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1.  Genetic and cellular mechanisms of the formation of Esophageal Atresia and Tracheoesophageal Fistula 
Foregut separation involves dynamic changes in the activities of signaling pathways and transcription factors. Recent mouse genetic studies demonstrate that some of these pathways interact with each other to form a complex network, leading to a unique dorsal-ventral patterning in the early foregut. In this review we will discuss how this unique dorsal-ventral patterning is set prior to the foregut separation and how disruption of this patterning affects the separation process. We will further discuss the roles of downstream targets of these pathways in regulating separation at cellular and molecular levels. Understanding the mechanism of normal separation process will provide us insights into the pathobiology of a relatively common birth defect Esophageal Atresia (EA) with/without Tracheo-esophageal Fistula (TEF).
PMCID: PMC4321969  PMID: 23679023
foregut separation; EA/TEF; Sox2; Bmp
2.  Results of Annual Screening in Phase I of the United Kingdom Familial Ovarian Cancer Screening Study Highlight the Need for Strict Adherence to Screening Schedule 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;31(1):49-57.
To establish the performance characteristics of annual transvaginal ultrasound and serum CA125 screening for women at high risk of ovarian/fallopian tube cancer (OC/FTC) and to investigate the impact of delayed screening interval and surgical intervention.
Patients and Methods
Between May 6, 2002, and January 5, 2008, 3,563 women at an estimated ≥ 10% lifetime risk of OC/FTC were recruited and screened by 37 centers in the United Kingdom. Participants were observed prospectively by centers, questionnaire, and national cancer registries.
Sensitivity for detection of incident OC/FTC at 1 year after last annual screen was 81.3% (95% CI, 54.3% to 96.0%) if occult cancers were classified as false negatives and 87.5% (95% CI, 61.7% to 98.5%) if they were classified as true positives. Positive and negative predictive values of incident screening were 25.5% (95% CI, 14.3 to 40.0) and 99.9% (95% CI, 99.8 to 100) respectively. Four (30.8%) of 13 incident screen-detected OC/FTCs were stage I or II. Compared with women screened in the year before diagnosis, those not screened in the year before diagnosis were more likely to have ≥ stage IIIc disease (85.7% v 26.1%; P = .009). Screening interval was delayed by a median of 88 days before detection of incident OC/FTC. Median interval from detection screen to surgical intervention was 79 days in prevalent and incident OC/FTC.
These results in the high-risk population highlight the need for strict adherence to screening schedule. Screening more frequently than annually with prompt surgical intervention seems to offer a better chance of early-stage detection.
PMCID: PMC3530690  PMID: 23213100
3.  A BRCA1-mutation associated DNA methylation signature in blood cells predicts sporadic breast cancer incidence and survival 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(6):47.
BRCA1 mutation carriers have an 85% risk of developing breast cancer but the risk of developing non-hereditary breast cancer is difficult to assess. Our objective is to test whether a DNA methylation (DNAme) signature derived from BRCA1 mutation carriers is able to predict non-hereditary breast cancer.
In a case/control setting (72 BRCA1 mutation carriers and 72 BRCA1/2 wild type controls) blood cell DNA samples were profiled on the Illumina 27 k methylation array. Using the Elastic Net classification algorithm, a BRCA1-mutation DNAme signature was derived and tested in two cohorts: (1) The NSHD (19 breast cancers developed within 12 years after sample donation and 77 controls) and (2) the UKCTOCS trial (119 oestrogen receptor positive breast cancers developed within 5 years after sample donation and 122 controls).
We found that our blood-based BRCA1-mutation DNAme signature applied to blood cell DNA from women in the NSHD resulted in a receiver operating characteristics (ROC) area under the curve (AUC) of 0.65 (95% CI 0.51 to 0.78, P = 0.02) which did not validate in buccal cells from the same individuals. Applying the signature in blood DNA from UKCTOCS volunteers resulted in AUC of 0.57 (95% CI 0.50 to 0.64; P = 0.03) and is independent of family history or any other known risk factors. Importantly the BRCA1-mutation DNAme signature was able to predict breast cancer mortality (AUC = 0.67; 95% CI 0.51 to 0.83; P = 0.02). We also found that the 1,074 CpGs which are hypermethylated in BRCA1 mutation carriers are significantly enriched for stem cell polycomb group target genes (P <10-20).
A DNAme signature derived from BRCA1 carriers is able to predict breast cancer risk and death years in advance of diagnosis. Future studies may need to focus on DNAme profiles in epithelial cells in order to reach the AUC thresholds required of preventative measures or early detection strategies.
