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1.  Prospective Validation of Immunological Infiltrate for Prediction of Response to Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy in HER2-Negative Breast Cancer – A Substudy of the Neoadjuvant GeparQuinto Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e79775.
Introduction
We have recently described an increased lymphocytic infiltration rate in breast carcinoma tissue is a significant response predictor for anthracycline/taxane-based neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT). The aim of this study was to prospectively validate the tumor-associated lymphocyte infiltrate as predictive marker for response to anthracycline/taxane-based NACT.
Patients and Methods
The immunological infiltrate was prospectively evaluated in a total of 313 core biopsies from HER2 negative patients of the multicenter PREDICT study, a substudy of the neoadjuvant GeparQuinto study. Intratumoral lymphocytes (iTuLy), stromal lymphocytes (strLy) as well as lymphocyte-predominant breast cancer (LPBC) were evaluated by histopathological assessment. Pathological complete response (pCR) rates were analyzed and compared between the defined subgroups using the exact test of Fisher.
Results
Patients with lymphocyte-predominant breast cancer (LPBC) had a significantly increased pCR rate of 36.6%, compared to non-LPBC patients (14.3%, p<0.001). LPBC and stromal lymphocytes were significantly independent predictors for pCR in multivariate analysis (LPBC: OR 2.7, p = 0.003, strLy: OR 1.2, p = 0.01). The amount of intratumoral lymphocytes was significantly predictive for pCR in univariate (OR 1.2, p = 0.01) but not in multivariate logistic regression analysis (OR 1.2, p = 0.11).
Conclusion
Confirming previous investigations of our group, we have prospectively validated in an independent cohort that an increased immunological infiltrate in breast tumor tissue is predictive for response to anthracycline/taxane-based NACT. Patients with LPBC and increased stromal lymphocyte infiltration have significantly increased pCR rates. The lymphocytic infiltrate is a promising additional parameter for histopathological evaluation of breast cancer core biopsies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079775
PMCID: PMC3846472  PMID: 24312450
2.  Prognostic impact of tumor infiltrating CD8+ T cells in association with cell proliferation in ovarian cancer patients - a study of the OVCAD consortium 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:422.
Background
Epithelial ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal gynecologic malignancies. Clinicopathological factors do not permit precise prognosis and cannot provide guidance to specific treatments. In this study we assessed tumor infiltrating CD8+ T cells in association with Ki67 proliferation index and evaluated their prognostic impact in EOC samples.
Methods
CD8+ cells and Ki67 proliferation index were immunohistochemically determined on tissue microarrays including 203 primary epithelial ovarian tumors. Additionally, CD8 gene expression was assessed with RT-qPCR. Correlations were analyzed using Pearson’s correlation coefficients, ANOVA or T-test, or Fischer’s exact tests. Prognostic impact was evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox regression model.
Results
The density of CD8+ infiltrating lymphocytes did not correlate with tumor cell proliferation. Epithelial ovarian cancer patients with no Ki67+ cells in the tumor had a more than three times higher risk to die compared to the population with Ki67+ cells in the tumor (Hazard ratio (HR) = 3.34, 95%CI 1.59-7.04). High CD8+ cell infiltration was associated with improved overall survival (HR = 0.82, 95%CI 0.73-0.92).
Conclusions
The density of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes is independent of tumor cell proliferation. Ovarian cancer patients with Ki67- tumors showed a significantly reduced overall survival, presumably due to no or poor response to platinum-based chemotherapy. Moreover, the association of high densities of tumor infiltrating cytotoxic T lymphocytes with a better overall survival was confirmed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-422
PMCID: PMC3848589  PMID: 24044611
Epithelial ovarian cancer; Cytotoxic T cells; Tumor proliferation; Prognostic impact; Residual tumor
3.  New network topology approaches reveal differential correlation patterns in breast cancer 
BMC Systems Biology  2013;7:78.
Background
Analysis of genome-wide data is often carried out using standard methods such as differential expression analysis, clustering analysis and heatmaps. Beyond that, differential correlation analysis was suggested to identify changes in the correlation patterns between disease states. The detection of differential correlation is a demanding task, as the number of entries in the gene-by-gene correlation matrix is large. Currently, there is no gold standard for the detection of differential correlation and statistical validation.
Results
We developed two untargeted algorithms (DCloc and DCglob) that identify differential correlation patterns by comparing the local or global topology of correlation networks. Construction of networks from correlation structures requires fixing of a correlation threshold. Instead of a single cutoff, the algorithms systematically investigate a series of correlation thresholds and permit to detect different kinds of correlation changes at the same level of significance: strong changes of a few genes and moderate changes of many genes. Comparing the correlation structure of 208 ER- breast carcinomas and 208 ER+ breast carcinomas, DCloc detected 770 differentially correlated genes with a FDR of 12.8%, while DCglob detected 630 differentially correlated genes with a FDR of 12.1%. In two-fold cross-validation, the reproducibility of the list of the top 5% differentially correlated genes in 140 ER- tumors and in 140 ER+ tumors was 49% for DCloc and 33% for DCglob.
Conclusions
We developed two correlation network topology based algorithms for the detection of differential correlations in different disease states. Clusters of differentially correlated genes could be interpreted biologically and included the marker genes hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (PGDH) and acyl-CoA synthetase medium chain 1 (ACSM1) of invasive apocrine carcinomas that were differentially correlated, but not differentially expressed. Using random subsampling and cross-validation, DCloc and DCglob were shown to identify specific and reproducible lists of differentially correlated genes.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-7-78
PMCID: PMC3848818  PMID: 23945349
Differential correlation; Microarray data; Breast cancer; Molecular subtypes; Differential co-expression
4.  The EndoPredict Gene-Expression Assay in Clinical Practice - Performance and Impact on Clinical Decisions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68252.
