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1.  ERRγ target genes are poor prognostic factors in Tamoxifen-treated breast cancer 
One-third of estrogen (ER+) and/or progesterone receptor-positive (PGR+) breast tumors treated with Tamoxifen (TAM) do not respond to initial treatment, and the remaining 70% are at risk to relapse in the future. Estrogen-related receptor gamma (ESRRG, ERRγ) is an orphan nuclear receptor with broad, structural similarities to classical ER that is widely implicated in the transcriptional regulation of energy homeostasis. We have previously demonstrated that ERRγ induces resistance to TAM in ER+ breast cancer models, and that the receptor’s transcriptional activity is modified by activation of the ERK/MAPK pathway. We hypothesize that hyper-activation or over-expression of ERRγ induces a pro-survival transcriptional program that impairs the ability of TAM to inhibit the growth of ER+ breast cancer. The goal of the present study is to determine whether ERRγ target genes are associated with reduced distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) in ER+ breast cancer treated with TAM.
Raw gene expression data was obtained from 3 publicly available breast cancer clinical studies of women with ER+ breast cancer who received TAM as their sole endocrine therapy. ERRγ target genes were selected from 2 studies that published validated chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses of ERRγ promoter occupancy. Kaplan-Meier estimation was used to determine the association of ERRγ target genes with DMFS, and selected genes were validated in ER+, MCF7 breast cancer cells that express exogenous ERRγ.
Thirty-seven validated receptor target genes were statistically significantly altered in women who experienced a DM within 5 years, and could classify several independent studies into poor vs. good DMFS. Two genes (EEF1A2 and PPIF) could similarly separate ER+, TAM-treated breast tumors by DMFS, and their protein levels were measured in an ER+ breast cancer cell line model with exogenous ERRγ. Finally, expression of ERRγ and these two target genes are elevated in models of ER+ breast cancer with hyperactivation of ERK/MAPK.
ERRγ signaling is associated with poor DMFS in ER+, TAM-treated breast cancer, and ESRRG, EEF1A2, and PPIF comprise a 3-gene signaling node that may contribute to TAM resistance in the context of an active ERK/MAPK pathway.
PMCID: PMC4436109  PMID: 25971350
Estrogen-related receptor gamma; Tamoxifen; ER+ breast cancer; MAPK; Apoptosis
2.  Genome-wide multi-omics profiling of colorectal cancer identifies immune determinants strongly associated with relapse 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:236.
The use and benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy to treat stage II colorectal cancer (CRC) patients is not well understood since the majority of these patients are cured by surgery alone. Identification of biological markers of relapse is a critical challenge to effectively target treatments to the ~20% of patients destined to relapse. We have integrated molecular profiling results of several “omics” data types to determine the most reliable prognostic biomarkers for relapse in CRC using data from 40 stage I and II CRC patients. We identified 31 multi-omics features that highly correlate with relapse. The data types were integrated using multi-step analytical approach with consecutive elimination of redundant molecular features. For each data type a systems biology analysis was performed to identify pathways biological processes and disease categories most affected in relapse. The biomarkers detected in tumors urine and blood of patients indicated a strong association with immune processes including aberrant regulation of T-cell and B-cell activation that could lead to overall differences in lymphocyte recruitment for tumor infiltration and markers indicating likelihood of future relapse. The immune response was the biologically most coherent signature that emerged from our analyses among several other biological processes and corroborates other studies showing a strong immune response in patients less likely to relapse.
PMCID: PMC3834519  PMID: 24312117
colorectal cancer; relapse; variant analysis; integrative analysis; multi-omics; exome sequencing; systems biology; immune response
3.  Tumor Suppressive Function of mir-205 in Breast Cancer Is Linked to HMGB3 Regulation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76402.
