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1.  Phase II Study of Temsirolimus in Women With Recurrent or Metastatic Endometrial Cancer: A Trial of the NCIC Clinical Trials Group 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2011;29(24):3278-3285.
Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) is a tumor suppressor gene, and loss of function mutations are common and appear to be important in the pathogenesis of endometrial carcinomas. Loss of PTEN causes deregulated phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase/serine-threonine kinase/mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K/Akt/mTOR) signaling which may provide neoplastic cells with a selective survival advantage by enhancing angiogenesis, protein translation, and cell cycle progression. Temsirolimus, an ester derivative of rapamycin that inhibits mTOR, was evaluated in this setting.
Patients and Methods
Sequential phase II studies evaluated single-agent activity of temsirolimus in women with recurrent or metastatic chemotherapy-naive or chemotherapy-treated endometrial cancer. Temsirolimus 25 mg intravenously was administered weekly in 4-week cycles.
In the chemotherapy-naive group, 33 patients received a median of four cycles (range, one to 23 cycles). Of the 29 patients evaluable for response, four (14%) had an independently confirmed partial response and 20 (69%) had stable disease as best response, with a median duration of 5.1 months (range, 3.7 to 18.4 months) and 9.7 months (range, 2.1 to 14.6 months). Only five patients (18%) had progressive disease. In the chemotherapy-treated group, 27 patients received a median of three cycles (range, one to six cycles). Of the 25 patients evaluable for response, one (4%) had an independently confirmed partial response, and 12 patients (48%) had stable disease, with a median duration of 4.3 months (range, 3.6 to 4.9 months) and 3.7 months (range, 2.4 to 23.2 months). PTEN loss (immunohistochemistry and mutational analysis) and molecular markers of PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway did not correlate with the clinical outcome.
mTOR inhibition with temsirolimus has encouraging single-agent activity in endometrial cancer which is higher in chemotherapy-naive patients than in chemotherapy-treated patients and is independent of PTEN status. The difference in activity according to prior therapy should be factored into future clinical trial designs.
PMCID: PMC3158598  PMID: 21788564
2.  Assessment of Hypoxia in the Stroma of Patient-Derived Pancreatic Tumor Xenografts 
Cancers  2014;6(1):459-471.
The unusually dense stroma of pancreatic cancers is thought to play an important role in their biological aggression. The presence of hypoxia is also considered an adverse prognostic factor. Although it is usually assumed that this is the result of effects of hypoxia on the epithelial component, it is possible that hypoxia exerts indirect effects via the tumor stroma. We therefore measured hypoxia in the stroma of a series of primary pancreatic cancer xenografts. Nine patient-derived pancreatic xenografts representing a range of oxygenation levels were labeled by immunohistochemistry for EF5 and analyzed using semi-automated pattern recognition software. Hypoxia in the tumor and stroma was correlated with tumor growth and metastatic potential. The extent of hypoxia varied from 1%–39% between the different models. EF5 labeling in the stroma ranged from 0–20% between models, and was correlated with the level of hypoxia in the tumor cell area, but not microvessel density. Tumor hypoxia correlated with spontaneous metastasis formation with the exception of one hypoxic model that showed disproportionately low levels of hypoxia in the stroma and was non-metastatic. Our results demonstrate that hypoxia exists in the stroma of primary pancreatic cancer xenografts and suggest that stromal hypoxia impacts the metastatic potential.
PMCID: PMC3980617  PMID: 24577243
pancreatic cancer; tumor hypoxia; tumor-associated stroma; patient-derived pancreatic xenograft models; pattern recognition software
3.  Stability and Heterogeneity of Expression Profiles in Lung Cancer Specimens Harvested Following Surgical Resection1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2004;6(6):761-767.
