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1.  SciClone: Inferring Clonal Architecture and Tracking the Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Tumor Evolution 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(8):e1003665.
The sensitivity of massively-parallel sequencing has confirmed that most cancers are oligoclonal, with subpopulations of neoplastic cells harboring distinct mutations. A fine resolution view of this clonal architecture provides insight into tumor heterogeneity, evolution, and treatment response, all of which may have clinical implications. Single tumor analysis already contributes to understanding these phenomena. However, cryptic subclones are frequently revealed by additional patient samples (e.g., collected at relapse or following treatment), indicating that accurately characterizing a tumor requires analyzing multiple samples from the same patient. To address this need, we present SciClone, a computational method that identifies the number and genetic composition of subclones by analyzing the variant allele frequencies of somatic mutations. We use it to detect subclones in acute myeloid leukemia and breast cancer samples that, though present at disease onset, are not evident from a single primary tumor sample. By doing so, we can track tumor evolution and identify the spatial origins of cells resisting therapy.
Author Summary
Sequencing the genomic DNA of cancers has revealed that tumors are not homogeneous. As a tumor grows, new mutations accumulate in individual cells, and as these cells replicate, the mutations are passed on to their offspring, which comprise only a portion of the tumor when it is sampled. We present a method for identifying the fraction of cells containing specific mutations, clustering them into subclonal populations, and tracking the changes in these subclones. This allows us to follow the clonal evolution of cancers as they respond to chemotherapy or develop therapy resistance, processes which may radically alter the subclonal composition of a tumor. It also gives us insight into the spatial organization of tumors, and we show that multiple biopsies from a single breast cancer may harbor different subclones that respond differently to treatment. Finally, we show that sequencing multiple samples from a patient's tumor is often critical, as it reveals cryptic subclones that cannot be discerned from only one sample. This is the first tool that can efficiently leverage multiple samples to identify these as distinct subpopulations of cells, thus contributing to understanding the biology of the tumor and influencing clinical decisions about therapy.
PMCID: PMC4125065  PMID: 25102416
2.  Therapy related acute myeloid leukemia in breast cancer survivors, a population-based study 
The aim of this study was to determine the association between age and stage at diagnosis of breast cancer with the subsequent development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program were analyzed for incidence of second malignancies by age and stage at diagnosis of breast cancer. 420,076 female patients were identified. There was an age dependent risk of a subsequent diagnosis of AML in women younger than 50 years old (RR 4.14; P <0.001) and women 50–64 years old (RR 2.19; P <0.001), but not those 65 and older (RR 1.19; P = 0.123) when compared with the expected incidence of AML. A similar age dependent pattern was observed for second breast and ovarian cancers. There was also a stage dependent increase in risk of subsequent AML in younger women with stage III disease when compared with stage I disease (RR 2.92; P = 0.004), and to a lesser extent in middle age women (RR 2.24; P = 0.029), but not in older women (RR 0.79; P = 0.80).Younger age and stage III disease at the time of breast cancer diagnosis are associated with increased risk of a subsequent diagnosis of AML. This association maybe explained by either greater chemotherapy exposure or an interaction between therapy and genetic predisposition.
PMCID: PMC3400139  PMID: 19322652
Therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia; Breast cancer; Chemotherapy; SEER; Epidemiology; Radiation therapy
3.  Connecting Genomic Alterations to Cancer Biology with Proteomics: The NCI Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium 
Cancer discovery  2013;3(10):1108-1112.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) is applying latest generation of proteomic technologies to genomically annotated tumors from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) program, a joint initiative of the NCI and National Human Genome Research Institute. By providing a fully integrated accounting of DNA, RNA and protein abnormalities in individual tumors, these datasets will illuminate the complex relationship between genomic abnormalities and cancer phenotypes, thus producing biological insights as well as a wave of novel candidate biomarkers and therapeutic targets amenable to verification using targeted mass spectrometry methods.
PMCID: PMC3800055  PMID: 24124232
Gene Expression; Cancer Proteomics; Protein Phosphorylation; Mass Spectrometry; Cancer Genome Atlas
4.  Molecular Pathways: Extracting Medical Knowledge from High Throughput Genomic Data 
High-throughput genomic data that measures RNA expression, DNA copy number, mutation status and protein levels provide us with insights into the molecular pathway structure of cancer. Genomic lesions (amplifications, deletions, mutations) and epigenetic modifications disrupt biochemical cellular pathways. While the number of possible lesions is vast, different genomic alterations may result in concordant expression and pathway activities, producing common tumor subtypes that share similar phenotypic outcomes.
How can these data be translated into medical knowledge that provides prognostic and predictive information? First generation mRNA expression signatures such as Genomic Health's Oncotype DX already provide prognostic information, but do not provide therapeutic guidance beyond the current standard of care – which is often inadequate in high-risk patients. Rather than building molecular signatures based on gene expression levels, evidence is growing that signatures based on higher-level quantities such as from genetic pathways may provide important prognostic and diagnostic cues. We provide examples of how activities for molecular entities can be predicted from pathway analysis and how the composite of all such activities, referred to here as the “activitome,” help connect genomic events to clinical factors in order to predict the drivers of poor outcome.
