Although it is recommended that smokers undergoing surgery for lung cancer quit smoking to reduce post-operative complications, few studies have examined patterns of smoking in the peri-operative period. The goals of this study were to determine: 1) patterns of smoking during post-operative recovery, 2) types of cessation strategies used to quit smoking, and 3) factors related to smoking after lung cancer surgery.
Data were collected from 94 patients through chart review, tobacco, health-status, and symptom questionnaires at 1, 2, and 4-months after surgery. Smoking status was assessed through self-report and urinary cotinine measurement.
Eighty-four patients (89%) were ever-smokers and 35 (37%) reported smoking at diagnosis. Thirty-nine (46%) ever-smokers remained abstinent, 13 (16%) continued smoking at all time-points, and 32 (38%) relapsed. Ten (46%) of those who relapsed were former-smokers and had not smoked for at least 1-year. Sixteen (46%) of those who were smoking at diagnosis received cessation assistance with pharmacotherapy being the most common strategy. Factors associated with smoking during recovery were younger age and quitting smoking ≤ six-months before the diagnosis of lung cancer. Factors that were marginally significant were lower educational level, male gender, lower number of comorbidities, and the presence of pain
Only half of those who were smoking received assistance to quit prior to surgery. Some patients were unable to quit and relapse rates post-surgery were high even among those who quit more than 1-year prior. Innovative programs incorporating symptom management and relapse prevention may enhance smoking abstinence during post-operative care.
lung cancer; thoracic surgery; smoking cessation; symptom management
Smoking cessation among cancer patients is critical for improving outcomes. Understanding factors associated with smoking abstinence after the diagnosis of cancer can provide direction to develop and test interventions to enhance cessation rates. The purpose of this study was to identify determinants of smoking outcomes among cancer patients.
Standardized questionnaires were used to collect data from 163 smokers or recent-quitters (quit ≤ 6 mo) at study entry of which 132 and 121 had data collected at 3 and 6-months. Biochemical verification was conducted with urinary cotinine and carbon monoxide. Descriptive statistics, Cronbach alpha coefficients, Pearson correlations, Fisher’s exact test, and multivariable logistic regression were used for analyses.
Seven-day-point-prevalence-abstinence (PPA) rates were 90/132 (68%) at 3-months; 46/71 (65%) among lung and 44/61 (72%) among head and neck cancer patients, whereas 7-day-PPA rates were 74/121 (61%) at 6-months; 31/58 (53%) among lung and 43/63 (68%) among head and neck cancer patients. Continuous abstinence rates were 63/89 (71%) at 3-months; 32/45 (71%) among lung and 31/44 (70%) among head and neck cancer patients, whereas continuous abstinence rates were 46/89 (52%) at 6-months; 18/45 (40%) among lung and 28/44 (64%) among head and neck cancer patients. Lower cancer-related, psychological and nicotine withdrawal symptoms were associated with increased 7-D-PPA abstinence rates at 3 and 6 months in univariate models. In multivariable models, however, decreased craving was significantly related with 7-day-PPA at 3-months and decreased craving and increased self-efficacy were associated with 7-D-PPA at 6-months. Decreased craving was the only factor associated with continuous abstinence at 6-months.
Smoking outcomes among lung and head and neck cancer patients appear to have remained the same over the last two decades despite the availability of an increased number of pharmacotherapy options to treat tobacco dependence. Decreased craving and increased self-efficacy were the most consistent factors associated with improved smoking outcomes but symptom control may also play a role in optimal management. Use of combined, and/or higher doses of pharmacotherapy along with behavioral interventions that increase self-efficacy and manage symptoms may promote enhanced cessation rates.
