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Quality of oral screening examinations is dependent upon the experience of the clinician and can vary widely. Deciding when a patient needs to be referred is a critical and difficult decision for general practice clinicians. A device to aid in this decision would be beneficial.
To examine the utility of direct fluorescence visualization (FV) by dental practitioners as an aid in decision-making during screening for cancer and other oral lesions.
Dentists were trained to use a stepwise protocol for evaluation of the oral mucosa: medical history, head, neck and oral exam and fluorescent visualization exam. They were asked to use clinical features to categorize lesions as low (LR), intermediate (IR) or high (HR) risk and then to determine FV status of these lesions. Clinicians made the decision of which lesions to reassess in 3 weeks and based on this reassessment, to refer forward.
Of 2404 patients screened over 11 months, 357 initially had lesions with 325 (15%) identified as LR, 16 (4.5%) IR and 16 (4.5%) HR. Lesions assessed initially as IR and HR had a 2.7 fold increased risk of FV loss persisting to the reassessment appointment versus the LR lesions. The most predictive model for lesion persistence included both FV status and lesion risk assessment.
A protocol for screening (assess risk, reassess and refer) is recommended for the screening of abnormal intraoral lesions. Integrating FV into a process of assessing and reassessing lesions significantly improved this model.
PMCID: PMC3835795  PMID: 23750637
Oral cancer screening; precancerous conditions/diagnosis; mouth neoplasms/prevention & control; early detection of cancer/methods; awareness; health professionals/education; referral and consultation; fluorescence visualization
2.  Optical Coherence Tomography and Autofluorescence Imaging of Human Tonsil 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115889.
For the first time, we present co-registered autofluorescence imaging and optical coherence tomography (AF/OCT) of excised human palatine tonsils to evaluate the capabilities of OCT to visualize tonsil tissue components. Despite limited penetration depth, OCT can provide detailed structural information about tonsil tissue with much higher resolution than that of computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and Ultrasound. Different tonsil tissue components such as epithelium, dense connective tissue, lymphoid nodules, and crypts can be visualized by OCT. The co-registered AF imaging can provide matching biochemical information. AF/OCT scans may provide a non-invasive tool for detecting tonsillar cancers and for studying the natural history of their development.
PMCID: PMC4277424  PMID: 25542010
3.  Smoking status impacts microRNA mediated prognosis and lung adenocarcinoma biology 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):778.
Cigarette smoke is associated with the majority of lung cancers: however, 25% of lung cancer patients are non-smokers, and half of all newly diagnosed lung cancer patients are former smokers. Lung tumors exhibit distinct epidemiological, clinical, pathological, and molecular features depending on smoking status, suggesting divergent mechanisms underlie tumorigenesis in smokers and non-smokers. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are integral contributors to tumorigenesis and mediate biological responses to smoking. Based on the hypothesis that smoking-specific miRNA differences in lung adenocarcinomas reflect distinct tumorigenic processes selected by different smoking and non-smoking environments, we investigated the contribution of miRNA disruption to lung tumor biology and patient outcome in the context of smoking status.
We applied a whole transcriptome sequencing based approach to interrogate miRNA levels in 94 patient-matched lung adenocarcinoma and non-malignant lung parenchymal tissue pairs from current, former and never smokers.
We discovered novel and distinct smoking status-specific patterns of miRNA and miRNA-mediated gene networks, and identified miRNAs that were prognostically significant in a smoking dependent manner.
We conclude that miRNAs disrupted in a smoking status-dependent manner affect distinct cellular pathways and differentially influence lung cancer patient prognosis in current, former and never smokers. Our findings may represent promising biologically relevant markers for lung cancer prognosis or therapeutic intervention.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-778) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4216369  PMID: 25342220
Lung adenocarcinoma; miRNA; Current smoker; Former smoker; Never smoker; Reversible; Survival; Smoking specific
4.  Evaluation of HPV Infection and Smoking Status Impacts on Cell Proliferation in Epithelial Layers of Cervical Neoplasia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107088.