One of the major concerns in microarray profiling studies of clinical samples is the effect of tissue sampling and RNA extraction on data. We analyzed gene expression in lung cancer specimens that were serially harvested from tumor mass and snap-frozen at several intervals up to 120 minutes after surgical resection. Global gene expression was profiled on cDNA microarrays, and selected stress and hypoxiaactivated genes were evaluated using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Remarkably, similar gene expression profiles were obtained for the majority of samples regardless of the time that had elapsed between resection and freezing. Real-time RT-PCR studies showed significant heterogeneity in the expression levels of stress and hypoxia-activated genes in samples obtained from different areas of a tumor specimen at one time point after resection. The variations between multiple samplings were significantly greater than those of elapsed time between sampling/freezing. Overall samples snap-frozen within 30 to 60 minutes of surgical resection are acceptable for gene expression studies, thus making sampling and snap-freezing of tumor samples in a routine surgical pathology laboratory setting feasible. However, sampling and pooling from multiple sites of each tumor may be necessary for expression profiling studies to overcome the molecular heterogeneity present in tumor specimens.
PMCID: PMC1531680  PMID: 15720802
Lung cancer; microarray; real-time RT-PCR; tumor heterogeneity; surgical specimen
4.  Loss of Canonical Smad4 Signaling Promotes KRAS Driven Malignant Transformation of Human Pancreatic Duct Epithelial Cells and Metastasis  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84366.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in North America. Activating KRAS mutations and Smad4 loss occur in approximately 90% and 55% of PDAC, respectively. While their roles in the early stages of PDAC development have been confirmed in genetically modified mouse models, their roles in the multistep malignant transformation of human pancreatic duct cells have not been directly demonstrated. Here, we report that Smad4 represents a barrier in KRAS-mediated malignant transformation of the near normal immortalized human pancreatic duct epithelial (HPDE) cell line model. Marked Smad4 downregulation by shRNA in KRASG12V expressing HPDE cells failed to cause tumorigenic transformation. However, KRAS-mediated malignant transformation occurred in a new HPDE-TGF-β resistant (TβR) cell line that completely lacks Smad4 protein expression and is resistant to the mito-inhibitory activity of TGF-β. This transformation resulted in tumor formation and development of metastatic phenotype when the cells were implanted orthotopically into the mouse pancreas. Smad4 restoration re-established TGF-β sensitivity, markedly increased tumor latency by promoting apoptosis, and decreased metastatic potential. These results directly establish the critical combination of the KRAS oncogene and complete Smad4 inactivation in the multi-stage malignant transformation and metastatic progression of normal human HPDE cells.
PMCID: PMC3873993  PMID: 24386371
5.  Activation of Hepatocyte Growth Factor-Met Autocrine Loop Enhances Tumorigenicity in a Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cell Line1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2000;2(3):226-234.
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a multifunctional cytokine with effects on the proliferation, motility, and differentiation of cells that express its receptor Met. The co-expression of HGF and Met is common among non-small-cell lung cancers, especially adenocarcinoma. However, the biologic consequences of this putative HGF-Met autocrine signaling remain speculative. We have used retroviral gene transduction technique to express high levels of HGF in the NCI-H358 lung adenocarcinoma cells that have functionally active cell surface Met receptor. The activation of autocrine HGF-Met signaling was confirmed by the induction of spontaneous cell scattering activity. Compared to the parent and control cells transduced with the retroviral vector alone, HGF overexpressing H358 cells show enhanced capacity to colonize soft agar medium and to form xenograft tumors when implanted in the subcutaneous tissue of immune-deficient mice. These effects were not accompanied by changes in their growth rate in monolayer culture condition, or in the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor. The tumors formed by HGF overexpressing cells also showed more prominent glandular cell arrangement and functional activity. This report provides the direct in vivo evidence that autocrine HGF-Met signaling plays significant roles in the growth and differentiation of human lung adenocarcinoma cells.
PMCID: PMC1507572  PMID: 10935508
lung cancer; tumorigenicity; scatter factor; autocrine loop
6.  Prognostic and Predictive Role of the VeriStrat® Plasma Test in Patients with Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treated with Erlotinib or Placebo in the NCIC Clinical Trials Group BR.21 Trial 
We investigated the predictive and prognostic effects of VeriStrat®, a serum or plasma based assay, on response and survival in a subset of patients enrolled on the NCIC Clinical Trials Group (CTG) BR.21 phase III trial of erlotinib versus placebo in previously treated advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients.
