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1.  Molecular Fixative Enables Expression Microarray Analysis of Microdissected Clinical Cervical Specimens 
Formalin-fixed tissue has been a mainstay of clinical pathology laboratories, but formalin alters many biomolecules, including nucleic acids and proteins. Meanwhile, frozen tissues contain better-preserved biomolecules, but tissue morphology is affected, limiting their diagnostic utility. Molecular fixatives promise to bridge this gap by simultaneously preserving morphology and biomolecules, enabling clinical diagnosis and molecular analyses on the same specimen. While previous reports have broadly evaluated the use of molecular fixative in various human tissues, we present here the first detailed assessment of the applicability of molecular fixative to both routine histopathological diagnosis and molecular analysis of cervical tissues. Ten specimens excised via the Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure, which removes conical tissue samples from the cervix, were cut into alternating pieces preserved in either formalin or molecular fixative. Cervical specimens preserved in molecular fixative were easily interpretable, despite featuring more eosinophilic cytoplasm and more recognizable chromatin texture than formalin-fixed specimens. Immunohistochemical staining patterns of p16 and Ki-67 were similar between fixatives, although Ki-67 staining was stronger in the molecular fixative specimens. The RNA of molecular fixative specimens from seven cases representing various dysplasia grades was assessed for utility in expression microarray analysis. Cluster analysis and scatter plots of duplicate samples suggest that data of sufficient quality can be obtained from as little as 50 ng of RNA from molecular fixative samples. Taken together, our results show that molecular fixative may be a more versatile substitute for formalin, simultaneously preserving tissue morphology for clinical diagnosis and biomolecules for immunohistochemistry and gene expression analysis.
PMCID: PMC3988026  PMID: 24412268
cervical intraepithelial neoplasia; gene expression microarray analysis; immunohistochemistry; microdissection; molecular fixative
2.  Recurring DNA copy number gain at chromosome 9p13 plays a role in the activation of multiple candidate oncogenes in progressing oral premalignant lesions 
Cancer Medicine  2014;3(5):1170-1184.
Genomic alteration at chromosome 9p has been previously reported as a frequent and critical event in oral premalignancy. While this alteration is typically reported as a loss driven by selection for CDKN2A deactivation (at 9p21.3), we detect a recurrent DNA copy number gain of ∼2.49 Mbp at chromosome 9p13 in oral premalignant lesions (OPLs) that later progressed to invasive lesions. This recurrent alteration event has been validated using fluorescence in situ hybridization in an independent set of OPLs. Analysis of publicly available gene expression datasets aided in identifying three oncogene candidates that may have driven selection for DNA copy number increases in this region (VCP, DCTN3, and STOML2). We performed in vitro silencing and activation experiments for each of these genes in oral cancer cell lines and found that each gene is independently capable of upregulating proliferation and anchorage-independent growth. We next analyzed the activity of each of these genes in biopsies of varying histological grades that were obtained from a diseased oral tissue field in a single patient, finding further molecular evidence of parallel activation of VCP, DCTN3, and STOML2 during progression from normal healthy tissue to invasive oral carcinoma. Our results support the conclusion that DNA gain at 9p13 is important to the earliest stages of oral tumorigenesis and that this alteration event likely contributes to the activation of multiple oncogene candidates capable of governing oral cancer phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4302668  PMID: 25060540
9p13; copy number gain; dysplasia; head and neck cancer; oncogene; oral squamous cell carcinoma; overexpression; premalignant lesion; progression
3.  Pre-profiling factors influencing serum microRNA levels 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate gene expression by preventing the translation of specific mRNA transcripts. Recent studies have shown that miRNAs are stably expressed in human serum samples, making them good candidates for the non-invasive detection of disease. However, before circulating miRNAs can be used reliably as biomarkers of disease, the pre-measurement variables that may affect serum miRNA levels must be assessed.
In this study we used quantitative RT-PCR to examine the effect of hemolysis, fasting, and smoking on the levels of 742 miRNAs in the serum of healthy individuals. We also compared serum miRNA profiles of samples taken from healthy individuals over different time periods to assess normal serum miRNA fluctuations.
