Development of the cerebellum occurs postnatally and is marked by a rapid proliferation of cerebellar granule neuron precursors (CGNPs). CGNPs are the cells-of-origin for SHH-driven medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children. Here, we investigated the role of ERK, JNK, and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in CGNP proliferation. We found high levels of p38α in proliferating CGNPs. Concomitantly, members of the p38 pathway, such as ASK1, MKK3 and ATF-2, were also elevated. Inhibition of the Shh pathway or CGNP proliferation blunts p38α levels, irrespective of Shh treatment. Strikingly, p38α levels were high in vivo in the external granule layer (EGL) of the postnatal cerebellum, Shh-dependent mouse medulloblastomas and human medulloblastomas of the SHH subtype. Finally, knocking down p38α by short hairpin RNA-carrying lentiviruses as well as the pharmacologically inhibiting of its kinase activity caused a marked decrease in CGNP proliferation, underscoring its requirement for Shh-dependent proliferation in CGNPs. The inhibition of p38α also caused a decrease in Gli1 and N-myc transcript levels, consistent with reduced proliferation. These findings suggest p38 inhibition as a potential way to increase the efficacy of treatments available for malignancies associated with deregulated SHH signaling, such as basal cell carcinoma and medulloblastoma.
Sonic hedgehog; p38 MAPK; proliferation; neural precursor; cerebellum; medulloblastoma
Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant pediatric brain tumour, is currently treated with non-specific cytotoxic therapies including surgery, whole brain radiation, and aggressive chemotherapy. As medulloblastoma exhibits marked intertumoural heterogeneity, with at least four distinct molecular variants, prior attempts to identify targets for therapy have been underpowered due to small samples sizes. Here we report somatic copy number aberrations (SCNAs) in 1087 unique medulloblastomas. SCNAs are common in medulloblastoma, and are predominantly subgroup enriched. The most common region of focal copy number gain is a tandem duplication of the Parkinson’s disease gene SNCAIP, which is exquisitely restricted to Group 4α. Recurrent translocations of PVT1, including PVT1-MYC and PVT1-NDRG1 that arise through chromothripsis are restricted to Group 3. Numerous targetable SCNAs, including recurrent events targeting TGFβ signaling in Group 3, and NF-κB signaling in Group 4 suggest future avenues for rational, targeted therapy.
Childhood Central Nervous System Primitive Neuro-Ectodermal brain Tumours (CNS-PNETs) are highly aggressive brain tumours for which molecular features and best therapeutic strategy remains unknown. We interrogated a large cohort of these rare tumours in order to identify molecular markers that will enhance clinical management of CNS-PNET.
Transcriptional and copy number profiles from primary hemispheric CNS-PNETs were examined using clustering, gene and pathways enrichment analyses to discover tumour sub-groups and group-specific molecular markers. Immuno-histochemical and/or gene expression analyses were used to validate and examine the clinical significance of novel sub-group markers in 123 primary CNS-PNETs.
Three molecular sub-groups of CNS-PNETs distinguished by primitive neural (Group 1), oligo-neural (Group 2) and mesenchymal lineage (Group 3) gene expression signature were identified. Tumour sub-groups exhibited differential expression of cell lineage markers, LIN28 and OLIG2, and correlated with distinct demographics, survival and metastatic incidence. Group 1 tumours affected primarily younger females; male: female ratios were respectively 0.61 (median age 2.9 years; 95% CI: 2.4–5.2; p≤ 0.005), 1.25 (median age 7.9 years; 95% CI: 6–9.7) and 1.63 (median age 5.9 years; 95% CI: 4.9–7.8) for group 1, 2 and 3 patients. Overall outcome was poorest in group 1 patients which had a median survival of 0.8 years (95% CI: 0.47–1.2; p=0.019) as compared to 1.8 years (95% CI: 1.4–2.3) and 4.3 years; (95% CI: 0.82–7.8) respectively for group 2 and 3 patients. Group 3 tumours had the highest incidence of metastases at diagnosis; M0: M+ ratio were respectively 0.9 and 3.9 for group 3, versus group 1 and 2 tumours combined (p=0.037).
LIN28 and OLIG2 represent highly promising, novel diagnostic and prognostic molecular markers for CNS PNET that warrants further evaluation in prospective clinical trials.
