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1.  Advances and challenges in the molecular biology and treatment of glioblastoma—is there any hope for the future? 
Malignant gliomas, such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), present some of the greatest challenges in the management of cancer patients worldwide. Even with aggressive surgical resections and recent advances in radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the prognosis for GBM patients remains dismal and quality of life is poor. Although new molecular pathways crucial to the biology and invasive ability of GBM are coming to light, translation of basic science achievements into clinical practice is slow. Optimal management requires a multidisciplinary approach and knowledge of potential complications arising from both disease and treatment. To help illustrate “where we are going” with GBM, we here include a detailed depiction of the molecular alterations underlying this fatal disease, as well as intensive research over the past two decades that has led to considerable advances in the understanding of basic GBM biology, pathogenesis and therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC4293478
Glioblastoma; targeted therapies; temozolomide (TMZ)
2.  Plasma mRNA expression levels of BRCA1 and TS as potential predictive biomarkers for chemotherapy in gastric cancer 
Personalized chemotherapy based on predictive biomarkers can maximize efficacy. However, tumor tissue obtained at the time of initial diagnosis will not reflect genetic alterations observed at the time of disease progression. We have examined whether plasma mRNA levels can be a surrogate for tumor levels in predicting chemosensitivity.
In 150 gastric cancer patients, mRNA levels of BRCA1 and TS were assessed in plasma and paired tumor tissue. The Mann-Whitney U-test was used to compare mRNA expression levels between tumor samples exhibiting in vitro sensitivity or resistance to docetaxel and pemetrexed. All statistical tests were two-sided.
There were significant correlations between plasma and tumor mRNA levels of BRCA1 (rho = 0.696, P < 0.001) and TS (rho = 0.620, P < 0.001). BRCA1 levels in plasma (docetaxel-sensitive: 1.25; docetaxel-resistant: 0.50, P < 0.001) and tumor (docetaxel-sensitive: 8.81; docetaxel-resistant: 4.88, P < 0.001) were positively associated with docetaxel sensitivity. TS levels in plasma (pemetrexed-sensitive: 0.90; pemetrexed-resistant: 1.82, P < 0.001) and tumor (pemetrexed-sensitive: 6.56; pemetrexed-resistant: 16.69, P < 0.001) were negatively associated with pemetrexed sensitivity.
Plasma mRNA expression levels mirror those in the tumor and may have a promising role as potential predictive biomarkers for chemotherapy.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12967-014-0355-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302091  PMID: 25496700
Plasma mRNA; Gastric cancer; Chemosensitivity; Predictive biomarker; HDRA
3.  Cross-validation analysis of the prognostic significance of mucin expression in patients with resected non-small cell lung cancer treated with adjuvant chemotherapy: results from IALT, JBR.10 and ANITA 
CALGB 9633 was a randomized trial of observation versus adjuvant chemotherapy for patients with stage IB non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In CALGB 9633, the presence of mucin in the primary tumor was associated with shorter disease-free survival (DFS; hazard ratio (HR)=1.9, p=0.002) and overall survival (OS; HR=1.9, p=0.004).
To validate these results, mucin staining was performed on primary tumor specimens from 780 patients treated on IALT, 351 on JBR.10 and 150 on ANITA. The histochemical technique using mucicarmine was performed. The prognostic value of mucin for DFS and OS was tested in a Cox model stratified by trial and adjusted for clinical and pathological factors. A pooled analysis of all 4 trials was performed for the predictive value of mucin for benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.
The cross-validation group had 48% squamous, 37% adenocarcinoma and 15% other NSCLC compared with 29%, 56%, and 15% respectively in CALGB. Among 1262 patients with assessable results, mucin was positive in IALT 24%, JBR.10 30%, ANITA 22% compared with 45% in CALGB. Histology was the only significant covariate (p<0.0001) in multivariate analysis with mucin seen more commonly in adenocarcinoma (56%) compared with squamous (5%) and other NSCLC (15%). Mucin was a borderline negative prognostic factor for DFS (HR=1.2 [1.0–1.5], p=0.06) but not significantly so for OS (HR=1.1 [0.9–1.4], p=0.25). Prognostic value did not vary according to histology: HR=1.3 [1.0–1.6] in adenocarcinoma vs. 1.6 [1.2–2.2] for DFS in other histology (interaction p=0.69). Mucin status was not predictive for benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy (test of interaction: DFS p=0.27; OS p=0.49).
