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1.  Clear Cell Sarcoma of the Kidney Demonstrates an Embryonic Signature Indicative of a Primitive Nephrogenic Origin 
Genes, chromosomes & cancer  2014;53(5):381-391.
Clear cell sarcoma of the kidney (CCSK) is a tumor affecting children with a median age of 3 years at diagnosis. The cell of origin of CCSK is unknown and data on the molecular changes giving rise to CCSK is scarce. This has hindered the identification of positive diagnostic markers and development of molecularly targeted treatment protocols for CCSK. We have characterized a panel of CCSK to gain information regarding its molecular profile and possible origin. High-resolution genomic analysis with single nucleotide polymorphism array of 37 tumors did not reveal any clues to the mechanisms behind tumor development as remarkably few genetic imbalances were found. Gene expression analysis revealed a highly characteristic gene signature, enriched for pathways involved in embryonic development, including kidney formation. The presence of markers for two different developmental lineages in the embryonic kidney was therefore investigated in the tumor cells. FOXD1 which identifies cells giving rise to stromal elements, and CITED1, a marker for cells primed for nephrogenic epithelial differentiation, were both highly expressed in CCSK. In addition, the early embryonic marker OSR1 was expressed at higher levels in CCSK than in Wilms tumor, normal fetal kidney or adult kidney. As this marker discriminates the intermediate mesoderm from other mesodermal structures, our study could suggest that CCSK arises from a mesodermal cell type that retains the capacity to initiate differentiation towards both nephrons and stroma, but remains locked in a primitive state.
PMCID: PMC4334316  PMID: 24488803
2.  Bilateral botryoid nephroblastoma: a rare cause of renal failure 
BMJ Case Reports  2012;2012:bcr0220125854.
The authors describe the case of a 16-month-old girl who presented with bilateral hydronephrosis and renal failure secondary to bilateral renal pelvic botryoid Wilms’ tumour (nephroblastoma). The term ‘botryoid’ describes an intrapelvic polypoid renal Wilms tumour, either extending from the renal parenchyma or primarily pelvis-based tumour. Both tumours filled the renal pelvis and extended down the proximal ureter, with no intraparenchymal tumour seen. Bilateral intralobar nephrogenic rests were present. Histological examination demonstrated triphasic nephroblastoma, with focal rhabdomyomatous differentiation of the stromal element bilaterally. Postchemotherapy, the patient underwent bilateral nephrectomy. Post complete resection of her bilateral disease, this patient has had an excellent outcome. This is only the third reported case of bilateral botryoid Wilms’ tumour. While the condition is extremely rare, it should be included in the differential diagnosis of a young child with bilateral renal pelvic masses.
PMCID: PMC3448738  PMID: 22962373
3.  Succinate Dehydrogenase Mutation Underlies Global Epigenomic Divergence in Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor 
Cancer discovery  2013;3(6):648-657.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) harbor driver mutations of signal transduction kinases such as KIT, or, alternatively, manifest loss-of-function defects in the mitochondrial succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex, a component of the Krebs cycle and electron transport chain. We have uncovered a striking divergence between the DNA methylation profiles of SDH-deficient GIST (n = 24) versus KIT tyrosine kinase pathway–mutated GIST (n = 39). Infinium 450K methylation array analysis of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues disclosed an order of magnitude greater genomic hypermethylation relative to SDH-deficient GIST versus the KIT-mutant group (84.9 K vs. 8.4 K targets). Epigenomic divergence was further found among SDH-mutant paraganglioma/pheochromocytoma (n = 29), a developmentally distinct SDH-deficient tumor system. Comparison of SDH -mutant GIST with isocitrate dehydrogenase -mutant glioma, another Krebs cycle–defective tumor type, revealed comparable measures of global hypo- and hypermethylation. These data expose a vital connection between succinate metabolism and genomic DNA methylation during tumorigenesis, and generally implicate the mitochondrial Krebs cycle in nuclear epigenomic maintenance.
