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Estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) has been detected in NSCLC cell lines and tumor specimens. The ER down-regulator, fulvestrant, blocked estradiol-stimulation of tumor growth and gene transcription in NSCLC preclinical models and showed additive effects with the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib. The safety and tolerability of combination therapy with the EGFR inhibitor, gefitinib, and fulvestrant was explored.
Post-menopausal women with advanced NSCLC received gefitinib 250 mg po daily and fulvestrant 250 mg IM monthly.
Twenty-two patients were enrolled. Eight patients had adenocarcinoma, 6 NSCLC-NOS, 4 squamous cell, and 4 BAC. Seven patients were never smokers. Eight patients received ≥ 2 lines of prior chemotherapy, 6 received one prior chemotherapy, and 8 were treatment naive. One patient experienced grade 4 dyspnea possibly related to treatment; all other grade 3/4 toxicities were unrelated to treatment. Twenty patients were evaluable for response: 3 PRs were confirmed (response rate of 15%, 95% CI: 5% – 36%). The median PFS, OS, and estimated 1 yr OS were 12 wks (3–112 wks), 38.5 weeks (7–135 wks), and 41% (95% CI 20–62%), respectively. Survival outcomes did not differ by prior lines of therapy. A subset analysis revealed that OS in the 8 patients whose tumors exhibited at least 60% ERβ nuclear IHC staining measured 65.5 weeks, while that of the 5 patients with ERβ staining of less than 60% was 21 weeks. One patient with BAC and a PR had an EGFR L858R mutation in exon 21. There was no correlation between ERβ IHC expression and histology or smoking history.
Combination therapy with gefitinib and fulvestrant in this population was well-tolerated and demonstrated disease activity.
PMCID: PMC3164240  PMID: 18701186
epidermal growth factor receptor; hormonal treatment; non-small cell lung cancer; sex; age; estrogen receptor
2.  Optimal Threshold in CT Quantification of Emphysema 
European radiology  2012;23(4):975-984.
To determine the optimal threshold by quantitatively assessing the extent of emphysema at the level of the entire lung and at the level of individual lobes using a large, diverse dataset of CT examinations.
This study comprises 573 chest CT examinations acquired from different subjects (222 none, 83 mild, 141 moderate, 63 severe, and 64 very severe obstruction). The extent of emphysema was quantified using the percentage of the low attenuation area (LAA%) divided by the total lung or lobe volume(s). The correlations between the extent of emphysema, and pulmonary functions and the five-category classification were assessed using Pearson and Spearman’s correlation coefficients, respectively. When quantifying emphysema using a density mask, a wide range of thresholds from −850 to −1000 HU were used.
The highest correlations of LAA% with the five-category classification and PFT measures ranged from −925 to −965 HU for each individual lobe and the entire lung. However, the differences between the highest r and those obtained at −950 HU are relatively small.
Although there are variations in the optimal cut-off thresholds for individual lobes, the single threshold of −950 HU is still an acceptable threshold for density-based emphysema quantification.
PMCID: PMC3573224  PMID: 23111815
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; computed tomography; pulmonary emphysema; density mask; lobe segmentation
3.  Computerized Identification of Airway Wall in CT Examinations Using a 3D Active Surface Evolution Approach 
Medical image analysis  2012;17(3):283-296.
Airway diseases (e.g., asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis) are extremely common worldwide. Any morphological variations (abnormalities) of airways may physically change airflow and ultimately affect the ability of the lungs in gas exchange. In this study, we describe a novel algorithm aimed to automatically identify airway walls depicted on CT images. The underlying idea is to place a three-dimensional (3D) surface model within airway regions and thereafter allow this model to evolve (deform) under predefined external and internal forces automatically to the location where these forces reach a state of balance. By taking advantage of the geometric and the density characteristics of airway walls, the evolution procedure is performed in a distance gradient field and ultimately stops at regions with the highest contrast. The performance of this scheme was quantitatively evaluated from several perspectives. First, we assessed the accuracy of the developed scheme using a dedicated lung phantom in airway wall estimation and compared it with the traditional full-width at half maximum (FWHM) method. The phantom study shows that the developed scheme has an error ranging from 0.04 mm to 0.36 mm, which is much smaller than the FWHM method with an error ranging from 0.16 mm to 0.84 mm. Second, we compared the results obtained by the developed scheme with those manually delineated by an experienced (>30 years) radiologist on clinical chest CT examinations, showing a mean difference of 0.084 mm. In particular, the sensitivity of the scheme to different reconstruction kernels was evaluated on real chest CT examinations. For the ‘lung’, ‘bone’ and ‘standard’ kernels, the average airway wall thicknesses computed by the developed scheme were 1.302 mm, 1.333 mm and 1.339 mm, respectively. Our preliminary experiments showed that the scheme had a reasonable accuracy in airway wall estimation. For a clinical chest CT examination, it took around 4 minutes for this scheme to identify the inner and outer airway walls on a modern PC.
