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1.  Methylation and expression of the tumour suppressor, PRDM5, in colorectal cancer and polyp subgroups 
BMC Cancer  2015;15:20.
PRDM5 is an epigenetic regulator that has been recognized as an important tumour suppressor gene. Silencing of PRDM5 by promoter hypermethylation has been demonstrated in several cancer types and PRDM5 loss results in upregulation of the Wnt pathway and increased cellular proliferation. PRDM5 has not been extensively investigated in specific subtypes of colorectal cancers. We hypothesized it would be more commonly methylated and inactivated in serrated pathway colorectal cancers that are hallmarked by a BRAF V600E mutation and a methylator phenotype, compared to traditional pathway cancers that are BRAF wild type.
Cancer (214 BRAF mutant, 122 BRAF wild type) and polyp (59 serrated polyps, 40 conventional adenomas) cohorts were analysed for PRDM5 promoter methylation using MethyLight technology. PRDM5 protein expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry in cancers and polyps. Mutation of PRDM5 was analysed using cBioPortal’s publicly available database.
BRAF mutant cancers had significantly more frequent PRDM5 promoter methylation than BRAF wild type cancers (77/214,36% vs 4/122,3%; p<0.0001). Serrated type polyps had a lower methylation rate than cancers but were more commonly methylated than conventional adenomas (6/59,10% vs 0/40,0%). PRDM5 methylation was associated with advanced stages of presentation (p<0.05) and the methylator phenotype (p=0.03). PRDM5 protein expression was substantially down-regulated in both BRAF mutant and wild type cancer cohorts (92/97,95% and 39/44,89%). The polyp subgroups showed less silencing than the cancers, but similar rates were found between the serrated and conventional polyp cohorts (29/59, 49%; 23/40, 58% respectively). Of 295 colorectal cancers, PRDM5 was mutated in only 6 (2%) cancers which were all BRAF wild type.
Serrated pathway colorectal cancers demonstrated early and progressive PRDM5 methylation with advancing disease. Interestingly, PRDM5 protein expression was substantially reduced in all polyp types and more so in cancers which also indicates early and increasing PRDM5 down-regulation with disease progression. Methylation may be contributing to gene silencing in a proportion of BRAF mutant cancers, but the large extent of absent protein expression indicates other mechanisms are also responsible for this. These data suggest that PRDM5 is a relevant tumour suppressor gene that is frequently targeted in colorectal tumourigenesis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12885-015-1011-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4318154  PMID: 25613750
PRDM5; Colorectal cancer; BRAF V600E mutation
2.  The CIMP Phenotype in BRAF Mutant Serrated Polyps from a Prospective Colonoscopy Patient Cohort 
Colorectal cancers arising via the serrated pathway are often associated with BRAF V600E mutation, CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP), and microsatellite instability. Previous studies have shown a strong association between BRAF V600E mutation and serrated polyps. This study aims to evaluate CIMP status of all the serrated polyp subtypes and its association with functionally important genes such as MLH1, p16, and IGFBP7. CIMP status and methylation were evaluated using the real-time based MethyLight assay in 154 serrated polyps and 63 conventional adenomas. Results showed that CIMP-high serrated polyps were strongly associated with BRAF mutation and proximal colon. CIMP-high was uncommon in conventional adenomas (1.59%), occurred in 8.25% of hyperplastic polyps (HPs), and became common in sessile serrated adenomas (SSAs) (51.43%). MLH1 methylation was mainly observed in the proximal colon and was significantly associated with BRAF mutation and CIMP-high. The number of samples methylated for p16 and IGFBP7 was the highest in SSAs. The methylation panel we used to detect CIMP is highly specific for CIMP-high cancers. With this panel, we demonstrate that CIMP-high is much more common in SSAs than HPs. This suggests that CIMP-high correlates with increased risk of malignant transformation which was also observed in methylation of functionally important genes.
PMCID: PMC4000649  PMID: 24812557
3.  Microsatellite Stable Colorectal Cancers Stratified by the BRAF V600E Mutation Show Distinct Patterns of Chromosomal Instability 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91739.
