The heparan sulfate 6-O-endosulfatase (SULF2) promotes growth and metastasis of solid tumors. We recently identified that cytosine methylation of the SULF2 promoter is associated with better survival of resected lung adenocarcinoma patients and now also demonstrate a marginal improvement in survival of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients receiving standard chemotherapy (HR = 0.63, p = 0.07). Subsequent studies focused on investigating the effect of methylation on SULF2 expression and its genome-wide impact. The genes and pathways modulated by epigenetic inactivation of SULF2 and the effects on sensitivity to chemotherapy were characterized in vitro and in vivo. Silencing SULF2 through siRNA or methylation primarily increased expression of interferon-inducible genes including ISG15, a marker for increased sensitivity to topoisomerase-1 inhibitors such as camptothecin. NSCLC cell lines with methylated SULF2 (SULF2M) express 60-fold higher ISG15 compared to SULF2 unmethylated (SULF2U) NSCLC cell lines and normal human bronchial epithelial cells. In vitro, SULF2M and high ISG15 (ISG15H) expressing NSCLC cell lines were 134-fold more sensitive to camptothecin than SULF2U and low ISG15 (ISG15L) expressing cell lines. Topotecan, a soluble analogue of camptothecin and FDA approved anti-cancer drug, dramatically arrested the growth of SULF2M-ISG15H, but not SULF2U-ISG15L lung tumors in nude mice (p < 0.002). Similarly, high ISG15 expression that is comparable to the topotecan sensitive NSCLC cell lines was found in tumors from 25% of NSCLC patients compared to normal lung indicating a potential to identify and target the most sensitive NSCLC subpopulation for personalized topotecan therapy.
NSCLC; Camptothecin; SULF-2; Oncogene; Topotecan
The primary objective of this study was to compare the survival of patients with unresectable stage III non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with combined chemoradiotherapy with or without thalidomide.
Patients and Methods
Patients were randomly assigned to the control arm (PC) involving two cycles of induction paclitaxel 225 mg/m2 and carboplatin area under the curve (AUC) 6 followed by 60 Gy thoracic radiation administered concurrently with weekly paclitaxel 45 mg/m2 and carboplatin AUC 2, or to the experimental arm (TPC), receiving the same treatment in combination with thalidomide at a starting dose of 200 mg daily. The protocol allowed an increase in thalidomide dose up to 1,000 mg daily based on patient tolerability.
A total of 546 patients were eligible, including 275 in the PC arm and 271 in the TPC arm. Median overall survival, progression-free survival, and overall response rate were 15.3 months, 7.4 months, and 35.0%, respectively, for patients in the PC arm, in comparison with 16.0 months (P = .99), 7.8 months (P = .96), and 38.2% (P = .47), respectively, for patients in the TPC arm. Overall, there was higher incidence of grade 3 toxicities in patients treated with thalidomide. Several grade 3 or higher events were observed more often in the TPC arm, including thromboembolism, fatigue, depressed consciousness, dizziness, sensory neuropathy, tremor, constipation, dyspnea, hypoxia, hypokalemia, rash, and edema. Low-dose aspirin did not reduce the thromboembolic rate.
The addition of thalidomide to chemoradiotherapy increased toxicities but did not improve survival in patients with locally advanced NSCLC.
The detection of tumor suppressor gene promoter methylation in sputum-derived exfoliated cells predicts early lung cancer. Here we identified genetic determinants for this epigenetic process and examined their biological effects on gene regulation. A two-stage approach involving discovery and replication was employed to assess the association between promoter hypermethylation of a 12-gene panel and common variation in 40 genes involved in carcinogen metabolism, regulation of methylation, and DNA damage response in members of the Lovelace Smokers Cohort (n=1434). Molecular validation of three identified variants was conducted using primary bronchial epithelial cells. Association of study-wide significance (P<8.2×10−5) was identified for rs1641511, rs3730859, and rs1883264 in TP53, LIG1, and BIK, respectively. These SNPs were significantly associated with altered expression of the corresponding genes in primary bronchial epithelial cells. In addition, rs3730859 in LIG1 was also moderately associated with increased risk for lung cancer among Caucasian smokers. Together, our findings suggest that genetic variation in DNA replication and apoptosis pathways impacts the propensity for gene promoter hypermethylation in the aerodigestive tract of smokers. The incorporation of genetic biomarkers for gene promoter hypermethylation with clinical and somatic markers may improve risk assessment models for lung cancer.