Mucin was less frequent in the cross-validation group due to its higher percentage of squamous cell carcinomas. The negative impact of mucin was confirmed for DFS but not for OS. Mucin expression was not predictive of overall survival benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3804220  PMID: 23920379
Non-small cell lung cancer; prognostic factors; mucin; predictive factors; adenocarcinoma
4.  EMT and EGFR in CTCs cytokeratin negative non-metastatic breast cancer 
Oncotarget  2014;5(17):7486-7497.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are frequently associated with epithelialmesenchymal transition (EMT). The objective of this study was to detect EMT phenotype through Vimentin (VIM) and Slug expression in cytokeratin (CK)-negative CTCs in non-metastatic breast cancer patients and to determine the importance of EGFR in the EMT phenomenon. In CK-negative CTCs samples, both VIM and Slug markers were co-expressed in the most of patients. Among patients EGFR+, half of them were positive for these EMT markers. Furthermore, after a systemic treatment 68% of patients switched from CK- to CK+ CTCs. In our experimental model we found that activation of EGFR signaling by its ligand on MCF-7 cells is sufficient to increase EMT phenotypes, to inhibit apoptotic events and to induce the loss of CK expression. The simultaneous detection of both EGFR and EMT markers in CTCs may improve prognostic or predictive information in patients with operable breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4202138  PMID: 25277187
Breast Cancer; Circulating Tumor Cells; EGFR; Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition; Vimentin; Slug; Bcl-2; Apoptosis
5.  Systemic treatment in EGFR-ALK NSCLC patients: second line therapy and beyond 
Cancer Biology & Medicine  2014;11(3):173-181.
Lung cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and a leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide, with adenocarcinoma being the most common histological subtype. Deeper understanding of the pathobiology of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has led to the development of small molecules that target genetic mutations known to play critical roles in progression to metastatic disease and to influence response to targeted therapies. The principle goal of precision medicine is to define those patient populations most likely to respond to targeted therapies. However, the cancer genome landscape is composed of relatively few “mountains” [representing the most commonly mutated genes like KRAS, epidermal growth factor (EGFR), and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)] and a vast number of “hills” (representing low frequency but potentially actionable mutations). Low-frequency lesions that affect a druggable gene product allow a relatively small population of cancer patients for targeted therapy to be selected.
PMCID: PMC4197428  PMID: 25364578
Lung cancer; epidermal growth factor (EGFR); anaplastic lymphoma kinase fusions (ALK fusions); tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs); TKI resistance
6.  CRIPTO1 expression in EGFR-mutant NSCLC elicits intrinsic EGFR-inhibitor resistance 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(7):3003-3015.
The majority of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients harbor EGFR-activating mutations that can be therapeutically targeted by EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKI), such as erlotinib and gefitinib. Unfortunately, a subset of patients with EGFR mutations are refractory to EGFR-TKIs. Resistance to EGFR inhibitors reportedly involves SRC activation and induction of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Here, we have demonstrated that overexpression of CRIPTO1, an EGF-CFC protein family member, renders EGFR-TKI–sensitive and EGFR-mutated NSCLC cells resistant to erlotinib in culture and in murine xenograft models. Furthermore, tumors from NSCLC patients with EGFR-activating mutations that were intrinsically resistant to EGFR-TKIs expressed higher levels of CRIPTO1 compared with tumors from patients that were sensitive to EGFR-TKIs. Primary NSCLC cells derived from a patient with EGFR-mutated NSCLC that was intrinsically erlotinib resistant were CRIPTO1 positive, but gained erlotinib sensitivity upon loss of CRIPTO1 expression during culture. CRIPTO1 activated SRC and ZEB1 to promote EMT via microRNA-205 (miR-205) downregulation. While miR-205 depletion induced erlotinib resistance, miR-205 overexpression inhibited CRIPTO1-dependent ZEB1 and SRC activation, restoring erlotinib sensitivity. CRIPTO1-induced erlotinib resistance was directly mediated through SRC but not ZEB1; therefore, cotargeting EGFR and SRC synergistically attenuated growth of erlotinib-resistant, CRIPTO1-positive, EGFR-mutated NSCLC cells in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that this combination may overcome intrinsic EGFR-inhibitor resistance in patients with CRIPTO1-positive, EGFR-mutated NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC4071378  PMID: 24911146
7.  PharmGKB Summary: Very Important Pharmacogene Information for Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) 
Pharmacogenetics and genomics  2013;23(11):636-642.