The validated EndoPredict assay is a novel tool to predict the risk of metastases of patients with estrogen receptor positive, HER2 negative breast cancer treated with endocrine therapy alone. It has been designed to integrate genomic and clinical information and includes clinico-pathological factors such as tumor size and nodal status. The test is feasible in a decentral setting in molecular pathology laboratories. In this project, we investigated the performance of this test in clinical practice, and performed a retrospective evaluation of its impact on treatment decisions in breast cancer. During one year, EndoPredict assays from 167 patients could be successfully performed. For retrospective evaluation of treatment decisions, a questionnaire was sent to the clinical partner. Regarding the molecular EP class, samples from 56 patients (33.5%) had a low-risk, whereas 111 patients (66.5%) showed a high-risk gene profile. After integration of the clinicopathological factors the combined clinical and molecular score (EPclin) resulted in a low-risk group of 77 patients (46.4%), while 89 (53.6%) had a high risk EPclin score. The EPclin-based estimated median 10-year-risk for metastases with endocrine therapy alone was 11% for the whole cohort. The median handling time averaged three days (range: 0 to 11 days), 59.3% of the tests could be performed in three or less than three days. Comparison of pre- and post-test therapy decisions showed a change of therapy in 37.7% of patients. 16 patients (12.3%) had a change to an additional chemotherapy while 25.4% of patients (n = 33) changed to an endocrine therapy alone. In 73 patients (56.2%) no change of therapy resulted. In 6.1% of patients (n = 8), the patients did not agree to the recommendation of the tumor board. Our results show that the EndoPredict assay could be routinely performed in decentral molecular pathology laboratories and the results markedly change treatment decisions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068252
PMCID: PMC3694878  PMID: 23826382
5.  Metabolomics of human breast cancer: new approaches for tumor typing and biomarker discovery 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(4):37.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and the development of new technologies for better understanding of the molecular changes involved in breast cancer progression is essential. Metabolic changes precede overt phenotypic changes, because cellular regulation ultimately affects the use of small-molecule substrates for cell division, growth or environmental changes such as hypoxia. Differences in metabolism between normal cells and cancer cells have been identified. Because small alterations in enzyme concentrations or activities can cause large changes in overall metabolite levels, the metabolome can be regarded as the amplified output of a biological system. The metabolome coverage in human breast cancer tissues can be maximized by combining different technologies for metabolic profiling. Researchers are investigating alterations in the steady state concentrations of metabolites that reflect amplified changes in genetic control of metabolism. Metabolomic results can be used to classify breast cancer on the basis of tumor biology, to identify new prognostic and predictive markers and to discover new targets for future therapeutic interventions. Here, we examine recent results, including those from the European FP7 project METAcancer consortium, that show that integrated metabolomic analyses can provide information on the stage, subtype and grade of breast tumors and give mechanistic insights. We predict an intensified use of metabolomic screens in clinical and preclinical studies focusing on the onset and progression of tumor development.
doi:10.1186/gm336
PMCID: PMC3446265  PMID: 22546809
breast cancer; metabolomics; lipidomics; biomarker analysis
6.  CognitionMaster: an object-based image analysis framework 
Diagnostic Pathology  2013;8:34.
Background
Automated image analysis methods are becoming more and more important to extract and quantify image features in microscopy-based biomedical studies and several commercial or open-source tools are available. However, most of the approaches rely on pixel-wise operations, a concept that has limitations when high-level object features and relationships between objects are studied and if user-interactivity on the object-level is desired.
Results
In this paper we present an open-source software that facilitates the analysis of content features and object relationships by using objects as basic processing unit instead of individual pixels. Our approach enables also users without programming knowledge to compose “analysis pipelines“ that exploit the object-level approach. We demonstrate the design and use of example pipelines for the immunohistochemistry-based cell proliferation quantification in breast cancer and two-photon fluorescence microscopy data about bone-osteoclast interaction, which underline the advantages of the object-based concept.
Conclusions
We introduce an open source software system that offers object-based image analysis. The object-based concept allows for a straight-forward development of object-related interactive or fully automated image analysis solutions. The presented software may therefore serve as a basis for various applications in the field of digital image analysis.
doi:10.1186/1746-1596-8-34
PMCID: PMC3626931  PMID: 23445542
Software; Open source; Image analysis; Object-based image analysis
7.  HER2 and ESR1 mRNA expression levels and response to neoadjuvant trastuzumab plus chemotherapy in patients with primary breast cancer 
Introduction
Recent data suggest that benefit from trastuzumab and chemotherapy might be related to expression of HER2 and estrogen receptor (ESR1). Therefore, we investigated HER2 and ESR1 mRNA levels in core biopsies of HER2-positive breast carcinomas from patients treated within the neoadjuvant GeparQuattro trial.
Methods
HER2 levels were centrally analyzed by immunohistochemistry (IHC), silver in situ hybridization (SISH) and qRT-PCR in 217 pretherapeutic formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) core biopsies. All tumors had been HER2-positive by local pathology and had been treated with neoadjuvant trastuzumab/ chemotherapy in GeparQuattro.