DNA damage response; promoter hypermethylation; single nucleotide polymorphism; sputum; smoker
The estimation of genetic ancestry in human populations has important applications in medical genetic studies. Genetic ancestry is used to control for population stratification in genetic association studies, and is used to understand the genetic basis for ethnic differences in disease susceptibility. In this review, we present an overview of genetic ancestry estimation in human disease studies, followed by a review of popular softwares and methods used for this estimation.
Ancestry; Genetic; Polymorphism; Structure
Epigenetic alterations are strongly associated with cancer development. We conducted a phase I/II trial of combined epigenetic therapy with azacitidine and entinostat, inhibitors of DNA methylation and histone deacetylation, respectively, in extensively pretreated patients with recurrent metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. This therapy is well tolerated, and objective responses were observed, including a complete response and a partial response in a patient who remains alive and without disease progression approximately 2 years after completing protocol therapy. Median survival in the entire cohort was 6.4 months (95% CI: 3.8–9.2), comparing favorably with existing therapeutic options. Demethylation of a set of four epigenetically silenced genes known to be associated with lung cancer was detectable in serial blood samples in these patients, and was associated with improved progression-free (p=0.034) and overall survival (p=0.035). Four of 19 patients had major objective responses to subsequent anti-cancer therapies given immediately following epigenetic therapy.
azacitidine; entinostat; demethylation; histone deacetylase inhibitor
Rationale: The epidemiology of cigarette smoking–related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is not well characterized in Hispanics in the United States. Understanding how ethnicity influences COPD is important for a number of reasons, from informing public health policies to dissecting the genetic and environmental effects that contribute to disease.
Objectives: The present study assessed differences in risk between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites for longitudinal and cross-sectional COPD phenotypes. Genetic ancestry was used to verify findings based on self-reported ethnicity. Hispanics in New Mexico are primarily differentiated from non-Hispanic whites by their proportion of Native American ancestry.
Methods: The study was performed in a New Mexican cohort of current and former smokers. Self-reported Hispanic and non-Hispanic white ethnicity was validated by defining genetic ancestry proportions at the individual level using 48 single-nucleotide polymorphism markers. Self-reported ethnicity and genetic ancestry were independently used to assess associations with cross-sectional and longitudinal measures of lung function. Multivariable models were adjusted for indicators of smoking behavior.
Measurements and Main Results: Self-reported Hispanic ethnicity was significantly associated with lower odds of COPD (odds ratio, 0.49; 95% confidence interval, 0.35–0.71; P = 0.007), and this protection was validated by the observation that Hispanic smokers have reduced risk of rapid decline in lung function (odds ratio, 0.48; 95% confidence interval, 0.30–0.78; P = 0.003). Similar findings were noted when Native American genetic ancestry proportions were used as predictors instead of self-report of Hispanic ethnicity.
Conclusions: Hispanic ethnicity is inversely associated with cross-sectional and longitudinal spirometric COPD phenotypes even after adjustment for smoking. Native American genetic ancestry may account for this “Hispanic protection.”
Low-dose ionizing radiation (LDR) may lead to suppression of smoking-related lung cancer. We examined the effects of a known cigarette smoke carcinogen Benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) alone or in combination with fractionated low-dose gamma radiation (60 – 600 mGy total dose) on the induction of lung neoplasms in the A/J mouse. Our results show that 600 mGy of gamma radiation delivered in six biweekly fractions of 100 mGy starting 1 month after B[a]P injection significantly inhibits the development of lung adenomas per animal induced by B[a]P. Our data also indicated that the six biweekly doses suppressed the occurrence of spontaneous hyperplastic foci in the lung, although this suppression failed to reach statistical significance when analyzed as average foci per lung possibly related to the small sample sizes used for the control and test groups.