Pretreatment plasma samples were available for 441 of 731 enrolled patients and were provided as anonymized aliquots to Biodesix. The VeriStrat test was performed in a CLIA-accredited laboratory at Biodesix, Inc. Results (Good, Poor) were returned to NCIC CTG, who performed all statistical analyses.
VeriStrat testing was successful in 436 samples (98.9%), with 61% classified as Good. VeriStrat was prognostic for overall survival in both erlotinib-treated patients and those on placebo, independent of clinical covariates. For VeriStrat Good patients, the median survival was 10.5 months on erlotinib vs. 6.6 months for placebo (HR 0.63, 95% C.I. 0.47–0.85, P=0.002). For VeriStrat Poor patients, the median survival was 4 months for patients receiving erlotinib, and 3.1 months for placebo (HR: 0.77, 95% C.I. 0.55–1.06, P=0.11). VeriStrat was predictive for objective response (P =0.002), but was not able to predict for differential survival benefit from erlotinib (interaction p-value 0.48). Similar results were found for progression-free survival (PFS).
We were able to confirm that VeriStrat is predictive of objective response to erlotinib. VeriStrat is prognostic for both OS and PFS, independent of clinical features, but is not predictive of differential survival benefit vs. placebo.
PMCID: PMC3728561  PMID: 23059783
erlotinib; proteomics; metastatic non-small cell lung cancer; biomarkers
7.  Overexpression and oncogenic function of aldo-keto reductase family 1B10 (AKR1B10) in pancreatic carcinoma 
Modern Pathology  2012;25(5):758-766.
Aldo-keto reductase family 1B10 (AKR1B10) exhibits more restricted lipid substrate specificity (including farnesal, geranylgeranial, retinal and carbonyls), a n d metabolizing these lipid substrates plays a crucial role in promoting carcinogenesis. Overexpression of AKR1B10 has been identified in smoking-related carcinomas such as lung cancer. As development of pancreatic cancer is firmly linked to smoking, the aim of the present study was to examine the expression and oncogenic role of AKR1B10 in pancreatic adenocarcinoma. AKR1B10 expression was analyzed in 50 paraffin-embedded clinical pancreatic cancer samples using immunohistochemistry. Oncogenic function of AKR1B10 was examined in pancreatic carcinoma cells in vitro using western blotting and siRNA approaches, mainly on cell apoptosis and protein prenylation including KRAS protein and its downstream signals. Immunohistochemistry analysis revealed that AKR1B10 over-expressed in 70% (35/50) of pancreatic adenocarcinomas and majority of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia, but not in adjacent morphologically normal pancreatic tissue. Compared to a normal pancreatic ductal epithelial cell (HPDE6E7), all of six cultured pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell lines had a over-expression of AKR1B10 using immunoblotting, which correlated with increase of enzyme activity. siRNA-mediated silencing of AKR1B10 expression in pancreatic cancer cells resulted in 1) increased cell apoptosis, 2) increased non-farnesyled HDJ2 protein, and 3) decreased membrane-bound prenylated KRAS protein and its downstream signaling molecules including phosphorylated ERK and MEK and membrane-bound E-cadherin. Our findings provide first time evidence of that AKR1B10 is a unique enzyme involved in pancreatic carcinogenesis possibly via modulation of cell apoptosis and protein prenylation.
PMCID: PMC3323665  PMID: 22222635
pancreatic adenocarcinoma; AKR1B10; prenylation; smoking; immunohistochemistry
8.  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
9.  Interaction between MYC and MCL1 in the genesis and outcome of non-small cell lung cancer 
Cancer research  2011;71(6):2212-2221.
