Medulloblastoma comprises four distinct molecular subgroups: WNT, SHH, Group 3, and Group 4. Current medulloblastoma protocols stratify patients based on clinical features: patient age, metastatic stage, extent of resection, and histologic variant. Stark prognostic and genetic differences among the four subgroups suggest that subgroup-specific molecular biomarkers could improve patient prognostication.
Patients and Methods
Molecular biomarkers were identified from a discovery set of 673 medulloblastomas from 43 cities around the world. Combined risk stratification models were designed based on clinical and cytogenetic biomarkers identified by multivariable Cox proportional hazards analyses. Identified biomarkers were tested using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) on a nonoverlapping medulloblastoma tissue microarray (n = 453), with subsequent validation of the risk stratification models.
Subgroup information improves the predictive accuracy of a multivariable survival model compared with clinical biomarkers alone. Most previously published cytogenetic biomarkers are only prognostic within a single medulloblastoma subgroup. Profiling six FISH biomarkers (GLI2, MYC, chromosome 11 [chr11], chr14, 17p, and 17q) on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues, we can reliably and reproducibly identify very low-risk and very high-risk patients within SHH, Group 3, and Group 4 medulloblastomas.
Combining subgroup and cytogenetic biomarkers with established clinical biomarkers substantially improves patient prognostication, even in the context of heterogeneous clinical therapies. The prognostic significance of most molecular biomarkers is restricted to a specific subgroup. We have identified a small panel of cytogenetic biomarkers that reliably identifies very high-risk and very low-risk groups of patients, making it an excellent tool for selecting patients for therapy intensification and therapy de-escalation in future clinical trials.
We have extended our understanding of the molecular biology underlying adult glioblastoma over many years. In contrast, high-grade gliomas in children and adolescents have remained a relatively under-investigated disease. The latest large-scale genomic and epigenomic profiling studies have yielded an unprecedented abundance of novel data and revealed deeper insights into gliomagenesis across all age groups, highlighting key distinctions, but also some commonalities. As we are on the verge of dissecting glioblastomas into meaningful biological subgroups, this Review summarizes the hallmark genetic alterations associated with distinct epigenetic features and patient characteristics in both paediatric and adult disease, and examines the complex interplay between the glioblastoma genome and epigenome.
Medulloblastoma is a highly malignant paediatric brain tumour currently treated with a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, posing a considerable burden of toxicity to the developing child. Genomics has illuminated the extensive intertumoural heterogeneity of medulloblastoma, identifying four distinct molecular subgroups. Group 3 and Group 4 subgroup medulloblastomas account for the majority of paediatric cases; yet, oncogenic drivers for these subtypes remain largely unidentified. Here we describe a series of prevalent, highly disparate genomic structural variants, restricted to Groups 3 and 4, resulting in specific and mutually exclusive activation of the growth factor independent 1 family protooncogenes, GFI1 and GFI1B. Somatic structural variants juxtapose GFI1/GFI1B coding sequences proximal to active enhancer elements, including super-enhancers, instigating oncogenic activity. Our results, supported by evidence from mouse models, identify GFI1 and GFI1B as prominent medulloblastoma oncogenes and implicate ‘enhancer hijacking’ as an efficient mechanism driving oncogene activation in a childhood cancer.
Tremendous progress has recently been made in both molecular subgrouping, and the establishment of prognostic biomarkers for embryonal brain tumors, particularly medulloblastoma. Several prognostic biomarkers that were initially identified in retrospective cohorts of medulloblastoma, including MYC and MYCN amplification, nuclear β-catenin accumulation, and chromosome 17 aberrations have now been validated in clinical trials. Moreover, molecular subgroups based on distinct transcriptome profiles have been consistently reported from various groups on different platforms demonstrating that the concept of distinct medulloblastoma subgroups is very robust. Well-described subgroups of medulloblastomas include tumors showing wingless signaling pathway (Wnt) activation, and another characterized by sonic hedgehog pathway activity. Two or more additional subgroups were consistently reported to contain the vast majority of high-risk tumors, including most tumors with metastatic disease at diagnosis and/or large cell/anaplastic histology. Several years ago, atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT) was recognized as a separate entity based on its distinct biology and particularly aggressive clinical behavior. These tumors may occur supra or infratentorially and are usually found to have genetic alterations of SMARCB1 (INI1/hSNF5), a tumor suppressor gene located on chromosome 22q. Subsequent loss of SMARCB1 protein expression comprises a relatively specific and sensitive diagnostic marker for AT/RT. For CNS primitive neuroectodermal tumors (CNS PNETs), a consistent finding has been that they are molecularly distinct from medulloblastoma. Furthermore, a distinct fraction of CNS PNETs with particularly poor prognosis only occurring in young children was delineated, which was previously labeled ependymoblastoma or embryonal tumor with abundant neuropil and true rosettes (ETANTR) and which is morphologically characterized by the presence of multilayered “ependymoblastic” rosettes. This group of tumors shows a unique cytogenetic abnormality not seen in other brain tumors: focal amplification of a micro-RNA cluster at chromosome 19q13.42, which has never been found to be amplified in other CNS PNETs, medulloblastoma or AT/RT. In summary, these consistent findings have significantly contributed to our ability to sub-classify embryonal brain tumors into clinically and biologically meaningful strata and, for some of the subgroups, have led to the identification of specific targets for future development of molecularly targeted therapies.
