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1.  Association of prostate cancer risk with SNPs in regions containing androgen receptor binding sites captured by ChIP-on-chip analyses 
The Prostate  2011;72(4):376-385.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified approximately three dozen single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) consistently associated with prostate cancer (PCa) risk. Despite the reproducibility of these associations, the molecular mechanism for most of these SNPs has not been well elaborated as most lie within non-coding regions of the genome. Androgens play a key role in prostate carcinogenesis. Recently, using ChIP-on-chip technology, 22,447 androgen receptor (AR) binding sites have been mapped throughout the genome, greatly expanding the genomic regions potentially involved in androgen-mediated activity.
Methodology/Principal findings
To test the hypothesis that sequence variants in AR binding sites are associated with PCa risk, we performed a systematic evaluation among two existing PCa GWAS cohorts; the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) study population. We demonstrate that regions containing AR binding sites are significantly enriched for PCa risk-associated SNPs, i.e. more than expected by chance alone. In addition, compared with the entire genome, these newly observed risk-associated SNPs in these regions are significantly more likely to overlap with established PCa risk-associated SNPs from previous GWAS. These results are consistent with our previous finding from a bioinformatics analysis that one-third of the 33 known PCa risk-associated SNPs discovered by GWAS are located in regions of the genome containing AR binding sites.
The results to date provide novel statistical evidence suggesting an androgen-mediated mechanism by which some PCa associated SNPs act to influence PCa risk. However, these results are hypothesis generating and ultimately warrant testing through in-depth molecular analyses.
PMCID: PMC3366362  PMID: 21671247
AR; prostate cancer; GWAS; pathway association study
2.  The BioIntelligence Framework: a new computational platform for biomedical knowledge computing 
Breakthroughs in molecular profiling technologies are enabling a new data-intensive approach to biomedical research, with the potential to revolutionize how we study, manage, and treat complex diseases. The next great challenge for clinical applications of these innovations will be to create scalable computational solutions for intelligently linking complex biomedical patient data to clinically actionable knowledge. Traditional database management systems (DBMS) are not well suited to representing complex syntactic and semantic relationships in unstructured biomedical information, introducing barriers to realizing such solutions. We propose a scalable computational framework for addressing this need, which leverages a hypergraph-based data model and query language that may be better suited for representing complex multi-lateral, multi-scalar, and multi-dimensional relationships. We also discuss how this framework can be used to create rapid learning knowledge base systems to intelligently capture and relate complex patient data to biomedical knowledge in order to automate the recovery of clinically actionable information.
PMCID: PMC3555311  PMID: 22859646
Database management systems (L01.224.900.280); access to information (L01.143.024); knowledge (L01.535); data; information; knowledge; bioinformatics; databases; research; computer; science; biomedical; informatics; trent1952; genomics; knowledge; hypergraph; cancer; database
3.  Contribution of HPC1 (RNASEL) and HPCX variants to prostate cancer in a founder population 
The Prostate  2010;70(15):1716-1727.
Prostate cancer is a genetically complex disease with locus and disease heterogeneity. The RNASEL gene and HPCX locus have been implicated in hereditary prostate cancer; however, their contributions to sporadic forms of this malignancy remain uncertain.
Associations of prostate cancer with two variants in the RNASEL gene (a founder mutation, 471delAAAG, and a non-synonymous SNP, rs486907), and with five microsatellite markers in the HPCX locus, were examined in 979 cases and 1,251 controls of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using logistic regression models.
There was an inverse association between RNASEL rs486907 and prostate cancer in younger men (<65 years) and those with a first-degree relative with prostate cancer; men with AA genotype had ORs of 0.64 and 0.47 (both p<0.05), respectively, in comparison to men with GG genotype. Within the HPCX region, there were positive associations for allele 135 of bG82i1.1 marker (OR=1.77, p=0.01) and allele 188 of DXS1205 (OR=1.65, p=0.02). In addition, allele 248 of marker D33 was inversely associated (OR=0.65, p=0.05) with Gleason score ≥7 tumors.
Results suggest that variants in RNASEL contribute to susceptibility to early onset and familial forms of prostate cancer, whereas HPCX variants are associated with prostate cancer risk and tumor aggressiveness. The observation that a mutation predicted to completely inactivate RNASEL protein was not associated with prostate cancer, but that a missense variant was associated, suggests that the effect is due to either partial inactivation of the protein, and/or acquisition of a new protein activity.
PMCID: PMC3404133  PMID: 20564318
4.  High-throughput RNAi screening identifies a role for TNK1 in growth and survival of pancreatic cancer cells 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2011;9(6):724-732.
