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1.  SPOP Mutations in Prostate Cancer across Demographically Diverse Patient Cohorts12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2014;16(1):14-20.
Recurrent mutations in the Speckle-Type POZ Protein (SPOP) gene occur in up to 15% of prostate cancers. However, the frequency and features of cancers with these mutations across different populations is unknown.
To investigate SPOP mutations across diverse cohorts and validate a series of assays employing high-resolution melting (HRM) analysis and Sanger sequencing for mutational analysis of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded material.
Design, Setting, and Participants
720 prostate cancer samples from six international cohorts spanning Caucasian, African American, and Asian patients, including both prostate-specific antigen-screened and unscreened populations, were screened for their SPOP mutation status. Status of SPOP was correlated to molecular features (ERG rearrangement, PTEN deletion, and CHD1 deletion) as well as clinical and pathologic features.
Results and Limitations
Overall frequency of SPOP mutations was 8.1% (4.6% to 14.4%), SPOP mutation was inversely associated with ERG rearrangement (P < .01), and SPOP mutant (SPOPmut) cancers had higher rates of CHD1 deletions (P < .01). There were no significant differences in biochemical recurrence in SPOPmut cancers. Limitations of this study include missing mutational data due to sample quality and lack of power to identify a difference in clinical outcomes.
SPOP is mutated in 4.6% to 14.4% of patients with prostate cancer across different ethnic and demographic backgrounds. There was no significant association between SPOP mutations with ethnicity, clinical, or pathologic parameters. Mutual exclusivity of SPOP mutation with ERG rearrangement as well as a high association with CHD1 deletion reinforces SPOP mutation as defining a distinct molecular subclass of prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3924544  PMID: 24563616
2.  Assessment of HER2 status in breast cancer: overall positivity rate and accuracy by fluorescence in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry in a single institution over 12 years: a quality control study 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:615.
The gold standard of HER2 status assessment in breast cancer is still debated. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) and in-situ technology as fluorescent-labeled methodology (FISH) can be influenced by pre-analytical factors, assay-conditions and interpretation of test results. We retrospectively conducted this quality control study and analyzed HER2 test results in breast cancer within the routine diagnostic service in a single institution over a period of 12 years. We addressed the question how stable and concordant IHC and FISH methods are and whether HER2 positivity rate has changed over this period.
Data of 7714 consecutive HER2-FISH-assays in a period of 12 years (2001–2012) on breast cancer biopsies and excision specimens were retrospectively analyzed. From 2001 to 2004, FISH tests were performed from all cases with IHC score 3+ and 2+ (and in some tumors with IHC score 1+ and 0). From 2005–2010, HER2 status was only determined by FISH. From 2011–2012, all breast carcinomas were analyzed by both IHC and FISH. Scoring and cut-off-definition were done according to time-current ASCO-CAP and FDA-guidelines.
Between 2001–2004, IHC score 3+ was diagnosed in 22% of cases, 69% of these 3+ cases were amplified by FISH. 6% of IHC score 0/1+ cases were amplified by FISH. There was a mean amplification rate of 15.8% (range 13 -19%) using FISH only HER2-assays (2005–2010). Starting 2008, a slight drop in the amplification rate from 17% to 14% was noticed due to the modified ASCO-criteria in 2007. From 2011–2012, 12% of cases were 3+ by IHC, 84% of them were amplified by FISH. Less than 1% of IHC score 0/1+ cases were amplified by FISH. Concordance between FISH and IHC increased from 83% to 97%.
Our quality control study demonstrates that HER2 positivity rate remained stable by FISH-technology but showed a significant variation by IHC over the analyzed 12 years. Improvement in concordance rate was due to standardization of pre-analytical factors, scoring and interpretation.
PMCID: PMC3879657  PMID: 24377754
HER2; Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH); Immunohistochemistry; Breast cancer
3.  Identification of Molecular Tumor Markers in Renal Cell Carcinomas with TFE3 Protein Expression by RNA Sequencing12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2013;15(11):1231-1240.
