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1.  A study of gene expression markers for predictive significance for bevacizumab benefit in patients with metastatic colon cancer: a translational research study of the Hellenic Cooperative Oncology Group (HeCOG) 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:111.
Background
Bevacizumab, an antibody neutralizing Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), is licensed for the management of patients with advanced colon cancer. However, tumor biomarkers identifying the molecular tumor subsets most amenable to angiogenesis modulation are lacking.
Methods
We profiled expession of 24526 genes by means of whole genome 24 K DASL (c-DNA-mediated, Annealing, Selection and Ligation) arrays, (Illumina, CA) in 16 bevacizumab-treated patients with advanced colon cancer (Test set). Genes with correlation to 8-month Progression-free status were studied by means of qPCR in two independent colon cancer cohorts: 49 patients treated with bevacizumab + chemotherapy (Bevacizumab qPCR set) and 72 patients treated with chemotherapy only (Control qPCR set). Endpoints were best tumor response before metastasectomy (ORR) and progression-free survival (PFS).
Results
Five genes were significantly correlated to 8-month progression-free status in the Test set: overexpression of KLF12 and downregulation of AGR2, ALDH6A1, MCM5, TFF2. In the two independent datasets, irinotecan- or oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy was administered as first-line treatment and metastasectomies were subsequently applied in 8-14% of patients. No prognostically significant gene classifier encompassing all five genes could be validated in the Bevacizumab or Control qPCR sets. The complex gene expression profile of all-low tumor (ALDH6A1 + TFF2 + MCM5) was strongly associated with ORR in the Bevacizumab qPCR set (ORR 85.7%, p = 0.007), but not in the Control set (ORR 36.4%, p = 0.747). The Odds Ratio for response for the all-low tumor (ALDH6A1 + TFF2 + MCM5) profile versus any other ALDH6A1 + TFF2 + MCM5 profile was 15 (p = 0.018) in the Bevacizumab qPCR set but only 0.72 (p = 0.63) in the Control set. The tumor expression profile of (KLF12-high + TFF2-low) was significantly associated with PFS only in the Bevacizumab qPCR set: bevacizumab-treated patients with (KLF12-high + TFF2-low) tumors had superior PFS (median 14 months, 95% CI 2-21) compared to patients with any other (KLF12 + TFF2) expression profile (median PFS 7 months, 95% CI 5-10, p = 0.021). The Hazard Ratio for disease progression for (KLF12-high + TFF2-low) versus any other KLF12 + TFF2 expression profile was 2.92 (p = 0.03) in the Validation and 1.29 (p = 0.39) in the Control set.
Conclusions
Our «three-stage» hypothesis-generating study failed to validate the prognostic significance of a five-gene classifier in mCRC patients. Exploratory analyses suggest two gene signatures that are potentially associated with bevazicumab benefit in patients with advanced colon cancer.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-111
PMCID: PMC3933361  PMID: 24555920
Bevacizumab; Colon cancer; Gene expression; Predictive; Response rate; Survival; Biomarker
2.  Dose selection trial of metronomic oral vinorelbine monotherapy in patients with metastatic cancer: a hellenic cooperative oncology group clinical translational study 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:263.
Background
Metronomic chemotherapy is considered an anti-angiogenic therapy that involves chronic administration of low-dose chemotherapy at regular short intervals. We investigated the optimal metronomic dose of oral vinorelbine when given as monotherapy in patients with metastatic cancer.
Methods
Patients with recurrent metastatic breast (BC), prostate (PC) or non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and adequate organ functions were randomly assigned to 30, 40 or 50 mg vinorelbine, taken orally three times a week. Treatment continued until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, withdrawal of consent or maximum 24 months. Primary endpoint was time-to-treatment failure (TTF) and secondary were progression-free survival (PFS), toxicity, changes in blood concentrations of angiogenesis-associated biomarkers and pharmacokinetics.
