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1.  The European Medicines Agency Approval of Axitinib (Inlyta) for the Treatment of Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma After Failure of Prior Treatment With Sunitinib or a Cytokine: Summary of the Scientific Assessment of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use 
The Oncologist  2015;20(2):196-201.
Based on a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency, a marketing authorization valid throughout the European Union (EU) was issued for axitinib (Inlyta) for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma after failure of prior treatment with sunitinib or a cytokine. This paper summarizes the scientific review of the application leading to approval in the EU.
Axitinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1 (VEGFR-1), VEGFR-2, and VEGFR-3. Based on the positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), a marketing authorization valid throughout the European Union (EU) was issued for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) after failure of prior treatment with sunitinib or a cytokine. The demonstration of clinical benefit for axitinib was based on a phase III, randomized, open-label, multicenter study of axitinib compared with sorafenib in patients with advanced RCC after failure of a prior systemic first-line regimen containing one or more of the following agents: sunitinib, bevacizumab plus interferon-α, temsirolimus, or cytokines. In the primary analysis, a 2-month increase in median progression-free survival (PFS) was observed for axitinib compared with sorafenib (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.665; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.544–0.812; p < .0001). In the subgroup of patients with a prior cytokine-containing regimen, the increase in median PFS associated with axitinib was 5.4 months (updated analysis, HR: 0.519; 95% CI: 0.375–0.720; p < .0001). In the subgroup of patients with prior sunitinib treatment, the increase in median PFS was 1.4 months (updated analysis, HR: 0.736; 95% CI: 0.578–0.937; p = .0063). The analysis of overall survival showed no statistically significant survival benefit of axitinib over sorafenib in patients previously treated with cytokine-containing regimens (HR: 0.813; 95% CI: 0.556–1.191) or sunitinib (HR: 0.997; 95% CI: 0.782–1.270). The most common treatment-related adverse events associated with axitinib included diarrhea, hypertension, fatigue, nausea, decreased appetite, dysphonia, and palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia. Most of these events were mild or moderate in severity. This paper summarizes the scientific review of the application leading to approval in the EU. The detailed scientific assessment report and product information, including the summary of product characteristics, are available on the EMA website (
PMCID: PMC4319625  PMID: 25616431
Axitinib; Inlyta; Renal cell carcinoma; EMA; European Medicines Agency
2.  Phase III trial (EORTC 10994/BIG 1-00) assessing the value of p53 using a functional assay to predict sensitivity to a taxane versus non taxane primary chemotherapy in breast cancer: final analysis 
The Lancet. Oncology  2011;12(6):527-539.
This study tested the hypothesis that docetaxel confers a greater advantage over anthracyclines in p53 mutant compared to p53 wild type breast cancers.
Patients with locally advanced, inflammatory or large operable breast cancers were randomised to receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy consisting of either a standard anthracycline regimen (FEC 100 or tailored FEC) or a taxane-based regimen (docetaxel for 3 cycles, followed by epirubicin and docetaxel for 3 cycles). In this open label study, randomisation was performed using a minimisation method that stratified by institution and initial tumour stage (large operable versus locally advanced or inflammatory breast cancer). p53 status was assessed with a yeast functional assay on tumour biopsies taken before chemotherapy. The primary endpoint was a comparison of progression-free survival in the two arms according to p53 status and in the entire trial population (by intention to treat). We report the final analysis of the trial. The study is registered in, number NCT00017095.
1856 patients were enrolled and 370 were unassessable for p53 tumour status (the main reason being low tumour cell content in the biopsy). 675 events for the primary endpoint were registered. The hazard ratio (HR) between the two arms for progression-free survival (PFS) was 0.84 (98% CI: 0.63–1.14; p=0.17) in the p53 mutant group and 0.89 (98% CI: 0.68–1.18; p=0.35) in the p53 wild type group. In the entire population, the HR was 0.85 (98% CI: 0.71–1.02; p=0.035) for the use of docetaxel. The most common grade 3 or 4 adverse events were neutropenia in 1598 patients (86.6%), febrile neutropenia in 284 (15.4%), fatigue in 136 (7.4%), infection in 121 (6.6%) and nausea or vomiting in 89 (4.8%). Two patients died of toxicity during or within 30 days of chemotherapy completion and without disease relapse (one in each arm).
Although p53 status is prognostic for overall survival, it was not predictive of preferential sensitivity to taxanes. p53 status tested by yeast assay in this population can not be used to select patients for FEC versus taxane-based chemotherapy.
National Cancer Institute (USA), “La Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer”, EU (fp6 Active p53 grant), Pharmacia and Sanofi-Aventis.