PMCID: PMC3966564  PMID: 23962910
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR); tyrosine kinase inhibitor; erlotinib; gefitinib; pharmacogenomics
8.  TAZ Is Highly Expressed in Gastric Signet Ring Cell Carcinoma 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:393064.
Transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) is known to bind to a variety of transcription factors to control cell differentiation and organ development. We examined TAZ protein levels in 146 stage II–IV gastric cancer using immunohistochemistry (IHC), while TAZ mRNA was confirmed by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (QRT-PCR) in 84 samples with enough tissue. TAZ protein expression was positive in 113 out of 146 (77.4%) gastric cancer samples. In parallel, TAZ mRNA expression was successfully detected in 81 of the 84 (96.4%) samples. Protein levels of TAZ were positively correlated with its mRNA levels (P = 0.018). High expression of TAZ protein was observed with higher percentage in gastric cancer samples with histology of signet ring cell carcinoma (SRCC) than adenocarcinoma (85.7% versus 60.2%, P = 0.001). Similarly, TAZ mRNA level was higher in SRCC than in adenocarcinoma (P = 0.003). When correlated with survival, the median overall survival (OS) is 14 months (95% CI: 12.2–15.8 months) in all patients. There was no significant association between survival and other clinical characteristics or TAZ expression levels. Our results show that TAZ is highly expressed in SRCC. TAZ might be considered as a target for the treatment of gastric SRCC in future.
PMCID: PMC3953576  PMID: 24707483
9.  Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Patients 
The Oncologist  2012;17(12):1484-1485.
The manuscript by Qian and colleagues published in this issue of The Oncologist is reviewed.
PMCID: PMC3528379  PMID: 23015663
10.  The predictive value of 53BP1 and BRCA1 mRNA expression in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer patients treated with first-line platinum-based chemotherapy 
Oncotarget  2013;4(10):1572-1581.
Platinum-based chemotherapy is the standard first-line treatment for non-oncogene-addicted non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) and the analysis of multiple DNA repair genes could improve current models for predicting chemosensitivity. We investigated the potential predictive role of components of the 53BP1 pathway in conjunction with BRCA1. The mRNA expression of BRCA1, MDC1, CASPASE3, UBC13, RNF8, 53BP1, PIAS4, UBC9 and MMSET was analyzed by real-time PCR in 115 advanced NSCLC patients treated with first-line platinum-based chemotherapy. Patients expressing low levels of both BRCA1 and 53BP1 obtained a median progression-free survival of 10.3 months and overall survival of 19.3 months, while among those with low BRCA1 and high 53BP1 progression-free survival was 5.9 months (P <0.0001) and overall survival was 8.2 months (P=0.001). The expression of 53BP1 refines BRCA1-based predictive modeling to identify patients most likely to benefit from platinum-based chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3858546  PMID: 24197907
BRCA1; 53BP1; DNA repair; predictive modeling; platinum
11.  Activation of the AXL Kinase Causes Resistance to EGFR-Targeted Therapy in Lung Cancer 
Nature genetics  2012;44(8):852-860.
Human NSCLCs with activating mutations in EGFR frequently respond to treatment with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as erlotinib but responses are not durable as tumors acquire resistance. Secondary mutations in EGFR (T790M) or upregulation of the MET kinase are found in over 50% of resistant tumors. Here, we report increased activation of AXL and evidence of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in multiple in vitro and in vivo EGFR-mutant lung cancer models with erlotinib acquired resistance in the absence of EGFR T790M or MET activation. Genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of AXL restored sensitivity to erlotinib in these tumor models. Increased expression of AXL, and in some cases its ligand GAS6, was found in EGFR-mutant lung cancers obtained from patients with EGFR TKI acquired resistance. These data identify AXL as a promising therapeutic target whose inhibition could prevent or overcome EGFR TKI acquired resistance in EGFR-mutant lung cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3408577  PMID: 22751098
12.  Multicenter, Phase II Trial of Sunitinib in Previously Treated, Advanced Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Aberrant vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) signaling have been shown to play a role in non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) pathogenesis and are associated with decreased survival. We evaluated the clinical activity and tolerability of sunitinib malate (SU11248), an oral, multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks the activity of receptors for VEGF and PDGF, as well as related tyrosine kinases in patients with previously treated, advanced NSCLC.