PMCID: PMC3686839  PMID: 23430023
5.  Exemestane Versus Anastrozole in Postmenopausal Women With Early Breast Cancer: NCIC CTG MA.27—A Randomized Controlled Phase III Trial 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2013;31(11):1398-1404.
In patients with hormone-dependent postmenopausal breast cancer, standard adjuvant therapy involves 5 years of the nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors anastrozole and letrozole. The steroidal inhibitor exemestane is partially non–cross-resistant with nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors and is a mild androgen and could prove superior to anastrozole regarding efficacy and toxicity, specifically with less bone loss.
Patients and Methods
We designed an open-label, randomized, phase III trial of 5 years of exemestane versus anastrozole with a two-sided test of superiority to detect a 2.4% improvement with exemestane in 5-year event-free survival (EFS). Secondary objectives included assessment of overall survival, distant disease–free survival, incidence of contralateral new primary breast cancer, and safety.
In the study, 7,576 women (median age, 64.1 years) were enrolled. At median follow-up of 4.1 years, 4-year EFS was 91% for exemestane and 91.2% for anastrozole (stratified hazard ratio, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.87 to 1.18; P = .85). Overall, distant disease–free survival and disease-specific survival were also similar. In all, 31.6% of patients discontinued treatment as a result of adverse effects, concomitant disease, or study refusal. Osteoporosis/osteopenia, hypertriglyceridemia, vaginal bleeding, and hypercholesterolemia were less frequent on exemestane, whereas mild liver function abnormalities and rare episodes of atrial fibrillation were less frequent on anastrozole. Vasomotor and musculoskeletal symptoms were similar between arms.
This first comparison of steroidal and nonsteroidal classes of aromatase inhibitors showed neither to be superior in terms of breast cancer outcomes as 5-year initial adjuvant therapy for postmenopausal breast cancer by two-way test. Less toxicity on bone is compatible with one hypothesis behind MA.27 but requires confirmation. Exemestane should be considered another option as up-front adjuvant therapy for postmenopausal hormone receptor–positive breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3612593  PMID: 23358971
6.  Improved Surgical Outcomes for Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Neoadjuvant Aromatase Inhibitor Therapy: Results from a Multicenter Phase II Trial 
Neoadjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy has been reported to improve surgical outcomes for postmenopausal women with clinical stage II or III hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. A multicenter phase II clinical trial was conducted to investigate the value of this approach for US surgical practice.
One hundred fifteen postmenopausal women with >2 cm, estrogen receptor (ER) or progesterone receptor (PgR)–positive breast cancer were enrolled in a trial of 16 to 24 weeks of letrozole 2.5 mg daily before operation.
One hundred six patients were eligible for primary analysis, 96 underwent operations, 7 received chemotherapy after progressive disease, and 3 did not undergo an operation. Baseline surgical status was marginal for breast-conserving surgery (BCS) in 48 (45%), 47 were definitely ineligible for BCS (44%), and 11 were inoperable by standard mastectomy (10%). Overall Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors clinical response rate in the breast was 62%, with 12% experiencing progressive disease. Fifty percent underwent BCS, including 30 of 46 (65%) patients who were initially marginal for BCS and 15 of 39 (38%) patients who were initially ineligible for BCS. All 11 inoperable patients successfully underwent operations, including 3 (27%) who had BCS. Nineteen percent of patients undergoing mastectomy had a pathologic T1 tumor, suggesting that some highly responsive tumors were overtreated surgically.
Neoadjuvant aromatase inhibitor improves operability and facilitates BCS, but there was considerable variability in responsiveness. Better techniques to predict response, determine residual tumor burden before operation, and greater willingness to attempt BCS in responsive patients could additionally improve the rate of successful BCS.
PMCID: PMC3683862  PMID: 19476859
7.  Estrogen Receptor Expression Is High But Is of Lower Intensity in Tubular Carcinoma Than in Well-Differentiated Invasive Ductal Carcinoma 
Tubular carcinoma (TC) is a rare, luminal A subtype of breast carcinoma with excellent prognosis, for which adjuvant chemotherapy is usually contraindicated.
To examine the levels of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor expression in cases of TC and well-differentiated invasive ductal carcinoma as compared to normal breast glands and to determine if any significant differences could be detected via molecular testing.
We examined ER and progesterone receptor via immunohistochemistry in tubular (N = 27), mixed ductal/tubular (N = 16), and well-differentiated ductal (N = 27) carcinomas with comparison to surrounding normal breast tissue. We additionally performed molecular subtyping of 10 TCs and 10 ductal carcinomas via the PAM50 assay.