Low-dose gamma-radiation; Benzo[a]pyrene; lung cancer
Epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) is strongly associated with cancer progression, but its potential role during premalignant development has not been studied. Here we show that a four-week exposure of immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) to tobacco carcinogens can induce a persistent, irreversible, and multifaceted dedifferentiation program marked by EMT and the emergence of stem cell-like properties. EMT induction was epigenetically driven, initially by chromatin remodeling through H3K27me3 enrichment and later by ensuing DNA methylation to sustain silencing of tumor suppressive microRNAs miR-200b, miR-200c, and miR-205, which were implicated in the dedifferentiation program in HBECs and also in primary lung tumors. Carcinogen-treated HBECs acquired stem-like features characterized by their ability to form spheroids with branching tubules and enrichment of the CD44high/CD24low, CD133, and ALDH1 stem cell-like markers. miRNA overexpression studies indicated that regulation of the EMT, stem-like, and transformed phenotypes in HBECs were distinct events. Our findings extend present concepts of how EMT participates in cancer pathophysiology by showing that EMT induction can participate in cancer initiation to promote the clonal expansion of premalignant lung epithelial cells.
methylation; miRNA; EMT; stem cells; transformation
Aberrant cytosine methylation affects regulation of hundreds of genes during cancer development. In this study, a novel aberrantly hypermethylated CpG island in cancer was discovered within the TOX2 promoter. TOX2 was unmethylated in normal cells but 28% lung (n = 190) and 23% breast (n = 80) tumors were methylated. Expression of two novel TOX2 transcripts identified was significantly reduced in primary lung tumors than distant normal lung (p<0.05). These transcripts were silenced in methylated lung and breast cancer cells and 5-Aza-2-deoxycytidine treatment re-expressed both. Extension of these assays to TOX, TOX3, and TOX4 genes that share similar genomic structure and protein homology with TOX2 revealed distinct methylation profiles by smoking status, histology, and cancer type. TOX was almost exclusively methylated in breast (43%) than lung (5%) cancer, whereas TOX3 was frequently methylated in lung (58%) than breast (30%) tumors. TOX4 was unmethylated in all samples and showed the highest expression in normal lung. Compared to TOX4, expression of TOX, TOX2 and TOX3 in normal lung was 25, 44, and 88% lower, respectively, supporting the premise that reduced promoter activity confers increased susceptibility to methylation during lung carcinogenesis. Genome-wide assays revealed that siRNA-mediated TOX2 knockdown modulated multiple pathways while TOX3 inactivation targeted neuronal development and function. Although these knockdowns did not result in further phenotypic changes of lung cancer cells in vitro, the impact on tissue remodeling, inflammatory response, and cell differentiation pathways suggest a potential role for TOX2 in modulating tumor microenvironment.
To address the association between sequence variants within the MGMT promoter-enhancer region and methylation of MGMT in premalignant lesions from smokers and lung adenocarcinomas, their biological effects on gene regulation, and targeting MGMT for therapy.
SNPs identified through sequencing a 1.9kb fragment 5' of MGMT were examined in relation to MGMT methylation in 169 lung adenocarcinomas and 1731 sputum samples from smokers. The effect of promoter haplotypes on MGMT expression was tested using a luciferase reporter assay and cDNA expression analysis along with allele-specific sequencing for methylation. The response of MGMT methylated lung cancer cell lines to the alkylating agent temozolomide was assessed.
The A allele of rs16906252 and the haplotype containing this SNP were strongly associated with increased risk for MGMT methylation in adenocarcinomas (ORs ≥ 94). This association was observed to a lesser extent in sputum samples in both smoker cohorts. The A allele was selectively methylated in primary lung tumors and cell lines heterozygous for rs16906252. With the most common haplotype as the reference, a 20–41% reduction in promoter activity was seen for the haplotype carrying the A allele that correlated with lower MGMT expression. The sensitivity of lung cancer cell lines to temozolamide was strongly correlated with levels of MGMT methylation and expression.
These studies provide strong evidence that the A allele of a MGMT promoter-enhancer SNP is a key determinant for MGMT methylation in lung carcinogenesis. Moreover, temozolamide treatment may benefit a subset of lung cancer patients methylated for MGMT.
MGMT; allele specific methylation; single nucleotide polymorphism; sputum; lung cancer
Although it is well known that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in lung cancer progression, whether EGFR contributes to lung epithelial cell transformation is less clear. Mucin 1 (MUC1 in human and Muc1 in animals), a glycoprotein component of airway mucus, is overexpressed in lung tumors; however, its role and underlying mechanisms in early stage lung carcinogenesis is still elusive. This study provides strong evidence demonstrating that EGFR and MUC1 are involved in bronchial epithelial cell transformation. Knockdown of MUC1 expression significantly reduced transformation of immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells induced by benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE), the active form of the cigarette smoke (CS) carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene (BaP)s. BPDE exposure robustly activated a pathway consisting of EGFR, Akt and ERK, and blocking this pathway significantly increased BPDE-induced cell death and inhibited cell transformation. Suppression of MUC1 expression resulted in EGFR destabilization and inhibition of the BPDE-induced activation of Akt and ERK and increase of cytotoxicity. These results strongly suggest an important role for EGFR in BPDE-induced transformation, and substantiate that MUC1 is involved in lung cancer development, at least partly through mediating carcinogen-induced activation of the EGFR-mediated cell survival pathway that facilitates cell transformation.