Identifying targets of dysregulated microRNAs (miRNAs) will enhance our understanding of how altered miRNA expression contributes to the malignant phenotype of breast cancer. The expression of miR-205 was reduced in four breast cancer cell lines compared to the normal-like epithelial cell line MCF10A and in tumor and metastatic tissues compared to adjacent benign breast tissue. Two predicted binding sites for miR-205 were identified in the 3’ untranslated region of the high mobility group box 3 gene, HMGB3. Both dual-luciferase reporter assay and Western blotting confirmed that miR-205 binds to and regulates HMGB3. To further explore miR-205 targeting of HMGB3, WST-1 proliferation and in vitro invasion assays were performed in MDA-MB-231 and BT549 cells transiently transfected with precursor miR-205 oligonucleotide or HMGB3 small interfering RNA (siRNA). Both treatments reduced the proliferation and invasion of the cancer cells. The mRNA and protein levels of HMGB3 were higher in the tumor compared to adjacent benign specimens and there was an indirect correlation between the expression of HMGB3 mRNA and patient survival. Treatment of breast cancer cells with 5-Aza/TSA derepressed miR-205 and reduced HMGB3 mRNA while knockdown of the transcriptional repressor NRSF/REST, reduced miR-205 and increased HMGB3. In conclusion, regulation of HMGB3 by miR-205 reduced both proliferation and invasion of breast cancer cells. Our findings suggest that modulating miR-205 and/or targeting HMGB3 are potential therapies for advanced breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3788717  PMID: 24098490
4.  Platform for Personalized Oncology: Integrative analyses reveal novel molecular signatures associated with colorectal cancer relapse 
Approximately 80% of Stage II colon cancer patients are cured by appropriate surgery. However, 20% relapse, and virtually all of these people will die due to metastatic disease. Adjuvant chemotherapy has little or no impact on relapse or survival in Stage II colon cancer, and can only add toxicity without benefit for 80% of the target population that has been cured by surgery. Despite much effort, it is difficult to identify clinical or molecular determinants of outcome in Stage II colon cancer, defeating attempts to target treatments to the 20% of individuals who are destined to relapse. We hypothesized that a multidimensional molecular analysis will identify a combination of factors that serve as prognostic biomarkers in Stage II adenocarcinoma of the colon. The Georgetown informatics team generated and analyzed multi-omics profiling datasets in stage II CRC patients with or without relapse to identify molecular signatures in CRC that may serve both as prognostic markers of recurrence, and also allow for identification of the subgroup of patients who might benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy. The datasets were loaded to GDOC® (Georgetown Database of Cancer) for further mining and analysis. The G-DOC web portal ( includes a broad collection of bioinformatics and systems biology tools for analysis and visualization of four major “omics” types: DNA, mRNA, microRNA, and metabolites. Through technology re-use, the G-DOC infrastructure will accelerate progress for a variety of ongoing programs in need of integrative multi-omics analysis, and advance our opportunities to practice effective personalized oncology in the near future.
PMCID: PMC3814476  PMID: 24303318
5.  In Silico Discovery of Mitosis Regulation Networks Associated with Early Distant Metastases in Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancers 
Cancer Informatics  2013;12:31-51.
The aim of this study was to perform comparative analysis of multiple public datasets of gene expression in order to identify common genes as potential prognostic biomarkers. Additionally, the study sought to identify biological processes and pathways that are most significantly associated with early distant metastases (<5 years) in women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast tumors. Datasets from three published studies were selected for in silico analysis of gene expression profiles of ER+ breast cancer, using time to distant metastasis as the clinical endpoint. A subset of 44 differently expressed genes (DEGs) was found common to all three studies and characterized by mitotic checkpoint genes and pathways that regulate mitotic spindle and chromosome dynamics. DEG promoter regions were enriched with NFY binding sites. Analysis of miRNA target sites identified significant enrichment of miR-192, miR-193B, and miR-16-1 targets. Aberrant mitotic regulation could drive increased genomic instability leading to a progression towards an early onset metastatic phenotype. The relative importance of mitotic instability may reflect the clinical utility of mitotic poisons in metastatic breast cancer, including poisons such as the taxanes, epothilones, and vinca alkaloids.