TFE3 translocation renal cell carcinoma (tRCC) is defined by chromosomal translocations involving the TFE3 transcription factor at chromosome Xp11.2. Genetically proven TFE3 tRCCs have a broad histologic spectrum with overlapping features to other renal tumor subtypes. In this study, we aimed for characterizing RCC with TFE3 protein expression. Using next-generation whole transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) as a discovery tool, we analyzed fusion transcripts, gene expression profile, and somatic mutations in frozen tissue of one TFE3 tRCC. By applying a computational analysis developed to call chimeric RNA molecules from paired-end RNA-Seq data, we confirmed the known TFE3 translocation. Its fusion partner SFPQ has already been described as fusion partner in tRCCs. In addition, an RNA read-through chimera between TMED6 and COG8 as well as MET and KDR (VEGFR2) point mutations were identified. An EGFR mutation, but no chromosomal rearrangements, was identified in a control group of five clear cell RCCs (ccRCCs). The TFE3 tRCC could be clearly distinguished from the ccRCCs by RNA-Seq gene expression measurements using a previously reported tRCC gene signature. In validation experiments using reverse transcription-PCR, TMED6-COG8 chimera expression was significantly higher in nine TFE3 translocated and six TFE3-expressing/non-translocated RCCs than in 24 ccRCCs (P < .001) and 22 papillary RCCs (P < .05–.07). Immunohistochemical analysis of selected genes from the tRCC gene signature showed significantly higher eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1 alpha 2 (EEF1A2) and Contactin 3 (CNTN3) expression in 16 TFE3 translocated and six TFE3-expressing/non-translocated RCCs than in over 200 ccRCCs (P < .0001, both).
PMCID: PMC3859447  PMID: 24339735
4.  Correction: Comparison of EndoPredict and Oncotype DX Test Results in Hormone Receptor Positive Invasive Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):10.1371/annotation/f715f38e-7aee-4d2b-8bbf-da0411dc6ef3.
PMCID: PMC3806972  PMID: 24204486
5.  NY-ESO-1–specific immunological pressure and escape in a patient with metastatic melanoma 
Cancer Immunity  2013;13:12.
During cancer progression, malignant cells may evade immunosurveillance. However, evidence for immunological escape in humans is scarce. We report here the clinical course of a melanoma patient whose initial tumor was positive for the antigens NY-ESO-1, MAGE-C1, and Melan-A. Upon immunization with a recombinant vaccinia/fowlpox NY-ESO-1 construct, the patient experienced a mixed clinical response and spreading of the NY-ESO-1 epitopes in the CD4+ T cell compartment. After NY-ESO-1 protein + CpG immunization, the patient’s anti-NY-ESO-1 IgG response increased. Over the following years, progressing lesions were resected and found to be NY-ESO-1-negative while being positive for MAGE-C1, Melan-A, and MHC-I. The fatal, inoperable brain metastasis was analyzed after his death and also proved to be NY-ESO-1-negative, while being positive for MAGE-C1 and Melan-A, as well as MHC-I. We propose that cancer control and cancer escape in this patient were governed by NY-ESO-1-specific immunological pressure. Our findings provide evidence for the existence of immunoediting and immunoescape in this cancer patient.
PMCID: PMC3718732  PMID: 23882157
NY-ESO-1; Cancer/Testis antigen; melanoma; immunosurveillance; escape
6.  Exome sequencing identifies recurrent SPOP, FOXA1 and MED12 mutations in prostate cancer 
Nature genetics  2012;44(6):685-689.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide and causes over 250,000 deaths each year1. Overtreatment of indolent disease also results in significant morbidity2. Common genetic alterations in prostate cancer include losses of NKX3.1 (8p21)3,4 and PTEN (10q23)5,6, gains of the androgen receptor gene (AR)7,8 and fusion of ETS-family transcription factor genes with androgen-responsive promoters9–11. Recurrent somatic base-pair substitutions are believed to be less contributory in prostate tumorigenesis12,13 but have not been systematically analyzed in large cohorts. Here we sequenced the exomes of 112 prostate tumor/normal pairs. Novel recurrent mutations were identified in multiple genes, including MED12 and FOXA1. SPOP was the most frequently mutated gene, with mutations involving the SPOP substrate binding cleft in 6–15% of tumors across multiple independent cohorts. SPOP-mutant prostate cancers lacked ETS rearrangements and exhibited a distinct pattern of genomic alterations. Thus, SPOP mutations may define a new molecular subtype of prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC3673022  PMID: 22610119
7.  Combined mutation of Vhl and Trp53 causes renal cysts and tumours in mice 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2013;5(6):949-964.
The combinations of genetic alterations that cooperate with von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) mutation to cause clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) remain poorly understood. We show that the TP53 tumour suppressor gene is mutated in approximately 9% of human ccRCCs. Combined deletion of Vhl and Trp53 in primary mouse embryo fibroblasts causes proliferative dysregulation and high rates of aneuploidy. Deletion of these genes in the epithelium of the kidney induces the formation of simple cysts, atypical cysts and neoplasms, and deletion in the epithelia of the genital urinary tract leads to dysplasia and tumour formation. Kidney cysts display a reduced frequency of primary cilia and atypical cysts and neoplasms exhibit a pro-proliferative signature including activation of mTORC1 and high expression of Myc, mimicking several cellular and molecular alterations seen in human ccRCC and its precursor lesions. As the majority of ccRCC is associated with functional inactivation of VHL, our findings suggest that for a subset of ccRCC, loss of p53 function represents a critical event in tumour development.