PMCID: PMC4172919  PMID: 21570352
3.  Validation of a novel procedure for quantification of the formation of phosphoramide mustard by individuals treated with cyclophosphamide 
Use of the patient’s body surface area (mg m−2) as a basis for dosing does not take individual variation in metabolic capacity and rate of clearance into account. Here, we evaluated a novel approach for individual monitoring of short-lived cytotoxic agents formed from cytostatic drugs such as cyclophosphamide (CP).
The accumulated blood dose of the cytotoxic active agent phosphoramide mustard (PAM) formed from CP was measured as a reaction product with hemoglobin (Hb adduct). This adduct, N-[2-(2-oxazolidonyl)ethyl]-valyl Hb (OzVal-Hb), was detached from Hb with the adduct FIRE procedure™, and the formed analyte was quantified using LC-MS/MS. This dose biomarker for PAM and the analytical procedure was evaluated in accordance with the guidelines on bioanalytical method validation formulated by the European Medicine Agency. The evaluated method was applied to quantify blood dose levels of PAM in female breast cancer patients (n = 12) before and after three cycles of polychemotherapy regimes containing CP.
OzVal-Hb, a specific and stable biomarker, could be measured with great sensitivity (lower limit of quantification = 33 pmol g−1 Hb), high accuracy (within ±20 %) and good repeatability (CV < 20 %). The inter-individual variability in the blood level of this adduct in women with breast cancer (n = 12) who received three doses of CP in combination with one or two other cytostatic drugs was 250 % following the first dose and approximately 150 % after each subsequent dose.
Measurement of the biomarker OzVal-Hb can be used to quantify the short-lived cytotoxic agent PAM in a single blood sample drawn several days after therapy. This procedure may aid in individualizing doses of CP, thereby improving efficacy while both reducing the risk of and increasing the predictability of side-effects.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00280-014-2524-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4143677  PMID: 25053385
Cyclophosphamide; Phosphoramide mustard; Personalized cancer medicine; Hemoglobin adducts; Therapeutic drug monitoring; TDM
4.  Sequencing of breast cancer stem cell populations indicates a dynamic conversion between differentiation states in vivo 
The cancer stem cell model implies a hierarchical organization within breast tumors maintained by cancer stem-like cells (CSCs). Accordingly, CSCs are a subpopulation of cancer cells with capacity for self-renewal, differentiation and tumor initiation. These cells can be isolated through the phenotypic markers CD44+/CD24-, expression of ALDH1 and an ability to form nonadherent, multicellular spheres in vitro. However, controversies to describe the stem cell model exist; it is unclear whether the tumorigenicity of CSCs in vivo is solely a proxy for a certain genotype. Moreover, in vivo evidence is lacking to fully define the reversibility of CSC differentiation.
In order to answer these questions, we undertook exome sequencing of CSCs from 12 breast cancer patients, along with paired primary tumor samples. As suggested by stem classical cell biology, we assumed that the number of mutations in the CSC subpopulation should be lower and distinct compared to the differentiated tumor cells with higher proliferation.
Our analysis revealed that the majority of somatic mutations are shared between CSCs and bulk primary tumor, with similar frequencies in the two.
The data presented here exclude the possibility that CSCs are only a phenotypic consequence of certain somatic mutations, that is a distinct and non-reversible population of cells. In addition, our results imply that CSCs must be a population of cells that can dynamically switch from differentiated tumor cells, and vice versa. This finding increases our understanding of CSC function in tumor heterogeneity and the importance of identifying drugs to counter de-differentiation rather than targeting CSCs.
PMCID: PMC4227057  PMID: 24998755
5.  The European Medicines Agency Review of Pertuzumab for the Treatment of Adult Patients With HER2-Positive Metastatic or Locally Recurrent Unresectable Breast Cancer: Summary of the Scientific Assessment of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use 
The Oncologist  2014;19(7):766-773.
This paper summarizes the scientific review of the application leading to approval in the European Union for pertuzumab for use in combination with trastuzumab and docetaxel for the treatment of adult patients with HER2-positive metastatic or locally recurrent unresectable breast cancer who have not received previous anti-HER2 therapy or chemotherapy for metastatic disease. The detailed scientific assessment report and product information, including the summary of product characteristics, are available on the European Medicines Agency website.