The BRAF (V600E) mutation in colorectal cancers that are microsatellite stable (MSS) confers a poor patient prognosis, whereas BRAF mutant microsatellite-unstable (MSI) colorectal cancers have an excellent prognosis. BRAF wild type cancers are typically MSS and display chromosomal instability (CIN). CIN has not been extensively studied on a genome-wide basis in relation to BRAF mutational status in colorectal cancer. BRAF mutant/MSS (BRAFmut/MSS) cancers (n = 33) and BRAF mutant/MSI (BRAFmut/MSI) cancers (n = 30) were compared for presence of copy number aberrations (CNAs) indicative of CIN, with BRAF wild type/MSS (BRAFwt/MSS) cancers (n = 18) using Illumina CytoSNP-12 arrays. BRAFmut/MSS and BRAFwt/MSS cancers showed comparable numbers of CNAs/cancer at 32.8 and 29.8 respectively. However, there were differences in patterns of CNA length between MSS cohorts, with BRAFmut/MSS cancers having significantly greater proportions of focal CNAs compared to BRAFwt/MSS cancers (p<0.0001); whereas whole chromosomal arm CNAs were more common in BRAFwt/MSS cancers (p<0.0001). This related to a reduced average CNA length in BRAFmut/MSS compared to BRAFwt/MSS cancers (20.7 Mb vs 33.4 Mb;p<0.0001); and a smaller average percent of CIN affected genomes in BRAFmut/MSS compared to BRAFwt/MSS cancers (23.9% vs 34.9% respectively). BRAFmut/MSI cancers were confirmed to have low CNA rates (5.4/cancer) and minimal CIN-affected genomes (average of 4.5%) compared to MSS cohorts (p<0.0001). BRAFmut/MSS cancers had more frequent deletion CNAs compared to BRAFwt/MSS cancers on 6p and 17q at loci not typically correlated with colorectal cancer, and greater amplification CNAs on 8q and 18q compared to BRAFwt/MSS cancers. These results indicate that comparable rates of CIN occur between MSS subgroups, however significant differences in their patterns of instability exist, with BRAFmut/MSS cancers showing a ‘focal pattern’ and BRAFwt/MSS cancers having a ‘whole arm pattern’ of CIN. This and the genomic loci more frequently affected in BRAFmut/MSS cancers provides further evidence of the biological distinctions of this important cancer subgroup.
PMCID: PMC3961279  PMID: 24651849
4.  Risks of Colorectal and Other Cancers After Endometrial Cancer for Women With Lynch Syndrome 
Lynch syndrome is an autosomal dominantly inherited disorder caused by germline mutations in DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes. Previous studies have shown that MMR gene mutation carriers are at increased risk of colorectal, endometrial, and several other cancers following an initial diagnosis of colorectal cancer. We estimated cancer risks following an endometrial cancer diagnosis for women carrying MMR gene mutations.
We obtained data from the Colon Cancer Family Registry for a cohort of 127 women who had a diagnosis of endometrial cancer and who carried a mutation in one of four MMR genes (30 carried a mutation in MLH1, 72 in MSH2, 22 in MSH6, and 3 in PMS2). We used the Kaplan-Meier method to estimate 10- and 20-year cumulative risks for each cancer. We estimated the age-, country-, and calendar period–specific standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) for each cancer, compared with the general population.
Following endometrial cancer, women carrying MMR gene mutations had the following 20-year risks of other cancer cancers: colorectal cancer (48%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 35% to 62%); cancer of the kidney, renal pelvis, or ureter (11%, 95% CI = 3% to 20%); urinary bladder cancer (9%, 95% CI = 2% to 17%); and breast cancer (11%, 95% CI = 4% to 19%). Compared with the general population, these women were at statistically significantly elevated risks of colorectal cancer (SIR = 39.9, 95% CI = 27.2 to 58.3), cancer of the kidney, renal pelvis, or ureter (SIR = 28.3, 95% CI = 11.9 to 48.6), urinary bladder cancer (SIR = 24.3, 95% CI = 8.56 to 42.9), and breast cancer (SIR = 2.51, 95% CI = 1.17 to 4.14).