PMCID: PMC3779454  PMID: 23606570
ccRCC; cyst; p53; VHL
8.  Comparison of EndoPredict and Oncotype DX Test Results in Hormone Receptor Positive Invasive Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58483.
Several multigene expression-based tests offering prognostic and predictive information in hormone-receptor positive early breast cancer were established during the last years. These tests provide prognostic information on distant recurrences and can serve as an aid in therapy decisions. We analyzed the recently validated reverse-transcription-quantitative-real-time PCR-based multigene-expression Endopredict (EP)-test on 34 hormone-receptor positive breast-cancer cases and compared the EP scores with the Oncotype DX Recurrence-scores (RS) obtained from the same cancer samples.
Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded invasive breast-cancer tissues from 34 patients were analyzed by the EP-test. Representative tumor blocks were analyzed with Oncotype DX prior to this study. Tumor tissue was removed from unstained slides, total-RNA was isolated and EP-analysis was performed blinded to Oncotype DX results.
Extraction of sufficient amounts of RNA and generation of valid EP-scores were possible for all 34 samples. EP classified 11 patients as low-risk and 23 patients as high-risk. RS Score defined 15 patients as low-risk, 10 patients as intermediate-risk in and 9 patients as high-risk. Major-discrepancy occurred in 6 of 34 cases (18%): Low-risk RS was classified as high-risk by EP in 6 cases. Combining the RS intermediate-risk and high-risk groups to a common group, the concordance between both tests was 76%. Correlation between continuous EP and RS-scores was moderate (Pearson-coefficient: 0.65 (p<0.01).
We observed a significant but moderate concordance (76%) and moderate correlation (0.65) between RS and EP Score. Differences in results can be explained by different weighting of biological motives covered by the two tests. Further studies are needed to explore the clinical relevance of discrepant test results with respect of outcome.
PMCID: PMC3591350  PMID: 23505515
9.  Tumor-associated macrophages subvert T-cell function and correlate with reduced survival in clear cell renal cell carcinoma 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(3):e23562.
Although malignant cells can be recognized and controlled by the immune system, in patients with clinically apparent cancer immunosurveillance has failed. To better understand local immunoregulatory processes that impact on cancer progression, we correlated intratumoral immunological profiles with the survival of patients affected by primary clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). A retrospective analysis of 54 primary ccRCC samples for 31 different immune response-related transcripts, revealed a negative correlation of CD68 (a marker of tumor-associated macrophages, TAMs) and FOXP3 (a marker of regulatory T cells, Tregs) with survival. The subsequent analysis of 12 TAM-related transcripts revealed an association between the genes coding for CD163, interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) and fibronectin 1 (FN1), all of which have been linked to the M2 TAM phenotype, with reduced survival and increased tumor stage, whereas the opposite was the case for the M1-associated gene coding for inducible nitric oxide synthetase (iNOS). The M2 signature of (CD68+) TAMs was found to correlate with CD163 expression, as determined in prospectively collected fresh ccRCC tissue samples. Upon co-culture with autologous tumor cells, CD11b+ cells isolated from paired blood samples expressed CD163 and other M2-associated proteins, suggesting that the malignant cells promote the accumulation of M2 TAMs. Furthermore, the tumor-associated milieu as well as isolated TAMs induced the skewing of autologous, blood-derived CD4+ T cells toward a more immunosuppressive phenotype, as shown by decreased production of effector cytokines, increased production of interleukin-10 (IL-10) and enhanced expression of the co-inhibitory molecules programmed death 1 (PD-1) and T-cell immunoglobulin mucin 3 (TIM-3). Taken together, our data suggest that ccRCC progressively attracts macrophages and induces their skewing into M2 TAMs, in turn subverting tumor-infiltrating T cells such that immunoregulatory functions are increased at the expense of effector functions.
PMCID: PMC3655740  PMID: 23687622
T-cell response; clear cell renal cell carcinoma; immunoregulation; tumor immunology; tumor-associated macrophages
10.  Retroperitoneal teratoma with somatic malignant transformation: A papillary renal cell carcinoma in a testicular germ cell tumour metastasis following platinum-based chemotherapy 
BMC Urology  2013;13:9.
Malignant transformation describes the phenomenon in which a somatic component of a germ cell teratoma undergoes malignant differentiation. A variety of different types of sarcoma and carcinoma, all non-germ cell, have been described as a result of malignant transformation.
Case presentation
A 33-year-old man presented with a left testicular mass and elevated tumour markers. Staging investigations revealed retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy with obstruction of the left ureter and distant metastases. Histopathology from the left radical orchiectomy showed a mixed germ cell tumour (Stage III, poor prognosis). The ureter was stented and four cycles of cisplatin, etoposide and bleomycin chemotherapy administered. After initial remission, the patient recurred four years later with a large retroperitoneal mass involving the renal vessels and the left ureter. Left retroperitoneal lymph node dissection with en-bloc resection of the left kidney was performed.