Results
Seventy-three patients were enrolled. Four-month TTF rate did not differ between the three arms: 25.9% (11.1%-46.2% 95% Confidence Interval), 33.3% (15.6%-55.3%) and 18.2% (5.2%-40.3%) for the 30 mg, 40 mg and 50 mg arms (p-value = 0.56). Objective response was seen in 2 patients with NSCLC (treated at 30 and 50 mg respectively), one with BC (at 40 m g) and one with PC (at 50 mg) and lasted from 4 to 100 weeks, with maximum response duration achieved at 50 mg. Adverse events were mild and negligible and did not differ between the three arms. Blood levels of vinorelbine reached steady state from the second week of treatment and mean values for the 30, 40 and 50 mg were respectively 1.8 ng/ml (SD 1.10), 2.2 ng/ml (SD 1.87) and 2.6 ng/ml (SD 0.69). Low pre-treatment blood concentrations of FGF2 and IL8 predicted favorable response to therapy (p values 0.02 and 0.006, respectively), while high levels of TEK gene transcript predicted treatment resistance.
Conclusions
Considering the antitumor activity and response duration, the negligible toxicity of the highest dose investigated and the lack of drug accumulation over time, we suggest that 50 mg given three times a week is the optimal dose for metronomic oral vinorelbine. Further investigation of metronomic oral vinorelbine (MOVIN) at this dose is warranted in combination with conventional chemotherapy regimens and targeted therapies.
Trial registration
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00278070
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-263
PMCID: PMC3674943  PMID: 23718900
Metronomic-chemotherapy; Antiangiogenic; Vinorelbine; Cancer
3.  Evaluation of the prognostic role of centromere 17 gain and HER2/topoisomerase II alpha gene status and protein expression in patients with breast cancer treated with anthracycline-containing adjuvant chemotherapy: pooled analysis of two Hellenic Cooperative Oncology Group (HeCOG) phase III trials 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:163.
Background
The HER2 gene has been established as a valid biological marker for the treatment of breast cancer patients with trastuzumab and probably other agents, such as paclitaxel and anthracyclines. The TOP2A gene has been associated with response to anthracyclines. Limited information exists on the relationship of HER2/TOP2A gene status in the presence of centromere 17 (CEP17) gain with outcome of patients treated with anthracycline-containing adjuvant chemotherapy.
Methods
Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissue samples from 1031 patients with high-risk operable breast cancer, enrolled in two consecutive phase III trials, were assessed in a central laboratory by fluorescence in situ hybridization for HER2/TOP2A gene amplification and CEP17 gain (CEP17 probe). Amplification of HER2 and TOP2A were defined as a gene/CEP17 ratio of >2.2 and ≥2.0, respectively, or gene copy number higher than 6. Additionally, HER2, TopoIIa, ER/PgR and Ki67 protein expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and patients were classified according to their IHC phenotype. Treatment consisted of epirubicin-based adjuvant chemotherapy followed by hormonal therapy and radiation, as indicated.
Results
HER2 amplification was found in 23.7% of the patients and TOP2A amplification in 10.1%. In total, 41.8% of HER2-amplified tumors demonstrated TOP2A co-amplification. The median (range) of HER2, TOP2A and CEP17 gain was 2.55 (0.70-45.15), 2.20 (0.70-26.15) and 2.00 (0.70-26.55), respectively. Forty percent of the tumors had CEP17 gain (51% of those with HER2 amplification). Adjusting for treatment groups in the Cox model, HER2 amplification, TOP2A amplification, CEP17 gain and HER2/TOP2A co-amplification were not associated with time to relapse or time to death.
Conclusion
HER2 amplification, TOP2A amplification, CEP17 gain and HER2/TOP2A co-amplification were not associated with outcome in high-risk breast cancer patients treated with anthracycline-based adjuvant chemotherapy.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) ACTRN12611000506998 and ACTRN12609001036202
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-163
PMCID: PMC3621498  PMID: 23537287
HER2; TOP2A; TopoIIa; Prognostic factors; Predictive factors; Adjuvant chemotherapy; Anthracyclines; Taxanes; Breast cancer
4.  Biomarkers of benefit from cetuximab-based therapy in metastatic colorectal cancer: interaction of EGFR ligand expression with RAS/RAF, PIK3CA genotypes 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:49.