In order to identify novel targets in pancreatic cancer cells, we utilized high-throughput RNAi (HT-RNAi) to identify genes that, when silenced, would decrease viability of pancreatic cancer cells. The HT-RNAi screen involved reverse transfecting the pancreatic cancer cell line BxPC3 with a siRNA library targeting 572 kinases. From replicate screens, approximately thirty-two kinases were designated as hits, of which twenty-two kinase targets were selected for confirmation and validation. One kinase identified as a hit from this screen was tyrosine kinase non-receptor 1 (TNK1), a kinase previously identified as having tumor suppressor-like properties in embryonic stem cells. Silencing of TNK1 with siRNA showed reduced proliferation in a panel of pancreatic cancer cell lines. Furthermore, we demonstrated that silencing of TNK1 led to increased apoptosis through a caspase-dependent pathway and that targeting TNK1 with siRNA can synergize with gemcitabine treatment. Despite previous reports that TNK1 affects Ras and NFκB signaling, we did not find similar correlations with these pathways in pancreatic cancer cells. Our results suggest that TNK1 in pancreatic cancer cells does not possess the same tumor suppressor properties seen in embryonic cells, but appears to be involved in growth and survival. The application of functional genomics using HT-RNAi screens has allowed us to identify TNK1 as a growth-associated kinase in pancreatic cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3137903  PMID: 21536687
HT-RNAi; TNK1; gemcitabine; pancreatic cancer
5.  Assessment of PALB2 as a Candidate Melanoma Susceptibility Gene 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100683.
Partner and localizer of BRCA2 (PALB2) interacts with BRCA2 to enable double strand break repair through homologous recombination. Similar to BRCA2, germline mutations in PALB2 have been shown to predispose to Fanconi anaemia as well as pancreatic and breast cancer. The PALB2/BRCA2 protein interaction, as well as the increased melanoma risk observed in families harbouring BRCA2 mutations, makes PALB2 a candidate for melanoma susceptibility. In order to assess PALB2 as a melanoma predisposition gene, we sequenced the entire protein-coding sequence of PALB2 in probands from 182 melanoma families lacking pathogenic mutations in known high penetrance melanoma susceptibility genes: CDKN2A, CDK4, and BAP1. In addition, we interrogated whole-genome and exome data from another 19 kindreds with a strong family history of melanoma for deleterious mutations in PALB2. Here we report a rare known deleterious PALB2 mutation (rs118203998) causing a premature truncation of the protein (p.Y1183X) in an individual who had developed four different cancer types, including melanoma. Three other family members affected with melanoma did not carry the variant. Overall our data do not support a case for PALB2 being associated with melanoma predisposition.
PMCID: PMC4065098  PMID: 24949998
6.  Loss of Inositol Polyphosphate-5-Phosphatase is an Early Event in Development of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) occurs commonly and can metastasize. Identification of specific molecular aberrations and mechanisms underlying the development and progression of cutaneous SCC may lead to better prognostic and therapeutic approaches and more effective chemoprevention strategies. To identify genetic changes associated with early stages of cutaneous SCC development, we analyzed a series of 40 archived skin tissues ranging from normal skin to invasive SCC. Using high-resolution array-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) we identified deletions of a region on chromosome 10q harboring INPP5A gene in 24% of examined SCC tumors. Subsequent validation by immunohistochemistry (IHC) on an independent sample set of 71 SCC tissues demonstrated reduced INPP5A protein levels in 72% of primary SCC tumors. Decrease in INPP5A protein levels appears to be an early event in SCC development as it also is observed in 9 of 26 (35%) examined actinic keratoses (AK), the earliest stage in SCC development. Importantly, further reduction of INPP5A levels is seen in a subset of SCC patients as the tumor progresses from primary to metastatic stage. The observed frequency and pattern of loss indicate that INPP5A, a negative regulator of inositol signaling, may play a role in development and progression of cutaneous SCC tumors.
PMCID: PMC2955780  PMID: 20876729
Inositol polyphosphate-5-phosphatase (INPP5A); Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC); Actinic Keratosis (AK); array based Comparative Genomic Hybridization (aCGH); Immunohistochemistry (IHC)
7.  Optimization of oligonucleotide microarray fabricated by spotting 65-mer 
Analytical biochemistry  2007;368(1):61-69.