We have found that mechanical hemolysis of blood samples can significantly alter serum miRNA quantification and have identified 162 miRNAs that are significantly up-regulated in hemolysed serum samples. Conversely, fasting and smoking were demonstrated to not have a significant effect on the overall serum miRNA profiles of healthy individuals. The serum miRNA profiles of matched samples taken from individuals over varying time periods showed a high correlation and no miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed in these samples further suggesting the utility of serum miRNAs as biomarkers of disease. Taking the above results into consideration, we have identified miR-99a-5p and miR-139-5p as novel endogenous controls for serum miRNA studies due to their consistency across all sample sets.
These results identify important pre-profiling factors that should be taken into consideration when identifying endogenous controls and candidate biomarkers for circulating miRNA studies.
PMCID: PMC4107491  PMID: 25093010
MicroRNA; Cancer; Biomarker; Serum; miR-99a-5p; miR-139-5p
4.  Differential expression of miRNAs in the serum of patients with high-risk oral lesions 
Cancer Medicine  2012;1(2):268-274.
Oral cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide. Disease is often diagnosed at later stages, which is associated with a poor 5-year survival rate and a high rate of local recurrence. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a group of small, noncoding RNAs, can be isolated from blood serum samples and have demonstrated utility as biomarkers in multiple cancer types. The aim of this study was to examine the expression profiles of circulating miRNAs in the serum of patients with high-risk oral lesions (HRLs; oral cancer or carcinoma in situ) and to explore their utility as potential oral cancer biomarkers. Global serum miRNA profiles were generated using quantitative PCR method from 1) patients diagnosed with HRLs and undergoing intent-to-cure surgical treatment (N = 30) and 2) a demographically matched, noncancer control group (N = 26). We next honed our list of serum miRNAs associated with disease by reducing the effects of interpatient variability; we compared serum miRNA profiles from samples taken both before and after tumor resections (N = 10). Based on these analyses, fifteen miRNAs were significantly upregulated and five were significantly downregulated based on presence of disease (minimum fold-change >2 in at least 50% of samples, P < 0.05, permutation). Five of these miRNAs (miR-16, let-7b, miR-338-3p, miR-223, and miR-29a) yielded an area under the ROC curve (AUC) >0.8, suggesting utility as noninvasive biomarkers for detection of oral cancer or high-grade lesions. Combining these serum miRNA profiles with other screening techniques could greatly improve the sensitivity in oral cancer detection.
PMCID: PMC3544450  PMID: 23342275
Biomarkers; circulating microRNAs; oral squamous cell carcinoma
5.  Integrating the multiple dimensions of genomic and epigenomic landscapes of cancer 
Cancer metastasis reviews  2010;29(1):73-93.
Advances in high-throughput, genome-wide profiling technologies have allowed for an unprecedented view of the cancer genome landscape. Specifically, high-density microarrays and sequencing-based strategies have been widely utilized to identify genetic (such as gene dosage, allelic status, and mutations in gene sequence) and epigenetic (such as DNA methylation, histone modification, and micro-RNA) aberrations in cancer. Although the application of these profiling technologies in unidimensional analyses has been instrumental in cancer gene discovery, genes affected by low-frequency events are often overlooked. The integrative approach of analyzing parallel dimensions has enabled the identification of (a) genes that are often disrupted by multiple mechanisms but at low frequencies by any one mechanism and (b) pathways that are often disrupted at multiple components but at low frequencies at individual components. These benefits of using an integrative approach illustrate the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As efforts have now turned toward parallel and integrative multidimensional approaches for studying the cancer genome landscape in hopes of obtaining a more insightful understanding of the key genes and pathways driving cancer cells, this review describes key findings disseminating from such high-throughput, integrative analyses, including contributions to our understanding of causative genetic events in cancer cell biology.
PMCID: PMC3415277  PMID: 20108112
Integrative analysis; Cancer genome; Sequencing; Microarray
6.  Methylation-Mediated Molecular Dysregulation in Clinical Oral Malignancy 
Journal of Oncology  2012;2012:170172.
