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1.  Biotensegrity of the Extracellular Matrix: Physiology, Dynamic Mechanical Balance, and Implications in Oncology and Mechanotherapy 
Cells have the capacity to convert mechanical stimuli into chemical changes. This process is based on the tensegrity principle, a mechanism of tensional integrity. To date, this principle has been demonstrated to act in physiological processes such as mechanotransduction and mechanosensing at different scales (from cell sensing through integrins to molecular mechanical interventions or even localized massage). The process involves intra- and extracellular components, including the participation of extracellular matrix (ECM) and microtubules that act as compression structures, and actin filaments which act as tension structures. The nucleus itself has its own tensegrity system which is implicated in cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Despite present advances, only the tip of the iceberg has so far been uncovered regarding the role of ECM compounds in influencing biotensegrity in pathological processes. Groups of cells, together with the surrounding ground substance, are subject to different and specific forces that certainly influence biological processes. In this paper, we review the current knowledge on the role of ECM elements in determining biotensegrity in malignant processes and describe their implication in therapeutic response, resistance to chemo- and radiotherapy, and subsequent tumor progression. Original data based on the study of neuroblastic tumors will be provided.
doi:10.3389/fonc.2014.00039
PMCID: PMC3940942  PMID: 24624363
biotensegrity; cancer; extracellular matrix; mechanotherapy; neuroblastoma
2.  TMA Vessel Segmentation Based on Color and Morphological Features: Application to Angiogenesis Research 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:263190.
Given that angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis are strongly related to prognosis in neoplastic and other pathologies and that many methods exist that provide different results, we aim to construct a morphometric tool allowing us to measure different aspects of the shape and size of vascular vessels in a complete and accurate way. The developed tool presented is based on vessel closing which is an essential property to properly characterize the size and the shape of vascular and lymphatic vessels. The method is fast and accurate improving existing tools for angiogenesis analysis. The tool also improves the accuracy of vascular density measurements, since the set of endothelial cells forming a vessel is considered as a single object.
doi:10.1155/2013/263190
PMCID: PMC3893865  PMID: 24489494
4.  snoRNPs Regulate Telomerase Activity in Neuroblastoma and Are Associated with Poor Prognosis12 
Translational Oncology  2013;6(4):447-457.
Amplification of the MYCN oncogene is strongly associated with poor prognosis in neuroblastoma (NB). In addition to MYCN amplification, many studies have focused on identifying patients with a poor prognosis based on gene expression profiling. The majority of prognostic signatures today are comprised of large gene lists limiting their clinical application. In addition, although of prognostic significance, most of these signatures fail to identify cellular processes that can explain their relation to prognosis. Here, we determined prognostically predictive genes in a data set containing 251 NBs. Gene Ontology analysis was performed on significant genes with a positive hazard ratio to search for cellular processes associated with poor prognosis. An enrichment in ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) was found. Genes involved in the stabilization and formation of the central small nucleolar RNP (snoRNP) complex were scrutinized using a backward conditional Cox regression resulting in an snoRNP signature consisting of three genes: DKC1, NHP2, and GAR1. The snoRNP signature significantly and independently predicted prognosis when compared to the established clinical risk factors. Association of snoRNP protein expression and prognosis was confirmed using tissue micro-arrays. Knockdown of snoRNP expression in NB cell lines resulted in reduced telomerase activity and an increase in anaphase bridge frequency. In addition, in patient material, expression of the snoRNP complex was significantly associated with telomerase activity, occurrence of segmental aberrations, and expression-based measurements of chromosomal instability. Together, these results underscore the prognostic value of snoRNP complex expression in NB and suggest a role for snoRNPs in telomere maintenance and genomic stability.
PMCID: PMC3730020  PMID: 23908688
5.  Genetic Instability and Intratumoral Heterogeneity in Neuroblastoma with MYCN Amplification Plus 11q Deletion 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53740.