PMCID: PMC3579429  PMID: 23470717
estrogen receptor alpha-positive; mitotic checkpoint signaling; mitotic regulation network; microRNA targets; early distant metastasis
7.  miR-132 and miR-212 are increased in pancreatic cancer and target the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor 
Numerous microRNAs (miRNAs) are reported as differentially expressed in cancer, however the consequence of miRNA deregulation in cancer is unknown for many miRNAs. We report that two miRNAs located on chromosome 17p13, miR-132 and miR-212, are over expressed in pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC) tissues. Both miRNAs are predicted to target the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor, Rb1. Validation of this interaction was confirmed by luciferase reporter assay and western blot in a pancreatic cancer cell line transfected with pre-miR-212 and pre-miR-132 oligos. Cell proliferation was enhanced in Panc-1 cells transfected with pre-miR-132/-212 oligos. Conversely, antisense oligos to miR-132/-212 reduced cell proliferation and caused a G2/M cell cycle arrest. The mRNA of a number of E2F transcriptional targets were increased in cells over expressing miR-132/-212. Exposing Panc-1 cells to the β2 adrenergic receptor agonist, terbutaline, increased the miR-132 and miR-212 expression by 2 to 4 fold. We report that over expression of miR-132 and miR-212 result in reduced pRb protein in pancreatic cancer cells and that the increase in cell proliferation from over expression of these miRNAs is likely due to increased expression of several E2F target genes. The β2 adrenergic pathway may play an important role in this novel mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3069485  PMID: 21329664
microRNA; retinoblastoma; β2 adrenergic receptor
9.  G-DOC: A Systems Medicine Platform for Personalized Oncology1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2011;13(9):771-783.
Currently, cancer therapy remains limited by a “one-size-fits-all” approach, whereby treatment decisions are based mainly on the clinical stage of disease, yet fail to reference the individual's underlying biology and its role driving malignancy. Identifying better personalized therapies for cancer treatment is hindered by the lack of high-quality “omics” data of sufficient size to produce meaningful results and the ability to integrate biomedical data from disparate technologies. Resolving these issues will help translation of therapies from research to clinic by helping clinicians develop patient-specific treatments based on the unique signatures of patient's tumor. Here we describe the Georgetown Database of Cancer (G-DOC), a Web platform that enables basic and clinical research by integrating patient characteristics and clinical outcome data with a variety of high-throughput research data in a unified environment. While several rich data repositories for high-dimensional research data exist in the public domain, most focus on a single-data type and do not support integration across multiple technologies. Currently, G-DOC contains data from more than 2500 breast cancer patients and 800 gastrointestinal cancer patients, G-DOC includes a broad collection of bioinformatics and systems biology tools for analysis and visualization of four major “omics” types: DNA, mRNA, microRNA, and metabolites. We believe that G-DOC will help facilitate systems medicine by providing identification of trends and patterns in integrated data sets and hence facilitate the use of better targeted therapies for cancer. A set of representative usage scenarios is provided to highlight the technical capabilities of this resource.
PMCID: PMC3182270  PMID: 21969811
10.  MicroRNAs Are Mediators of Androgen Action in Prostate and Muscle 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13637.
Androgen receptor (AR) function is critical for the development of male reproductive organs, muscle, bone and other tissues. Functionally impaired AR results in androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS). The interaction between AR and microRNA (miR) signaling pathways was examined to understand the role of miRs in AR function. Reduction of androgen levels in Sprague-Dawley rats by castration inhibited the expression of a large set of miRs in prostate and muscle, which was reversed by treatment of castrated rats with 3 mg/day dihydrotestosterone (DHT) or selective androgen receptor modulators. Knockout of the miR processing enzyme, DICER, in LNCaP prostate cancer cells or tissue specifically in mice inhibited AR function leading to AIS. Since the only function of miRs is to bind to 3′ UTR and inhibit translation of target genes, androgens might induce miRs to inhibit repressors of AR function. In concordance, knock-down of DICER in LNCaP cells and in tissues in mice induced the expression of corepressors, NCoR and SMRT. These studies demonstrate a feedback loop between miRs, corepressors and AR and the imperative role of miRs in AR function in non-cancerous androgen-responsive tissues.