smoking cessation; tobacco dependence; lung cancer; head and neck cancer; smoking cessation interventions; symptom management; craving
When grown in 3D cultures as spheroids, mesothelioma cells acquire a multicellular resistance to apoptosis that resembles that of solid tumors. We have previously found that resistance to the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in 3D can be explained by a lack of upregulation of Noxa, the pro-apoptotic BH3 sensitizer that acts via displacement of the Bak/Bax-activator BH3-only protein, Bim. We hypothesized that the histone deacetylase inhibitor vorinostat might reverse this block to Noxa upregulation in 3D. Indeed, we found that vorinostat effectively restored upregulation of Noxa protein and message and abolished multicellular resistance to bortezomib in the 3D spheroids. The ability of vorinostat to reverse resistance was ablated by knockdown of Noxa or Bim, confirming the essential role of the Noxa/Bim axis in the response to vorinostat. Addition of vorinostat similarly increased the apoptotic response to bortezomib in another 3D model, the tumor fragment spheroid, which is grown from human mesothelioma ex vivo. In addition to its benefit when used with bortezomib, vorinostat also enhanced the response to cisplatin plus pemetrexed, as shown in both 3D models. Our results using clinically relevant 3D models show that the manipulation of the core apoptotic repertoire may improve the chemosensitivity of mesothelioma. Whereas neither vorinostat nor bortezomib alone has been clinically effective in mesothelioma, vorinostat may undermine chemoresistance to bortezomib and to other therapies thereby providing a rationale for combinatorial strategies.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) remains a cancer of poor prognosis. It is hoped that implementation of effective screening biomarkers will lead to earlier diagnoses and improved outcomes. Serum-measured soluble mesothelin-related peptide (SMRP) has been demonstrated to have excellent specificity for MPM, but poor sensitivity precludes its use as a screening biomarker. Using a case series of MPM patients from the International Mesothelioma Program at the Brigham and Women's hospital, we sought to determine whether epigenetic change at the MSLN gene in patient tumors is responsible for the poor sensitivity of SMRP. We identified three potential target regions for CpG methylation silencing in the MSLN promoter, one of which was amenable to bisulfite pyrosequencing and located 214 bp upstream of the transcription start site. MSLN promoter methylation was significantly higher in normal pleura than tumor tissue (p < 6.0 × 10−9). Next, we compared cases according to serum SMRP status and observed that MSLN methylation was significantly higher among tumors from patients testing negative for SMRP (<1.5 nM) versus those that were SMRP positive (p < 0.03). These results demonstrate that MSLN is normally methylated in the pleura, and that methylation is lost in most tumors. However, in a subset of tumors methylation is retained, and this mechanism explains the poor sensitivity of the SMRP assay. These results may lead to additional biomarker targets that will resolve the poor sensitivity of the SMRP assay and allow implementation of screening among exposed populations.
SMRP; MSLN; mesothelioma; methylation; screening
Smoking cessation is essential after the diagnosis of cancer to enhance clinical outcomes. Although effective smoking cessation treatments are available, less than one-half of smokers with cancer report receiving treatment. Reasons for the low dissemination in treatment are unclear.
Data were collected from questionnaires and medical record reviews from 160 smokers or recent-quitters with lung or head and neck cancer. Descriptive statistics, Cronbach alpha coefficient and logistic regression were used in the analyses. The median age of participants was 57 years, 63% (n=101) were male, 93% (n=149) were white, and 57% (n=91) had lung cancer.
Eight-six percent (n=44) of smokers and 75% (n=82) of recent-quitters reported that health care providers gave advice to quit smoking. Sixty-five percent (n=33) of smokers and 47% (n=51) of recent-quitters reported that they were offered assistance from their health care providers to quit smoking. Fifty-one percent (n=26) of smokers and 20% (n=22) of recent-quitters expressed an interest in a smoking cessation program. An individualized smoking cessation program was the preferred type of program. Among smokers, younger, early stage patients and those with partners who were smokers were more interested in programs.
While the majority of patients received advice and were offered assistance to quit smoking, one-half of smokers were interested in cessation programs. Innovative approaches to increase interest in cessation programs need to be developed and tested in this population
cancer; smoking cessation programs; evidence-based tobacco treatment; smoking-related malignancies; patient preference
The remarkably heterogeneous nature of lung cancer has become more apparent over the last decade. In general, advanced lung cancer is an aggressive malignancy with a poor prognosis. The discovery of multiple molecular mechanisms underlying the development, progression, and prognosis of lung cancer, however, has created new opportunities for targeted therapy and improved outcome. In this paper, we define “molecular subtypes” of lung cancer based on specific actionable genetic aberrations. Each subtype is associated with molecular tests that define the subtype and drugs that may potentially treat it. We hope this paper will be a useful guide to clinicians and researchers alike by assisting in therapy decision making and acting as a platform for further study. In this new era of cancer treatment, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ paradigm is being forcibly pushed aside—allowing for more effective, personalized oncologic care to emerge.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive disease associated with median survival between 9 and 12 months. The correct diagnosis of MPM is sometimes challenging and usually requires solid tissue biopsies rather than fine needle aspiration biopsies (FNA). We postulated that the accuracy of FNA-based diagnosis might be improved by the addition of molecular tests using a gene expression ratio-based algorithm and that prognostic tests could be similarly performed.