PMCID: PMC3606689  PMID: 23260997
4.  Elevated gastrin-releasing peptide receptor mRNA expression in buccal mucosa: association with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma 
Head & neck  2012;35(2):270-279.
Expression of gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) is elevated in mucosa adjacent to head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) compared with mucosa from cancer-free controls, suggesting elevated GRPR expression may indicate presence of HNSCC.
We measured GRPR mRNA levels in histologically normal buccal mucosa from 65 surgical patients with HNSCC and 75 cancer-free control subjects using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We tested for association between GRPR expression and HNSCC and evaluated differences in patient progression-free survival (PFS).
Buccal GRPR expression was higher in cases but not controls who were active smokers (p = .04). High GRPR expression was associated with HNSCC (odds ratio [OR] = 3.55; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15–10.93), even after adjustment for age, sex, tobacco use, and sample storage time. PFS did not differ between patients with HNSCC with high versus low GRPR expression (p = .22).
Elevated buccal GRPR expression was significantly associated with HNSCC independent of known risk factors but was not an indicator of disease prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3553276  PMID: 22431275
gastrin-releasing peptide receptor; head and neck cancer; case-control study; surrogate tissue biomarker; risk factor
5.  c-Src Activation Mediates Erlotinib Resistance in Head and Neck Cancer by Stimulating c-Met 
Strategies to inhibit the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) using the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) erlotinib have been associated with limited clinical efficacy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Co-activation of alternative kinases may contribute to erlotinib resistance.
We generated HNSCC cells expressing dominant-active c-Src (DA-Src) to determine the contribution of c-Src activation to erlotinib response.
Expression of DA-Src conferred resistance to erlotinib in vitro and in vivo compared with vector-transfected control cells (VC). Phospho-Met was strongly upregulated by DA-Src, and DA-Src cells did not produce hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Knockdown of c-Met enhanced sensitivity to erlotinib in DA-Src cells in vitro, as did combining a c-Met or c-Src inhibitor with erlotinib. Inhibiting EGFR resulted in minimal reduction of phospho-Met in DA-Src cells, whereas complete phospho-Met inhibition was achieved by inhibiting c-Src. A c-Met inhibitor significantly sensitized DA-Src tumors to erlotinib in vivo, resulting in reduced Ki67 labeling and increased apoptosis. In parental cells, knockdown of endogenous c-Src enhanced sensitivity to erlotinib, while treatment with HGF to directly induce phospho-Met resulted in erlotinib resistance. The level of endogenous phospho-c-Src in HNSCC cell lines was also significantly correlated with erlotinib resistance.
Ligand-independent activation of c-Met contributes specifically to erlotinib resistance, not cetuximab resistance, in HNSCC with activated c-Src, where c-Met activation is more dependent on c-Src than on EGFR, providing an alternate survival pathway. Addition of a c-Met or c-Src inhibitor to erlotinib may increase efficacy of EGFR inhibition in patients with activated c-Src.
PMCID: PMC3549019  PMID: 23213056
6.  HGF-independent Potentiation of EGFR Action by c-Met 
Oncogene  2011;30(33):3625-3635.
The c-Met receptor is a potential therapeutic target for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Signaling interactions between c-Met and the mutant Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) have been studied extensively, but signaling intermediates and biological consequences of lateral signaling to c-Met in EGFR wild-type tumors is minimally understood. Our observations indicate that delayed c-Met activation in NSCLC cell lines is initiated by wild-type EGFR, the receptor most often found in NSCLC tumors. EGFR ligands induce accumulation of activated c-Met which begins at 8 h continues for 48 h. This effect is accompanied by an increase in c-Met expression and phosphorylation of critical c-Met tyrosine residues without activation of MAPK or Akt. Gene transcription is required for delayed c-Met activation; however, phosphorylation of c-Met by EGFR occurs without production of HGF or another secreted factor, supporting a ligand-independent mechanism. Lateral signaling is blocked by two selective c-Met tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), PF2341066 and SU11274, or with gefitinib, an EGFR TKI, suggesting kinase activity of both receptors is required for this effect. Prolonged c-Src phosphorylation is observed, and c-Src pathway is essential for EGFR to c-Met communication. Pre-treatment with pan-SFK inhibitors, PP2 and dasatinib, abolishes delayed c-Met phosphorylation. A c-Src dominant-negative construct reduces EGF-induced c-Met phosphorylation compared to control, further, confirming a c-Src requirement. Inhibition of c-Met with PF2341066 and siRNA decreases EGF-induced phenotypes of invasion by ~86% and motility by ~81%, suggesting that a novel form of c-Met activation is utilized by EGFR to maximize these biological effects. Combined targeting of c-Met and EGFR leads to increased xenograft anti-tumor activity, demonstrating that inhibition of downstream and lateral signaling from the EGFR-c-Src-c-Met axis might be effective in treatment of NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3126872  PMID: 21423210
c-Met; c-Src; EGFR; cross-talk
7.  Prevention of tobacco carcinogen-induced lung cancer in female mice using antiestrogens 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(11):2181-2189.