Accurate cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) lesion grading is needed for effective patient management. We applied computer-assisted scanning and analytic approaches to immuno-stained CIN lesion sections to more accurately delineate disease states and decipher cell proliferation impacts from HPV and smoking within individual epithelial layers. A patient cohort undergoing cervical screening was identified (n = 196) and biopsies of varying disease grades and with intact basement membranes and epithelial layers were obtained (n = 261). Specimens were sectioned, stained (Mib1), and scanned using a high-resolution imaging system. We achieved semi-automated delineation of proliferation status and epithelial cell layers using Otsu segmentation, manual image review, Voronoi tessellation, and immuno-staining. Data were interrogated against known status for HPV infection, smoking, and disease grade. We observed increased cell proliferation and decreased epithelial thickness with increased disease grade (when analyzing the epithelium at full thickness). Analysis within individual cell layers showed a ≥50% increase in cell proliferation for CIN2 vs. CIN1 lesions in higher epithelial layers (with minimal differences seen in basal/parabasal layers). Higher rates of proliferation for HPV-positive vs. -negative cases were seen in epithelial layers beyond the basal/parabasal layers in normal and CIN1 tissues. Comparing smokers vs. non-smokers, we observed increased cell proliferation in parabasal (low and high grade lesions) and basal layers (high grade only). In sum, we report CIN grade-specific differences in cell proliferation within individual epithelial layers. We also show HPV and smoking impacts on cell layer-specific proliferation. Our findings yield insight into CIN progression biology and demonstrate that rigorous, semi-automated imaging of histopathological specimens may be applied to improve disease grading accuracy.
PMCID: PMC4161429  PMID: 25210770
5.  A high-efficiency fiber-based imaging system for co-registered autofluorescence and optical coherence tomography 
Biomedical Optics Express  2014;5(9):2978-2987.
We present a power-efficient fiber-based imaging system capable of co-registered autofluorescence imaging and optical coherence tomography (AF/OCT). The system employs a custom fiber optic rotary joint (FORJ) with an embedded dichroic mirror to efficiently combine the OCT and AF pathways. This three-port wavelength multiplexing FORJ setup has a throughput of more than 83% for collected AF emission, significantly more efficient compared to previously reported fiber-based methods. A custom 900 µm diameter catheter ‒ consisting of a rotating lens assembly, double-clad fiber (DCF), and torque cable in a stationary plastic tube ‒ was fabricated to allow AF/OCT imaging of small airways in vivo. We demonstrate the performance of this system ex vivo in resected porcine airway specimens and in vivo in human on fingers, in the oral cavity, and in peripheral airways.
PMCID: PMC4230860  PMID: 25401011
(110.0110) Imaging systems; (110.2350) Fiber optics imaging; (110.4500) Optical coherence tomography; (170.2520) Fluorescence microscopy; (170.3890) Medical optics instrumentation
6.  EZH2 promotes E2F driven SCLC tumorigenesis through modulation of apoptosis and cell cycle regulation 
While EZH2 has been associated with both non small cell and small cell lung cancers, current observations suggest different mechanisms of EZH2 activation and overexpression in these lung cancer types. Globally, small cell lung cancer (SCLC) kills 200,000 people yearly. New clinical approaches for SCLC treatment are required to improve the poor survival rate. Given the therapeutic potential of EZH2 as a target, we sought to delineate the downstream consequences of EZH2 disruption to identify the cellular mechanisms by which EZH2 promotes tumorigenesis in SCLC.
We generated cells with stable expression of shRNA targeting EZH2 and corresponding controls (pLKO.1) and determined the consequences of EZH2 knockdown on the cell cycle and apoptosis by means of propidium iodide staining and fluorescence activated cell sorting, western blot, qRT-PCR as well as cell viability assessment using MTT assays.