Embryonal brain tumors; Medulloblastoma; AT/RT; ETANTR; ETMR; Molecular marker; Prognostic marker; Diagnostic marker
Functional heterogeneity within tumors presents a significant therapeutic challenge. Here we show that quiescent, therapy-resistant Sox2+ cells propagate sonic hedgehog subgroup medulloblastoma by a mechanism that mirrors a neurogenic program. Rare Sox2+ cells produce rapidly cycling doublecortin+ progenitors that, together with their postmitotic progeny expressing NeuN, comprise tumor bulk. Sox2+ cells are enriched following anti-mitotic chemotherapy and Smoothened inhibition, creating a reservoir for tumor regrowth. Lineage traces from Sox2+ cells increase following treatment, suggesting that this population is responsible for relapse. Targeting Sox2+ cells with the antineoplastic mithramycin abrogated tumor growth. Addressing functional heterogeneity and eliminating Sox2+ cells presents a promising therapeutic paradigm for treatment of sonic hedgehog subgroup medulloblastoma.
Smoothened (SMO) inhibitors recently entered clinical trials for sonic-hedgehog-driven medulloblastoma (SHH-MB). Clinical response is highly variable. To understand the mechanism(s) of primary resistance and identify pathways cooperating with aberrant SHH signaling, we sequenced and profiled a large cohort of SHH-MBs (n = 133). SHH pathway mutations involved PTCH1 (across all age groups), SUFU (infants, including germline), and SMO (adults). Children >3 years old harbored an excess of downstream MYCN and GLI2 amplifications and frequent TP53 mutations, often in the germline, all of which were rare in infants and adults. Functional assays in different SHH-MB xenograft models demonstrated that SHH-MBs harboring a PTCH1 mutation were responsive to SMO inhibition, whereas tumors harboring an SUFU mutation or MYCN amplification were primarily resistant.
In vivo functional investigation of oncogenes using somatic gene transfer has been successfully exploited to validate their role in tumorigenesis. For tumour suppressor genes this has proven more challenging due to technical aspects. To provide a flexible and effective method for investigating somatic loss-of-function alterations and their influence on tumorigenesis, we have established CRISPR/Cas9-mediated somatic gene disruption, allowing for in vivo targeting of TSGs. Here we demonstrate the utility of this approach by deleting single (Ptch1) or multiple genes (Trp53, Pten, Nf1) in the mouse brain, resulting in the development of medulloblastoma and glioblastoma, respectively. Using whole-genome sequencing (WGS) we characterized the medulloblastoma-driving Ptch1 deletions in detail and show that no off-targets were detected in these tumours. This method provides a fast and convenient system for validating the emerging wealth of novel candidate tumour suppressor genes and the generation of faithful animal models of human cancer.
Gene transfer is a powerful technique to investigate the mechanistic basis of tumorigenesis. Here Zuckermann et al. adapt CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to target potential oncogenes somatically in vivo, establishing a fast and convenient system for validating novel genetic candidates.
BACKGROUND: The current World Health Organisation (WHO) classification of central nervous system tumors comprises over 100 entities. Most of these are defined by purely histological criteria, with varying and sometimes overlapping spectra. Histological diagnosis is often challenging, however, especially in cases with limited or non-representative biopsy material. Thus, molecular technologies that can complement standard pathology testing have the potential to greatly enhance diagnostic precision and improve clinical decision-making. DNA methylation profiling, acting as a 'fingerprint' of cellular origin and molecular alterations, is one such promising technology. METHODS: We have assembled a reference dataset of more than 2,000 methylation profiles using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 (450k) array, currently representing over 50 brain tumor entities or subgroups. The array platform is suitable for both frozen and paraffin-embedded material, with minimal DNA input required. Each new diagnostic case receives an entity prediction with an associated probability score as a confidence measure. Genome-wide copy number profiles (e.g. for scoring 1p/19q loss or gene amplifications) and target gene methylation data (e.g. MGMT) generated from the array provide important additional information. RESULTS: In addition to the reference cohort, more than 500 diagnostic samples from Heidelberg University Hospital and external institutions have been processed. Approximately 5-10% of cases displayed a discrepancy between histological and molecular diagnoses. Careful re-examination of these often resulted in refinement of the original diagnosis, and improved patient care.Furthermore, samples collected for the reference cohort have led to significant improvements in our understanding of the biology of several tumor types, including the identification of further subgroups for several entities and associations with recurrent copy number changes and/or mutations. CONCLUSIONS: Our understanding of the molecular alterations underlying brain tumors has grown enormously in recent years, and it is crucial that this is translated into the clinic promptly. DNA methylation profiling is one tool with the potential to become an important part of the diagnostic armoury of neuropathologists. This relatively inexpensive and robust method is well suited to complement standard histopathologic techniques and improve diagnostic accuracy, thereby optimising patient management. We are currently expanding our pipeline to include additional diagnostic centres, allowing for further refinement and validation as well as broader international access. SECONDARY CATEGORY: Tumor Biology.
