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1.  Myeloid malignancies: mutations, models and management 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:304.
Myeloid malignant diseases comprise chronic (including myelodysplastic syndromes, myeloproliferative neoplasms and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia) and acute (acute myeloid leukemia) stages. They are clonal diseases arising in hematopoietic stem or progenitor cells. Mutations responsible for these diseases occur in several genes whose encoded proteins belong principally to five classes: signaling pathways proteins (e.g. CBL, FLT3, JAK2, RAS), transcription factors (e.g. CEBPA, ETV6, RUNX1), epigenetic regulators (e.g. ASXL1, DNMT3A, EZH2, IDH1, IDH2, SUZ12, TET2, UTX), tumor suppressors (e.g. TP53), and components of the spliceosome (e.g. SF3B1, SRSF2). Large-scale sequencing efforts will soon lead to the establishment of a comprehensive repertoire of these mutations, allowing for a better definition and classification of myeloid malignancies, the identification of new prognostic markers and therapeutic targets, and the development of novel therapies. Given the importance of epigenetic deregulation in myeloid diseases, the use of drugs targeting epigenetic regulators appears as a most promising therapeutic approach.
PMCID: PMC3418560  PMID: 22823977
2.  Genome profiling of ERBB2-amplified breast cancers 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:539.
Around 20% of breast cancers (BC) show ERBB2 gene amplification and overexpression of the ERBB2 tyrosine kinase receptor. They are associated with a poor prognosis but can benefit from targeted therapy. A better knowledge of these BCs, genomically and biologically heterogeneous, may help understand their behavior and design new therapeutic strategies.
We defined the high resolution genome and gene expression profiles of 54 ERBB2-amplified BCs using 244K oligonucleotide array-comparative genomic hybridization and whole-genome DNA microarrays. Expression of ERBB2, phosphorylated ERBB2, EGFR, IGF1R and FOXA1 proteins was assessed by immunohistochemistry to evaluate the functional ERBB2 status and identify co-expressions.
First, we identified the ERBB2-C17orf37-GRB7 genomic segment as the minimal common 17q12-q21 amplicon, and CRKRS and IKZF3 as the most frequent centromeric and telomeric amplicon borders, respectively. Second, GISTIC analysis identified 17 other genome regions affected by copy number aberration (CNA) (amplifications, gains, losses). The expression of 37 genes of these regions was deregulated. Third, two types of heterogeneity were observed in ERBB2-amplified BCs. The genomic profiles of estrogen receptor-postive (ER+) and negative (ER-) ERBB2-amplified BCs were different. The WNT/β-catenin signaling pathway was involved in ER- ERBB2-amplified BCs, and PVT1 and TRPS1 were candidate oncogenes associated with ER+ ERBB2-amplified BCs. The size of the ERBB2 amplicon was different in inflammatory (IBC) and non-inflammatory BCs. ERBB2-amplified IBCs were characterized by the downregulated and upregulated mRNA expression of ten and two genes in proportion to CNA, respectively. IHC results showed (i) a linear relationship between ERBB2 gene amplification and its gene and protein expressions with a good correlation between ERBB2 expression and phosphorylation status; (ii) a potential signaling cross-talk between EGFR or IGF1R and ERBB2, which could influence response of ERBB2-positive BCs to inhibitors. FOXA1 was frequently coexpressed with ERBB2 but its expression did not impact on the outcome of patients with ERBB2-amplified tumors.
We have shown that ER+ and ER- ERBB2-amplified BCs are different, distinguished ERBB2 amplicons in IBC and non-IBC, and identified genomic features that may be useful in the design of alternative therapeutical strategies.
PMCID: PMC2958950  PMID: 20932292
3.  Combined mutations of ASXL1, CBL, FLT3, IDH1, IDH2, JAK2, KRAS, NPM1, NRAS, RUNX1, TET2 and WT1 genes in myelodysplastic syndromes and acute myeloid leukemias 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:401.
Gene mutation is an important mechanism of myeloid leukemogenesis. However, the number and combination of gene mutated in myeloid malignancies is still a matter of investigation.
We searched for mutations in the ASXL1, CBL, FLT3, IDH1, IDH2, JAK2, KRAS, NPM1, NRAS, RUNX1, TET2 and WT1 genes in 65 myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs) and 64 acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) without balanced translocation or complex karyotype.
Mutations in ASXL1 and CBL were frequent in refractory anemia with excess of blasts. Mutations in TET2 occurred with similar frequency in MDSs and AMLs and associated equally with either ASXL1 or NPM1 mutations. Mutations of RUNX1 were mutually exclusive with TET2 and combined with ASXL1 but not with NPM1. Mutations in FLT3 (mutation and internal tandem duplication), IDH1, IDH2, NPM1 and WT1 occurred primarily in AMLs.