PMCID: PMC2965097  PMID: 21048966
12.  Association of MicroRNA Expression in Hepatocellular Carcinomas with Hepatitis Infection, Cirrhosis, and Patient Survival 
MicroRNA (miRNA) is a new class of small, noncoding RNA. The purpose of this study was to determine if miRNAs are differentially expressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Experimental Design
More than 200 precursor and mature miRNAs were profiled by real-time PCR in 43 and 28 pairs of HCC and adjacent benign liver, respectively, and in normal liver specimens.
Several miRNAs including miR-199a, miR-21, and miR-301 were differentially expressed in the tumor compared with adjacent benign liver. A large number of mature and precursor miRNAs were up-regulated in the adjacent benign liver specimens that were both cirrhotic and hepatitis-positive compared with the uninfected, noncirrhotic specimens (P < 0.01). Interestingly, all of the miRNAs in this comparison had increased expression and none were decreased. The expression of 95 randomly selected mRNAs was not significantly altered in the cirrhotic and hepatitis-positive specimens, suggesting a preferential increase in the transcription of miRNA. Comparing the miRNA expression in the HCC tumors with patient’s survival time revealed two groups of patients; those with predominantly lower miRNA expression and poor survival and those with predominantly higher miRNA expression and good survival (P < 0.05). A set of 19 miRNAs significantly correlated with disease outcome. A number of biological processes including cell division, mitosis, and G1-S transition were predicted to be targets of the19miRNAs in this group.
We show that a global increase in the transcription of miRNA genes occurs in cirrhotic and hepatitis-positive livers and that miRNA expression may prognosticate disease out-come in HCC.
PMCID: PMC2755230  PMID: 18223217
13.  Expression profiling identifies microRNA signature in pancreatic cancer 
microRNAs are functional, 22 nt, noncoding RNAs that negatively regulate gene expression. Disturbance of microRNA expression may play a role in the initiation and progression of certain diseases. A microRNA expression signature has been identified that is associated with pancreatic cancer. This has been accomplished with the application of real-time PCR profiling of over 200 microRNA precursors on specimens of human pancreatic adenocarcinoma, paired benign tissue, normal pancreas, chronic pancreatitis and nine pancreatic cancer cell lines. Hierarchical clustering was able to distinguish tumor from normal pancreas, pancreatitis and cell lines. The PAM algorithm correctly classified 28 of 28 tumors, 6 of 6 normal pancreas and 11 of 15 adjacent benign tissues. One hundred micro-RNA precursors were aberrantly expressed in pancreatic cancer or desmoplasia (p < 0.01), including microRNAs previously reported as differentially expressed in other human cancers (miR-155, miR-21, miR-221 and miR-222) as well as those not previously reported in cancer (miR-376a and miR-301). Most of the top aberrantly expressed miRNAs displayed increased expression in the tumor. Expression of the active, mature microRNA was validated using a real-time PCR assay to quantify the mature microRNA and Northern blotting. Reverse transcription in situ PCR showed that three of the top differentially expressed miRNAs (miR-221, -376a and -301) were localized to tumor cells and not to stroma or normal acini or ducts. Aberrant microRNA expression may offer new clues to pancreatic tumorigenesis and may provide diagnostic biomarkers for pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC2680248  PMID: 17149698
cancer; noncoding RNA; gene expression; real-time PCR
15.  Dr. Andrei Yakovlev: Visionary, Leader, Iconoclast 
Biology Direct  2008;3:10.
PMCID: PMC2287165  PMID: 18366793
16.  Microarray analysis of choroid/RPE gene expression in marmoset eyes undergoing changes in ocular growth and refraction 
Molecular Vision  2008;14:1465-1479.
Purpose: Visually guided ocular growth is facilitated by scleral extracellular matrix remodeling at the posterior pole of the eye. Coincident with scleral remodeling, significant changes in choroidal morphology, blood flow, and protein synthesis have been shown to occur in eyes undergoing ocular growth changes. The current study is designed to identify gene expression changes that may occur in the choroid/retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of marmoset eyes during their compensation for hyperopic defocus as compared to eyes compensating for myopic defocus.