Women with Lynch syndrome who are diagnosed with endometrial cancer have increased risks of several cancers, including breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3576323  PMID: 23385444
5.  Cancer risks for MLH1 and MSH2 mutation carriers 
Human mutation  2013;34(3):10.1002/humu.22262.
We studied 17,576 members of 166 MLH1 and 224 MSH2 mutation-carrying families from the Colon Cancer Family Registry. Average cumulative risks of colorectal cancer (CRC), endometrial cancer (EC) and other cancers for carriers were estimated using modified segregation analysis conditioned on ascertainment criteria. Heterogeneity in risks was investigated using a polygenic risk modifier. Average CRC cumulative risks to age 70 years (95% confidence intervals) for MLH1 and MSH2 mutation carriers, respectively, were estimated to be 34% (25%-50%) and 47% (36%-60%) for male carriers and 36% (25%-51%) and 37% (27%-50%) for female carriers. Corresponding EC risks were 18% (9.1%-34%) and 30% (18%-45%). A high level of CRC risk heterogeneity was observed (p<0.001), with cumulative risks to age 70 years estimated to follow U-shaped distributions. For example 17% of male MSH2 mutation carriers have estimated lifetime risks of 0-10% while 18% have risks of 90-100%. Therefore, average risks are similar for the two genes but there is so much individual variation about the average that large proportions of carriers have either very low or very high lifetime cancer risks. Our estimates of CRC and EC cumulative risks for MLH1 and MSH2 mutation carriers are the most precise currently available.
PMCID: PMC3887142  PMID: 23255516
Lynch syndrome; MLH1; MSH2; risk; penetrance; cancer; colorectal cancer; endometrial cancer; segregation analysis; Colon CFR
6.  Metachronous colorectal cancer risk for mismatch repair gene mutation carriers – the advantage of more extensive colon surgery 
Gut  2010;60(7):10.1136/gut.2010.228056.
Surgical management of colon cancer for patients with Lynch Syndrome who carry a mismatch repair gene mutation is controversial. The decision to remove more or less of the colon involves the consideration of a relatively high risk of metachronous colorectal cancer (CRC) with the impact of more extensive surgery. Our aim was to estimate and compare the risks of metachronous CRC for Lynch Syndrome patients undergoing either segmental or extensive (subtotal or total) resection for first colon cancer.
Risk of metachronous CRC was estimated for 382 MMR gene mutation carriers (172 MLH1, 167 MSH2, 23 MSH6 and 20 PMS2) from the Colon Cancer Family Registry, who had surgery for their first colon cancer using retrospective cohort analysis. Age-dependent cumulative risks of metachronous CRC were calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Risk factors for metachronous CRC were assessed by a Cox proportional hazards regression.
None of 50 subjects who had extensive colectomy was diagnosed with metachronous CRC (incidence rate 0.0; 95%CI 0.0–7.2 per 1000 person-years). Of 332 subjects who had segmental resections, 74 (22%) were diagnosed with metachronous CRC (incidence rate 23.6; 95%CI 18.8–29.7 per 1000 person-years). For those who had segmental resections, incidence was statistically higher than for those who had extensive surgery (P <0.001). Cumulative risk of metachronous CRC was 16% (95%CI 10–25%) at 10 years, 41% (95%CI 30–52%) at 20 years and 62% (95%CI 50–77%) at 30 years after segmental colectomy. Risk of metachronous CRC reduced by 31% (95%CI 12–46%; P 0.002) for every 10 cm of bowel removed.
Lynch Syndrome patients with first colon cancer treated with more extensive colonic resection have a lower risk of metachronous CRC compared with those receiving less extensive surgery. This finding will better inform decision-making regarding the extent of primary surgical resection.
PMCID: PMC3848416  PMID: 21193451
Lynch Syndrome; metachronous colorectal cancer; colorectal surgery
7.  Risks of Primary Extracolonic Cancers Following Colorectal Cancer in Lynch Syndrome 
Lynch syndrome is a highly penetrant cancer predisposition syndrome caused by germline mutations in DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes. We estimated the risks of primary cancers other than colorectal cancer following a diagnosis of colorectal cancer in mutation carriers.