Histopathology revealed a germ cell tumour metastasis consisting mainly of mature teratoma. Additionally, within the teratoma a papillary renal cell carcinoma was found. The diagnosis was supported by immunohistochemistry showing positivity for AMACR, CD10 and focal expression of RCC and CK7. There was no radiological or histo-pathological evidence of a primary renal cell cancer.
To the best of our knowledge, malignant transformation into a papillary renal cell carcinoma has not been reported in a testicular germ cell tumour metastasis following platinum-based chemotherapy. This histological diagnosis might have implications for potential future therapies. In the case of disease recurrence, renal cell cancer as origin of the recurrent tumour has to be excluded because renal cell carcinoma metastases would not respond well to the classical germ cell tumour chemotherapy regimens.
PMCID: PMC3577457  PMID: 23402579
Retroperitoneal teratoma; Malignant transformation; Germ cell tumour metastasis; Renal cell cancer
11.  The potential prognostic value of connexin 26 and 46 expression in neoadjuvant-treated breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:50.
Several classification systems are available to assess pathological response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer, but reliable biomarkers to predict the efficiency of primary systemic therapy (PST) are still missing. Deregulation of gap junction channel forming connexins (Cx) has been implicated in carcinogenesis and tumour progression through loss of cell cycle control. In this study we correlated Cx expression and cell proliferation with disease survival and pathological response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancers using existing classification systems.
The expression of Cx26, Cx32, Cx43, Cx46 and Ki67 was evaluated in 96 breast cancer patients prior to and after neoadjuvant chemotherapy using duplicate cores in tissue microarrays (TMA). Cx plaques of <1μm were detected with multilayer, multichannel fluorescence digital microscopy. Current classifications to assess residual tumour burden after primary systemic therapy included the EWGBSP, CPS-EG, Miller-Payne, Sataloff and NSABP systems.
In our cohort dominated by hormone receptor (ER/PR) positive and HER2 negative cases, only the CPS-EG classification showed prognostic relevance: cases with scores 1–2 had significantly better overall survival (p=0.015) than cases with scores 3–5. Pre-chemotherapy Cx43 expression correlated positively with hormone receptor status both before and after chemotherapy and had a negative correlation with HER2 expression pre-chemotherapy. There was a positive correlation between Cx32 and HER2 expression pre-chemotherapy and between Cx32 and Ki67 expression post-chemotherapy. A negative correlation was found between post-chemotherapy Cx46 and Ki67 expression. Decreased post-chemotherapy Cx26 expression (<5%) statistically correlated with better overall survival (p=0.011). Moderate or higher Cx46 expression (>20%) pre- and post-chemotherapy correlated with significantly better survival in the intermediate prognostic subgroups of EWGBSP TR2b (ppre-chemo=0.006; Sataloff TB (ppre-chemo=0.005; ppost-chemo=0.029) and in Miller-Payne G3 (ppre-chemo=0.002; ppost-chemo=0.012) classifications. Pre-chemotherapy, Cx46 expression was the only marker that correlated with overall survival within these subgroups.
Our results suggest that Cx46 and Cx26 expression in breast cancer may improve the assessment of pathological response and refine intermediate prognostic subgroups of residual tumour classifications used after neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3583680  PMID: 23374644
Breast cancer; Connexin; Gap junction; Preoperative chemotherapy; Prognosis
12.  FAN1 mutations cause karyomegalic interstitial nephritis, linking chronic kidney failure to defective DNA damage repair 
Nature genetics  2012;44(8):910-915.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) represents a major health burden1. Its central feature of renal fibrosis is not well understood. By whole exome resequencing in a model disorder for renal fibrosis, nephronophthisis (NPHP), we identified mutations of Fanconi anemia-associated nuclease 1 (FAN1) as causing karyomegalic interstitial nephritis (KIN). Renal histology of KIN is indistinguishable from NPHP except for the presence of karyomegaly2. FAN1 has nuclease activity, acting in DNA interstrand crosslinking (ICL) repair within the Fanconi anemia pathway of DNA damage response (DDR)3–6. We demonstrate that cells from individuals with FAN1 mutations exhibit sensitivity to the ICL agent mitomycin C. However, they do not exhibit chromosome breakage or cell cycle arrest after diepoxybutane treatment, unlike cells from patients with Fanconi anemia. We complement ICL sensitivity with wild type FAN1 but not mutant cDNA from individuals with KIN. Depletion of fan1 in zebrafish revealed increased DDR, apoptosis, and kidney cysts akin to NPHP. Our findings implicate susceptibility to environmental genotoxins and inadequate DNA repair as novel mechanisms of renal fibrosis and CKD.
PMCID: PMC3412140  PMID: 22772369
13.  Occupational health risks of pathologists - results from a nationwide online questionnaire in Switzerland 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1054.