DNA microarrays currently provide measurements of sufficiently high quality to allow a wide variety of sound inferences about gene regulation and the coordination of cellular processes to be drawn. Nonetheless, a desire for greater precision in the measurements continues to drive the microarray research community to seek higher measurement quality through improvements in array fabrication and sample labeling and hybridization. We prepared oligonucleotide microarrays by printing 65-mer on aldehyde functional group derivatized slides as described in the previous study xxx. We could improve the reliability of data by removing enzymatic bias during probe labeling and hybridizing under a more stringent condition. This optimized method was used to profile gene expression patterns for nine different mouse tissues and organs, and MDS analysis of data showed both strong similarity between like samples and a clear, highly reproducible separation between different tissue samples. Three other microarrays were fabricated on commercial substrates and hybridized following the manufacturer’s instructions. The data was then compared with in-house microarray data and RT-PCR data. The microarray printed on the custom aldehyde slide was superior to microarrays printed on commercially available substrate slides in terms of signal intensities, background and hybridization characteristics. The data from the custom substrate microarray generally showed good agreement in quantitative changes up to 100-fold changes of transcript abundance with RT-PCR data. However, more accurate comparisons will be come as more genomic sequence information is gathered in public data domain.
PMCID: PMC2697255  PMID: 17618862
Analytical biochemistry  2007;368(1):70-78.
Microarray fabrication using pre-synthesized long oligonucleotide is becoming increasingly important, but a study of large-scale array productions is not published yet. We addressed the issue of fabricating oligonucleotide microarrays by spotting commercial, pre-synthesized 65-mers with 5′ amines representing 7500 murine genes. Amine-modified oligonucleotides were immobilized on glass slides having aldehyde groups via transient Schiff base formation followed by reduction to produce a covalent conjugate. When RNA derived from the same source was used for Cy3 and Cy5 labeling and hybridized to the same array, signal intensities spanning three orders of magnitude were observed, and the coefficient of variation between the two channels for all spots was 8–10%. To ascertain the reproducibility of ratio determination of these arrays, two triplicate hybridizations (with fluorochrome reversal) comparing RNAs from a fibroblast (NIH3T3) and a breast cancer (JC) cell line were carried out. The 95% confidence interval for all spots in the six hybridizations was 0.60 – 1.66. This level of reproducibility allows use of the full range of pattern finding and discriminant analysis typically applied to cDNA microarrays. Further comparative testing was carried out with oligonucleotide microarrays, cDNA microarrays and RT-PCR assays to examine the comparability of results across these different methodologies.
PMCID: PMC2697254  PMID: 17617369
9.  Synthetic lethal RNAi screening identifies sensitizing targets for gemcitabine therapy in pancreatic cancer 
Pancreatic cancer retains a poor prognosis among the gastrointestinal cancers. It affects 230,000 individuals worldwide, has a very high mortality rate, and remains one of the most challenging malignancies to treat successfully. Treatment with gemcitabine, the most widely used chemotherapeutic against pancreatic cancer, is not curative and resistance may occur. Combinations of gemcitabine with other chemotherapeutic drugs or biological agents have resulted in limited improvement.
In order to improve gemcitabine response in pancreatic cancer cells, we utilized a synthetic lethal RNAi screen targeting 572 known kinases to identify genes that when silenced would sensitize pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine.
Results from the RNAi screens identified several genes that, when silenced, potentiated the growth inhibitory effects of gemcitabine in pancreatic cancer cells. The greatest potentiation was shown by siRNA targeting checkpoint kinase 1 (CHK1). Validation of the screening results was performed in MIA PaCa-2 and BxPC3 pancreatic cancer cells by examining the dose response of gemcitabine treatment in the presence of either CHK1 or CHK2 siRNA. These results showed a three to ten-fold decrease in the EC50 for CHK1 siRNA-treated cells versus control siRNA-treated cells while treatment with CHK2 siRNA resulted in no change compared to controls. CHK1 was further targeted with specific small molecule inhibitors SB 218078 and PD 407824 in combination with gemcitabine. Results showed that treatment of MIA PaCa-2 cells with either of the CHK1 inhibitors SB 218078 or PD 407824 led to sensitization of the pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine.
These findings demonstrate the effectiveness of synthetic lethal RNAi screening as a tool for identifying sensitizing targets to chemotherapeutic agents. These results also indicate that CHK1 could serve as a putative therapeutic target for sensitizing pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine.
PMCID: PMC2702280  PMID: 19519883
10.  The Wnt5A/Protein Kinase C Pathway Mediates Motility in Melanoma Cells via the Inhibition of Metastasis Suppressors and Initiation of an Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition*S 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(23):17259-17271.