Background/Aim
Genetic analysis in neuroblastoma has identified the profound influence of MYCN amplification and 11q deletion in patients’ prognosis. These two features of high-risk neuroblastoma usually occur as mutually exclusive genetic markers, although in rare cases both are present in the same tumor. The purpose of this study was to characterize the genetic profile of these uncommon neuroblastomas harboring both these high-risk features.
Methods
We selected 18 neuroblastomas with MNA plus 11q loss detected by FISH. Chromosomal aberrations were analyzed using Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification and Single Nucleotide Polymorphism array techniques.
Results and Conclusion
This group of tumors has approximately the same high frequency of aberrations as found earlier for 11q deleted tumors. In some cases, DNA instability generates genetic heterogeneity, and must be taken into account in routine genetic diagnosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053740
PMCID: PMC3544899  PMID: 23341988
6.  Focal DNA Copy Number Changes in Neuroblastoma Target MYCN Regulated Genes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52321.
Neuroblastoma is an embryonic tumor arising from immature sympathetic nervous system cells. Recurrent genomic alterations include MYCN and ALK amplification as well as recurrent patterns of gains and losses of whole or large partial chromosome segments. A recent whole genome sequencing effort yielded no frequently recurring mutations in genes other than those affecting ALK. However, the study further stresses the importance of DNA copy number alterations in this disease, in particular for genes implicated in neuritogenesis. Here we provide additional evidence for the importance of focal DNA copy number gains and losses, which are predominantly observed in MYCN amplified tumors. A focal 5 kb gain encompassing the MYCN regulated miR-17∼92 cluster as sole gene was detected in a neuroblastoma cell line and further analyses of the array CGH data set demonstrated enrichment for other MYCN target genes in focal gains and amplifications. Next we applied an integrated genomics analysis to prioritize MYCN down regulated genes mediated by MYCN driven miRNAs within regions of focal heterozygous or homozygous deletion. We identified RGS5, a negative regulator of G-protein signaling implicated in vascular normalization, invasion and metastasis, targeted by a focal homozygous deletion, as a new MYCN target gene, down regulated through MYCN activated miRNAs. In addition, we expand the miR-17∼92 regulatory network controlling TGFß signaling in neuroblastoma with the ring finger protein 11 encoding gene RNF11, which was previously shown to be targeted by the miR-17∼92 member miR-19b. Taken together, our data indicate that focal DNA copy number imbalances in neuroblastoma (1) target genes that are implicated in MYCN signaling, possibly selected to reinforce MYCN oncogene addiction and (2) serve as a resource for identifying new molecular targets for treatment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052321
PMCID: PMC3537730  PMID: 23308108
7.  Genome-wide promoter methylation analysis in neuroblastoma identifies prognostic methylation biomarkers 
Genome Biology  2012;13(10):R95.
Background
Accurate outcome prediction in neuroblastoma, which is necessary to enable the optimal choice of risk-related therapy, remains a challenge. To improve neuroblastoma patient stratification, this study aimed to identify prognostic tumor DNA methylation biomarkers.
Results
To identify genes silenced by promoter methylation, we first applied two independent genome-wide methylation screening methodologies to eight neuroblastoma cell lines. Specifically, we used re-expression profiling upon 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) treatment and massively parallel sequencing after capturing with a methyl-CpG-binding domain (MBD-seq). Putative methylation markers were selected from DAC-upregulated genes through a literature search and an upfront methylation-specific PCR on 20 primary neuroblastoma tumors, as well as through MBD- seq in combination with publicly available neuroblastoma tumor gene expression data. This yielded 43 candidate biomarkers that were subsequently tested by high-throughput methylation-specific PCR on an independent cohort of 89 primary neuroblastoma tumors that had been selected for risk classification and survival. Based on this analysis, methylation of KRT19, FAS, PRPH, CNR1, QPCT, HIST1H3C, ACSS3 and GRB10 was found to be associated with at least one of the classical risk factors, namely age, stage or MYCN status. Importantly, HIST1H3C and GNAS methylation was associated with overall and/or event-free survival.