PMCID: PMC4110671  PMID: 25067956
4.  Common alleles in candidate susceptibility genes associated with risk and development of epithelial ovarian cancer 
Common germline genetic variation in the population is associated with susceptibility to epithelial ovarian cancer. Microcell-mediated chromosome transfer and expression microarray analysis identified nine genes associated with functional suppression of tumorogenicity in ovarian cancer cell lines; AIFM2, AKTIP, AXIN2, CASP5, FILIP1L, RBBP8, RGC32, RUVBL1 and STAG3. Sixty-three tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (tSNPs) in these genes were genotyped in 1,799 invasive ovarian cancer cases and 3,045 controls to look for associations with disease risk. Two SNPs in RUVBL1, rs13063604 and rs7650365, were associated with increased risk of serous ovarian cancer [HetOR = 1.42 (1.15–1.74) and the HomOR = 1.63 (1.10–1.42), p-trend = 0.0002] and [HetOR = 0.97 (0.80–1.17), HomOR = 0.74 (0.58–0.93), p-trend = 0.009], respectively. We genotyped rs13063604 and rs7650365 in an additional 4,590 cases and 6,031 controls from ten sites from the United States, Europe and Australia; however, neither SNP was significant in Stage 2. We also evaluated the potential role of tSNPs in these nine genes in ovarian cancer development by testing for allele-specific loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in 286 primary ovarian tumours. We found frequent LOH for tSNPs in AXIN2, AKTIP and RGC32 (64, 46 and 34%, respectively) and one SNP, rs1637001, in STAG3 showed significant allele-specific LOH with loss of the common allele in 94% of informative tumours (p = 0.015). Array comparative genomic hybridisation indicated that this nonrandom allelic imbalance was due to amplification of the rare allele. In conclusion, we show evidence for the involvement of a common allele of STAG3 in the development of epithelial ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC3098608  PMID: 20635389
risk of ovarian cancer; polymorphism; association studies
5.  Role of DNA Methylation and Epigenetic Silencing of HAND2 in Endometrial Cancer Development 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001551.
TB filled in by Laureen
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Endometrial cancer incidence is continuing to rise in the wake of the current ageing and obesity epidemics. Much of the risk for endometrial cancer development is influenced by the environment and lifestyle. Accumulating evidence suggests that the epigenome serves as the interface between the genome and the environment and that hypermethylation of stem cell polycomb group target genes is an epigenetic hallmark of cancer. The objective of this study was to determine the functional role of epigenetic factors in endometrial cancer development.
Methods and Findings
Epigenome-wide methylation analysis of >27,000 CpG sites in endometrial cancer tissue samples (n = 64) and control samples (n = 23) revealed that HAND2 (a gene encoding a transcription factor expressed in the endometrial stroma) is one of the most commonly hypermethylated and silenced genes in endometrial cancer. A novel integrative epigenome-transcriptome-interactome analysis further revealed that HAND2 is the hub of the most highly ranked differential methylation hotspot in endometrial cancer. These findings were validated using candidate gene methylation analysis in multiple clinical sample sets of tissue samples from a total of 272 additional women. Increased HAND2 methylation was a feature of premalignant endometrial lesions and was seen to parallel a decrease in RNA and protein levels. Furthermore, women with high endometrial HAND2 methylation in their premalignant lesions were less likely to respond to progesterone treatment. HAND2 methylation analysis of endometrial secretions collected using high vaginal swabs taken from women with postmenopausal bleeding specifically identified those patients with early stage endometrial cancer with both high sensitivity and high specificity (receiver operating characteristics area under the curve = 0.91 for stage 1A and 0.97 for higher than stage 1A). Finally, mice harbouring a Hand2 knock-out specifically in their endometrium were shown to develop precancerous endometrial lesions with increasing age, and these lesions also demonstrated a lack of PTEN expression.