Pertuzumab is a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody that specifically targets the extracellular dimerization domain (subdomain II) of HER2. Based on the positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on March 4, 2013, a marketing authorization valid throughout the European Union (EU) was issued for pertuzumab (Perjeta) for use in combination with trastuzumab and docetaxel for the treatment of adult patients with HER2-positive metastatic or locally recurrent unresectable breast cancer who have not received previous anti-HER2 therapy or chemotherapy for their metastatic disease. The demonstration of clinical benefit for pertuzumab was based on a single, phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing the efficacy and safety of pertuzumab plus trastuzumab plus docetaxel versus placebo plus trastuzumab plus docetaxel in previously untreated patients with locally advanced or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. In the primary analysis, median progression-free survival was 18.5 months in the pertuzumab group compared with 12.4 months in the placebo group (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.62; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.51–0.75; p < .0001). For the secondary endpoints, overall survival (HR: 0.66; 95% CI: 0.52–0.84; p = .0008) and objective response rate (80.2% vs. 69.3%) were also favored in the pertuzumab group. Toxicity was similar between groups except for higher incidence of diarrhea, rash, mucosal inflammation, dry skin, and neutropenia for pertuzumab compared with placebo. This paper summarizes the scientific review of the application leading to approval in the EU. The detailed scientific assessment report and product information, including the summary of product characteristics, are available on the EMA website (
PMCID: PMC4077440  PMID: 24928613
Pertuzumab; Perjeta; Breast cancer; EMA; European Medicines Agency
6.  Validation of a Radiosensitivity Molecular Signature in Breast Cancer 
Previously, we developed a radiosensitivity molecular signature (RSI) that was clinically-validated in three independent datasets (rectal, esophageal, head and neck) in 118 patients. Here, we test RSI in radiotherapy (RT) treated breast cancer patients.
Experimental Design
RSI was tested in two previously published breast cancer datasets. Patients were treated at the Karolinska University Hospital (n=159) and Erasmus Medical Center (n=344). RSI was applied as previously described.
We tested RSI in RT-treated patients (Karolinska). Patients predicted to be radiosensitive (RS) had an improved 5 yr relapse-free survival when compared with radioresistant (RR) patients (95% vs. 75%, p=0.0212) but there was no difference between RS/RR patients treated without RT (71% vs. 77%, p=0.6744), consistent with RSI being RT-specific (interaction term RSIxRT, p=0.05). Similarly, in the Erasmus dataset RT-treated RS patients had an improved 5-year distant-metastasis-free survival over RR patients (77% vs. 64%, p=0.0409) but no difference was observed in patients treated without RT (RS vs. RR, 80% vs. 81%, p=0.9425). Multivariable analysis showed RSI is the strongest variable in RT-treated patients (Karolinska, HR=5.53, p=0.0987, Erasmus, HR=1.64, p=0.0758) and in backward selection (removal alpha of 0.10) RSI was the only variable remaining in the final model. Finally, RSI is an independent predictor of outcome in RT-treated ER+ patients (Erasmus, multivariable analysis, HR=2.64, p=0.0085).
RSI is validated in two independent breast cancer datasets totaling 503 patients. Including prior data, RSI is validated in five independent cohorts (621 patients) and represents, to our knowledge, the most extensively validated molecular signature in radiation oncology.
PMCID: PMC3993974  PMID: 22832933
radiosensitivity; predictive biomarkers; gene expression; molecular signature; breast cancer
7.  A Catalyst for Change: The European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights 
The Oncologist  2014;19(3):217-224.
The European Cancer Concord is a unique patient-centered partnership that will act as a catalyst to achieve improved access to an optimal standard of cancer care and research for European citizens. In order to provide tangible benefits for European cancer patients, the partnership proposes the creation of a “European Cancer Patient’s Bill of Rights,” a patient charter that will underpin equitable access to an optimal standard of care for Europe’s citizens.
PMCID: PMC3958470  PMID: 24493667
8.  Clinical instability of breast cancer markers is reflected in long-term in vitro estrogen deprivation studies 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:473.
Long-term estrogen deprivation models are widely employed in an in vitro setting to recapitulate the hormonal milieu of breast cancer patients treated with endocrine therapy. Despite the wealth information we have garnered from these models thus far, a comprehensive time-course analysis of the estrogen (ER), progesterone (PR), and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER-2/neu) receptors on the gene and protein level, coupled with expression array data is currently lacking. We aimed to address this knowledge gap in order to enhance our understanding of endocrine therapy resistance in breast cancer patients.
ER positive MCF7 and BT474 breast cancer cells were grown in estrogen depleted medium for 10 months with the ER negative MDA-MB-231 cell line employed as control. ER, PR and HER-2/neu expression were analysed at defined short and long-term time points by immunocytochemistry (ICC), and quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR). Microarray analysis was performed on representative samples.
MCF7 cells cultured in estrogen depleted medium displayed decreasing expression of ER up to 8 weeks, which was then re-expressed at 10 months. PR was also down-regulated at early time points and remained so for the duration of the study. BT474 cells generally displayed no changes in ER during the first 8 weeks of deprivation, however its expression was significantly decreased at 10 months. PR expression was also down-regulated early in BT474 samples and was absent at later time points. Finally, microarray data revealed that genes and cell processes down-regulated in both cell lines at 6 weeks overlapped with those down-regulated in aromatase inhibitor treated breast cancer patients.
