant cytosine methylation affects regulation of hundreds of genes during cancer development. In this study, a novel aberrantly hypermethylated CpG island in cancer was discovered within the TOX2 promoter. TOX2 was unmethylated in normal cells but 28% lung (n = 190) and 23% breast (n = 80) tumors were methylated. Expression of two novel TOX2 transcripts identified was significantly reduced in primary lung tumors than distant normal lung (p<0.05). These transcripts were silenced in methylated lung and breast cancer cells and 5-Aza-2-deoxycytidine treatment re-expressed both. Extension of these assays to TOX, TOX3, and TOX4 genes that share similar genomic structure and protein homology with TOX2 revealed distinct methylation profiles by smoking status, histology, and cancer type. TOX was almost exclusively methylated in breast (43%) than lung (5%) cancer, whereas TOX3 was frequently methylated in lung (58%) than breast (30%) tumors. TOX4 was unmethylated in all samples and showed the highest expression in normal lung. Compared to TOX4, expression of TOX, TOX2 and TOX3 in normal lung was 25, 44, and 88% lower, respectively, supporting the premise that reduced promoter activity confers increased susceptibility to methylation during lung carcinogenesis. Genome-wide assays revealed that siRNA-mediated TOX2 knockdown modulated multiple pathways while TOX3 inactivation targeted neuronal development and function. Although these knockdowns did not result in further phenotypic changes of lung cancer cells in vitro, the impact on tissue remodeling, inflammatory response, and cell differentiation pathways suggest a potential role for TOX2 in modulating tumor microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC3319602  PMID: 22496870
21.  The A/G Allele of Rs16906252 Predicts for MGMT Methylation and Is Selectively Silenced in Premalignant Lesions from Smokers and in Lung Adenocarcinomas 
To address the association between sequence variants within the MGMT promoter-enhancer region and methylation of MGMT in premalignant lesions from smokers and lung adenocarcinomas, their biological effects on gene regulation, and targeting MGMT for therapy.
Experimental Design
SNPs identified through sequencing a 1.9kb fragment 5' of MGMT were examined in relation to MGMT methylation in 169 lung adenocarcinomas and 1731 sputum samples from smokers. The effect of promoter haplotypes on MGMT expression was tested using a luciferase reporter assay and cDNA expression analysis along with allele-specific sequencing for methylation. The response of MGMT methylated lung cancer cell lines to the alkylating agent temozolomide was assessed.
The A allele of rs16906252 and the haplotype containing this SNP were strongly associated with increased risk for MGMT methylation in adenocarcinomas (ORs ≥ 94). This association was observed to a lesser extent in sputum samples in both smoker cohorts. The A allele was selectively methylated in primary lung tumors and cell lines heterozygous for rs16906252. With the most common haplotype as the reference, a 20–41% reduction in promoter activity was seen for the haplotype carrying the A allele that correlated with lower MGMT expression. The sensitivity of lung cancer cell lines to temozolamide was strongly correlated with levels of MGMT methylation and expression.
These studies provide strong evidence that the A allele of a MGMT promoter-enhancer SNP is a key determinant for MGMT methylation in lung carcinogenesis. Moreover, temozolamide treatment may benefit a subset of lung cancer patients methylated for MGMT.
PMCID: PMC3070839  PMID: 21355081
MGMT; allele specific methylation; single nucleotide polymorphism; sputum; lung cancer
22.  MUC1 Contributes to BPDE-Induced Human Bronchial Epithelial Cell Transformation through Facilitating EGFR Activation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33846.
Although it is well known that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in lung cancer progression, whether EGFR contributes to lung epithelial cell transformation is less clear. Mucin 1 (MUC1 in human and Muc1 in animals), a glycoprotein component of airway mucus, is overexpressed in lung tumors; however, its role and underlying mechanisms in early stage lung carcinogenesis is still elusive. This study provides strong evidence demonstrating that EGFR and MUC1 are involved in bronchial epithelial cell transformation. Knockdown of MUC1 expression significantly reduced transformation of immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells induced by benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE), the active form of the cigarette smoke (CS) carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene (BaP)s. BPDE exposure robustly activated a pathway consisting of EGFR, Akt and ERK, and blocking this pathway significantly increased BPDE-induced cell death and inhibited cell transformation. Suppression of MUC1 expression resulted in EGFR destabilization and inhibition of the BPDE-induced activation of Akt and ERK and increase of cytotoxicity. These results strongly suggest an important role for EGFR in BPDE-induced transformation, and substantiate that MUC1 is involved in lung cancer development, at least partly through mediating carcinogen-induced activation of the EGFR-mediated cell survival pathway that facilitates cell transformation.
PMCID: PMC3310874  PMID: 22457794
23.  Combination Therapy with Vidaza and Entinostat Suppresses Tumor Growth and Reprograms the Epigenome in an Orthotopic Lung Cancer Model 
Cancer research  2011;71(2):454-462.