Increasing evidence shows that estrogens are involved in lung cancer proliferation and progression, and most human lung tumors express estrogen receptor β (ERβ) as well as aromatase. To determine if the aromatase inhibitor anastrozole prevents development of lung tumors induced by a tobacco carcinogen, alone or in combination with the ER antagonist fulvestrant, ovariectomized female mice received treatments with the tobacco carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosoamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) along with daily supplements of androstenedione, the substrate for aromatase. Placebo, anastrozole and/or fulvestrant were administered in both an initiation and a promotion protocol of lung tumorigenesis. The combination of fulvestrant and anastrozole given during NNK exposure resulted in significantly fewer NNK-induced lung tumors (mean = 0.5) compared with placebo (mean = 4.6, P < 0.001), fulvestrant alone (mean = 3.4, P < 0.001) or anastrozole alone (mean = 2.8, P = 0.002). A significantly lower Ki67 cell proliferation index was also observed compared with single agent and control treatment groups. Beginning antiestrogen treatment after NNK exposure, when preneoplastic lesions had already formed, also yielded maximum antitumor effects with the combination. Aromatase expression was found mainly in macrophages infiltrating preneoplastic and tumorous areas of the lungs, whereas ERβ was found in both macrophages and tumor cells. Antiestrogens, especially in combination, effectively inhibited tobacco carcinogen-induced murine lung tumorigenesis and may have application for lung cancer prevention. An important source of estrogen synthesis may be inflammatory cells that infiltrate the lungs in response to carcinogens, beginning early in the carcinogenesis process. ERβ expressed by inflammatory and neoplastic epithelial cells in the lung may signal in response to local estrogen production.
PMCID: PMC3584962  PMID: 22859269
8.  Genetic variability in DNA repair and cell cycle control pathway genes and risk of smoking-related lung cancer 
Molecular carcinogenesis  2011;51(Suppl 1):E11-E20.
DNA repair and cell cycle control play an important role in the repair of DNA damage caused by cigarette smoking. Given this role, functionally relevant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes in these pathways may well affect the risk of smoking-related lung cancer. We examined the relationship between 240 SNPs in DNA repair and cell cycle control pathway genes and lung cancer risk in a case-control study of white current and ex-cigarette smokers (722 cases and 929 controls). Additive, dominant and recessive genetic models were evaluated for each SNP. A genetic risk summary score was also constructed. Odds ratios (OR) for lung cancer risk and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were estimated using logistic regression models. Thirty-eight SNPs were associated with lung cancer risk in our study population at P<0.05. The strongest associations were observed for rs2074508 in GTF2H4 (Padditive=0.003), rs10500298 in LIG1 (Precessive=2.7×10−4), rs747658 and rs3219073 in PARP1 (rs747658: Padditive=5.8×10−5; rs3219073: Padditive=4.6×10−5), and rs1799782 and rs3213255 in XRCC1 (rs1799782: Pdominant=0.006; rs3213255: Precessive=0.004). Compared to individuals with first quartile (lowest) risk summary scores, individuals with third and fourth quartile summary score results were at increased risk for lung cancer (OR: 2.21, 95% CI: 1.66–2.95 and OR: 3.44, 95% CI: 2.58–4.59, respectively; Ptrend<0.0001). Our data suggests that variation in DNA repair and cell cycle control pathway genes is associated with smoking-related lung cancer risk. Additionally, combining genotype information for SNPs in these pathways may assist in classifying current and ex-cigarette smokers according to lung cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC3289753  PMID: 21976407
SNP; case-control; lung cancer
9.  Early Changes in Pulmonary Gene Expression Following Tobacco Exposure Shed Light on the Role of Estrogen Metabolism in Lung Carcinogenesis 
This perspective on Meireles et al. (beginning on p. XXX in this issue of the journal) discusses the increasing evidence for the role of female steroid hormones in lung-cancer development and progression. The novel work of Meireles et al. is the first evidence for the rapid upregulation by tobacco smoke of a key cytochrome P450 gene that can metabolize estrogens such as β-estradiol to potentially carcinogenic catechol and quinine forms, as well as the first evidence for the colocalization of β-estradiol and estrogen receptors in murine airway epithelium. Actions of estrogens that contribute to lung carcinogenesis, especially in the presence of tobacco smoke, may involve both reactive intermediates that damage DNA and steroid hormone-receptor signaling that promotes growth.