We discovered that EZH2 inhibition 1) increased apoptotic activity by up-regulating the pro-apoptotic factors Puma and Bad, 2) decreased the fraction of cells in S or G2/M phases, and 3) elevated p21 protein levels, implicating EZH2 in cell death and cell cycle control in SCLC.
Our findings present evidence for the role of EZH2 in the regulation of cell cycle and apoptosis, providing a biological mechanism to explain the tumorigenicity of EZH2 in SCLC. Our work points to the great potential of EZH2 as a therapeutic target in SCLC.
PMCID: PMC3713495  PMID: 23857401
SCLC; EZH2; oncogene; RB1; E2F
7.  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
8.  Validation of Airway Wall Measurements by Optical Coherence Tomography in Porcine Airways 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100145.
Examining and quantifying changes in airway morphology is critical for studying longitudinal pathogenesis and interventions in diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. Here we present fiber-optic optical coherence tomography (OCT) as a nondestructive technique to precisely and accurately measure the 2-dimensional cross-sectional areas of airway wall substructure divided into the mucosa (WAmuc), submucosa (WAsub), cartilage (WAcart), and the airway total wall area (WAt). Porcine lung airway specimens were dissected from freshly resected lung lobes (N = 10). Three-dimensional OCT imaging using a fiber-optic rotary-pullback probe was performed immediately on airways greater than 0.9 mm in diameter on the fresh airway specimens and subsequently on the same specimens post-formalin-fixation. The fixed specimens were serially sectioned and stained with H&E. OCT images carefully matched to selected sections stained with Movat’s pentachrome demonstrated that OCT effectively identifies airway epithelium, lamina propria, and cartilage. Selected H&E sections were digitally scanned and airway total wall areas were measured. Traced measurements of WAmuc, WAsub, WAcart, and WAt from OCT images of fresh specimens by two independent observers found there were no significant differences (p>0.05) between the observer’s measurements. The same wall area measurements from OCT images of formalin-fixed specimens found no significant differences for WAsub, WAcart and WAt, and a small but significant difference for WAmuc. Bland-Altman analysis indicated there were negligible biases between the observers for OCT wall area measurements in both fresh and formalin-fixed specimens. Bland-Altman analysis also indicated there was negligible bias between histology and OCT wall area measurements for both fresh and formalin-fixed specimens. We believe this study sets the groundwork for quantitatively monitoring pathogenesis and interventions in the airways using OCT.
PMCID: PMC4064993  PMID: 24949633
9.  Numerical investigation of two-dimensional light scattering patterns of cervical cell nuclei to map dysplastic changes at different epithelial depths 
Biomedical Optics Express  2014;5(2):485-498.
We use an extensive set of quantitative histopathology data to construct realistic three-dimensional models of normal and dysplastic cervical cell nuclei at different epithelial depths. We then employ the finite-difference time-domain method to numerically simulate the light scattering response of these representative models as a function of the polar and azimuthal scattering angles. The results indicate that intensity and shape metrics computed from two-dimensional scattering patterns can be used to distinguish between different diagnostic categories. Our numerical study also suggests that different epithelial layers and angular ranges need to be considered separately to fully exploit the diagnostic potential of two-dimensional light scattering measurements.
PMCID: PMC3920879  PMID: 24575343
(170.0170) Medical optics and biotechnology; (170.1530) Cell analysis; (170.4580) Optical diagnostics for medicine; (170.4730) Optical pathology; (290.0290) Scattering
10.  Double Staining Cytologic Samples with Quantitative Feulgen-Thionin and Anti–Ki-67 Immunocytochemistry as a Method of Distinguishing Cells with Abnormal DNA Content from Normal Cycling Cells 
Ploidy analysis of Feulgen-thionin stained cervical cytology specimens has been shown to detect cases of high grade cervical dysplasia. However, ploidy analysis alone cannot always distinguish between cells with abnormal DNA content and normal cycling cells. We sought to use double staining with anti-Ki-67 immunocytochemistry to improve ploidy analysis.
