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1.  Tumor VEGF:VEGFR2 autocrine feed-forward loop triggers angiogenesis in lung cancer 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(4):1732-1740.
The molecular mechanisms that control the balance between antiangiogenic and proangiogenic factors and initiate the angiogenic switch in tumors remain poorly defined. By combining chemical genetics with multimodal imaging, we have identified an autocrine feed-forward loop in tumor cells in which tumor-derived VEGF stimulates VEGF production via VEGFR2-dependent activation of mTOR, substantially amplifying the initial proangiogenic signal. Disruption of this feed-forward loop by chemical perturbation or knockdown of VEGFR2 in tumor cells dramatically inhibited production of VEGF in vitro and in vivo. This disruption was sufficient to prevent tumor growth in vivo. In patients with lung cancer, we found that this VEGF:VEGFR2 feed-forward loop was active, as the level of VEGF/VEGFR2 binding in tumor cells was highly correlated to tumor angiogenesis. We further demonstrated that inhibition of tumor cell VEGFR2 induces feedback activation of the IRS/MAPK signaling cascade. Most strikingly, combined pharmacological inhibition of VEGFR2 (ZD6474) and MEK (PD0325901) in tumor cells resulted in dramatic tumor shrinkage, whereas monotherapy only modestly slowed tumor growth. Thus, a tumor cell-autonomous VEGF:VEGFR2 feed-forward loop provides signal amplification required for the establishment of fully angiogenic tumors in lung cancer. Interrupting this feed-forward loop switches tumor cells from an angiogenic to a proliferative phenotype that sensitizes tumor cells to MAPK inhibition.
doi:10.1172/JCI65385
PMCID: PMC3613914  PMID: 23454747
2.  Frequent mutations in chromatin-remodeling genes in pulmonary carcinoids 
Nature communications  2014;5:3518.
Pulmonary carcinoids are rare neuroendocrine tumors of the lung. The molecular alterations underlying the pathogenesis of these tumors have not been systematically studied so far. Here we perform gene copy number analysis (n=54), genome/exome (n=44) and transcriptome (n=69) sequencing of pulmonary carcinoids and observe frequent mutations in chromatin-remodeling genes. Covalent histone modifiers and subunits of the SWI/SNF complex are mutated in 40% and 22.2% of the cases respectively, with MEN1, PSIP1 and ARID1A being recurrently affected. In contrast to small-cell lung cancer and large-cell neuroendocrine tumors, TP53 and RB1 mutations are rare events, suggesting that pulmonary carcinoids are not early progenitor lesions of the highly aggressive lung neuroendocrine tumors but arise through independent cellular mechanisms. These data also suggest that inactivation of chromatin remodeling genes is sufficient to drive transformation in pulmonary carcinoids.
doi:10.1038/ncomms4518
PMCID: PMC4132974  PMID: 24670920
3.  Frequent and Focal FGFR1 Amplification Associates With Therapeutically Tractable FGFR1 Dependency in Squamous-cell Lung Cancer 
Science translational medicine  2010;2(62):62ra93.
Lung cancer remains one of the leading causes for cancer-related death in developed countries. In lung adenocarcinomas, EGFR mutations and EML4-ALK fusions are associated with response to EGFR and ALK inhibition. By contrast, therapeutically exploitable genetic alterations have been lacking in squamous-cell lung cancer. We conducted a systematic search for alterations that are therapeutically amenable and performed high-resolution gene-copy number analyses in a set of 232 lung cancer specimens. We identified frequent and focal FGFR1 amplification in squamous-cell lung cancer (n=155), but not in other lung cancer subtypes, and confirmed its presence in an independent cohort of squamous-cell lung cancer samples employing FISH (22% of cases). Using cell-based screening with the FGFR inhibitor (PD173074) in a large (n=83) panel of lung cancer cell lines, we demonstrated that this compound inhibited growth (p=0.0002) and induced apoptosis (p=0.008) specifically in those lung cancer cells carrying amplified FGFR1. We validated the dependency on FGFR1 of FGFR1-amplified cell lines by knockdown of FGFR1 and by ectopic expression of a resistance allele of FGFR1 (FGFR1V561M), which rescued FGFR1-amplified cells from PD173074-mediated cytotoxicity. Finally we showed that inhibition of FGFR1 with a small molecule led to significant tumor shrinkage in vivo. Focal FGFR1 amplification is common in squamous-cell lung cancer and associated with tumor growth and survival, suggesting that FGFR inhibitors may be a viable therapeutic option in this cohort of patients.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3001451
PMCID: PMC3990281  PMID: 21160078
4.  The LIM-Only Protein FHL2 Reduces Vascular Lesion Formation Involving Inhibition of Proliferation and Migration of Smooth Muscle Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94931.
