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1.  LIN28B: an orchestrator of oncogenic signaling in neuroblastoma 
Cell Cycle  2016;15(6):772-774.
PMCID: PMC4845945  PMID: 26743584
2.  MYC Disrupts the Circadian Clock and Metabolism in Cancer Cells 
Cell metabolism  2015;22(6):1009-1019.
The MYC oncogene encodes MYC, a transcription factor that binds the genome through sites termed E-boxes (5′-CACGTG-3′), which are identical to the binding sites of the heterodimeric CLOCK-BMAL1 master circadian transcription factor. Hence, we hypothesized that ectopic MYC expression perturbs the clock by deregulating E-box-driven components of the circadian network in cancer cells. We report here that deregulated expression of MYC or N-MYC disrupts the molecular clock in vitro by directly inducing REV-ERBα to dampen expression and oscillation of BMAL1, and this could be rescued by knockdown of REV-ERB. REV-ERBα expression predicts poor clinical outcome for N-MYC-driven human neuroblastomas that have diminished BMAL1 expression, and reexpression of ectopic BMAL1 in neuroblastoma cell lines suppresses their clonogenicity. Further, ectopic MYC profoundly alters oscillation of glucose metabolism and perturbs glutaminolysis. Our results demonstrate an unsuspected link between oncogenic transformation and circadian and metabolic dysrhythmia, which we surmise to be advantageous for cancer.
Graphical Abstract
PMCID: PMC4818967  PMID: 26387865
3.  A LIN28B-RAN-AURKA Signaling Network Promotes Neuroblastoma Tumorigenesis 
Cancer cell  2015;28(5):599-609.
A more complete understanding of aberrant oncogenic signaling in neuroblastoma, a malignancy of the developing sympathetic nervous system, is paramount to improving patient outcomes. Recently, we identified LIN28B as an oncogenic driver in high-risk neuroblastoma. Here, we identify the oncogene RAN as a LIN28B target and show regional gain of chromosome 12q24 as an additional somatic alteration resulting in increased RAN expression. We show that LIN28B influences RAN expression by promoting RAN Binding Protein 2 expression and by directly binding RAN mRNA. Further, we demonstrate a convergence of LIN28B and RAN signaling on Aurora kinase A activity. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that LIN28B-RAN-AURKA signaling drives neuroblastoma oncogenesis, suggesting that this pathway may be amenable to therapeutic targeting.
PMCID: PMC4643330  PMID: 26481147
4.  CASC15-S is a tumor suppressor lncRNA at the 6p22 neuroblastoma susceptibility locus 
Cancer research  2015;75(15):3155-3166.
Chromosome 6p22 was identified recently as a neuroblastoma susceptibility locus, but its mechanistic contributions to tumorigenesis are as yet undefined. Here we report that the most highly significant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associations reside within CASC15, a long non-coding RNA that we define as a tumor suppressor at 6p22. Low-level expression of a short CASC15 isoform (CASC15-S) associated highly with advanced neuroblastoma and poor patient survival. In human neuroblastoma cells, attenuating CASC15-S increased cellular growth and migratory capacity. Gene expression analysis revealed downregulation of neuroblastoma-specific markers in cells with attenuated CASC15-S, with concomitant increases in cell adhesion and extracellular matrix transcripts. Altogether, our results point to CASC15-S as a mediator of neural growth and differentiation, which impacts neuroblastoma initiation and progression.
PMCID: PMC4526355  PMID: 26100672
neuroblastoma; lncRNA; CASC15; LINC00340; FLJ22536
5.  Rare Variants in TP53 and Susceptibility to Neuroblastoma 
TP53 is the most frequently mutated gene in human malignancies; however, de novo somatic mutations in childhood embryonal cancers such as neuroblastoma are rare. We report on the analysis of three independent case–control cohorts comprising 10290 individuals and demonstrate that rs78378222 and rs35850753, rare germline variants in linkage disequilibrium that map to the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of TP53 and 5′ UTR of the Δ133 isoform of TP53, respectively, are robustly associated with neuroblastoma (rs35850753: odds ratio [OR] = 2.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.0 to 3.6, P combined = 3.43×10−12; rs78378222: OR = 2.3, 95% CI = 1.8 to 2.9, P combined = 2.03×10−11). All statistical tests were two-sided. These findings add neuroblastoma to the complex repertoire of human cancers influenced by the rs78378222 hypomorphic allele, which impairs proper termination and polyadenylation of TP53 transcripts. Future studies using whole-genome sequencing data are likely to reveal additional rare variants with large effect sizes contributing to neuroblastoma tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3982892  PMID: 24634504
6.  Genetic predisposition to neuroblastoma mediated by a LMO1 super-enhancer polymorphism 
Nature  2015;528(7582):418-421.