We obtained data from the Colon Cancer Family Registry for 764 carriers of an MMR gene mutation (316 MLH1, 357 MSH2, 49 MSH6, and 42 PMS2), who had a previous diagnosis of colorectal cancer. The Kaplan–Meier method was used to estimate their cumulative risk of cancers 10 and 20 years after colorectal cancer. We estimated the age-, sex-, country- and calendar period–specific standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) of cancers following colorectal cancer, compared with the general population.
Following colorectal cancer, carriers of MMR gene mutations had the following 10-year risk of cancers in other organs: kidney, renal pelvis, ureter, and bladder (2%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1% to 3%); small intestine, stomach, and hepatobiliary tract (1%, 95% CI = 0.2% to 2%); prostate (3%, 95% CI = 1% to 5%); endometrium (12%, 95% CI = 8% to 17%); breast (2%, 95% CI = 1% to 4%); and ovary (1%, 95% CI = 0% to 2%). They were at elevated risk compared with the general population: cancers of the kidney, renal pelvis, and ureter (SIR = 12.54, 95% CI = 7.97 to 17.94), urinary bladder (SIR = 7.22, 95% CI = 4.08 to 10.99), small intestine (SIR = 72.68, 95% CI = 39.95 to 111.29), stomach (SIR = 5.65, 95% CI = 2.32 to 9.69), and hepatobiliary tract (SIR = 5.94, 95% CI = 1.81 to 10.94) for both sexes; cancer of the prostate (SIR = 2.05, 95% CI = 1.23 to 3.01), endometrium (SIR = 40.23, 95% CI = 27.91 to 56.06), breast (SIR = 1.76, 95% CI = 1.07 to 2.59), and ovary (SIR = 4.19, 95% CI = 1.28 to 7.97).
Carriers of MMR gene mutations who have already had a colorectal cancer are at increased risk of a greater range of cancers than the recognized spectrum of Lynch syndrome cancers, including breast and prostate cancers.
PMCID: PMC3529597  PMID: 22933731
8.  Serrated polyps of the large intestine: current understanding of diagnosis, pathogenesis, and clinical management 
Journal of Gastroenterology  2012;48(3):287-302.
Approximately 30 % of colorectal carcinomas develop via the serrated neoplasia pathway characterized by widespread DNA methylation and frequent BRAF mutation. Serrated polyps represent a heterogeneous group of polyps which are the precursor lesions to serrated pathway colorectal carcinomas. The histological classification of serrated polyps has evolved over the last two decades to distinguish three separate entities: hyperplastic polyp, sessile serrated adenoma (SSA), and traditional serrated adenoma (TSA). The malignant potential of SSAs and TSAs has been clearly demonstrated. SSAs are more challenging to detect by colonoscopy and are likely to account for some interval carcinomas of the proximal colon. Serrated polyposis syndrome is now widely recognized as conferring a high risk of colorectal carcinoma although its cause remains elusive. The current understanding of the actual malignant potential of each serrated polyp subtype is still limited due to the lack of large-scale prospective studies. Patient management guidelines have been recently updated although high-level evidence to support them is still required.
PMCID: PMC3698429  PMID: 23208018
Serrated polyps; Colorectal neoplasia; Colonoscopy; Histology; Molecular pathology; Patient management
9.  Chromosomal Instability in BRAF Mutant, Microsatellite Stable Colorectal Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47483.
The BRAF oncogene is mutated in 15% of sporadic colorectal cancers. Approximately half of these BRAF mutant cancers demonstrate frequent frameshift mutations termed microsatellite instability (MSI), but are diploid and chromosomally stable. BRAF wild type cancers are typically microsatellite stable (MSS) and instead acquire chromosomal instability (CIN). In these cancers, CIN is associated with a poor outcome. BRAF mutant cancers that are MSS, typically present at an advanced stage and have a particularly poor prognosis. We have previously demonstrated clinical and molecular similarities between MSS cancers with or without a BRAF mutation, and therefore hypothesised that CIN may also be frequent in BRAF mutant/MSS cancers. BRAF mutant/MSS (n = 60), and BRAF wild type/MSS CRCs (n = 90) were investigated for CIN using loss of heterozygosity analysis over twelve loci encompassing chromosomal regions 5q, 8p, 17p and 18q. CIN was frequent in BRAF mutant/MSS cancers (41/57, 72%), which was comparable to the rate found in BRAF wild type/MSS cancers (74/90, 82%). The greatest loss in BRAF mutant/MSS cancers occurred at 8p (26/44, 59%), and the least at 5q (19/49, 39%). CIN in BRAF mutant/MSS cancers correlated with advanced stage (AJCC III/IV: 15/17, 88%; p = 0.02); showed high rates of co-occurrence with the CpG Island Methylator Phenotype (17/23, 74%); and CIN at 18q and 8p associated with worse survival (p = 0.02, p<0.05). This study demonstrates that CIN commonly occurs in advanced BRAF mutant/MSS colorectal cancers where it may contribute to poorer survival, and further highlights molecular similarities occurring between these and BRAF wild type cancers.