Recurrent mutations affecting the histone H3.3 residues Lys27 or indirectly Lys36 are frequent drivers of pediatric high-grade gliomas (over 30 % of HGGs). To identify additional driver mutations in HGGs, we investigated a cohort of 60 pediatric HGGs using whole-exome sequencing (WES) and compared them to 543 exomes from non-cancer control samples. We identified mutations in SETD2, a H3K36 trimethyltransferase, in 15 % of pediatric HGGs, a result that was genome-wide significant (FDR = 0.029). Most SETD2 alterations were truncating mutations. Sequencing the gene in this cohort and another validation cohort (123 gliomas from all ages and grades) showed SETD2 mutations to be specific to high-grade tumors affecting 15 % of pediatric HGGs (11/73) and 8 % of adult HGGs (5/65) while no SETD2 mutations were identified in low-grade diffuse gliomas (0/45). Furthermore, SETD2 mutations were mutually exclusive with H3F3A mutations in HGGs (P = 0.0492) while they partly overlapped with IDH1 mutations (4/14), and SETD2-mutant tumors were found exclusively in the cerebral hemispheres (P = 0.0055). SETD2 is the only H3K36 trimethyltransferase in humans, and SETD2-mutant tumors showed a substantial decrease in H3K36me3 levels (P < 0.001), indicating that the mutations are loss-of-function. These data suggest that loss-of-function SETD2 mutations occur in older children and young adults and are specific to HGG of the cerebral cortex, similar to the H3.3 G34R/V and IDH mutations. Taken together, our results suggest that mutations disrupting the histone code at H3K36, including H3.3 G34R/V, IDH1 and/or SETD2 mutations, are central to the genesis of hemispheric HGGs in older children and young adults.
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High-grade glioma; H3K36 methylation; SETD2; Epigenetic; Pediatric; Young adult
Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common malignant brain tumor in children. Patients whose tumors exhibit overexpression or amplification of the MYC oncogene (c-MYC) usually have an extremely poor prognosis, but there are no animal models of this subtype of the disease. Here we show that cerebellar stem cells expressing Myc and mutant Trp53 (p53) generate aggressive tumors following orthotopic transplantation. These tumors consist of large, pleiomorphic cells and resemble human MYC-driven MB at a molecular level. Notably, antagonists of PI3K/mTOR signaling, but not Hedgehog signaling, inhibit growth of tumor cells. These findings suggest that cerebellar stem cells can give rise to MYC-driven MB, and identify a novel model that can be used to test therapies for this devastating disease.
Genomic rearrangements are thought to occur progressively during tumor development. Recent findings, however, suggest an alternative mechanism, involving massive chromosome rearrangements in a one-step catastrophic event termed chromothripsis. We report the whole-genome sequencing-based analysis of a Sonic-Hedgehog medulloblastoma (SHH-MB) brain tumor from a patient with a germline TP53 mutation (Li-Fraumeni syndrome), uncovering massive, complex chromosome rearrangements. Integrating TP53 status with microarray and deep sequencing-based DNA rearrangement data in additional patients reveals a striking association between TP53 mutation and chromothripsis in SHH-MBs. Analysis of additional tumor entities substantiates a link between TP53 mutation and chromothripsis, and indicates a context-specific role for p53 in catastrophic DNA rearrangements. Among these, we observed a strong association between somatic TP53 mutations and chromothripsis in acute myeloid leukemia. These findings connect p53 status and chromothripsis in specific tumor types, providing a genetic basis for understanding particularly aggressive subtypes of cancer.
Embryonal tumor with multilayered rosettes (ETMR, previously known as ETANTR) is a highly aggressive embryonal CNS tumor, which almost exclusively affects infants and is associated with a dismal prognosis. Accurate diagnosis is of critical clinical importance because of its poor response to current treatment protocols and its distinct biology. Amplification of the miRNA cluster at 19q13.42 has been identified previously as a genetic hallmark for ETMR, but an immunohistochemistry-based assay for clinical routine diagnostics [such as INI-1 for atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT)] is still lacking. In this study, we screened for an ETMR-specific marker using a gene-expression profiling dataset of more than 1,400 brain tumors and identified LIN28A as a highly specific marker for ETMR. The encoded protein binds small RNA and has been implicated in stem cell pluripotency, metabolism and tumorigenesis. Using an LIN28A specific antibody, we carried out immunohistochemical analysis of LIN28A in more than 800 childhood brain-tumor samples and confirmed its high specificity for ETMR. Strong LIN28A immunoexpression was found in all 37 ETMR samples tested, whereas focal reactivity was only present in a small (6/50) proportion of AT/RT samples. All other pediatric brain tumors were completely LIN28A-negative. In summary, we established LIN28A immunohistochemistry as a highly sensitive and specific, rapid, inexpensive diagnostic tool for routine pathological verification of ETMR.