Study Design
Cervical cytology specimens from 49 patients with various diagnoses, mostly dysplasias, from a previous study were used. Samples were double stained with Feulgen-thionin and anti-Ki-67 immunocytochemistry. Ki-67-negative cells were non-cycling, so non-diploid Ki-67-negative cells were likely truly abnormal cells.
The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for the ability to identify high-grade dysplasias was 0.73 for double staining and 0.74 for thionin-only ploidy analysis on cytospin specimens. At 90% specificity, sensitivities for double staining and thionin alone were 45% and 32%, respectively, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Double staining with Feulgen-thionin and anti-Ki-67 immunocytochemistry does not improve the ability of ploidy analysis of cervical cytology specimens to separate high- and low-grade dysplasias, but our insights into the technical aspects of double staining, especially the effects of antigen retrieval, give hope that this technique could be applied to other immunocytochemical stains that would have a greater ability to improve ploidy analysis.
PMCID: PMC3573880  PMID: 23301387
Ploidy; Early cancer detection; Cervical cancer; Quantitative image cytometry; Proliferation; Immunocytochemistry; Heat-mediated antigen retrieval
11.  Optical Technologies and Molecular Imaging for Cervical Neoplasia: A Program Project Update 
Gender Medicine  2011;9(1 Suppl):S7-S24.
There is an urgent global need for effective and affordable approaches to cervical cancer screening and diagnosis. For developing nations, cervical malignancies remain the leading cause of cancer death in women. This reality is difficult to accept given that these deaths are largely preventable; where cervical screening programs are implemented, cervical cancer deaths decrease dramatically. In the developed world, the challenges with respect to cervical disease stem from high costs and over-treatment. We are presently eleven years into a National Cancer Institute-funded Program Project (P01 CA82710) that is evaluating optical technologies for their applicability to the cervical cancer problem. Our mandate is to create new tools for disease detection and diagnosis that are inexpensive, require minimal expertise to use, are more accurate than existing modalities, and will be feasibly implemented in a variety of clinical settings. Herein, we update the status of this work and explain the long-term goals of this project.
PMCID: PMC3289763  PMID: 21944317
12.  Physician attitudes toward dissemination of optical spectroscopy devices for cervical cancer control: An Industrial-Academic collaborative study 
Gender Medicine  2012;9(1 Suppl):S67-S77.e6.
Optical Spectroscopy has been studied for biologic plausisbility, technical efficacy, clinical effectiveness, patient satisfaction and cost-effectiveness. We sought to identify healthcare provider attitudes or practices that might act as barriers or to the dissemination of this new technology.
Through an academic-industrial partnership, we conducted a series of focus groups to examine physician barriers to optical diagnosis. The study was conducted in two stages. First, a pilot group of ten physicians (8 obstetrician gynecologists and two family practitioners) was randomly selected from 8 regions of the US and interviewed individually. They were presented with the results of a large trial (N=980) testing the accuracy of a spectroscopy based device in the detection of cervical neoplasia. They were also shown a prototype of the device and were given a period of time to ask questions and receive answers regarding the device. They were also asked to provide feedback of a questionnaire (provided in Appendix A) which was then revised and presented to three larger focus groups (n=13, 15, 17 for a total n=45). The larger focus groups were conducted during national scientific meetings with 20 obstetrician gynecologists and 25 primary care physicians (family practitioners and internists).
When asked about the dissemination potential of the new cervical screening technology, all study groups tended to rely on established clinical guidelines from their respective professional societies with regard to the screening and diagnosis of cervical cancer. In addition, study participants consistently agreed that real-time spectroscopy would be viewed positively by their patients. Participants were positive about the new technology's potential as an adjunct to colposcopy and agreed that the improved accuracy would result in reduced healthcare costs (due to decreased biopsies and decreased visits). However, while all saw the potential of real-time diagnosis, there were many perceived barriers. These barriers included: changes in scheduling and work-flow, liability, documentation, ease of use, length of training, device cost, and reimbursement by third party payers.