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric malignancy that typically arises in early childhood and is derived from the developing sympathetic nervous system. Clinical phenotypes range from localized tumors with excellent outcomes to widely metastatic disease where long-term survival is approximately 40% despite intensive therapy1. A previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified common polymorphisms at the LMO1 gene locus that are highly associated with neuroblastoma susceptibility and oncogenic addiction to LMO1 in the tumor cells2. Here we sought to discover the causal DNA variant at this locus and the mechanism by which it leads to neuroblastoma tumorigenesis. We first imputed all possible genotypes across the LMO1 locus and then mapped highly associated single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) to areas of chromatin accessibility, evolutionary conservation, and transcription factor binding sites. SNP rs2168101 G>T was the most highly associated variant (combined P=7.47×10-29, Odds Ratio 0.65, 95% CI: 0.60-0.70) and resided in a super-enhancer defined by extensive acetylation of histone H3 lysine 27 within the first intron of LMO1. The ancestral G-allele that is associated with tumor formation resides in a conserved GATA transcription factor binding motif. We show that the newly evolved protective TATA allele is associated with decreased total LMO1 expression (P=0.028) in neuroblastoma primary tumors and ablates GATA3 binding (P<0.0001). We demonstrate allelic imbalance favoring the G-containing strand in tumors heterozygous for this SNP as demonstrated both by RNA sequencing (P<0.0001) and reporter assays (P=0.002). These findings show that a recently evolved polymorphism within a super-enhancer element in the first intron of LMO1 influences neuroblastoma susceptibility through differential GATA transcription factor binding and direct modulation of LMO1 expression in cis, and this leads to an oncogenic dependency in tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC4775078  PMID: 26560027
7.  Relapsed neuroblastomas show frequent RAS-MAPK pathway mutations 
Nature genetics  2015;47(8):864-871.
The majority of neuroblastoma patients have tumors that initially respond to chemotherapy, but a large proportion of patients will experience therapy-resistant relapses. The molecular basis of this aggressive phenotype is unknown. Whole genome sequencing of 23 paired diagnostic and relapsed neuroblastomas showed clonal evolution from the diagnostic tumor with a median of 29 somatic mutations unique to the relapse sample. Eighteen of the 23 relapse tumors (78%) showed mutations predicted to activate the RAS-MAPK signaling pathway. Seven events were detected only in the relapse tumor while the others showed clonal enrichment. In neuroblastoma cell lines we also detected a high frequency of activating mutations in the RAS-MAPK pathway (11/18, 61%) and these lesions predicted for sensitivity to MEK inhibition in vitro and in vivo. Our findings provide the rationale for genetic characterization of relapse neuroblastoma and show that RAS-MAPK pathway mutations may function as a biomarker for new therapeutic approaches to refractory disease.
PMCID: PMC4775079  PMID: 26121087
8.  Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK/ERK) inhibition sensitizes cancer cells to centromere-associated protein E inhibition 
Inhibition of centromere-associated protein-E (CENP-E) has demonstrated preclinical anti-tumor activity in a number of tumor types including neuroblastoma. A potent small molecule inhibitor of the kinesin motor activity of CENP-E has recently been developed (GSK923295). To identify an effective drug combination strategy for GSK923295 in neuroblastoma, we performed a screen of siRNAs targeting a prioritized set of genes that function in therapeutically tractable signaling pathways. We found that siRNAs targeted to extracellular signal-related kinase 1 (ERK1) significantly sensitized neuroblastoma cells to GSK923295-induced growth inhibition (p = 0.01). Inhibition of ERK1 activity using pharmacologic inhibitors of mitogen-activated ERK kinase (MEK1/2) showed significant synergistic growth inhibitory activity when combined with GSK923295 in neuroblastoma, lung, pancreatic and colon carcinoma cell lines. Synergistic growth inhibitory activity of combined MEK/ERK and CENP-E inhibition was a result of increased mitotic arrest and apoptosis. There was a significant correlation between ERK1/2 phosphorylation status in neuroblastoma cell lines and GSK923295 growth inhibitory activity (r = 0.823, p = 0.0006). Consistent with this result we found that lung cancer cell lines harboring RAS mutations, which leads to oncogenic activation of MEK/ERK signaling, were significantly more resistant than cell lines with wild-type RAS to GSK923295-induced growth inhibition (p = 0.047). Here we have identified (MEK/ERK) activity as a potential biomarker of relative GSK923295 sensitivity and have shown the synergistic effect of combinatorial MEK/ERK pathway and CENP-E inhibition across different cancer cell types including neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC4706358  PMID: 22948716