Conclusions
This study combines two genome-wide methylation discovery methodologies and is the most extensive validation study in neuroblastoma performed thus far. We identified several novel prognostic DNA methylation markers and provide a basis for the development of a DNA methylation-based prognostic classifier in neuroblastoma.
doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-10-r95
PMCID: PMC3491423  PMID: 23034519
8.  Outcome Prediction of Children with Neuroblastoma using a Multigene Expression Signature, a Retrospective SIOPEN/COG/GPOH Study 
The lancet oncology  2009;10(7):663-671.
BACKGROUND
More accurate prognostic assessment of patients with neuroblastoma is required to improve the choice of risk-related therapy. The aim of this study is to develop and validate a gene expression signature for improved outcome prediction.
METHODS
Fifty-nine genes were carefully selected based on an innovative data-mining strategy and profiled in the largest neuroblastoma patient series (n=579) to date using RT-qPCR starting from only 20 ng of RNA. A multigene expression signature was built using 30 training samples, tested on 313 test samples and subsequently validated in a blind study on an independent set of 236 additional tumours.
FINDINGS
The signature accurately classifies patients with respect to overall and progression-free survival (p<0·0001). The signature has a performance, sensitivity, and specificity of 85·4% (95%CI: 77·7–93·2), 84·4% (95%CI: 66·5–94·1), and 86·5% (95%CI: 81·1–90·6), respectively to predict patient outcome. Multivariate analysis indicates that the signature is a significant independent predictor after controlling for currently used riskfactors. Patients with high molecular risk have a higher risk to die from disease and for relapse/progression than patients with low molecular risk (odds ratio of 19·32 (95%CI: 6·50–57·43) and 3·96 (95%CI: 1·97–7·97) for OS and PFS, respectively). Patients with increased risk for adverse outcome can also be identified within the current treatment groups demonstrating the potential of this signature for improved clinical management. These results were confirmed in the validation study in which the signature was also independently statistically significant in a model adjusted for MYCN status, age, INSS stage, ploidy, INPC grade of differentiation, and MKI. The high patient/gene ratio (579/59) underlies the observed statistical power and robustness.
INTERPRETATION
A 59-gene expression signature predicts outcome of neuroblastoma patients with high accuracy. The signature is an independent risk predictor, identifying patients with increased risk in the current clinical risk groups. The applied method and signature is suitable for routine lab testing and ready for evaluation in prospective studies.
FUNDING
The Belgian Foundation Against Cancer, found of public interest (project SCIE2006-25), the Children Cancer Fund Ghent, the Belgian Society of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology, the Belgian Kid’s Fund and the Fondation Nuovo-Soldati (JV), the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (KDP, JH), the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (grant number: G•0198•08), the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders, Strategisch basisonderzoek (IWT-SBO 60848), the Fondation Fournier Majoie pour l’Innovation, the Instituto Carlos III,RD 06/0020/0102 Spain, the Italian Neuroblastoma Foundation, the European Community under the FP6 (project: STREP: EET-pipeline, number: 037260), and the Belgian program of Interuniversity Poles of Attraction, initiated by the Belgian State, Prime Minister's Office, Science Policy Programming.
doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(09)70154-8
PMCID: PMC3045079  PMID: 19515614
9.  Influence of Neuroblastoma Stage on Serum-Based Detection of MYCN Amplification 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2009;53(3):329-331.
Background
MYCN oncogene amplification has been defined as the most important prognostic factor for neuroblastoma, the most common solid extracranial neoplasm in children. High copy numbers are strongly associated with rapid tumor progression and poor outcome, independently of tumor stage or patient age, and this has become an important factor in treatment stratification.
Procedure
By Real Time Quantitative PCR analysis, we evaluated the clinical relevance of circulating MYCN DNA of 267 patients with locoregional or metastatic neuroblastoma in children less than 18 months of age.