Herein we provide a concise review of the state of methylation research as it pertains to clinical oral cancerous and precancerous tissues. We provide context for ongoing research efforts in this field and describe technologies that are presently being applied to analyze clinical specimens. We also discuss the various recurrent methylation changes that have been reported for oral malignancy (including those genes frequently silenced by promoter methylation and the small RNAs with activity modulated by methylation changes) and describe surrogate disease markers identified via epigenetic analysis of saliva and blood specimens from patients with oral cancer.
PMCID: PMC3356707  PMID: 22645611
7.  Integrative molecular characterization of head and neck cancer cell model genomes 
Head & neck  2010;32(9):1143-1160.
Cell lines are invaluable model systems for the investigation of cancer. Knowledge of the molecular alterations that exist within cell models is required to define the mechanisms governing cellular phenotypes.
Five tongue squamous cell carcinomas cell lines and one submaxillary salivary gland epidermoid carcinoma cell line were analyzed for copy number and mRNA expression by tiling-path DNA microarrays and Agilent Whole Human Genome Oligoarrays, respectively.
Integrative analysis of genetic and expression alterations revealed the molecular landscape of each cell line. Molecular results for individual cell lines and across all samples have been summarized and made available for easy reference.
Our integrative genomic analyses have defined the DNA and RNA alterations for each individual line. These data will be useful to anyone modelling oral cancer behaviour, providing a molecular context that will be useful for deciphering cell phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2930055  PMID: 20014447
oral cancer; head and neck cancer; cell models; copy number alteration; RNA expression alteration
8.  Integrative Genomic Analyses Identify BRF2 as a Novel Lineage-Specific Oncogene in Lung Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(7):e1000315.
William Lockwood and colleagues show that the focal amplification of a gene, BRF2, on Chromosome 8p12 plays a key role in squamous cell carcinoma of the lung.
Traditionally, non-small cell lung cancer is treated as a single disease entity in terms of systemic therapy. Emerging evidence suggests the major subtypes—adenocarcinoma (AC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC)—respond differently to therapy. Identification of the molecular differences between these tumor types will have a significant impact in designing novel therapies that can improve the treatment outcome.
Methods and Findings
We used an integrative genomics approach, combing high-resolution comparative genomic hybridization and gene expression microarray profiles, to compare AC and SqCC tumors in order to uncover alterations at the DNA level, with corresponding gene transcription changes, which are selected for during development of lung cancer subtypes. Through the analysis of multiple independent cohorts of clinical tumor samples (>330), normal lung tissues and bronchial epithelial cells obtained by bronchial brushing in smokers without lung cancer, we identified the overexpression of BRF2, a gene on Chromosome 8p12, which is specific for development of SqCC of lung. Genetic activation of BRF2, which encodes a RNA polymerase III (Pol III) transcription initiation factor, was found to be associated with increased expression of small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs) that are involved in processes essential for cell growth, such as RNA splicing. Ectopic expression of BRF2 in human bronchial epithelial cells induced a transformed phenotype and demonstrates downstream oncogenic effects, whereas RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated knockdown suppressed growth and colony formation of SqCC cells overexpressing BRF2, but not AC cells. Frequent activation of BRF2 in >35% preinvasive bronchial carcinoma in situ, as well as in dysplastic lesions, provides evidence that BRF2 expression is an early event in cancer development of this cell lineage.