CENP-E; GSK923295; ERK; MEK; neuroblastoma; Ras
9.  Integrating Cell-Based and Clinical Genome-Wide Studies to Identify Genetic Variants Contributing to Treatment Failure in Neuroblastoma Patients 
High-risk neuroblastoma is an aggressive malignancy with high rates of treatment failure. We evaluated genetic variants associated with in vitro sensitivity to two derivatives of cyclophosphamide for association with clinical response in a separate replication cohort of neuroblastoma patients (n=2,709). Lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) were exposed to increasing concentrations of 4-hydroperoxycyclophosphamide [4HC n=422] and phosphoramide mustard [PM n=428] to determine sensitivity. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were performed to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with 4HC and PM sensitivity. SNPs consistently associated with LCL sensitivity were analyzed for associations with event-free survival in patients. Two linked SNPs, rs9908694 and rs1453560, were found to be associated with PM sensitivity in LCLs across populations and were associated with event-free survival in all patients (P=0.01) and within the high-risk subset (P=0.05). Our study highlights the value of cell-based models to identify candidate variants that may predict response to treatment in patients with cancer.
PMCID: PMC4029857  PMID: 24549002
neuroblastoma; pharmacogenomics; cell-based models; IKZF3; ZPBP2; expression quantitative trait loci
10.  CODEX: a normalization and copy number variation detection method for whole exome sequencing 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(6):e39.
High-throughput sequencing of DNA coding regions has become a common way of assaying genomic variation in the study of human diseases. Copy number variation (CNV) is an important type of genomic variation, but detecting and characterizing CNV from exome sequencing is challenging due to the high level of biases and artifacts. We propose CODEX, a normalization and CNV calling procedure for whole exome sequencing data. The Poisson latent factor model in CODEX includes terms that specifically remove biases due to GC content, exon capture and amplification efficiency, and latent systemic artifacts. CODEX also includes a Poisson likelihood-based recursive segmentation procedure that explicitly models the count-based exome sequencing data. CODEX is compared to existing methods on a population analysis of HapMap samples from the 1000 Genomes Project, and shown to be more accurate on three microarray-based validation data sets. We further evaluate performance on 222 neuroblastoma samples with matched normals and focus on a well-studied rare somatic CNV within the ATRX gene. We show that the cross-sample normalization procedure of CODEX removes more noise than normalizing the tumor against the matched normal and that the segmentation procedure performs well in detecting CNVs with nested structures.
PMCID: PMC4381046  PMID: 25618849
11.  Dual CDK4/CDK6 Inhibition Induces Cell Cycle Arrest and Senescence in Neuroblastoma 
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer that continues to exact significant morbidity and mortality. Recently, a number of cell cycle proteins, particularly those within the Cyclin D/CDK4/CDK6/RB network, have been shown to exert oncogenic roles in neuroblastoma, suggesting that their therapeutic exploitation might improve patient outcomes.
Experimental Procedures
We evaluated the effect of dual CDK4/CDK6 inhibition on neuroblastoma viability using LEE011, a highly specific CDK4/6 inhibitor.
Treatment with LEE011 significantly reduced proliferation in 12 of 17 human neuroblastoma-derived cell lines by inducing cytostasis at nanomolar concentrations (mean IC50 = 307 ± 68 nM in sensitive lines). LEE011 caused cell cycle arrest and cellular senescence that was attributed to dose-dependent decreases in phosphorylated RB and FOXM1, respectively. In addition, responsiveness of neuroblastoma xenografts to LEE011 translated to the in vivo setting in that there was a direct correlation of in vitro IC50 values with degree of subcutaneous xenograft growth delay. While our data indicate that neuroblastomas sensitive to LEE011 were more likely to contain genomic amplification of MYCN (p = 0.01), the identification of additional clinically accessible biomarkers is of high importance.
Taken together, our data show that LEE011 is active in a large subset of neuroblastoma cell line and xenograft models, and supports the clinical development of this CDK4/6 inhibitor as a therapy for patients with this disease.
PMCID: PMC3844928  PMID: 24045179
Neuroblastoma; CDK4; CDK6; LEE011; MYCN
12.  Replication of GWAS-identified neuroblastoma risk loci strengthens the role of BARD1 and affirms the cumulative effect of genetic variations on disease susceptibility 
Carcinogenesis  2012;34(3):605-611.
