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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Synthetic transactivation screening reveals ETV4 as broad coactivator of hypoxia-inducible factor signaling 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(5):1928-1943.
The human prolyl-4-hydroxylase domain (PHD) proteins 1–3 are known as cellular oxygen sensors, acting via the degradation of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) α-subunits. PHD2 and PHD3 genes are inducible by HIFs themselves, suggesting a negative feedback loop that involves PHD abundance. To identify novel regulators of the PHD2 gene, an expression array of 704 transcription factors was screened by a method that allows distinguishing between HIF-dependent and HIF-independent promoter regulation. Among others, the E-twenty six transcription factor ETS translocation variant 4 (ETV4) was found to contribute to PHD2 gene expression particularly under hypoxic conditions. Mechanistically, complex formation between ETV4 and HIF-1/2α was observed by mammalian two-hybrid and fluorescence resonance energy transfer analysis. HIF-1α domain mapping, CITED2 overexpression and factor inhibiting HIF depletion experiments provided evidence for cooperation between HIF-1α and p300/CBP in ETV4 binding. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed ETV4 and HIF-1α corecruitment to the PHD2 promoter. Of 608 hypoxically induced transcripts found by genome-wide expression profiling, 7.7% required ETV4 for efficient hypoxic induction, suggesting a broad role of ETV4 in hypoxic gene regulation. Endogenous ETV4 highly correlated with PHD2, HIF-1/2α and several established markers of tissue hypoxia in 282 human breast cancer tissue samples, corroborating a functional interplay between the ETV4 and HIF pathways.
PMCID: PMC3300025  PMID: 22075993
13.  Periostin is up-regulated in high grade and high stage prostate cancer 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:273.
Expression of periostin is an indicator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in cancer but a detailed analysis of periostin expression in prostate cancer has not been conducted so far.
Here, we evaluated periostin expression in prostate cancer cells and peritumoural stroma immunohistochemically in two independent prostate cancer cohorts, including a training cohort (n = 93) and a test cohort (n = 325). Metastatic prostate cancers (n = 20), hormone refractory prostate cancers (n = 19) and benign prostatic tissues (n = 38) were also analyzed.
In total, strong epithelial periostin expression was detectable in 142 of 418 (34.0%) of prostate carcinomas and in 11 of 38 benign prostate glands (28.9%). Increased periostin expression in carcinoma cells was significantly associated with high Gleason score (p < 0.01) and advanced tumour stage (p < 0.05) in the test cohort. Whereas periostin expression was weak or absent in the stroma around normal prostate glands, strong periostin expression in tumour stroma was found in most primary and metastatic prostate cancers. High stromal periostin expression was associated with higher Gleason scores (p < 0.001). There was a relationship between stromal periostin expression and shortened PSA relapse free survival times in the training cohort (p < 0.05).
Our data indicate that periostin up-regulation is related to increased tumour aggressiveness in prostate cancer and might be a promising target for therapeutical interventions in primary and metastatic prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC2903527  PMID: 20534149
14.  Homogeneous MGMT Immunoreactivity Correlates with an Unmethylated MGMT Promoter Status in Brain Metastases of Various Solid Tumors 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4775.
The O6-methylguanine-methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter methylation status is a predictive parameter for the response of malignant gliomas to alkylating agents such as temozolomide. First clinical reports on treating brain metastases with temozolomide describe varying effects. This may be due to the fact that MGMT promoter methylation of brain metastases has not yet been explored in depth. Therefore, we assessed MGMT promoter methylation of various brain metastases including those derived from lung (n = 91), breast (n = 72) kidney (n = 49) and from malignant melanomas (n = 113) by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (MS-PCR) and MGMT immunoreactivity. Fifty-nine of 199 brain metastases (29.6%) revealed a methylated MGMT promoter. The methylation rate was the highest in brain metastases derived from lung carcinomas (46.5%) followed by those from breast carcinoma (28.8%), malignant melanoma (24.7%) and from renal carcinoma (20%). A significant correlation of homogeneous MGMT-immunoreactivity (>95% MGMT positive tumor cells) and an unmethylated MGMT promoter was found. Promoter methylation was detected in 26 of 61 (43%) tumors lacking MGMT immunoreactivity, in 17 of 63 (27%) metastases with heterogeneous MGMT expression, but only in 5 of 54 brain metastases (9%) showing a homogeneous MGMT immunoreactivity. Our results demonstrate that a significant number of brain metastases reveal a methylated MGMT-promoter. Based on an obvious correlation between homogeneous MGMT immunoreactivity and unmethylated MGMT promoter, we hypothesize that immunohistochemistry for MGMT may be a helpful diagnostic tool to identify those tumors that probably will not benefit from the use of alkylating agents. The discrepancy between promoter methylation and a lack of MGMT immunoreactivity argues for assessing MGMT promoter methylation both by immunohistochemical as well as by molecular approaches for diagnostic purposes.
PMCID: PMC2652028  PMID: 19274096

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