PMCID: PMC3478278  PMID: 23110075
10.  Determining the frequency of de novo germline mutations in DNA mismatch repair genes 
Journal of medical genetics  2011;48(8):530-534.
Carriers of a germline mutation in a DNA mismatch repair (MMR) gene—that is, persons with Lynch syndrome—have substantially high risks of colorectal (CRC), endometrial, and several other cancers. The proportion of carriers who have de novo mutations (not inherited from either parent) is not known. This study reports a case series of de novo mutations in MMR genes and estimates the frequency of de novo mutation in MMR genes using the Colon Cancer Family Registry.
Screening for germline MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2 mutations was performed for all incident CRC cases recruited from cancer registries (population based probands) displaying microsatellite instability (MSI) or loss of expression of MMR genes by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and probands with CRC in multi-case families recruited from clinics (clinic based probands), regardless of MSI or IHC status. All relatives of probands with a pathogenic mutation who donated a blood sample underwent testing for the mutation identified in the proband.
Of 261 probands (202 clinic based, 59 population based) with MMR gene mutations for whom it was possible to determine the origin of the mutation, six (2.3%, 95% CI 0.9% to 5.0%) were confirmed as de novo, and the remaining 255 (97.7%, 95% CI 95.0% to 99.1%) were inherited. Of the de novo mutation carriers, three were clinic based probands (1.5%, 95% CI 0.3% to 4.5%) and three were population based probands (5.1%, 95% CI 1.2% to 14.5%). Two were in MLH1, three in MSH2, and one in MSH6.
De novo MMR gene mutations are uncommon causes of Lynch syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3436601  PMID: 21636617
11.  Numerical ecology validates a biogeographical distribution and gender-based effect on mucosa-associated bacteria along the human colon 
The ISME journal  2010;5(5):801-809.
We applied constrained ordination numerical ecology methods to data produced with a human intestinal tract-specific phylogenetic microarray (the Aus-HIT Chip) to examine the microbial diversity associated with matched biopsy tissue samples taken from the caecum, transverse colon, sigmoid colon and rectum of 10 healthy patients. Consistent with previous studies, the profiles revealed a marked intersubject variability; however, the numerical ecology methods of analysis allowed the subtraction of the subject effect from the data and revealed, for the first time, evidence of a longitudinal gradient for specific microbes along the colorectum. In particular, probes targeting Streptococcus and Enterococcus spp. produced strongest signals with caecal and transverse colon samples, with a gradual decline through to the rectum. Conversely, the analyses suggest that several members of the Enterobacteriaceae increase in relative abundance towards the rectum. These collective differences were substantiated by the multivariate analysis of quantitative PCR data. We were also able to identify differences in the microarray profiles, especially for the streptococci and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, on the basis of gender. The results derived by these multivariate analyses are biologically intuitive and suggest that the biogeography of the colonic mucosa can be monitored for changes through cross-sectional and/or inception cohort studies.
PMCID: PMC3105765  PMID: 21124491
biogeography; colorectum; microarray; numerical ecology
12.  Risks of Lynch Syndrome Cancers for MSH6 Mutation Carriers 
Germline mutations in MSH6 account for 10%–20% of Lynch syndrome colorectal cancers caused by hereditary DNA mismatch repair gene mutations. Because there have been only a few studies of mutation carriers, their cancer risks are uncertain.