Several neuroblastoma (NB) susceptibility loci have been identified within LINC00340, BARD1, LMO1, DUSP12, HSD17B12, DDX4, IL31RA, HACE1 and LIN28B by genome-wide association (GWA) studies including European American individuals. To validate and comprehensively evaluate the impact of the identified NB variants on disease risk and phenotype, we analyzed 16 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in an Italian population (370 cases and 809 controls). We assessed their regulatory activity on gene expression in lymphoblastoid (LCLs) and NB cell lines. We evaluated the cumulative effect of the independent loci on NB risk and high-risk phenotype development in Italian and European American (1627 cases and 2575 controls) populations. All NB susceptibility genes replicated in the Italian dataset except for DDX4 and IL31RA, and the most significant SNP was rs6435862 in BARD1 (P = 8.4×10–15). BARD1 showed an additional and independent SNP association (rs7585356). This variant influenced BARD1 mRNA expression in LCLs and NB cell lines. No evidence of epistasis among the NB-associated variants was detected, whereas a cumulative effect of risk variants on NB risk (European Americans: P trend = 6.9×10–30, Italians: P trend = 8.55×1013) and development of high-risk phenotype (European Americans: P trend = 6.9×10–13, Italians: P trend = 2.2×10–1) was observed in a dose-dependent manner. These results provide further evidence that the risk loci identified in GWA studies contribute to NB susceptibility in distinct populations and strengthen the role of BARD1 as major genetic contributor to NB risk. This study shows that even in the absence of interaction the combination of several low-penetrance alleles has potential to distinguish subgroups of patients at different risks of developing NB.
PMCID: PMC3716226  PMID: 23222812
13.  Trans-population Analysis of Genetic Mechanisms of Ethnic Disparities in Neuroblastoma Survival 
Black patients with neuroblastoma have a higher prevalence of high-risk disease and worse outcome than white patients. We sought to investigate the relationship between genetic variation and the disparities in survival observed in neuroblastoma.
The analytic cohort was composed of 2709 patients. Principal components were used to assign patients to genomic ethnic clusters for survival analyses. Locus-specific ancestry was calculated for use in association analysis. The shorter spans of linkage disequilibrium in African populations may facilitate the fine mapping of causal variants in regions previously implicated by genome-wide association studies conducted primarily in patients of European descent. Thus, we evaluated 13 single nucleotide polymorphisms known to be associated with susceptibility to high-risk neuroblastoma from genome-wide association studies and all variants with highly divergent allele frequencies in reference African and European populations near the known susceptibility loci. All statistical tests were two-sided.
African genomic ancestry was associated with high-risk neuroblastoma (P = .007) and lower event-free survival (P = .04, hazard ratio = 1.4, 95% confidence interval = 1.05 to 1.80). rs1033069 within SPAG16 (sperm associated antigen 16) was determined to have higher risk allele frequency in the African reference population and statistically significant association with high-risk disease in patients of European and African ancestry (P = 6.42×10−5, false discovery rate < 0.0015) in the overall cohort. Multivariable analysis using an additive model demonstrated that the SPAG16 single nucleotide polymorphism contributes to the observed ethnic disparities in high-risk disease and survival.
Our study demonstrates that common genetic variation influences neuroblastoma phenotype and contributes to the ethnic disparities in survival observed and illustrates the value of trans-population mapping.
PMCID: PMC3691940  PMID: 23243203
14.  A Functional Screen Identifies miR-34a as a Candidate Neuroblastoma Tumor Suppressor Gene 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2008;6(5):735-742.
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that have critical roles in regulating a number of cellular functions through transcriptional silencing. They have been implicated as oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes (oncomirs) in several human neoplasms. We used an integrated genomics and functional screening strategy to identify potential oncomirs in the pediatric neoplasm neuroblastoma. We first identified microRNAs that map within chromosomal regions that we and others have defined as frequently deleted (1p36, 3p22, and 11q23-24) or gained (17q23) in high-risk neuroblastoma. We then transiently transfected microRNA precursor mimics or inhibitors into a panel of six neuroblastoma cell lines that we characterized for these genomic aberrations. The majority of transfections showed no phenotypic effect, but the miR-34a (1p36) and miR-34c (11q23) mimics showed dramatic growth inhibition in cell lines with 1p36 hemizygous deletion. In contrast, there was no growth inhibition by these mimics in cell lines without 1p36 deletions. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR showed a perfect correlation of absent miR-34a expression in cell lines with a 1p36 aberration and phenotypic effect after mimetic add-back. Expression of miR-34a was also decreased in primary tumors (n = 54) with 1p36 deletion (P = 0.009), but no mutations were discovered in resequencing of the miR-34a locus in 30 neuroblastoma cell lines. Flow cytometric time series analyses showed that the likely mechanism of miR-34a growth inhibition is through cell cycle arrest followed by apoptosis. BCL2 and MYCN were identified as miR-34a targets and likely mediators of the tumor suppressor phenotypic effect. These data support miR-34a as a tumor suppressor gene in human neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3760152  PMID: 18505919
15.  The genetic landscape of high-risk neuroblastoma 
Nature genetics  2013;45(3):279-284.