HAND2 methylation is a common and crucial molecular alteration in endometrial cancer that could potentially be employed as a biomarker for early detection of endometrial cancer and as a predictor of treatment response. The true clinical utility of HAND2 DNA methylation, however, requires further validation in prospective studies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Cancer, which is responsible for 13% of global deaths, can develop anywhere in the body, but all cancers are characterized by uncontrolled cell growth and reduced cellular differentiation (the process by which unspecialized cells such as “stem” cells become specialized during development, tissue repair, and normal cell turnover). Genetic alterations—changes in the sequence of nucleotides (DNA's building blocks) in specific genes—are required for this cellular transformation and subsequent cancer development (carcinogenesis). However, recent evidence suggests that epigenetic modifications—reversible, heritable changes in gene function that occur in the absence of nucleotide sequence changes—may also be involved in carcinogenesis. For example, the addition of methyl groups to a set of genes called stem cell polycomb group target genes (PCGTs; polycomb genes control the expression of their target genes by modifying their DNA or associated proteins) is one of the earliest molecular changes in human cancer development, and increasing evidence suggests that hypermethylation of PCGTs is an epigenetic hallmark of cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
The methylation of PCGTs, which is triggered by age and by environmental factors that are associated with cancer development, reduces cellular differentiation and leads to the accumulation of undifferentiated cells that are susceptible to cancer development. It is unclear, however, whether epigenetic modifications have a causal role in carcinogenesis. Here, the researchers investigate the involvement of epigenetic factors in the development of endometrial (womb) cancer. The risk of endometrial cancer (which affects nearly 50,000 women annually in the United States) is largely determined by environmental and lifestyle factors. Specifically, the risk of this cancer is increased in women in whom estrogen (a hormone that drives cell proliferation in the endometrium) is functionally dominant over progesterone (a hormone that inhibits endometrial proliferation and causes cell differentiation); obese women and women who have taken estrogen-only hormone replacement therapies fall into this category. Thus, endometrial cancer is an ideal model in which to study whether epigenetic mechanisms underlie carcinogenesis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected data on genome-wide DNA methylation at cytosine- and guanine-rich sites in endometrial cancers and normal endometrium and integrated this information with the human interactome and transcriptome (all the physical interactions between proteins and all the genes expressed, respectively, in a cell) using an algorithm called Functional Epigenetic Modules (FEM). This analysis identified HAND2 as the hub of the most highly ranked differential methylation hotspot in endometrial cancer. HAND2 is a progesterone-regulated stem cell PCGT. It encodes a transcription factor that is expressed in the endometrial stroma (the connective tissue that lies below the epithelial cells in which most endometrial cancers develop) and that suppresses the production of the growth factors that mediate the growth-inducing effects of estrogen on the endometrial epithelium. The researchers hypothesized, therefore, that epigenetic deregulation of HAND2 could be a key step in endometrial cancer development. In support of this hypothesis, the researchers report that HAND2 methylation was increased in premalignant endometrial lesions (cancer-prone, abnormal-looking tissue) compared to normal endometrium, and was associated with suppression of HAND2 expression. Moreover, a high level of endometrial HAND2 methylation in premalignant lesions predicted a poor response to progesterone treatment (which stops the growth of some endometrial cancers), and analysis of HAND2 methylation in endometrial secretions collected from women with postmenopausal bleeding (a symptom of endometrial cancer) accurately identified individuals with early stage endometrial cancer. Finally, mice in which the Hand2 gene was specifically deleted in the endometrium developed precancerous endometrial lesions with age.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings identify HAND2 methylation as a common, key molecular alteration in endometrial cancer. These findings need to be confirmed in more women, and studies are needed to determine the immediate molecular and cellular consequences of HAND2 silencing in endometrial stromal cells. Nevertheless, these results suggest that HAND2 methylation could potentially be used as a biomarker for the early detection of endometrial cancer and for predicting treatment response. More generally, these findings support the idea that methylation of HAND2 (and, by extension, the methylation of other PCGTs) is not a passive epigenetic feature of cancer but is functionally involved in cancer development, and provide a framework for identifying other genes that are epigenetically regulated and functionally important in carcinogenesis.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information on all aspects of cancer and has detailed information about endometrial cancer for patients and professionals (in English and Spanish)
The not-for-profit organization American Cancer Society provides information on cancer and how it develops and specific information on endometrial cancer (in several languages)
The UK National Health Service Choices website includes an introduction to cancer, a page on endometrial cancer, and a personal story about endometrial cancer
The not-for-profit organization Cancer Research UK provides general information about cancer and specific information about endometrial cancer
Wikipedia has a page on cancer epigenetics (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The Eve Appeal charity that supported this research provides useful information on gynecological cancers
PMCID: PMC3825654  PMID: 24265601
6.  In vitro three-dimensional modeling of fallopian tube secretory epithelial cells 
BMC Cell Biology  2013;14:43.
Fallopian tube secretory epithelial cells (FTSECs) have been implicated as a cell-of-origin for high-grade serous epithelial ovarian cancer. However, there are relatively few in vitro models of this tissue type available for use in studies of FTSEC biology and malignant transformation. In vitro three-dimensional (3D) cell culture models aim to recreate the architecture and geometry of tissues in vivo and restore the complex network of cell-cell/cell-matrix interactions that occur throughout the surface of the cell membrane.
We have established and characterized 3D spheroid culture models of primary FTSECs. FTSEC spheroids contain central cores of hyaline matrix surrounded by mono- or multi-layer epithelial sheets. We found that 3D culturing alters the molecular characteristics of FTSECs compared to 2D cultures of the same cells. Gene expression profiling identified more than a thousand differentially expressed genes between 3D and 2D cultures of the same FTSEC lines. Pathways significantly under-represented in 3D FTSEC cultures were associated with cell cycle progression and DNA replication. This was also reflected in the reduced proliferative indices observed in 3D spheroids stained for the proliferation marker MIB1. Comparisons with gene expression profiles of fresh fallopian tube tissues revealed that 2D FTSEC cultures clustered with follicular phase tubal epithelium, whereas 3D FTSEC cultures clustered with luteal phase samples.