This study shows that SDH deficiency underlies pervasive DNA hypermethylation in multiple tumor lineages, generally defining the Krebs cycle as mitochondrial custodian of the methylome. We propose that this phenomenon may result from a failure of maintenance CpG demethylation, secondary to inhibition of the TET 5-methylcytosine dioxgenase demethylation pathway, by inhibitory metabolites that accumulate in tumors with Krebs cycle dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC4135374  PMID: 23550148
4.  Post-Transcriptional Dysregulation by miRNAs Is Implicated in the Pathogenesis of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor [GIST] 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64102.
In contrast to adult mutant gastrointestinal stromal tumors [GISTs], pediatric/wild-type GISTs remain poorly understood overall, given their lack of oncogenic activating tyrosine kinase mutations. These GISTs, with a predilection for gastric origin in female patients, show limited response to therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors and generally pursue a more indolent course, but still may prove fatal. Defective cellular respiration appears to underpin tumor development in these wild-type cases, which as a group lack expression of succinate dehydrogenase [SDH] B, a surrogate marker for respiratory chain metabolism. Yet, only a small subset of the wild-type tumors show mutations in the genes coding for the SDH subunits [SDHx]. To explore additional pathogenetic mechanisms in these wild-type GISTs, we elected to investigate post-transcriptional regulation of these tumors by conducting microRNA (miRNA) profiling of a mixed cohort of 73 cases including 18 gastric pediatric wild-type, 25 (20 gastric, 4 small bowel and 1 retroperitoneal) adult wild-type GISTs and 30 gastric adult mutant GISTs. By this approach we have identified distinct signatures for GIST subtypes which correlate tightly with clinico-pathological parameters. A cluster of miRNAs on 14q32 show strikingly different expression patterns amongst GISTs, a finding which appears to be explained at least in part by differential allelic methylation of this imprinted region. Small bowel and retroperitoneal wild-type GISTs segregate with adult mutant GISTs and express SDHB, while adult wild-type gastric GISTs are dispersed amongst adult mutant and pediatric wild-type cases, clustering in this situation on the basis of SDHB expression. Interestingly, global methylation analysis has recently similarly demonstrated that these wild-type, SDHB-immunonegative tumors show a distinct pattern compared with KIT and PDGFRA mutant tumors, which as a rule do express SDHB. All cases with Carney triad within our cohort cluster together tightly.
PMCID: PMC3663836  PMID: 23717541
5.  miRNA Profiles as a Predictor of Chemoresponsiveness in Wilms’ Tumor Blastema 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53417.
The current SIOP treatment protocol for Wilms’ tumor involves pre-operative chemotherapy followed by nephrectomy. Not all patients benefit equally from such chemotherapy. The aim of this study was to generate a miRNA profile of chemo resistant blastemal cells in high risk Wilms’ tumors which might serve as predictive markers of therapeutic response at the pre-treatment biopsy stage. We have shown here that unsupervised hierarchical clustering of genome-wide miRNA expression profiles can clearly separate intermediate risk tumors from high risk tumors. A total of 29 miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between post-treatment intermediate risk and high risk groups, including miRNAs that have been previously linked to chemo resistance in other cancer types. Furthermore, 7 of these 29 miRNAs were already at the pre-treatment biopsy stage differentially expressed between cases ultimately deemed intermediate risk compared to high risk. These miRNA alterations include down-regulation in high risk cases of miR-193a.5p, miR-27a and the up-regulation of miR-483.5p, miR-628.5p, miR-590.5p, miR-302a and miR-367. The demonstration of such miRNA markers at the pre-treatment biopsy stage could permit stratification of patients to more tailored treatment regimens.