ETMR; Pediatric brain tumor; LIN28A; Diagnostic marker
Central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumor (CNS PNET) and pineoblastoma are highly malignant embryonal brain tumors with poor prognoses. Current therapies are based on the treatment of pediatric medulloblastoma, even though these tumors are distinct at both the anatomical and molecular level. CNS PNET and pineoblastoma have a worse clinical outcome than medulloblastoma; thus, improved therapies based on an understanding of the underlying biology of CNS PNET and pineoblastoma are needed. To this end, we characterized the genomic alterations of 36 pediatric CNS PNETs and 8 pineoblastomas using Affymetrix single nucleotide polymorphism arrays. Overall, the majority of CNS PNETs contained a greater degree of genomic imbalance than pineoblastomas, with gain of 19p (8 [27.6%] of 29), 2p (7 [24.1%] of 29), and 1q (6 [20.7%] of 29) common events in primary CNS PNETs. Novel gene copy number alterations were identified and corroborated by Genomic Identification of Significant Targets In Cancer (GISTIC) analysis: gain of PCDHGA3, 5q31.3 in 62.1% of primary CNS PNETs and all primary pineoblastomas and FAM129A, 1q25 in 55.2% of primary CNS PNETs and 50% of primary pineoblastomas. Comparison of our GISTIC data with publically available data for medulloblastoma confirmed these CNS PNET–specific copy number alterations. With use of the collection of 5 primary and recurrent CNS PNET pairs, we found that gain of 2p21 was maintained at relapse in 80% of cases. Novel gene copy number losses included OR4C12, 11p11.12 in 48.2% of primary CNS PNETs and 50% of primary pineoblastomas. Loss of CDKN2A/B (9p21.3) was identified in 14% of primary CNS PNETs and was significantly associated with older age among children (P = .05). CADPS, 3p14.2 was lost in 27.6% of primary CNS PNETs and was associated with poor prognosis (P = .043). This genome-wide analysis revealed the marked molecular heterogeneity of CNS PNETs and enabled the identification of novel genes and clinical associations potentially involved in the pathogenesis of these tumors.
CDKN2A/CDKN2B; CNS PNET; copy number imbalance; pineoblastoma; SNP array
Medulloblastoma encompasses a group of aggressively growing cancers that arise either in the cerebellum or brain stem. They present primarily in children, with 80–85 % of medulloblastomas being diagnosed in patients of 16 years and younger. In adults, medulloblastomas are rare and account for less than 1 % of intracranial malignancies. Due to the low incidence of medulloblastoma in adults, the biology and genetics of adult medulloblastomas have long been poorly understood. Many centers therefore still treat adults either by radiotherapy only or by using glioblastoma protocols (both often noncurative), or with standard pediatric medulloblastoma regimes (often associated with dose-limiting toxicity).Current clinical staging systems discriminate between standard-risk or high-risk patients based on clinical and histological parameters. However, clinico-pathological features often fail to accurately predict treatment response. In children, molecularly defined risk assessment has become important to improve survival of high-risk patients and to decrease treatment-related toxicity and long-term sequelae in standard-risk patients. However, several recent studies have shown that adult and pediatric medulloblastomas are genetically distinct and may require different algorithms for molecular risk stratification. Moreover, four subtypes of medulloblastoma have been identified that appear at different frequencies in children and adults and that have a different prognostic impact depending on age. Molecular markers such as chromosome 10q and chromosome 17 statuses can be used for molecular risk stratification of adult medulloblastoma, but only in a subgroup-specific context. Here we present an overview of the current knowledge of the genomics of adult medulloblastoma and how these tumors differ from their pediatric counterparts.