Barriers exist to the dissemination of optical technologies into physician practice. These will need to be addressed before cervical screening and diagnosis programs can take advantage of spectroscopy-based instruments for cancer control.
PMCID: PMC3292768  PMID: 22340642
physician attitude; physician satisfaction; dissemination; cervical intraepithelial neoplasia; fluorescence and reflectance spectroscopy; optical spectroscopy
14.  Genetic Disruption of KEAP1/CUL3 E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Complex Components is a Key Mechanism of NF-kappaB Pathway Activation in Lung Cancer 
IKBKB (IKK-β/IKK-2), which activates NF-κB, is a substrate of the KEAP1-CUL3-RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex, implicating this complex in regulation of NF-κB signaling. We investigated complex component gene disruption as a novel genetic mechanism of NF-κB activation in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
644 tumor- and 90 cell line-genomes were analyzed for gene-dosage status of the individual complex components and IKBKB. Gene expression of these genes, and NF-κB target genes were analyzed in 48 tumors. IKBKB protein levels were assessed in tumors with and without complex or IKBKB genetic disruption. Complex component knockdown was performed to assess effects of the E3-ligase complex on IKBKB and NF-κB levels, and phenotypic importance of IKBKB expression was measured by pharmacological inhibition.
We observed strikingly frequent genetic disruption (42%) and aberrant expression (63%) of the E3-ligase complex and IKBKB in the samples examined. While both adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas showed complex disruption, the patterns of gene disruption differed. IKBKB levels were elevated with complex disruption, knockdown of complex components increased activated forms of IKBKB and NF-κB proteins, and IKBKB inhibition detriments cell viability, highlighting the biological significance of complex disruption. NF-κB target genes were overexpressed in samples with complex disruption, further demonstrating the effect of complex disruption on NF-κB activity.
Gene dosage alteration is a prominent mechanism that disrupts each component of the KEAP1-CUL3-RBX1 complex and its NF-κB stimulating substrate, IKBKB. Here we show that, multiple component disruption of this complex represents a novel mechanism of NF-κB activation in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3164321  PMID: 21795997
KEAP1; CUL3; RBX1; IKBKB; NF-κB signaling; genetic disruption
15.  Natural history of bronchial preinvasive lesions 
Cancer metastasis reviews  2010;29(1):5-14.
Preinvasive bronchial lesions defined as dysplasia and carcinoma in situ (CIS) have been considered as precursors of squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. The risk and rate of progression of preinvasive lesions to invasive squamous cell carcinoma as well as the mechanism of progression or regression are incompletely understood. While the evidence for the multistage, stepwise progression model is weak with relatively few documented lesions that progress through various grades of dysplasia to CIS and then to invasive carcinoma, the concept of field carcinogenesis is strongly supported. The presence of high-grade dysplasia or CIS is a risk marker for lung cancer both in the central airways and peripheral lung. Genetic alterations such as loss of heterozygosity in chromosome 3p or chromosomal aneusomy as well as host factors such as the inflammatory load and levels of anti-inflammatory proteins in the lung influence the progression or regression of preinvasive lesions. CIS is different than severe dysplasia at the molecular level and has different clinical outcome. Molecular analysis of dysplastic lesions that progress to CIS or invasive cancer and rare lesions that progress rapidly from hyperplasia or metaplasia to CIS or invasive cancer will shed light on the key molecular determinants driving development to an invasive phenotype versus those associated with tobacco smoke damage.
PMCID: PMC3417071  PMID: 20112052
Preinvasive lesions; Natural history; Lung cancer
16.  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
17.  Automated sputum cytometry for detection of intraepithelial neoplasias in the lung 
Despite the benefits of early lung cancer detection, no effective strategy for early screening and treatment exists, partly due to a lack of effective surrogate biomarkers. Our novel sputum biomarker, the Combined Score (CS), uses automated image cytometric analysis of ploidy and nuclear morphology to detect subtle intraepithelial changes that often precede lung tumours.