Methods: Total RNA was isolated from choroid/RPE from four common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) undergoing binocular lens treatment using extended wear soft contact lenses of equal magnitude but opposite sign (±5 diopter [D]). After reverse transcription, cDNA was labeled and hybridized to a human oligonucleotide microarray and gene transcript expression profiles were determined. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and western blot analysis were used to confirm genes and proteins of interest, respectively.
Results: Microarray analyses in choroid/RPE indicated 204 genes were significantly changed in minus lens-treated as compared with plus lens-treated eyes (p<0.05, Student’s t-test). Differential choroid/RPE expression of protein tyrosine phosphatase, receptor type, B (PTPRB), transforming growth factor beta-induced (TGFBI), and basic fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2) were confirmed by real-time PCR. TGFBIp was confirmed at the protein level by western blot analysis in marmoset and human cornea, choroid/RPE, and sclera.
Conclusions: The present study demonstrated that significant gene expression changes occur in the marmoset choroid/RPE during visually guided ocular growth. The identification of novel candidate genes in choroid/RPE of marmoset eyes actively accelerating or decelerating their rates of ocular elongation may elucidate the choroidal response during the regulation of postnatal ocular growth and may lead to the identification of choroid/RPE signaling molecules that participate in scleral remodeling.
PMCID: PMC2504533  PMID: 18698376
17.  Computational analysis of biological functions and pathways collectively targeted by co-expressed microRNAs in cancer 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 7):S16.
Multiple recent studies have found aberrant expression profiles of microRNAome in human cancers. While several target genes have been experimentally identified for some microRNAs in various tumors, the global pattern of cellular functions and pathways affected by co-expressed microRNAs in cancer remains elusive. The goal of this study was to develop a computational approach to global analysis of the major biological processes and signaling pathways that are most likely to be affected collectively by co-expressed microRNAs in cancer cells.
We report results of computational analysis of five datasets of aberrantly expressed microRNAs in five human cancers published by the authors (pancreatic cancer) and others (breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma). Using the combinatorial target prediction algorithm miRgate and a two-step data reduction procedure we have determined Gene Ontology categories as well as biological functions, disease categories, toxicological categories and signaling pathways that are: targeted by multiple microRNAs; statistically significantly enriched with target genes; and known to be affected in specific cancers.
Our global analysis of predicted miRNA targets suggests that co-expressed miRNAs collectively provide systemic compensatory response to the abnormal phenotypic changes in cancer cells by targeting a broad range of functional categories and signaling pathways known to be affected in a particular cancer. Such systems biology based approach provides new avenues for biological interpretation of miRNA profiling data and generation of experimentally testable hypotheses regarding collective regulatory functions of miRNA in cancer.
PMCID: PMC2099484  PMID: 18047715
20.  Real-time expression profiling of microRNA precursors in human cancer cell lines 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(17):5394-5403.
Our previous study described a real-time PCR method to quantify microRNA (miRNA) precursors using SYBR green detection [T. D. Schmittgen, J. Jiang, Q. Liu and L. Yang (2004) Nucleic Acids Res., 32, e43]. The present study adapted the assay to a 384-well format and expanded it to include primers to 222 human miRNA precursors. TaqMan minor groove binder probes were used to discriminate nearly identical members of the let-7 family of miRNA isoforms. The miRNA precursor expression was profiled in 32 human cell lines from lung, breast, colorectal, hematologic, prostate, pancreatic, and head and neck cancers. Some miRNA precursors were expressed at similar levels in many of the cell lines, while others were differentially expressed. Clustering analysis of the miRNA precursor expression data revealed that most of the cell lines clustered into their respective tissues from which each cell line was ostensibly derived. miRNA precursor expression by PCR paralleled the mature miRNA expression by northern blotting for most of the conditions studied. Our study provides PCR primer sequences to all of the known human miRNA precursors as of December 2004 and provides a database of the miRNA precursor expression in many commonly used human cancer cell lines.
PMCID: PMC1236977  PMID: 16192569

Results 1-20 (20)