Our data demonstrate that expression of ER, PR, and cell metabolic/proliferative processes are unstable in response to long-term estrogen deprivation in breast cancer cell lines. These results mirror recent clinical findings and again emphasize the utility of LTED models in translational research.
PMCID: PMC3852062  PMID: 24119434
9.  Personalizing the treatment of women with early breast cancer: highlights of the St Gallen International Expert Consensus on the Primary Therapy of Early Breast Cancer 2013 
Annals of Oncology  2013;24(9):2206-2223.
The 13th St Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference (2013) Expert Panel reviewed and endorsed substantial new evidence on aspects of the local and regional therapies for early breast cancer, supporting less extensive surgery to the axilla and shorter durations of radiation therapy. It refined its earlier approach to the classification and management of luminal disease in the absence of amplification or overexpression of the Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2 (HER2) oncogene, while retaining essentially unchanged recommendations for the systemic adjuvant therapy of HER2-positive and ‘triple-negative’ disease. The Panel again accepted that conventional clinico-pathological factors provided a surrogate subtype classification, while noting that in those areas of the world where multi-gene molecular assays are readily available many clinicians prefer to base chemotherapy decisions for patients with luminal disease on these genomic results rather than the surrogate subtype definitions. Several multi-gene molecular assays were recognized as providing accurate and reproducible prognostic information, and in some cases prediction of response to chemotherapy. Cost and availability preclude their application in many environments at the present time. Broad treatment recommendations are presented. Such recommendations do not imply that each Panel member agrees: indeed, among more than 100 questions, only one (trastuzumab duration) commanded 100% agreement. The various recommendations in fact carried differing degrees of support, as reflected in the nuanced wording of the text below and in the votes recorded in supplementary Appendix S1, available at Annals of Oncology online. Detailed decisions on treatment will as always involve clinical consideration of disease extent, host factors, patient preferences and social and economic constraints.
PMCID: PMC3755334  PMID: 23917950
surgery; radiation therapy; systemic adjuvant therapies; early breast cancer; St Gallen Consensus; subtypes
10.  Interactions between immunity, proliferation and molecular subtype in breast cancer prognosis 
Genome Biology  2013;14(4):R34.
Gene expression signatures indicative of tumor proliferative capacity and tumor-immune cell interactions have emerged as principal biology-driven predictors of breast cancer outcomes. How these signatures relate to one another in biological and prognostic contexts remains to be clarified.
To investigate the relationship between proliferation and immune gene signatures, we analyzed an integrated dataset of 1,954 clinically annotated breast tumor expression profiles randomized into training and test sets to allow two-way discovery and validation of gene-survival associations. Hierarchical clustering revealed a large cluster of distant metastasis-free survival-associated genes with known immunological functions that further partitioned into three distinct immune metagenes likely reflecting B cells and/or plasma cells; T cells and natural killer cells; and monocytes and/or dendritic cells. A proliferation metagene allowed stratification of cases into proliferation tertiles. The prognostic strength of these metagenes was largely restricted to tumors within the highest proliferation tertile, though intrinsic subtype-specific differences were observed in the intermediate and low proliferation tertiles. In highly proliferative tumors, high tertile immune metagene expression equated with markedly reduced risk of metastasis whereas tumors with low tertile expression of any one of the three immune metagenes were associated with poor outcome despite higher expression of the other two metagenes.
These findings suggest that a productive interplay among multiple immune cell types at the tumor site promotes long-term anti-metastatic immunity in a proliferation-dependent manner. The emergence of a subset of effective immune responders among highly proliferative tumors has novel prognostic ramifications.
PMCID: PMC3798758  PMID: 23618380
Breast cancer; gene signatures; hierarchical clustering; immune metagene; intrinsic subtypes; metagene tertiles; multivariable analysis; prognosis; proliferation metagene; survival analysis
11.  An Iron Regulatory Gene Signature Predicts Outcome in Breast Cancer 
Cancer research  2011;71(21):6728-6737.