BACKGROUND: The WHO classification, based on morphological criteria, may be increasingly supplemented with defined molecular aberrations. These might help to resolve the discrepancy between classification and clinical outcome. Molecular biomarkers, including isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 or 2 (IDH1/2) mutation, 1p/19q codeletion, mutations and (consequently) loss of expression of alpha-thalassemia/mental retardation syndrome X-linked (ATRX) and O6-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter methylation, improve prognostication and may even guide treatment decisions in patients with anaplastic gliomas. Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip arrays (HM450) allow the determination of large-scale methylation profiles and genome-wide DNA copy number changes, enabling molecular subgrouping of tumors. In addition, algorithms have been developed to detect the glioma CpG island methylator phenotype (G-CIMP) associated with IDH1/2 mutation, 1p/19q codeletion and MGMT promoter methylation using this assay. METHODS: In the biomarker cohort of the NOA-04 trial, the diagnostic and prognostic performance of these molecular markers using single tests, HM450 data and HM450-based algorithms has been investigated to propose biological subgroups, which reflect outcomes and potentially influence treatment decisions. RESULTS: Loss of ATRX expression was detected in 45% of anaplastic astrocytomas (AA), 27% of anaplastic oligoastrocytomas (AOA) and 10% of anaplastic oligodendrogliomas (AO). It was mostly restricted to IDH mutant tumors and almost mutually exclusive with 1p/19q co-deletion. In tumors with IDH1 mutation, MGMT promoter methylation was associated with prolonged progression-free survival (PFS) with chemotherapy or radiotherapy (RT), and thus prognostic. In tumors without IDH1 mutation, MGMT promoter methylation was associated with increased PFS in patients treated with chemotherapy, too, but not in those who received RT alone as the first-line treatment, and is thus chemotherapy-predictive. Comparisons of single assays and HM450-based algorithms revealed a high concordance for IDH and 1p/19q status. The HM450-derived MGMT-STP27 model to calculate MGMT promoter methylation probability revealed this aberration in a significantly higher fraction of cases as conventional methylation-specific PCR, with 87/91 G-CIMP-positive tumors predicted as MGMT promoter-methylated. CONCLUSIONS: ATRX loss is a hallmark and favorable prognosticator of astrocytic tumors allowing a better definition of the clinically and morphologically mixed group of AOA. MGMT promoter methylation is a predictive biomarker for benefit from alkylating agent chemotherapy in patients with IDH1-wildtype, but not IDH1-mutant malignant gliomas of WHO grades III/IV. Combined IDH1/ MGMT assessment may help to individualize clinical decision making in neurooncology. G-CIMP and 1p/19q codeletion are reliably detectable by HM450 analysis and associated with prognosis in the NOA-04 trial. HM450 arrays allowed clustering of anaplastic gliomas into relevant subgroups. SECONDARY CATEGORY: Tumor Biology.