Although ER expression was high for all groups, TC had statistically significantly lower ER staining percentage (ER%) (P = .003) and difference in ER expression between tumor and accompanying normal tissue (P = .02) than well-differentiated ductal carcinomas, with mixed ductal/tubular carcinomas falling between these 2 groups. Mean ER% was 79%, 87%, and 94%, and mean tumor-normal ER% differences were 13.6%, 25.9%, and 32.6% in tubular, mixed, and ductal carcinomas, respectively. Most tumors that had molecular subtyping were luminal A (9 of 10 tubular and 8 of 10 ductal), and no significant differences in specific gene expression between the 2 groups were identified.
Tubular carcinoma exhibited decreased intensity in ER expression, closer to that of normal breast parenchyma, likely as a consequence of a high degree of differentiation. Lower ER% expression by TC may represent a potential pitfall when performing commercially available breast carcinoma prognostic assays that rely heavily on ER-related gene expression.
PMCID: PMC4327939  PMID: 25357113
8.  Chronic Kidney Disease After Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation: a Systematic Review 
Advances in hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) have broadened its indications for use and resulted in more long-term HCT survivors. Some survivors develop chronic kidney disease (CKD), however, the incidence and risk factors are unclear. We performed a systematic review of studies identified from databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index), conference abstracts, and reference lists from selected manuscripts. From 927 manuscripts, 28 patient cohorts were identified in which 9,317 adults and children underwent HCT and 7,317 (79%) survived to at least 100 days, permitting inclusion of 5,337 (73% of survivors) in quantitative analyses. Although definitions and measurements varied widely, approximately 16.6% of HCT patients developed CKD and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR in ml/min/1.73m2) decreased by 24.5 after 24 months. This decrease was greater amongst patients undergoing allogeneic HCT (ΔeGFR = −40.0 versus −18.6 for autologous transplants). Several commonly reported risk factors for CKD were investigated, including acute renal failure, total body irradiation, graft versus host disease, and long-term cyclosporine use. In conclusion, CKD following HCT is likely to be common, however, prospective studies with uniform definitions of CKD and risk factors are needed to confirm these findings and better define the underlying mechanisms to promote therapies that prevent this complication.
PMCID: PMC3564956  PMID: 18925905
chronic kidney disease (CKD); hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; bone marrow transplantation; renal failure; meta-analysis; systematic review; risk factor; complications
9.  Lower-dose (6 mg Daily) versus High-dose (30 mg Daily) Oral Estradiol Therapy of Hormone-receptor-positive, Aromatase-inhibitor-resistant Advanced Breast Cancer: A Randomized Phase 2 Study 
Estrogen deprivation therapy with aromatase inhibitors (AI) has been hypothesized to paradoxically sensitize hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer tumor cells to low-dose estradiol therapy.
To determine if estradiol 6-mg daily is a viable endocrine therapy for postmenopausal women with advanced AI-resistant hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
Design, Setting and Patients
A randomized Phase 2 trial of 6-mg versus 30-mg oral estradiol daily opened in April 2004 and was closed to enrollment in February 2008 (NCT00324259). Eligible patients had metastatic breast cancer treated with an AI with at least 24 weeks progression-free survival, or relapse after two or more years of adjuvant AI. Patients at high risk of estradiol-related adverse events were excluded.
Main Outcome Measures
The primary endpoint was clinical benefit rate – CBR (response plus stable disease at 24 weeks). Secondary outcomes included toxicity, progression-free survival (PFS), time to treatment failure (TTF), quality of life (QOL) and the predictive properties of the FDG-PET metabolic flare reaction.
66 patients were enrolled. The grade 3+ adverse event rate on the 30-mg arm (11/32; 95% CI: 23%–47%) was higher than that in 6-mg arm (4/34; 95% CI: 5%–22%) (P=.03). CBRs were 28% (9/32; 95% CI: 18% – 41%) on the 30-mg arm and 29% (10/34; 95% CI: 19% – 42%) on the 6-mg arm. An estradiol44 stimulated increase in FDG uptake of ≥12% (prospectively defined) was predictive of response (positive predictive value of 80%; 95% CI: 61%–92%). Seven patients with estradiol-sensitive disease were retreated with AI upon estradiol progression, with two PR and one SD, suggesting resensitization to estrogen deprivation.
In women with advanced breast cancer and acquired resistance to AI, an estradiol dose of 6-mg daily provided a similar CBR as 30-mg daily, with fewer serious adverse events. The efficacy of treatment with the lower dose should be further examined in phase 3 clinical trials
PMCID: PMC3460383  PMID: 19690310
10.  ER and PI3K independently modulate endocrine resistance in ER positive breast cancer 
Cancer discovery  2011;1(4):287-288.
Endocrine Therapy Resistant Estrogen Receptor Positive (ER+) Breast Cancer is the most common cause of breast cancer death. Miller et al. demonstrate that ligand-independent ER activity promotes the growth of breast cancer cells through CDK4/E2F. As an independent event the PI3K pathway is also up regulated in endocrine therapy resistant cells. Promising preclinical evidence by several groups for the combination of an inhibitor of ligand-independent ER, fulvestrant, with PI3K inhibition, has led to the activation of trials evaluating this concept.