Results
Only 73% of the tumors (158 of 217) were centrally HER2-positive (cHER2-positive) by IHC/SISH, with cHER2-positive tumors showing a significantly higher pCR rate (46.8% vs. 20.3%, P <0.0005). HER2 status by qRT-PCR showed a concordance of 88.5% with the central IHC/SISH status, with a low pCR rate in those tumors that were HER2-negative by mRNA analysis (21.1% vs. 49.6%, P <0.0005). The level of HER2 mRNA expression was linked to response rate in ESR1-positive tumors, but not in ESR1-negative tumors. HER2 mRNA expression was significantly associated with pCR in the HER2-positive/ESR1-positive tumors (P = 0.004), but not in HER2-positive/ESR1-negative tumors.
Conclusions
Only patients with cHER2-positive tumors - irrespective of the method used - have an increased pCR rate with trastuzumab plus chemotherapy. In patients with cHER2-negative tumors the pCR rate is comparable to the pCR rate in the non-trastuzumab treated HER-negative population. Response to trastuzumab is correlated to HER2 mRNA levels only in ESR1-positive tumors. This study adds further evidence to the different biology of both subsets within the HER2-positive group.
Introduction The human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is the prototype of a predictive biomarker for targeted treatment [1-8]. International initiatives have established the combination of immunohistochemistry (IHC) and in situ hybridization as the current gold standard [9,10]. As an additional approach determination of HER2 mRNA expression is technically feasible in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue [11-13]. Crosstalk between the estrogen receptor (ER) and the HER2 pathway has been suggested based on cell culture and animal models [14]. Consequently, the 2011 St Gallen panel has pointed out that HER2-positive tumors should be divided into two groups based on expression of the ER [15].
A retrospective analysis of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) B31 study has suggested that mRNA levels of HER2 and ESR1 might be relevant for the degree of benefit from adjuvant trastuzumab. By subpopulation treatment effect pattern plot (STEPP) analysis in ER-positive tumors, benefit from trastuzumab was shown to be restricted to those with higher levels of HER2 mRNA (S Paik, personal communication, results summarized in [15]).
In our study we evaluated this hypothesis in the neoadjuvant setting in a cohort of 217 patients from the neoadjuvant GeparQuattro trial [5]. All patients had been HER2- positive by local pathology assessment and had received 24 to 36 weeks of neoadjuvant trastuzumab plus an anthracycline/taxane-based chemotherapy. For central evaluation we used three different methods, HER2 IHC, and HER2 silver in situ hybridization (SISH), as well as measurement of HER2 mRNA by quantitative real-time (qRT)-PCR [11].
The primary objective of this analysis was to investigate if pathological complete response (pCR) rate in HER2-positive breast cancer would depend on the level of HER2 mRNA expression, with a separate analysis for HR-positive and -negative tumors. Central evaluation of the HER2 status showed that 27% of the tumors with HER2 overexpression by local pathology were HER2-negative. This enabled us to compare response rates in patients with HER2-positive and -negative tumors as a secondary objective.
doi:10.1186/bcr3384
PMCID: PMC3672694  PMID: 23391338
8.  Cutoff Finder: A Comprehensive and Straightforward Web Application Enabling Rapid Biomarker Cutoff Optimization 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51862.
Gene or protein expression data are usually represented by metric or at least ordinal variables. In order to translate a continuous variable into a clinical decision, it is necessary to determine a cutoff point and to stratify patients into two groups each requiring a different kind of treatment. Currently, there is no standard method or standard software for biomarker cutoff determination. Therefore, we developed Cutoff Finder, a bundle of optimization and visualization methods for cutoff determination that is accessible online. While one of the methods for cutoff optimization is based solely on the distribution of the marker under investigation, other methods optimize the correlation of the dichotomization with respect to an outcome or survival variable. We illustrate the functionality of Cutoff Finder by the analysis of the gene expression of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PgR) in breast cancer tissues. This distribution of these important markers is analyzed and correlated with immunohistologically determined ER status and distant metastasis free survival. Cutoff Finder is expected to fill a relevant gap in the available biometric software repertoire and will enable faster optimization of new diagnostic biomarkers. The tool can be accessed at http://molpath.charite.de/cutoff.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051862
PMCID: PMC3522617  PMID: 23251644
9.  Neutrophil Gelatinase-Associated Lipocalin (NGAL) Predicts Response to Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy and Clinical Outcome in Primary Human Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e45826.
In our previous work we showed that NGAL, a protein involved in the regulation of proliferation and differentiation, is overexpressed in human breast cancer (BC) and predicts poor prognosis. In neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) pathological complete response (pCR) is a predictor for outcome. The aim of this study was to evaluate NGAL as a predictor of response to NACT and to validate NGAL as a prognostic factor for clinical outcome in patients with primary BC. Immunohistochemistry was performed on tissue microarrays from 652 core biopsies from BC patients, who underwent NACT in the GeparTrio trial. NGAL expression and intensity was evaluated separately. NGAL was detected in 42.2% of the breast carcinomas in the cytoplasm. NGAL expression correlated with negative hormone receptor (HR) status, but not with other baseline parameters. NGAL expression did not correlate with pCR in the full population, however, NGAL expression and staining intensity were significantly associated with higher pCR rates in patients with positive HR status. In addition, strong NGAL expression correlated with higher pCR rates in node negative patients, patients with histological grade 1 or 2 tumors and a tumor size <40 mm. In univariate survival analysis, positive NGAL expression and strong staining intensity correlated with decreased disease-free survival (DFS) in the entire cohort and different subgroups, including HR positive patients. Similar correlations were found for intense staining and decreased overall survival (OS). In multivariate analysis, NGAL expression remained an independent prognostic factor for DFS. The results show that in low-risk subgroups, NGAL was found to be a predictive marker for pCR after NACT. Furthermore, NGAL could be validated as an independent prognostic factor for decreased DFS in primary human BC.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045826
PMCID: PMC3467272  PMID: 23056218
10.  Decentral gene expression analysis: analytical validation of the Endopredict genomic multianalyte breast cancer prognosis test 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:456.