BACKGROUND: Genomics has illuminated the extensive intertumoural heterogeneity of medulloblastoma and identified at least four distinct molecular subgroups of the disease. Group 3 and Group 4 subgroup medulloblastomas account for the majority of pediatric cases, yet, oncogenic drivers for these subtypes remain poorly understood. Exome and genome sequencing studies have confirmed a paucity of recurrent gene-level mutations in Group 3 and Group 4, suggesting that alternative oncogenic mechanisms must account for the large fraction of cases that cannot currently be explained by single-nucleotide variants or insertions/deletions alone. METHODS: Analysis of whole-genome sequencing data consisting of 128 primary Group 3 and Group 4 medulloblastoma samples facilitated a systematic, high-resolution screen for chromosomal breakpoints recurrently targeting novel medulloblastoma drivers by structural variation. A non-overlapping set of 22 medulloblastomas was sequenced by long-range paired-end mapping in order to validate structural variants observed in our discovery cohort. Select cases of interest were also investigated at the epigenome-level using a combination of whole-genome bisulphite sequencing and enhancer histone mark ChIP-sequencing. RESULTS: Our systematic analysis of structural variants identified highly disparate genomic structural rearrangements, restricted to Groups 3 and 4, resulting in specific and mutually exclusive activation of the growth factor independent 1 family proto-oncogenes, GFI1 & GFI1B. Diverse mechanisms of structural variation, including duplications, deletions, inversions, translocations, and other complex genomic variants were observed in nearly all GFI1/1B-activated cases. Comprehensive characterization of these structural variants established that GFI1/GFI1B expression becomes activated through relocation of their coding sequences to genomic regions of transcriptionally active chromatin. Functional analyses performed in mice confirmed the oncogenicity of Gfi1/Gfi1b in the context of medulloblastoma and demonstrated apparent synergy between both of these candidates and the c-Myc oncogene. CONCLUSIONS: These studies establish GFI1 and GFI1B as novel, highly prevalent medulloblastoma oncogenes specifically active in Group 3 and Group 4. Given their high frequencies of activation, GFI1 and GFI1B represent excellent candidates for prioritization of molecularly targeted therapy aimed at treatment of a significant proportion of Group 3 and Group 4 medulloblastoma patients. SECONDARY CATEGORY: Pediatrics.
BACKGROUND: (blind field). METHODS: Expression profiling, molecular subgrouping and analysis of somatic copy number alterations were conducted on multiple independent cohorts of patient tumour samples to examine intermediates of the MET signaling pathway in medulloblastoma. To examine the in vitro and in vivo effects of foretinib treatment; MET signalling biochemical analysis; migration and invasion assays; and foretinib pharmacokinetic studies were performed. Medulloblastoma xenografts and transgenic mouse models were used to evaluate foretinib treatment in vivo. RESULTS: We analyzed three large non-overlapping cohorts of medulloblastoma patients (discovery cohort, n = 199; validation cohort 1, n = 439; validation cohort 2, n = 285) and demonstrated that cMET, known to be involved in tumor progression and dissemination, is a marker of sonic hedgehog (SHH) medulloblastoma. Importantly, immunohistochemical analysis of activated cMET (phosphorylated cMET) in another independent patient cohort (n = 385) revealed that cMET activation correlates with increased tumor relapse and a poor survival in pediatric patients with SHH medulloblastomas, thus defining a subset of patients that may benefit from cMET targeted therapy. We show that foretinib, an FDA approved inhibitor of cMET, suppresses cMET activation, decreases proliferation and induces apoptosis, both in medulloblastoma cell lines and in SHH medulloblastoma xenografts. Furthermore foretinib penetrates the blood-brain barrier and is effective both in the primary and in the metastatic compartments. Treatment of mouse xenografts and of an aggressive transgenic model of metastatic SHH medulloblastoma with foretinib reduced primary medulloblastoma growth, decreased the incidence of metastases by 36% and increased survival by 45%. CONCLUSIONS: Our results provide strong rationale for advancing foretinib into clinical trials for SHH-driven medulloblastomas. SECONDARY CATEGORY: Tumor Biology.
BACKGROUND: Although childhood malignancies have become curable in about 75% of cases due to empirically developed multi-modal therapeutic concepts applied in nation-wide collaborative trials, for children with a relapse, cure remains the exception. In the framework of the ICGC project PedBrain many new potentially druggable genetic lesions have been identified. However, it will not be feasible to conduct traditional phase I trials for all these new drugs in these overall rare entities. To still have our young patients participating in the recent advances in molecular targeted drug treatment, we initiated a novel innovative way of introducing these drugs in a clinical setting based on an individualized molecular rationale, a concept called INFORM (INdividualized therapy For Relapsed Malignancies in childhood). METHODS: Exome- and low-coverage whole-genome sequencing, RNA sequencing, gene expression profiling, DNA methylation profiling, bioinformatic prediction of drug targets and compound selection are carried out aiming at a turnaround time of 4 weeks or less after re-biopsy of the tumor. In the current feasibility phase, drug targets and prioritization are offered to the treating physician in the local hospital for individual treatment decisions. RESULTS: Ten patients were recruited to the INFORM-pilot study by now. For all but two, druggable targets have been identified. The first two patients with early follow-up MRIs after 6 weeks had stable disease (medulloblastoma) and 50% tumor volume reduction (myofibroblastc tumor), respectively. In an additional case with pontine glioma, molecular diagnostics significantly contributed to the establishment of an unambiguous diagnosis. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first population-based study using next-generation sequencing technologies to guide treatment decisions in a clinical setting. In addition to this advance in “next-generation” clinical oncology, INFORM will also reveal the largest comprehensive molecular datasets of relapsed tumors to date, and since primary tumor material from the same patient will also be analyzed whenever available, will likely identify key biological properties of relapsing malignancies and recurrent mechanisms of drug resistance across entities. SECONDARY CATEGORY: Pediatrics.