Epigenetic therapy for solid tumors could benefit from an in vivo model that defines tumor characteristics of responsiveness and resistance to facilitate patient selection. Here we report that combining the histone deacetylase inhibitor entinostat with the demethylating agent vidaza profoundly affected growth of K-ras/p53 mutant lung adenocarcinomas engrafted orthotopically in immunocompromised nude rats by targeting and ablating pleomorphic cells that occupied up to 75% of the tumor masses. A similar reduction in tumor burden was seen with epigenetic therapy in K-ras or EGFR mutant tumors growing orthotopically. Increased expression of pro-apoptotic genes and the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor p21 was seen. Hundreds of genes were demethylated highlighted by the re-expression of polycomb-regulated genes coding for transcription factor binding proteins and the p16 gene, a key regulator of the cell cycle. Highly significant gene expression changes were seen in key regulatory pathways involved in cell cycle, DNA damage, apoptosis, and tissue remodeling. These findings demonstrate the promise for epigenetic therapy in cancer management and provide an orthotopic lung cancer model that can assess therapeutic efficacy and reprogramming of the epigenome in tumors harboring different genetic and epigenetic profiles to guide use of these drugs.
lung cancer; DNA methylation; polycomb; epigenetic therapy; nude rat
Rationale: Wood smoke–associated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is common in women in developing countries but has not been adequately described in developed countries.
Objectives: Our objective was to determine whether wood smoke exposure was a risk factor for COPD in a population of smokers in the United States and whether aberrant gene promoter methylation in sputum may modify this association.
Methods: For this cross-sectional study, 1,827 subjects were drawn from the Lovelace Smokers' Cohort, a predominantly female cohort of smokers. Wood smoke exposure was self-reported. Postbronchodilator spirometry was obtained, and COPD outcomes studied included percent predicted FEV1, airflow obstruction, and chronic bronchitis. Effect modification of wood smoke exposure with current cigarette smoke, ethnicity, sex, and promoter methylation of lung cancer-related genes in sputum on COPD outcomes were separately explored. Multivariable logistic and poisson regression models were used for binary and rate-based outcomes, respectively.
Measurements and Main Results: Self-reported wood smoke exposure was independently associated with a lower percent predicted FEV1 (point estimate [± SE] −0.03 ± 0.01) and a higher prevalence of airflow obstruction and chronic bronchitis (odds ratio, 1.96; 95% confidence interval, 1.52–2.52 and 1.64 (95% confidence interval, 1.31–2.06, respectively). These associations were stronger among current cigarette smokers, non-Hispanic whites, and men. Wood smoke exposure interacted in a multiplicative manner with aberrant promoter methylation of the p16 or GATA4 genes on lower percent predicted FEV1.
Conclusions: These studies identify a novel link between wood smoke exposure and gene promoter methylation that synergistically increases the risk for reduced lung function in cigarette smokers.
wood smoke; cigarette smokers; airflow obstruction; gene promoter methylation in sputum DNA
The detection of gene promoter hypermethylation in sputum is a promising molecular marker for early lung cancer detection. Epidemiologic studies suggest that dietary fruits and vegetables and the micronutrients they contain may reduce risk of lung cancer. This investigation evaluated whether diet and multi-vitamin use influence the prevalence for gene methylation in the cells exfoliated from the aerodigestive tract of current and former smokers. Members (n = 1101) of the Lovelace Smokers Cohort completed the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire and provided a sputum sample that was assessed for promoter methylation of eight genes commonly silenced in lung cancer and associated with risk for this disease. Methylation status was categorized as low (< 2 genes methylated) or high (≥2 genes methylated). Logistic regression models were used to identify associations between methylation status and 21 dietary variables hypothesized to affect the acquisition of gene methylation. Significant protection against methylation was observed for leafy green vegetables (OR = 0.83 per 12 monthly servings, CI: 0.74, 0.93) and folate (OR = 0.84 per 750 mcg/day, CI: 0.72, 0.99). Protection against gene methylation was also seen with current use of multi-vitamins (OR = 0.57, CI: 0.40, 0.83). This is the first cohort-based study to identify dietary factors associated with reduced promoter methylation in cells exfoliated from the airway epithelium of smokers. Novel interventions to prevent lung cancer should be developed based on the ability of diet and dietary supplements to affect reprogramming of the epigenome.
