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1.  YEATS4 is a novel oncogene amplified in non-small cell lung cancer that regulates the p53 pathway 
Cancer research  2013;73(24):7301-7312.
Genetic analyses of lung cancer have helped found new treatments in this disease. We conducted an integrative analysis of gene expression and copy number in 261 non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) relative to matched normal tissues to define novel candidate oncogenes, identifying 12q13-15 and more specifically the YEATS4 gene as amplified and overexpressed in ~20% of the NSCLC cases examined. Overexpression of YEATS4 abrogated senescence in human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs). Conversely, RNAi-mediated attenuation of YEATS4 in human lung cancer cells reduced their proliferation and tumor growth, impairing colony formation and inducing cellular senescence. These effects were associated with increased levels of p21WAF1 and p53 and cleavage of PARP, implicating YEATS4 as a negative regulator of the p21-p53 pathway. We also found that YEATS4 expression affected cellular responses to cisplastin, with increased levels associated with resistance and decreased levels with sensitivity. Taken together, our findings reveal YEATS4 as a candidate oncogene amplified in NSCLC, and a novel mechanism contributing to NSCLC pathogenesis.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-13-1897
PMCID: PMC3959870  PMID: 24170126
YEATS4; NSCLC; oncogene; p53; integrative analysis
3.  Smoking status impacts microRNA mediated prognosis and lung adenocarcinoma biology 
BMC Cancer  2014;14(1):778.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-778
PMCID: PMC4216369  PMID: 25342220
Lung adenocarcinoma; miRNA; Current smoker; Former smoker; Never smoker; Reversible; Survival; Smoking specific
4.  Multiple Components of the VHL Tumor Suppressor Complex Are Frequently Affected by DNA Copy Number Loss in Pheochromocytoma 
Pheochromocytomas (PCC) are rare tumors that arise in chromaffin tissue of the adrenal gland. PCC are frequently inherited through predisposing mutations in genes such as the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor. VHL is part of the VHL elongin BC protein complex that also includes CUL2/5, TCEB1, TCEB2, and RBX1; in normoxic conditions this complex targets hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF1A) for degradation, thus preventing a hypoxic response. VHL inactivation by genetic mechanisms, such as mutation and loss of heterozygosity, inhibits HIF1A degradation, even in the presence of oxygen, and induces a pseudohypoxic response. However, the described <10% VHL mutation rate cannot account for the high frequency of hypoxic response observed. Indeed, little is known about genetic mechanisms disrupting other complex component genes. Here, we show that, in a panel of 171 PCC tumors, 59.6% harbored gene copy number loss (CNL) of at least one complex component. CNL significantly reduced gene expression and was associated with enrichment of gene targets controlled by HIF1. Interestingly, we show that VHL-related renal clear cell carcinoma harbored disruption of VHL alone. Our results indicate that VHL elongin BC protein complex components other than VHL could be important for PCC tumorigenesis and merit further investigation.
doi:10.1155/2014/546347
PMCID: PMC4178909  PMID: 25298778
5.  EZH2 promotes E2F driven SCLC tumorigenesis through modulation of apoptosis and cell cycle regulation 
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1097/JTO.0b013e318298762f
PMCID: PMC3713495  PMID: 23857401
SCLC; EZH2; oncogene; RB1; E2F
6.  Unique Pattern of Component Gene Disruption in the NRF2 Inhibitor KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-Ubiquitin Ligase Complex in Serous Ovarian Cancer 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:159459.
The NFE2-related factor 2 (NRF2) pathway is critical to initiate responses to oxidative stress; however, constitutive activation occurs in different cancer types, including serous ovarian carcinomas (OVCA). The KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex is a regulator of NRF2 levels. Hence, we investigated the DNA-level mechanisms affecting these genes in OVCA. DNA copy-number loss (CNL), promoter hypermethylation, mRNA expression, and sequence mutation for KEAP1, CUL3, and RBX1 were assessed in a cohort of 568 OVCA from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Almost 90% of cases exhibited loss-of-function alterations in any components of the NRF2 inhibitory complex. CNL is the most prominent mechanism of component disruption, with RBX1 being the most frequently disrupted component. These alterations were associated with reduced mRNA expression of complex components, and NRF2 target gene expression was positively enriched in 90% of samples harboring altered complex components. Disruption occurs through a unique DNA-level alteration pattern in OVCA. We conclude that a remarkably high frequency of DNA and mRNA alterations affects components of the KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 complex, through a unique pattern of genetic mechanisms. Together, these results suggest a key role for the KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 complex and NRF2 pathway deregulation in OVCA.
doi:10.1155/2014/159459
PMCID: PMC4121105  PMID: 25114896
7.  SOX15 and other SOX family members are important mediators of tumorigenesis in multiple cancer types 
Oncoscience  2014;1(5):326-335.