This 3D model of fallopian tube secretory epithelial cells will advance our ability to study the underlying biology and etiology of fallopian tube tissues and the pathogenesis of high-grade serous epithelial ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC3849984  PMID: 24070420
Fallopian tube secretory epithelial cells; Gene expression microarray; Three-dimensional in vitro models; Tissue microenvironment; Ovarian cancer
7.  Genetic and Cellular Mechanisms Regulating Anterior Foregut and Esophageal Development 
Developmental biology  2012;369(1):54-64.
Separation of the single anterior foregut tube into the esophagus and trachea involves cell proliferation and differentiation, as well as dynamic changes in cell-cell adhesion and migration. These biological processes are regulated and coordinated at multiple levels through the interplay of the epithelium and mesenchyme. Genetic studies and in vitro modeling have shed light on relevant regulatory networks that include a number of transcription factors and signaling pathways. These signaling molecules exhibit unique expression patterns and play specific functions in their respective territories before the separation process occurs. Disruption of regulatory networks inevitably leads to defective separation and malformation of the trachea and esophagus and results in the formation of a relatively common birth defect, esophageal atresia with or without tracheoesophageal fistula (EA/TEF). Significantly, some of the signaling pathways and transcription factors involved in anterior foregut separation continue to play important roles in the morphogenesis of the individual organs. In this review, we will focus on new findings related to these different developmental processes and discuss them in the context of developmental disorders (or birth defects) commonly seen in clinics.
PMCID: PMC3409292  PMID: 22750256
EA/TEF; Sox2; BMP; Esophageal Muscle; Myenteric System
9.  The Dynamics and Prognostic Potential of DNA Methylation Changes at Stem Cell Gene Loci in Women's Cancer 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(2):e1002517.
Aberrant DNA methylation is an important cancer hallmark, yet the dynamics of DNA methylation changes in human carcinogenesis remain largely unexplored. Moreover, the role of DNA methylation for prediction of clinical outcome is still uncertain and confined to specific cancers. Here we perform the most comprehensive study of DNA methylation changes throughout human carcinogenesis, analysing 27,578 CpGs in each of 1,475 samples, ranging from normal cells in advance of non-invasive neoplastic transformation to non-invasive and invasive cancers and metastatic tissue. We demonstrate that hypermethylation at stem cell PolyComb Group Target genes (PCGTs) occurs in cytologically normal cells three years in advance of the first morphological neoplastic changes, while hypomethylation occurs preferentially at CpGs which are heavily Methylated in Embryonic Stem Cells (MESCs) and increases significantly with cancer invasion in both the epithelial and stromal tumour compartments. In contrast to PCGT hypermethylation, MESC hypomethylation progresses significantly from primary to metastatic cancer and defines a poor prognostic signature in four different gynaecological cancers. Finally, we associate expression of TET enzymes, which are involved in active DNA demethylation, to MESC hypomethylation in cancer. These findings have major implications for cancer and embryonic stem cell biology and establish the importance of systemic DNA hypomethylation for predicting prognosis in a wide range of different cancers.
Author Summary
DNA methylation is an important chemical modification of DNA that can affect and regulate the activity of genes in human tissue. Abnormal DNA methylation and its subsequent effects on gene activity are a hallmark of cancer, yet when precisely these DNA methylation changes occur and how they contribute to the development of cancer remains largely unexplored. In this work we measure the methylation state of DNA at over 14,000 genes in over 1,475 samples, including normal and benign cells, invasive cancers, and metastatic cancer tissue. Using cervical cancer as a model, we show that gain of abnormal methylation at genes typically un-methylated in stem cells can be detected up to 3 years in advance of the appearance of pre-cancerous cells, while those genes typically methylated in stem cells lose this methylation progressively throughout cancer development. Furthermore, we discover that this process of methylation loss during cancer progression is a marker of poor disease outcome common to all four major women-specific cancers: breast, ovarian, endometrial, and cervical cancers. Finally we demonstrate the relationship between loss of methylation and cancer-specific over-production of a specific protein known to play an active role in removing methylation from DNA. Taken together these findings highlight the complex nature of DNA methylation dynamics in cancer development as well as their potential exploitation for clinical gain.
PMCID: PMC3276553  PMID: 22346766
10.  Microcell-Mediated Chromosome Transfer Identifies EPB41L3 as a Functional Suppressor of Epithelial Ovarian Cancers12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2010;12(7):579-589.