Pathologists are highly trained medical professionals who play an essential part in the diagnosis and therapy planning of malignancies and inflammatory diseases. Their work is associated with potential health hazards including injuries involving infectious human tissue, chemicals which are assumed to be carcinogenic or long periods of microscope and computer work. This study aimed to provide the first comprehensive assessment of the health situation of pathologists in Switzerland.
Pathologists in Switzerland were contacted via the Swiss Society of Pathologists and asked to answer an ethically approved, online anonymous questionnaire comprising 48 questions on occupational health problems, workplace characteristics and health behaviour.
163 pathologists participated in the study. Forty percent of pathologists reported musculoskeletal problems in the previous month. The overall prevalence was 76%. Almost 90% of pathologists had visual refraction errors, mainly myopia. 83% of pathologists had experienced occupational injuries, mostly cutting injuries, in their professional career; more than one fifth of participants reported cutting injuries in the last year. However, long lasting injuries and infectious diseases were rare. Depression and burnout affected every eighth pathologist. The prevalence of smoking was substantially below that of the general Swiss population.
The results of this study suggest that more care should be taken in technical and personal protective measures, ergonomic workplace optimisation and reduction of work overload and work inefficiencies. Despite the described health risks, Swiss pathologists were optimistic about their future and their working situation. The high rate of ametropia and psychological problems warrants further study.
PMCID: PMC3538703  PMID: 23216705
Occupational; Health risk; Pathologist; Musculoskeletal; Injury; Questionnaire
14.  p53 suppresses type II endometrial carcinomas in mice and governs endometrial tumour aggressiveness in humans 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2012;4(8):808-824.
Type II endometrial carcinomas are a highly aggressive group of tumour subtypes that are frequently associated with inactivation of the TP53 tumour suppressor gene. We show that mice with endometrium-specific deletion of Trp53 initially exhibited histological changes that are identical to known precursor lesions of type II endometrial carcinomas in humans and later developed carcinomas representing all type II subtypes. The mTORC1 signalling pathway was frequently activated in these precursor lesions and tumours, suggesting a genetic cooperation between this pathway and Trp53 deficiency in tumour initiation. Consistent with this idea, analyses of 521 human endometrial carcinomas identified frequent mTORC1 pathway activation in type I as well as type II endometrial carcinoma subtypes. mTORC1 pathway activation and p53 expression or mutation status each independently predicted poor patient survival. We suggest that molecular alterations in p53 and the mTORC1 pathway play different roles in the initiation of the different endometrial cancer subtypes, but that combined p53 inactivation and mTORC1 pathway activation are unifying pathogenic features among histologically diverse subtypes of late stage aggressive endometrial tumours.
PMCID: PMC3494078  PMID: 22678923
clear cell; endometrial carcinoma; mouse model; p53; serous
15.  EML4-ALK testing in non-small cell carcinomas of the lung: a review with recommendations 
Virchows Archiv  2012;461(3):245-257.
In non-small cell lung cancer, epidermal growth factor receptor gene mutations and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangements have a major impact upon the level of response to treatment with specific tyrosine kinase inhibitors. This review describes the molecular basis of ALK inhibition, summarizes current data on the effectiveness and safety of ALK inhibition therapy, describes the different testing methodologies with their advantages and disadvantages, provides a suggested testing algorithm and puts forward a proposal for an external quality assessment program in ALK testing.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00428-012-1281-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3432214  PMID: 22825000
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase; Rearrangement; Crizotinib; Algorithm; Guidelines; Non-small cell lung cancer
16.  Integrative genome-wide expression profiling identifies three distinct molecular subgroups of renal cell carcinoma with different patient outcome 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:310.
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is characterized by a number of diverse molecular aberrations that differ among individuals. Recent approaches to molecularly classify RCC were based on clinical, pathological as well as on single molecular parameters. As a consequence, gene expression patterns reflecting the sum of genetic aberrations in individual tumors may not have been recognized. In an attempt to uncover such molecular features in RCC, we used a novel, unbiased and integrative approach.
We integrated gene expression data from 97 primary RCC of different pathologic parameters, 15 RCC metastases as well as 34 cancer cell lines for two-way nonsupervised hierarchical clustering using gene groups suggested by the PANTHER Classification System. We depicted the genomic landscape of the resulted tumor groups by means of Single Nuclear Polymorphism (SNP) technology. Finally, the achieved results were immunohistochemically analyzed using a tissue microarray (TMA) composed of 254 RCC.
We found robust, genome wide expression signatures, which split RCC into three distinct molecular subgroups. These groups remained stable even if randomly selected gene sets were clustered. Notably, the pattern obtained from RCC cell lines was clearly distinguishable from that of primary tumors. SNP array analysis demonstrated differing frequencies of chromosomal copy number alterations among RCC subgroups. TMA analysis with group-specific markers showed a prognostic significance of the different groups.