MYC exerts both positive and negative functions in cancer cells, such that its pro-cancerous effects are unmasked only after its anticancer effects are blocked. Here we used multiple mouse models of lung adenocarcinoma to identify genetic events that can cooperate with MYC activation to promote the genesis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common form of lung cancer in humans. MYC over-expression targeted to pulmonary alveolar cells was sufficient to induce lung adenomas and carcinomas. Tumorigenesis was assisted by either spontaneous mutations in Kras or experimental introduction of activated RAS, but investigations revealed that additional events were required to circumvent apoptosis, one of the most significant negative functions exerted by MYC. We determined that over-expression of the anti-apoptotic protein MCL1 was sufficient to circumvent apoptosis in this setting. Previous clinical studies have indicated that prognosis of human NSCLC is not associated with MCL1, despite its over-expression in many NSCLCs. In re-examining the prognostic value in this setting, we found that MCL1 over-expression does correlate with poor patient survival, but only when accompanied by MYC over-expression. Our findings therefore produce a convergence of mouse and human results that explain how MCL1 can block an important negative consequence of MYC over-expression in both experimental models and clinical cases of NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3076947  PMID: 21406400
10.  Ancillary Testing in Lung Cancer Diagnosis 
Pulmonary Medicine  2012;2012:249082.
The pathologic diagnosis of lung cancer historically has relied primarily on morphologic features of tumors in histologic sections. With the emergence of new targeted therapies, the pathologist is called upon increasingly to provide not only accurate typing of lung cancers, but also to provide prognostic and predictive information, based on a growing number of ancillary tests, that may have significant impact on patient management. This review provides an overview of ancillary tests currently used in the pathologic diagnosis of lung cancer, with a focus on immunohistochemistry and molecular diagnostics.
PMCID: PMC3259481  PMID: 22263108
11.  Prognostic and Predictive value of EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Domain Mutation Status and Gene Copy Number for Adjuvant Chemotherapy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients with EGFR mutations may have a more favorable prognosis and greater response to chemotherapy. The effect of EGFR mutation and gene copy on early stage NSCLC patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy has not been reported.
Patients and Methods
Tumor samples from NCIC CTG JBR.10, an adjuvant trial of vinorelbine/cisplatin (ACT) versus observation (OBS), were analysed for EGFR mutation by multiple sensitive methods and copy number by fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH). Their prognostic and predictive roles were explored in correlation with survival.
Mutation results were available in 221 OBS, 215 ACT and FISH results in 159 OBS, 163 ACT patients. Mutations were identified in 43 (27 OBS, 16 ACT) patients (36 sensitizing exon-19 deletions or L858R mutations). Compared to wild type (WT), sensitizing mutations were not significantly prognostic in OBS patients (HR 0.79, 95%CI 0.38-1.63, p=0.53). Although the presence of sensitizing mutations resulted in relatively greater benefit in ACT patients (HR 0.44, 95%CI 0.11-1.70, p=0.22) compared to WT patients (HR 0.78, 95%CI 0.58-1.06, p=0.12), this quantitative difference was not significant (interaction p=0.50). Similarly, high EGFR copy was neither significantly prognostic, nor predictive, although quantitatively it was associated with greater benefit from ACT.
Trends towards longer survival and a greater benefit from chemotherapy were observed in patients with exon 19/21 mutations and high EGFR copy although the differences were not statistically significant. The interpretation of the results was limited by the low EGFR mutation rate in this study of mainly Caucasian patients.
PMCID: PMC3033998  PMID: 21107284
Biomarker; Prognostic marker; Predictive Marker; Sequencing; FISH; Clinical Trial; Correlative science
12.  Addition of multiple rare SNPs to known common variants improves the association between disease and gene in the Genetic Analysis Workshop 17 data 
BMC Proceedings  2011;5(Suppl 9):S97.
The upcoming release of new whole-genome genotyping technologies will shed new light on whether there is an associative effect of previously immeasurable rare variants on incidence of disease. For Genetic Analysis Workshop 17, our team focused on a statistical method to detect associations between gene-based multiple rare variants and disease status. We added a combination of rare SNPs to a common variant shown to have an influence on disease status. This method provides us with an enhanced ability to detect the effect of these rare variants, which, modeled alone, would normally be undetectable. Adjusting for significant clinical parameters, several genes were found to have multiple rare variants that were significantly associated with disease outcome.
PMCID: PMC3287939  PMID: 22373301
13.  An overview of the c-MET signaling pathway 
c-MET is a receptor tyrosine kinase that, after binding with its ligand, hepatocyte growth factor, activates a wide range of different cellular signaling pathways, including those involved in proliferation, motility, migration and invasion. Although c-MET is important in the control of tissue homeostasis under normal physiological conditions, it has also been found to be aberrantly activated in human cancers via mutation, amplification or protein overexpression. This paper provides an overview of the c-MET signaling pathway, including its role in the development of cancers, and provides a rationale for targeting the pathway as a possible treatment option.