Background
EndoPredict (EP) is a clinically validated multianalyte gene expression test to predict distant metastasis in ER-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer treated with endocrine therapy alone. The test is based on the combined analysis of 12 genes in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue by reverse transcription-quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR). Recently, it was shown that EP is feasible for reliable decentralized assessment of gene expression. The aim of this study was the analytical validation of the performance characteristics of the assay and its verification in a molecular-pathological routine laboratory.
Methods
Gene expression values to calculate the EP score were assayed by one-step RT-qPCR using RNA from FFPE tumor tissue. Limit of blank, limit of detection, linear range, and PCR efficiency were assessed for each of the 12 PCR assays using serial samples dilutions. Different breast cancer samples were used to evaluate RNA input range, precision and inter-laboratory variability.
Results
PCR assays were linear up to Cq values between 35.1 and 37.2. Amplification efficiencies ranged from 75% to 101%. The RNA input range without considerable change of the EP score was between 0.16 and 18.5 ng/μl. Analysis of precision (variation of day, day time, instrument, operator, reagent lots) resulted in a total noise (standard deviation) of 0.16 EP score units on a scale from 0 to 15. The major part of the total noise (SD 0.14) was caused by the replicate-to-replicate noise of the PCR assays (repeatability) and was not associated with different operating conditions (reproducibility). Performance characteristics established in the manufacturer’s laboratory were verified in a routine molecular pathology laboratory. Comparison of 10 tumor samples analyzed in two different laboratories showed a Pearson coefficient of 0.995 and a mean deviation of 0.15 score units.
Conclusions
The EP test showed reproducible performance characteristics with good precision and negligible laboratory-to-laboratory variation. This study provides further evidence that the EP test is suitable for decentralized testing in specialized molecular pathological laboratories instead of a reference laboratory. This is a unique feature and a technical advance in comparison with existing RNA-based prognostic multigene expression tests.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-456
PMCID: PMC3534340  PMID: 23039280
Breast cancer; Prognostic multigene expression test; Analytical validation; PCR; Pathology
11.  Role of TRAP1 and estrogen receptor alpha in patients with ovarian cancer -A study of the OVCAD consortium 
Molecular Cancer  2012;11:69.
Background
The role of the tumor necrosis factor receptor associated protein 1 (TRAP1) – supposed to be involved in protection of cells from apoptosis and oxidative stress – has just started to be investigated in ovarian cancer. TRAP1 has been shown to be estrogen up-regulated in estrogen receptor α (ERα) positive ovarian cancer cells. The clinical impact of TRAP1 is not clear so far and the significance of ERα expression as therapeutic and prognostic marker is still controversial. Therefore, we investigated the importance of TRAP1 together with ERα in regard to clinicopathological parameters, chemotherapy response, and survival.
Methods and results
Expressions of TRAP1 and ERα were evaluated by immunohistochemical staining of tissue microarrays comprised of 208 ovarian cancer samples. TRAP1 was highly expressed in 55% and ERα was expressed in 52% of all cases. High TRAP1 expression correlated significantly with ERα (p < 0.001) but high TRAP1 expression was also found in 42% of ERα negative cases. High TRAP1 expression correlated significantly with favorable chemotherapy-response (HR = 0.48; 95%CI 0.24-0.96, p=0.037) and showed a significant impact on overall survival (OS) (HR = 0.65; 95%CI 0.43-0.99, p = 0.044). ERα expression was a favorable prognostic factor for OS in univariate and multivariate analyses. Interestingly, the combined pattern (ERα positive and/or TRAP1-high) revealed the strongest independent and significant positive influence on OS (HR = 0.41; 95%CI 0.27-0.64).
Conclusion
Immunohistochemical evaluation of TRAP1 together with ERα provides significant prognostic information. TRAP1 alone is significantly associated with chemotherapy response and overall survival, rendering TRAP1 as interesting scientific and therapeutic target.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-11-69
PMCID: PMC3533746  PMID: 22978347
TRAP1; Estrogen receptor; Immunohistochemistry; Prognosis; Ovarian cancer
12.  Prediction of Response to Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy: New Biomarker Approaches and Concepts 
Breast Care  2011;6(4):265-272.
Summary
About 10-25% of breast cancer patients achieve a pathologically confirmed complete response after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Tissue samples of pretreatment core biopsies are a valuable resource for translational research aiming towards predictive biomarkers for selecting patients who are likely to benefit from neoadjuvant therapy. The German Breast Group (GBG) and the AGO-B Group (AGO = Working Group Gynecological Oncology) have extensive experience in conducting neoadjuvant clinical trials. Technologies as immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays and standardized reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) approaches on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples allow high-throughput investigation of protein and mRNA biomarkers. With these approaches, we could demonstrate that molecular tumor subtypes and immunological infiltrates are valuable and independent predictors of therapy response. New biomarkers such as poly(ADPribose) polymerase (PARP) might be useful for the prediction of response to conventional and new targeted therapies. This review summarizes current research projects focusing on biomarker discovery in the neoadjuvant setting.
doi:10.1159/000331696
PMCID: PMC3225210  PMID: 22135624
Neoadjuvant; Chemotherapy; Breast cancer Lymphocytes; PARP
13.  Applying in-silico retention index and mass spectra matching for identification of unknown metabolites in accurate mass GC-TOF mass spectrometry 
Analytical chemistry  2011;83(15):5895-5902.