We propose the existence of characteristic and histologically independent genome-wide expression outputs in RCC with potential biological and clinical relevance.
PMCID: PMC3488567  PMID: 22824167
DNA-microarray; SNP-array; RCC subgroups; Tissue microarray; Outcome
17.  A Seven-Marker Signature and Clinical Outcome in Malignant Melanoma: A Large-Scale Tissue-Microarray Study with Two Independent Patient Cohorts 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38222.
Current staging methods such as tumor thickness, ulceration and invasion of the sentinel node are known to be prognostic parameters in patients with malignant melanoma (MM). However, predictive molecular marker profiles for risk stratification and therapy optimization are not yet available for routine clinical assessment.
Methods and Findings
Using tissue microarrays, we retrospectively analyzed samples from 364 patients with primary MM. We investigated a panel of 70 immunohistochemical (IHC) antibodies for cell cycle, apoptosis, DNA mismatch repair, differentiation, proliferation, cell adhesion, signaling and metabolism. A marker selection procedure based on univariate Cox regression and multiple testing correction was employed to correlate the IHC expression data with the clinical follow-up (overall and recurrence-free survival). The model was thoroughly evaluated with two different cross validation experiments, a permutation test and a multivariate Cox regression analysis. In addition, the predictive power of the identified marker signature was validated on a second independent external test cohort (n = 225). A signature of seven biomarkers (Bax, Bcl-X, PTEN, COX-2, loss of β-Catenin, loss of MTAP, and presence of CD20 positive B-lymphocytes) was found to be an independent negative predictor for overall and recurrence-free survival in patients with MM. The seven-marker signature could also predict a high risk of disease recurrence in patients with localized primary MM stage pT1-2 (tumor thickness ≤2.00 mm). In particular, three of these markers (MTAP, COX-2, Bcl-X) were shown to offer direct therapeutic implications.
The seven-marker signature might serve as a prognostic tool enabling physicians to selectively triage, at the time of diagnosis, the subset of high recurrence risk stage I–II patients for adjuvant therapy. Selective treatment of those patients that are more likely to develop distant metastatic disease could potentially lower the burden of untreatable metastatic melanoma and revolutionize the therapeutic management of MM.
PMCID: PMC3369875  PMID: 22685558
18.  Detecting BRAF Mutations in Formalin-Fixed Melanoma: Experiences with Two State-of-the-Art Techniques 
Case Reports in Oncology  2012;5(2):280-289.
Melanoma is characterized by a high frequency of BRAF mutations. It is unknown if the BRAF mutation status has any predictive value for therapeutic approaches such as angiogenesis inhibition.
Patients and Methods
We used 2 methods to analyze the BRAF mutation status in 52 of 62 melanoma patients. Method 1 (mutation-specific real-time PCR) specifically detects the most frequent BRAF mutations, V600E and V600K. Method 2 (denaturing gel gradient electrophoresis and direct sequencing) identifies any mutations affecting exons 11 and 15.
Eighteen BRAF mutations and 15 wild-type mutations were identified with both methods. One tumor had a double mutation (GAA) in codon 600. Results of 3 samples were discrepant. Additional mutations (V600M, K601E) were detected using method 2. Sixteen DNA samples were analyzable with either method 1 or method 2. There was a significant association between BRAF V600E mutation and survival.
Standardized tissue fixation protocols are needed to optimize BRAF mutation analysis in melanoma. For melanoma treatment decisions, the availability of a fast and reliable BRAF V600E screening method may be sufficient. If other BRAF mutations in exons 11 and 15 are found to be of predictive value, a combination of the 2 methods would be useful.
PMCID: PMC3383294  PMID: 22740817
BRAF mutations; V600E; Mutation detection methods; Melanoma
19.  Identification and Functional Characterization of pVHL-Dependent Cell Surface Proteins in Renal Cell Carcinoma12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2012;14(6):535-546.
The identification of cell surface accessible biomarkers enabling diagnosis, disease monitoring, and treatment of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is as challenging as the biology and progression of RCC is unpredictable. A hallmark of most RCC is the loss-of-function of the von Hippel-Lindau (pVHL) protein by mutation of its gene (VHL). Using the cell surface capturing (CSC) technology, we screened and identified cell surface N-glycoproteins in pVHL-negative and positive 786-O cells. One hundred six cell surface N-glycoproteins were identified. Stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture-based quantification of the CSC screen revealed 23 N-glycoproteins whose abundance seemed to change in a pVHL-dependent manner. Targeted validation experiments using transcriptional profiling of primary RCC samples revealed that nine glycoproteins, including CD10 and AXL, could be directly linked to pVHL-mediated transcriptional regulation. Subsequent human tumor tissue analysis of these cell surface candidate markers showed a correlation between epithelial AXL expression and aggressive tumor phenotype, indicating that pVHL-dependent regulation of glycoproteins may influence the biologic behavior of RCC. Functional characterization of the metalloprotease CD10 in cell invasion assays demonstrated a diminished penetrating behavior of pVHL-negative 786-O cells on treatment with the CD10-specific inhibitor thiorphan. Our proteomic surfaceome screening approach in combination with transcriptional profiling and functional validation suggests pVHL-dependent cell surface glycoproteins as potential diagnostic markers for therapeutic targeting and RCC patient monitoring.