Changes in iron regulation characterize the malignant state. However, the pathways that effect these changes and their specific impact on prognosis remain poorly understood. We capitalized on publicly available microarray datasets comprising 674 breast cancer cases to systematically investigate how expression of genes related to iron metabolism is linked to breast cancer prognosis. Of 61 genes involved in iron regulation, 49% were statistically significantly associated with distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS). Cases were divided into test and training cohorts and the supervised principal component method was used to stratify cases into risk groups. Optimal risk stratification was achieved with a model comprising 16 genes, which we term the iron regulatory gene signature (IRGS). Multivariable analysis revealed that the IRGS contributes information not captured by conventional prognostic indicators (hazard ratio 1.61; 95% CI 1.16–2.24; p=0.004). The IRGS successfully stratified homogeneously treated patients, including ER+ patients treated with tamoxifen monotherapy, both with (p=0.006) and without (p=0.03) lymph node metastases. To test whether multiple pathways were embedded within the IRGS, we evaluated the performance of two gene dyads with known roles in iron biology in ER+ patients treated with tamoxifen monotherapy (n=371). For both dyads, gene combinations that minimized intracellular iron content (anti-import: TFRCLow/HFEHigh; or pro-export: FPHigh/HAMPLow) were associated with favorable prognosis (p<0.005). Although the clinical utility of the IRGS will require further evaluation, its ability to both identify high risk patients within traditionally low risk groups and low risk patients within high risk groups has the potential to affect therapeutic decision-making.
PMCID: PMC3206152  PMID: 21875943
12.  A retrospective study of SBRT of metastases in patients with primary sarcoma 
We retrospectively reviewed the results of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) in 46 patients with a total of 136 metastases from primary sarcoma. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the overall response rate and side effects of SBRT in metastatic sarcoma. The patients were treated at Karolinska University Hospital between 1994 and 2005, using 3D conformal multifield technique and a stereotactic body-frame. Prescribed doses ranged from 4 to 20 Gy per fraction in 1–5 fractions, with total doses of 10–48 Gy. All 46 patients were diagnosed with a primary sarcoma. The treated metastases were localized mainly in the lungs. A total number of 136 metastases were treated (1–14 per patient). Overall response rate (local control = CR, PR and SD) for each tumour was 88 % (119/135). Median follow-up was 21.8 months (range 2.7–112.8 months). Thirteen patients (31 %) were long-term survivors (>36 months), and 5 patients are still alive after last follow-up. Two cases of serious non-lethal side effects were seen, one patient had a colon perforation and another patient had contracture of the hip region. SBRT is a safe, convenient and effective non-invasive treatment with high local control for patients with metastatic sarcoma.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12032-012-0256-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3505552  PMID: 22815154
Stereotactic body radiotherapy; Sarcoma; Metastases; High-dose fraction; Body-frame
13.  Analysis of Cyclin D1 in Breast Cancer: A Call to Arms 
Current Breast Cancer Reports  2012;4(3):171-173.
The oncogenic capabilities of the cell cycle protein cyclin D1 have long been established in a breast cancer setting. The CCND1 gene is amplified in up to 15 % of breast tumors, with overexpression of its corresponding protein found in up to 50 % of cases. While gene amplification is consistently associated with reduced patient survival times and treatment resistance, repeated attempts to clarify the prognostic and predictive impact of the cyclin D1 protein in breast cancer have yielded contrasting results. Here, we recommend that any examination of cyclin D1 in a patient cohort should begin by determining CCND1 copy number, with subsequent removal and separate analysis of amplified cases. Next, the remaining tumors should be examined for cyclin D1 protein expression in the context of well-defined breast cancer subgroups. Only in this manner can the true clinical value of cyclin D1 be fully elucidated.
PMCID: PMC3410026  PMID: 22924091
Cyclin D1; Breast cancer; Amplification; Protein expression; Independent analysis; Molecular subgroups; Ki67
14.  aThe dyslexia candidate gene DYX1C1 is a potential marker of poor survival in breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:79.
The dyslexia candidate gene, DYX1C1, shown to regulate and interact with estrogen receptors and involved in the regulation of neuronal migration, has recently been proposed as a putative cancer biomarker. This study was undertaken to assess the prognostic value and therapy-predictive potential of DYX1C1 mRNA and protein expression in breast cancer.
DYX1C1 mRNA expression was assessed at the mRNA level in three independent population-derived patient cohorts. An association to estrogen/progesterone receptor status, Elston grade, gene expression subtype and lymph node status was analyzed within these cohorts. DYX1C1 protein expression was examined using immunohistochemistry in cancer and normal breast tissue. The statistical analyses were performed using the non-parametric Wilcoxon rank-sum test, ANOVA, Fisher's exact test and a multivariate proportional hazard (Cox) model.
DYX1C1 mRNA is significantly more highly expressed in tumors that have been classified as estrogen receptor α and progesterone receptor-positive. The expression of DYX1C1 among the molecular subtypes shows the lowest median expression within the basal type tumors, which are considered to have the worst prognosis. The expression of DYX1C1 is significantly lower in tumors graded as Elston grade 3 compared with grades 1 and 2. DYX1C1 protein is expressed in 88% of tumors and in all 10 normal breast tissues examined. Positive protein expression was significantly correlated to overall survival (Hazard ratio 3.44 [CI 1.84-6.42]) of the patients but not to any of the variables linked with mRNA expression.
