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1.  High Serum miR-19a Levels Are Associated with Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Are Predictive of Favorable Clinical Outcome in Patients with Metastatic HER2+ Inflammatory Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83113.
Introduction
Altered serum microRNA (miRNA) levels may be correlated with a dysregulated expression pattern in parental tumor tissue and reflect the clinical evolution of disease. The overexpression of miR-21, miR-10b, and miR-19a is associated with the acquisition of malignant characteristics (increased tumor cell proliferation, migration, invasion, dissemination, and metastasis); thus, we determined their utility as serum biomarkers for aggressive breast cancer (HER2-overexpressed or -amplified [HER2+] and inflammatory breast cancer [IBC]).
Experimental Design
In this prospective study, we measured miR-21, miR-10b, and miR-19a levels using quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction in the serum of 113 breast cancer patients and determined their association with clinicopathologic factors and clinical outcome. Thirty healthy donors with no history of cancer were enrolled as controls.
Results
Patients with non-metastatic HER2+ breast cancer had higher serum miR-21 median levels than patients with non-metastatic HER2− disease (p = 0.044); whereas patients with metastatic HER2+ breast cancer had higher serum miR-10b median levels than patients with metastatic HER2− disease (p = 0.0004). There were no significant differences in serum miR-19a median levels between HER2+ and HER2− groups, regardless of the presence of metastases. High serum miR-19a levels were associated with IBC (p = 0.039). Patients with metastatic IBC had significantly higher serum miR-19a median levels than patients with metastatic non-IBC (p = 0.019). Finally, high serum miR-19a levels were associated with longer progression-free survival time (10.3 vs. 3.2 months; p = 0.022) and longer overall survival time (median not reached vs. 11.2 months; p = 0.003) in patients with metastatic HER2+ IBC.
Conclusion
High levels of miR-21 and miR-10b were present in the serum of patients with non-metastatic and metastatic HER2+ breast cancer, respectively. High levels of serum miR-19a may represent a biomarker for IBC that is predictive for favorable clinical outcome in patients with metastatic HER2+ IBC.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083113
PMCID: PMC3885405  PMID: 24416156
2.  Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition and Stem Cell Markers in Patients with HER2-Positive Metastatic Breast Cancer 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2012;11(11):2526-2534.
Currently, there is extensive information about circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and their prognostic value; however, little is known about other characteristics of these cells. In this prospective study, we assessed the gene transcripts of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition inducing transcription factors (EMT-TFs) and cancer stem cell features in HER2+ metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients. Epithelial cells were enriched from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) using antibody-coated anti-CD326 antibody (CD326+) magnetic beads, and the residual CD326− PBMCs were further depleted of leukocytes using anti-CD45 antibody-coated magnetic beads (CD326−CD45−). RNA was extracted from all cell fractions, reverse transcribed to cDNA, and subjected to quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to detect EMT-TFs (TWIST1, SNAIL1, ZEB1, and TG2) as a measure of CTCs undergoing EMT (EMT-CTCs). Additionally, PBMCs were analyzed using multi-parameter flow cytometry for ALDH activity and cancer stem cells (CSCs) that express CD24, CD44, and CD133. Twenty-eight patients were included in this study. At least one EMT-TF mRNA was elevated in the CTCs of 88.2% of patients and in the CD326−CD45− cell fraction of 60.7% of patients. The CD326−CD45− fraction of patients with elevated SNAIL1 and ZEB1 transcripts also had a higher percentage of ALDH+/CD133+ cells in their blood than did patients with normal SNAIL1 and ZEB1 expression (P=0.038). Our data indicate that HER2+ MBC patients have EMT-CTCs. Moreover, an enrichment of cancer stem cells was found in CD326−CD45− cells. Additional studies are needed to determine whether EMT-CTCs and CSCs have prognostic value in HER2+ MBC patients treated with trastuzumab-based therapy.
doi:10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0460
PMCID: PMC3500676  PMID: 22973057
circulating tumor cells; epithelial to mesenchymal transition; stem cells; HER2; CD133; metastatic breast cancer
3.  The Role of Thalidomide and Placebo for the Treatment of Cancer-Related Anorexia-Cachexia Symptoms: Results of a Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Randomized Study 
Journal of Palliative Medicine  2012;15(10):1059-1064.