Two MPM and two lung cancer cell lines were used to establish the minimal RNA amount required for ratio tests. Based on these results, 276 ex-vivo FNA biopsies from 63 MPM patients, and 250 ex-vivo FNA samples from 92 lung cancer patients were analyzed using previously described diagnostic and prognostic tests based on gene expression ratios.
We found that the sensitivity of the diagnostic test for MPM was 100% (95% CI: 95–100%), and the specificity in primary lung adenocarcinoma was 90% (95% CI: 81–95%). The FNA-based prognostic classification was concordant among 76% (95% CI: 65–87%) of patients with the risk assignment in a subset of the matched surgical specimens previously analyzed by the prognostic test.
Sufficient RNA can be extracted from most FNA biopsies to perform gene expression molecular tests. In particular, we show that the gene expression ratio algorithms performed well when applied to diagnosis and prognosis in MPM. This study provides support for the development of additional RNA molecular tests that may enhance the utility of FNA in the management of other solid cancers.
mesothelioma; FNA; diagnosis; prognosis; molecular tests
Motivation: Patients with identical cancer diagnoses often progress differently. The disparity we see in disease progression and treatment response can be attributed to the idea that two histologically similar cancers may be completely different diseases on the molecular level. Methods for identifying cancer subtypes associated with patient survival have the capacity to be powerful instruments for understanding the biochemical processes that underlie disease progression as well as providing an initial step toward more personalized therapy for cancer patients. We propose a method called semi-supervised recursively partitioned mixture models (SS-RPMM) that utilizes array-based genetic and patient-level clinical data for finding cancer subtypes that are associated with patient survival.
Results: In the proposed SS-RPMM, cancer subtypes are identified using a selected subset of genes that are associated with survival time. Since survival information is used in the gene selection step, this method is semi-supervised. Unlike other semi-supervised clustering classification methods, SS-RPMM does not require specification of the number of cancer subtypes, which is often unknown. In a simulation study, our proposed method compared favorably with other competing semi-supervised methods, including: semi-supervised clustering and supervised principal components analysis. Furthermore, an analysis of mesothelioma cancer data using SS-RPMM, revealed at least two distinct methylation profiles that are informative for survival.
Availability: The analyses implemented in this article were carried out using R (http://www.r.project.org/).
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Development of mesothelioma is linked mainly to asbestos exposure but the combined contributions of genetic and epigenetic alterations are unclear. We investigated the potential relationships between gene copy number (CN) alterations and DNA methylation profiles in a case series of pleural mesotheliomas (n=23). There were no instances of significantly correlated CN alteration and methylation at probed loci, whereas averaging loci over their associated genes revealed only two genes with significantly correlated CN and methylation alterations. In contrast to the lack of discrete correlations, the overall extent of tumor CN alteration was significantly associated with DNA methylation profile when comparing CN alteration extent among methylation profile classes. Further, there was evidence that this association was partially attributable to prevalent allele loss at the DNA methyltransferase gene DNMT1. Our findings define a strong association between global genetic and global epigenetic dysregulation in mesothelioma, rather than a discrete, local coordination of gene inactivation.
Integrative genomics; DNA methylation; Copy number alteration; Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an aggressive neoplasm with few effective treatments, one being cytoreductive surgery. We previously described a test, based on differential expression levels of four genes, to predict clinical outcome in prospectively consented mesothelioma patients after surgery. In this study, we determined whether any of these four genes could be linked to a cancer relevant phenotype.
We conducted a high-throughput RNA inhibition screen to knockdown gene expression levels of the four genes comprising the test (ARHGDIA, COBLL1, PKM2, TM4SF1) in both a human lung-derived normal and a tumor cell line using three different small inhibitory RNA molecules per gene. Successful knockdown was confirmed using quantitative RT-PCR. Detection of statistically significant changes in apoptosis and mitosis was performed using immunological assays and quantified using video-assisted microscopy at a single time-point. Changes in nuclear shape, size, and numbers were used to provide additional support of initial findings. Each experiment was conducted in triplicate. Specificity was assured by requiring that at least 2 different siRNAs produced the observed change in each cell line/time-point/gene/assay combination.
Knockdown of ARHGDIA, COBLL1, and TM4SF1 resulted in 2- to 4-fold increased levels of apoptosis in normal cells (ARHGDIA only) and tumor cells (all three genes). No statistically significant changes were observed in apoptosis after knockdown of PKM2 or for mitosis after knockdown of any gene.