Patients and Methods
Patients with stage IIIB or IV NSCLC for whom platinum-based chemotherapy had failed received 50 mg/d of sunitinib for 4 weeks followed by 2 weeks of no treatment in 6-week treatment cycles. The primary end point was objective response rate (ORR); secondary end points included progression-free survival, overall survival, and safety.
Of the 63 patients treated with sunitinib, seven patients had confirmed partial responses, yielding an ORR of 11.1% (95% CI, 4.6% to 21.6%). An additional 18 patients (28.6%) experienced stable disease of at least 8 weeks in duration. Median progression-free survival was 12.0 weeks (95% CI, 10.0 to 16.1 weeks), and median overall survival was 23.4 weeks (95% CI, 17.0 to 28.3 weeks). Therapy was generally well tolerated.
Sunitinib has promising single-agent activity in patients with recurrent NSCLC, with an ORR similar to that of currently approved agents and an acceptable safety profile. Further evaluation in combination with other targeted agents and chemotherapy in patients with NSCLC is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3559017  PMID: 18235126
13.  FAS and NF-κB signalling modulate dependence of lung cancers on mutant EGFR 
Nature  2011;471(7339):523-526.
Human lung adenocarcinomas with activating mutations in EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) often respond to treatment with EGFRtyrosine kinase inhibitors(TKIs),butthe magnitude of tumour regression is variable and transient1,2. This heterogeneity in treatment response could result from genetic modifiers that regulate the degree to which tumour cells are dependent on mutant EGFR. Through a pooled RNA interference screen, we show that knockdown of FAS and several components of the NF-κB pathway specifically enhanced cell death induced by the EGFR TKI erlotinib in EGFR-mutant lung cancer cells. Activation of NF-κB through overexpression of c-FLIP or IKK (also known as CFLAR and IKBKB, respectively), or silencing of IκB (also known as NFKBIA), rescued EGFR-mutant lung cancer cells from EGFR TKI treatment. Genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of NF-κB enhanced erlotinib-induced apoptosis in erlotinib-sensitive and erlotinib-resistant EGFR-mutant lung cancer models. Increased expression of the NF-κB inhibitor IκB predicted for improved response and survival in EGFR-mutant lung cancer patients treated with EGFR TKI. These data identify NF-κB as a potential companion drug target, together with EGFR, in EGFR-mutant lung cancers and provide insight into the mechanisms by which tumour cells escape from oncogene dependence.
PMCID: PMC3541675  PMID: 21430781
14.  Endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration in the diagnosis of intrathoracic lymph node metastases from extrathoracic malignancies 
Intrathoracic lymph node enlargement is a common finding in patients with extrathoracic malignancies. Endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) is a technique that is commonly used for lung cancer diagnosis and staging but that has not been widely investigated for the diagnosis of enlarged mediastinal and lobar lymph nodes in patients with extrathoracic malignancies. We conducted a retrospective study of 117 patients with extrathoracic malignancies who underwent EBUS-TBNA for diagnosis of intrathoracic lymph node enlargement from October 2005 to December 2009 and compared the EBUS-TBNA findings with the final diagnoses. EBUS-TBNA diagnosed mediastinal metastases in 51 of the 117 (43.6 %) cases and gave an alternate diagnosis or ruled out the presence of malignancy in 35 (56.4 %). Fourteen of these 35 patients underwent further surgical investigation, while the remaining 21 had clinical and radiological follow-up for 18 months. No false negatives were found in the surgery group. In the follow-up group, 13 patients had stable or regressive lymphadenopathy, and eight developed clinicoradiological progression and were assumed to have been false negatives by EBUS-TBNA. The sensitivity and negative predictive value of EBUS-TBNA were 86.4 and 75 %, respectively. Immunohistochemical staining (IHC) was performed in 80.4 % of the samples obtained by EBUS-TBNA. In samples obtained from ten patients with metastatic breast cancer, estrogen receptor expression was successfully assessed in eight patients and progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 in four. EBUS-TBNA is an accurate procedure for the diagnosis of thoracic lymph node metastases in patients with extrathoracic malignancies and should be an initial diagnostic tool in these patients. Furthermore, EBUS-TBNA can obtain high-quality specimens from metastatic lymph nodes for use in molecular analyses.