PMCID: PMC3538586  PMID: 23308219
6.  SDHB immunohistochemistry: a useful tool in the diagnosis of Carney–Stratakis and Carney triad gastrointestinal stromal tumors 
Mutations in the tumor suppressor genes SDHB, SDHC, and SDHD (or collectively SDHx) cause the inherited paraganglioma syndromes, characterized by pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas. However, other tumors have been associated with SDHx mutations, such as gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) specifically in the context of Carney–Stratakis syndrome. Previously, we have shown that SDHB immunohistochemistry is a reliable technique for the identification of pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas caused by SDHx mutations. We hypothesized that GISTs in patients with SDHx mutations would be negative immunohistochemically for SDHB as well. Four GISTs from patients with Carney–Stratakis syndrome and six from patients with Carney triad were investigated by SDHB immunohistochemistry. Five GISTs with KIT or PDGFRA gene mutations were used as controls. In addition, SDHB immunohistochemistry was performed on 42 apparently sporadic GISTs. In cases in which the SDHB immunohistochemistry was negative, mutational analysis of SDHB, SDHC, and SDHD was performed. All GISTs from patients with Carney–Stratakis syndrome and Carney triad were negative for SDHB immunohistochemically. In one patient with Carney–Stratakis syndrome, a germline SDHB mutation was found (p.Ser92Thr). The five GISTs with a KIT or PDGFRA gene mutation were all immunohistochemically positive for SDHB. Of the 42 sporadic tumors, one GIST was SDHB-negative. Mutational analysis of this tumor did not reveal an SDHx mutation. All SDHB-negative GISTs were located in the stomach, had an epithelioid morphology, and had no KIT or PDGFRA mutations. We show that Carney–Stratakis syndrome- and Carney-triad-associated GISTs are negative by immunohistochemistry for SDHB in contrast to KIT- or PDGFRA-mutated GISTs and a majority of sporadic GISTs. We suggest that GISTs of epithelioid cell morphology are tested for SDHB immunohistochemically. In case of negative SDHB staining in GISTs, Carney–Stratakis syndrome or Carney triad should be considered and appropriate clinical surveillance should be instituted.
PMCID: PMC3415983  PMID: 20890271
Carney–Stratakis syndrome; Carney triad; gastrointestinal stromal tumor; immunohistochemistry; SDHB
7.  Congenital sacrococcygeal PNET and chemotherapy 
We present the case of a congenital localised sacrococcygeal primitive neuroectodermal tumor treated aggressively with surgical resection and modified age-appropriate adjuvant chemotherapy. The conventional combination chemotherapy of vincristine, adriamycin, cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide and etoposide was modified to a regimen including vincristine, adriamicin, cyclophosphamide and actinomycin in order to minimise the predicted toxicity in this age group. Adjuvant “induction” chemotherapy commenced at 4 weeks of age and consisted of four cycles of vincristine, adriamycin and cyclophosphamide at 50%, 75%, 75% and 100% of recommended doses (vincristine 0.05 mg/kg, adriamycin 0.83 mg/kg daily × 2, cyclophosphamide 40 mg/kg) at 3-weekly intervals. This was followed by four cycles of “maintenance” chemotherapy with vincristine (0.025 mg/kg), actinomycin (0.025 mg/kg) and cyclophosphamide (36 mg/kg) at full recommended doses. Cardioxane at a dose of 16.6 mg/kg was infused immediately prior to the adriamycin. Our patient is thriving at 19 months out from end of treatment.
PMCID: PMC3523479  PMID: 23248428
Chemotherapy; neonatal; peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumor; primitive neuroectodermal tumor
8.  Neonatal scrotal wall necrotizing fasciitis (Fournier gangrene): a case report 
Necrotizing fasciitis in neonates is rare and is associated with almost 50% mortality. Although more than 80 cases of neonates (under one month of age) with necrotizing fasciitis have been reported in the literature, only six of them are identified as originating in the scrotum.
Case presentation
We report the case of a four-week-old, full-term, otherwise-healthy Caucasian baby boy who presented with an ulcerating lesion of his scrotal wall. His scrotum was explored because of a provisional diagnosis of missed torsion of the testis. He was found to have necrotizing fasciitis of the scrotum. We were able to preserve the testis and excise the necrotic tissue, and with intravenous antibiotics there was a successful outcome.