Background
More than half of patients with KRAS-wild type advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) fail anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies. We studied EGFR-axis messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and RAS, RAF, PIK3CA mutations in order to identify additional biomarkers of cetuximab efficacy.
Methods
Previously genotyped (KRAS, NRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA mutations) formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumour biopsies of 226 cetuximab-treated CRC patients (1st to 3rd line therapy) were assessed for mRNA expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its ligands EGF, Transofrming Growth Factor-a (TGFA), Amphiregulin (AREG) and Epiregulin (EREG) with real time quantitative PCR. Mutations were detected in 72 (31.9%) tumours for KRAS, in 6 (2.65%) for BRAF, in 7 (3.1%) for NRAS and in 37 (16.4%) for PIK3CA.
Results
Only PIK3CA mutations occasionally coexisted with other gene mutations. In univariate analysis, prognostic significance for survival ( from metastases until death) was seen for BRAF mutations (Hazard Ratio HR 8.1, 95% CI 3.4-19), codon 12-only KRAS mutations (HR 1.62, 95% CI 1.1-2.4), high AREG mRNA expression only in KRAS wild type CRC (HR 0.47, 95% CI 0.3-0.7) and high EREG mRNA expression irrespective of KRAS mutation status (HR 0.45, 95% CI 0.28-0.7). EREG tumoural mRNA expression was significantly associated with a 2.26-fold increased likelihood of objective response to cetuximab therapy (RECIST 1.1). In multivariate analysis, favourable predictive factors were high AREG mRNA in KRAS wild type tumours, high EREG mRNA, low Ephrin A2 receptor mRNA. Cetuximab-treated patients with AREG-low KRAS wild type CRC fared very poorly, their survival being similar to KRAS mutant CRC. Patients with KRAS codon 13 or other non-codon 12 mutations had a median survival (30 months, 95% CI 20–35) similar to that of patients with KRAS wild-type (median survival 29 months, 95% CI 25–35), in contrast to patients with KRAS codon 12 mutations who fared worse (median survival 19 months, 95% CI 15–26).
Conclusions
BRAF and codon 12 KRAS mutations predict for adverse outcome of CRC patients receiving cetuximab. AREG mRNA reflects EGFR signalling in KRAS wild type tumours, predicting for cetuximab efficacy when high and failure when low. EREG may have a prognostic role independent of KRAS mutation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-49
PMCID: PMC3599697  PMID: 23374602
Cetuximab; Epidermal growth factor receptor; EGFR ligands; KRAS; BRAF; PI3K gene mutations; Biomarkers
5.  Expression of DNA repair and replication genes in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): a role for thymidylate synthetase (TYMS) 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:342.
Background
BRCA1 (B), ERCC1 (E), RRM1 (R) and TYMS (T) mRNA expression has been extensively studied with respect to NSCLC patient outcome upon various chemotherapy agents. However, these markers have not been introduced into clinical practice yet. One of the reasons seems to be lack of a standard approach for the classification of the reported high/low mRNA expression. The aim of this study was to determine the prognostic/predictive impact of B, E, R, T in routinely-treated NSCLC patients by taking into account the expression of these genes in the normal lung parenchyma.
Methods
B, E, R, T mRNA expression was examined in 276 NSCLC samples (real-time PCR). The normal range of B, E, R, T transcript levels was first determined in matched tumor – normal pairs and then applied to the entire tumor series. Four main chemotherapy categories were examined: taxanes-without-platinum (Tax); platinum-without-taxanes (Plat); taxanes/platinum doublets (Tax/Plat); and, all-other combinations.