Neuroblastoma is a malignancy of the developing sympathetic nervous system that often presents with widespread metastatic disease, resulting in survival rates of less than 50%1. To determine the spectrum of somatic mutation in high-risk neuroblastoma, we studied 240 cases using a combination of whole exome, genome and transcriptome sequencing as part of the Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments (TARGET) initiative. Here we report a low median exonic mutation frequency of 0.60 per megabase (0.48 non-silent), and remarkably few recurrently mutated genes in these tumors. Genes with significant somatic mutation frequencies included ALK (9.2% of cases), PTPN11 (2.9%), ATRX (2.5%, an additional 7.1% had focal deletions), MYCN (1.7%, a recurrent p.Pro44Leu alteration), and NRAS (0.83%). Rare, potentially pathogenic germline variants were significantly enriched in ALK, CHEK2, PINK1, and BARD1. The relative paucity of recurrent somatic mutations in neuroblastoma challenges current therapeutic strategies reliant upon frequently altered oncogenic drivers.
PMCID: PMC3682833  PMID: 23334666
16.  Replication of neuroblastoma SNP association at the BARD1 locus in African-Americans 
Neuroblastoma (NBL) is an often-fatal pediatric cancer more frequent in European-American than African-American children. African-American children, however, are at higher risk for the more severe form of NBL, and have worse overall survival than European-American children. Genome wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several SNPs associated to NBL in children of European descent. Knowledge of their association to NBL in African-American children is still lacking.
We genotyped and imputed SNPs located in three gene regions reported to be associated to NBL in children of European descent, and tested them for association in 390 African-American NBL patients compared to 2500 healthy, ethnically matched controls.
SNPs in the BARD1 gene region show a similar pattern of association to NBL in African-American and European-American children. The more restricted extent of linkage disequilibrium in the African-American population suggests a smaller candidate region for the putative causal variants than previously reported. Limited association was observed at the other two gene regions tested, including LMO1 in 11p15 and FLJ22536 in 6p22.
Common BARD1 SNPs affect risk of NBL in African-Americans. The role of other SNPs associated to NBL in children of European descent could not be confirmed, possibly due to different patterns of linkage disequilibrium or limited statistical power to detect association to variants with small effect on disease risk. Extension of GWAS to populations of African descent is important to confirm their results and validity beyond the European populations, and can help to refine the location of the putative causal variants.
PMCID: PMC3319325  PMID: 22328350
Neuroblastoma; BARD1; African-Americans; SNPs; genetic association
17.  Common variation at 6q16 within HACE1 and LIN28B influences susceptibility to neuroblastoma 
Nature genetics  2012;44(10):1126-1130.
Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system that accounts for approximately 10% of all pediatric oncology deaths1. Here we report on a genome-wide association study of 2,817 neuroblastoma cases and 7,473 controls. We identified two new associations at 6q16, the first within HACE1 (rs4336470; combined P = 2.7 × 10−11, odds ratio 1.26, 95% CI: 1.18–1.35) and the second within LIN28B (rs17065417; combined P = 1.2 × 10−8, odds ratio 1.38, 95% CI: 1.23–1.54). Expression of LIN28B and let-7 miRNA correlated with rs17065417 genotype in neuroblastoma cell lines, and we observed significant growth inhibition upon depletion of LIN28B specifically in neuroblastoma cells homozygous for the risk allele. Low HACE1 and high LIN28B expression in diagnostic primary neuroblastomas were associated with worse overall survival (P = 0.008 and 0.014, respectively). Taken together, we show that common variants in HACE1 and LIN28B influence neuroblastoma susceptibility and that both genes likely play a role in disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3459292  PMID: 22941191
18.  Common Variation at BARD1 Results in the Expression of an Oncogenic Isoform that Influences Neuroblastoma Susceptibility and Oncogenicity 
Cancer Research  2012;72(8):2068-2078.