This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that the focal amplification of a gene in Chromosome 8p12, plays a key role in squamous cell lineage specificity of the disease. Our data suggest that genetic activation of BRF2 represents a unique mechanism of SqCC lung tumorigenesis through the increase of Pol III-mediated transcription. It can serve as a marker for lung SqCC and may provide a novel target for therapy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer-related death. Every year, 1.3 million people die from this disease, which is mainly caused by smoking. Most cases of lung cancer are “non-small cell lung cancers” (NSCLCs). Like all cancers, NSCLC starts when cells begin to divide uncontrollably and to move round the body (metastasize) because of changes (mutations) in their genes. These mutations are often in “oncogenes,” genes that, when activated, encourage cell division. Oncogenes can be activated by mutations that alter the properties of the proteins they encode or by mutations that increase the amount of protein made from them, such as gene amplification (an increase in the number of copies of a gene). If NSCLC is diagnosed before it has spread from the lungs (stage I disease), it can be surgically removed and many patients with stage I NSCLC survive for more than 5 years after their diagnosis. Unfortunately, in more than half of patients, NSCLC has metastasized before it is diagnosed. This stage IV NSCLC can be treated with chemotherapy (toxic chemicals that kill fast-growing cancer cells) but only 2% of patients with stage IV lung cancer are alive 5 years after diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Traditionally, NSCLC has been regarded as a single disease in terms of treatment. However, emerging evidence suggests that the two major subtypes of NSCLC—adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC)—respond differently to chemotherapy. Adenocarcinoma and SqCC start in different types of lung cell and experts think that for each cell type in the body, specific combinations of mutations interact with the cell type's own unique characteristics to provide the growth and survival advantage needed for cancer development. If this is true, then identifying the molecular differences between adenocarcinoma and SqCC could provide targets for more effective therapies for these major subtypes of NSCLC. Amplification of a chromosome region called 8p12 is very common in NSCLC, which suggests that an oncogene that drives lung cancer development is present in this chromosome region. In this study, the researchers investigate this possibility by looking for an amplified gene in the 8p12 chromosome region that makes increased amounts of protein in lung SqCC but not in lung adenocarcinoma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a technique called comparative genomic hybridization to show that focal regions of Chromosome 8p are amplified in about 40% of lung SqCCs, but that DNA loss in this region is the most common alteration in lung adenocarcinomas. Ten genes in the 8p12 chromosome region were expressed at higher levels in the SqCC samples that they examined than in adenocarcinoma samples, they report, and overexpression of five of these genes correlated with amplification of the 8p12 region in the SqCC samples. Only one of the genes—BRF2—was more highly expressed in squamous carcinoma cells than in normal bronchial epithelial cells (the cell type that lines the tubes that take air into the lungs and from which SqCC develops). Artificially induced expression of BRF2 in bronchial epithelial cells made these normal cells behave like tumor cells, whereas reduction of BRF2 expression in squamous carcinoma cells made them behave more like normal bronchial epithelial cells. Finally, BRF2 was frequently activated in two early stages of squamous cell carcinoma—bronchial carcinoma in situ and dysplastic lesions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Together, these findings show that the focal amplification of chromosome region 8p12 plays a role in the development of lung SqCC but not in the development of lung adenocarcinoma, the other major subtype of NSCLC. These findings identify BRF2 (which encodes a RNA polymerase III transcription initiation factor, a protein that is required for the synthesis of RNA molecules that help to control cell growth) as a lung SqCC-specific oncogene and uncover a unique mechanism for lung SqCC development. Most importantly, these findings suggest that genetic activation of BRF2 could be used as a marker for lung SqCC, which might facilitate the early detection of this type of NSCLC and that BRF2 might provide a new target for therapy.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and professionals about all aspects of lung cancer, including information on non-small cell carcinoma (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK also provides information about lung cancer and information on how cancer starts
MedlinePlus has links to other resources about lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2910599  PMID: 20668658
9.  A dynamic oral cancer field --unraveling the underlying biology and its clinical implication 