PMCID: PMC3225017  PMID: 22128289
cancer; c-MET; hepatocyte growth factor (HGF); MET; signaling; receptor tyrosine kinase
14.  c-MET as a potential therapeutic target and biomarker in cancer 
Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology  2011;3(1 Suppl):S21-S35.
The receptor tyrosine kinase c-MET and its ligand, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), regulate multiple cellular processes that stimulate cell proliferation, invasion and angiogenesis. This review provides an overview of the evidence to support c-MET or the HGF/c-MET signaling pathway as relevant targets for personalized cancer treatment based on high frequencies of c-MET and/or HGF overexpression, activation, amplification in non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), gastric, ovarian, pancreatic, thyroid, breast, head and neck, colon and kidney carcinomas. Additionally, the current knowledge of small molecule inhibitors (tivantinib [ARQ 197]), c-MET/HGF antibodies (rilotumumab and MetMAb) and mechanisms of resistance to c-MET-targeted therapies are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3225018  PMID: 22128285
cancer; c-MET; hepatocyte growth factor; personalized medicine; targeted therapy
15.  Optimized application of penalized regression methods to diverse genomic data 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(24):3399-3406.
Motivation: Penalized regression methods have been adopted widely for high-dimensional feature selection and prediction in many bioinformatic and biostatistical contexts. While their theoretical properties are well-understood, specific methodology for their optimal application to genomic data has not been determined.
Results: Through simulation of contrasting scenarios of correlated high-dimensional survival data, we compared the LASSO, Ridge and Elastic Net penalties for prediction and variable selection. We found that a 2D tuning of the Elastic Net penalties was necessary to avoid mimicking the performance of LASSO or Ridge regression. Furthermore, we found that in a simulated scenario favoring the LASSO penalty, a univariate pre-filter made the Elastic Net behave more like Ridge regression, which was detrimental to prediction performance. We demonstrate the real-life application of these methods to predicting the survival of cancer patients from microarray data, and to classification of obese and lean individuals from metagenomic data. Based on these results, we provide an optimized set of guidelines for the application of penalized regression for reproducible class comparison and prediction with genomic data.
Availability and Implementation: A parallelized implementation of the methods presented for regression and for simulation of synthetic data is provided as the pensim R package, available at
Supplementary Information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3232376  PMID: 22156367
16.  Prognostic and Predictive Gene Signature for Adjuvant Chemotherapy in Resected Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(29):4417-4424.
The JBR.10 trial demonstrated benefit from adjuvant cisplatin/vinorelbine (ACT) in early-stage non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We hypothesized that expression profiling may identify stage-independent subgroups who might benefit from ACT.
Patients and Methods
Gene expression profiling was conducted on mRNA from 133 frozen JBR.10 tumor samples (62 observation [OBS], 71 ACT). The minimum gene set that was selected for the greatest separation of good and poor prognosis patient subgroups in OBS patients was identified. The prognostic value of this gene signature was tested in four independent published microarray data sets and by quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR).
A 15-gene signature separated OBS patients into high-risk and low-risk subgroups with significantly different survival (hazard ratio [HR], 15.02; 95% CI, 5.12 to 44.04; P < .001; stage I HR, 13.31; P < .001; stage II HR, 13.47; P < .001). The prognostic effect was verified in the same 62 OBS patients where gene expression was assessed by qPCR. Furthermore, it was validated consistently in four separate microarray data sets (total 356 stage IB to II patients without adjuvant treatment) and additional JBR.10 OBS patients by qPCR (n = 19). The signature was also predictive of improved survival after ACT in JBR.10 high-risk patients (HR, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.17 to 0.63; P = .0005), but not in low-risk patients (HR, 3.67; 95% CI, 1.22 to 11.06; P = .0133; interaction P < .001). Significant interaction between risk groups and ACT was verified by qPCR.
This 15-gene expression signature is an independent prognostic marker in early-stage, completely resected NSCLC, and to our knowledge, is the first signature that has demonstrated the potential to select patients with stage IB to II NSCLC most likely to benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy with cisplatin/vinorelbine.