PMCID: PMC2881174  PMID: 20515955
10.  Estrogen Receptor Signaling in Lung Cancer 
Seminars in oncology  2009;36(6):524.
Lung cancer has long been thought of as a cancer that mainly affects men, but over the past several decades, because of the high increase in tobacco use by women, there has been a corresponding dramatic increase in lung cancer among women. Since 1998, lung cancer deaths in women have surpassed those caused by breast cancer in the United States. Annual lung cancer deaths among women in the US also currently surpass those caused by breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers combined. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with adenocarcinoma and small-cell carcinoma of the lung compared to squamous cell carcinoma, and never smokers diagnosed with lung cancer are almost three times more likely to be female than male. These observations in the population, coupled to the findings that both estrogen receptors and aromatase, the enzyme that synthesizes 17β-estradiol, are expressed by lung tumors, suggest a role for female steroid hormones in control of lung cancer growth. Pre-clinical data and clinical data are increasingly emerging to support this concept, and to suggest that a local production of estrogen and expression of ERs occurs in lung tumors that rise in men as well as women. An additional protein that recognizes 17β-estradiol with high affinity, GPR30, is also expressed in lung tumors at high levels and may be responsible for some of the proliferation signals induced by estrogen.
PMCID: PMC2818861  PMID: 19995644
11.  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
12.  Tumor epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and EGFR PY1068 are independent prognostic indicators for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma 
To assess the prognostic value of EGFR molecular characteristics of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
Patients and Methods
HNSCC tumors from patients prospectively enrolled in either an Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) study and treated with surgery without an EGFR-targeted agent (N=154) or enrolled in a chemoradiation trial involving the EGFR-targeted antibody cetuximab (N=39) were evaluated for EGFR gene amplification by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and EGFR protein by immunohistochemical (IHC) staining. Fresh-frozen tumors (EDRN) were also evaluated for EGFR protein and site-specific phosphorylation at Y992 and Y1068 using reverse-phase protein array (RPPA) (n=67). Tumor (n=50) EGFR and EGFRvIII mRNA levels were quantified using real-time PCR.
EGFR expression by IHC was significantly higher in the EDRN tumors with EGFR gene amplification (P<0.001), and a similar trend was noted in the cetuximab-treated cohort. In the EDRN and cetuximab-treated cohorts elevated EGFR by IHC was associated with reduced survival (p=0.019 and p=0.06, respectively). Elevated expression of total EGFR and EGFR PY1068 were independently significantly associated with reduced progression-free survival in the EDRN cohort (HR=2.75; 95% CI=1.26–6.00 and HR=3.29; 95% CI=1.34–8.14, respectively).
In two independent HNSCC cohorts treated with or without cetuximab, tumor EGFR levels were indicative of survival. Tumor EGFR PY1068 levels provided prognostic information independent of total EGFR.
PMCID: PMC3430124  PMID: 22351687
epidermal growth factor receptor; receptor tyrosine kinase; site-specific phosphorylation; prognosis; head and neck cancer
13.  A Multiplexed Serum Biomarker Immunoassay Panel Discriminates Clinical Lung Cancer Patients from High-Risk Individuals Found to be Cancer-Free by CT Screening 
Journal of Thoracic Oncology  2012;7(4):698-708.
Clinical decision-making in the setting of CT screening could benefit from accessible biomarkers that help predict the level of lung cancer risk in high-risk individuals with indeterminate pulmonary nodules.
To identify candidate serum biomarkers, we measured 70 cancer-related proteins by Luminex xMAP® multiplexed immunoassays in a training set of sera from 56 patients with biopsy-proven primary non small cell lung cancer and 56 age-, sex- and smoking-matched CT-screened controls.