We used a functional complementation approach to identify tumor-suppressor genes and putative therapeutic targets for ovarian cancer. Microcell-mediated transfer of chromosome 18 in the ovarian cancer cell line TOV21G induced in vitro and in vivo neoplastic suppression. Gene expression microarray profiling in TOV21G+18 hybrids identified 14 candidate genes on chromosome 18 that were significantly overexpressed and therefore associated with neoplastic suppression. Further analysis of messenger RNA and protein expression for these genes in additional ovarian cancer cell lines indicated that EPB41L3 (erythrocyte membrane protein band 4.1-like 3, alternative names DAL-1 and 4.1B) was a candidate ovarian cancer-suppressor gene. Immunoblot analysis showed that EPB41L3 was activated in TOV21G+18 hybrids, expressed in normal ovarian epithelial cell lines, but was absent in 15 (78%) of 19 ovarian cancer cell lines. Using immunohistochemistry, 66% of 794 invasive ovarian tumors showed no EPB41L3 expression compared with only 24% of benign ovarian tumors and 0% of normal ovarian epithelial tissues. EPB41L3 was extensively methylated in ovarian cancer cell lines and primary ovarian tumors compared with normal tissues (P = .00004), suggesting this may be the mechanism of gene inactivation in ovarian cancers. Constitutive reexpression of EPB41L3 in a three-dimensional multicellular spheroid model of ovarian cancer caused significant growth suppression and induced apoptosis. Transmission and scanning electron microscopy demonstrated many similarities between EPB41L3-expressing cells and chromosome 18 donor-recipient hybrids, suggesting that EPB41L3 is the gene responsible for neoplastic suppression after chromosome 18 transfer. Finally, an inducible model of EPB41L3 expression in three-dimensional spheroids confirmed that reexpression of EPB41L3 induces extensive apoptotic cell death in ovarian cancers.
PMCID: PMC2907584  PMID: 20651987
11.  Association between invasive ovarian cancer susceptibility and 11 best candidate SNPs from breast cancer genome-wide association study 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(12):2297-2304.
Because both ovarian and breast cancer are hormone-related and are known to have some predisposition genes in common, we evaluated 11 of the most significant hits (six with confirmed associations with breast cancer) from the breast cancer genome-wide association study for association with invasive ovarian cancer. Eleven SNPs were initially genotyped in 2927 invasive ovarian cancer cases and 4143 controls from six ovarian cancer case–control studies. Genotype frequencies in cases and controls were compared using a likelihood ratio test in a logistic regression model stratified by study. Initially, three SNPs (rs2107425 in MRPL23, rs7313833 in PTHLH, rs3803662 in TNRC9) were weakly associated with ovarian cancer risk and one SNP (rs4954956 in NXPH2) was associated with serous ovarian cancer in non-Hispanic white subjects (P-trend < 0.1). These four SNPs were then genotyped in an additional 4060 cases and 6308 controls from eight independent studies. Only rs4954956 was significantly associated with ovarian cancer risk both in the replication study and in combined analyses. This association was stronger for the serous histological subtype [per minor allele odds ratio (OR) 1.07 95% CI 1.01–1.13, P-trend = 0.02 for all types of ovarian cancer and OR 1.14 95% CI 1.07–1.22, P-trend = 0.00017 for serous ovarian cancer]. In conclusion, we found that rs4954956 was associated with increased ovarian cancer risk, particularly for serous ovarian cancer. However, none of the six confirmed breast cancer susceptibility variants we tested was associated with ovarian cancer risk. Further work will be needed to identify the causal variant associated with rs4954956 or elucidate its function.
PMCID: PMC2685754  PMID: 19304784
12.  Senescent Fibroblasts Promote Neoplastic Transformation of Partially Transformed Ovarian Epithelial Cells in a Three-dimensional Model of Early Stage Ovarian Cancer12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2010;12(4):317-325.
Most epithelial ovarian cancers are diagnosed postmenopausally, although the well-established epidemiological risk factors (parity, oral contraceptive use) are premenopausal. We hypothesized that accumulation of senescent fibroblasts, together with concomitant loss of presenescent fibroblasts within the ovarian cortex, promotes initiation and early development of ovarian cancer from ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cells. To test this, we established immortalized OSE (IOSE) cell lines that mimic early neoplastic transformation by overexpressing the CMYC oncogene (IOSECMYC) and normal ovarian presenescent (PSN) and senescent (SEN) fibroblast cell lines. We then evaluated the ability of PSN and SEN fibroblasts to transform IOSE and IOSECMYC after coculture. SEN fibroblasts significantly enhanced neoplastic development of IOSECMYC cells; there was an up to 15-fold increase in migration of IOSECMYC cells cocultured with SEN fibroblasts compared with PSN fibroblasts. Conditioned medium from SEN fibroblasts promoted anchorage-independent growth of IOSECMYC cells. We studied fibroblast-epithelial cell