gene methylation; folate; multi-vitamins; green vegetables; smokers
Lung cancer is usually disseminated at diagnosis making prognosis poor. Smokers are at high risk for lung cancer and are targets for prevention and early detection strategies. Sputum is a potential source for lung cancer biomarkers, but no test is currently available with sufficient sensitivity and specificity for clinical screening utility. Chromosomal aneusomy (CA) was measured in sputum samples collected prospectively from 100 incident lung cancer cases and 96 controls matched on age, gender, and date of collection. The CA-FISH assay was performed using a four-target DNA FISH probe including EGFR, MYC, 5p15 and CEP6. Sensitivity for a positive CA-FISH assay (abnormal for ≥ 2 of the 4 markers) was substantially higher for samples collected within 18 months (76%) than >18 months before lung cancer diagnosis (31%). Specificity for a positive FISH by this same definition was 85%. Among subjects providing sputum sample within 18 months before diagnosis, sensitivity was higher for squamous cell cancers (94%) than for other histologic types (69%). The adjusted odds ratios for specimens collected within 18 months of cancer diagnosis were higher using the CA-FISH assay (OR=27.2, 95% CI 7.8 to 94.1) than previous studies assessing cytologic atypia (OR=2.3, CI 0.8 to 6.4) or gene promoter methylation (OR=6.5; CI 1.2 to 35.5). In conclusion, chromosomal aneusomy in sputum is a promising biomarker for prediction of lung cancer risk. Evaluation of the 4-DNA targets was more effective than any single marker and had highest sensitivity for samples collected ≤ 18 months to lung cancer diagnosis and patients diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma.
Sputum; Lung Cancer; FISH; biomarker; Chromosomal Abnormality
The activation of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) program is an important step for tumor initiation, invasion, and metastasis in solid tumors, including lung cancer. The purpose of this study was to identify the sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway and test their association with risk for lung cancer. Fifty samples were resequenced to identify sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway. The association between tagSNPs and risk for non-small cell lung cancer was discovered and validated in New Mexico (386 cases and 514 controls) and Massachusetts (2453 cases and 1555 controls) case-control studies, respectively. The function of SNPs on miR-200b-a-429 promoter activity was tested using luciferase reporter and expression assays. Forty-one sequence variants with minor allele frequency ≥ 0.03 were identified, and 16 variants were selected as tagSNPs. Genetic association analysis identified that the G allele of rs61768479 was associated with a 50% reduced risk for lung cancer (OR=0.50, 95%CI=0.30-0.85, uncorr-P=0.01); however, this association was not validated (OR=0.90, 95%CI=0.72-1.13, uncorr-P=0.35). The G allele of rs61768479 was associated with lower promoter activity and miR expression by disrupting the binding of NKX2.5. In summary, no association was identified between sequence variants in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway and risk for lung cancer. However, this study identified a comprehensive panel of tagSNPs (n=16) in the miR-205/200 family-regulated EMT pathway that can be applied to other EMT-related phenotypes such as cancer chemoresistence and prognosis.
miR-200 family; miR-205; sequence variant; risk; lung cancer
Chemokines are important regulators of directional cell migration and tumor metastasis. A genome-wide transcriptome array designed to uncover novel genes silenced by methylation in lung cancer identified the CXC-subfamily of chemokines. Expression of eleven of the sixteen known human CXC-chemokines was increased in lung adenocarcinoma cell lines after treatment with 5-aza-2deoxycytidine (DAC). Tumor-specific methylation leading to silencing of CXCL5, 12 and 14 was found in over 75% of primary lung adenocarcinomas and DAC treatment restored expression of each silenced gene. Forced expression of CXCL14 in H23 cells where this gene is silenced by methylation increased cell death in vitro and dramatically reduced in vivo growth of lung tumor xenografts through necrosis of up to 90% of the tumor mass. CXCL14 re-expression had a profound effect on the genome altering the transcription of over 1,000 genes, including increased expression of 30 cell cycle inhibitor and pro-apoptosis genes. In addition, CXCL14 methylation in sputum from asymptomatic early stage lung cancer cases was associated with a 2.9-fold elevated risk for this disease compared to controls, substantiating its potential as a biomarker for early detection of lung cancer. Together these findings identify CXCL14 as an important tumor suppressor gene epigenetically silenced during lung carcinogenesis.