We provide evidence that ARHGDIA, COBLL1, and TM4SF1 are negative regulators of apoptosis in cultured tumor cells. These genes, and their related intracellular signaling pathways, may represent potential therapeutic targets in mesothelioma.
mesothelioma; Cell biology/culture; Genes/polymorphisms; Genetics/genomics
To identify non-invasive gene expression markers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), we performed genome-wide expression profiling of peripheral blood samples from 12 subjects with significant airflow obstruction and an equal number of non-obstructed controls. RNA was isolated from Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) and gene expression was assessed using Affymetrix U133 Plus 2.0 arrays.
Tests for gene expression changes that discriminate between COPD cases (FEV1< 70% predicted, FEV1/FVC < 0.7) and controls (FEV1> 80% predicted, FEV1/FVC > 0.7) were performed using Significance Analysis of Microarrays (SAM) and Bayesian Analysis of Differential Gene Expression (BADGE). Using either test at high stringency (SAM median FDR = 0 or BADGE p < 0.01) we identified differential expression for 45 known genes. Correlation of gene expression with lung function measurements (FEV1 & FEV1/FVC), using both Pearson and Spearman correlation coefficients (p < 0.05), identified a set of 86 genes. A total of 16 markers showed evidence of significant correlation (p < 0.05) with quantitative traits and differential expression between cases and controls. We further compared our peripheral gene expression markers with those we previously identified from lung tissue of the same cohort. Two genes, RP9and NAPE-PLD, were identified as decreased in COPD cases compared to controls in both lung tissue and blood. These results contribute to our understanding of gene expression changes in the peripheral blood of patients with COPD and may provide insight into potential mechanisms involved in the disease.
Microarray; Biomarkers; PBMC
The receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and MET are activated in subsets of mesothelioma, suggesting that these kinases might represent novel therapeutic targets in this notoriously chemotherapy-resistant cancer. However, clinical trials have shown little activity for EGFR inhibitors in mesothelioma. Despite the evidence for RTK activation in mesothelioma pathogenesis, it is unclear whether transforming activity is dependent on an individual kinase oncoprotein or the coordinated activity of multiple kinases. Using phospho-RTK and immunoblot assays, we herein demonstrate activation of multiple RTKs (EGFR, MET, AXL, and ERBB3) in individual mesothelioma cell lines but not in normal mesothelioma cells. Inhibition of mesothelioma multi-RTK signaling was accomplished using combinations of RTK direct inhibitors or by inhibition of the RTK chaperone, heat shock protein 90 (HSP90). Multi-RTK inhibition by the HSP90 inhibitor 17-allyloamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG) had a substantially greater effect on mesothelioma proliferation and survival compared with inhibition of individual activated RTKs. HSP90 inhibition also suppressed phosphorylation of downstream signaling intermediates (AKT, mitogen-activated protein kinase, and S6); upregulated the p53, p21, and p27 cell cycle checkpoints; induced G2 phase arrest; induced caspase 3/7 activity; and led to an increase in the sub-G1 apoptotic population. These compelling proapoptotic and antiproliferative responses indicate that HSP90 inhibition warrants clinical evaluation as a novel therapeutic strategy in mesothelioma.
Pathologic differentiation of tissue of origin in tumors found in the lung can be challenging, with differentiation of mesothelioma and lung adenocarcinoma emblematic of this problem. Indeed, proper classification is essential for determination of treatment regimen for these diseases, making accurate and early diagnosis critical. Here we investigate the potential of epigenetic profiles of lung adenocarcinoma, mesothelioma, and non-malignant pulmonary tissues (n=285) as differentiation markers in an analysis of DNA methylation at 1413 autosomal CpG loci associated with 773 cancer-related genes. Using an unsupervised recursively-partitioned mixture modeling technique for all samples, the derived methylation profile classes were significantly associated with sample type (P < 0.0001). In a similar analysis restricted to tumors, methylation profile classes significantly predicted tumor type (P < 0.0001). Random forests classification of CpG methylation of tumors - which splits the data into training and test sets - accurately differentiated MPM from lung adenocarcinoma over 99% of the time (P < 0.0001). In a locus-by-locus comparison of CpG methylation between tumor types, 1266 CpG loci had significantly different methylation between tumors following correction for multiple comparisons (Q < 0.05); 61% had higher methylation in adenocarcinoma. Using the CpG loci with significant differential methylation in a pathways analysis revealed significant enrichment of methylated gene-loci in Cell Cycle Regulation, DNA Damage Response, PTEN Signaling, and Apoptosis Signaling pathways in lung adenocarcinoma when compared to mesothelioma. Methylation-profile-based differentiation of lung adenocarcinoma and mesothelioma is highly accurate, informs on the distinct etiologies of these diseases, and holds promise for clinical application.