2249 sputum samples from 1795 high-risk patients enrolled in ongoing chemoprevention trials were subjected to automated quantitative image cytometry after Feulgenthionin staining. Samples from normal histopathology patients were compared against samples from carcinoma in situ (CIS) and cancer patients to train the CS.
CS correlates with several lung cancer risk factors, including histopathological grade, age, smoking status, and p53 and Ki67 immunostaining. At 50% specificity, CS detected 78% of all highest-risk subjects—those with CIS or worse plus those with moderate or severe dysplasia and abnormal nuclear morphology.
CS is a powerful yet minimally invasive tool for rapid and inexpensive risk assessment for the presence of precancerous lung lesions, enabling enrichment of chemoprevention trials with highest-risk dysplasias. CS correlates with other biomarkers, so CS may find use as a surrogate biomarker for patient assessment and as an endpoint in chemoprevention clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3412676  PMID: 22277916
Intraepithelial neoplasia (IEN); lung cancer; risk assessment; intermediate or pre-neoplastic markers and risk factors; biomarkers and intervention studies; chemoprevention; biomarkers and intervention; cancer surveillance and screening; chemoprevention clinical trials; quantitative image cytometry; ploidy analysis; malignancy associated changes
18.  Divergent Genomic and Epigenomic Landscapes of Lung Cancer Subtypes Underscore the Selection of Different Oncogenic Pathways during Tumor Development 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37775.
For therapeutic purposes, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has traditionally been regarded as a single disease. However, recent evidence suggest that the two major subtypes of NSCLC, adenocarcinoma (AC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC) respond differently to both molecular targeted and new generation chemotherapies. Therefore, identifying the molecular differences between these tumor types may impact novel treatment strategy. We performed the first large-scale analysis of 261 primary NSCLC tumors (169 AC and 92 SqCC), integrating genome-wide DNA copy number, methylation and gene expression profiles to identify subtype-specific molecular alterations relevant to new agent design and choice of therapy. Comparison of AC and SqCC genomic and epigenomic landscapes revealed 778 altered genes with corresponding expression changes that are selected during tumor development in a subtype-specific manner. Analysis of >200 additional NSCLCs confirmed that these genes are responsible for driving the differential development and resulting phenotypes of AC and SqCC. Importantly, we identified key oncogenic pathways disrupted in each subtype that likely serve as the basis for their differential tumor biology and clinical outcomes. Downregulation of HNF4α target genes was the most common pathway specific to AC, while SqCC demonstrated disruption of numerous histone modifying enzymes as well as the transcription factor E2F1. In silico screening of candidate therapeutic compounds using subtype-specific pathway components identified HDAC and PI3K inhibitors as potential treatments tailored to lung SqCC. Together, our findings suggest that AC and SqCC develop through distinct pathogenetic pathways that have significant implication in our approach to the clinical management of NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3357406  PMID: 22629454
19.  Lung Adenocarcinoma of Never Smokers and Smokers Harbor Differential Regions of Genetic Alteration and Exhibit Different Levels of Genomic Instability 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33003.
Recent evidence suggests that the observed clinical distinctions between lung tumors in smokers and never smokers (NS) extend beyond specific gene mutations, such as EGFR, EML4-ALK, and KRAS, some of which have been translated into targeted therapies. However, the molecular alterations identified thus far cannot explain all of the clinical and biological disparities observed in lung tumors of NS and smokers. To this end, we performed an unbiased genome-wide, comparative study to identify novel genomic aberrations that differ between smokers and NS.