The mechanisms underlying genetic susceptibility at loci discovered by genome-wide association study (GWAS) approaches in human cancer remain largely undefined. In this study we characterized the high-risk neuroblastoma association at the BRCA1-related locus, BARD1, showing that disease-associated variations correlate with increased expression of the oncogenically activated isoform, BARD1β. In neuroblastoma cells, silencing of BARD1β showed genotype-specific cytotoxic effects, including decreased substrate-adherent, anchorage-independent, and foci growth. In established murine fibroblasts, overexpression of BARD1β was sufficient for neoplastic transformation. BARD1β stabilized the Aurora family of kinases in neuroblastoma cells, suggesting both a mechanism for the observed effect and a potential therapeutic strategy. Together, our findings identify BARD1β as an oncogenic driver of high-risk neuroblastoma tumorigenesis, and more generally, they illustrate how robust GWAS signals offer genomic landmarks to identify molecular mechanisms involved in both tumor initiation and malignant progression. The interaction of BARD1β with the Aurora family of kinases lends strong support to the ongoing work to develop Aurora kinase inhibitors for clinically aggressive neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3328617  PMID: 22350409
genome-wide association; neuroblastoma; BARD1; cancer susceptibility genes; functional genomics; oncogenes; genotype-phenotype correlations
19.  Integrative genomics identifies LMO1 as a neuroblastoma oncogene 
Nature  2010;469(7329):216-220.
Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer of the sympathetic nervous system that accounts for approximately 10% of all paediatric oncology deaths1,2. To identify genetic risk factors for neuroblastoma, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on 2,251 patients and 6,097 control subjects of European ancestry from four case series. Here we report a significant association within LIM domain only 1 (LMO1) at 11p15.4 (rs110419, combined P = 5.2 × 10−16, odds ratio of risk allele = 1.34 (95% confidence interval 1.25–1.44)). The signal was enriched in the subset of patients with the most aggressive form of the disease. LMO1 encodes a cysteine-rich transcriptional regulator, and its paralogues (LMO2, LMO3 and LMO4) have each been previously implicated in cancer. In parallel, we analysed genome-wide DNA copy number alterations in 701 primary tumours. We found that the LMO1 locus was aberrant in 12.4% through a duplication event, and that this event was associated with more advanced disease (P < 0.0001) and survival (P = 0.041). The germline single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) risk alleles and somatic copy number gains were associated with increased LMO1 expression in neuroblastoma cell lines and primary tumours, consistent with a gain-of-function role in tumorigenesis. Short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated depletion of LMO1 inhibited growth of neuroblastoma cells with high LMO1 expression, whereas forced expression of LMO1 in neuroblastoma cells with low LMO1 expression enhanced proliferation. These data show that common polymorphisms at the LMO1 locus are strongly associated with susceptibility to developing neuroblastoma, but also may influence the likelihood of further somatic alterations at this locus, leading to malignant progression.
PMCID: PMC3320515  PMID: 21124317
20.  Phenotype Restricted Genome-Wide Association Study Using a Gene-Centric Approach Identifies Three Low-Risk Neuroblastoma Susceptibility Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1002026.
Neuroblastoma is a malignant neoplasm of the developing sympathetic nervous system that is notable for its phenotypic diversity. High-risk patients typically have widely disseminated disease at diagnosis and a poor survival probability, but low-risk patients frequently have localized tumors that are almost always cured with little or no chemotherapy. Our genome-wide association study (GWAS) has identified common variants within FLJ22536, BARD1, and LMO1 as significantly associated with neuroblastoma and more robustly associated with high-risk disease. Here we show that a GWAS focused on low-risk cases identified SNPs within DUSP12 at 1q23.3 (P = 2.07×10−6), DDX4 and IL31RA both at 5q11.2 (P = 2.94×10−6 and 6.54×10−7 respectively), and HSD17B12 at 11p11.2 (P = 4.20×10−7) as being associated with the less aggressive form of the disease. These data demonstrate the importance of robust phenotypic data in GWAS analyses and identify additional susceptibility variants for neuroblastoma.