The current paradigm for elucidating the molecular etiology of cancers relies on the interrogation of small numbers of genes, which limits the scope of investigation. Emerging second-generation massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies have enabled more precise definition of the cancer genome on a global scale. We examined the genome of a human primary malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) tumor and matched normal tissue by using a combination of sequencing-by-synthesis and pyrosequencing methodologies to a 9.6X depth of coverage. Read density analysis uncovered significant aneuploidy and numerous rearrangements. Method-dependent informatics rules, which combined the results of different sequencing platforms, were developed to identify and validate candidate mutations of multiple types. Many more tumor-specific rearrangements than point mutations were uncovered at this depth of sequencing, resulting in novel, large-scale, inter- and intra-chromosomal deletions, inversions, and translocations. Nearly all candidate point mutations appeared to be previously unknown SNPs. Thirty tumor-specific fusions/translocations were independently validated with PCR and Sanger sequencing. Of these, 15 represented disrupted gene-encoding regions, including kinases, transcription factors, and growth factors. One large deletion in DPP10 resulted in altered transcription and expression of DPP10 transcripts in a set of 53 additional MPM tumors correlated with survival. Additionally, three point mutations were observed in the coding regions of NKX6-2, a transcription regulator, and NFRKB, a DNA-binding protein involved in modulating NFKB1. Several regions containing genes such as PCBD2 and DHFR, which are involved in growth factor signaling and nucleotide synthesis, respectively, were selectively amplified in the tumor. Second-generation sequencing uncovered all types of mutations in this MPM tumor, with DNA rearrangements representing the dominant type.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma has few effective treatments, one being cytoreductive surgery. We previously developed a gene ratio test to predict outcome of malignant pleural mesothelioma patients undergoing surgery. In this study, we investigated the predictive value and technical assay performance of this test in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Clinical data were obtained prospectively from 120 consecutive patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma who were scheduled for debulking surgery at one institution. Specimens were obtained at surgery or by pleural biopsy examination. Expression data for four genes were collected from tumor specimens, and three ratios of gene expression (TM4SF1/PKM2, TM4SF1/ARHGDIA, and COBLL1/ARHGDIA) were determined by quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction. Patients were assigned to good or poor outcome groups by the gene ratio test. Survival was estimated by the Kaplan–Meier method and the log-rank test in univariate analyses. A multivariable Cox proportional hazards model was used to control for prognostic factors. Technical robustness was determined by using up to 30 specimens per patient, two biopsy techniques, and two performance sites. All statistical tests were two-sided.
The test predicted overall survival (P < .001) and cancer-specific survival (P = .007) in univariate analysis and overall survival in multivariable analysis (hazard ratio for death = 2.09, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.27 to 3.45, P = .004). The test was reproducible within patients and repeatable between two determinations for specimens with widely varying tumor cell contents. Repeatability between two determinations was 88.5% (95% CI = 84.0% to 92.2%) or, when technically unacceptable test values were excluded, 91.9% (95% CI = 87.4% to 95.1%). Reproducibility between two determinations was 96.1% (95% CI = 86.5% to 99.5%). Combining the gene ratio test and other prognostic factors allowed prospective discrimination between patients at high risk (median survival = 6.9 months, 95% CI = 2.6 to 8.9 months; 3-year survival = 0%) and low risk (median survival = 31.9 months, 95% CI = 21.9 to 41.7 months; 3-year survival = 42%).
The gene ratio test for survival of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma has robust predictive value and technical assay performance.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung disorder with complex pathological features and largely unknown etiology. The identification of biomarkers for this disease could aid the development of methods to facilitate earlier diagnosis, the classification of disease subtypes, and provide a means to define therapeutic response. To identify gene expression biomarkers, we completed expression profiling of RNA derived from the lung tissue of 56 subjects with varying degrees of airflow obstruction using the Affymetrix U133 Plus 2.0 array. We applied multiple, independent analytical methods to define biomarkers for either discrete or quantitative disease phenotypes. Analysis of differential expression between cases (n = 15) and controls (n = 18) identified a set of 65 discrete biomarkers. Correlation of gene expression with quantitative measures of airflow obstruction (FEV1%predicted or FEV1/FVC) identified a set of 220 biomarkers. Biomarker genes were enriched in functions related to DNA binding and regulation of transcription. We used this group of biomarkers to predict disease in an unrelated data set, generated from patients with severe emphysema, with 97% accuracy. Our data contribute to the understanding of gene expression changes occurring in the lung tissue of patients with obstructive lung disease and provide additional insight into potential mechanisms involved in the disease process. Furthermore, we present the first gene expression biomarker for COPD validated in an independent data set.