High resolution whole genome DNA copy number profiling of 69 lung adenocarcinomas from smokers (n = 39) and NS (n = 30) revealed both global and regional disparities in the tumor genomes of these two groups. We found that NS lung tumors had a greater proportion of their genomes altered than those of smokers. Moreover, copy number gains on chromosomes 5q, 7p, and 16p occurred more frequently in NS. We validated our findings in two independently generated public datasets. Our findings provide a novel line of evidence distinguishing genetic differences between smoker and NS lung tumors, namely, that the extent of segmental genomic alterations is greater in NS tumors. Collectively, our findings provide evidence that these lung tumors are globally and genetically different, which implies they are likely driven by distinct molecular mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3296775  PMID: 22412972
20.  Accuracy of optical spectroscopy for the detection of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: testing a device as an adjunct to colposcopy 
Testing emerging technologies involves the evaluation of biologic plausibility, technical efficacy, clinical effectiveness, patient satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness. The objective of this study was to select an effective classification algorithm for optical spectroscopy as an adjunct to colposcopy and obtain preliminary estimates of its accuracy for the detection of CIN 2 or worse. We recruited 1000 patients from screening and prevention clinics and 850 patients from colposcopy clinics at two comprehensive cancer centers and a community hospital. Optical spectroscopy was performed and 4864 biopsies were obtained from the sites measured, including abnormal and normal colposcopic areas. The gold standard was the histologic report of biopsies, read 2–3 times by histopathologists blinded to the cytologic, histopathologic, and spectroscopic results. We calculated sensitivities, specificities, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves, and areas under the ROC curves. We identified a cutpoint for an algorithm based on optical spectroscopy that yielded an estimated sensitivity of 1.00 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.92 – 1.00] and an estimated specificity of 0.71 [95% CI = 0.62 – 0.79] in a combined screening and diagnostic population. The positive and negative predictive values were 0.58 and 1.00, respectively. The area under the ROC curve was 0.85 (95% CI 0.81 – 0.89). The per-patient and per-site performance were similar in the diagnostic and poorer in the screening settings. Like colposcopy, the device performs best in a diagnostic population. Alternative statistical approaches demonstrate that the analysis is robust and that spectroscopy works as well as or slightly better than colposcopy for the detection of CIN 2 to cancer.
PMCID: PMC3015005  PMID: 20830707
sensitivity and specificity; diagnosis; early detection of cancer; uterine cervical neoplasms; cervical intraepithelial neoplasia
21.  Canadian Optically-guided approach for Oral Lesions Surgical (COOLS) trial: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:462.
Oral cancer is a major health problem worldwide. The 5-year survival rate ranges from 30-60%, and has remained unchanged in the past few decades. This is mainly due to late diagnosis and high recurrence of the disease. Of the patients who receive treatment, up to one third suffer from a recurrence or a second primary tumor. It is apparent that one major cause of disease recurrence is clinically unrecognized field changes which extend beyond the visible tumor boundary. We have previously developed an approach using fluorescence visualization (FV) technology to improve the recognition of the field at risk surrounding a visible oral cancer that needs to be removed and preliminary results have shown a significant reduction in recurrence rates.
This paper describes the study design of a randomized, multi-centre, double blind, controlled surgical trial, the COOLS trial. Nine institutions across Canada will recruit a total of 400 patients with oral severe dysplasia or carcinoma in situ (N = 160) and invasive squamous cell carcinoma (N = 240). Patients will be stratified by participating institution and histology grade and randomized equally into FV-guided surgery (experimental arm) or white light-guided surgery (control arm). The primary endpoint is a composite of recurrence at or 1 cm within the previous surgery site with 1) the same or higher grade histology compared to the initial diagnosis (i.e., the diagnosis used for randomization); or 2) further treatment due to the presence of severe dysplasia or higher degree of change at follow-up. This is the first randomized, multi-centre trial to validate the effectiveness of the FV-guided surgery.
In this paper we described the strategies, novelty, and challenges of this unique trial involving a surgical approach guided by the FV technology. The success of the trial requires training, coordination, and quality assurance across multiple sites within Canada. The COOLS trial, an example of translational research, may result in reduced recurrence rates following surgical treatment of early-stage oral cancer with significant impacts on survival, morbidity, patients' quality of life and the cost to the health care system.