interactions in heterotypic three-dimensional spheroid models. Dual immunohistochemical staining of spheroids for a proliferation marker (MIB-1) and cytokeratin-18 indicated that SEN fibroblasts induce approximately a five-fold increase in proliferation of IOSECMYC cells relative to cocultures with PSN fibroblasts. SEN, but not PSN fibroblasts, also induced nuclear atypia in epithelial cells in three-dimensional spheroids. These data suggest for the first time that the accumulation of senescent, or loss of presenescent fibroblasts, can promote neoplastic development of partially transformed OSE cells in vitro and illustrates the power of using three-dimensional heterotypic modeling to gain better insights into the etiology underlying the development of epithelial ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC2847739  PMID: 20360942
13.  A Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies A New Ovarian Cancer Susceptibility Locus On 9p22.2 
Song, Honglin | Ramus, Susan J. | Tyrer, Jonathan | Bolton, Kelly L. | Gentry-Maharaj, Aleksandra | Wozniak, Eva | Anton-Culver, Hoda | Chang-Claude, Jenny | Cramer, Daniel W. | DiCioccio, Richard | Dörk, Thilo | Goode, Ellen L. | Goodman, Marc T | Schildkraut, Joellen M | Sellers, Thomas | Baglietto, Laura | Beckmann, Matthias W. | Beesley, Jonathan | Blaakaer, Jan | Carney, Michael E | Chanock, Stephen | Chen, Zhihua | Cunningham, Julie M. | Dicks, Ed | Doherty, Jennifer A. | Dürst, Matthias | Ekici, Arif B. | Fenstermacher, David | Fridley, Brooke L. | Giles, Graham | Gore, Martin E. | De Vivo, Immaculata | Hillemanns, Peter | Hogdall, Claus | Hogdall, Estrid | Iversen, Edwin S | Jacobs, Ian J | Jakubowska, Anna | Li, Dong | Lissowska, Jolanta | Lubiński, Jan | Lurie, Galina | McGuire, Valerie | McLaughlin, John | Mędrek, Krzysztof | Moorman, Patricia G. | Moysich, Kirsten | Narod, Steven | Phelan, Catherine | Pye, Carole | Risch, Harvey | Runnebaum, Ingo B | Severi, Gianluca | Southey, Melissa | Stram, Daniel O. | Thiel, Falk C. | Terry, Kathryn L. | Tsai, Ya-Yu | Tworoger, Shelley S. | Van Den Berg, David J. | Vierkant, Robert A. | Wang-Gohrke, Shan | Webb, Penelope M. | Wilkens, Lynne R. | Wu, Anna H | Yang, Hannah | Brewster, Wendy | Ziogas, Argyrios | Houlston, Richard | Tomlinson, Ian | Whittemore, Alice S | Rossing, Mary Anne | Ponder, Bruce A.J. | Pearce, Celeste Leigh | Ness, Roberta B. | Menon, Usha | Kjaer, Susanne Krüger | Gronwald, Jacek | Garcia-Closas, Montserrat | Fasching, Peter A. | Easton, Douglas F | Chenevix-Trench, Georgia | Berchuck, Andrew | Pharoah, Paul D.P. | Gayther, Simon A.
Nature genetics  2009;41(9):996-1000.
Epithelial ovarian cancer has a major heritable component, but the known susceptibility genes explain less than half the excess familial risk1. We performed a genome wide association study (GWAS) to identify common ovarian cancer susceptibility alleles. We evaluated 507,094 SNPs genotyped in 1,817 cases and 2,353 controls from the UK and ~2 million imputed SNPs. We genotyped the 22,790 top ranked SNPs in 4,274 cases and 4,809 controls of European ancestry from Europe, USA and Australia. We identified 12 SNPs at 9p22 associated with disease risk (P<10−8). The most significant SNP (rs3814113; P = 2.5 × 10−17) was genotyped in a further 2,670 ovarian cancer cases and 4,668 controls confirming its association (combined data odds ratio = 0.82 95% CI 0.79 – 0.86, P-trend = 5.1 × 10−19). The association differs by histological subtype, being strongest for serous ovarian cancers (OR 0.77 95% CI 0.73 – 0.81, Ptrend = 4.1 × 10−21).
PMCID: PMC2844110  PMID: 19648919
14.  An Epigenetic Signature in Peripheral Blood Predicts Active Ovarian Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8274.
Recent studies have shown that DNA methylation (DNAm) markers in peripheral blood may hold promise as diagnostic or early detection/risk markers for epithelial cancers. However, to date no study has evaluated the diagnostic and predictive potential of such markers in a large case control cohort and on a genome-wide basis.
Principal Findings
By performing genome-wide DNAm profiling of a large ovarian cancer case control cohort, we here demonstrate that active ovarian cancer has a significant impact on the DNAm pattern in peripheral blood. Specifically, by measuring the methylation levels of over 27,000 CpGs in blood cells from 148 healthy individuals and 113 age-matched pre-treatment ovarian cancer cases, we derive a DNAm signature that can predict the presence of active ovarian cancer in blind test sets with an AUC of 0.8 (95% CI (0.74–0.87)). We further validate our findings in another independent set of 122 post-treatment cases (AUC = 0.76 (0.72–0.81)). In addition, we provide evidence for a significant number of candidate risk or early detection markers for ovarian cancer. Furthermore, by comparing the pattern of methylation with gene expression data from major blood cell types, we here demonstrate that age and cancer elicit common changes in the composition of peripheral blood, with a myeloid skewing that increases with age and which is further aggravated in the presence of ovarian cancer. Finally, we show that most cancer and age associated methylation variability is found at CpGs located outside of CpG islands.