One of the major obstacles in metabolomics is the identification of unknown metabolites. We tested constraints for re-identifying the correct structures of 29 known metabolite peaks from GCT premier accurate mass chemical ionization GC-TOF mass spectrometry data without any use of mass spectral libraries. Correct elemental formulas were retrieved within the top-3 hits for most molecular ion adducts using the “Seven Golden Rules” algorithm. An average of 514 potential structures per formula was downloaded from the PubChem chemical database and in-silico derivatized using the ChemAxon software package. After chemical curation, Kovats retention indices (RI) were predicted for up to 747 potential structures per formula using the NIST MS group contribution algorithm and corrected for contribution of trimethylsilyl groups using the Fiehnlib RI library. When matching the range of predicted RI values against the experimentally determined peak retention, all but three incorrect formulas were excluded. For all remaining isomeric structures, accurate mass electron ionization spectra were predicted using the MassFrontier software and scored against experimental spectra. Using a mass error window of 10 ppm for fragment ions, 89% of all isomeric structures were removed and the correct structure was reported in 73% within the top-5 hits of the cases.
doi:10.1021/ac2006137
PMCID: PMC3146571  PMID: 21678983
14.  Remodeling of central metabolism in invasive breast cancer compared to normal breast tissue – a GC-TOFMS based metabolomics study 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:334.
Background
Changes in energy metabolism of the cells are common to many kinds of tumors and are considered a hallmark of cancer. Gas chromatography followed by time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOFMS) is a well-suited technique to investigate the small molecules in the central metabolic pathways. However, the metabolic changes between invasive carcinoma and normal breast tissues were not investigated in a large cohort of breast cancer samples so far.
Results
A cohort of 271 breast cancer and 98 normal tissue samples was investigated using GC-TOFMS-based metabolomics. A total number of 468 metabolite peaks could be detected; out of these 368 (79%) were significantly changed between cancer and normal tissues (p<0.05 in training and validation set). Furthermore, 13 tumor and 7 normal tissue markers were identified that separated cancer from normal tissues with a sensitivity and a specificity of >80%. Two-metabolite classifiers, constructed as ratios of the tumor and normal tissues markers, separated cancer from normal tissues with high sensitivity and specificity. Specifically, the cytidine-5-monophosphate / pentadecanoic acid metabolic ratio was the most significant discriminator between cancer and normal tissues and allowed detection of cancer with a sensitivity of 94.8% and a specificity of 93.9%.
Conclusions
For the first time, a comprehensive metabolic map of breast cancer was constructed by GC-TOF analysis of a large cohort of breast cancer and normal tissues. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that spectrometry-based approaches have the potential to contribute to the analysis of biopsies or clinical tissue samples complementary to histopathology.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-334
PMCID: PMC3430598  PMID: 22823888
Breast cancer; Metabolomics; Gas chromatography; Mass spectrometry; Cancer detection
15.  Detection and Segmentation of Cell Nuclei in Virtual Microscopy Images: A Minimum-Model Approach 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:503.
Automated image analysis of cells and tissues has been an active research field in medical informatics for decades but has recently attracted increased attention due to developments in computer and microscopy hardware and the awareness that scientific and diagnostic pathology require novel approaches to perform objective quantitative analyses of cellular and tissue specimens. Model-based approaches use a priori information on cell shape features to obtain the segmentation, which may introduce a bias favouring the detection of cell nuclei only with certain properties. In this study we present a novel contour-based “minimum-model” cell detection and segmentation approach that uses minimal a priori information and detects contours independent of their shape. This approach avoids a segmentation bias with respect to shape features and allows for an accurate segmentation (precision = 0.908; recall = 0.859; validation based on ∼8000 manually-labeled cells) of a broad spectrum of normal and disease-related morphological features without the requirement of prior training.
doi:10.1038/srep00503
PMCID: PMC3394088  PMID: 22787560
16.  Who Is at Risk for Diagnostic Discrepancies? Comparison of Pre- and Postmortal Diagnoses in 1800 Patients of 3 Medical Decades in East and West Berlin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37460.
Background
Autopsy rates in Western countries consistently decline to an average of <5%, although clinical autopsies represent a reasonable tool for quality control in hospitals, medically and economically. Comparing pre- and postmortal diagnoses, diagnostic discrepancies as uncovered by clinical autopsies supply crucial information on how to improve clinical treatment. The study aimed at analyzing current diagnostic discrepancy rates, investigating their influencing factors and identifying risk profiles of patients that could be affected by a diagnostic discrepancy.
Methods and Findings
Of all adult autopsy cases of the Charité Institute of Pathology from the years 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008, the pre- and postmortal diagnoses and all demographic data were analyzed retrospectively. Based on power analysis, 1,800 cases were randomly selected to perform discrepancy classification (class I-VI) according to modified Goldman criteria. The rate of discrepancies in major diagnoses (class I) was 10.7% (95% CI: 7.7%–14.7%) in 2008 representing a reduction by 15.1%. Subgroup analysis revealed several influencing factors to significantly correlate with the discrepancy rate. Cardiovascular diseases had the highest frequency among class-I-discrepancies. Comparing the 1988-data of East- and West-Berlin, no significant differences were found in diagnostic discrepancies despite an autopsy rate differing by nearly 50%. A risk profile analysis visualized by intuitive heatmaps revealed a significantly high discrepancy rate in patients treated in low or intermediate care units at community hospitals. In this collective, patients with genitourinary/renal or infectious diseases were at particularly high risk.