Author Summary
Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumor outside the central nervous system and is accountable for 10% of the mortality rate of all children's cancers. It has distinctive clinical behaviors and is categorized into different risk groups: high-risk, intermediate-risk, and low-risk. Genome-wide association studies have reported a number of genetic variations predisposing to high-risk neuroblastoma. This study focuses on the low-risk neuroblastoma group and identifies four novel genes (DUSP12, DDX4, IL31RA, and HSD17B12) at three distinct genomic positions that harbor disease-causing variants. This study also reports several gene sets that are enriched in overall neuroblastoma as well as in both high-risk and low-risk groups. Also of importance is that this study adopts a new computational method that identifies genes, instead of only one single nucleotide polymorphism, as disease-causing variants. Shown to have superior power of detection genome-wide association signals for neuroblastoma, the methodology presented in this study has great potential applications in case-control association studies in other diseases.
PMCID: PMC3060064  PMID: 21436895
21.  Common variations in BARD1 influence susceptibility to high-risk neuroblastoma 
Nature genetics  2009;41(6):718-723.
We conducted a SNP-based genome-wide association study (GWAS) focused on the high-risk subset of neuroblastoma1. As our previous unbiased GWAS showed strong association of common 6p22 SNP alleles with aggressive neuroblastoma2, we now restricted our analysis to 397 high-risk cases compared to 2,043 controls. We detected new significant association of six SNPs at 2q35 within the BARD1 gene locus (Pallelic = 2.35×10−9 − 2.25×10−8). Each SNP association was confirmed in a second series of 189 high-risk cases and 1,178 controls (Pallelic = 7.90×10−7 − 2.77×10−4). The two most significant SNPs (rs6435862, rs3768716) were also tested in two additional independent high-risk neuroblastoma case series, yielding combined allelic odds-ratios of 1.68 each (P = 8.65×10−18 and 2.74×10−16, respectively). Significant association was also found with known BARD1 nsSNPs. These data show that common variation in BARD1 contributes to the etiology of the aggressive and most clinically relevant subset of human neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC2753610  PMID: 19412175
22.  Copy number variation at 1q21.1 associated with neuroblastoma 
Nature  2009;459(7249):987-991.
Common copy number variations (CNVs) represent a significant source of genetic diversity, yet their influence on phenotypic variability, including disease susceptibility, remains poorly understood. To address this problem in cancer, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of CNVs in the childhood cancer neuroblastoma, a disease where SNP variations are known to influence susceptibility1,2. We first genotyped 846 Caucasian neuroblastoma patients and 803 healthy Caucasian controls at 550,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, and performed a CNV-based test for association. We then replicated significant observations in two independent sample sets comprised of a total of 595 cases and 3,357 controls. We identified a common CNV at 1q21.1 associated with neuroblastoma in the discovery set, which was confirmed in both replication sets (Pcombined = 2.97 × 10−17; OR = 2.49, 95% CI: 2.02 to 3.05). This CNV was validated by quantitative PCR, fluorescent in situ hybridization, and analysis of matched tumor specimens, and was shown to be heritable in an independent set of 713 cancer-free trios. We identified a novel transcript within the CNV which showed high sequence similarity to several “Neuroblastoma breakpoint family” (NBPF) genes3,4 and represents a new member of this gene family (NBPFX). This transcript was preferentially expressed in fetal brain and fetal sympathetic nervous tissues, and expression level was strictly correlated with CNV state in neuroblastoma cells. These data demonstrate that inherited copy number variation at 1q21.1 is associated with neuroblastoma and implicate a novel NBPF gene in early tumorigenesis of this childhood cancer.
PMCID: PMC2755253  PMID: 19536264
23.  A genome-wide association study identifies a susceptibility locus to clinically aggressive neuroblastoma at 6p22 
The New England journal of medicine  2008;358(24):2585-2593.
Neuroblastoma is a malignancy of the developing sympathetic nervous system that most commonly affects young children and is often lethal. The etiology of this embryonal cancer is not known.
We performed a genome-wide association study by first genotyping 1,032 neuroblastoma patients and 2,043 controls of European descent using the Illumina HumanHap550 BeadChip. Three independent groups of neuroblastoma cases (N=720) and controls (N=2128) were then genotyped to replicate significant associations.
We observed highly significant association between neuroblastoma and the common minor alleles of three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within a 94.2 kilobase (Kb) linkage disequilibrium block at chromosome band 6p22 containing the predicted genes FLJ22536 and FLJ44180 (P-value range = 1.71×10-9-7.01×10-10; allelic odds ratio range 1.39-1.40). Homozygosity for the at-risk G allele of the most significantly associated SNP, rs6939340, resulted in an increased likelihood of developing neuroblastoma of 1.97 (95% CI 1.58-2.44). Subsequent genotyping of these 6p22 SNPs in the three independent case series confirmed our observation of association (P=9.33×10-15 at rs6939340 for joint analysis). Furthermore, neuroblastoma patients homozygous for the risk alleles at 6p22 were more likely to develop metastatic (Stage 4) disease (P=0.02), show amplification of the MYCN oncogene in the tumor cells (P=0.006), and to have disease relapse (P=0.01).