We have shown that Wnt5A increases the motility of melanoma cells. To explore cellular pathways involving Wnt5A, we compared gain-of-function (WNT5A stable transfectants) versus loss-of-function (siRNA knockdown) of WNT5A by microarray analysis. Increasing WNT5A suppressed the expression of several genes, which were re-expressed after small interference RNA-mediated knockdown of WNT5A. Genes affected by WNT5A include KISS-1, a metastasis suppressor, and CD44, involved in tumor cell homing during metastasis. This could be validated at the protein level using both small interference RNA and recombinant Wnt5A (rWnt5A). Among the genes up-regulated by WNT5A was the gene vimentin, associated with an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), which involves decreases in E-cadherin, due to up-regulation of the transcriptional repressor, Snail. rWnt5A treatment increases Snail and vimentin expression, and decreases E-cadherin, even in the presence of dominant-negativeTCF4, suggesting that this activation is independent of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Because Wnt5A can signal via protein kinase C (PKC), the role of PKC in Wnt5A-mediated motility and EMT was also assessed using PKC inhibition and activation studies. Treating cells expressing low levels of Wnt5A with phorbol ester increased Snail expression inhibiting PKC in cells expressing high levels of Wnt5A decreased Snail. Furthermore, inhibition of PKC before Wnt5A treatment blocked Snail expression, implying that Wnt5A can potentiate melanoma metastasis via the induction of EMT in a PKC-dependent manner.
PMCID: PMC2263117  PMID: 17426020
11.  Analysis of Expression Patterns: The Scope of the Problem, the Problem of Scope 
Disease Markers  2002;17(2):59-65.
Studies of the expression patterns of many genes simultaneously lead to the observation that even in closely related pathologies, there are numerous genes that are differentially expressed in consistent patterns correlated to each sample type. The early uses of the enabling technology, microarrays, was focused on gathering mechanistic biological insights. The early findings now pose another clear challenge, finding ways to effectively use this kind of information to develop diagnostics.
PMCID: PMC3851639  PMID: 11673652
12.  A BAP1 Mutation in a Danish Family Predisposes to Uveal Melanoma and Other Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72144.
Truncating germline mutations in the tumor suppressor gene BRCA-1 associated protein-1 (BAP1) have been reported in families predisposed to developing a wide range of different cancer types including uveal melanoma and cutaneous melanoma. There has also been an association between amelanotic tumor development and germline BAP1 mutation suggesting a possible phenotypic characteristic of BAP1 mutation carriers. Though there have been many types of cancer associated with germline BAP1 mutation, the full spectrum of disease association is yet to be ascertained. Here we describe a Danish family with predominantly uveal melanoma but also a range of other tumor types including lung, neuroendocrine, stomach, and breast cancer; as well as pigmented skin lesions. Whole-exome sequencing identified a BAP1 splice mutation located at c.581-2A>G, which leads to a premature truncation of BAP1 in an individual with uveal melanoma. This mutation was carried by several other family members with melanoma or various cancers. The finding expands on the growing profile of BAP1 as an important uveal and cutaneous melanoma tumor suppressor gene and implicates its involvement in the development of lung, and stomach cancer.
PMCID: PMC3747051  PMID: 23977234
13.  Genome-Wide Association Study for Serum Complement C3 and C4 Levels in Healthy Chinese Subjects 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(9):e1002916.
Complement C3 and C4 play key roles in the main physiological activities of complement system, and their deficiencies or over-expression are associated with many clinical infectious or immunity diseases. A two-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed for serum levels of C3 and C4. The first stage was conducted in 1,999 healthy Chinese men, and the second stage was performed in an additional 1,496 subjects. We identified two SNPs, rs3753394 in CFH gene and rs3745567 in C3 gene, that are significantly associated with serum C3 levels at a genome-wide significance level (P = 7.33×10−11 and P = 1.83×10−9, respectively). For C4, one large genomic region on chromosome 6p21.3 is significantly associated with serum C4 levels. Two SNPs (rs1052693 and rs11575839) were located in the MHC class I area that include HLA-A, HLA-C, and HLA-B genes. Two SNPs (rs2075799 and rs2857009) were located 5′ and 3′ of C4 gene. The other four SNPs, rs2071278, rs3763317, rs9276606, and rs241428, were located in the MHC class II region that includes HLA-DRA, HLA-DRB, and HLA-DQB genes. The combined P-values for those eight SNPs ranged from 3.19×10−22 to 5.62×10−97. HBsAg-positive subjects have significantly lower C3 and C4 protein concentrations compared with HBsAg-negative subjects (P<0.05). Our study is the first GWAS report which shows genetic components influence the levels of complement C3 and C4. Our significant findings provide novel insights of their related autoimmune, infectious diseases, and molecular mechanisms.