Conclusions
This is the current largest and most comprehensive study on diagnostic discrepancies worldwide. Our well-powered analysis revealed a significant rate of class-I-discrepancies indicating that autopsies are still of value. The identified risk profiles may aid both pathologists and clinicians to identify patients at increased risk for a discrepant diagnosis and possibly suboptimal treatment intra vitam.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037460
PMCID: PMC3358345  PMID: 22629399
17.  Comparison of the RNA-based EndoPredict multigene test between core biopsies and corresponding surgical breast cancer sections 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  2012;65(7):660-662.
Aim
This study compared the perfomance of the RNA-based EndoPredict multigene test on core biopsies and surgical breast cancer specimens and analysed the influence of biopsy-induced tissue injuries on the test result.
Methods
80 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples comprising paired biopsies and surgical specimens from 40 ER-positive, HER2-negative patients were evaluated. Total RNA was extracted and the EndoPredict score was determined.
Results
RNA yield was considerably lower in core biopsies, but sufficient to measure the assay in all samples. The EndoPredict score was highly correlated between paired samples (Pearson r=0.92), with an excellent concordance of classification into a low or high risk of metastasis (overall agreement 95%).
Conclusions
The measurements are comparable between core biopsies and surgical sections, which suggest that the EndoPredict assay can be performed on core biopsy tissue. Inflammatory changes induced by presurgical biopsies had no significant effect on the RNA-based risk assessment in surgical specimens.
doi:10.1136/jclinpath-2012-200716
PMCID: PMC3426896  PMID: 22447922
Breast; breast cancer; breast pathology; cancer; cancer genetics; cancer research; EGFR; endocrine pathology; gynaecological pathology; molecular oncology; molecular pathology; oncology; ovary; statistics; tumour markers
18.  Decentral gene expression analysis for ER+/Her2− breast cancer: results of a proficiency testing program for the EndoPredict assay 
Virchows Archiv  2012;460(3):251-259.
Gene expression profiles provide important information about the biology of breast tumors and can be used to develop prognostic tests. However, the implementation of quantitative RNA-based testing in routine molecular pathology has not been accomplished, so far. The EndoPredict assay has recently been described as a quantitative RT-PCR-based multigene expression test to identify a subgroup of hormone–receptor-positive tumors that have an excellent prognosis with endocrine therapy only. To transfer this test from bench to bedside, it is essential to evaluate the test–performance in a multicenter setting in different molecular pathology laboratories. In this study, we have evaluated the EndoPredict (EP) assay in seven different molecular pathology laboratories in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A set of ten formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumors was tested in the different labs, and the variance and accuracy of the EndoPredict assays were determined using predefined reference values. Extraction of a sufficient amount of RNA and generation of a valid EP score was possible for all 70 study samples (100%). The EP scores measured by the individual participants showed an excellent correlation with the reference values, respectively, as reflected by Pearson correlation coefficients ranging from 0.987 to 0.999. The Pearson correlation coefficient of all values compared to the reference value was 0.994. All laboratories determined EP scores for all samples differing not more than 1.0 score units from the pre-defined references. All samples were assigned to the correct EP risk group, resulting in a sensitivity and specificity of 100%, a concordance of 100%, and a kappa of 1.0. Taken together, the EndoPredict test could be successfully implemented in all seven participating laboratories and is feasible for reliable decentralized assessment of gene expression in luminal breast cancer.
doi:10.1007/s00428-012-1204-4
PMCID: PMC3306560  PMID: 22371223
Breast cancer; Prognosis; mRNA; Quality control
19.  An intracellular targeted antibody detects EGFR as an independent prognostic factor in ovarian carcinomas 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:294.
Background
In ovarian cancer, the reported rate of EGFR expression varies between 4-70% depending on assessment method and data on patient outcome are conflicting. Methods: In this study we investigated EGFR expression and its prognostic value in a cohort of 121 invasive ovarian carcinomas, using a novel antibody against the intracellular domain of the receptor. We further evaluated an association between EGFR, the nuclear transporter CRM1 as well as COX-2. Furthermore, we evaluated EGFR expression in ten ovarian cancer cell lines and incubated cancer cells with Leptomycin B, a CRM1 specific inhibitor.
Results
We observed a membranous and cytoplasmic EGFR expression in 36.4% and 64% of ovarian carcinomas, respectively. Membranous EGFR was an independent prognostic factor for poor overall survival in ovarian cancer patients (HR 2.7, CI 1.1-6.4, p = 0.02) which was also found in the serous subtype (HR 4.6, CI 1.6-13.4, p = 0.004). We further observed a significant association of EGFR with COX-2 and nuclear CRM1 expression (chi-square test for trends, p = 0.006 and p = 0.013, respectively). In addition, combined membranous EGFR/COX-2 expression was significantly related to unfavorable overall survival (HR 7.2, CI 2.3-22.1, p = 0.001).