PMCID: PMC3616225  PMID: 23196318
Endobronchial ultrasound; Transbronchial needle aspiration; EBUS-TBNA; Mediastinal lymph node metastases; Extrathoracic malignancy; Immunohistochemistry
15.  Mouse p53-Deficient Cancer Models as Platforms for Obtaining Genomic Predictors of Human Cancer Clinical Outcomes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42494.
Mutations in the TP53 gene are very common in human cancers, and are associated with poor clinical outcome. Transgenic mouse models lacking the Trp53 gene or that express mutant Trp53 transgenes produce tumours with malignant features in many organs. We previously showed the transcriptome of a p53-deficient mouse skin carcinoma model to be similar to those of human cancers with TP53 mutations and associated with poor clinical outcomes. This report shows that much of the 682-gene signature of this murine skin carcinoma transcriptome is also present in breast and lung cancer mouse models in which p53 is inhibited. Further, we report validated gene-expression-based tests for predicting the clinical outcome of human breast and lung adenocarcinoma. It was found that human patients with cancer could be stratified based on the similarity of their transcriptome with the mouse skin carcinoma 682-gene signature. The results also provide new targets for the treatment of p53-defective tumours.
PMCID: PMC3413665  PMID: 22880004
16.  Loss of Activating EGFR Mutant Gene Contributes to Acquired Resistance to EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors in Lung Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41017.
Non-small-cell lung cancer harboring epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations attains a meaningful response to EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). However, acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs could affect long-term outcome in almost all patients. To identify the potential mechanisms of resistance, we established cell lines resistant to EGFR-TKIs from the human lung cancer cell lines PC9 and11–18, which harbored activating EGFR mutations. One erlotinib-resistant cell line from PC9 and two erlotinib-resistant cell lines and two gefitinib-resistant cell lines from 11–18 were independently established. Almost complete loss of mutant delE746-A750 EGFR gene was observed in the erlotinib-resistant cells isolated from PC9, and partial loss of the mutant L858R EGFR gene copy was specifically observed in the erlotinib- and gefitinib-resistant cells from 11–18. However, constitutive activation of EGFR downstream signaling, PI3K/Akt, was observed even after loss of the mutated EGFR gene in all resistant cell lines even in the presence of the drug. In the erlotinib-resistant cells from PC9, constitutive PI3K/Akt activation was effectively inhibited by lapatinib (a dual TKI of EGFR and HER2) or BIBW2992 (pan-TKI of EGFR family proteins). Furthermore, erlotinib with either HER2 or HER3 knockdown by their cognate siRNAs also inhibited PI3K/Akt activation. Transfection of activating mutant EGFR complementary DNA restored drug sensitivity in the erlotinib-resistant cell line. Our study indicates that loss of addiction to mutant EGFR resulted in gain of addiction to both HER2/HER3 and PI3K/Akt signaling to acquire EGFR-TKI resistance.
PMCID: PMC3398867  PMID: 22815900
17.  No evidence of an association of ERCC1 and ERCC2 polymorphisms with clinical outcomes of platinum-based chemotherapies in non-small cell lung cancer: a meta-analysis 
The nucleotide excision repair (NER) pathway modulates platinum-based chemotherapeutic efficacy by removing drug-induced DNA damage.
To summarize published data on the association between NER genes and responses to platinum-based chemotherapies in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), we performed a meta-analysis of 17 published studies of ERCC1 C118T/C8092A and ERCC2 Lys751Gln/Asp312Asn polymorphisms, including 2,097 cancer patients. Primary outcomes included objective response (TR) (i.e., complete response + partial response vs. stable disease + progressive disease), progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). We calculated odds ratio (OR) or hazard ratio (HR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) to estimate the risk or hazard.
We found that none of the ERCC1 C118T/C8092A and ERCC2 Lys751Gln/Asp312Asn polymorphisms alone was statistically significantly associated with objective response, PFS and OS in NSCLC patients.