BACKGROUND: This study aimed to prospectively evaluate clinical, histopathological and molecular variables for outcome prediction in medulloblastoma patients. METHODS: Patients from the HIT2000 cooperative clinical trial were prospectively enrolled based on the availability of sufficient tumor material and complete clinical information. This revealed a cohort of 184 patients (median age 7.6 years), which was randomly split at a 2:1 ratio into a training (n = 127), and a validation (n = 57) dataset. All samples were subjected to thorough histopathological investigation, CTNNB1 mutation analysis, quantitative PCR, MLPA and FISH analyses for cytogenetic variables, and methylome analysis. RESULTS: By univariable analysis, clinical factors (M-stage), histopathological variables (large cell component, endothelial proliferation, synaptophysin pattern), and molecular features (chromosome 6q status, MYC amplification, TOP2A copy-number, subgrouping) were found to be prognostic. Molecular consensus subgrouping (WNT, SHH, Group 3, Group 4) was validated as an independent feature to stratify patients into different risk groups. When comparing methods for the identification of WNT-driven medulloblastoma, this study identified CTNNB1 sequencing and methylation profiling to most reliably identify these patients. After removing patients with particularly favorable (CTNNB1 mutation, extensive nodularity) or unfavorable (MYC amplification) markers, a risk score for the remaining “intermediate molecular risk” population dependent on age, M-stage, pattern of synaptophysin expression, and MYCN copy-number status was identified and validated, with speckled synaptophysin expression indicating worse outcome. CONCLUSIONS: Methylation subgrouping and CTNNB1 mutation status represent robust tools for the risk-stratification of medulloblastoma. A simple clinico-pathological risk score for “intermediate molecular risk” patients was identified, which deserves further validation. SECONDARY CATEGORY: Pediatrics.
Metabolic adaptation is essential for cell survival during nutrient deprivation. We report that eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2K), which is activated by AMP-kinase (AMPK), confers cell survival under acute nutrient depletion by blocking translation elongation. Tumor cells exploit this pathway to adapt to nutrient deprivation by reactivating the AMPK-eEF2K axis. Adaptation of transformed cells to nutrient withdrawal is severely compromised in cells lacking eEF2K. Moreover, eEF2K knockdown restored sensitivity to acute nutrient deprivation in highly resistant human tumor cell lines. In vivo, overexpression of eEF2K rendered murine tumors remarkably resistant to caloric restriction. Expression of eEF2K strongly correlated with overall survival in human medulloblastoma and glioblastoma multiforme. Finally, C. elegans strains deficient in efk-1, the eEF2K ortholog, were severely compromised in their response to nutrient depletion. Our data highlight a conserved role for eEF2K in protecting cells from nutrient deprivation and in conferring tumor cell adaptation to metabolic stress.
Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most frequent malignant brain tumor in children. Four subgroups with distinct genetic, epigenetic and clinical characteristics have been identified. Survival remains particularly poor in patients with Group 3 tumors harbouring a MYC amplification. We herein explore the molecular mechanisms and translational implications of class I histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition in MYC driven MBs.
Material and Methods
Expression of HDACs in primary MB subgroups was compared to normal brain tissue. A panel of MB cell lines, including Group 3 MYC amplified cell lines, were used as model systems. Cells were treated with HDAC inhibitors (HDACi) selectively targeting class I or IIa HDACs. Depletion of HDAC2 was performed. Intracellular HDAC activity, cellular viability, metabolic activity, caspase activity, cell cycle progression, RNA and protein expression were analyzed.
HDAC2 was found to be overexpressed in MB subgroups with poor prognosis (SHH, Group 3 and Group 4) compared to normal brain and the WNT subgroup. Inhibition of the enzymatic activity of the class I HDACs reduced metabolic activity, cell number, and viability in contrast to inhibition of class IIa HDACs. Increased sensitivity to HDACi was specifically observed in MYC amplified cells. Depletion of HDAC2 increased H4 acetylation and induced cell death. Simulation of clinical pharmacokinetics showed time-dependent on target activity that correlated with binding kinetics of HDACi compounds.