SOX genes are transcription factors with important roles in embryonic development and carcinogenesis. The SOX family of 20 genes is responsible for regulating lineage and tissue specific gene expression patterns, controlling numerous developmental processes including cell differentiation, sex determination, and organogenesis. As is the case with many genes involved in regulating development, SOX genes are frequently deregulated in cancer. In this perspective we provide a brief overview of how SOX proteins can promote or suppress cancer growth. We also present a pan-cancer analysis of aberrant SOX gene expression and highlight potential molecular mechanisms responsible for their disruption in cancer. Our analyses indicate the prominence of SOX deregulation in different cancer types and reveal potential roles for SOX genes not previously described in cancer. Finally, we summarize our recent identification of SOX15 as a candidate tumor suppressor in pancreatic cancer and propose several research avenues to pursue to further delineate the emerging role of SOX15 in development and carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4278306  PMID: 25594027
SOX; SOX15; oncogene; tumor suppressor; development; cancer
8.  Frequent concerted genetic mechanisms disrupt multiple components of the NRF2 inhibitor KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex in thyroid cancer 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:124.
Background
Reactive oxygen species contribute to normal thyroid function. The NRF2 oxidative response pathway is frequently and constitutively activated in multiple tumor types, including papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Genetic mechanisms underlying NRF2 pathway activation in PTC are not fully understood. Thus, we aimed to determine whether inactivating patterns of DNA-level alterations affect genes encoding for individual NRF2 inhibitor complex components (CUL3/KEAP1/RBX1) occur in PTC.
Findings
Combined patterns of epi/genetic alterations for KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3 ubiquitin-ligase complex components were simultaneously interrogated for a panel of 310 PTC cases and 40 adjacent non-malignant tissues. Data were obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas project. Enrichment of NRF2 pathway activation was assessed by gene-set enrichment analysis using transcriptome data. Our analyses revealed that PTC sustain a strikingly high frequency (80.6%) of disruption to multiple component genes of the NRF2 inhibitor complex. Hypermethylation is the predominant inactivating mechanism primarily affecting KEAP1 (70.6%) and CUL3 (20%), while copy number loss mostly affects RBX1 (16.8%). Concordantly, NRF2-associated gene expression signatures are positively and significantly enriched in PTC.
Conclusions
The KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex is almost ubiquitously affected by multiple DNA-level mechanisms and downstream NRF2 pathway targets are activated in PTC. Given the importance of this pathway to normal thyroid function as well as to cancer; targeted inhibition of NRF2 regulators may impact strategies for therapeutic intervention involving this pathway.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-12-124
PMCID: PMC4016213  PMID: 24138990
KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex; Gene disruption; NRF2; Thyroid cancer
9.  Genomic Deregulation of the E2F/Rb Pathway Leads to Activation of the Oncogene EZH2 in Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71670.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a highly aggressive lung neoplasm with extremely poor clinical outcomes and no approved targeted treatments. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible for driving the SCLC phenotype in hopes of revealing novel therapeutic targets, we studied copy number and methylation profiles of SCLC. We found disruption of the E2F/Rb pathway was a prominent feature deregulated in 96% of the SCLC samples investigated and was strongly associated with increased expression of EZH2, an oncogene and core member of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). Through its catalytic role in the PRC2 complex, EZH2 normally functions to epigenetically silence genes during development, however, it aberrantly silences genes in human cancers. We provide evidence to support that EZH2 is functionally active in SCLC tumours, exerts pro-tumourigenic functions in vitro, and is associated with aberrant methylation profiles of PRC2 target genes indicative of a “stem-cell like” hypermethylator profile in SCLC tumours. Furthermore, lentiviral-mediated knockdown of EZH2 demonstrated a significant reduction in the growth of SCLC cell lines, suggesting EZH2 has a key role in driving SCLC biology. In conclusion, our data confirm the role of EZH2 as a critical oncogene in SCLC, and lend support to the prioritization of EZH2 as a potential therapeutic target in clinical disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071670
PMCID: PMC3744458  PMID: 23967231
11.  Integrative Genomics Identified RFC3 as an Amplified Candidate Oncogene in Esophageal Adenocarcinoma 
Purpose
Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is a lethal malignancy that can develop from the premalignant condition, Barrett’s esophagus (BE). Currently, there are no validated simple methods to predict which patients will progress to EAC. A better understanding of the genetic mechanisms driving EAC tumorigenesis is needed to identify new therapeutic targets and develop biomarkers capable of identifying high-risk patients that would benefit from aggressive neoadjuvant therapy. We employed an integrative genomics approach to identify novel genes involved in EAC biology that may serve as useful clinical markers.