PMCID: PMC3215586  PMID: 22096658
11.  Randomized Phase II Neoadjuvant Comparison Between Letrozole, Anastrozole, and Exemestane for Postmenopausal Women With Estrogen Receptor–Rich Stage 2 to 3 Breast Cancer: Clinical and Biomarker Outcomes and Predictive Value of the Baseline PAM50-Based Intrinsic Subtype—ACOSOG Z1031 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2011;29(17):2342-2349.
Preoperative aromatase inhibitor (AI) treatment promotes breast-conserving surgery (BCS) for estrogen receptor (ER) –positive breast cancer. To study this treatment option, responses to three AIs were compared in a randomized phase II neoadjuvant trial designed to select agents for phase III investigations.
Patients and Methods
Three hundred seventy-seven postmenopausal women with clinical stage II to III ER-positive (Allred score 6-8) breast cancer were randomly assigned to receive neoadjuvant exemestane, letrozole, or anastrozole. The primary end point was clinical response. Secondary end points included BCS, Ki67 proliferation marker changes, the Preoperative Endocrine Prognostic Index (PEPI), and PAM50-based intrinsic subtype analysis.
On the basis of clinical response rates, letrozole and anastrozole were selected for further investigation; however, no other differences in surgical outcome, PEPI score, or Ki67 suppression were detected. The BCS rate for mastectomy-only patients at presentation was 51%. PAM50 analysis identified AI-unresponsive nonluminal subtypes (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 enriched or basal-like) in 3.3% of patients. Clinical response and surgical outcomes were similar in luminal A (LumA) versus luminal B tumors; however, a PEPI of 0 (best prognostic group) was highest in the LumA subset (27.1% v 10.7%; P = .004).
Neoadjuvant AI treatment markedly improved surgical outcomes. Ki67 and PEPI data demonstrated that the three agents tested are biologically equivalent and therefore likely to have similar adjuvant activities. LumA tumors were more likely to have favorable biomarker characteristics after treatment; however, occasional paradoxical increases in Ki67 (12% of tumors with > 5% increase after therapy) suggest treatment-resistant cells, present in some LumA tumors, can be detected by post-treatment profiling.
PMCID: PMC3107749  PMID: 21555689
12.  Fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide (FEC-75) followed by paclitaxel plus trastuzumab versus paclitaxel plus trastuzumab followed by FEC-75 plus trastuzumab as neoadjuvant treatment for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer (Z1041): a randomised, controlled, phase 3 trial 
The Lancet. Oncology  2013;14(13):1317-1325.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy with trastuzumab for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer can produce a pathological complete response in the breast in 30–65% of patients. We investigated the effect of the timing of trastuzumab administration with anthracycline and taxane neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
This randomised trial was done at 36 centres in the USA and Puerto Rico. Women with operable HER2-positive invasive breast cancer were randomly assigned (1:1) with a biased coin minimisation algorithm, stratified for age, tumour size, and hormone receptor status. Neither patients nor investigators (except for a cardiac safety review panel) were masked to treatment assignment. Patients randomly assigned to sequential treatment received fluorouracil 500 mg/m2, epirubicin 75 mg/m2, and cyclophosphamide 500 mg/m2 (FEC-75) on day 1 of a 21-day cycle for four cycles followed by paclitaxel 80 mg/m2 and trastuzumab 2 mg/kg (after a 4 mg/kg loading dose) once per week for 12 weeks, while those randomly assigned to the concurrent treatment group received paclitaxel and trastuzumab once per week for 12 weeks followed by four cycles of FEC-75 (on day 1 of each 21-day cycle) and once-weekly trastuzumab, in the same doses as the sequential group. Surgery, including evaluation of the axilla, was done within 6 weeks of completion of neoadjuvant treatment. The primary outcome was the percentage of patients who had a pathological complete response in the intention-to-treat population. The study is registered with, number NCT00513292.
From Sept 15, 2007, to Dec 15, 2011, 282 women were enrolled (140 in the sequential group, 142 in the concurrent group). Two patients in the sequential group withdrew consent before starting treatment. 78 of 138 (56.5%, 95% CI 47.8–64.9) patients who received sequential treatment had a pathological complete response in the breast versus 77 of 142 (54.2%, 95% CI 45.7–62.6) who received concurrent treatment (difference 2.3%, 95% CI–9.3 to 13.9). No treatment-related deaths occurred. The most common severe toxic effects were neutropenia (35 [25.3%] of 138 patients in the sequential group vs 45 [31.7%] of 142 patients in the concurrent group) and fatigue (six [4.3%] vs 12 [8.5%]). Left ventricular ejection fraction dropped below the institutional lower limit of normal at week 12 in one (0.8%) of 130 patients who received sequential treatment and four (2.9%) of 137 patients who received concurrent treatment; by week 24, it had dropped below this limit in nine (7.1%) of 126 patients and in six (4.6%) of 130 patients, respectively.
Concurrent administration of trastuzumab with anthracyclines off ers no additional benefi t and is not warranted.
PMCID: PMC4176878  PMID: 24239210
13.  Loss of Trop2 causes ErbB3 activation through a neuregulin-1-dependent mechanism in the mesenchymal subtype of HNSCC 
Oncotarget  2014;5(19):9281-9294.