Our results underscore the potential of DNAm profiling in peripheral blood as a tool for detection or risk-prediction of epithelial cancers, and warrants further in-depth and higher CpG coverage studies to further elucidate this role.
PMCID: PMC2793425  PMID: 20019873
15.  Association between invasive ovarian cancer susceptibility and 11 best candidate SNPs from breast cancer genome-wide association study 
Human molecular genetics  2009;18(12):2297-2304.
Because both ovarian and breast cancer are hormone-related and are known to have some predisposition genes in common, we evaluated 11 of the most significant hits (six with confirmed associations with breast cancer) from the breast cancer genome-wide association study for association with invasive ovarian cancer. Eleven SNPs were initially genotyped in 2927 invasive ovarian cancer cases and 4143 controls from six ovarian cancer case-control studies. Genotype frequencies in cases and controls were compared using a likelihood ratio test in a logistic regression model stratified by study. Initially, three SNPs (rs2107425 in MRPL23, rs7313833 in PTHLH, rs3803662 in TNRC9) were weakly associated with ovarian cancer risk and one SNP (rs4954956 in NXPH2) was associated with serous ovarian cancer in non-Hispanic white subjects (P-trend<0.1). These four SNPs were then genotyped in an additional 4060 cases and 6308 controls from eight independent studies. Only rs4954956 was significantly associated with ovarian cancer risk both in the replication study and in combined analyses. This association was stronger for the serous histological sub-type (per minor allele odds ratio (OR) 1.07 95%CI 1.01-1.13, P-trend=0.02 for all types of ovarian cancer and OR 1.14 95%CI 1.07-1.22, P-trend = 0.00017 for serous ovarian cancer). In conclusion, we found that rs4954956 was associated with increased ovarian cancer risk, particularly for serous ovarian cancer. However none of the six confirmed breast cancer susceptibility variants we tested were associated with ovarian cancer risk. Further work will be needed to identify the causal variant associated with rs4954956 or elucidate its function.
PMCID: PMC2685754  PMID: 19304784
Gynecologic oncology  2007;107(3):526-531.
Currently available tumor markers for ovarian cancer are still inadequate in both sensitivity and specificity to be used for population-based screening. Artificial neural network (ANN) as a modeling tool has demonstrated its ability to assimilate information from multiple sources and to detect subtle and complex patterns. In this paper, an ANN model was evaluated for its performance in detecting early stage epithelial ovarian cancer using multiple serum markers.
Serum specimens collected at four institutions in the US, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom were analyzed for CA125II, CA72-4, CA15-3, and macrophage colony stimulating factor (M-CSF). The four tumor marker values were then used as inputs to an ANN derived using a training set from 100 apparently healthy women, 45 women with benign conditions arising from the ovary, and 55 invasive epithelial ovarian cancer patients (including 27 stage I/II cases). A separate validation set from 27 apparently healthy women, 56 women with benign conditions, and 35 women with various types of malignant pelvic masses was used to monitor the ANN’s performance during training. An independent test dataset from 98 apparently healthy women and 52 early stage epithelial ovarian cancer patients (38 stage I and 4 stage II invasive cases and 10 stage I borderline ovarian tumor cases) was used to evaluate the ANN.
ROC analysis confirmed the overall superiority of the ANN-derived composite index over CA125II alone (p=0.0333). At a fixed specificity of 98%, the sensitivities for ANN and CA125II alone were 71% (37/52) and 46% (24/52) (p=0.047), respectively, for detecting early stage epithelial ovarian cancer, and 71% (30/42) and 43% (18/42) (p=0.040), respectively, for detecting invasive early stage epithelial ovarian cancer.
The combined use of multiple tumor markers through an ANN improves the overall accuracy to discern healthy women from patients with early stage ovarian cancer. Analysis of multiple markers with an ANN may be a better choice than the use of CA125II alone in a two-step approach for population screening in which a secondary test such as ultrasound is used to keep the overall specificity at an acceptable level.
PMCID: PMC2171045  PMID: 17920110
Ovarian cancer; tumor marker; early detection; multivariate model; artificial neural network
17.  Epigenotyping in Peripheral Blood Cell DNA and Breast Cancer Risk: A Proof of Principle Study 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2656.
Epigenetic changes are emerging as one of the most important events in carcinogenesis. Two alterations in the pattern of DNA methylation in breast cancer (BC) have been previously reported; active estrogen receptor-α (ER-α) is associated with decreased methylation of ER-α target (ERT) genes, and polycomb group target (PCGT) genes are more likely than other genes to have promoter DNA hypermethylation in cancer. However, whether DNA methylation in normal unrelated cells is associated with BC risk and whether these imprints can be related to factors which can be modified by the environment, is unclear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using quantitative methylation analysis in a case-control study (n = 1,083) we found that DNA methylation of peripheral blood cell DNA provides good prediction of BC risk. We also report that invasive ductal and invasive lobular BC is characterized by two different sets of genes, the latter particular by genes involved in the differentiation of the mesenchyme (PITX2, TITF1, GDNF and MYOD1). Finally we demonstrate that only ERT genes predict ER positive BC; lack of peripheral blood cell DNA methylation of ZNF217 predicted BC independent of age and family history (odds ratio 1.49; 95% confidence interval 1.12–1.97; P = 0.006) and was associated with ER-α bioactivity in the corresponding serum.