Experimental Design
Whole genome tiling-path array CGH was used to identify significant regions of copy number (CN) alteration in 20 EACs and 10 matching BE tissues. CN and gene expression data were integrated to identify candidate oncogenes within regions of amplification and multiple additional sample cohorts were assessed to validate candidate genes.
Results
We identified RFC3 as a novel, candidate oncogene activated by amplification in ~25% of EAC samples. RFC3 was also amplified in BE from a patient whose EAC harbored amplification, and was differentially expressed between non-malignant and EAC tissues. CN gains were detected in other cancer types and RFC3 knockdown inhibited proliferation and anchorage-independent growth of cancer cells with increased CN, but had little effect on those without. Moreover, high RFC3 expression was associated with poor patient outcome in multiple cancer types.
Conclusions
RFC3 is a candidate oncogene amplified in EAC. RFC3 DNA amplification is also prevalent in other epithelial cancer types and RFC3 expression could serve as a prognostic marker.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-1431
PMCID: PMC3523177  PMID: 22328562
RFC3; esophageal adenocarcinoma; Barrett’s esophagus; DNA amplification
12.  Genetic Disruption of KEAP1/CUL3 E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Complex Components is a Key Mechanism of NF-kappaB Pathway Activation in Lung Cancer 
Introduction
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).
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1097/JTO.0b013e3182289479
PMCID: PMC3164321  PMID: 21795997
KEAP1; CUL3; RBX1; IKBKB; NF-κB signaling; genetic disruption
13.  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.
doi:10.1007/s10555-010-9199-2
PMCID: PMC3415277  PMID: 20108112
Integrative analysis; Cancer genome; Sequencing; Microarray
14.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037775
PMCID: PMC3357406  PMID: 22629454
15.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033003
PMCID: PMC3296775  PMID: 22412972
16.  Methylated DNA Immunoprecipitation 
The identification of DNA methylation patterns is a common procedure in the study of epigenetics, as methylation is known to have significant effects on gene expression, and is involved with normal development as well as disease 1-4. Thus, the ability to discriminate between methylated DNA and non-methylated DNA is essential for generating methylation profiles for such studies. Methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) is an efficient technique for the extraction of methylated DNA from a sample of interest 5-7. A sample of as little as 200 ng of DNA is sufficient for the antibody, or immunoprecipitation (IP), reaction. DNA is sonicated into fragments ranging in size from 300-1000 bp, and is divided into immunoprecipitated (IP) and input (IN) portions. IP DNA is subsequently heat denatured and then incubated with anti-5'mC, allowing the monoclonal antibody to bind methylated DNA. After this, magnetic beads containing a secondary antibody with affinity for the primary antibody are added, and incubated. These bead-linked antibodies will bind the monoclonal antibody used in the first step. DNA bound to the antibody complex (methylated DNA) is separated from the rest of the DNA by using a magnet to pull the complexes out of solution. Several washes using IP buffer are then performed to remove the unbound, non-methylated DNA. The methylated DNA/antibody complexes are then digested with Proteinase K to digest the antibodies leaving only the methylated DNA intact. The enriched DNA is purified by phenol:chloroform extraction to remove the protein matter and then precipitated and resuspended in water for later use. PCR techniques can be used to validate the efficiency of the MeDIP procedure by analyzing the amplification products of IP and IN DNA for regions known to lack and known to contain methylated sequences. The purified methylated DNA can then be used for locus-specific (PCR) or genome-wide (microarray and sequencing) methylation studies, and is particularly useful when applied in conjunction with other research tools such as gene expression profiling and array comparative genome hybridization (CGH) 8. Further investigation into DNA methylation will lead to the discovery of new epigenetic targets, which in turn, may be useful in developing new therapeutic or prognostic research tools for diseases such as cancer that are characterized by aberrantly methylated DNA 2, 4, 9-11.
doi:10.3791/935
PMCID: PMC2763296  PMID: 19241501
17.  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.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000315.
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)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000315
PMCID: PMC2910599  PMID: 20668658

Results 1-17 (17)