Only 14% MDSs but half AMLs had at least two mutations in the genes studied. Based on the observed combinations and exclusions we classified the 12 genes into four classes and propose a highly speculative model that at least a mutation in one of each class is necessary for developing AML with simple or normal karyotype.
PMCID: PMC2923633  PMID: 20678218
4.  Breast cancer stem cells: tools and models to rely on 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:202.
There is increasing evidence for the "cancer stem cell (CSC) hypothesis", which holds that cancers are driven by a cellular component that has stem cell properties, including self-renewal, tumorigenicity and multi-lineage differentiation capacity. Researchers and oncologists see in this model an explanation as to why cancer may be so difficult to cure, as well as a promising ground for novel therapeutic strategies. Given the specific stem cell features of self-renewal and differentiation, which drive tumorigenesis and contribute to cellular heterogeneity, each marker and assay designed to isolate and characterize CSCs has to be functionally validated. In this review, we survey tools and markers available or promising to identify breast CSCs. We review the main models used to study breast CSCs and how they challenge the CSC hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC2708191  PMID: 19555472
5.  Genome profiling of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia: frequent alterations of RAS and RUNX1 genes 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:299.
Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) is a hematological disease close to, but separate from both myeloproliferative disorders (MPD) and myelodysplastic syndromes and may show either myeloproliferative (MP-CMML) or myelodysplastic (MD-CMML) features. Not much is known about the molecular biology of this disease.
We studied a series of 30 CMML samples (13 MP- and 11 MD-CMMLs, and 6 acutely transformed cases) from 29 patients by using Agilent high density array-comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) and sequencing of 12 candidate genes.
Two-thirds of samples did not show any obvious alteration of aCGH profiles. In one-third we observed chromosome abnormalities (e.g. trisomy 8, del20q) and gain or loss of genes (e.g. NF1, RB1 and CDK6). RAS mutations were detected in 4 cases (including an uncommon codon 146 mutation in KRAS) and PTPN11 mutations in 3 cases. We detected 11 RUNX1 alterations (9 mutations and 2 rearrangements). The rearrangements were a new, cryptic inversion of chromosomal region 21q21-22 leading to break and fusion of RUNX1 to USP16. RAS and RUNX1 alterations were not mutually exclusive. RAS pathway mutations occurred in MP-CMMLs (~46%) but not in MD-CMMLs. RUNX1 alterations (mutations and cryptic rearrangement) occurred in both MP and MD classes (~38%).
We detected RAS pathway mutations and RUNX1 alterations. The latter included a new cryptic USP16-RUNX1 fusion. In some samples, two alterations coexisted already at this early chronic stage.
PMCID: PMC2588460  PMID: 18925961
6.  A polymorphism of EGFR extracellular domain is associated with progression free-survival in metastatic colorectal cancer patients receiving cetuximab-based treatment 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:169.
Cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), is currently used in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), but predictive factors for therapeutic response are lacking. Mutational status of KRAS and EGFR, and EGFR copy number are potential determinants of cetuximab activity.
We analyzed tumor tissues from 32 EGFR-positive mCRC patients receiving cetuximab/irinotecan combination and evaluable for treatment response. EGFR copy number was quantified by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). KRAS exon 1 and EGFR exons coding for extracellular regions were sequenced.
Nine patients experienced an objective response (partial response) and 23 were considered as nonresponders (12 with stable disease and 11 with progressive disease). There was no EGFR amplification found, but high polysomy was noted in 2 patients, both of which were cetuximab responders. No EGFR mutations were found but a variant of exon 13 (R521K) was observed in 12 patients, 11 of which achieved objective response or stable disease. Progression-free and overall survivals were significantly better in patients with this EGFR exon 13 variant. KRAS mutations were found in 14 cases. While there was a trend for an increased KRAS mutation frequency in nonresponder patients (12 mutations out of 23, 52%) as compared to responder patients (2 out of 9, 22%), authentic tumor response or long-term disease stabilization was found in KRAS mutated patients.
This preliminary study suggests that: an increase in EGFR copy number may be associated with cetuximab response but is a rare event in CRC, KRAS mutations are associated with low response rate but do not preclude any cetuximab-based combination efficacy and EGFR exon 13 variant (R521K) may predict for cetuximab benefit.