We conclude that HDAC2 is a valid drug target in patients with MYC amplified MB. HDACi should cover HDAC2 in their inhibitory profile and timing and dosing regimen in clinical trials should take binding kinetics of compounds into consideration.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40478-015-0201-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Medulloblastoma; HDAC; HDAC inhibitor; HDAC2; MYC
Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant childhood brain tumor, exhibits distinct molecular subtypes and cellular origins. Genetic alterations driving medulloblastoma initiation and progression remain poorly understood. Herein, we identify GNAS, encoding the G-protein Gsα, as a potent tumor suppressor gene that defines a subset of aggressive Sonic Hedgehog (Shh)-driven human medulloblastomas. Ablation of the single Gnas gene in anatomically-distinct progenitors is sufficient to induce Shh-associated medulloblastomas, which recapitulate their human counterparts. Gsα is highly enriched at the primary cilium of granule neuron precursors and suppresses Shh-signaling by regulating both the cAMP-dependent pathway and ciliary trafficking of Hedgehog pathway components. Elevation of a Gsα effector, cAMP, effectively inhibits tumor cell proliferation and progression in Gnas mutants. Thus, our gain- and loss-of-function studies identify a previously unrecognized tumor suppressor function for Gsα that acts as a molecular link across Shh-group medulloblastomas of disparate cellular and anatomical origins, illuminating G-protein modulation as a potential therapeutic avenue.
medulloblastoma; G-protein; cAMP; GPCR; cell lineage; sonic hedgehog signaling; cilia; cellular origins
Midline pediatric high-grade astrocytomas (pHGAs) are incurable with few treatment targets identified. Most tumors harbor K27M mutations on histone 3 variants. In 40 treatment-naïve midline pHGAs, 39 analyzed by whole-exome sequencing, we find additional somatic mutations specific to tumor location. Gain-of-function mutations in ACVR1 occur in tumors of the pons in conjunction with H3.1 K27M, while FGFR1 mutations/fusions occur in thalamic tumors associated with H3.3 K27M. Hyper-activation of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)/ACVR1 developmental pathway in pHGAs harbouring ACVR1 mutations led to increased phospho-SMAD1/5/8 expression and up-regulation of BMP downstream early response genes in tumour cells. Global DNA methylation profiles were significantly associated with the K27M mutation regardless of the mutant H3 variant and irrespective of tumor location, supporting its role in driving the epigenetic phenotype. This significantly expands the potential treatment targets and further justifies pre-treatment biopsy in pHGA as a means to orient therapeutic efforts in this disease.
TP53 mutations confer subgroup specific poor survival for children with medulloblastoma. We hypothesized that WNT activation which is associated with improved survival for such children abrogates TP53 related radioresistance and can be used to sensitize TP53 mutant tumors for radiation. We examined the subgroup-specific role of TP53 mutations in a cohort of 314 patients treated with radiation. TP53 wild-type or mutant human medulloblastoma cell-lines and normal neural stem cells were used to test radioresistance of TP53 mutations and the radiosensitizing effect of WNT activation on tumors and the developing brain. Children with WNT/TP53 mutant medulloblastoma had higher 5-year survival than those with SHH/TP53 mutant tumours (100% and 36.6% ± 8.7%, respectively (p < 0.001)). Introduction of TP53 mutation into medulloblastoma cells induced radioresistance (survival fractions at 2Gy (SF2) of 89% ± 2% vs. 57.4% ± 1.8% (p < 0.01)). In contrast, β-catenin mutation sensitized TP53 mutant cells to radiation (p < 0.05). Lithium, an activator of the WNT pathway, sensitized TP53 mutant medulloblastoma to radiation (SF2 of 43.5% ± 1.5% in lithium treated cells vs. 56.6 ± 3% (p < 0.01)) accompanied by increased number of γH2AX foci. Normal neural stem cells were protected from lithium induced radiation damage (SF2 of 33% ± 8% for lithium treated cells vs. 27% ± 3% for untreated controls (p = 0.05). Poor survival of patients with TP53 mutant medulloblastoma may be related to radiation resistance. Since constitutive activation of the WNT pathway by lithium sensitizes TP53 mutant medulloblastoma cells and protect normal neural stem cells from radiation, this oral drug may represent an attractive novel therapy for high-risk medulloblastomas.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40478-014-0174-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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.
Medulloblastoma has recently been found to consist of 4 molecularly and clinically distinct subgroups: WNT, Sonce hedgehog (SHH), Group 3, and Group 4. Deregulated microRNA expression is known to contribute to pathogenesis and has been shown to have diagnostic and prognostic potential in the classification of various cancers.
Molecular subgrouping and microRNA expression analysis of 44 frozen and 59 formalin-fixed paraffin embedded medulloblastomas from an Indian cohort were carried out by real-time RT-PCR assay.