Fournier gangrene is rarely considered as part of the differential diagnosis in the clinical management of the acute scrotum. However, all doctors who care for small babies must be aware of this serious condition and, if it is suspected, should not hesitate in referring the babies to a specialist pediatric surgical center immediately.
PMCID: PMC3264539  PMID: 22151925
9.  The IG-DMR and the MEG3-DMR at Human Chromosome 14q32.2: Hierarchical Interaction and Distinct Functional Properties as Imprinting Control Centers 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(6):e1000992.
Human chromosome 14q32.2 harbors the germline-derived primary DLK1-MEG3 intergenic differentially methylated region (IG-DMR) and the postfertilization-derived secondary MEG3-DMR, together with multiple imprinted genes. Although previous studies in cases with microdeletions and epimutations affecting both DMRs and paternal/maternal uniparental disomy 14-like phenotypes argue for a critical regulatory function of the two DMRs for the 14q32.2 imprinted region, the precise role of the individual DMR remains to be clarified. We studied an infant with upd(14)pat body and placental phenotypes and a heterozygous microdeletion involving the IG-DMR alone (patient 1) and a neonate with upd(14)pat body, but no placental phenotype and a heterozygous microdeletion involving the MEG3-DMR alone (patient 2). The results generated from the analysis of these two patients imply that the IG-DMR and the MEG3-DMR function as imprinting control centers in the placenta and the body, respectively, with a hierarchical interaction for the methylation pattern in the body governed by the IG-DMR. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating an essential long-range imprinting regulatory function for the secondary DMR.
Author Summary
Genomic imprinting is a process causing genes to be expressed in a parent-of-origin specific manner—some imprinted genes are expressed from maternally inherited chromosomes and others from paternally inherited chromosomes. Imprinted genes are often located in clusters regulated by regions that are differentially methylated according to their parental origin. The human chromosome 14q32.2 imprinted region harbors the germline-derived primary DLK1-MEG3 intergenic differentially methylated region (IG-DMR) and the postfertilization-derived secondary MEG3-DMR, together with multiple imprinted genes. Perturbed dosage of these imprinted genes, for example in patients with paternal and maternal uniparental disomy 14, causes distinct phenotypes. Here, through analysis of patients with microdeletions recapitulating some or all of the uniparental disomy 14 phenotypes, we show that the IG-DMR acts as an upstream regulator for the methylation pattern of the MEG3-DMR in the body but not in the placenta. Importantly, in the body, the MEG3-DMR functions as an imprinting control center. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating an essential function for the secondary DMR in the regulation of multiple imprinted genes. Thus, the results provide a significant advance in the clarification of underlying epigenetic features that can act to regulate imprinting.
PMCID: PMC2887472  PMID: 20585555
10.  MicroRNA-184 inhibits neuroblastoma cell survival through targeting the serine/threonine kinase AKT2 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:83.
Neuroblastoma is a paediatric cancer of the sympathetic nervous system. The single most important genetic indicator of poor clinical outcome is amplification of the MYCN transcription factor. One of many down-stream MYCN targets is miR-184, which is either directly or indirectly repressed by this transcription factor, possibly due to its pro-apoptotic effects when ectopically over-expressed in neuroblastoma cells. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the molecular mechanism by which miR-184 conveys pro-apoptotic effects.
We demonstrate that the knock-down of endogenous miR-184 has the opposite effect of ectopic up-regulation, leading to enhanced neuroblastoma cell numbers. As a mechanism of how miR-184 causes apoptosis when over-expressed, and increased cell numbers when inhibited, we demonstrate direct targeting and degradation of AKT2, a major downstream effector of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, one of the most potent pro-survival pathways in cancer. The pro-apoptotic effects of miR-184 ectopic over-expression in neuroblastoma cell lines is reproduced by siRNA inhibition of AKT2, while a positive effect on cell numbers similar to that obtained by the knock-down of endogenous miR-184 can be achieved by ectopic up-regulation of AKT2. Moreover, co-transfection of miR-184 with an AKT2 expression vector lacking the miR-184 target site in the 3'UTR rescues cells from the pro-apoptotic effects of miR-184.