There is no evidence to support the use of NER ERCC1 C118T/C8092A and ERCC2 Lys751Gln/Asp312Asn polymorphisms as prognostic predictors of platinum-based chemotherapies in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3050122  PMID: 21075476
Chemotherapy; DNA repair; Meta-analysis; Pharmacogenetics; Platinum
18.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Survival in Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients Receiving Platinum-Based Chemotherapy 
Interindividual variation in genetic background may influence the response to chemotherapy and overall survival for patients with advanced-stage non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
To identify genetic variants associated with poor overall survival in these patients, we conducted a genome-wide scan of 307 260 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 327 advanced-stage NSCLC patients who received platinum-based chemotherapy with or without radiation at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (the discovery population). A fast-track replication was performed for 315 patients from the Mayo Clinic followed by a second validation at the University of Pittsburgh in 420 patients enrolled in the Spanish Lung Cancer Group PLATAX clinical trial. A pooled analysis combining the Mayo Clinic and PLATAX populations or all three populations was also used to validate the results. We assessed the association of each SNP with overall survival by multivariable Cox proportional hazard regression analysis. All statistical tests were two-sided.
SNP rs1878022 in the chemokine-like receptor 1 (CMKLR1) was statistically significantly associated with poor overall survival in the MD Anderson discovery population (hazard ratio [HR] of death = 1.59, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.32 to 1.92, P = 1.42 × 10−6), in the PLATAX clinical trial (HR of death = 1.23, 95% CI = 1.00 to 1.51, P = .05), in the pooled Mayo Clinic and PLATAX validation (HR of death = 1.22, 95% CI = 1.06 to 1.40, P = .005), and in pooled analysis of all three populations (HR of death = 1.33, 95% CI = 1.19 to 1.48, P = 5.13 × 10−7). Carrying a variant genotype of rs10937823 was associated with decreased overall survival (HR of death = 1.82, 95% CI = 1.42 to 2.33, P = 1.73 × 10−6) in the pooled MD Anderson and Mayo Clinic populations but not in the PLATAX trial patient population (HR of death = 0.96, 95% CI = 0.69 to 1.35).
These results have the potential to contribute to the future development of personalized chemotherapy treatments for individual NSCLC patients.
PMCID: PMC3096796  PMID: 21483023
19.  mRNA expression levels and genetic status of genes involved in the EGFR and NF-κB pathways in metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer patients 
Metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has a dismal prognosis. EGFR is overexpressed or mutated in a large proportion of cases. Downstream components of the EGFR pathway and crosstalk with the NF-κB pathway have not been examined at the clinical level. We explored the prognostic significance of the mRNA expression of nine genes in the EGFR and NF-κB pathways and of BRCA1 and RAP80 in patients in whom EGFR and K-ras gene status had previously been determined. In addition, NFKBIA and DUSP22 gene status was also determined.
mRNA expression of the eleven genes was determined by QPCR in 60 metastatic NSCLC patients and in nine lung cancer cell lines. Exon 3 of NFKBIA and exon 6 of DUSP22 were analyzed by direct sequencing. Results were correlated with outcome to platinum-based chemotherapy in patients with wild-type EGFR and to erlotinib in those with EGFR mutations.
BRCA1 mRNA expression was correlated with EZH2, AEG-1, Musashi-2, CYLD and TRAF6 expression. In patients with low levels of both BRCA1 and AEG-1, PFS was 13.02 months, compared to 5.4 months in those with high levels of both genes and 7.7 months for those with other combinations (P = 0.025). The multivariate analysis for PFS confirmed the prognostic role of high BRCA1/AEG-1 expression (HR, 3.1; P = 0.01). Neither NFKBIA nor DUSP22 mutations were found in any of the tumour samples or cell lines.
The present study provides a better understanding of the behaviour of metastatic NSCLC and identifies the combination of BRCA1 and AEG-1 expression as a potential prognostic model.
PMCID: PMC3203857  PMID: 21951562
20.  Detection of EGFR mutations with mutation-specific antibodies in stage IV non-small-cell lung cancer 
Immunohistochemistry (IHC) with mutation-specific antibodies may be an ancillary method of detecting EGFR mutations in lung cancer patients.
EGFR mutation status was analyzed by DNA assays, and compared with IHC results in five non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and tumor samples from 78 stage IV NSCLC patients.
IHC correctly identified del 19 in the H1650 and PC9 cell lines, L858R in H1975, and wild-type EGFR in H460 and A549, as well as wild-type EGFR in tumor samples from 22 patients. IHC with the mAb against EGFR with del 19 was highly positive for the protein in all 17 patients with a 15-bp (ELREA) deletion in exon 19, whereas in patients with other deletions, IHC was weakly positive in 3 cases and negative in 9 cases. IHC with the mAb against the L858R mutation showed high positivity for the protein in 25/27 (93%) patients with exon 21 EGFR mutations (all with L858R) but did not identify the L861Q mutation in the remaining two patients.