CXCL14; Chemokines; lung cancer; DNA methylation; CXCL5; CXCL12
There is a critical need to identify efficacious chemopreventive agents for lung cancer that can be taken chronically with no side effects and whose mechanisms of action do not involve genotoxicity that could drive, rather than impede, cancer progression. We evaluated the ability of a chemopreventive cocktail that included selenium (antioxidant), rosiglitazone (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma agonist), sodium phenylbutyrate or valproic acid (histone deacetylase inhibitors) and hydralazine (cytosine-demethylating agent) to prevent the progression of lung cancer in A/J mice treated with NNK. Agents were administered alone or in various combinations. Effects of the chemopreventive agents were quantified based on the proportion of hyperplasias and adenomas within the mouse lung. Significant effects on tumor progression were seen in all treatment groups that included rosiglitazone as reflected by a 47–57% increase in number of hyperplasias and a 10–30% decrease in adenomas. Cell proliferation was also reduced in these treatment groups by ∼40%. Interestingly, while treatment with rosiglitazone alone did not significantly affect lesion size, striking effects were seen in the combination therapy group that included sodium phenylbutyrate, with the volume of hyperplasias and adenomas decreasing by 40 and 77%, respectively. These studies demonstrate for the first time that chronic in vivo administration of rosiglitazone, used in the management of diabetes mellitus, can significantly block the progression of premalignant lung cancer in the A/J mouse model.
Death-associated protein kinase (DAPK), a mediator of apoptotic systems, is silenced by promoter hypermethylation in lung and breast tumors. This gene has a CpG island extending 2500 bp from the translational start site; however, studies characterizing its transcriptional regulation have not been conducted. Two transcripts for DAPK were identified that code for a single protein, while being regulated by two promoters. The previously identified DAPK transcript designated as exon 1 transcript was expressed at levels 3-fold greater than the alternate exon 1b transcript. Deletion constructs of promoter 1 identified a 332 bp region containing a functional CP2-binding site important for expression of the exon 1 transcript. While moderate reporter activity was seen in promoter 2, the region comprising intron 1 and containing a HNF3B-binding site sustained expression of the alternate transcript. Sequencing the DAPK CpG island in tumor cell lines revealed dense, but heterogenous methylation of CpGs that blocked access of the CP2 and HNF3B proteins that in turn, was associated with loss of transcription that was restored by treatment with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. Prevalences were similar for methylation of promoter 1 and 2 and intron 1 in lung tumors, but significantly greater in promoter 2 and intron 1 in breast tumors, indicative of tissue-specific differences in silencing these two transcripts. These studies show for the first time dual promoter regulation of DAPK, a tumor suppressor gene silenced in many cancers, and substantiate the importance of screening for silencing of both transcripts in tumors.
Aberrant promoter hypermethylation is one of the major mechanisms in carcinogenesis and some critical growth regulatory genes have shown commonality in methylation across solid tumors. Twenty-six genes, 14 identified through methylation in colon and breast cancers, were evaluated using primary lung adenocarcinomas (n = 175) from current, former and never smokers. Tumor specificity of methylation was validated through comparison of 14 lung cancer cell lines to normal human bronchial epithelial cells derived from bronchoscopy of 20 cancer-free smokers. Twenty-five genes were methylated in 11–81% of primary tumors. Prevalence for methylation of TNFRSF10C, BHLHB5 and BOLL was significantly higher in adenocarcinomas from never smokers than smokers. The relation between methylation of individual genes was examined using pairwise comparisons. A significant association was seen between 138 (42%) of the possible 325 pairwise comparisons. Most notably, methylation of MMP2, BHLHB4 or p16 was significantly associated with methylation of 16–19 other genes, thus predicting for a widespread methylation phenotype. Kaplan–Meier log-rank test and proportional hazard models identified a significant association between methylation of SULF2 (a pro-growth, -angiogenesis and -migration gene) and better patient survival (hazard ratio = 0.23). These results demonstrate a high degree of commonality for targeted silencing of genes between lung and other solid tumors and suggest that promoter hypermethylation in cancer is a highly co-ordinated event.