MYCN contributes to tumorigenesis, in part, by repressing miR-184, leading to increased levels of AKT2, a direct target of miR-184. Thus, two important genes with positive effects on cell growth and survival, MYCN and AKT2, can be linked into a common genetic pathway through the actions of miR-184. As an inhibitor of AKT2, miR-184 could be of potential benefit in miRNA mediated therapeutics of MYCN amplified neuroblastoma and other forms of cancer.
PMCID: PMC2864218  PMID: 20409325
11.  Lin28 Enhances Tumorigenesis and is Associated With Advanced Human Malignancies 
Nature genetics  2009;41(7):843-848.
Multiple members of the let-7 family of miRNAs are often repressed in human cancers1,2, thereby promoting oncogenesis by de-repressing the targets K-Ras, c-Myc, and HMGA2 3,4. However, the mechanism by which let-7 miRNAs are coordinately repressed is unclear. The RNA-binding proteins Lin28 and Lin28B block let-7 precursors from being processed to mature miRNAs5–8, suggesting that over-expression of Lin28/Lin28B might promote malignancy via repression of let-7. Here we show that LIN28 and LIN28B are over-expressed in primary human tumors and human cancer cell lines (overall frequency ∼15%), and that over-expression is linked to repression of let-7 family miRNAs and de-repression of let-7 targets. Lin28/Lin28B facilitate cellular transformation in vitro, and over-expression is associated with advanced disease across multiple tumor types. Our work provides a mechanism for the coordinate repression of let-7 miRNAs observed in a subset of human cancers, and associates activation of LIN28/LIN28B with poor clinical prognosis.
PMCID: PMC2757943  PMID: 19483683
12.  Widespread Dysregulation of MiRNAs by MYCN Amplification and Chromosomal Imbalances in Neuroblastoma: Association of miRNA Expression with Survival 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7850.
MiRNAs regulate gene expression at a post-transcriptional level and their dysregulation can play major roles in the pathogenesis of many different forms of cancer, including neuroblastoma, an often fatal paediatric cancer originating from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system. We have analyzed a set of neuroblastoma (n = 145) that is broadly representative of the genetic subtypes of this disease for miRNA expression (430 loci by stem-loop RT qPCR) and for DNA copy number alterations (array CGH) to assess miRNA involvement in disease pathogenesis. The tumors were stratified and then randomly split into a training set (n = 96) and a validation set (n = 49) for data analysis. Thirty-seven miRNAs were significantly over- or under-expressed in MYCN amplified tumors relative to MYCN single copy tumors, indicating a potential role for the MYCN transcription factor in either the direct or indirect dysregulation of these loci. In addition, we also determined that there was a highly significant correlation between miRNA expression levels and DNA copy number, indicating a role for large-scale genomic imbalances in the dysregulation of miRNA expression. In order to directly assess whether miRNA expression was predictive of clinical outcome, we used the Random Forest classifier to identify miRNAs that were most significantly associated with poor overall patient survival and developed a 15 miRNA signature that was predictive of overall survival with 72.7% sensitivity and 86.5% specificity in the validation set of tumors. We conclude that there is widespread dysregulation of miRNA expression in neuroblastoma tumors caused by both over-expression of the MYCN transcription factor and by large-scale chromosomal imbalances. MiRNA expression patterns are also predicative of clinical outcome, highlighting the potential for miRNA mediated diagnostics and therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2773120  PMID: 19924232
13.  An adolescent with both Wegener's Granulomatosis and chronic blastomycosis 
We report a case of Wegener's Granulomatosis (WG) associated with blastomycosis. This appears to be the first case report of WG co-existing with a tissue proven blastomycosis infection. The temporal correlation of the two conditions suggests that blastomycosis infection (and therefore possibly other fungal infections), may trigger the systemic granulomatous vasculitis in a predisposed individual; a provocative supposition warranting further study.