IHC with mutation-specific mAbs against EGFR is a promising method for detecting EGFR mutations in NSCLC patients. However these mAbs should be validated with additional studies to clarify their possible role in routine clinical practice for screening EGFR mutations in NSCLC patients.
PMCID: PMC3016260  PMID: 21167064
21.  Role of erlotinib in first-line and maintenance treatment of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer 
Erlotinib hydrochloride (Tarceva®) is a member of a class of small molecule inhibitors that targets the tyrosine kinase domain of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), with anti-tumor activity in preclinical models. Erlotinib represents a new-generation of agents known as “targeted therapies” designed to act upon cancer cells by interfering with aberrant specific activated pathways needed for tumor growth, angiogenesis and cell survival. Since its approval in November 2004 for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after the failure of at least one prior chemotherapy regimen and with a view to improving patients’ outcomes and prevent symptoms, the scientific community has evaluated the potential role of erlotinib in other scenarios such as in maintenance therapy and, in first-line setting for a selected population based on biological markers of response such as mutations of the EGFR. The convenient once-a-day pill administration and the good toxicity profile of erlotinib make it a reasonable candidate for testing in this context. This report provides a review of the role of erlotinib therapy in advanced NSCLC. It summarizes current data and perspectives of erlotinib in upfront treatment and maintenance for advanced NSCLC as well as looking at candidate biomarkers of response to these new targeted-agents.
PMCID: PMC3004579  PMID: 21188105
erlotinib; tyrosine kinase inhibitors; first line; maintenance; non-small-cell lung cancer
22.  The Prognostic Value of BRCA1 mRNA Expression Levels Following Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9499.
A fraction of sporadic breast cancers has low BRCA1 expression. BRCA1 mutation carriers are more likely to achieve a pathological complete response with DNA-damage-based chemotherapy compared to non-mutation carriers. Furthermore, sporadic ovarian cancer patients with low levels of BRCA1 mRNA have longer survival following platinum-based chemotherapy than patients with high levels of BRCA1 mRNA.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Tumor biopsies were obtained from 86 breast cancer patients who were candidates for neoadjuvant chemotherapy, treated with four cycles of neoadjuvant fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide. Estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), HER2, cytokeratin 5/6 and vimentin were examined by tissue microarray. HER2 were also assessed by chromogenic in situ hybridization, and BRCA1 mRNA was analyzed in a subset of 41 patients for whom sufficient tumor tissue was available by real-time quantitative PCR. Median time to progression was 42 months and overall survival was 55 months. In the multivariate analysis for time to progression and overall survival for 41 patients in whom BRCA1 could be assessed, low levels of BRCA1 mRNA, positive PR and negative lymph node involvement predicted a significantly lower risk of relapse, low levels of BRCA1 mRNA and positive PR were the only variables associated with significantly longer survival.
We provide evidence for a major role for BRCA1 mRNA expression as a marker of time to progression and overall survival in sporadic breast cancers treated with anthracycline-based chemotherapy. These findings can be useful for customizing chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2831058  PMID: 20209131
23.  Customized Treatment in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Based on EGFR Mutations and BRCA1 mRNA Expression 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5133.
Median survival is 10 months and 2-year survival is 20% in metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. A small fraction of non-squamous cell lung cancers harbor EGFR mutations, with improved outcome to gefitinib and erlotinib. Experimental evidence suggests that BRCA1 overexpression enhances sensitivity to docetaxel and resistance to cisplatin. RAP80 and Abraxas are interacting proteins that form complexes with BRCA1 and could modulate the effect of BRCA1. In order to further examine the effect of EGFR mutations and BRCA1 mRNA levels on outcome in advanced NSCLC, we performed a prospective non-randomized phase II clinical trial, testing the hypothesis that customized therapy would confer improved outcome over non-customized therapy. In an exploratory analysis, we also examined the effect of RAP80 and Abraxas mRNA levels.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We treated 123 metastatic non-squamous cell lung carcinoma patients using a customized approach. RNA and DNA were isolated from microdissected specimens from paraffin-embedded tumor tissue. Patients with EGFR mutations received erlotinib, and those without EGFR mutations received chemotherapy with or without cisplatin based on their BRCA1 mRNA levels: low, cisplatin plus gemcitabine; intermediate, cisplatin plus docetaxel; high, docetaxel alone. An exploratory analysis examined RAP80 and Abraxas expression. Median survival exceeded 28 months for 12 patients with EGFR mutations, and was 11 months for 38 patients with low BRCA1, 9 months for 40 patients with intermediate BRCA1, and 11 months for 33 patients with high BRCA1. Two-year survival was 73.3%, 41.2%, 15.6% and 0%, respectively. Median survival was influenced by RAP80 expression in the three BRCA1 groups. For example, for patients with both low BRCA1 and low RAP80, median survival exceeded 26 months. RAP80 was a significant factor for survival in patients treated according to BRCA1 levels (hazard ratio, 1.3 [95% CI, 1–1.7]; P = 0.05).