We identified a panel of 10 serum biomarkers – prolactin, transthyretin, thrombospondin-1, E-selectin, C-C motif chemokine 5, macrophage migration inhibitory factor, plasminogen activator inhibitor, receptor tyrosine-protein kinase, Cyfra 21.1, and serum amyloid A – that distinguished lung cancer from controls with an estimated balanced accuracy (average of sensitivity and specificity) of 76.0%±3.8% from 20-fold internal cross-validation. We then iteratively evaluated this model in independent test and verification case/control studies confirming the initial classification performance of the panel. The classification performance of the 10-biomarker panel was also analytically validated using ELISAs in a second independent case/control population further validating the robustness of the panel.
The performance of this 10-biomarker panel based model was 77.1% sensitivity/76.2% specificity in cross-validation in the expanded training set, 73.3% sensitivity/93.3% specificity (balanced accuracy 83.3%) in the blinded verification set with the best discriminative performance in Stage I/II cases: 85% sensitivity (balanced accuracy 89.2%). Importantly, the rate of misclassification of CT-screened controls was not different in most control subgroups with or without airflow obstruction or emphysema or pulmonary nodules. These biomarkers have potential to aid in the early detection of lung cancer and more accurate interpretation of indeterminate pulmonary nodules detected by screening CT.
PMCID: PMC3308353  PMID: 22425918
Lung cancer; serum protein biomarkers; CT screening; Luminex xMAP® immunoassays; pulmonary nodules
14.  Gastrin-Releasing Peptide Receptor Mediates Activation of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor in Lung Cancer Cells1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2005;7(4):426-431.
Gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) and the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are expressed in several cancers including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Here we demonstrate the activation of EGFR by the GRPR ligand, gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), in NSCLC cells. GRP induced rapid activation of p44/42 MAPK in lung cancer cells through EGFR. GRP-mediated activation of MAPK in NSCLC cells was abrogated by pretreatment with the anti-EGFR-neutralizing antibody, C225. Pretreatment of NSCLC cells with neutralizing antibodies to the EGFR ligands, TGF-α or HB-EGF, also decreased GRP-mediated MAPK activation. On matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibition, GRP failed to activate MAPK in NSCLC cells. EGF and GRP both stimulated NSCLC proliferation, and inhibition of either EGFR or GRPR resulted in cell death. Combining a GRPR antagonist with the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, gefitinib, resulted in additive cytotoxic effects. Additive effects were seen at gefitinib concentrations from 1 to 18 µM, encompassing the ID50 values of both gefitinib-sensitive and gefitinib-resistant NSCLC cell lines. Because a major effect of GRPR appears to be promoting the release of EGFR ligand, this study suggests that a greater inhibition of cell proliferation may occur by abrogating EGFR ligand release in consort with inhibition of EGFR.
PMCID: PMC1501149  PMID: 15967120
EGFR; GRPR; MAPK; signal transduction; non-small cell lung cancer
15.  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
16.  Combining the Multi-Targeted Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Vandetanib with the Anti-Estrogen Fulvestrant Enhances its Anti-tumor Effect in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Journal of Thoracic Oncology  2012;7(3):485-495.
Estrogen is known to promote proliferation and to activate the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a known estrogen responsive gene in breast cancer. We sought to determine if the VEGF pathway is also regulated by estrogen in lung cancer cells, and whether combining an inhibitor of the ER pathway with a dual VEGFR/EGFR inhibitor would show enhanced anti-tumor effects.
We examined activation of EGFR and expression of VEGF in response to β-estradiol, and the anti-tumor activity of the multi-targeted VEGFR/EGFR/RET inhibitor, vandetanib, when combined with the anti-estrogen fulvestrant both in vitro and in vivo.
NSCLC cells expressed VEGFR-3 and EGFR. Vandetanib treatment of NSCLC cells resulted in inhibition of EGFR and VEGFR-3 and inhibition of β-estradiol-induced P-MAPK activation, demonstrating that vandetanib blocks β-estradiol-induced EGFR signaling. Treatment with β-estradiol stimulated VEGFA mRNA and protein (P<0.0001 over baseline), suggesting estrogenic signaling causes heightened VEGFA pathway activation. This estrogenic induction of VEGFA mRNA appears largely dependent on cross-talk with EGFR. Long-term vandetanib treatment also significantly increased ERβ protein expression. The combination of vandetanib with fulvestrant maximally inhibited cell growth compared to single agents (P<0.0001) and decreased tumor xenograft volume by 64%, compared to 51% for vandetanib (P<0.05) and 23% for fulvestrant (P<0.005). Antitumor effects of combination therapy were accompanied by a significant increase in apoptotic cells compared to single agents.