Medulloblastoma; Adults; Molecular stratification
Pediatric glioblastomas (GBM) including diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG) are devastating brain tumors with no effective therapy. Here, we investigated clinical and biological impacts of histone H3.3 mutations. Forty-two DIPGs were tested for H3.3 mutations. Wild-type versus mutated (K27M-H3.3) subgroups were compared for HIST1H3B, IDH, ATRX and TP53 mutations, copy number alterations and clinical outcome. K27M-H3.3 occurred in 71 %, TP53 mutations in 77 % and ATRX mutations in 9 % of DIPGs. ATRX mutations were more frequent in older children (p < 0.0001). No G34V/R-H3.3, IDH1/2 or H3.1 mutations were identified. K27M-H3.3 DIPGs showed specific copy number changes, including all gains/amplifications of PDGFRA and MYC/PVT1 loci. Notably, all long-term survivors were H3.3 wild type and this group of patients had better overall survival. K27M-H3.3 mutation defines clinically and biologically distinct subgroups and is prevalent in DIPG, which will impact future therapeutic trial design. K27M- and G34V-H3.3 have location-based incidence (brainstem/cortex) and potentially play distinct roles in pediatric GBM pathogenesis. K27M-H3.3 is universally associated with short survival in DIPG, while patients wild-type for H3.3 show improved survival. Based on prognostic and therapeutic implications, our findings argue for H3.3-mutation testing at diagnosis, which should be rapidly integrated into the clinical decision-making algorithm, particularly in atypical DIPG.
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DIPG; H3.3; ATRX; TP53; Survival; Targeted therapy
Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling is critical during development and its aberration is common across the spectrum of human malignancies. In the cerebellum, excessive activity of the Shh signaling pathway is associated with the devastating pediatric brain tumor medulloblastoma. We previously demonstrated that exaggerated de novo lipid synthesis is a hallmark of Shh-driven medulloblastoma and that hedgehog signaling inactivates the Rb/E2F tumor suppressor complex to promote lipogenesis. Indeed, such Shh-mediated metabolic reprogramming fuels tumor progression, in an E2F1- and FASN-dependent manner. Here, we show that the nutrient sensor PPARγ is a key component of the Shh metabolic network, particularly its regulation of glycolysis. Our data show that in primary cerebellar granule neural precursors (CGNPs), proposed medulloblastoma cells-of-origin, Shh stimulation elicits a marked induction of PPARγ alongside major glycolytic markers. This is also documented in the actively proliferating Shh-responsive CGNPs in the developing cerebellum, and PPARγ expression is strikingly elevated in Shh-driven medulloblastoma in vivo. Importantly, pharmacological blockade of PPARγ and/or Rb inactivation inhibits CGNP proliferation, drives medulloblastoma cell death and extends survival of medulloblastoma-bearing animals in vivo. This coupling of mitogenic Shh signaling to a major nutrient sensor and metabolic transcriptional regulator define a novel mechanism through which Shh signaling engages the nutrient sensing machinery in brain cancer, controls the cell cycle, and regulates the glycolytic index. This also reveals a dominant role of Shh in the etiology of glucose metabolism in medulloblastoma and underscores the function of the Shh → E2F1 → PPARγ axis in altering substrate utilization patterns in brain cancers in favor of tumor growth. These findings emphasize the value of PPARγ downstream of Shh as a global therapeutic target in hedgehog-dependent and/or Rb-inactivated tumors.
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Medulloblastoma; Cerebellum; Metabolism; PPARγ; Glycolysis; Sonic hedgehog; Cancer; Tumor metabolism
Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor in childhood. Molecular studies from several groups around the world demonstrated that medulloblastoma is not one disease but comprises a collection of distinct molecular subgroups. However, all these studies reported on different numbers of subgroups. The current consensus is that there are only four core subgroups, which should be termed WNT, SHH, Group 3 and Group 4. Based on this, we performed a meta-analysis of all molecular and clinical data of 550 medulloblastomas brought together from seven independent studies. All cases were analyzed by gene expression profiling and for most cases SNP or array-CGH data were available. Data are presented for all medulloblastomas together and for each subgroup separately. For validation purposes, we compared the results of this meta-analysis with another large medulloblastoma cohort (n = 402) for which subgroup information was obtained by immunohistochemistry. Results from both cohorts are highly similar and show how distinct the molecular subtypes are with respect to their transcriptome, DNA copy-number aberrations, demographics, and survival. Results from these analyses will form the basis for prospective multi-center studies and will have an impact on how the different subgroups of medulloblastoma will be treated in the future.