PMCID: PMC2432064  PMID: 18544172
7.  Markers of subtypes in inflammatory breast cancer studied by immunohistochemistry: Prominent expression of P-cadherin 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:28.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a distinct and aggressive form of locally-advanced breast cancer with high metastatic potential. In Tunisia, IBC is associated with a high death rate. Among the major molecular subtypes, basal breast carcinomas are poorly differentiated, have metastatic potential and poor prognosis, but respond relatively well to chemotherapy. The aim of this study was to determine the distribution of molecular subtypes in IBC and identify factors that may explain the poor prognosis of IBC.
To determine breast cancer subtypes we studied by immunohistochemistry the expression of 12 proteins in a series of 91 Tunisian IBC and 541 non-IBC deposited in tissue microarrays.
We considered infiltrating ductal cases only. We found 33.8% of basal cases in IBC vs 15.9% in non-IBC (p < 0.001), 33.3% of ERBB2-overexpressing cases in IBC vs 14.5% in non-IBC (p < 0.001), and 29.3% of luminal cases in IBC vs 59.9% in non-IBC (p < 0.001). The most differentially-expressed protein between IBCs and non-IBCs was P-cadherin. P-cadherin expression was found in 75.9% of all IBC vs 48.2% of all non-IBC (p < 0.001), 95% of IBC vs 69% of non-IBC (p = 0.02) in basal cases, and 82% of IBC vs 43% of non-IBC (p < 0.001) in luminal cases. Logistic regression determined that the most discriminating markers between IBCs and non-IBCs were P-cadherin (OR = 4.9, p = 0.0019) MIB1 (OR = 3.6, p = 0.001), CK14 (OR = 2.7, p = 0.02), and ERBB2 (OR = 2.3, p = 0.06).
Tunisian IBCs are characterized by frequent basal and ERBB2 phenotypes. Surprisingly, luminal IBC also express the basal marker P-cadherin. This profile suggests a specificity that needs further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2267802  PMID: 18230143
8.  Nectin-4 is a new histological and serological tumor associated marker for breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2007;7:73.
Breast cancer is a complex and heterogeneous disease at the molecular level. Evolution is difficult to predict according to classical histoclinical prognostic factors. Different studies highlight the importance of large-scale molecular expression analyses to improve taxonomy of breast cancer and prognostic classification. Identification of new molecular markers that refine this taxonomy and improve patient management is a priority in the field of breast cancer research.
Nectins are cell adhesion molecules involved in the regulation of epithelial physiology. We present here Nectin-4/PVRL4 as a new histological and serological tumor associated marker for breast carcinoma.
Expression of Nectin-4 protein was measured on a panel of 78 primary cells and cell lines from different origins and 57 breast tumors by FACS analysis and immunohistochemistry (IHC), respectively. mRNA expression was measured by quantitative PCR.
Serum Nectin-4 was detected by ELISA and compared with CEA and CA15.3 markers, on panels of 45 sera from healthy donors, 53 sera from patients with non-metastatic breast carcinoma (MBC) at diagnosis, and 182 sera from patients with MBC. Distribution of histological/serological molecular markers and histoclinical parameters were compared using the standard Chi-2 test.
Nectin-4 was not detected in normal breast epithelium. By contrast, Nectin-4 was expressed in 61% of ductal breast carcinoma vs 6% in lobular type. Expression of Nectin-4 strongly correlated with the basal-like markers EGFR, P53, and P-cadherin, and negatively correlated with the luminal-like markers ER, PR and GATA3. All but one ER/PR-negative tumors expressed Nectin-4. The detection of Nectin-4 in serum improves the follow-up of patients with MBC: the association CEA/CA15.3/Nectin-4 allowed to monitor 74% of these patients compared to 67% with the association CEA/CA15.3. Serum Nectin-4 is a marker of disease progression, and levels correlate with the number of metastases (P = 0.038). Serum Nectin-4 is also a marker of therapeutic efficiency and correlates, in 90% of cases, with clinical evolution.
Nectin-4 is a new tumor-associated antigen for breast carcinoma. Nectin-4 is a new bio-marker whose use could help refine breast cancer taxonomy and improve patients' follow-up. Nectin-4 emerges as a potential target for breast cancer immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC1868744  PMID: 17474988
9.  FGFR1 and WT1 are markers of human prostate cancer progression 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:272.
Androgen-independent prostate adenocarcinomas are responsible for about 6% of overall cancer deaths in men.
We used DNA microarrays to identify genes related to the transition between androgen-dependent and androgen-independent stages in the LuCaP 23.1 xenograft model of prostate adenocarcinoma. The expression of the proteins encoded by these genes was then assessed by immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays (TMA) including human prostate carcinoma samples issued from 85 patients who had undergone radical prostatectomy.