microarray; gene expression; emphysema; lung function
High-throughput DNA sequencing has enabled systems biology to begin to address areas in health, agricultural and basic biological research. Concomitant with the opportunities is an absolute necessity to manage significant volumes of high-dimensional and inter-related data and analysis. Alpheus is an analysis pipeline, database and visualization software for use with massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies that feature multi-gigabase throughput characterized by relatively short reads, such as Illumina-Solexa (sequencing-by-synthesis), Roche-454 (pyrosequencing) and Applied Biosystem’s SOLiD (sequencing-by-ligation). Alpheus enables alignment to reference sequence(s), detection of variants and enumeration of sequence abundance, including expression levels in transcriptome sequence. Alpheus is able to detect several types of variants, including non-synonymous and synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), insertions/deletions (indels), premature stop codons, and splice isoforms. Variant detection is aided by the ability to filter variant calls based on consistency, expected allele frequency, sequence quality, coverage, and variant type in order to minimize false positives while maximizing the identification of true positives. Alpheus also enables comparisons of genes with variants between cases and controls or bulk segregant pools. Sequence-based differential expression comparisons can be developed, with data export to SAS JMP Genomics for statistical analysis.
Alpheus; sequencing-by-synthesis; pyrosequencing; GMAP; GSNAP; resequencing; transcriptome sequencing
Mechanisms of action of non-mutagenic carcinogens such as asbestos remain poorly characterized. As pleural mesothelioma is known to have limited numbers of genetic mutations, we aimed to characterize the relationships among gene-locus specific methylation alterations, disease status, asbestos burden, and survival in this rapidly-fatal asbestos-associated tumor. Methylation of 1505 CpG loci associated with 803 cancer-related genes were studied in 158 pleural mesotheliomas and 18 normal pleura. After false-discovery rate correction, 969 CpG loci were independently associated with disease status (Q < 0.05). Classifying samples based upon CpG methylation profile with a mixture model approach, methylation classes discriminated tumor from normal pleura (permutation P < 0.0001). In a random forests classification the overall misclassification error rate was 3.4%, with <1% (n=1) of tumors misclassified as normal (P < 0.0001). Among tumors, methylation class membership was significantly associated with lung tissue asbestos body burden (P < 0.03), and significantly predicted survival (likelihood ratio P < 0.01). Consistent with prior work, asbestos burden was associated with an increased risk of death (HR = 1.4, 95% CI, 1.1 – 1.8). Our results have shown that methylation profiles powerfully differentiate diseased pleura from non-tumor pleura and that asbestos burden and methylation profiles are independent predictors of mesothelioma patient survival. We have added to the growing body of evidence that cellular epigenetic dysregulation is a critical mode of action for asbestos in the induction of pleural mesothelioma. Importantly, these findings hold great promise for using epigenetic profiling in the diagnosis and prognosis of human cancers.
Methylation; asbestos; mesothelioma
Analyses of Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs) databases suggest that most human genes have multiple alternative splice variants. The alternative splicing of pre-mRNA is tightly regulated during development and in different tissue types. Changes in splicing patterns have been described in disease states. Recently, we used whole-transcriptome shotgun pryrosequencing to characterize 4 malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) tumors, 1 lung adenocarcinoma and 1 normal lung. We hypothesized that alternative splicing profiles might be detected in the sequencing data for the expressed genes in these samples.
We developed a software pipeline to map the transcriptome read sequences of the 4 MPM samples and 1 normal lung sample onto known exon junction sequences in the comprehensive AceView database of expressed sequences and to count how many reads map to each junction. 13,274,187 transcriptome reads generated by the Roche/454 sequencing platform for 5 samples were compared with 151,486 exon junctions from the AceView database. The exon junction expression index (EJEI) was calculated for each exon junction in each sample to measure the differential expression of alternative splicing events. Top ten exon junctions with the largest EJEI difference between the 4 mesothelioma and the normal lung sample were then examined for differential expression using Quantitative Real Time PCR (qRT-PCR) in the 5 sequenced samples. Two of the differentially expressed exon junctions (ACTG2.aAug05 and CDK4.aAug05) were further examined with qRT-PCR in additional 18 MPM and 18 normal lung specimens.