In cell culture, we observed a suppression of EGFR protein levels after exposure to Leptomycin B in OVCAR-3 and SKOV-3 cells.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that the EGFR/COX-2/CRM1 interaction might be involved in progression of ovarian cancer and patient prognosis. Hence, it is an interesting anti-cancer target for a combination therapy. Further studies will also be needed to investigate whether EGFR is also predictive for benefit from EGFR targeted therapies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-294
PMCID: PMC3149030  PMID: 21756326
EGFR; CRM1; COX-2; ovarian cancer; prognosis
20.  Multicentre validation study of nucleic acids extraction from FFPE tissues 
Virchows Archiv  2010;457(3):309-317.
In most pathology laboratories worldwide, formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples are the only tissue specimens available for routine diagnostics. Although commercial kits for diagnostic molecular pathology testing are becoming available, most of the current diagnostic tests are laboratory-based assays. Thus, there is a need for standardized procedures in molecular pathology, starting from the extraction of nucleic acids. To evaluate the current methods for extracting nucleic acids from FFPE tissues, 13 European laboratories, participating to the European FP6 program IMPACTS (www.impactsnetwork.eu), isolated nucleic acids from four diagnostic FFPE tissues using their routine methods, followed by quality assessment. The DNA-extraction protocols ranged from homemade protocols to commercial kits. Except for one homemade protocol, the majority gave comparable results in terms of the quality of the extracted DNA measured by the ability to amplify differently sized control gene fragments by PCR. For array-applications or tests that require an accurately determined DNA-input, we recommend using silica based adsorption columns for DNA recovery. For RNA extractions, the best results were obtained using chromatography column based commercial kits, which resulted in the highest quantity and best assayable RNA. Quality testing using RT-PCR gave successful amplification of 200 bp–250 bp PCR products from most tested tissues. Modifications of the proteinase-K digestion time led to better results, even when commercial kits were applied. The results of the study emphasize the need for quality control of the nucleic acid extracts with standardised methods to prevent false negative results and to allow data comparison among different diagnostic laboratories.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00428-010-0917-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00428-010-0917-5
PMCID: PMC2933807  PMID: 20665046
FFPE; Multicentre study; Molecular analyses standardisation; PCR; DNA; RNA; Isolation
21.  Vascular CXCR4 Expression – a Novel Antiangiogenic Target in Gastric Cancer? 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10087.
Background
G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are prime candidates for novel cancer prevention and treatment strategies. We searched for differentially expressed GPCRs in node positive gastric carcinomas.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Differential expression of GPCRs in three node positive vs. three node negative intestinal type gastric carcinomas was analyzed by gene array technology. The candidate genes CXCL12 and its receptor CXCR4 were validated by real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction in an independent set of 37 gastric carcinomas. Translation was studied by immunohistochemistry in 347 gastric carcinomas using tissue microarrays as well as in 61 matching lymph node metastases. Protein expression was correlated with clinicopathological patient characteristics and survival. 52 GPCRs and GPCR-related genes were up- or down-regulated in node positive gastric cancer, including CXCL12. Differential expression of CXCL12 was confirmed by RT-PCR and correlated with local tumour growth. CXCL12 immunopositivity was negatively associated with distant metastases and tumour grade. Only 17% of gastric carcinomas showed CXCR4 immunopositive tumour cells, which was associated with higher local tumour extent. 29% of gastric carcinomas showed CXCR4 positive tumour microvessels. Vascular CXCR4 expression was significantly associated with higher local tumour extent as well as higher UICC-stages. When expressing both, CXCL12 in tumour cells and CXCR4 in tumour microvessels, these tumours also were highly significantly associated with higher T- and UICC-stages. Three lymph node metastases revealed vascular CXCR4 expression while tumour cells completely lacked CXCR4 in all cases. The expression of CXCL12 and CXCR4 had no impact on patient survival.
Conclusions/Significance
Our results substantiate the significance of GPCRs on the biology of gastric carcinomas and provide evidence that the CXCL12-CXCR4 pathway might be a novel promising antiangiogenic target for the treatment of gastric carcinomas.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010087
PMCID: PMC2851611  PMID: 20386750
22.  Recommendations for Collection and Handling of Specimens From Group Breast Cancer Clinical Trials 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2008;26(34):5638-5644.
Recommendations for specimen collection and handling have been developed for adoption across breast cancer clinical trials conducted by the Breast International Group (BIG)-sponsored Groups and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-sponsored North American Cooperative Groups. These recommendations are meant to promote identifiable standards for specimen collection and handling within and across breast cancer trials, such that the variability in collection/handling practices that currently exists is minimized and specimen condition and quality are enhanced, thereby maximizing results from specimen-based diagnostic testing and research. Three working groups were formed from the Cooperative Group Banking Committee, BIG groups, and North American breast cancer cooperative groups to identify standards for collection and handling of (1) formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue; (2) blood and its components; and (3) fresh/frozen tissue from breast cancer trials. The working groups collected standard operating procedures from multiple group specimen banks, administered a survey on banking practices to those banks, and engaged in a series of discussions from 2005 to 2007. Their contributions were synthesized into this document, which focuses primarily on collection and handling of specimens to the point of shipment to the central bank, although also offers some guidance to central banks. Major recommendations include submission of an FFPE block, whole blood, and serial serum or plasma from breast cancer clinical trials, and use of one fixative and buffer type (10% neutral phosphate-buffered formalin, pH 7) for FFPE tissue across trials. Recommendations for proper handling and shipping were developed for blood, serum, plasma, FFPE, and fresh/frozen tissue.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.15.1712
PMCID: PMC2651095  PMID: 18955459
23.  High class I HDAC activity and expression are associated with RelA/p65 activation in pancreatic cancer in vitro and in vivo 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:395.