Fulvestrant may enhance effects of vandetanib in NSCLC by blocking estrogen-driven activation of the EGFR pathway.
PMCID: PMC3288546  PMID: 22258476
EGFR; Estrogen; NSCLC; VEGF; VEGFR; Tyrosine kinase inhibitor
17.  Kinin B2 Receptor Mediates Induction of Cyclooxygenase-2 and Is Over-Expressed In Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinomas 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2008;6(12):1946-1956.
Bradykinin (BK) has been shown to promote growth and migration of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells via epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) transactivation. It has also been reported that BK can cause the induction of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), a pro-tumorigenic enzyme, via the MAPK (Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase) pathway in human airway cells. To determine whether COX-2 is up-regulated by BK in HNSCC, the current study investigated BK- induced EGFR transactivation, MAPK activation, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression in human HNSCC cells. BK induced a concentration- and time-dependent induction of COX-2 protein in HNSCC, which was preceded by phosphorylation of EGFR and MAPK. These effects were abolished by the B2 receptor (B2R) antagonist Hoe 140 but not the B1 receptor (B1R) antagonist, Lys-[Leu8]des-Arg9-BK. COX-2 induction was accompanied by increased release of PGE2. No effect of a B1R agonist (des-Arg9-BK) on p-MAPK or COX-2 expression was observed. B2R protein was found to be expressed in all four head and neck cell lines tested. Immunohistochemical analysis and immunoblot analysis revealed that B2R, but not B1R, was significantly over-expressed in HNSCC tumors compared to levels in normal mucosa from the same patient. In HNSCC cells, the BK-induced expression of COX-2 was inhibited by the EGFR kinase inhibitor gefitinib or mitogen activated protein kinase kinases (MEK) inhibitors (PD98059 or U0126). These results suggest that EGFR and MAPK are required for COX-2 induction by BK. Up-regulation of the B2R in head and neck cancers suggests this pathway is involved in HNSCC tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3575100  PMID: 19074839
Bradykinin; B2 receptor; EGFR; MAPK; cyclooxygenase-2; head and neck cancer
18.  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
19.  Doubling Times and CT Screen–Detected Lung Cancers in the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study 
Rationale: As computed tomography (CT) screening for lung cancer becomes more widespread, volumetric analyses, including doubling times, of CT-screen detected lung nodules and lung cancers may provide useful information in the follow-up and management of CT-detected lung nodules and cancers.
Objectives: To analyze doubling times in CT screen detected lung cancers and compare prevalent and nonprevalent cancers and different cell types on non small cell lung cancer.
Methods: We performed volumetric and doubling time analysis on 63 non–small cell lung cancers detected as part of the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study using a commercially available VITREA 2 workstation and VITREA VITAL nodule segmentation software.
Measurements and Main Results: Doubling times (DT) were divided into three groups: rapid (DT < 183 d), typical (DT 183–365 d), and slow (DT > 365 d). Adenocarcinoma/bronchioloalveolar carcinoma comprised 86.7% of the slow DT group compared with 20% of the rapid DT group. Conversely, squamous cell cancer comprised 60% of the rapid DT group compared with 3.3% of the slow DT group. Twenty-eight of 42 (67%) prevalent and 2 of 21 (10%) nonprevalent cancers were in the slow DT group (P < 0.0001; Fisher's exact test). Twenty-four of 32 (75%) prevalent and 1 of 11 (9%) nonprevalent adenocarcinomas were in the slow DT group (P < 0.0002; Fisher's exact test).
Conclusions: Volumetric analysis of CT-detected lung cancers is particularly useful in AC/BAC. Prevalent cancers have a significantly slower DT than nonprevalent cancers and a higher percentage of adenocarcinoma/bronchioloalveolar carcinoma. These results should affect the management of indeterminant lung nodules detected on screening CT scans.
PMCID: PMC3262038  PMID: 21997335
lung cancer; doubling times; lung cancer screening
20.  Automated Lobe-Based Airway Labeling 
Regional quantitative analysis of airway morphological abnormalities is of great interest in lung disease investigation. Considering that pulmonary lobes are relatively independent functional unit, we develop and test a novel and efficient computerized scheme in this study to automatically and robustly classify the airways into different categories in terms of pulmonary lobe. Given an airway tree, which could be obtained using any available airway segmentation scheme, the developed approach consists of four basic steps: (1) airway skeletonization or centerline extraction, (2) individual airway branch identification, (3) initial rule-based airway classification/labeling, and (4) self-correction of labeling errors. In order to assess the performance of this approach, we applied it to a dataset consisting of 300 chest CT examinations in a batch manner and asked an image analyst to subjectively examine the labeled results. Our preliminary experiment showed that the labeling accuracy for the right upper lobe, the right middle lobe, the right lower lobe, the left upper lobe, and the left lower lobe is 100%, 99.3%, 99.3%, 100%, and 100%, respectively. Among these, only two cases are incorrectly labeled due to the failures in airway detection. It takes around 2 minutes to label an airway tree using this algorithm.