We found 70,953 exon junctions covered by at least one sequence read in at least one of the 5 samples. All 10 identified most differentially expressed exon junctions were validated as present by RT-PCR, and 8 were differentially expressed exactly as predicted by the sequence analysis. The differential expression of the AceView exon junctions for the ACTG2 and CDK4 genes were also observed to be statistically significant in an additional 18 MPM and 18 normal lung samples examined using qRT-PCR. The differential expression of these two junctions was shown to successfully classify these mesothelioma and normal lung specimens with high sensitivity (89% and 78%, respectively).
Whole-transcriptome shotgun sequencing, combined with a downstream bioinformatics pipeline, provides powerful tools for the identification of differentially expressed exon junctions resulting from alternative splice variants. The alternatively spliced genes discovered in the study could serve as useful diagnostic markers as well as potential therapeutic targets for MPM.
Solid tumors such as mesothelioma exhibit a stubborn resistance to apoptosis that may derive from survival pathways, such as PI3K/Akt/mTOR, that are activated in many tumors, including mesothelioma. To address the role of PI3K/Akt/mTOR, we used a novel approach to study mesothelioma ex vivo as tumor fragment spheroids. Freshly resected mesothelioma tissue from 15 different patients was grown in vitro as 1- to 2-mm-diameter fragments, exposed to apoptotic agents for 48 hours with or without PI3K/Akt/mTOR inhibitors, and doubly stained for cytokeratin and cleaved caspase 3 to identify apoptotic mesothelioma cells. Mesothelioma cells within the tumor spheroids exhibited striking resistance to apoptotic agents such as TRAIL plus gemcitabine that were highly effective against monolayers. In a majority of tumors (67%; 10 of 15), apoptotic resistance could be reduced by more than 50% by rapamycin, an mTOR inhibitor, but not by LY294002, a PI3K inhibitor. Responsiveness to rapamycin correlated with staining for the mTOR target, p-S6K, in the original tumor, but not for p-Akt. As confirmation of the role of mTOR, siRNA knockdown of S6K reproduced the effect of rapamycin in three rapamycin-responsive tumors. Finally, in 37 mesotheliomas on tissue microarray, p-S6K correlated only weakly with p-Akt, suggesting the existence of Akt-independent regulation of mTOR. We propose that mTOR mediates survival signals in many mesothelioma tumors. Inhibition of mTOR may provide a nontoxic adjunct to therapy directed against malignant mesothelioma, especially in those with high baseline expression of p-S6K.
apoptosis; biomarker; ex vivo; TRAIL; S6K
Lung cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth and invasion, and the actin cytoskeleton plays a major role in these processes. The focal adhesion protein paxillin is a target of a number of oncogenes involved in key signal transduction and important in cell motility and migration. In lung cancer tissues, we have found that paxillin was highly expressed (compared with normal lung), amplified (12.1%, 8 of 66) and correlated with increased MET and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene copy numbers, or mutated (somatic mutation rate of 9.4%, 18 of 191). Paxillin mutations (19 of 21) were clustered between LD motifs 1 and 2 and the LIM domains. The most frequent point mutation (A127T) enhanced lung cancer cell growth, colony formation, focal adhesion formation, and colocalized with Bcl-2 in vitro. Gene silencing from RNA interference of mutant paxillin led to reduction of cell viability. A murine in vivo xenograft model of A127T paxillin showed an increase in tumor growth, cell proliferation, and invasion. These results establish an important role for paxillin in lung cancer.
Epigenetic control of gene transcription is critical for normal human development and cellular differentiation. While alterations of epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation have been linked to cancers and many other human diseases, interindividual epigenetic variations in normal tissues due to aging, environmental factors, or innate susceptibility are poorly characterized. The plasticity, tissue-specific nature, and variability of gene expression are related to epigenomic states that vary across individuals. Thus, population-based investigations are needed to further our understanding of the fundamental dynamics of normal individual epigenomes. We analyzed 217 non-pathologic human tissues from 10 anatomic sites at 1,413 autosomal CpG loci associated with 773 genes to investigate tissue-specific differences in DNA methylation and to discern how aging and exposures contribute to normal variation in methylation. Methylation profile classes derived from unsupervised modeling were significantly associated with age (P<0.0001) and were significant predictors of tissue origin (P<0.0001). In solid tissues (n = 119) we found striking, highly significant CpG island–dependent correlations between age and methylation; loci in CpG islands gained methylation with age, loci not in CpG islands lost methylation with age (P<0.001), and this pattern was consistent across tissues and in an analysis of blood-derived DNA. Our data clearly demonstrate age- and exposure-related differences in tissue-specific methylation and significant age-associated methylation patterns which are CpG island context-dependent. This work provides novel insight into the role of aging and the environment in susceptibility to diseases such as cancer and critically informs the field of epigenomics by providing evidence of epigenetic dysregulation by age-related methylation alterations. Collectively we reveal key issues to consider both in the construction of reference and disease-related epigenomes and in the interpretation of potentially pathologically important alterations.