Trial Registration NCT01039298
PMCID: PMC3226575  PMID: 22026481
22.  Human Cancer Long Non-Coding RNA Transcriptomes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25915.
Once thought to be a part of the ‘dark matter’ of the genome, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are emerging as an integral functional component of the mammalian transcriptome. LncRNAs are a novel class of mRNA-like transcripts which, despite no known protein-coding potential, demonstrate a wide range of structural and functional roles in cellular biology. However, the magnitude of the contribution of lncRNA expression to normal human tissues and cancers has not been investigated in a comprehensive manner. In this study, we compiled 272 human serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) libraries to delineate lncRNA transcription patterns across a broad spectrum of normal human tissues and cancers. Using a novel lncRNA discovery pipeline we parsed over 24 million SAGE tags and report lncRNA expression profiles across a panel of 26 different normal human tissues and 19 human cancers. Our findings show extensive, tissue-specific lncRNA expression in normal tissues and highly aberrant lncRNA expression in human cancers. Here, we present a first generation atlas for lncRNA profiling in cancer.
PMCID: PMC3185064  PMID: 21991387
23.  Repeatability of tissue fluorescence measurements for the detection of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 
Biomedical Optics Express  2010;1(2):641-657.
We examined intensity and shape differences in 378 repeated spectroscopic measures of the cervix. We examined causes of variability such as presence of precancer or cancer, pathologic tissue type, menopausal status, hormone or oral contraceptive use, and age; as well as technology related variables like generation of device and provider making exam. Age, device generation, and provider were statistically significantly related to intensity differences. Provider and device generation were related to shape differences. We examined the order of measurements and found a decreased intensity in the second measurement due to hemoglobin absorption. 96% of repeat measurements had classification concordance of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.
PMCID: PMC3018008  PMID: 21258497
(120.0120) Instrumentation, measurement, and metrology; (170.0170) Medical optics and biotechnology; (300.0300) Spectroscopy
24.  A sequence-based approach to identify reference genes for gene expression analysis 
BMC Medical Genomics  2010;3:32.
An important consideration when analyzing both microarray and quantitative PCR expression data is the selection of appropriate genes as endogenous controls or reference genes. This step is especially critical when identifying genes differentially expressed between datasets. Moreover, reference genes suitable in one context (e.g. lung cancer) may not be suitable in another (e.g. breast cancer). Currently, the main approach to identify reference genes involves the mining of expression microarray data for highly expressed and relatively constant transcripts across a sample set. A caveat here is the requirement for transcript normalization prior to analysis, and measurements obtained are relative, not absolute. Alternatively, as sequencing-based technologies provide digital quantitative output, absolute quantification ensues, and reference gene identification becomes more accurate.
Serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) profiles of non-malignant and malignant lung samples were compared using a permutation test to identify the most stably expressed genes across all samples. Subsequently, the specificity of the reference genes was evaluated across multiple tissue types, their constancy of expression was assessed using quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR), and their impact on differential expression analysis of microarray data was evaluated.
We show that (i) conventional references genes such as ACTB and GAPDH are highly variable between cancerous and non-cancerous samples, (ii) reference genes identified for lung cancer do not perform well for other cancer types (breast and brain), (iii) reference genes identified through SAGE show low variability using qPCR in a different cohort of samples, and (iv) normalization of a lung cancer gene expression microarray dataset with or without our reference genes, yields different results for differential gene expression and subsequent analyses. Specifically, key established pathways in lung cancer exhibit higher statistical significance using a dataset normalized with our reference genes relative to normalization without using our reference genes.
Our analyses found NDUFA1, RPL19, RAB5C, and RPS18 to occupy the top ranking positions among 15 suitable reference genes optimal for normalization of lung tissue expression data. Significantly, the approach used in this study can be applied to data generated using new generation sequencing platforms for the identification of reference genes optimal within diverse contexts.
PMCID: PMC2928167  PMID: 20682026
25.  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

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