Lung cancer has become a global public health burden, further substantiating the need for early diagnosis and more effective targeted therapies. The key to accomplishing both these goals is a better understanding of the genes and pathways disrupted during the initiation and progression of this disease. Gene promoter hypermethylation is an epigenetic modification of DNA at promoter CpG islands that together with changes in histone structure culminates in loss of transcription. The fact that gene promoter hypermethylation is a major mechanism for silencing genes in lung cancer has stimulated the development of screening approaches to identify additional genes and pathways that are disrupted within the epigenome. Some of these approaches include restriction landmark scanning, methylation CpG island amplification coupled with representational difference analysis, and transcriptome-wide screening. Genes identified by these approaches, their function, and prevalence in lung cancer are described. Recently, we used global screening approaches to interrogate 43 genes in and around the candidate lung cancer susceptibility locus, 6q23–25. Five genes, TCF21, SYNE1, AKAP12, IL20RA, and ACAT2, were methylated at 14 to 81% prevalence, but methylation was not associated with age at diagnosis or stage of lung cancer. These candidate tumor suppressor genes likely play key roles in contributing to sporadic lung cancer. The realization that methylation is a dominant mechanism in lung cancer etiology and its reversibility by pharmacologic agents has led to the initiation of translational studies to develop biomarkers in sputum for early detection and the testing of demethylating and histone deacetylation inhibitors for treatment of lung cancer.
gene promoter hypermethylation; lung cancer; chromosome 6; epigenetics
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, yet few genetic markers of lung cancer risk useful for screening exist. The let-7 family-of-microRNAs (miRNAs) are global genetic regulators important in controlling lung cancer oncogene expression by binding to the 3′UTRs (untranslated regions) of their target messenger RNAs (mRNAs). The purpose of this study was to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that could modify let-7 binding and to assess the effect of such SNPs on target gene regulation and risk for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). let-7 complementary sites (LCSs) were sequenced in the KRAS 3′UTR from 74 NSCLC cases to identify mutations and SNPs that correlated with NSCLC. The allele frequency of a previously un-identified SNP at LCS6 was characterized in 2433 people (representing 46 human populations). The frequency of the variant allele is 18.1–20.3% in NSCLC patients and 5.8% in world populations. The association between the SNP and the risk for NSCLC was defined in two independent case-control studies. A case-control study of lung cancer from New Mexico showed a 2.3-fold increased risk (C.I.= 1.1–4.6, p = 0.02) for NSCLC cancer in patients who smoked < 40 pack years. This association was validated in a second independent case-control study. Functionally, the variant allele results in KRAS over-expression in vitro. The LCS6 variant allele in a KRAS miRNA complementary site is significantly associated with increased risk for NSCLC among moderate smokers, and represents a new paradigm for let-7 miRNAs in lung cancer susceptibility.
TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a potential anticancer agent due to its selectivity in killing transformed cells. However, TRAIL can also stimulate TRAIL-resistant cancer cells’ proliferation and metastasis. Thus, acquired TRAIL resistance during TRAIL therapy would shift the patient’s treatment from beneficial to detrimental. In this study we focused on the acquired TRAIL resistance mechanism and demonstrated that the elevated expression of the anti-apoptotic factor cellular FLICE-like inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) and the pro-survival Bcl-2 family member myeloid cell leukemia 1 (Mcl-1) underlie the main mechanism of this type of TRAIL resistance in lung cancer cells. Chronic exposure to TRAIL resulted in lung cancer cell resistance to TRAIL-induced cytotoxicity, and this resistance was associated with the increase in the cellular levels of c-FLIP L and Mcl-1L. Overexpresssion of c-FLIPL suppressed recruitment of caspase-8 to the death-inducing signaling complex (DISC) while increased Mcl-1L expression blunted the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway. The elevation of c-FLIP L and Mcl-1L expression was due to Akt-mediated stabilization of these proteins in TRAIL-resistant cells. Importantly, suppressing c-FLIPL and Mcl-1L expression by RNA interference collectively alleviated acquired TRAIL resistance. Taken together, these results identify c-FLIPL and Mcl-1L as the major determinants of acquired TRAIL resistance and could be molecular targets for improving TRAIL’s therapeutic value against lung cancer.
TRAIL; c-FLIP; Mcl-1; Akt; apoptosis; lung cancer