Author Summary
The complement system plays important roles in the innate and adaptive immune functions. C3 and C4 participate in almost all physiological activities and activated pathways as key complement members and host defense proteins. Identifying the genes that influence serum levels of C3 and C4 may help to elucidate the factors and mechanisms underlying the complement system. The genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have shown great success in revealing robust associations in both quantitative and qualitative traits. In this study, we performed a two-stage GWAS in a large cohort from the Chinese male population to examine the roles of common genetic variants on serum C3 and C4 levels. Our research identified genetic determinants associated with the quantitative levels of C3 and C4. Overall, our study highlights an intricate regulation of complement levels and potentially reveals novel mechanisms that may be followed up with additional functional studies.
PMCID: PMC3441730  PMID: 23028341
14.  Cancer of the ampulla of Vater: analysis of the whole genome sequence exposes a potential therapeutic vulnerability 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(7):56.
Recent advances in the treatment of cancer have focused on targeting genomic aberrations with selective therapeutic agents. In rare tumors, where large-scale clinical trials are daunting, this targeted genomic approach offers a new perspective and hope for improved treatments. Cancers of the ampulla of Vater are rare tumors that comprise only about 0.2% of gastrointestinal cancers. Consequently, they are often treated as either distal common bile duct or pancreatic cancers.
We analyzed DNA from a resected cancer of the ampulla of Vater and whole blood DNA from a 63 year-old man who underwent a pancreaticoduodenectomy by whole genome sequencing, achieving 37× and 40× coverage, respectively. We determined somatic mutations and structural alterations.
We identified relevant aberrations, including deleterious mutations of KRAS and SMAD4 as well as a homozygous focal deletion of the PTEN tumor suppressor gene. These findings suggest that these tumors have a distinct oncogenesis from either common bile duct cancer or pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, this combination of genomic aberrations suggests a therapeutic context for dual mTOR/PI3K inhibition.
Whole genome sequencing can elucidate an oncogenic context and expose potential therapeutic vulnerabilities in rare cancers.
PMCID: PMC3580412  PMID: 22762308
15.  Evidence for two independent prostate cancer risk associated loci in the HNF1B gene at 17q12 
Nature genetics  2008;40(10):1153-1155.
A fine mapping study in the HNF1B gene at 17q12 among two study populations revealed a second prostate cancer locus, ~26 kb centromeric to the first known locus (rs4430796); these are separated by a recombination hotspot. A SNP in the second locus (rs11649743) was confirmed in five additional populations, and P=1.7×10−9 for an allelic test in the seven combined studies. The association at each SNP remains significant after adjusting for the other SNP.
PMCID: PMC3188432  PMID: 18758462
16.  Common sequence variants on 20q11.22 confer melanoma susceptibility 
Nature genetics  2008;40(7):838-840.
We conducted a genome-wide association pooling study for cutaneous melanoma and performed validation in samples totalling 2019 cases and 2105 controls. Using pooling we identified a novel melanoma risk locus on chromosome 20 (rs910873, rs1885120), with replication in two further samples (combined P <1 × 10-15). The odds ratio is 1.75 (1.53, 2.01), with evidence for stronger association in early onset cases.
PMCID: PMC2755512  PMID: 18488026
17.  GeneLink: a database to facilitate genetic studies of complex traits 
BMC Genomics  2004;5:81.
In contrast to gene-mapping studies of simple Mendelian disorders, genetic analyses of complex traits are far more challenging, and high quality data management systems are often critical to the success of these projects. To minimize the difficulties inherent in complex trait studies, we have developed GeneLink, a Web-accessible, password-protected Sybase database.
GeneLink is a powerful tool for complex trait mapping, enabling genotypic data to be easily merged with pedigree and extensive phenotypic data. Specifically designed to facilitate large-scale (multi-center) genetic linkage or association studies, GeneLink securely and efficiently handles large amounts of data and provides additional features to facilitate data analysis by existing software packages and quality control. These include the ability to download chromosome-specific data files containing marker data in map order in various formats appropriate for downstream analyses (e.g., GAS and LINKAGE). Furthermore, an unlimited number of phenotypes (either qualitative or quantitative) can be stored and analyzed. Finally, GeneLink generates several quality assurance reports, including genotyping success rates of specified DNA samples or success and heterozygosity rates for specified markers.
GeneLink has already proven an invaluable tool for complex trait mapping studies and is discussed primarily in the context of our large, multi-center study of hereditary prostate cancer (HPC). GeneLink is freely available at .
PMCID: PMC526767  PMID: 15491493

Results 1-17 (17)