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1.  Prognostic significance of telomerase-associated parameters in glioblastoma: effect of patient age 
Neuro-Oncology  2013;15(4):423-432.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a heterogeneous, highly aggressive primary brain tumor with strongly variable patient survival. Because reliable prognostic biomarkers are lacking, we investigated the relation between telomerase-associated parameters and the disease course.
Telomerase-associated parameters were determined in 100 GBM tissues and associated with clinical characteristics and overall survival. Expressions of telomere length, telomerase activity (TA), and human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) were analyzed by quantitative PCR, telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay, and reverse transcriptase–PCR, respectively. Mutation status of isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH)1 was determined by direct sequencing, and O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter methylation by methylation-specific PCR.
Of 100 GBM tissues, 61 were positive for both hTERT mRNA and TA, with a highly significant correlation between both parameters (linear regression, P < .0001). Telomere length determination revealed a significant difference between the hTERT/TA-positive and -negative subgroups, with markedly longer telomeres in the hTERT/TA-negative cohort (unpaired Student's t-test, P = .0001). Accordingly, significantly shorter telomeres were detected in GBM tissues derived from older patients (>60 y at diagnosis, P < .0001). While no association of telomere parameters with MGMT promoter status was found, all tumors with IDH1 mutation (6/100) were negative for both hTERT expression and TA and harbored significantly longer telomeres. Patients with tumors lacking hTERT expression/TA showed a significant survival benefit (Kaplan–Meier test, both P < .01), which, however, was based exclusively on the younger patient subgroup (≤60 y, both P < .005; >60 y, both ns).
Telomerase activation is not an independent prognostic parameter in GBM but predicts aggressive tumor behavior solely in a younger patient cohort.
PMCID: PMC3607268  PMID: 23393205
telomerase; glioblastoma; age; prognosis; survival
2.  Major vault protein supports glioblastoma survival and migration by upregulating the EGFR/PI3K signalling axis 
Oncotarget  2013;4(11):1904-1918.
Despite their ubiquitous expression and high conservation during evolution, precise cellular functions of vault ribonucleoparticles, mainly built of multiple major vault protein (MVP) copies, are still enigmatic. With regard to cancer, vaults were shown to be upregulated during drug resistance development as well as malignant transformation and progression. Such in a previous study we demonstrated that human astrocytic brain tumours including glioblastoma are generally high in vault levels while MVP expression in normal brain is comparably low. However a direct contribution to the malignant phenotype in general and that of glioblastoma in particular has not been established so far. Thus we address the questions whether MVP itself has a pro-tumorigenic function in glioblastoma. Based on a large tissue collection, we re-confirm strong MVP expression in gliomas as compared to healthy brain. Further, the impact of MVP on human glioblastoma aggressiveness was analysed by using gene transfection, siRNA knock-down and dominant-negative genetic approaches. Our results demonstrate that MVP/vaults significantly support migratory and invasive competence as well as starvation resistance of glioma cells in vitro and in vivo. The enhanced aggressiveness was based on MVP-mediated stabilization of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)/phosphatidyl-inositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signalling axis. Consequently, MVP overexpression resulted in enhanced growth and brain invasion in human glioblastoma xenograft models. Our study demonstrates, for the first time, that vaults have a tumour-promoting potential by stabilizing EGFR/PI3K-mediated migration and survival pathways in human glioblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3875758  PMID: 24243798
major vault protein; glioblastoma multiforme; invasion; EGFR; PI3K
3.  Aggressiveness of human melanoma xenograft models is promoted by aneuploidy-driven gene expression deregulation 
Oncotarget  2012;3(4):399-413.
Melanoma is a devastating skin cancer characterized by distinct biological subtypes. Besides frequent mutations in growth- and survival-promoting genes like BRAF and NRAS, melanomas additionally harbor complex non-random genomic alterations. Using an integrative approach, we have analysed genomic and gene expression changes in human melanoma cell lines (N=32) derived from primary tumors and various metastatic sites and investigated the relation to local growth aggressiveness as xenografts in immuno-compromised mice (N=22). Although the vast majority (>90%) of melanoma models harbored mutations in either BRAF or NRAS, significant differences in subcutaneous growth aggressiveness became obvious. Unsupervised clustering revealed that genomic alterations rather than gene expression data reflected this aggressive phenotype, while no association with histology, stage or metastatic site of the original melanoma was found. Genomic clustering allowed separation of melanoma models into two subgroups with differing local growth aggressiveness in vivo. Regarding genes expressed at significantly altered levels between these subgroups, a surprising correlation with the respective gene doses (>85% accordance) was found. Genes deregulated at the DNA and mRNA level included well-known cancer genes partly already linked to melanoma (RAS genes, PTEN, AURKA, MAPK inhibitors Sprouty/Spred), but also novel candidates like SIPA1 (a Rap1GAP). Pathway mining further supported deregulation of Rap1 signaling in the aggressive subgroup e.g. by additional repression of two Rap1GEFs. Accordingly, siRNA-mediated down-regulation of SIPA1 exerted significant effects on clonogenicity, adherence and migration in aggressive melanoma models. Together our data suggest that an aneuploidy-driven gene expression deregulation drives local aggressiveness in human melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3380575  PMID: 22535842
malignant melanoma; aneuploidy; local aggressiveness; xenograft; integrative genomics
4.  O6-Methylguanine DNA methyltransferase protein expression in tumor cells predicts outcome of temozolomide therapy in glioblastoma patients 
Neuro-Oncology  2009;12(1):28-36.
O6-Methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) is implicated as a major predictive factor for treatment response to alkylating agents including temozolomide (TMZ) of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) patients. However, whether the MGMT status in GBM patients should be detected at the level of promoter methylation or protein expression is still a matter of debate. Here, we compared promoter methylation (by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction) and protein expression (by Western blot) in tumor cell explants with respect to prediction of TMZ response and survival of GBM patients (n = 71). Methylated MGMT gene promoter sequences were detected in 47 of 71 (66%) cases, whereas 37 of 71 (52%) samples were scored positive for MGMT protein expression. Although overall promoter methylation correlated significantly with protein expression (χ2 test, P < .001), a small subgroup of samples did not follow this association. In the multivariate Cox regression model, a significant interaction between MGMT protein expression, but not promoter methylation, and TMZ therapy was observed (test for interaction, P = .015). In patients treated with TMZ (n = 42), MGMT protein expression predicted a significantly shorter overall survival (OS; hazard ratio [HR] for death 5.53, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.76–17.37; P = .003), whereas in patients without TMZ therapy (n = 29), no differences in OS were observed (HR for death 1.00, 95% CI 0.45–2.20; P = .99). These data suggest that lack of MGMT protein expression is superior to promoter methylation as a predictive marker for TMZ response in GBM patients.
PMCID: PMC2940563  PMID: 20150365
O6-Methylguanine DNA methyltransferase; glioblastoma multiforme; protein expression; temozolomide

Results 1-4 (4)