In head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC), four intrinsic subtypes (or groups) have been identified, and each one possesses a unique biology that will require specific treatment strategies. We previously reported that mesenchymal (group 2) tumors exhibit reduced levels of Trop2 expression. In this study, we investigated the functional role of Trop2 in HNSCC and find that loss results in autocrine activation of the EGFR family member ErbB3 via neuregulin-1. Trop2 localizes to both the cell surface and cytosol of HNSCC cells and forms a complex with neuregulin-1, which is predominantly cytosolic. Inactivation of Trop2 increases the concentration of neuregulin-1 at the cell surface where it is cleaved to activate ErbB3. In primary HNSCC, detection of ErbB3 activation was limited to Trop2 negative tumors. An analysis of the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) HNSCC dataset confirms enrichment for ErbB3 activity in mesenchymal tumors. Notably, Trop2 loss triggers sensitivity to anti-ErbB3 antibodies, which results in reduced proliferation and tumorigenic growth of Trop2 negative HNSCC cancer cells. These results uncover a molecular mechanism by which tumor cells control the amount of cell-surface neuregulin-1 available for cleavage and ErbB3 activation. Moreover, we demonstrate that Trop2 is a potential surrogate biomarker to identify tumors with ErbB3 activation and may therefore respond to anti-ErbB3 therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4253434  PMID: 25238142
Trop2; ErbB3; Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC); Neuregulin-1; Therapy
14.  Phosphatidyl-inositol-3-kinase alpha catalytic subunit mutation and response to neoadjuvant endocrine therapy for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer 
Mutations in the alpha catalytic subunit of phosphoinositol-3-kinase (PIK3CA) occur in ~30% of ER positive breast cancers. We therefore sought to determine the impact of PIK3CA mutation on response to neoadjuvant endocrine therapy.
Exon 9 (helical domain - HD) and Exon 20 (kinase domain- KD) mutations in PIK3CA were determined samples from four neoadjuvant endocrine therapy trials. Interactions with clinical, pathological and biomarker response parameters were examined.
A weak negative interaction between PIK3CA mutation status and clinical response to neoadjuvant endocrine treatment was detected (N=235 P=<0.05), but not with treatment-induced changes in Ki67-based proliferation index (N=418). Despite these findings, PIK3CA KD mutation was a favorable prognostic factor for relapse-free survival (RFS log rank P=0.02) in the P024 trial (N=153). The favorable prognostic effect was maintained in a multivariable analysis (N=125) that included the preoperative prognostic index (PEPI), an approach to predicting RFS based on post neoadjuvant endocrine therapy pathological stage, ER and Ki67 levels (HR for no PIK3CA KD mutation, 14, CI 1.9–105 P=0.01).
PIK3CA mutation status did not strongly interact with neoadjuvant endocrine therapy responsiveness in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. Nonetheless, as with other recent studies, a favorable interaction between PIK3CA kinase domain mutation and prognosis was detected. The mechanism for the favorable prognostic impact of PIK3CA mutation status therefore remains unexplained.
PMCID: PMC2810126  PMID: 19844788
15.  Mutational analysis of breast cancer: Guiding personalized treatments 
Breast (Edinburgh, Scotland)  2013;22 Suppl 2:S19-S21.
The application of high throughput techniques to profile DNA, RNA and protein in breast cancer samples from hundreds of patients has profoundly increased our knowledge of the disease. However there remain many knowledge gaps that will require a long process of extended clinical correlation studies, deeper integrated ‘omic analysis and functional annotation to address. This article reviews conclusions from recent breast cancer ‘omics profiling’ papers and considers pathways forward for extracting medically valuable information from large dimension data sets [1–6].
PMCID: PMC3787523  PMID: 24074785
16.  Combined Targeting of mTOR and AKT is an Effective Strategy for Basal-like Breast Cancer in Patient-derived Xenograft Models 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;12(8):1665-1675.
Basal-like breast cancer is an aggressive disease, for which targeted therapies are lacking. Recent studies demonstrated that basal-like breast cancer is frequently associated with an increased activity of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, which is critical for cell growth, survival and angiogenesis. To investigate the therapeutic potential of PI3K pathway inhibition in the treatment of basal-like breast cancer, we evaluated the anti-tumor effect of the mTOR inhibitor MK-8669 and AKT inhibitor MK-2206 in WU-BC4 and WU-BC5, two patient-derived xenograft models of basal-like breast cancer. Both models demonstrated high levels of AKT phosphorylation and loss of phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) expression. We observed a synergistic effect of MK-8669 and MK-2206 on tumor growth and cell proliferation in vivo. In addition, MK-8669 and MK-2206 inhibited angiogenesis as determined by CD31 immunohistochemistry. Biomarker studies indicated that treatment with MK-2206 inhibited AKT activation induced by MK-8669. To evaluate the effect of loss of PTEN on tumor cell sensitivity to PI3K pathway inhibition, we knocked down PTEN in WU-BC3, a basal-like breast cancer cell line with intact PTEN. Compared to control (GFP) knockdown, PTEN knockdown led to a more dramatic reduction in cell proliferation and tumor growth inhibition in response to MK-8669 and MK-2206 both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, a synergistic effect of these two agents on tumor volume was observed in WU-BC3 with PTEN knockdown. Our results provide a preclinical rationale for future clinical investigation of this combination in basal-like breast cancer with loss of PTEN.