The differential expression of 9 microRNAs in the 4 molecular subgroups was validated in a set of 101 medulloblastomas. The tumors in the WNT subgroup showed significant (P < .0001) overexpression of miR-193a-3p, miR-224, miR-148a, miR-23b, and miR-365. Reliable classification of medulloblastomas into the 4 molecular subgroups was obtained using a set of 12 protein-coding genes and 9 microRNAs as markers in a real-time RT-PCR assay with an accuracy of 97% as judged by the Prediction Analysis of Microarrays. Age at diagnosis, histology, gender-related incidence, and the relative survival rates of the 4 molecular subgroups in the present Indian cohort were found to be similar to those reported for medulloblastomas from the American and European subcontinent. Non-WNT, non–SHH medulloblastomas underexpressing miR-592 or overexpressing miR-182 were found to have significantly inferior survival rates, indicating utility of these miRNAs as markers for risk stratification.
The microRNA based real-time PCR assay is rapid, simple, inexpensive, and useful for molecular classification and risk stratification of medulloblastomas, in particular formalin-fixed paraffin embedded tissues, wherein the expression profile of protein-coding genes is often less reliable due to RNA fragmentation.
Indian cohort, medulloblastoma; miRNA; molecular classification; risk stratification
Based on extensive pre-clinical studies, the oncolytic parvovirus H-1 (H-1PV) is currently applied to patients with recurrent glioblastoma in a phase I/IIa clinical trial (ParvOryx01, NCT01301430). Cure rates of about 40% in pediatric high-risk medulloblastoma (MB) patients also indicate the need of new therapeutic approaches. In order to prepare a future application of oncolytic parvovirotherapy to MB, the present study preclinically evaluates the cytotoxic efficacy of H-1PV on MB cells in vitro and characterizes cellular target genes involved in this effect. Six MB cell lines were analyzed by whole genome oligonucleotide microarrays after treatment and the results were matched to known molecular and cytogenetic risk factors. In contrast to non-transformed infant astrocytes and neurons, in five out of six MB cell lines lytic H-1PV infection and efficient viral replication could be demonstrated. The cytotoxic effects induced by H-1PV were observed at LD50s below 0.05 p. f. u. per cell indicating high susceptibility. Gene expression patterns in the responsive MB cell lines allowed the identification of candidate target genes mediating the cytotoxic effects of H-1PV. H-1PV induced down-regulation of key regulators of early neurogenesis shown to confer poor prognosis in MB such as ZIC1, FOXG1B, MYC, and NFIA. In MB cell lines with genomic amplification of MYC, expression of MYC was the single gene most significantly repressed after H-1PV infection. H-1PV virotherapy may be a promising treatment approach for MB since it targets genes of functional relevance and induces cell death at very low titers of input virus.
medulloblastoma; oncolytic virus; parvovirus H-1PV; cellular targets; MYC; master regulators of neurogenesis
Recurrent medulloblastoma is a daunting therapeutic challenge as it is almost universally fatal. Recent studies confirmed that medulloblastoma comprises four distinct subgroups. We sought to delineate subgroup specific differences in medulloblastoma recurrence patterns.
We retrospectively identified a discovery cohort of all recurrent medulloblastomas at the Hospital for Sick Children between 1994-2012, and performed molecular subgrouping on FFPE tissues using a nanoString-based assay. The anatomical site of recurrence (local tumour bed or leptomeningeal metastasis), time to recurrence and survival post-recurrence were determined in a subgroup specific fashion. Subgroup specific recurrence patterns were confirmed in two independent, non-overlapping FFPE validation cohorts. Where possible molecular subgrouping was performed on tissue obtained from both the initial surgery and at recurrence.
A screening cohort of 30 recurrent medulloblastomas was assembled; nine with local recurrences, and 21 metastatic. When re-analysed in a subgroup specific manner, local recurrences were more frequent in SHH tumours (8/9, 88%) and metastatic recurrences were more common in Group 3 and 4 (17/20 [85%] with one WNT, p=0.0014, local vs metastatic recurrence, SHH vs Group 3 vs Group 4). The subgroup specific location of recurrence was confirmed in a multicenter validation cohort (p=0·0013 for local vs metastatic recurrence SHH vs Group 3 vs Group 4, n=77), and a second independent validation cohort comprising 96 recurrences (p<0·0001 for local vs metastatic recurrence SHH vs Group 3 vs Group 4, n=96). Treatment with craniospinal irradiation at diagnosis was not significantly associated with the anatomical pattern of recurrence. Survival post recurrence was significantly longer in Group 4 patients (p=0·013) as confirmed in a multicenter validation cohort (p=0·0075). Strikingly, subgroup affiliation remained stable at recurrence in all 34 cases with available matched primary and recurrent pairs.