Epigenetic therapy for solid tumors could benefit from an in vivo model that defines tumor characteristics of responsiveness and resistance to facilitate patient selection. Here we report that combining the histone deacetylase inhibitor entinostat with the demethylating agent vidaza profoundly affected growth of K-ras/p53 mutant lung adenocarcinomas engrafted orthotopically in immunocompromised nude rats by targeting and ablating pleomorphic cells that occupied up to 75% of the tumor masses. A similar reduction in tumor burden was seen with epigenetic therapy in K-ras or EGFR mutant tumors growing orthotopically. Increased expression of pro-apoptotic genes and the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor p21 was seen. Hundreds of genes were demethylated highlighted by the re-expression of polycomb-regulated genes coding for transcription factor binding proteins and the p16 gene, a key regulator of the cell cycle. Highly significant gene expression changes were seen in key regulatory pathways involved in cell cycle, DNA damage, apoptosis, and tissue remodeling. These findings demonstrate the promise for epigenetic therapy in cancer management and provide an orthotopic lung cancer model that can assess therapeutic efficacy and reprogramming of the epigenome in tumors harboring different genetic and epigenetic profiles to guide use of these drugs.
PMCID: PMC3075424  PMID: 21224363
lung cancer; DNA methylation; polycomb; epigenetic therapy; nude rat
24.  Wood Smoke Exposure and Gene Promoter Methylation Are Associated with Increased Risk for COPD in Smokers 
Rationale: Wood smoke–associated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is common in women in developing countries but has not been adequately described in developed countries.
Objectives: Our objective was to determine whether wood smoke exposure was a risk factor for COPD in a population of smokers in the United States and whether aberrant gene promoter methylation in sputum may modify this association.
Methods: For this cross-sectional study, 1,827 subjects were drawn from the Lovelace Smokers' Cohort, a predominantly female cohort of smokers. Wood smoke exposure was self-reported. Postbronchodilator spirometry was obtained, and COPD outcomes studied included percent predicted FEV1, airflow obstruction, and chronic bronchitis. Effect modification of wood smoke exposure with current cigarette smoke, ethnicity, sex, and promoter methylation of lung cancer-related genes in sputum on COPD outcomes were separately explored. Multivariable logistic and poisson regression models were used for binary and rate-based outcomes, respectively.
Measurements and Main Results: Self-reported wood smoke exposure was independently associated with a lower percent predicted FEV1 (point estimate [± SE] −0.03 ± 0.01) and a higher prevalence of airflow obstruction and chronic bronchitis (odds ratio, 1.96; 95% confidence interval, 1.52–2.52 and 1.64 (95% confidence interval, 1.31–2.06, respectively). These associations were stronger among current cigarette smokers, non-Hispanic whites, and men. Wood smoke exposure interacted in a multiplicative manner with aberrant promoter methylation of the p16 or GATA4 genes on lower percent predicted FEV1.
Conclusions: These studies identify a novel link between wood smoke exposure and gene promoter methylation that synergistically increases the risk for reduced lung function in cigarette smokers.
PMCID: PMC3001253  PMID: 20595226
wood smoke; cigarette smokers; airflow obstruction; gene promoter methylation in sputum DNA
25.  Multi-Vitamins, Folate, and Green Vegetables Protect Against Gene Promoter Methylation in the Aerodigestive Tract of Smokers 
Cancer research  2010;70(2):568-574.
The detection of gene promoter hypermethylation in sputum is a promising molecular marker for early lung cancer detection. Epidemiologic studies suggest that dietary fruits and vegetables and the micronutrients they contain may reduce risk of lung cancer. This investigation evaluated whether diet and multi-vitamin use influence the prevalence for gene methylation in the cells exfoliated from the aerodigestive tract of current and former smokers. Members (n = 1101) of the Lovelace Smokers Cohort completed the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire and provided a sputum sample that was assessed for promoter methylation of eight genes commonly silenced in lung cancer and associated with risk for this disease. Methylation status was categorized as low (< 2 genes methylated) or high (≥2 genes methylated). Logistic regression models were used to identify associations between methylation status and 21 dietary variables hypothesized to affect the acquisition of gene methylation. Significant protection against methylation was observed for leafy green vegetables (OR = 0.83 per 12 monthly servings, CI: 0.74, 0.93) and folate (OR = 0.84 per 750 mcg/day, CI: 0.72, 0.99). Protection against gene methylation was also seen with current use of multi-vitamins (OR = 0.57, CI: 0.40, 0.83). This is the first cohort-based study to identify dietary factors associated with reduced promoter methylation in cells exfoliated from the airway epithelium of smokers. Novel interventions to prevent lung cancer should be developed based on the ability of diet and dietary supplements to affect reprogramming of the epigenome.
PMCID: PMC3076796  PMID: 20068159
gene methylation; folate; multi-vitamins; green vegetables; smokers

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