The LIM-only protein FHL2, also known as DRAL or SLIM3, has a function in fine-tuning multiple physiological processes. FHL2 is expressed in the vessel wall in smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and endothelial cells and conflicting data have been reported on the regulatory function of FHL2 in SMC phenotype transition. At present the function of FHL2 in SMCs in vascular injury is unknown. Therefore, we studied the role of FHL2 in SMC-rich lesion formation. In response to carotid artery ligation FHL2-deficient (FHL2-KO) mice showed accelerated lesion formation with enhanced Ki67 expression compared with wild-type (WT)-mice. Consistent with these findings, cultured SMCs from FHL2-KO mice showed increased proliferation through enhanced phosphorylation of extracellular-regulated kinase-1/2 (ERK1/2) and induction of CyclinD1 expression. Overexpression of FHL2 in SMCs inhibited CyclinD1 expression and CyclinD1-knockdown blocked the enhanced proliferation of FHL2-KO SMCs. We also observed increased CyclinD1 promoter activity in FHL2-KO SMCs, which was reduced upon ERK1/2 inhibition. Furthermore, FHL2-KO SMCs showed enhanced migration compared with WT SMCs. In conclusion, FHL2 deficiency in mice results in exacerbated SMC-rich lesion formation involving increased proliferation and migration of SMCs via enhanced activation of the ERK1/2-CyclinD1 signaling pathway.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094931
PMCID: PMC3988136  PMID: 24736599
5.  Tuberous-sclerosis complex-related cell signaling in the pathogenesis of lung cancer 
Diagnostic Pathology  2014;9:48.
Background
Hamartin (TSC1) and tuberin (TSC2), encoded by the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) genes, form a tumor-suppressor heterodimer which is implicated in PI3K-Akt signaling and acts as a functional inhibitor of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Dysregulation of mTOR has been assigned to carcinogenesis and thus may be involved in cancer development. We have addressed the role of hamartin, phospho-tuberin (p-TSC2) and phospho-mTOR (p-mTOR) in a series of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) samples.
Methods
We collected 166 NSCLC and SCLC samples for immunohistochemical studies and performed western blot analyses in NSCLC and SCLC cell lines as well as comparative analyses with EGFR phosphorylation and downstream effectors.
Results
In cell lines we found an inverse correlation between hamartin and p-mTOR expression. In surgical specimens cytoplasmic hamartin expression was observed in more than 50% of adenocarcinoma (AC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) compared to 14% of SCLC. P-mTOR and p-TSC2 staining was found in a minority of cases.
There was a significant correlation between p-EGFR Tyr-1068, p-EGFR Tyr-992 and hamartin, and also between p-mTOR and p-EGFR Tyr-1173 in AC. In SCC an inverse correlation between hamartin and p-EGFR Tyr-992 was detected. Phosphorylation of TSC2 was associated with expression of MAP-Kinase. Hamartin, p-TSC2 and p-mTOR expression was not dependant of the EGFR mutation status. Hamartin expression is associated with poorer survival in SCC and SCLC.
Conclusions
Our findings confirm the inhibitory role of the tuberous sclerosis complex for mTOR activation in lung cancer cell lines. These results reveal hamartin expression in a substantial subset of NSCLC and SCLC specimens, which may be due to EGFR signaling but is not dependant on EGFR mutations. Our data provide evidence for a functional role of the tuberous sclerosis complex in lung cancer.
Virtual slides
The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here: http://www.diagnosticpathology.diagnomx.eu/vs/9274845161175223.
doi:10.1186/1746-1596-9-48
PMCID: PMC3975884  PMID: 24593867
Tuberous sclerosis complex; TSC; EGFR; Hamartin; Tuberin; Lung cancer
6.  Hippo Signaling Mediates Proliferation, Invasiveness, and Metastatic Potential of Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma1 
Translational Oncology  2014;7(2):309-321.