Medulloblastoma does not switch subgroup at the time of recurrence further highlighting the stability of the four principle medulloblastoma subgroups. Significant differences in the location and timing of recurrence across medulloblastoma subgroups were observed which have potential treatment ramifications. Specifically, intensified local (posterior fossa) therapy should be tested in the initial treatment of SHH patients. Refinement of therapy for Groups 3 and 4 should focus on the metastatic compartment, as it is the near universal cause of patient deaths.
Studies in pediatric high-grade astrocytomas (HGA) by our group and others have uncovered recurrent somatic mutations affecting highly conserved residues in histone 3 (H3) variants. One of these mutations leads to analogous p.Lys27Met (K27M) mutations in both H3.3 and H3.1 variants, is associated with rapid fatal outcome, and occurs specifically in HGA of the midline in children and young adults. This includes diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (80 %) and thalamic or spinal HGA (>90 %), which are surgically challenging locations with often limited tumor material available and critical need for specific histopathological markers. Here, we analyzed formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues from 143 pediatric HGA and 297 other primary brain tumors or normal brain. Immunohistochemical staining for H3K27M was compared to tumor genotype, and also compared to H3 tri-methylated lysine 27 (H3K27me3) staining, previously shown to be drastically decreased in samples carrying this mutation. There was a 100 % concordance between genotype and immunohistochemical analysis of H3K27M in tumor samples. Mutant H3K27M was expressed in the majority of tumor cells, indicating limited intra-tumor heterogeneity for this specific mutation within the limits of our dataset. Both H3.1 and H3.3K27M mutants were recognized by this antibody while non-neoplastic elements, such as endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells or lymphocytes, did not stain. H3K27me3 immunoreactivity was largely mutually exclusive with H3K27M positivity. These results demonstrate that mutant H3K27M can be specifically identified with high specificity and sensitivity using an H3K27M antibody and immunohistochemistry. Use of this antibody in the clinical setting will prove very useful for diagnosis, especially in the context of small biopsies in challenging midline tumors and will help orient care in the context of the extremely poor prognosis associated with this mutation.
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K27M; Histone 3 variants; IHC; K27 trimethylation; High-grade astrocytomas
Despite the histological similarity of ependymomas from throughout the neuroaxis, the disease likely comprises multiple independent entities, each with a distinct molecular pathogenesis. Transcriptional profiling of two large independent cohorts of ependymoma reveals the existence of two demographically, transcriptionally, genetically, and clinically distinct groups of posterior fossa (PF) ependymomas. Group A patients are younger, have laterally located tumors with a balanced genome, and are much more likely to exhibit recurrence, metastasis at recurrence, and death compared with Group B patients. Identification and optimization of immunohistochemical (IHC) markers for PF ependymoma subgroups allowed validation of our findings on a third independent cohort, using a human ependymoma tissue microarray, and provides a tool for prospective prognostication and stratification of PF ependymoma patients.
Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common malignant paediatric brain tumour. Recurrence and progression of disease occurs in 15-20% of standard risk and 30-40% of high risk patients. We analysed whether circumvention of chemoresistance pathways (drug export, DNA repair and apoptotic inhibition) can restore chemotherapeutic efficacy in a panel of MB cell lines.
We demonstrate, by immunohistochemistry in patient tissue microarrays, that ABCB1 is expressed in 43% of tumours and is significantly associated with high-risk. We show that ABCB1, O6-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT) and BCL2 family members are differentially expressed (by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting and flow cytometry) in MB cell lines. Based on these findings, each pathway was then inhibited or circumvented and cell survival assessed using clonogenic assays. Inhibition of ABCB1 using vardenafil or verapamil resulted in a significant increase in sensitivity to etoposide in ABCB1-expressing MB cell lines. Sensitivity to temozolomide (TMZ) was MGMT-dependent, but two novel imidazotetrazine derivatives (N-3 sulfoxide and N-3 propargyl TMZ analogues) demonstrated ≥7 fold and ≥3 fold more potent cytotoxicity respectively compared to TMZ in MGMT-expressing MB cell lines. Activity of the BAD mimetic ABT-737 was BCL2A1 and ABCB1 dependent, whereas the pan-BCL2 inhibitor obatoclax was effective as a single cytotoxic agent irrespective of MCL1, BCL2, BCL2A1, or ABCB1 expression.
ABCB1 is associated with high-risk MB; hence, inhibition of ABCB1 by vardenafil may represent a valid approach in these patients. Imidazotetrazine analogues of TMZ and the BH3 mimetic obatoclax are promising clinical candidates in drug resistant MB tumours expressing MGMT and BCL2 anti-apoptotic members respectively.
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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2051-5960-2-57) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Medulloblastoma; ABCB1; MGMT; Etoposide; Temozolomide; Obatoclax