We show that the expression of DYX1C1 in breast cancer is associated with several clinicopathological parameters and that loss of DYX1C1 correlates with a more aggressive disease, in turn indicating that DYX1C1 is a potential prognostic biomarker in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3337251  PMID: 22375924
DYX1C1; Breast cancer; Estrogen receptor; Dyslexia
15.  Growth Inhibitory and Tumor- Suppressive Functions of p53 Depend on its Repression of CD44 Expression 
Cell  2008;134(1):62-73.
The p53 tumor suppressor is a key mediator of cellular responses to various stresses. Here we show that under conditions of basal physiologic and cell-culture stress, p53 inhibits expression of the CD44 cell-surface molecule via binding to a non-canonical p53-binding sequence in the CD44 promoter. This interaction enables an untransformed cell to respond to stress-induced, p53-dependent cytostatic and apoptotic signals that would otherwise be blocked by the actions of CD44. In the absence of p53 function, the resulting de-repressed CD44 expression is essential for the growth and tumor-initiating ability of highly tumorigenic mammary epithelial cells. In both tumorigenic and non-tumorigenic cells, CD44’s expression is positively regulated by p63, a paralogue of p53. Our data indicate that CD44 is a key tumor-promoting agent in transformed tumor cells lacking p53 function. They also suggest that the de-repression of CD44 resulting from inactivation of p53 can potentially aid the survival of immortalized, premalignant, cells.
PMCID: PMC3222460  PMID: 18614011
16.  A simple method for assigning genomic grade to individual breast tumours 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:306.
The prognostic value of grading in breast cancer can be increased with microarray technology, but proposed strategies are disadvantaged by the use of specific training data or parallel microscopic grading. Here, we investigate the performance of a method that uses no information outside the breast profile of interest.
In 251 profiled tumours we optimised a method that achieves grading by comparing rank means for genes predictive of high and low grade biology; a simpler method that allows for truly independent estimation of accuracy. Validation was carried out in 594 patients derived from several independent data sets. We found that accuracy was good: for low grade (G1) tumors 83- 94%, for high grade (G3) tumors 74- 100%. In keeping with aim of improved grading, two groups of intermediate grade (G2) cancers with significantly different outcome could be discriminated.
This validates the concept of microarray-based grading in breast cancer, and provides a more practical method to achieve it. A simple R script for grading is available in an additional file. Clinical implementation could achieve better estimation of recurrence risk for 40 to 50% of breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3150343  PMID: 21777443
Breast Neoplasms; Microarray Analysis; Histology; Prognosis; Female
17.  Multidisciplinary Meeting on Male Breast Cancer: Summary and Research Recommendations 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(12):2114-2122.
Male breast cancer is a rare disease, accounting for less than 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses worldwide. Most data on male breast cancer comes from small single-institution studies, and because of the paucity of data, the optimal treatment for male breast cancer is not known. This article summarizes a multidisciplinary international meeting on male breast cancer, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health Office of Rare Diseases and the National Cancer Institute Divisions of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics and Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. The meeting included representatives from the fields of epidemiology, genetics, pathology and molecular biology, health services research, and clinical oncology and the advocacy community, with a comprehensive review of the data. Presentations focused on highlighting differences and similarities between breast cancer in males and females. To enhance our understanding of male breast cancer, international consortia are necessary. Therefore, the Breast International Group and North American Breast Cancer Group have joined efforts to develop an International Male Breast Cancer Program and to pool epidemiologic data, clinical information, and tumor specimens. This international collaboration will also facilitate the future planning of clinical trials that can address essential questions in the treatment of male breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2860409  PMID: 20308661
18.  Breast cancer associated with primary hyperparathyroidism: a nested case control study 
Clinical Epidemiology  2011;3:103-106.
Primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, but little is known about the underlying factors. The aim of this study was to compare women with a history of pHPT and a reference population in terms of standard factors predictive of prognosis and response to therapy for breast cancer.
We analyzed data collected from the National Swedish Cancer Register and from two regional oncologic center registries. Seventy-one women with breast cancer and a history of parathyroid adenomectomy were compared with 338 matched controls with breast cancer only. Tumor size, stage, hormone receptor status, lymph node status, cause of death, and cumulative survival were analyzed.
The mean age was 69 ± 11 years (95% confidence interval [CI]: 68–70) in both groups and the mean time interval between the parathyroid surgery and breast cancer diagnosis was 91 ± 68 months (95% CI: 72–111). There were no differences between the two groups regarding size, stage, lymph node metastases, or survival, but none of the cases with a history of pHPT were found in Stage III or IV.
In conclusion, factors predictive of prognosis and response to therapy in women with a history of pHPT and breast cancer are similar to those in breast cancer patients without pHPT.