PMCID: PMC3742690  PMID: 23689832
AKT; mTOR; PTEN; basal-like breast cancer; patient-derived xenograft models
17.  PIK3CA and PIK3CB inhibition produce synthetic lethality when combined with estrogen deprivation in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer 
Cancer research  2009;69(9):3955-3962.
Several phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) catalytic subunit inhibitors are currently in clinical trial. We therefore sought to examine relationships between pharmacological inhibition and somatic mutations in PI3K catalytic subunits in ER+ breast cancer, where these mutations are particularly common. RNA interference (RNAi) was used to determine the effect of selective inhibition of PI3K catalytic subunits, p110α and p110β, in ER+ breast cancer cells harboring either mutation (PIK3CA) or gene amplification (PIK3CB). p110α RNAi inhibited growth and promoted apoptosis in all tested ER+ breast cancer cells under estrogen deprived-conditions, whereas p110β RNAi only affected cells harboring PIK3CB amplification. Moreover, dual p110α/p110β inhibition potentiated these effects. In addition, treatment with the clinical grade PI3K catalytic subunit inhibitor BEZ235 also promoted apoptosis in ER+ breast cancer cells. Importantly, estradiol suppressed apoptosis induced by both gene knockdowns and by BEZ235 treatment. Our results suggest that PI3K inhibitors should target both p110α and p110β catalytic subunits, whether wild-type or mutant, and be combined with endocrine therapy for maximal efficacy when treating ER+ breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2811393  PMID: 19366795
breast cancer; estrogen receptor; PI3 kinase; endocrine therapy; synthetic lethality
18.  Outcome Prediction for Estrogen Receptor–Positive Breast Cancer Based on Postneoadjuvant Endocrine Therapy Tumor Characteristics 
Understanding how tumor response is related to relapse risk would help clinicians make decisions about additional treatment options for patients who have received neoadjuvant endocrine treatment for estrogen receptor–positive (ER+) breast cancer.
Tumors from 228 postmenopausal women with confirmed ER+ stage 2 and 3 breast cancers in the P024 neoadjuvant endocrine therapy trial, which compared letrozole and tamoxifen for 4 months before surgery, were analyzed for posttreatment ER status, Ki67 proliferation index, histological grade, pathological tumor size, node status, and treatment response. Cox proportional hazards were used to identify factors associated with relapse-free survival (RFS) and breast cancer–specific survival (BCSS) in 158 women. A preoperative endocrine prognostic index (PEPI) for RFS was developed from these data and validated in an independent study of 203 postmenopausal women in the IMPACT trial, which compared treatment with anastrozole, tamoxifen, or the combination 3 months before surgery. Statistical tests were two-sided.
Median follow-up in P024 was 61.2 months. Patients with confirmed baseline ER+ clinical stage 2 and 3 tumors that were downstaged to stage 1 or 0 at surgery had 100% RFS (compared with higher stages, P < .001). Multivariable testing of posttreatment tumor characteristics revealed that pathological tumor size, node status, Ki67 level, and ER status were independently associated with both RFS and BCSS. The PEPI model based on these factors predicted RFS in the IMPACT trial (P = .002).
Breast cancer patients with pathological stage 1 or 0 disease after neoadjuvant endocrine therapy and a low-risk biomarker profile in the surgical specimen (PEPI score 0) have an extremely low risk of relapse and are therefore unlikely to benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2556704  PMID: 18812550
19.  Activating HER2 mutations in HER2 gene amplification negative breast cancer 
Cancer discovery  2012;3(2):224-237.
Data from eight breast cancer genome sequencing projects identified 25 patients with HER2 somatic mutations in cancers lacking HER2 gene amplification. To determine the phenotype of these mutations, we functionally characterized thirteen HER2 mutations using in vitro kinase assays, protein structure analysis, cell culture and xenograft experiments. Seven of these mutations are activating mutations, including G309A, D769H, D769Y, V777L, P780ins, V842I, and R896C. HER2 in-frame deletion 755-759, which is homologous to EGFR exon 19 in-frame deletions, had a neomorphic phenotype with increased phosphorylation of EGFR or HER3. L755S produced lapatinib resistance, but was not an activating mutation in our experimental systems. All of these mutations were sensitive to the irreversible kinase inhibitor, neratinib. These findings demonstrate that HER2 somatic mutation is an alternative mechanism to activate HER2 in breast cancer and they validate HER2 somatic mutations as drug targets for breast cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3570596  PMID: 23220880
Genomics; Breast Cancer; Receptor Tyrosine Kinase; Oncogene
20.  Endocrine-Therapy-Resistant ESR1 Variants Revealed by Genomic Characterization of Breast-Cancer-Derived Xenografts 
Cell reports  2013;4(6):10.1016/j.celrep.2013.08.022.