PMCID: PMC3474277  PMID: 23093951
21.  Combined Inhibition of c-Src and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Abrogates Growth and Invasion of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
Increased expression and/or activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is associated with tumor progression and poor prognosis in many cancers including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Src family kinases, including c-Src, mediate a variety of intra- or extracellular signals that contribute to tumor formation and progression. This study was undertaken to elucidate the role of c-Src in the growth and invasion of HNSCC and to determine the effects of combined targeting of EGFR and Src kinases in HNSCC cell lines.
Experimental design
HNSCC cells were engineered to stably express a dominant-active (DA) form of c-Src and investigated in cell growth and invasion assays. The biochemical effects of combined treatment with the Src inhibitor, AZD0530, a potent, orally active Src inhibitor with Bcr/Abl activity and the EGFR kinase inhibitor, gefitinib, were examined as well as the consequences of dual Src/EGFR targeting on the growth and invasion of a panel of HNSCC cell lines.
HNSCC cells expressing DA c-Src demonstrated increased growth and invasion compared with vector-transfected controls. Combined treatment with AZD0530 and gefitinib resulted in greater inhibition of HNSCC cell growth and invasion compared with either agent alone.
These results suggest that increased expression and activation of c-Src promotes HNSCC progression where combined targeting of EGFR and c-Src may be an efficacious treatment approach.
PMCID: PMC3428119  PMID: 18594011
head and neck cancer; epidermal growth factor receptor; Src family kinases; protein kinase inhibitors
22.  Immunohistochemical Analysis of Phosphotyrosine Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Autocrine Signaling Pathways in Head and Neck Cancers and Metastatic Lymph Nodes 
To determine the effect of tyrosine-phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (pSTAT3) immunoexpression on survival in two independent cohorts of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) and to evaluate pSTAT3, trans-forming growth factor-α (TGF-α), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR) expression in matched tumor and lymph node metastases in one of these cohorts.
Experimental Technique
Immunostaining for pSTAT3, TGF-α, EGFR, and GRPR was done in two SCCHN cohorts (cohort 1, 61 tumors; cohort 2, 69 paired primary tumors and lymph node metastases). Semiquantitative scores derived from the product of staining intensity (scale 0–3) score and percentage of positive tumor cells were correlated with clinical outcome.
Immunoexpression of pSTAT3 did not correlate with clinical outcome in either cohort (cohort 1, P = 0.914; cohort 2, P = 0.312). Incohort 2, TGF-α and EGFR expression in the primary tumors showed some association with decreased disease-free survival (P = 0.0306 and P = 0.0985, respectively). Both pSTAT3 and EGFR showed a correlation of expression between tumor and matched lymph node metastasis (P < 0.0001 and P = 0.0046, respectively). In addition, the expression of EGFR and GRPR in the primary tumors correlated with TGF-α expression in paired nodal metastases (P = 0.0043 and P = 0.0268, respectively). In the nodal metastases, TGF-α expression correlated with EGFR expression (P = 0.0069). In primary tumors, GRPR expression correlated with TGF-α and EGFR expression(P =0.0378 and P =0.0026, respectively).
These findings support an autocrine signaling pathway involving TGF-α, EGFR, and pSTAT3 in metastatic SCCHN as well as transactivation of EGFR by GRPR via TGF-α, but fails to identify an independent prognostic role for pSTAT3 immunoexpression.
PMCID: PMC3424506  PMID: 18316548
23.  Dual blockade of EGFR and c-Met abrogates redundant signaling and proliferation in head and neck carcinoma cells 
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is usually fatal, and innovative approaches targeting growth pathways are necessary to effectively treat this disease. Both the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/c-Met pathways are overexpressed in HNSCC and initiate similar downstream signaling pathways. c-Met may act in consort with EGFR and/or be activated as a compensatory pathway in the presence of EGFR blockade.
Experimental Design
Expression levels of EGFR and c-Met were determined by Western analysis in HNSCC cell lines and correlated with anti-tumor responses to inhibitors of these pathways.