Recent work has identified dysfunctional Hippo signaling to be involved in maintenance and progression of various human cancers, although data on clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) have been limited. Here, we provide evidence implicating aberrant Hippo signaling in ccRCC proliferation, invasiveness, and metastatic potential. Nuclear overexpression of the Hippo target Yes-associated protein (YAP) was found in a subset of patients with ccRCC. Immunostaining was particularly prominent at the tumor margins and highlighted neoplastic cells invading the tumor-adjacent stroma. Short hairpin RNA-mediated knockdown of YAP significantly inhibited proliferation, migration, and anchorage-independent growth of ccRCC cells in soft agar and led to significantly reduced murine xenograft growth. Microarray analysis of YAP knockdown versus mock-transduced ccRCC cells revealed down-regulation of endothelin 1, endothelin 2, cysteine-rich, angiogenic inducer, 61 (CYR61), and c-Myc in ccRCC cells as well as up-regulation of the cell adhesion molecule cadherin 6. Signaling pathway impact analysis revealed activation of the p53 signaling and cell cycle pathways as well as inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling on YAP down-regulation. Our data suggest CYR61 and c-Myc as well as signaling through the endothelin axis as bona fide downstream effectors of YAP and establish aberrant Hippo signaling as a potential therapeutic target in ccRCC.
doi:10.1016/j.tranon.2014.02.005
PMCID: PMC4101344  PMID: 24913676
7.  Analysis of TET Expression/Activity and 5mC Oxidation during Normal and Malignant Germ Cell Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82881.
During mammalian development the fertilized zygote and primordial germ cells lose their DNA methylation within one cell cycle leading to the concept of active DNA demethylation. Recent studies identified the TET hydroxylases as key enzymes responsible for active DNA demethylation, catalyzing the oxidation of 5-methylcytosine to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. Further oxidation and activation of the base excision repair mechanism leads to replacement of a modified cytosine by an unmodified one. In this study, we analyzed the expression/activity of TET1-3 and screened for the presence of 5mC oxidation products in adult human testis and in germ cell cancers. By analyzing human testis sections, we show that levels of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, 5-formylcytosine and 5-carboxylcytosine are decreasing as spermatogenesis proceeds, while 5-methylcytosine levels remain constant. These data indicate that during spermatogenesis active DNA demethylation becomes downregulated leading to a conservation of the methylation marks in mature sperm. We demonstrate that all carcinoma in situ and the majority of seminomas are hypomethylated and hypohydroxymethylated compared to non-seminomas. Interestingly, 5-formylcytosine and 5-carboxylcytosine were detectable in all germ cell cancer entities analyzed, but levels did not correlate to the 5-methylcytosine or 5-hydroxymethylcytosine status. A meta-analysis of gene expression data of germ cell cancer tissues and corresponding cell lines demonstrates high expression of TET1 and the DNA glycosylase TDG, suggesting that germ cell cancers utilize the oxidation pathway for active DNA demethylation. During xenograft experiments, where seminoma-like TCam-2 cells transit to an embryonal carcinoma-like state DNMT3B and DNMT3L where strongly upregulated, which correlated to increasing 5-methylcytosine levels. Additionally, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine levels were elevated, demonstrating that de novo methylation and active demethylation accompanies this transition process. Finally, mutations of IDH1 (IDH1R132) and IDH2 (IDH2R172) leading to production of the TET inhibiting oncometabolite 2-hydroxyglutarate in germ cell cancer cell lines were not detected.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082881
PMCID: PMC3873252  PMID: 24386123
9.  The KDM1A histone demethylase is a promising new target for the epigenetic therapy of medulloblastoma 
Background
Medulloblastoma is a leading cause of childhood cancer-related deaths. Current aggressive treatments frequently lead to cognitive and neurological disabilities in survivors. Novel targeted therapies are required to improve outcome in high-risk medulloblastoma patients and quality of life of survivors. Targeting enzymes controlling epigenetic alterations is a promising approach recently bolstered by the identification of mutations in histone demethylating enzymes in medulloblastoma sequencing efforts. Hypomethylation of lysine 4 in histone 3 (H3K4) is also associated with a dismal prognosis for medulloblastoma patients. Functional characterization of important epigenetic key regulators is urgently needed.