We identified 113 families of MSH6 mutation carriers from five countries that we ascertained through family cancer clinics and population-based cancer registries. Mutation status, sex, age, and histories of cancer, polypectomy, and hysterectomy were sought from 3104 of their relatives. Age-specific cumulative risks for carriers and hazard ratios (HRs) for cancer risks of carriers, compared with those of the general population of the same country, were estimated by use of a modified segregation analysis with appropriate conditioning depending on ascertainment.
For MSH6 mutation carriers, the estimated cumulative risks to ages 70 and 80 years, respectively, were as follows: for colorectal cancer, 22% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 14% to 32%) and 44% (95% CI = 28% to 62%) for men and 10% (95% CI = 5% to 17%) and 20% (95% CI = 11% to 35%) for women; for endometrial cancer, 26% (95% CI = 18% to 36%) and 44% (95% CI = 30% to 58%); and for any cancer associated with Lynch syndrome, 24% (95% CI = 16% to 37%) and 47% (95% CI = 32% to 66%) for men and 40% (95% CI = 32% to 52%) and 65% (95% CI = 53% to 78%) for women. Compared with incidence for the general population, MSH6 mutation carriers had an eightfold increased incidence of colorectal cancer (HR = 7.6, 95% CI = 5.4 to 10.8), which was independent of sex and age. Women who were MSH6 mutation carriers had a 26-fold increased incidence of endometrial cancer (HR = 25.5, 95% CI = 16.8 to 38.7) and a sixfold increased incidence of other cancers associated with Lynch syndrome (HR = 6.0, 95% CI = 3.4 to 10.7).
We have obtained precise and accurate estimates of both absolute and relative cancer risks for MSH6 mutation carriers.
PMCID: PMC2815724  PMID: 20028993
13.  Thrombospondin-4 is a putative tumour-suppressor gene in colorectal cancer that exhibits age-related methylation 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:494.
Thrombospondin-4 (THBS4) is a member of the extracellular calcium-binding protein family and is involved in cell adhesion and migration. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential role of deregulation of THBS4 expression in colorectal carcinogenesis. Of particular interest was the possible silencing of expression by methylation of the CpG island in the gene promoter.
Fifty-five sporadic colorectal tumours stratified for the CpG Island Methylator Phenotype (CIMP) were studied. Immunohistochemical staining of THBS4 protein was assessed in normal and tumour specimens. Relative levels of THBS4 transcript expression in matched tumours and normal mucosa were also determined by quantitative RT-PCR. Colony forming ability was examined in 8 cell lines made to overexpress THBS4. Aberrant promoter hypermethylation was investigated as a possible mechanism of gene disruption using MethyLight. Methylation was also assessed in the normal colonic tissue of 99 patients, with samples biopsied from four regions along the length of the colon.
THBS4 expression was significantly lower in tumour tissue than in matched normal tissue. Immunohistochemical examination demonstrated that THBS4 protein was generally absent from normal epithelial cells and tumours, but was occasionally expressed at low levels in the cytoplasm towards the luminal surface in vesicular structures. Forced THBS4 over-expression caused a 50-60% repression of tumour colony growth in all eight cell lines examined compared to control cell lines. Tumours exhibited significantly higher levels of methylation than matched normal mucosa, and THBS4 methylation correlated with the CpG island methylator phenotype. There was a trend towards decreased gene expression in tumours exhibiting high THBS4 methylation, but the correlation was not significant. THBS4 methylation was detectable in normal mucosal biopsies where it correlated with increasing patient age and negatively with the occurrence of adenomas elsewhere in the colon.
THBS4 shows increased methylation in colorectal cancer, but this is not strongly associated with altered gene expression, either because methylation has not always reached a critical level or because other factors influence THBS4 expression. THBS4 may act as a tumour suppressor gene, demonstrated by its suppression of tumour colony formation in vitro. THBS4 methylation is detectable in normal colonic mucosa and its level may be a biomarker for the occurrence of adenomas and carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC2946314  PMID: 20846368
14.  Colorectal Cancer: Molecular Features and Clinical Opportunities 
Colorectal cancer is a heterogeneous disease. There are three main pathways to colorectal cancer: the chromosomal instability pathway, the CpG island methylator phenotype pathway and the pure microsatellite instability pathway. Each of these is characterised by specific pathological precursors, mechanisms of carcinogenesis and natural history. The molecular features of these pathways have been exploited clinically in the diagnosis, screening and management of patients and families with colorectal cancer. This review summarises recent developments in our understanding of colorectal carcinogenesis and examines the interface between scientific discovery and the clinical application of molecular techniques in inherited and sporadic colorectal cancer.