Oral cancer is a complex disease that is characterized by histologic and genetic heterogeneity. The evolution and progression of this disease is thought to result from the accumulation of alterations in molecular pathways. Although the oral cavity is accessible for routine screening of suspicious lesions, gene alterations are known to accrue in histologically normal tissues. Therefore some cancer forerunners may remain undetected clinically or histologically. Recently, emerging optical and molecular technologies have provided a powerful means for redefining the extent of the field of alteration. Often this means expanding upon regions detectable with standard white light approaches. In this report we used a newly developed optical technique, direct fluorescence visualization, to define a contiguous field that extended beyond the margins of a clinically visible oral squamous cell carcinoma. Multiple biopsies were taken within this contiguous optically altered field. Genome alterations detected for each specimen were compared to define whether each lesion arose independently or as a consequence of a shared progenitor cell. Our results indicate that the field effect of oral cancer is extremely dynamic, with different genetic alterations present in different biopsies within a field. This case study also demonstrated two genetically unrelated SCCs could be developed within 10 mm at the right lateral tongue of this patient. These findings provide evidence for the importance to implement optical technologies in defining surgical margins and support the use of whole genome technologies in the diagnosis of clonal versus independent lesions of the oral cavity, which may have implications on treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC2885153  PMID: 19858864
oral cancer; direct fluorescence visualization; field cancerization; clonality
10.  Multiple pathways in the FGF signaling network are frequently deregulated by gene amplification in oral dysplasias 
Genetic alteration in oral premalignant lesions (OPLs), the precursors of oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs), may represent key changes in disease initiation and development. We ask if DNA amplification occurs at this early stage of cancer development and which oncogenic pathways are disrupted in OPLs. Here we evaluated 50 high-grade dysplasias and low-grade dysplasias that later progressed to cancer for gene dosage aberrations using tiling-path DNA microarrays. Early occurrences of DNA amplification and homozygous deletion were frequently detected, with 40% (20/50) of these early lesions exhibiting such features. Expression for 88 genes in seven recurrent amplicons were evaluated in five independent head and neck cancer datasets, with 40 candidates found to be overexpressed relative to normal tissues. These genes were significantly enriched in the canonical ERK/MAPK, FGF, p53, PTEN, and PI3K/AKT signaling pathways (P = 8.95x10-3--3.18×10-2). These identified pathways share interactions in one signaling network, and amplification-mediated deregulation of this network was found in 30.0% of these preinvasive lesions. No such alterations were found in 14 low-grade dysplasias that did not progress, while 43.5% (10/23) of OSCCs were found to have altered genes within the pathways with DNA amplification. Multi-target FISH showed that amplification of EGFR and CCND1 can co-exist in single cells of an oral dysplasia, suggesting the dependence on multiple oncogenes for OPL progression. Taken together, these findings identify a critical biological network that is frequently disrupted in high-risk OPLs, with different specific genes disrupted in different individuals.
PMCID: PMC2761835  PMID: 19623652
oral premalignant lesion; gene amplification; homozygous deletion; DNA microarray; signaling pathway
11.  Genomic imbalances in precancerous tissues signal oral cancer risk 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:50.
Oral cancer develops through a series of histopathological stages: through mild (low grade), moderate, and severe (high grade) dysplasia to carcinoma in situ and then invasive disease. Early detection of those oral premalignant lesions (OPLs) that will develop into invasive tumors is necessary to improve the poor prognosis of oral cancer. Because no tools exist for delineating progression risk in low grade oral lesions, we cannot determine which of these cases require aggressive intervention. We undertook whole genome analysis by tiling-path array comparative genomic hybridization for a rare panel of early and late stage OPLs (n = 62), all of which had extensive longitudinal follow up (>10 years). Genome profiles for oral squamous cell carcinomas (n = 24) were generated for comparison. Parallel analysis of genome alterations and clinical parameters was performed to identify features associated with disease progression. Genome alterations in low grade dysplasias progressing to invasive disease more closely resembled those observed for later stage disease than they did those observed for non-progressing low grade dysplasias. This was despite the histopathological similarity between progressing and non-progressing cases. Strikingly, unbiased computational analysis of genomic alteration data correctly classified nearly all progressing low grade dysplasia cases. Our data demonstrate that high resolution genomic analysis can be used to evaluate progression risk in low grade OPLs, a marked improvement over present histopathological approaches which cannot delineate progression risk. Taken together, our data suggest that whole genome technologies could be used in management strategies for patients presenting with precancerous oral lesions.
PMCID: PMC2726119  PMID: 19627613
12.  Genetic alteration and gene expression modulation during cancer progression 
Molecular Cancer  2004;3:9.
Cancer progresses through a series of histopathological stages. Progression is thought to be driven by the accumulation of genetic alterations and consequently gene expression pattern changes. The identification of genes and pathways involved will not only enhance our understanding of the biology of this process, it will also provide new targets for early diagnosis and facilitate treatment design. Genomic approaches have proven to be effective in detecting chromosomal alterations and identifying genes disrupted in cancer. Gene expression profiling has led to the subclassification of tumors. In this article, we will describe the current technologies used in cancer gene discovery, the model systems used to validate the significance of the genes and pathways, and some of the genes and pathways implicated in the progression of preneoplastic and early stage cancer.
PMCID: PMC408463  PMID: 15035667
cancer progression; tumorigenesis; genomics; expression profiles; proteomics; high throughput technology

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