FGFR1, TACC1 and WT1 gene expression levels were associated with the androgen-independent stage in xenografts and human prostate carcinoma samples. MART1 protein expression was correlated with pT2 tumor stages.
Our results suggest that each of these four genes may play a role, or at least reflect a stage of prostate carcinoma growth/development/progression.
PMCID: PMC1698935  PMID: 17137506
10.  Frequency, prognostic impact, and subtype association of 8p12, 8q24, 11q13, 12p13, 17q12, and 20q13 amplifications in breast cancers 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:245.
Oncogene amplification and overexpression occur in tumor cells. Amplification status may provide diagnostic and prognostic information and may lead to new treatment strategies. Chromosomal regions 8p12, 8q24, 11q13, 17q12 and 20q13 are recurrently amplified in breast cancers.
To assess the frequencies and clinical impact of amplifications, we analyzed 547 invasive breast tumors organized in a tissue microarray (TMA) by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and calculated correlations with histoclinical features and prognosis. BAC probes were designed for: (i) two 8p12 subregions centered on RAB11FIP1 and FGFR1 loci, respectively; (ii) 11q13 region centered on CCND1; (iii) 12p13 region spanning NOL1; and (iv) three 20q13 subregions centered on MYBL2, ZNF217 and AURKA, respectively. Regions 8q24 and 17q12 were analyzed with MYC and ERBB2 commercial probes, respectively.
We observed amplification of 8p12 (amplified at RAB11FIP1 and/or FGFR1) in 22.8%, 8q24 in 6.1%, 11q13 in 19.6%, 12p13 in 4.1%, 17q12 in 9.9%, 20q13Z (amplified at ZNF217 only) in 9.9%, and 20q13Co (co-amplification of two or three 20q13 loci) in 8.5% of cases. The 8q24, 12p13, and 17q12 amplifications were correlated with high grade. The most frequent single amplifications were 8p12 (9.8%), 8q24 (3.3%) and 12p13 (3.3%), 20q13Z and 20q13Co (1.6%) regions. The 17q12 and 11q13 regions were never found amplified alone. The most frequent co-amplification was 8p12/11q13. Amplifications of 8p12 and 17q12 were associated with poor outcome. Amplification of 12p13 was associated with basal molecular subtype.
Our results establish the frequencies, prognostic impacts and subtype associations of various amplifications and co-amplifications in breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC1626089  PMID: 17040570
11.  Genetic variability in MCF-7 sublines: evidence of rapid genomic and RNA expression profile modifications 
BMC Cancer  2003;3:13.
Both phenotypic and cytogenetic variability have been reported for clones of breast carcinoma cell lines but have not been comprehensively studied. Despite this, cell lines such as MCF-7 cells are extensively used as model systems.
In this work we documented, using CGH and RNA expression profiles, the genetic variability at the genomic and RNA expression levels of MCF-7 cells of different origins. Eight MCF-7 sublines collected from different sources were studied as well as 3 subclones isolated from one of the sublines by limit dilution.
MCF-7 sublines showed important differences in copy number alteration (CNA) profiles. Overall numbers of events ranged from 28 to 41. Involved chromosomal regions varied greatly from a subline to another. A total of 62 chromosomal regions were affected by either gains or losses in the 11 sublines studied. We performed a phylogenetic analysis of CGH profiles using maximum parsimony in order to reconstruct the putative filiation of the 11 MCF-7 sublines. The phylogenetic tree obtained showed that the MCF-7 clade was characterized by a restricted set of 8 CNAs and that the most divergent subline occupied the position closest to the common ancestor. Expression profiles of 8 MCF-7 sublines were analyzed along with those of 19 unrelated breast cancer cell lines using home made cDNA arrays comprising 720 genes. Hierarchical clustering analysis of the expression data showed that 7/8 MCF-7 sublines were grouped forming a cluster while the remaining subline clustered with unrelated breast cancer cell lines. These data thus showed that MCF-7 sublines differed at both the genomic and phenotypic levels.
The analysis of CGH profiles of the parent subline and its three subclones supported the heteroclonal nature of MCF-7 cells. This strongly suggested that the genetic plasticity of MCF-7 cells was related to their intrinsic capacity to generate clonal heterogeneity. We propose that MCF-7, and possibly the breast tumor it was derived from, evolved in a node like pattern, rather than according to a linear progression model. Due to their capacity to undergo rapid genetic changes MCF-7 cells could represent an interesting model for genetic evolution of breast tumors.
PMCID: PMC156633  PMID: 12713671

Results 1-11 (11)