The causes and extent of tissue-specific interindividual variation in human epigenomes are underappreciated and, hence, poorly characterized. We surveyed over 200 carefully annotated human tissue samples from ten anatosites at 1,413 CpGs for methylation alterations to appraise the nature of phenotypically, and hence potentially clinically important epigenomic alterations. Within tissue types, across individuals, we found variation in methylation that was significantly related to aging and environmental exposures such as tobacco smoking. Individual variation in age- and exposure-related methylation may significantly contribute to increased susceptibility to several diseases. As the NIH–funded HapMap project is critically contributing to annotating the human reference genome defining normal genetic variability, our work raises key issues to consider in the construction of reference epigenomes. It is well recognized that understanding genetic variation is essential to understanding disease. Our work, and the known interplay of epigenetics and genetics, makes it equally clear that a more complete characterization of epigenetic variation and its sources must be accomplished to reach the goal of a complete understanding of disease. Additional research is absolutely necessary to define the mechanisms controlling epigenomic variation. We have begun to lay the foundations for essential normal tissue controls for comparison to diseased tissue, which will allow the identification of the most crucial disease-related alterations and provide more robust targets for novel treatments.
Bladder cancer is relatively common but early detection techniques such as cystoscopy and cytology are somewhat limited. We developed a broadly applicable, platform-independent and clinically relevant method based on simple ratios of gene expression to diagnose human cancers. In this study, we sought to determine whether this technique could be applied to the diagnosis of bladder cancer.
We developed a model for the diagnosis of bladder cancer using expression profiling data from 80 normal and tumor bladder tissues to identify statistically significant discriminating genes with reciprocal average expression levels in each tissue type. The expression levels of select genes were used to calculate individual gene pair expression ratios in order to assign diagnosis. The optimal model was examined in two additional published microarray data sets and using quantitative RT-PCR in a cohort of 13 frozen benign bladder urothelium samples and 13 bladder cancer samples from our institution.
A five-ratio test utilizing six genes proved to be 100% accurate (26 of 26 samples) for distinguishing benign from malignant bladder tissue samples (P < 10−6).
: We have provided a proof of principle study for the use of gene expression ratios in the diagnosis of bladder cancer. This technique may ultimately prove to be a useful adjunct to cytopathology in screening urine specimens for bladder cancer.
bladder cancer; gene expression profiling; and diagnosis
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rapidly fatal asbestos-associated malignancy with a median survival time of < 1 year following diagnosis. Treatment strategy is determined in part using known prognostic factors.
The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between asbestos exposure and survival outcome in MPM in an effort to advance the understanding of the contribution of asbestos exposure to MPM prognosis.
We studied incident cases of MPM patients enrolled through the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, using survival follow-up, self-reported asbestos exposure (n = 128), and a subset of cases (n = 80) with quantitative asbestos fiber burden measures.
Consistent with the established literature, we found independent, significant associations between male sex and reduced survival (p < 0.04), as well as between nonepithelioid tumor histology and reduced survival (p < 0.02). Although self-reported exposure to asbestos was not predictive of survival among our cases, stratifying quantitative asbestos fiber burden [number of asbestos bodies per gram of lung (wet weight)] into groups of low (0–99 asbestos bodies), moderate (100–1,099), and high fiber burden (> 1,099), suggested a survival duration association among these groups (p = 0.06). After adjusting for covariates in a Cox model, we found that patients with a low asbestos burden had a 3-fold elevated risk of death compared to patients with a moderate fiber burden [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.95–9.5; p = 0.06], and patients with a high asbestos burden had a 4.8-fold elevated risk of death (95% CI, 1.5–15.0; p < 0.01) versus those with moderate exposure.
Our data suggest that patient survival is associated with asbestos fiber burden in MPM and is perhaps modified by susceptibility.
asbestos; mesothelioma; survival