Background
The strong association between aberrant HDAC activity and the occurrence of cancer has led to the development of a variety of HDAC inhibitors (HDIs), which emerge as promising new targeted anticancer therapeutics.
Methods
Due to the pivotal role of RelA/p65 in the tumorigenesis of pancreatic neoplasia we examined the expression of class I HDACs 1, 2 and 3 in a large cohort of human pancreatic carcinomas and correlated our findings with RelA/p65 expression status. Furthermore, we investigated the impact of the HDIs SAHA and VPA on RelA/p65 activity in pancreatic cancer cell culture models.
Results
Class I HDACs were strongly expressed in a subset of pancreatic adenocarcinomas and high expression was significantly correlated with increased nuclear translocation of RelA/p65 (p = 0.024). The link of HDAC activity and RelA/p65 in this tumor entity was confirmed in vitro, where RelA/p65 nuclear translocation as well as RelA/p65 DNA binding activity could be markedly diminished by HDI treatment.
Conclusion
The RelA/p65 inhibitory effects of SAHA and VPA in vitro and the close relationship of class I HDACs and RelA/p65 in vivo suggest that treatment with HDIs could serve as a promising approach to suppress NF-κB activity which in turn may lead to enhanced apoptosis and chemosensitization of pancreatic cancers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-395
PMCID: PMC2779818  PMID: 19912635
24.  Identification of biology-based breast cancer types with distinct predictive and prognostic features: role of steroid hormone and HER2 receptor expression in patients treated with neoadjuvant anthracycline/taxane-based chemotherapy 
Introduction
Reliable predictive and prognostic markers for routine diagnostic purposes are needed for breast cancer patients treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy. We evaluated protein biomarkers in a cohort of 116 participants of the GeparDuo study on anthracycline/taxane-based neoadjuvant chemotherapy for operable breast cancer to test for associations with pathological complete response (pCR) and disease-free survival (DFS). Particularly, we evaluated if interactions between hormone receptor (HR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) expression might lead to a different clinical behavior of HR+/HER2+ co-expressing and HR+/HER2- tumors and whether subgroups of triple negative tumors might be identified by the help of Ki67 labeling index, cytokeratin 5/6 (CK5/6), as well as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and Y-box binding protein 1 (YB-1) expression.
Methods
Expression analysis was performed using immunohistochemistry and silver-enhanced in situ hybridization on tissue microarrays (TMAs) of pretherapeutic core biopsies.
Results
pCR rates were significantly different between the biology-based tumor types (P = 0.044) with HR+/HER2+ and HR-/HER2- tumors having higher pCR rates than HR+/HER2- tumors. Ki67 labeling index, confirmed as significant predictor of pCR in the whole cohort (P = 0.001), identified HR-/HER- (triple negative) carcinomas with a higher chance for a pCR (P = 0.006). Biology-based tumor type (P = 0.046 for HR+/HER2+ vs. HR+/HER2-), Ki67 labeling index (P = 0.028), and treatment arm (P = 0.036) were independent predictors of pCR in a multivariate model. DFS was different in the biology-based tumor types (P < 0.0001) with HR+/HER2- and HR+/HER2+ tumors having the best prognosis and HR-/HER2+ tumors showing the worst outcome. Biology-based tumor type was an independent prognostic factor for DFS in multivariate analysis (P < 0.001).
Conclusions
Our data demonstrate that a biology-based breast cancer classification using estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PgR), and HER2 bears independent predictive and prognostic potential. The HR+/HER2+ co-expressing carcinomas emerged as a group of tumors with a good response rate to neoadjuvant chemotherapy and a favorable prognosis. HR+/HER2- tumors had a good prognosis irrespective of a pCR, whereas patients with HR-/HER- and HR-/HER+ tumors, especially if they had not achieved a pCR, had an unfavorable prognosis and are in need of additional treatment options.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00793377
doi:10.1186/bcr2363
PMCID: PMC2790846  PMID: 19758440
25.  Class I histone deacetylases 1, 2 and 3 are highly expressed in renal cell cancer 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:381.
Background
Enhanced activity of histone deacetylases (HDAC) is associated with more aggressive tumour behaviour and tumour progression in various solid tumours. The over-expression of these proteins and their known functions in malignant neoplasms has led to the development of HDAC inhibitors (HDI) as new anti-neoplastic drugs. However, little is known about HDAC expression in renal cell cancer.
Methods
We investigated the expression of HDAC 1, 2 and 3 in 106 renal cell carcinomas and corresponding normal renal tissue by immunohistochemistry on tissue micro arrays and correlated expression data with clinico-pathological parameters including patient survival.
Results
Almost 60% of renal cell carcinomas expressed the HDAC isoforms 1 and 2. In contrast, HDAC 3 was only detected in 13% of all renal tumours, with particular low expression rates in the clear cell subtype. HDAC 3 was significantly higher expressed in pT1/2 tumours in comparison to pT3/4 tumours. Expression of class I HDAC isoforms correlated with each other and with the proliferative activity of the tumours. We found no prognostic value of the expression of any of the HDAC isoforms in this tumour entity.
Conclusion
Class I HDAC isoforms 1 and 2 are highly expressed in renal cell cancer, while HDAC 3 shows low, histology dependent expression rates. These unexpected differences in the expression patterns suggests alternative regulatory mechanisms of class I HDACs in renal cell cancer and should be taken into account when trials with isoform selective HDI are being planned. Whether HDAC expression in renal cancers is predictive of responsiveness for HDI will have to be tested in further studies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-381
PMCID: PMC2631013  PMID: 19099586

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