To characterize patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) for functional studies, we made whole-genome comparisons with originating breast cancers representative of the major intrinsic subtypes. Structural and copy number aberrations were found to be retained with high fidelity. However, at the single-nucleotide level, variable numbers of PDX-specific somatic events were documented, although they were only rarely functionally significant. Variant allele frequencies were often preserved in the PDXs, demonstrating that clonal representation can be transplantable. Estrogen-receptor-positive PDXs were associated with ESR1 ligand-binding-domain mutations, gene amplification, or an ESR1/YAP1 translocation. These events produced different endocrine-therapy-response phenotypes in human, cell line, and PDX endocrine-response studies. Hence, deeply sequenced PDX models are an important resource for the search for genome-forward treatment options and capture endocrine-drug-resistance etiologies that are not observed in standard cell lines. The originating tumor genome provides a benchmark for assessing genetic drift and clonal representation after transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3881975  PMID: 24055055
21.  The Genomic Landscape of Breast Cancer as a Therapeutic Roadmap 
Cancer discovery  2013;3(1):27-34.
The application of high throughput techniques to profile DNA, RNA and protein in breast cancer samples from hundreds of patients has profoundly increased our knowledge of the disease. The etiological events that drive breast cancer are finally coming into focus and should be used to set priorities for clinical trials. In this Research Focus we summarize some of the headline conclusions from six recent breast cancer ‘omics profiling’ papers in Nature, with an emphasis on the implications for systemic therapy.
PMCID: PMC3553590  PMID: 23319768
22.  Novel Sampling Strategies to Enable Microarray Gene Expression Signatures in Breast Cancer: A Study to Determine Feasibility and Reproducibility in the Context of Clinical Care 
Feasibility and reproducibility of microarray biomarkers in clinical settings are doubted because of reliance on fresh frozen tissue. We sought to develop and test a paradigm of frozen tissue collection from early breast tumors to enable use of microarray in oncology practice.
Experimental Design
Frozen core needle biopsies (CNBx) were collected from 150 clinical stage I patients during image-guided diagnostic biopsy and/or surgery. Histology and tumor content from frozen cores were compared to diagnostic specimens. Twenty eight patients had microarray analysis to examine accuracy and reproducibility of predictive gene signatures developed for estrogen receptor (ER) and HER2.
One hundred twenty seven (85%) of 150 patients had at least one frozen core containing cancer suitable for microarray analysis. Larger tumor size, ex vivo biopsy, and use of a new specimen device increased the likelihood of obtaining representative specimens. Sufficient quality RNA was obtained from 90% of tumor cores. Microarray signatures predictive ER and HER2 expression were developed in a training sets of up to 356 surgical samples and were applied to microarray data obtained from core samples collected in clinical settings. In these samples, a sensitivity / specificity of 94% / 100% and 82% / 72% for predicting ER and HER2, respectively was achieved. Predictions were reproducible in 83–100% of paired diagnostic and surgical samples.
Frozen CNBx can be readily obtained from most breast cancers without interfering with pathologic evaluation. Collection of tumor tissue at diagnostic biopsy and/or at surgery from lumpectomy specimens using image guidance resulted in sufficient samples for array analysis from over 90% of patients. Sampling of breast cancer for microarray data is reproducible and feasible in clinical settings and can yield signatures predictive of multiple breast cancer phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3786337  PMID: 19224362
23.  Effect of continuous statistically standardized measures of estrogen and progesterone receptors on disease-free survival in NCIC CTG MA.12 Trial and BC Cohort 
We hypothesized improved inter-laboratory comparability of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PgR) across different assay methodologies with adjunctive statistical standardization, akin to bone mineral density (BMD) z-scores. We examined statistical standardization in MA.12, a placebo-controlled pre-menopausal trial of adjuvant tamoxifen with locally assessed hormone receptor +/- tumours, and in a cohort of post-menopausal British Columbia (BC) tamoxifen-treated patients.
ER and PgR were centrally assessed for both patient groups with real time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and immunohistochemistry (IHC). Effects on disease-free survival (DFS) were investigated separately for 345 MA.12 and 673 BC patients who had both qPCR and IHC assessments. Comparisons utilized continuous laboratory units and statistically standardized z-scores. Univariate categorization of ER/PgR was by number of standard deviations (SD) above or below the mean (z-score ≥1.0 SD below mean; z-score <1.0 SD below mean; z-score ≤1.0 SD above mean; z-score >1.0 SD above mean). Exploratory multivariate examinations utilized step-wise Cox regression.