Combining the c-Met inhibitor PF2341066 with the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib abrogated HNSCC cell proliferation, invasion and wound healing significantly more than inhibition of each pathway alone in HNSCC cell lines. When both HGF and the EGFR ligand, transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-α), were present in vitro, P-AKT and P-MAPK expression were maximally inhibited by targeting both EGFR and c-Met pathways, suggesting that c-Met or EGFR can compensate when phosphorylation of the other receptor is inhibited. We also demonstrated that TGF-α can induce phosphorylation of c-Met over 6-fold by 8 hours in the absence of HGF, supporting a ligand-independent mechanism. Combined targeting of c-Met and EGFR resulted in an enhanced inhibition of tumor volumes accompanied by a decreased number of proliferating cells and increased apoptosis compared to single agent treatment in vivo.
Together these results suggest that dual blockade of c-Met and EGFR may be a promising clinical therapeutic strategy for treating HNSCC.
PMCID: PMC3138116  PMID: 21622718
24.  Combined analysis of estrogen receptor β–1 and progesterone receptor expression identifies lung cancer patients with poor outcome 
Steroid hormones and growth factors affect lung cancer, and it is possible they act in concert to influence patient outcome.
Experimental Design
Primary lung tumors and normal lung tissue were analyzed for expression and localization of estrogen receptor α and β–1 ERα and ERβ), aromatase, progesterone receptor (PR), and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).
Tumors expressed higher levels of ERβ compared to matched normal lung, while the reverse was true of PR. High cytoplasmic ERβ expression was identified as an independent negative prognostic predictor of overall survival (OS) (HR=1.67), and low total PR was identified as an independent negative predictor of time to progression (TTP) (HR=1.59). After adjusting for stage, age, sex and smoking, combined high cytoplasmic ERβ and low total PR showed enhanced effects on OS (HR=2.64) and on TTP (HR=6.02). Further effects on OS were observed when EGFR expression was included (HR=5.32). Patients with low cytoplasmic ERβ, low aromatase, low EGFR and high total PR had shorter OS than patients with the opposite pattern (HR= 6.60). Contribution of these markers to survival showed no significant sex differences in a multivariable model. ERα was elevated in tumors but was not predictive of survival, and appears to represent a variant ERα protein that is only recognized by a C-terminal antibody.
Hormonal and EGFR pathways together may contribute to lung cancer prognosis. Lung tumors with high ERβ–1 /low PR may define patients with aggressive biology. A validation study is necessary to fully assess the predictive value of these markers.
PMCID: PMC3064257  PMID: 21062926
estrogen receptor; progesterone receptor; aromatase; epidermal growth factor receptor; lung cancer
25.  Lung Cancer Serum Biomarker Discovery Using Glycoprotein Capture and Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry 
Journal of proteome research  2010;9(12):6440-6449.
Targeted glycoproteomics represents an attractive approach for conducting peripheral blood based cancer biomarker discovery due to the well-known altered pattern of protein glycosylation in cancer and the reduced complexity of the resultant glycoproteome. Here we report its application to a set of pooled non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) case sera (9 adenocarcinoma and 6 squamous cell carcinoma pools from 54 patients) and matched controls pools, including 8 clinical control pools with computed tomography detected nodules but being non-malignant as determined by biopsy from 54 patients, and 8 matched healthy control pools from 106 cancer-free subjects. The goal of the study is to discover biomarkers which may enable improved early detection and diagnosis of lung cancer. Immunoaffinity subtraction was used to first deplete the top most abundant serum proteins; the remaining serum proteins were then subjected to hydrazide chemistry based glycoprotein capture and enrichment. Hydrazide resin in situ trypsin digestion was used to release non-glycosylated peptides. Formerly N-linked glycosylated peptides were released by peptide-N-glycosidase F (PNGase F) treatment and were subsequently analyzed by liquid chromatography (LC)-tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). A MATLAB® based in-house tool was developed to facilitate retention time alignment across different LC-MS/MS runs, determination of precursor ion m/z values and elution profiles, and the integration of mass chromatograms based on determined parameters for identified peptides. A total of 38 glycopeptides from 22 different proteins were significantly differentially abundant across the case/control pools (P<0.01, Student’s t test) and their abundances led to a near complete separation of case and control pools based on hierarchical clustering. The differential abundances of three of these candidate proteins were verified by commercially available ELISAs applied in the pools. Strong positive correlations between glycopeptide mass chromatograms and ELISA-measured protein abundance was observed for all of the selected glycoproteins.
PMCID: PMC3184639  PMID: 20931982
Lung cancer; serum biomarkers; glycoproteomics; LC-MS/MS; mass chromatogram

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