PMCID: PMC2988634  PMID: 20823422
17.  TRAF6 is an amplified oncogene bridging the RAS and NF-κB pathways in human lung cancer  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(10):4095-4105.
Somatic mutations and copy number alterations (as a result of deletion or amplification of large portions of a chromosome) are major drivers of human lung cancers. Detailed analysis of lung cancer–associated chromosomal amplifications could identify novel oncogenes. By performing an integrative cytogenetic and gene expression analysis of non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines and tumors, we report here the identification of a frequently recurring amplification at chromosome 11 band p13. Within this region, only TNF receptor–associated factor 6 (TRAF6) exhibited concomitant mRNA overexpression and gene amplification in lung cancers. Inhibition of TRAF6 in human lung cancer cell lines suppressed NF-κB activation, anchorage-independent growth, and tumor formation. In these lung cancer cell lines, RAS required TRAF6 for its oncogenic capabilities. Furthermore, TRAF6 overexpression in NIH3T3 cells resulted in NF-κB activation, anchorage-independent growth, and tumor formation. Our findings show that TRAF6 is an oncogene that is important for RAS-mediated oncogenesis and provide a mechanistic explanation for the previously apparent importance of constitutive NF-κB activation in RAS-driven lung cancers.
PMCID: PMC3195480  PMID: 21911935
Cancer gene therapy  2010;18(2):135-143.
K-ras mutations occur in as high as 95% of patients with pancreatic cancer. K-ras activates Rac1-dependent NADPH oxidase, a key source of superoxide. Superoxide plays an important role in pancreatic cancer cell proliferation and scavenging or decreasing the levels of superoxide inhibits pancreatic cancer cell growth both in vitro and in vivo. DNA microarray analysis and RT-PCR has demonstrated that Rac1 is also upregulated in pancreatic cancer. The aim of this study was to determine if inhibiting Rac1 would alter pancreatic tumor cell behavior. Human pancreatic cancer cells with mutant K-ras (MIA PaCa-2), wild-type K-ras (BxPC-3), and the immortal H6c7 cell line (pancreatic ductal epithelium) expressing K-ras oncogene (H6c7eR-KrasT) that is tumorigenic, were infected with a dominant/negative Rac1 construct (AdN17Rac1). In cells with mutant K-ras, AdN17Rac1 decreased rac activity, decreased superoxide levels, and inhibited in vitro growth. However in the BxPC-3 cell line, AdN17Rac1 did not change rac activity, superoxide levels, or in vitro cell growth. Additionally, AdN17Rac1 decreased superoxide levels and inhibited in vitro growth in the KrasT tumorigenic cell line, but had no effect in the immortalized H6c7 cell line. In human pancreatic tumor xenografts, intratumoral injections of AdN17Rac1 inhibited tumor growth. These results suggest that activation of Rac1-dependent superoxide generation leads to pancreatic cancer cell proliferation. In pancreatic cancer inhibition of Rac1 may be a potential therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3058504  PMID: 21037555
Rac-1; NADPH oxidase; pancreatic cancer; reactive oxygen species
19.  Global Profiling and Molecular Characterization of Alternative Splicing Events Misregulated in Lung Cancer ▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;31(1):138-150.
Alternative splicing (AS) is a widespread mechanism underlying the generation of proteomic and regulatory complexity. However, which of the myriad of human AS events play important roles in disease is largely unknown. To identify frequently occurring AS events in lung cancer, we used AS microarray profiling and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) assays to survey patient-matched normal and adenocarcinoma tumor tissues from the lungs of 29 individuals diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Of 5,183 profiled alternative exons, four displayed tumor-associated changes in the majority of the patients. These events affected transcripts from the VEGFA, MACF1, APP, and NUMB genes. Similar AS changes were detected in NUMB and APP transcripts in primary breast and colon tumors. Tumor-associated increases in NUMB exon 9 inclusion correlated with reduced levels of NUMB protein expression and activation of the Notch signaling pathway, an event that has been linked to tumorigenesis. Moreover, short hairpin RNA (shRNA) knockdown of NUMB followed by isoform-specific rescue revealed that expression of the exon 9-skipped (nontumor) isoform represses Notch target gene activation whereas expression of the exon 9-included (tumor) isoform lacks this activity and is capable of promoting cell proliferation. The results thus reveal widespread AS changes in NSCLC that impact cell signaling in a manner that likely contributes to tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3019846  PMID: 21041478
20.  Modified gateway system for double shRNA expression and Cre/lox based gene expression 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:24.