PMCID: PMC3072153  PMID: 21487450
breast cancer; primary hyperparathyroidism; prognostic factors
19.  Inactivation of FBXW7/hCDC4-β expression by promoter hypermethylation is associated with favorable prognosis in primary breast cancer 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2010;12(6):R105.
Mutational inactivation of the FBXW7/hCDC4 tumor suppressor gene (TSG) is common in many cancer types, but infrequent in breast cancers. This study investigates the presence and impact of FBXW7/hCDC4 promoter methylation in breast cancer.
FBXW7/hCDC4-β expression and promoter methylation was assessed in 161 tumors from two independent breast cancer cohorts. Associations between methylation status and clinicopathologic characteristics were assessed by Fisher's exact test. Survival was analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method in addition to modeling the risk by use of a multivariate proportional hazard (Cox) model adjusting for possible confounders of survival.
Methylation of the promoter and loss of mRNA expression was found both in cell lines and primary tumors (43% and 51%, respectively). Using Cox modeling, a trend was found towards decreased hazard ratio (HR) for death in women with methylation of FBXW7/hCDC4-β in both cohorts (HR 0.53 (95% CI 0.23 to 1.23) and HR 0.50 (95% CI 0.23 to 1.08), respectively), despite an association between methylation and high-grade tumors (P = 0.017). Interestingly, in subgroups of patients whose tumors are p53 mutated or lymph-node positive, promoter methylation identified patients with significantly improved survival (P = 0.048 and P = 0.017, respectively).
We demonstrate an alternative mechanism for inactivation of the TSG FBXW7/hCDC4, namely promoter specific methylation. Importantly, in breast cancer, methylation of FBXW7/hCDC4-β is related to favorable prognosis despite its association with poorly differentiated tumors. Future work may define whether FBXW7/hCDC4 methylation is a biomarker of the response to chemotherapy and a target for epigenetic modulation therapy.
PMCID: PMC3046450  PMID: 21122106
20.  Vaccination with a plasmid DNA encoding HER-2/neu together with low doses of GM-CSF and IL-2 in patients with metastatic breast carcinoma: a pilot clinical trial 
Adjuvant trastuzumab (Herceptin) treatment of breast cancer patients significantly improves their clinical outcome. Vaccination is an attractive alternative approach to provide HER-2/neu (Her2)-specific antibodies and may in addition concomitantly stimulate Her2-reactive T-cells. Here we report the first administration of a Her2-plasmid DNA (pDNA) vaccine in humans.
Patients and Methods
The vaccine, encoding a full-length signaling-deficient version of the oncogene Her2, was administered together with low doses of GM-CSF and IL-2 to patients with metastatic Her2-expressing breast carcinoma who were also treated with trastuzumab. Six of eight enrolled patients completed all three vaccine cycles. In the remaining two patients treatment was discontinued after one vaccine cycle due to rapid tumor progression or disease-related complications. The primary objective was the evaluation of safety and tolerability of the vaccine regimen. As a secondary objective, treatment-induced Her2-specific immunity was monitored by measuring antibody production as well as T-cell proliferation and cytokine production in response to Her2-derived antigens.
No clinical manifestations of acute toxicity, autoimmunity or cardiotoxicity were observed after administration of Her2-pDNA in combination with GM-CSF, IL-2 and trastuzumab. No specific T-cell proliferation following in vitro stimulation of freshly isolated PBMC with recombinant human Her2 protein was induced by the vaccination. Immediately after all three cycles of vaccination no or even decreased CD4+ T-cell responses towards Her2-derived peptide epitopes were observed, but a significant increase of MHC class II restricted T-cell responses to Her2 was detected at long term follow-up. Since concurrent trastuzumab therapy was permitted, λ-subclass specific ELISAs were performed to specifically measure endogenous antibody production without interference by trastuzumab. Her2-pDNA vaccination induced and boosted Her2-specific antibodies that could be detected for several years after the last vaccine administration in a subgroup of patients.
This pilot clinical trial demonstrates that Her2-pDNA vaccination in conjunction with GM-CSF and IL-2 administration is safe, well tolerated and can induce long-lasting cellular and humoral immune responses against Her2 in patients with advanced breast cancer.
Trial registration
The trial registration number at the Swedish Medical Products Agency for this trial is Dnr151:785/2001.
PMCID: PMC2903523  PMID: 20529245
22.  Sorafenib inhibits tumor growth and vascularization of rhabdomyosarcoma cells by blocking IGF-1R-mediated signaling 
OncoTargets and therapy  2008;1:67-78.