PMCID: PMC3394196  PMID: 22806541
20.  Mutations in the DDR2 kinase gene identify a novel therapeutic target in squamous cell lung cancer 
Cancer discovery  2011;1(1):78-89.
While genomically targeted therapies have improved outcomes for patients with lung adenocarcinoma, little is known about the genomic alterations which drive squamous cell lung cancer. Sanger sequencing of the tyrosine kinome identified mutations in the DDR2 kinase gene in 3.8% of squamous cell lung cancers and cell lines. Squamous lung cancer cell lines harboring DDR2 mutations were selectively killed by knock-down of DDR2 by RNAi or by treatment with the multi-targeted kinase inhibitor dasatinib. Tumors established from a DDR2 mutant cell line were sensitive to dasatinib in xenograft models. Expression of mutated DDR2 led to cellular transformation which was blocked by dasatinib. A squamous cell lung cancer patient with a response to dasatinib and erlotinib treatment harbored a DDR2 kinase domain mutation. These data suggest that gain-of-function mutations in DDR2 are important oncogenic events and are amenable to therapy with dasatinib. As dasatinib is already approved for use, these findings could be rapidly translated into clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3274752  PMID: 22328973
Squamous cell lung cancer; DDR2; dasatinib; tyrosine kinase inhibitors; lung cancer genomics
21.  Tumor Cell Plasticity and Angiogenesis in Human Melanomas 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33571.
Recent molecular studies provide evidence for a significant transcriptional plasticity of tumor cell subpopulations that facilitate an active contribution to tumor vasculature. This feature is accompanied by morphological changes both in vitro and in vivo. Herein, we investigated the morphological plasticity of tumor cells with special focus on vasculogenic mimicry and neovascularisation in human melanoma and mouse xenografts of human melanoma cell lines. In melanoma xenograft experiments, different vessel markers and green fluorescent protein expression were used to show how melanoma cells contribute to neovascularization. Additionally, we analyzed neovascularization in 49 primary melanomas and 175 melanoma metastases using immunostaining for blood (CD34) and lymphatic (D2–40) vessel-specific markers. We found significantly more lymphatic vessels in primary melanomas than in melanoma metastases (p<0.0001). In contrast to the near absence of lymphatic vessels within metastases, we found extensive blood micro-neovascularization. Blood micro-neovascularization was absent in micro metastases (less than 2 mm). A significant inverse correlation between Glut-1 expression (implying local hypoxia) and the presence of microvessels indicates their functional activity as blood vessels (p<0.0001). We suggest that the hypoxic microenvironment in metastases contributes to a phenotype switch allowing melanoma cells to physically contribute to blood vessel formation.
PMCID: PMC3307737  PMID: 22442699
22.  A HIF-regulated VHL-PTP1B-Src signaling axis identifies a therapeutic target in Renal Cell Carcinoma 
Science Translational Medicine  2011;3(85):85ra47.
Metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is a molecularly heterogeneous disease that is intrinsically resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. While VEGF and mTOR targeted therapies have shown clinical activity, their effects are variable and short-lived, underscoring the need for improved treatment strategies for RCC. Here, we used quantitative phosphoproteomics and immunohistochemical profiling of 346 RCC specimens to determine that Src kinase signaling is elevated in RCC cells that retain wild type (WT) von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) protein expression. Correspondingly, VHL-WT RCC cell lines and xenografts were sensitized to the Src inhibitor dasatinib compared to VHL null cells. Forced expression of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) in VHL-WT RCC cells diminished Src signaling output by repressing transcription of the Src activator protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) and conferred resistance to dasatinib. Our results suggest that a HIF-regulated VHL-PTP1B-Src signaling axis determines sensitivity of RCC to Src inhibitors and that stratification of RCC patients using antibody-based biomarker profiling may identify patients likely to respond to Src inhibitors in RCC clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3303496  PMID: 21632985
23.  Decentral gene expression analysis for ER+/Her2− breast cancer: results of a proficiency testing program for the EndoPredict assay 
Virchows Archiv  2012;460(3):251-259.