The growing need for functional studies of genes has set the stage for the development of versatile tools for genetic manipulations.
Aiming to provide tools for high throughput analysis of gene functions, we have developed a modified short hairpin RNA (shRNA) and gene expression system based on Gateway Technology. The system contains a series of entry and destination vectors that enables easy transfer of shRNA or cDNA into lentiviral expression systems with a variety of selection or marker genes (i.e. puromycin, hygromycin, green fluorescent protein-EGFP, yellow fluorescent protein-YFP and red fluorescent protein-dsRed2). Our shRNA entry vector pENTR.hU6.hH1 containing two tandem human shRNA expression promoters, H1 and U6, was capable of co-expressing two shRNA sequences simultaneously. The entry vector for gene overexpression, pENTR.CMV.ON was constructed to contain CMV promoter with a multiple cloning site flanked by loxP sites allowing for subsequent Cre/lox recombination. Both shRNA and cDNA expression vectors also contained attL sites necessary for recombination with attR sites in our destination expression vectors. As proof of principle we demonstrate the functionality and efficiency of this system by testing expression of several cDNA and shRNA sequences in a number of cell lines.
Our system is a valuable addition to already existing library of Gateway based vectors and can be an essential tool for many aspects of gene functional studies.
PMCID: PMC3070635  PMID: 21418658
21.  Differential utilization of NF-kappaB RELA and RELB in response to extracellular versus intracellular polyIC stimulation in HT1080 cells 
BMC Immunology  2011;12:15.
Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) for double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) are components of innate immunity that recognize the presence of viral infection and initiate efficient defense mechanisms. In addition to previously well-characterized signaling pathways that are mediated by PKR and TLR3, new intracellular dsRNA sensors, that are members of CARD and DExD/H box helicase family, have been identified. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in the signaling pathways mediated by these new dsRNA sensors have not been extensively characterized.
Here, we studied an intracellular dsRNA pathway in the human fibrosarcoma cell line HT1080, which is distinct from the TLR3-mediated extracellular dsRNA pathway. Particularly, the NF-kB subunits RELA and RELB were differentially utilized by these two dsRNA signaling pathways. In TLR3-mediated dsRNA signaling, siRNA knock-down studies suggested a limited role for RELA on regulation of interferon beta and other cytokines whereas RELB appeared to have a negative regulatory role. By contrast, intracellular dsRNA signaling was dependent on RELA, but not RELB.
Our study suggests that extracellular and intracellular dsRNA signaling pathways may utilize different NF-kB members, and particularly the differential utilization of RELB may be a key mechanism for powerful inductions of NF-kB regulated genes in the intracellular dsRNA signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3048558  PMID: 21310030
22.  Randomized Phase III Trial of Vinorelbine Plus Cisplatin Compared With Observation in Completely Resected Stage IB and II Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer: Updated Survival Analysis of JBR-10 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2009;28(1):29-34.
Adjuvant cisplatin-based chemotherapy (ACT) is now an accepted standard for completely resected stage II and III A non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Long-term follow-up is important to document persistent benefit and late toxicity. We report here updated overall survival (OS) and disease-specific survival (DSS) data.
Patients and Methods
Patients with completely resected stage IB (T2N0, n = 219) or II (T1-2N1, n = 263) NSCLC were randomly assigned to receive 4 cycles of vinorelbine/cisplatin or observation. All efficacy analyses were performed on an intention-to-treat basis.