This first large-scale epigenotyping study demonstrates that DNA methylation may serve as a link between the environment and the genome. Factors that can be modulated by the environment (like estrogens) leave an imprint in the DNA of cells that are unrelated to the target organ and indicate the predisposition to develop a cancer. Further research will need to demonstrate whether DNA methylation profiles will be able to serve as a new tool to predict the risk of developing chronic diseases with sufficient accuracy to guide preventive measures.
PMCID: PMC2442168  PMID: 18628976
18.  OSPACS: Ultrasound image management system 
Ultrasound scanning uses the medical imaging format, DICOM, for electronically storing the images and data associated with a particular scan. Large health care facilities typically use a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) for storing and retrieving such images. However, these systems are usually not suitable for managing large collections of anonymized ultrasound images gathered during a clinical screening trial.
We have developed a system enabling the accurate archiving and management of ultrasound images gathered during a clinical screening trial. It is based upon a Windows application utilizing an open-source DICOM image viewer and a relational database. The system automates the bulk import of DICOM files from removable media by cross-validating the patient information against an external database, anonymizing the data as well as the image, and then storing the contents of the file as a field in a database record. These image records may then be retrieved from the database and presented in a tree-view control so that the user can select particular images for display in a DICOM viewer or export them to external media.
This system provides error-free automation of ultrasound image archiving and management, suitable for use in a clinical trial. An open-source project has been established to promote continued development of the system.
PMCID: PMC2442597  PMID: 18570637
19.  A Perl toolkit for LIMS development 
High throughput laboratory techniques generate huge quantities of scientific data. Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) are a necessary requirement, dealing with sample tracking, data storage and data reporting. Commercial LIMS solutions are available, but these can be both costly and overly complex for the task. The development of bespoke LIMS solutions offers a number of advantages, including the flexibility to fulfil all a laboratory's requirements at a fraction of the price of a commercial system. The programming language Perl is a perfect development solution for LIMS applications because of Perl's powerful but simple to use database and web interaction, it is also well known for enabling rapid application development and deployment, and boasts a very active and helpful developer community. The development of an in house LIMS from scratch however can take considerable time and resources, so programming tools that enable the rapid development of LIMS applications are essential but there are currently no LIMS development tools for Perl.
We have developed ArrayPipeline, a Perl toolkit providing object oriented methods that facilitate the rapid development of bespoke LIMS applications. The toolkit includes Perl objects that encapsulate key components of a LIMS, providing methods for creating interactive web pages, interacting with databases, error tracking and reporting, and user and session management. The MT_Plate object provides methods for manipulation and management of microtitre plates, while a given LIMS can be encapsulated by extension of the core modules, providing system specific methods for database interaction and web page management.
This important addition to the Perl developer's library will make the development of in house LIMS applications quicker and easier encouraging laboratories to create bespoke LIMS applications to meet their specific data management requirements.
PMCID: PMC2322998  PMID: 18353174
20.  Tagging Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in the BRIP1 Gene and Susceptibility to Breast and Ovarian Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(3):e268.
BRIP1 interacts with BRCA1 and functions in regulating DNA double strand break repair pathways. Germline BRIP1 mutations are associated with breast cancer and Fanconi anemia. Thus, common variants in the BRIP1 are candidates for breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility.
We used a SNP tagging approach to evaluate the association between common variants (minor allele frequency≥0.05) in BRIP1 and the risks of breast cancer and invasive ovarian cancer. 12 tagging SNPs (tSNPs) in the gene were identified and genotyped in up to 2,270 breast cancer cases and 2,280 controls from the UK and up to 1,513 invasive ovarian cancer cases and 2,515 controls from the UK, Denmark and USA. Genotype frequencies in cases and controls were compared using logistic regression.
Two tSNPs showed a marginal significant association with ovarian cancer: Carriers of the minor allele of rs2191249 were at reduced risk compared with the common homozygotes (Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.90 (95% CI, 0.82–1.0), P-trend = 0.045) and the minor allele of rs4988344 was associated with increased risk (OR = 1.15 (95%CI, 1.02–1.30), P-trend = 0.02). When the analyses were restricted to serous ovarian cancers, these effects became slightly stronger. These results were not significant at the 5% level after adjusting for multiple testing. None of the tSNPs was associated with breast cancer.
It is unlikely that common variants in BRIP1 contribute significantly to breast cancer susceptibility. The possible association of rs2191249 and rs4988344 with ovarian cancer risks warrant confirmation in independent case-control studies.
PMCID: PMC1800910  PMID: 17342202

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