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Medulloblastoma; Pediatric brain tumor; Subgroups; Meta-analysis
Medulloblastoma, a small blue cell malignancy of the cerebellum, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in pediatric oncology. Current mechanisms for clinical prognostication and stratification include clinical factors (age, presence of metastases, and extent of resection) as well as histological subgrouping (classic, desmoplastic, and large cell/anaplastic histology). Transcriptional profiling studies of medulloblastoma cohorts from several research groups around the globe have suggested the existence of multiple distinct molecular subgroups that differ in their demographics, transcriptomes, somatic genetic events, and clinical outcomes. Variations in the number, composition, and nature of the subgroups between studies brought about a consensus conference in Boston in the fall of 2010. Discussants at the conference came to a consensus that the evidence supported the existence of four main subgroups of medulloblastoma (Wnt, Shh, Group 3, and Group 4). Participants outlined the demographic, transcriptional, genetic, and clinical differences between the four subgroups. While it is anticipated that the molecular classification of medulloblastoma will continue to evolve and diversify in the future as larger cohorts are studied at greater depth, herein we outline the current consensus nomenclature, and the differences between the medulloblastoma subgroups.
Medulloblastoma; Consensus; Subgroups; SHH; WNT; Group 3; Group 4
The diagnosis of medulloblastoma likely encompasses several distinct entities, with recent evidence for the existence of at least four unique molecular subgroups that exhibit distinct genetic, transcriptional, demographic, and clinical features. Assignment of molecular subgroup through routine profiling of high-quality RNA on expression microarrays is likely impractical in the clinical setting. The planning and execution of medulloblastoma clinical trials that stratify by subgroup, or which are targeted to a specific subgroup requires technologies that can be economically, rapidly, reliably, and reproducibly applied to formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) specimens. In the current study, we have developed an assay that accurately measures the expression level of 22 medulloblastoma subgroup-specific signature genes (CodeSet) using nanoString nCounter Technology. Comparison of the nanoString assay with Affymetrix expression array data on a training series of 101 medulloblastomas of known subgroup demonstrated a high concordance (Pearson correlation r = 0.86). The assay was validated on a second set of 130 non-overlapping medulloblastomas of known subgroup, correctly assigning 98% (127/130) of tumors to the appropriate subgroup. Reproducibility was demonstrated by repeating the assay in three independent laboratories in Canada, the United States, and Switzerland. Finally, the nanoString assay could confidently predict subgroup in 88% of recent FFPE cases, of which 100% had accurate subgroup assignment. We present an assay based on nanoString technology that is capable of rapidly, reliably, and reproducibly assigning clinical FFPE medulloblastoma samples to their molecular subgroup, and which is highly suited for future medulloblastoma clinical trials.
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Medulloblastoma; Molecular classification; Clinical trials; NanoString
Pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) is the most common type of primary brain tumor in children and the second most frequent cancer in childhood. Children with incompletely resected PA represent a clinically challenging patient cohort for whom conventional adjuvant therapies are only moderately effective. This has produced high clinical demand for testing of new molecularly targeted treatments. However, the development of new therapeutics for PA has been hampered by the lack of an adequate in vivo tumor model. Recent studies have identified activation of MAPK signaling, mainly by oncogenic BRAF activation, as a hallmark genetic event in the pathogenesis of human PA. Using in vivo retroviral somatic gene transfer into mouse neural progenitor cells, we have shown here that ectopic expression of the activated BRAF kinase domain is sufficient to induce PA in mice. Further in vitro analyses demonstrated that overexpression of activated BRAF led to increased proliferation of primary mouse astrocytes that could be inhibited by treatment with the kinase inhibitor sorafenib. Our in vivo model for PA shows that the activated BRAF kinase domain is sufficient to induce PA and highlights its role as a potential therapeutic target.
The molecular pathogenesis of pediatric astrocytomas is still poorly understood. To further understand the genetic abnormalities associated with these tumors, we performed a genome-wide analysis of DNA copy number aberrations in pediatric low-grade astrocytomas by using array-based comparative genomic hybridization. Duplication of the BRAF protooncogene was the most frequent genomic aberration, and tumors with BRAF duplication showed significantly increased mRNA levels of BRAF and a downstream target, CCND1, as compared with tumors without duplication. Furthermore, denaturing HPLC showed that activating BRAF mutations were detected in some of the tumors without BRAF duplication. Similarly, a marked proportion of low-grade astrocytomas from adult patients also had BRAF duplication. Both the stable silencing of BRAF through shRNA lentiviral transduction and pharmacological inhibition of MEK1/2, the immediate downstream phosphorylation target of BRAF, blocked the proliferation and arrested the growth of cultured tumor cells derived from low-grade gliomas. Our findings implicate aberrant activation of the MAPK pathway due to gene duplication or mutation of BRAF as a molecular mechanism of pathogenesis in low-grade astrocytomas and suggest inhibition of the MAPK pathway as a potential treatment.