PMCID: PMC2518148  PMID: 18673582
14.  Application of phage display to high throughput antibody generation and characterization 
Genome Biology  2007;8(11):R254.
A phage display library has been constructed containing over 1010 human antibodies, allowing the large-scale generation of antibodies. Over 38,000 recombinant antibodies against 292 antigens were selected, screened and sequenced, and 4,400 resultant unique clones characterized further.
We have created a high quality phage display library containing over 1010 human antibodies and describe its use in the generation of antibodies on an unprecedented scale. We have selected, screened and sequenced over 38,000 recombinant antibodies to 292 antigens, yielding over 7,200 unique clones. 4,400 antibodies were characterized by specificity testing and detailed sequence analysis and the data/clones are available online. Sensitive detection was demonstrated in a bead based flow cytometry assay. Furthermore, positive staining by immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays was found for 37% (143/381) of antibodies. Thus, we have demonstrated the potential of and illuminated the issues associated with genome-wide monoclonal antibody generation.
PMCID: PMC2258204  PMID: 18047641
15.  While K-ras Is Essential for Mouse Development, Expression of the K-ras 4A Splice Variant Is Dispensable 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(24):9245-9250.
In mammals, the three classical ras genes encode four highly homologous proteins, N-Ras, H-Ras, and the isoforms K-Ras 4A and 4B. Previous studies have shown that K-ras is essential for mouse development and that while K-ras 4A and 4B are expressed during development, K-ras 4A expression is regulated temporally and spatially and occurs in adult kidney, intestine, stomach, and liver. In the present study, the pattern of K-ras 4A expression was examined in a wide range of wild-type adult mouse tissues, and gene targeting was used to generate K-ras 4A-deficient mice to examine its role in development. It was found that K-ras 4A is also expressed in uterus, lung, pancreas, salivary glands, seminal vesicles, bone marrow cells, and cecum, where it was the major K-Ras isoform expressed. Mating between K-rastmΔ4A/+ mice produced viable K-rastmΔ4A/tmΔ4A offspring with the expected Mendelian ratios of inheritance, and these mice expressed the K-ras 4B splice variant only. K-rastmΔ4A/tmΔ4A mice were fertile and showed no histopathological abnormalities on inbred (129/Ola) or crossbred (129/Ola × C57BL/6) genetic backgrounds. The results demonstrate that K-Ras 4A, like H- and N-Ras, is dispensable for normal mouse development, at least in the presence of functional K-Ras 4B.
PMCID: PMC309700  PMID: 14645534
16.  Mice Lacking the 68-Amino-Acid, Mammal-Specific N-Terminal Extension of WT1 Develop Normally and Are Fertile 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(7):2608-2613.
Mutations in the Wilms' tumor 1 gene, WT1, cause pediatric nephroblastoma and the severe genitourinary disorders of Frasier and Denys-Drash syndromes. High levels of WT1 expression are found in the developing kidney, uterus, and testis—consistent with this finding, the WT1 knockout mouse demonstrates that WT1 is essential for normal genitourinary development. The WT1 gene encodes multiple isoforms of a zinc finger-containing protein by a combination of alternative splicing and alternative translation initiation. The use of an upstream, alternative CUG translation initiation codon specific to mammals results in the production of WT1 protein isoforms with a 68-amino-acid N-terminal extension. To determine the function in vivo of mammal-specific WT1 isoforms containing this extension, gene targeting was employed to introduce a subtle mutation into the WT1 gene. Homozygous mutant mice show a specific absence of the CUG-initiated WT1 isoforms yet develop normally to adulthood and are fertile. Detailed histological analysis revealed normal development of the genitourinary system.
PMCID: PMC150738  PMID: 12640141

Results 1-16 (16)