Results
We examined the role of the H3K4 modifying enzyme, KDM1A, in medulloblastoma, an enzyme also associated with malignant progression in the closely related tumor, neuroblastoma. Re-analysis of gene expression data and immunohistochemistry of tissue microarrays of human medulloblastomas showed strong KDM1A overexpression in the majority of tumors throughout all molecular subgroups. Interestingly, KDM1A knockdown in medulloblastoma cell lines not only induced apoptosis and suppressed proliferation, but also impaired migratory capacity. Further analyses revealed bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) as a major KDM1A target gene. BMP2 is known to be involved in development and differentiation of granule neuron precursor cells (GNCPs), one potential cell of origin for medulloblastoma. Treating medulloblastoma cells with the specific KDM1A inhibitor, NCL-1, significantly inhibited growth in vitro.
Conclusion
We provide the first evidence that a histone demethylase is functionally involved in the regulation of the malignant phenotype of medulloblastoma cells, and lay a foundation for future evaluation of KDM1A-inihibiting therapies in combating medulloblastoma.
doi:10.1186/2051-5960-1-19
PMCID: PMC3893444  PMID: 24252778
LSD1; Histone modification; Bone morphogenetic protein 2; SMAD5; NCL-1; Migration
10.  Loss of the Keratin Cytoskeleton Is Not Sufficient to Induce Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition in a Novel KRAS Driven Sporadic Lung Cancer Mouse Model 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57996.
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), the phenotypical change of cells from an epithelial to a mesenchymal type, is thought to be a key event in invasion and metastasis of adenocarcinomas. These changes involve loss of keratin expression as well as loss of cell polarity and adhesion. We here aimed to determine whether the loss of keratin expression itself drives increased invasion and metastasis in adenocarcinomas and whether keratin loss leads to the phenotypic changes associated with EMT. Therefore, we employed a recently described murine model in which conditional deletion of the Keratin cluster II by Cre-recombinase leads to the loss of the entire keratinmultiprotein family. These mice were crossed into a newly generated Cre-recombinase inducible KRAS-driven murine lung cancer model to examine the effect of keratin loss on morphology, invasion and metastasis as well as expression of EMT related genes in the resulting tumors. We here clearly show that loss of a functional keratin cytoskeleton did not significantly alter tumor morphology or biology in terms of invasion, metastasis, proliferation or tumor burden and did not lead to induction of EMT. Further, tumor cells did not induce synchronously expression of vimentin, which is often seen in EMT, to compensate for keratin loss. In summary, our data suggest that changes in cell shape and migration that underlie EMT are dependent on changes in signaling pathways that cause secondary changes in keratin expression and organization. Thus, we conclude that loss of the keratin cytoskeleton per se is not sufficient to causally drive EMT in this tumor model.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057996
PMCID: PMC3594220  PMID: 23536778
11.  Anti-Proliferative Effect of Cytohesin Inhibition in Gefitinib-Resistant Lung Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41179.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), such as gefitinib, have been proven to efficiently inhibit the proliferation of a subset of non small-cell lung cancers (NSCLC). Unfortunately, the majority of NSCLC expressing wild type EGFR is primarily resistant to EGFR-TKI treatment. Here, we show that the proliferation of the gefitinib-resistant NSCLC cell lines H460 and A549 is reduced by the small molecule SecinH3 which indirectly attenuates EGFR activation by inhibition of cytohesins, a class of recently discovered cytoplasmic EGFR activators. SecinH3 and gefitinib showed a synergistic antiproliferative effect, which correlated with a profound inhibition of Akt activation and survivin expression. Treating mice bearing H460 xenografts with SecinH3 showed the antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effect of SecinH3 in vivo. Our data suggest that targeting the EGFR indirectly by inhibiting its cytoplasmic activators, the cytohesins, has the potential to improve the treatment of primarily EGFR-TKI resistant lung cancers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041179
PMCID: PMC3399819  PMID: 22815959
12.  Alterations of global histone H4K20 methylation during prostate carcinogenesis 
BMC Urology  2012;12:5.
Background
Global histone modifications have been implicated in the progression of various tumour entities. Our study was designed to assess global methylation levels of histone 4 lysine 20 (H4K20me1-3) at different stages of prostate cancer (PCA) carcinogenesis.