Abstract
Objectives
To determine the effects of thalidomide and placebo on anorexia-cachexia and its related symptoms, body composition, resting metabolic rate, and serum cytokines and their receptors in patients with advanced cancer.
Methods
Included in the study were patients with advanced cancer with weight loss greater than 5% in 6 months and who reported anorexia, fatigue, and one of the following: anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances. Patients on chemotherapy within 2 weeks prior or during the study were excluded from the study. Patients were randomly assigned to either 100 mg thalidomide or placebo once a day for 14 days. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), Functional Assessment of Anorexia/Cachexia Therapy (FAACT), Functional Assessment of Cancer Illness Therapy (FACIT-F), Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale (HADS) Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) were utilized, and in addition body composition, Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), and serum cytokine levels were assessed.
Results
Of the 31 patients entered in the study, 15 were assigned to the thalidomide group and 16 to the placebo group. However only 21/31 patients were able to complete the study. Compared with their baseline values, both the thalidomide and the placebo groups showed significant reduction in cytokines. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α (p=0.04) and its receptors TNFR1 (p=0.04), TNFR2 (p=0.04), and interleukin (IL)-8 (p=0.04) were statistically significant in the thalidomide group. In the placebo group, TNF-α (p=0.008), TNFR1 (p=0.005), TNFR2 (p=0.005), IL-RA (p=0.005), IL-6 (p=0.005), and IL-8 (p=0.005) were statistically significant. However, improvement in these symptoms and cytokine levels were not significantly different in the thalidomide group compared with the placebo group. None of the patients withdrew from the study because of toxicity of either thalidomide or placebo.
Conclusions
Based on the poor accrual rate and attrition observed in this study, it is important that future research on thalidomide as a treatment for cancer-related anorexia-cachexia symptoms (ACS) in patients with advanced cancer use less stringent entry criteria and less exhaustive outcome measures.
doi:10.1089/jpm.2012.0146
PMCID: PMC3438834  PMID: 22880820
4.  Prognostic Value of EMT-Circulating Tumor Cells in Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing High-Dose Chemotherapy with Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation 
Journal of Cancer  2012;3:369-380.
Background: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are an independent prognostic factor in metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients treated by conventional dose chemotherapy. The aim of this study was to determine the role of CTCs and CTCs undergoing epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in metastatic breast cancer. We used the platform of high-dose chemotherapy (HDCT) and autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) to study the CTCs and CTCs with EMT.
Patients and methods: CTCs were enumerated in 21 MBC patients before apheresis and 1 month after AHSCT. CD34-depleted apheresis products were analyzed for CD326+ epithelial and Aldefluor+ cancer stem cells (CSC) by flow cytometry and were depleted of CD45+ cells and assessed for EMT-inducing transcription factors (EMT-TF) by quantitative RT-PCR.
Results: Patients with ≥ 5 CTCs/7.5 mL of peripheral blood 1 month after AHSCT had shorter progression-free survival (PFS) (P=0.02) and overall survival (OS) (P=0.02). Patients with apheresis products containing high percentages of CD326+ epithelial cells or overexpressing EMT-TF had shorter PFS. In multivariate analysis, low percentage of CD326+ epithelial cells and response to HDCT with AHSCT were associated with longer PFS, whereas lower CTCs after AHSCT was associated with longer OS. High CTCs, 1 month after AHSCT correlated with shorter PFS and OS in MBC patients undergoing HDCT and AHSCT, while CTCs with EMT and CSCs phenotype in apheresis products are associated with relapse.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that CTC and CTCs with EMT are prognostic in MBC patients undergoing HDCT followed by AHSCT.
doi:10.7150/jca.5111
PMCID: PMC3471078  PMID: 23074378
metastatic breast cancer; circulating tumor cells; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; high-dose chemotherapy; autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Results 1-4 (4)