The growth of many soft tissue sarcomas is dependent on aberrant growth factor signaling, which promotes their proliferation and motility. With this in mind, we evaluated the effect of sorafenib, a receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, on cell growth and apoptosis in sarcoma cell lines of various histological subtypes. We found that sorafenib effectively inhibited cell proliferation in rhabdomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma with IC50 values <5 μM. Sorafenib effectively induced growth arrest in rhabdomyosarcoma cells, which was concurrent with inhibition of Akt and Erk signaling. Studies of ligand-induced phosphorylation of Erk and Akt in rhabdomyosarcoma cells showed that insulin-like growth factor-1 is a potent activator, which can be blocked by treatment with sorafenib. In vivo sorafenib treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma xenografts had a significant inhibitory effect on tumor growth, which was associated with inhibited vascularization and enhanced necrosis in the adjacent tumor stroma. Our results demonstrate that in vitro and in vivo growth of rhabdomyosarcoma can be suppressed by treatment with sorafenib, and suggests the possibilities of using sorafenib as a potential adjuvant therapy for the treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma.
PMCID: PMC2994208  PMID: 21127754
soft tissue sarcoma; kinase inhibitors; targeted therapy; vascularization
23.  Dose-Dense Therapy 
Breast Care  2008;3(2):134-138.
PMCID: PMC2931089  PMID: 21373218
24.  Inhibitory effects of estrogen receptor beta on specific hormone-responsive gene expression and association with disease outcome in primary breast cancer 
Breast Cancer Research  2007;9(2):R25.
The impact of interactions between the two estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes, ERα and ERβ, on gene expression in breast cancer biology is not clear. The goal of this study was to examine transcriptomic alterations in cancer cells co-expressing both receptors and the association of gene expression signatures with disease outcome.
Transcriptional effects of ERβ overexpression were determined in a stably transfected cell line derived from ERα-positive T-47D cells. Microarray analysis was carried out to identify differential gene expression in the cell line, and expression of key genes was validated by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Microarray and clinical data from patient samples were then assessed to determine the in vivo relevance of the expression profiles observed in the cell line.
A subset of 14 DNA replication and cell cycle-related genes was found to be specifically downregulated by ERβ. Expression profiles of four genes, CDC2, CDC6, CKS2, and DNA2L, were significantly inversely correlated with ERβ transcript levels in patient samples, consistent with in vitro observations. Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed better disease outcome for the patient group with an expression signature linked to higher ERβ expression as compared to the lower ERβ-expressing group for both disease-free survival (p = 0.00165) and disease-specific survival (p = 0.0268). These findings were further validated in an independent cohort.
Our findings revealed a transcriptionally regulated mechanism for the previously described growth inhibitory effects of ERβ in ERα-positive breast tumor cells and provide evidence for a functional and beneficial impact of ERβ in primary breast tumors.
PMCID: PMC1868918  PMID: 17428314
25.  Intrinsic molecular signature of breast cancer in a population-based cohort of 412 patients 
Breast Cancer Research  2006;8(4):R34.
Molecular markers and the rich biological information they contain have great potential for cancer diagnosis, prognostication and therapy prediction. So far, however, they have not superseded routine histopathology and staging criteria, partly because the few studies performed on molecular subtyping have had little validation and limited clinical characterization.
We obtained gene expression and clinical data for 412 breast cancers obtained from population-based cohorts of patients from Stockholm and Uppsala, Sweden. Using the intrinsic set of approximately 500 genes derived in the Norway/Stanford breast cancer data, we validated the existence of five molecular subtypes – basal-like, ERBB2, luminal A/B and normal-like – and characterized these subtypes extensively with the use of conventional clinical variables.
We found an overall 77.5% concordance between the centroid prediction of the Swedish cohort by using the Norway/Stanford signature and the k-means clustering performed internally within the Swedish cohort. The highest rate of discordant assignments occurred between the luminal A and luminal B subtypes and between the luminal B and ERBB2 subtypes. The subtypes varied significantly in terms of grade (p < 0.001), p53 mutation (p < 0.001) and genomic instability (p = 0.01), but surprisingly there was little difference in lymph-node metastasis (p = 0.31). Furthermore, current users of hormone-replacement therapy were strikingly over-represented in the normal-like subgroup (p < 0.001). Separate analyses of the patients who received endocrine therapy and those who did not receive any adjuvant therapy supported the previous hypothesis that the basal-like subtype responded to adjuvant treatment, whereas the ERBB2 and luminal B subtypes were poor responders.
We found that the intrinsic molecular subtypes of breast cancer are broadly present in a diverse collection of patients from a population-based cohort in Sweden. The intrinsic gene set, originally selected to reveal stable tumor characteristics, was shown to have a strong correlation with progression-related properties such as grade, p53 mutation and genomic instability.
PMCID: PMC1779468  PMID: 16846532

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