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1.  Genome-wide signatures of differential DNA methylation in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia 
Genome Biology  2013;14(9):r105.
Although aberrant DNA methylation has been observed previously in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the patterns of differential methylation have not been comprehensively determined in all subtypes of ALL on a genome-wide scale. The relationship between DNA methylation, cytogenetic background, drug resistance and relapse in ALL is poorly understood.
We surveyed the DNA methylation levels of 435,941 CpG sites in samples from 764 children at diagnosis of ALL and from 27 children at relapse. This survey uncovered four characteristic methylation signatures. First, compared with control blood cells, the methylomes of ALL cells shared 9,406 predominantly hypermethylated CpG sites, independent of cytogenetic background. Second, each cytogenetic subtype of ALL displayed a unique set of hyper- and hypomethylated CpG sites. The CpG sites that constituted these two signatures differed in their functional genomic enrichment to regions with marks of active or repressed chromatin. Third, we identified subtype-specific differential methylation in promoter and enhancer regions that were strongly correlated with gene expression. Fourth, a set of 6,612 CpG sites was predominantly hypermethylated in ALL cells at relapse, compared with matched samples at diagnosis. Analysis of relapse-free survival identified CpG sites with subtype-specific differential methylation that divided the patients into different risk groups, depending on their methylation status.
Our results suggest an important biological role for DNA methylation in the differences between ALL subtypes and in their clinical outcome after treatment.
PMCID: PMC4014804  PMID: 24063430
2.  Outcomes after Induction Failure in Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
The New England Journal of Medicine  2012;366(15):1371-1381.
Failure of remission-induction therapy is a rare but highly adverse event in children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
We identified induction failure, defined by the persistence of leukemic blasts in blood, bone marrow, or any extramedullary site after 4 to 6 weeks of remission-induction therapy, in 1041 of 44,017 patients (2.4%) 0 to 18 years of age with newly diagnosed ALL who were treated by a total of 14 cooperative study groups between 1985 and 2000. We analyzed the relationships among disease characteristics, treatments administered, and outcomes in these patients.
Patients with induction failure frequently presented with high-risk features, including older age, high leukocyte count, leukemia with a T-cell phenotype, the Philadelphia chromosome, and 11q23 rearrangement. With a median follow-up period of 8.3 years (range, 1.5 to 22.1), the 10-year survival rate (±SE) was estimated at only 32±1%. An age of 10 years or older, T-cell leukemia, the presence of an 11q23 rearrangement, and 25% or more blasts in the bone marrow at the end of induction therapy were associated with a particularly poor outcome. High hyperdiploidy (a modal chromosome number >50) and an age of 1 to 5 years were associated with a favorable outcome in patients with precursor B-cell leukemia. Allogeneic stem-cell transplantation from matched, related donors was associated with improved outcomes in T-cell leukemia. Children younger than 6 years of age with precursor B-cell leukemia and no adverse genetic features had a 10-year survival rate of 72±5% when treated with chemotherapy only.
Pediatric ALL with induction failure is highly heterogeneous. Patients who have T-cell leukemia appear to have a better outcome with allogeneic stem-cell transplantation than with chemotherapy, whereas patients who have precursor B-cell leukemia without other adverse features appear to have a better outcome with chemotherapy. (Funded by Deutsche Krebshilfe and others.)
PMCID: PMC3374496  PMID: 22494120
3.  Doxorubicin Requires the Sequential Activation of Caspase-2, Protein Kinase Cδ, and c-Jun NH2-terminal Kinase to Induce ApoptosisD⃞ 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2005;16(8):3821-3831.
Here, we identified caspase-2, protein kinase C (PKC)δ, and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) as key components of the doxorubicin-induced apoptotic cascade. Using cells stably transfected with an antisense construct for caspase-2 (AS2) as well as a chemical caspase-2 inhibitor, we demonstrate that caspase-2 is required in doxorubicin-induced apoptosis. We also identified PKCδ as a novel caspase-2 substrate. PKCδ was cleaved/activated in a caspase-2–dependent manner after doxorubicin treatment both in cells and in vitro. PKCδ is furthermore required for efficient doxorubicin-induced apoptosis because its chemical inhibition as well as adenoviral expression of a kinase dead (KD) mutant of PKCδ severely attenuated doxorubicin-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, PKCδ and JNK inhibition show that PKCδ lies upstream of JNK in doxorubicin-induced death. Jnk-deficient mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) were highly resistant to doxorubicin compared with wild type (WT), as were WT Jurkat cells treated with SP600125, further supporting the importance of JNK in doxorubicin-induced apoptosis. Chemical inhibitors for PKCδ and JNK do not synergize and do not function in doxorubicin-treated AS2 cells. Caspase-2, PKCδ, and JNK were furthermore implicated in doxorubicin-induced apoptosis of primary acute lymphoblastic leukemia blasts. The data thus support a sequential model involving caspase-2, PKCδ, and JNK signaling in response to doxorubicin, leading to the activation of Bak and execution of apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC1182319  PMID: 15917298
4.  The Mutational Landscape in Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Deciphered by Whole Genome Sequencing 
Human Mutation  2014;36(1):118-128.
Genomic characterization of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has identified distinct patterns of genes and pathways altered in patients with well-defined genetic aberrations. To extend the spectrum of known somatic variants in ALL, we performed whole genome and transcriptome sequencing of three B-cell precursor patients, of which one carried the t(12;21)ETV6-RUNX1 translocation and two lacked a known primary genetic aberration, and one T-ALL patient. We found that each patient had a unique genome, with a combination of well-known and previously undetected genomic aberrations. By targeted sequencing in 168 patients, we identified KMT2D and KIF1B as novel putative driver genes. We also identified a putative regulatory non-coding variant that coincided with overexpression of the growth factor MDK. Our results contribute to an increased understanding of the biological mechanisms that lead to ALL and suggest that regulatory variants may be more important for cancer development than recognized to date. The heterogeneity of the genetic aberrations in ALL renders whole genome sequencing particularly well suited for analysis of somatic variants in both research and diagnostic applications.
PMCID: PMC4309499  PMID: 25355294
clonal heterogeneity; acute lymphoblastic leukemia; whole genome sequencing; RNA sequencing

Results 1-4 (4)