PMCID: PMC2874430  PMID: 20498827
15.  Analysis of the Association between CIMP and BRAFV600E in Colorectal Cancer by DNA Methylation Profiling 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8357.
A CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) is displayed by a distinct subset of colorectal cancers with a high frequency of DNA hypermethylation in a specific group of CpG islands. Recent studies have shown that an activating mutation of BRAF (BRAFV600E) is tightly associated with CIMP, raising the question of whether BRAFV600E plays a causal role in the development of CIMP or whether CIMP provides a favorable environment for the acquisition of BRAFV600E. We employed Illumina GoldenGate DNA methylation technology, which interrogates 1,505 CpG sites in 807 different genes, to further study this association. We first examined whether expression of BRAFV600E causes DNA hypermethylation by stably expressing BRAFV600E in the CIMP-negative, BRAF wild-type COLO 320DM colorectal cancer cell line. We determined 100 CIMP-associated CpG sites and examined changes in DNA methylation in eight stably transfected clones over multiple passages. We found that BRAFV600E is not sufficient to induce CIMP in our system. Secondly, considering the alternative possibility, we identified genes whose DNA hypermethylation was closely linked to BRAFV600E and CIMP in 235 primary colorectal tumors. Interestingly, genes that showed the most significant link include those that mediate various signaling pathways implicated in colorectal tumorigenesis, such as BMP3 and BMP6 (BMP signaling), EPHA3, KIT, and FLT1 (receptor tyrosine kinases) and SMO (Hedgehog signaling). Furthermore, we identified CIMP-dependent DNA hypermethylation of IGFBP7, which has been shown to mediate BRAFV600E-induced cellular senescence and apoptosis. Promoter DNA hypermethylation of IGFBP7 was associated with silencing of the gene. CIMP-specific inactivation of BRAFV600E-induced senescence and apoptosis pathways by IGFBP7 DNA hypermethylation might create a favorable context for the acquisition of BRAFV600E in CIMP+ colorectal cancer. Our data will be useful for future investigations toward understanding CIMP in colorectal cancer and gaining insights into the role of aberrant DNA hypermethylation in colorectal tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC2791229  PMID: 20027224
16.  Screening for Microsatellite Instability Identifies Frequent 3′-Untranslated Region Mutation of the RB1-Inducible Coiled-Coil 1 Gene in Colon Tumors 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7715.
Coding region microsatellite instability (MSI) results in loss of gene products and promotion of microsatellite-unstable (MSI-H) carcinogenesis. Recent studies have indicated that MSI within 3′-untranslated regions (3′UTRs) may post-transcriptionally dysregulate gene products. Within this context, we conducted a broad mutational survey of 42 short 3′UTR microsatellites (MSs) in 45 MSI-H colorectal tumors and their corresponding normal colonic mucosae.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In order to estimate the overall susceptibility of MSs to MSI in MSI-H tumors, the observed MSI frequency of each MS was correlated with its length, interspecies sequence conservation level, and distance from some genetic elements (i.e., stop codon, polyA signal, and microRNA binding sites). All MSs were stable in normal colonic mucosae. The MSI frequency at each MS in MSI-H tumors was independent of sequence conservation level and distance from other genetic elements. In contrast, MS length correlated significantly with MSI frequency in MSI-H tumors (r = 0.86, p = 7.2×10−13). 3′UTR MSs demonstrated MSI frequencies in MSI-H tumors higher than the 99% upper limit predicted by MS length for RB1-inducible coiled-coil 1(RB1CC1, mutation frequency 68.4%), NUAK family SNF1-like kinase 1(NUAK1, 31.0%), and Rtf1, Paf1/RNA polymerase II complex component, homolog (RTF1, 25.0%). An in silico prediction of RNA structure alterations was conducted for these MSI events to gauge their likelihood of affecting post-transcriptional regulation. RB1CC1 mutant was predicted to lose a microRNA-accessible loop structure at a putative binding site for the tumor-suppressive microRNA, miR-138. In contrast, the predicted 3′UTR structural change was minimal for NUAK1- and RTF1 mutants. Notably, real-time quantitative RT-PCR analysis revealed significant RB1CC1 mRNA overexpression vs. normal colonic mucosae in MSI-H cancers manifesting RB1CC1 3′UTR MSI (9.0-fold; p = 3.6×10−4).