Median follow-up was 9.3 years (range, 5.8 to 13.8; 33 lost to follow-up); there were 271 deaths in 482 randomly assigned patients. ACT continues to show a benefit (hazard ratio [HR], 0.78; 95% CI, 0.61 to 0.99; P = .04). There was a trend for interaction with disease stage (P = .09; HR for stage II, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.5 to 0.92; P = .01; stage IB, HR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.7 to 1.52; P = .87). ACT resulted in significantly prolonged DSS (HR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.55 to 0.97; P = .03). Observation was associated with significantly higher risk of death from lung cancer (P = .02), with no difference in rates of death from other causes or second primary malignancies between the arms.
Prolonged follow-up of patients from the JBR.10 trial continues to show a benefit in survival for adjuvant chemotherapy. This benefit appears to be confined to N1 patients. There was no increase in death from other causes in the chemotherapy arm.
PMCID: PMC2799232  PMID: 19933915
23.  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
24.  Rb deletion in mouse mammary progenitors induces luminal-B or basal-like/EMT tumor subtypes depending on p53 status  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(9):3296-3309.
Breast cancer is a highly heterogeneous disease, with several different subtypes being characterized by distinct histology, gene expression patterns, and genetic alterations. The tumor suppressor gene retinoblastoma 1 (RB1) is frequently lost in both luminal-B and triple-negative tumor (TNT; i.e., estrogen receptor–, progesterone receptor–, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2–negative) breast cancer subtypes. However, a causal role for RB1 loss in different subtypes remains undefined. Here we report that deletion of Rb alone or together with its relative p107 in mouse mammary stem/bipotent progenitor cells induced focal acinar hyperplasia with squamous metaplasia. These lesions progressed into histologically diverse, transplantable mammary tumors with features of either luminal-B or TNT subtypes. The TNTs included basal-like tumors as well as tumors that exhibited epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The EMT-type tumors and a subset of the basal-like tumors, but not luminal-B–like tumors, expressed mutant forms of the tumor suppressor p53. Accordingly, targeted deletion of both Rb and p53 in stem/bipotent progenitors led to histologically uniform, aggressive, EMT-type tumors. Reintroduction of Rb into these tumor cells suppressed growth in vitro and tumor formation in vivo. These results establish a causal role for Rb loss in breast cancer in mice and demonstrate that cooperating oncogenic events, such as mutations in p53, dictate tumor subtype after Rb inactivation.
PMCID: PMC2929714  PMID: 20679727
25.  FISH assay development for the detection of p16/CDKN2A deletion in malignant pleural mesothelioma 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  2010;63(7):630-634.
To develop a fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (FISH) assay for detecting p16/CDKN2A deletion on paraffin tissue sections for use as an ancillary test to distinguish reactive from malignant mesothelial proliferations.
Dual-colour FISH for p16/CDKN2A and chromosome 9 (CEP-9) was performed on 11 benign mesothelial proliferations and 54 malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) cases to establish cut-off values for p16/CDKN2A deletion. A third MYC probe was used to verify cases showing homozygous deletion. Eight equivocal biopsies were used for assay testing.
Cut-off values for p16/CDKN2A deletion were calculated based on FISH signalling patterns obtained from the benign controls (mean percent nuclei plus three standard deviations). Hemizygous deletion was defined as >44% of nuclei showing the hemizygous (one p16/CDKN2A, two CEP-9 signals) or >15% of nuclei showing the monosomy (one p16/CDKN2A, one CEP-9 signal) deletion patterns. None of the benign cases showed a homozygous deletion pattern (no p16/CDKN2A, at least one CEP-9 signal). In the malignant cases, the percentage of nuclei showing homozygous deletion ranged from 1% to 87%. Therefore, the cut-off value for homozygous deletion was defined as >10%. P16/CDKN2A deletion was detected in 61% (33/54) of MPM cases. Among the equivocal biopsies, four showed homozygous and one showed hemizygous p16/CDKN2A deletion. Age over 60 years, asbestos exposure and p16/CDKN2A deletion were associated with a worse prognosis.
Distinction between benign and malignant mesothelial proliferations can be diagnostically challenging. FISH for p16/CDKN2A deletion is a useful test for confirming the diagnosis of MPM.
PMCID: PMC2989172  PMID: 20591913
Mesothelioma; p16; CDKN2A; gene deletion; fluorescence in situ hybridisation; FISH; malignant tumours; pleura

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