Gene expression profiles provide important information about the biology of breast tumors and can be used to develop prognostic tests. However, the implementation of quantitative RNA-based testing in routine molecular pathology has not been accomplished, so far. The EndoPredict assay has recently been described as a quantitative RT-PCR-based multigene expression test to identify a subgroup of hormone–receptor-positive tumors that have an excellent prognosis with endocrine therapy only. To transfer this test from bench to bedside, it is essential to evaluate the test–performance in a multicenter setting in different molecular pathology laboratories. In this study, we have evaluated the EndoPredict (EP) assay in seven different molecular pathology laboratories in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A set of ten formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumors was tested in the different labs, and the variance and accuracy of the EndoPredict assays were determined using predefined reference values. Extraction of a sufficient amount of RNA and generation of a valid EP score was possible for all 70 study samples (100%). The EP scores measured by the individual participants showed an excellent correlation with the reference values, respectively, as reflected by Pearson correlation coefficients ranging from 0.987 to 0.999. The Pearson correlation coefficient of all values compared to the reference value was 0.994. All laboratories determined EP scores for all samples differing not more than 1.0 score units from the pre-defined references. All samples were assigned to the correct EP risk group, resulting in a sensitivity and specificity of 100%, a concordance of 100%, and a kappa of 1.0. Taken together, the EndoPredict test could be successfully implemented in all seven participating laboratories and is feasible for reliable decentralized assessment of gene expression in luminal breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3306560  PMID: 22371223
Breast cancer; Prognosis; mRNA; Quality control
24.  Complete remission of pulmonary metastases of Bellini duct carcinoma with cisplatin, gemcitabine and bevacizumab 
Bellini carcinomas, rare tumors of kidney, are aggressive and have a poor prognosis. For these cancers, there is no standard treatment regimen and chemotherapy for urothelial cancer is usually used.
Case Report:
In a 44-year-old man with hematuria, a tumor was diagnosed in the right kidney. After radical nephrectomy, pathologic analysis revealed Bellini carcinoma, staged pT3apN0, Fuhrman grade 3. Secondary pulmonary lesions occur one year later. Chemotherapy (gemcitabine, cisplatin and bevacizumab) was started and after 2 cycles of chemotherapy, Thoracic CT scans showed good response to treatment, with almost complete regression of the pulmonary lesions. After the third cycle of chemotherapy, maintenance treatment with bevacizumab continued. Fifteen months after diagnosing pulmonary metastases, hilar adenopathies progressed slightly and cisplatin-gemcitabine was started again leading to a partial response after five courses. Approximately 2 years after the diagnosis of lung metastases, the patient presented a second relapse, so carboplatin-gemcitabine was started, while bevacizumab was continued. 24 months after the diagnosis of lung metastases, the patient was still alive with controlled disease.
In view of our findings, a prospective multicenter trial with cisplatin, gemcitabine and bevacizumab in patients with metastatic collecting duct carcinoma is planned.
PMCID: PMC3615909  PMID: 23569471
Bellini carcinoma; Complete response; bevacizumab
25.  γ-Radiation Promotes Immunological Recognition of Cancer Cells through Increased Expression of Cancer-Testis Antigens In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28217.
γ-radiation is an effective treatment for cancer. There is evidence that radiotherapy supports tumor-specific immunity. It was described that irradiation induces de novo protein synthesis and enhances antigen presentation, we therefore investigated whether γ-radiation results in increased expression of cancer-testis (CT) antigens and MHC-I, thus allowing efficient immunological control. This is relevant because the expression of CT-antigens and MHC-I on tumor cells is often heterogeneous. We found that the changes induced by γ-radiation promote the immunological recognition of the tumor, which is illustrated by the increased infiltration by lymphocytes after radiotherapy.
We compared the expression of CT-antigens and MHC-I in various cancer cell lines and fresh biopsies before and after in vitro irradiation (20 Gy). Furthermore, we compared paired biopsies that were taken before and after radiotherapy from sarcoma patients. To investigate whether the changed expression of CT-antigens and MHC-I is specific for γ-radiation or is part of a generalized stress response, we analyzed the effect of hypoxia, hyperthermia and genotoxic stress on the expression of CT-antigens and MHC-I. In vitro irradiation of cancer cell lines and of fresh tumor biopsies induced a higher or de novo expression of different CT-antigens and a higher expression of MHC-I in a time- and dose-dependent fashion. Importantly, we show that irradiation of cancer cells enhances their recognition by tumor-specific CD8+ T cells. The analysis of paired biopsies taken from a cohort of sarcoma patients before and after radiotherapy confirmed our findings and, in addition showed that irradiation resulted in higher infiltration by lymphocytes. Other forms of stress did not have an impact on the expression of CT-antigens or MHC-I.
Our findings suggest that γ-radiation promotes the immunological recognition of the tumor. We therefore propose that combining radiotherapy with treatments that support tumor specific immunity may result in increased therapeutic efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3226680  PMID: 22140550

Results 1-25 (46)