Common genetic variation at chromosome band 6p22 is associated with susceptibility to neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC2742373  PMID: 18463370
24.  Adjustment of genomic waves in signal intensities from whole-genome SNP genotyping platforms 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(19):e126.
Whole-genome microarrays with large-insert clones designed to determine DNA copy number often show variation in hybridization intensity that is related to the genomic position of the clones. We found these ‘genomic waves’ to be present in Illumina and Affymetrix SNP genotyping arrays, confirming that they are not platform-specific. The causes of genomic waves are not well-understood, and they may prevent accurate inference of copy number variations (CNVs). By measuring DNA concentration for 1444 samples and by genotyping the same sample multiple times with varying DNA quantity, we demonstrated that DNA quantity correlates with the magnitude of waves. We further showed that wavy signal patterns correlate best with GC content, among multiple genomic features considered. To measure the magnitude of waves, we proposed a GC-wave factor (GCWF) measure, which is a reliable predictor of DNA quantity (correlation coefficient = 0.994 based on samples with serial dilution). Finally, we developed a computational approach by fitting regression models with GC content included as a predictor variable, and we show that this approach improves the accuracy of CNV detection. With the wide application of whole-genome SNP genotyping techniques, our wave adjustment method will be important for taking full advantage of genotyped samples for CNV analysis.
PMCID: PMC2577347  PMID: 18784189
25.  Assessing the Significance of Conserved Genomic Aberrations Using High Resolution Genomic Microarrays 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(8):e143.
Genomic aberrations recurrent in a particular cancer type can be important prognostic markers for tumor progression. Typically in early tumorigenesis, cells incur a breakdown of the DNA replication machinery that results in an accumulation of genomic aberrations in the form of duplications, deletions, translocations, and other genomic alterations. Microarray methods allow for finer mapping of these aberrations than has previously been possible; however, data processing and analysis methods have not taken full advantage of this higher resolution. Attention has primarily been given to analysis on the single sample level, where multiple adjacent probes are necessarily used as replicates for the local region containing their target sequences. However, regions of concordant aberration can be short enough to be detected by only one, or very few, array elements. We describe a method called Multiple Sample Analysis for assessing the significance of concordant genomic aberrations across multiple experiments that does not require a-priori definition of aberration calls for each sample. If there are multiple samples, representing a class, then by exploiting the replication across samples our method can detect concordant aberrations at much higher resolution than can be derived from current single sample approaches. Additionally, this method provides a meaningful approach to addressing population-based questions such as determining important regions for a cancer subtype of interest or determining regions of copy number variation in a population. Multiple Sample Analysis also provides single sample aberration calls in the locations of significant concordance, producing high resolution calls per sample, in concordant regions. The approach is demonstrated on a dataset representing a challenging but important resource: breast tumors that have been formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded, archived, and subsequently UV-laser capture microdissected and hybridized to two-channel BAC arrays using an amplification protocol. We demonstrate the accurate detection on simulated data, and on real datasets involving known regions of aberration within subtypes of breast cancer at a resolution consistent with that of the array. Similarly, we apply our method to previously published datasets, including a 250K SNP array, and verify known results as well as detect novel regions of concordant aberration. The algorithm has been fully implemented and tested and is freely available as a Java application at
Author Summary
Cancer is a genetic disease caused by genomic mutations that confer an increased ability to proliferate and survive in a specific environment. It is now known that many regions of genomic DNA are deleted or amplified in specific cancer types. These aberrations are believed to occur randomly in the genome. If these aberrations overlap more than would be expected by chance across individual occurrences of the cancer this suggests a selective pressure on this aberration. These conserved aberrations likely represent regions that are important for the development, progression, and survival of a specific cancer type in its environment. We present a method for identifying these conserved aberrations within a class of samples. The applications for this method include accurate high resolution mapping of aberrations characteristic of cancer subtypes as well as other genetic diseases and determination of conserved copy number variations in the population. With the use of high resolution microarray methods we have profiled different tumor types. We have been able to create high resolution profiles of conserved aberrations in specific cancer types. These conserved aberrations are prime targets for cancer therapies and many of these regions have already been used to develop effective cancer therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC1950957  PMID: 17722985

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