Chemotherapy customized according to BRCA1 expression levels is associated with excellent median and 2-year survival for some subsets of NSCLC patients , and RAP80 could play a crucial modulating effect on this model of customized chemotherapy.
Trial Registration NCT00883480
PMCID: PMC2673583  PMID: 19415121
24.  Tumor BRCA1, RRM1 and RRM2 mRNA Expression Levels and Clinical Response to First-Line Gemcitabine plus Docetaxel in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(11):e3695.
Overexpression of RRM1 and RRM2 has been associated with gemcitabine resistance. BRCA1 overexpression increases sensitivity to paclitaxel and docetaxel. We have retrospectively examined the effect of RRM1, RRM2 and BRCA1 expression on outcome to gemcitabine plus docetaxel in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Tumor samples were collected from 102 chemotherapy-naïve advanced NSCLC patients treated with gemcitabine plus docetaxel as part of a randomized trial. RRM1, RRM2 and BRCA1 mRNA levels were assessed by quantitative PCR and correlated with response, time to progression and survival. As BRCA1 levels increased, the probability of response increased (Odds Ratio [OR], 1.09: p = 0.01) and the risk of progression decreased (hazard ratio [HR], 0.99; p = 0.36). As RRM1 and RRM2 levels increased, the probability of response decreased (RRM1: OR, 0.97; p = 0.82; RRM2: OR, 0.94; p<0.0001) and the risk of progression increased (RRM1: HR, 1.02; p = 0.001; RRM2: HR, 1.005; p = 0.01). An interaction observed between BRCA1 and RRM1 allowed patients to be classified in three risk groups according to combinations of gene expression levels, with times to progression of 10.13, 4.17 and 2.30 months (p = 0.001). Low BRCA1 expression was the only factor significantly associated with longer time to progression in 31 patients receiving cisplatin-based second-line therapy.
The mRNA expression of BRCA1, RRM1 and RRM2 is potentially a useful tool for selecting NSCLC patients for individualized chemotherapy and warrants further investigation in prospective studies.
PMCID: PMC2579656  PMID: 19002265
25.  Pemetrexed as second-line therapy for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) 
NSCLC accounts for 80% of all cases of lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer mortality. The majority of NSCLC patients present with advanced, unresectable disease, which remains incurable. In advanced disease, chemotherapy with platinum (cisplatin or carboplatin) in combination with a third-generation cytotoxic drug (vinorelbine, gemcitabine, paclitaxel, or docetaxel) can provide a modest improvement in survival without impairing quality of life. In chemotherapy-naïve, advanced, non-squamous NSCLC patients, the combination of bevacizumab with chemotherapy was shown to produce better outcomes than chemotherapy alone. Response rates of 20%–40% can now be expected, with a median survival of 8–11 months and a 1-year survival rate of 30%–40%. In second-line treatment, docetaxel has shown superiority to best supportive care in terms of survival and quality of life. A pooled analysis comparing docetaxel administered weekly versus 3-weekly found similar survival rates between the schedules and a non-significant reduction in febrile neutropenia for the weekly regimen. Pemetrexed, a multitargeted antifolate agent, has shown clear activity in several tumors, including mesothelioma and NSCLC. In a phase III trial, second-line treatment with pemetrexed demonstrated overall survival comparable to docetaxel, with a more manageable toxicity profile.
PMCID: PMC2500250  PMID: 18827853
pemetrexed; second-line therapy; NSCLC

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