Methods
Global H4K20 methylation levels were evaluated using a tissue microarray in patients with clinically localized PCA (n = 113), non-malignant prostate disease (n = 27), metastatic hormone-naive PCA (mPCA, n = 30) and castration-resistant PCA (CRPC, n = 34). Immunohistochemistry was performed to assess global levels of H4K20 methylation levels.
Results
Similar proportions of the normal, PCA, and mPCA prostate tissues showed strong H4K20me3 staining. CRPC tissue analysis showed the weakest immunostaining levels of H4K20me1 and H4K20me2, compared to other prostate tissues. H4K20me2 methylation levels indicated significant differences in examined tissues except for normal prostate versus PCA tissue. H4K20me1 differentiates CRPC from other prostate tissues. H4K20me1 was significantly correlated with lymph node metastases, and H4K20me2 showed a significant correlation with the Gleason score. However, H4K20 methylation levels failed to predict PSA recurrence after radical prostatectomy.
Conclusions
H4K20 methylation levels constitute valuable markers for the dynamic process of prostate cancer carcinogenesis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2490-12-5
PMCID: PMC3323457  PMID: 22413846
Histone; Methylation; H4K20; Prostate cancer; Epigenetics
13.  Web-based database for the management of tissue specimens in a transregional histological research facility 
Diagnostic Pathology  2011;6:17.
Background
In the setting of a histological research core facility sample tracking and project specific archiving of tissue specimens and communication of related data is of central importance.
Description
Over a 24-month period 10 laboratories from two transregional research centers submitted in excess of 3000 tissue samples for histological processing and evaluation to our core facility. A web based database was set up to overcome the logistical problem of managing samples with inconsistent, duplicate and missing labels and to allow for efficient sample tracking, archiving and communication with the collaborating research laboratories. The database allows the users to remotely generate unique sample identifiers and enter sample annotation prior to sample processing. Furthermore the database facilitates communication about experimental set-up results and media files such as histological images.
Conclusion
Our newly constructed web based portal is an important tool for the management of research samples of our histological core facility and facilitates significantly interdisciplinary and transregional research. It is freely available for scientific use.
doi:10.1186/1746-1596-6-17
PMCID: PMC3061891  PMID: 21392381
14.  Definition of a fluorescence in-situ hybridization score identifies high- and low-level FGFR1 amplification types in squamous cell lung cancer 
Modern Pathology  2012;25(11):1473-1480.
We recently reported fibroblast growth factor receptor-type 1 (FGFR1) amplification to be associated with therapeutically tractable FGFR1 dependency in squamous cell lung cancer. This makes FGFR1 a novel target for directed therapy in these tumors. To reproducibly identify patients for clinical studies, we developed a standardized reading and evaluation strategy for FGFR1 fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) and propose evaluation criteria, describe different patterns of low- and high-level amplifications and report on the prevalence of FGFR1 amplifications in pulmonary carcinomas. A total of 420 lung cancer patients including 307 squamous carcinomas, 100 adenocarcinomas of the lung and 13 carcinomas of other types were analyzed for FGFR1 amplification using a dual color FISH. We found heterogeneous and different patterns of gene copy numbers. FGFR1 amplifications were observed in 20% of pulmonary squamous carcinomas but not in adenocarcinomas. High-level amplification (as defined by an FGFR1/centromer 8 (CEN8) ratio ≥2.0, or average number of FGFR1 signals per tumor cell nucleus ≥6, or the percentage of tumor cells containing ≥15 FGFR1 signals or large clusters ≥10%) was detected at a frequency of 16% and low-level amplification (as defined by ≥5 FGFR1 signals in ≥50% of tumor cells) at a frequency of 4%. We conclude that FGFR1 amplification is one of the most frequent therapeutically tractable genetic lesions in pulmonary carcinomas. Standardized reporting of FGFR1 amplification in squamous carcinomas of the lung will become increasingly important to correlate therapeutic responses with FGFR1 inhibitors in clinical studies. Thus, our reading and evaluation strategy might serve as a basis for identifying patients for ongoing and upcoming clinical trials.
doi:10.1038/modpathol.2012.102
PMCID: PMC4089812  PMID: 22684217
FGFR1; FISH; lung cancer; squamous cell; targeted therapy

Results 1-14 (14)