This mutational survey of well-characterized short 3′UTR MSs confirms that MSI incidence in MSI-H colorectal tumors correlates with MS length, but not with sequence conservation level or distance from other genetic elements. This study also identifies RB1CC1 as a novel target of frequent mutation and aberrant upregulation in MSI-H colorectal tumors. The predicted loss of a microRNA-accessible structure in mutant RB1CC1 RNA fits the hypothesis that 3′UTR MSI involves in aberrant RB1CC1 posttranscriptional upregulation. Further direct assessments are indicated to investigate this possibility.
PMCID: PMC2766054  PMID: 19888451
17.  SnoN expression is differently regulated in microsatellite unstable compared with microsatellite stable colorectal cancers 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:252.
SnoN is an important regulator of the transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) signalling pathway and has been shown to exhibit both tumour promotion and suppression activity.
To further explore the role of this complex molecule in colorectal tumorigenesis, we examined 52 paired normal and tumour colorectal specimens stratified by level of microsatellite instability; 18 with high-level microsatellite instability (MSI-H) and 34 microsatellite stable (MSS). SnoN transcript expression was quantitated by real-time PCR and analysed with respect to clinical indicators of prognosis.
Within the MSI-H subgroup, SnoN was commonly either up-regulated (6/18, 33%) or down-regulated (7/18, 39%). A significantly different distribution of SnoN expression was observed in MSS cancers compared with MSI-H (P ≤ 0.001). Whilst 17/34 (50%) of MSS tumours demonstrated up-regulation, none showed down-regulated expression. Within the MSI-H subgroup, up-regulation was significantly correlated with lack of repeat tract mutation in the TGFβRII gene (P ≤ 0.025), suggesting that SnoN is more frequently up-regulated in the presence of functional TGFβ signalling.
Together these data support the notion that SnoN has both oncogenic and tumour suppressive properties depending on other genetic changes within the tumour, and that the MSI-H pathway of colorectal tumorigenesis presents an excellent model for the study of these opposing functions.
PMCID: PMC1633742  PMID: 17062133
18.  Re-interpreting the data on the cost and effectiveness of population screening for colorectal cancer in Australia 
Three studies report estimates of the cost and effectiveness of alternate strategies for screening the average-risk Australian population for colorectal cancer. The options considered are faecal occult blood testing, double contrast barium enema, sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. At present, there is no consensus over which screening method is optimal by the economic criterion. Also, the existing studies report a mixture of average and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios derived from data collected between 1994 and 2002. We suggest average cost-effectiveness ratios are not useful for decision-making and illustrate how they differ from the preferred incremental cost-effectiveness ratio. We then update the cost data reported in the three studies to 2002 prices and calculate incremental cost-effectiveness ratios where not previously available. Our re-analysis of one study contradicts the conclusions drawn by the authors, who had only calculated average cost-effectiveness ratios. In particular, we find their recommendation of population screening with colonoscopy would cause, annually, between 33 and 1,322 years of life to be lost and between $M17 and $M87 to be wasted. Based on updated cost data and the incremental analysis, our findings indicate that population screening using biennial faecal occult blood testing ($39,459 per life-year gained), annual faecal occult blood testing ($30,556 per life-year gained) and colonoscopy ($26,587 per life-year gained) are cost-effective. Hence, the decision over which method of screening is optimal remains ambiguous across the three studies. We recommend policy-makers choose the study they believe produces the most accurate estimates of cost and health effect, identify their willingness to pay for health benefits and consider other issues relevant to the decision.
PMCID: PMC1173078  PMID: 15904536

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