Results
For patients in this age group with INSS stage 4 or 4S NB and stage 3 patients, serum-based determination of MYCN DNA sequences had good sensitivity (85%, 83% and 75% respectively) and high specificity (100%) when compared to direct tumor gene determination. In contrast, the approach showed low sensitivity patients with stage 1 and 2 disease.
Conclusion
Our results show that the sensitivity of the serum-based MYCN DNA sequence determination depends on the stage of the disease. However, this simple, reproducible assay may represent a reasonably sensitive and very specific tool to assess tumor MYCN status in cases with stage 3 and metastatic disease for whom a wait and see strategy is often recommended.
doi:10.1002/pbc.22009
PMCID: PMC2857568  PMID: 19301388
Circulating DNA; MYCN amplification; neuroblastoma
10.  Multiplex Amplicon Quantification (MAQ), a fast and efficient method for the simultaneous detection of copy number alterations in neuroblastoma 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:298.
Background
Cancer genomes display characteristic patterns of chromosomal imbalances, often with diagnostic and prognostic relevance. Therefore assays for genome-wide copy number screening and simultaneous detection of copy number alterations in specific chromosomal regions are of increasing importance in the diagnostic work-up of tumors.
Results
We tested the performance of Multiplex Amplicon Quantification, a newly developed low-cost, closed-tube and high-throughput PCR-based technique for detection of copy number alterations in regions with prognostic relevance for neuroblastoma. Comparison with array CGH and the established Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification method on 52 neuroblastoma tumors showed that Multiplex Amplicon Quantification can reliably detect the important genomic aberrations.
Conclusion
Multiplex Amplicon Quantification is a low-cost and high-throughput PCR-based technique that can reliably detect copy number alterations in regions with prognostic relevance for neuroblastoma.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-298
PMCID: PMC2879279  PMID: 20459859
11.  Tissue microarrays: applications in study of p16 and p53 alterations in Ewing's cell lines 
Diagnostic Pathology  2008;3(Suppl 1):S27.
Background
Tissue microarrays (TMAs) are used to study genomics and proteomics in several tumour tissue samples. Cell lines (CC) are of great importance in the study of the genetic changes in tumours, and some reveal several aspects of tumour oncogenesis. There are few published reports on Ewing's tumours with TMAs including original tumours (OT) and corresponding CC.
Methods
We have performed four TMAs, from 3 OT and the corresponding CC of successive in vivo and in vitro tumour passages. Xenotransplant CC in nude mice from OT (XT/OT) was made. Subsequently multiple XT were performed and in vitro XT cell line (CC/XT) was obtained. In vivo re-inoculation of CC/XT (XT/CC) was planned. TMAs with the successive tumour passages that grew in nude mice (XT/OT and XT/CC) were analyzed by morphologic pattern (Hematoxilin/eosin), immunohistochemical staining (CD99, FLI1, p16, p53, ki-67), fluorescent in situ hybridization-FISH-(EWSR1 break apart, p16 and p53 status) and gene fusion types.
Results
Heterogeneous results of the p16, p53 and ki67 in OT, XT/OT, CC/XT and XT/CC were observed. The three cell lines revealed EWS/FLI1 rearrangements. p16 gene was deleted only in one case. The deletion was detected by FISH and confirmed by PCR assays. A p53 alteration was found in the second case with monosomy and subsequently polysomic status of chromosome 17 during the evolution of CC. The PCR study revealed p53 mutation. The third case showed hypermethylation in the promoter of p16. The growth of the tumour in nude mice was more accelerated when the inoculation was performed from the CC/XT, increasing progressively over the passages. The third case did not reveal tumour growth in nude mice after the re-inoculation of CC/XT.
Conclusion
The study of several cores from original tumours and successive tumour passages in TMAs facilitated the analysis of the genetic alteration and protein expression in Ewing's tumours.
doi:10.1186/1746-1596-3-S1-S27
PMCID: PMC2500108  PMID: 18673516

Results 1-11 (11)