Median follow-up for MA.12 was 9.7 years; for BC patients, 11.8 years. For MA.12, 101 of 345 (29%) patients were IHC ER-PgR-. ER was not univariately associated with DFS (qPCR, P = 0.19; IHC, P = 0.08), while PgR was (qPCR, P = 0.09; IHC, P = 0.04). For BC patients, neither receptor was univariately associated with DFS: for ER, PCR, P = 0.36, IHC, P = 0.24; while for PgR, qPCR, P = 0.17, IHC, P = 0.31. Multivariately, MA.12 patients randomized to tamoxifen had significantly better DFS (P = 0.002 to 0.005) than placebo. Meanwhile, jointly ER and PgR were not associated with DFS whether assessed by qPCR or by IHC in all patients, or in the subgroup of patients with IHC positive stain, for pooled or separate treatment arms. Different results by type of continuous unit supported the concept of ER level being relevant for medical decision-making. For postmenopausal BC tamoxifen patients, higher qPCR PgR was weakly associated with better DFS (P = 0.06).
MA.12 pre-menopausal patients in a placebo-controlled tamoxifen trial had similar multivariate prognostic effects with statistically standardized hormone receptors when tumours were assayed by qPCR or IHC, for hormone receptor +/- and + tumours. The BC post-menopausal tamoxifen cohort did not exhibit a significant prognostic association of ER or PgR with DFS. Adjunctive statistical standardization is currently under investigation in other NCIC CTG endocrine trials.
PMCID: PMC3978444  PMID: 23972025
24.  Responsiveness of Intrinsic Subtypes to Adjuvant Anthracycline Substitution in the NCIC.CTG MA.5 Randomized Trial 
Recent studies suggest that intrinsic breast cancer subtypes may differ in their responsiveness to specific chemotherapy regimens. We examined this hypothesis on NCIC.CTG MA.5, a clinical trial randomizing premenopausal women with node-positive breast cancer to adjuvant CMF (cyclophosphamide-methotrexate-fluorouracil) versus CEF (cyclophosphamide-epirubicin-fluorouracil) chemotherapy.
Experimental Design
Intrinsic subtype was determined for 476 tumors using the quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR PAM50 gene expression test. Luminal A, luminal B, HER2-enriched (HER2-E), and basal-like subtypes were correlated with relapse-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS), estimated using Kaplan-Meier plots and log-rank testing. Multivariable Cox regression analyses determined significance of interaction between treatment and intrinsic subtypes.
Intrinsic subtypes were associated with RFS (P = 0005) and OS (P < 0.0001) on the combined cohort. The HER2-E showed the greatest benefit from CEF versus CMF, with absolute 5-year RFS and OS differences exceeding 20%, whereas there was a less than 2% difference for non-HER2-E tumors (interaction test P = 0.03 for RFS and 0.03 for OS). Within clinically defined Her2+ tumors, 79% (72 of 91) were classified as the HER2-E subtype by gene expression and this subset was strongly associated with better response to CEF versus CMF (62% vs. 22%, P = 0.0006). There was no significant difference in benefit between CEF and CMF in basal-like tumors [n = 94; HR, 1.1; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.6−.1 for RFS and HR, 1.3; 95% CI, 0.7−2.5 for OS].
HER2-E strongly predicted anthracycline sensitivity. The chemotherapy-sensitive basal- like tumors showed no added benefit for CEF over CMF, suggesting that nonanthracycline regimens may be adequate in this subtype although further investigation is required.
PMCID: PMC3743660  PMID: 22351696
25.  A 50-Gene Intrinsic Subtype Classifier for Prognosis and Prediction of Benefit from Adjuvant Tamoxifen 
Gene expression profiling classifies breast cancer into intrinsic subtypes based on the biology of the underlying disease pathways. We have used material from a prospective randomized trial of tamoxifen versus placebo in premenopausal women with primary breast cancer (NCIC CTG MA.12) to evaluate the prognostic and predictive significance of intrinsic subtypes identified by both the PAM50 gene set and by immunohistochemistry.
Experimental Design
Total RNA from 398 of 672 (59%) patients was available for intrinsic subtyping with a quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) 50-gene predictor (PAM50) for luminal A, luminal B, HER-2–enriched, and basal-like subtypes. A tissue microarray was also constructed from 492 of 672 (73%) of the study population to assess a panel of six immunohistochemical IHC antibodies to define the same intrinsic subtypes.
Classification into intrinsic subtypes by the PAM50 assay was prognostic for both disease-free survival (DFS; P = 0.0003) and overall survival (OS; P = 0.0002), whereas classification by the IHC panel was not. Luminal subtype by PAM50 was predictive of tamoxifen benefit [DFS: HR, 0.52; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.32–0.86 vs. HR, 0.80; 95% CI, 0.50–1.29 for nonluminal subtypes], although the interaction test was not significant (P = 0.24), whereas neither subtyping by central immunohistochemistry nor by local estrogen receptor (ER) or progesterone receptor (PR) status were predictive. Risk of relapse (ROR) modeling with the PAM50 assay produced a continuous risk score in both node-negative and node-positive disease.
In the MA.12 study, intrinsic subtype classification by qRT-PCR with the PAM50 assay was superior to IHC profiling for both prognosis and prediction of benefit from adjuvant tamoxifen.
PMCID: PMC3743663  PMID: 22711706

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