Results
In comparison to remotely located normal lung parenchyma, B, E, R, T mRNA expression was generally increased in matched tumors, as well as in the entire tumor series. Therefore, tumors were classified as expressing normal or aberrant B, E, R, T mRNA. In general, no marker was associated with overall and progression free survival (OS, PFS). Upon multivariate analysis, aberrant intratumoral TYMS predicted for shorter PFS than normal TYMS in 1st line chemo-naïve treated patients (p = 0.012). In the same setting, specific interactions were observed for aberrant TYMS with Plat and Tax/Plat (p = 0.003 and p = 0.006, respectively). Corresponding patients had longer PFS in comparison to those treated with Tax (Plat: HR = 0.234, 95% CI:0.108-0.506, Wald’s p < 0.0001; Tax/Plat: HR = 0.242, 95% CI:0.131-0.447, Wald’s p < 0.0001). Similar results were obtained for PFS in 1st line chemo-naïve and (neo)adjuvant pre-treated patients. Adenocarcinoma, early disease stage, and treatment with Tax/Plat doublets independently predicted for prolonged OS in patients who received only one line of treatment (adjuvant or 1st line).
Conclusion
Classifying intratumoral B, E, R, T mRNA expression in comparison to normal lung may facilitate standardization of these parameters for prospective studies. With this approach, NSCLC patients with aberrant intratumoral TYMS expression will probably fare better with platinum-based treatments.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-342
PMCID: PMC3503623  PMID: 22866924
NSCLC; ERCC1; TYMS; mRNA; Predictive; Normal lung; FFPE
6.  XELIRI-bevacizumab versus FOLFIRI-bevacizumab as first-line treatment in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer: a Hellenic Cooperative Oncology Group phase III trial with collateral biomarker analysis 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:271.
Background
The aim was to compare two standard chemotherapy regimens combined with bevacizumab as first-line treatment in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.
Methods
Patients previously untreated for metastatic disease were randomized in: group A (irinotecan, capecitabine, bevacizumab, every 3 weeks; XELIRI-bevacizumab) and group B (irinotecan, leucovorin, fluorouracil, bevacizumab, every 2 weeks; FOLFIRI-bevacizumab). Primary endpoint was progression-free survival (PFS). Plasma concentrations of nitric oxide, osteopontin, TGF-β1 and VEGF-A were measured at baseline and during treatment.
Results
Among 285 eligible patients, 143 were randomized to group A and 142 to group B. Fifty-five patients (38.5%) in group A and 57 (40.1%) in group B responded (p = 0.81). After a median follow-up of 42 months, median PFS was 10.2 and 10.8 months (p = 0.74), while median OS was 20.0 and 25.3 months (p = 0.099), for groups A and B, respectively. Most frequent grade 3–4 toxicities (group A vs group B) were neutropenia (13% vs 22%, p = 0.053) and diarrhea (19% vs 11%, p = 0.082). Baseline plasma osteopontin concentrations demonstrated prognostic significance for both PFS and OS.
Conclusions
This trial did not show significant differences in efficacy between the groups. However, the toxicity profile was different. Baseline plasma osteopontin concentrations demonstrated independent prognostic significance. (Registration number: ACTRN12610000270011)
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-271
PMCID: PMC3466131  PMID: 22748098
Angiogenic markers; Bevacizumab; Capecitabine; Chemotherapy; Colorectal cancer; Irinotecan
7.  Volumetric and MGMT parameters in glioblastoma patients: Survival analysis 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:3.
Background
In this study several tumor-related volumes were assessed by means of a computer-based application and a survival analysis was conducted to evaluate the prognostic significance of pre- and postoperative volumetric data in patients harboring glioblastomas. In addition, MGMT (O6-methylguanine methyltransferase) related parameters were compared with those of volumetry in order to observe possible relevance of this molecule in tumor development.
Methods
We prospectively analyzed 65 patients suffering from glioblastoma (GBM) who underwent radiotherapy with concomitant adjuvant temozolomide. For the purpose of volumetry T1 and T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) sequences were used, acquired both pre- and postoperatively (pre-radiochemotherapy). The volumes measured on preoperative MR images were necrosis, enhancing tumor and edema (including the tumor) and on postoperative ones, net-enhancing tumor. Age, sex, performance status (PS) and type of operation were also included in the multivariate analysis. MGMT was assessed for promoter methylation with Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA), for RNA expression with real time PCR, and for protein expression with immunohistochemistry in a total of 44 cases with available histologic material.
Results
In the multivariate analysis a negative impact was shown for pre-radiochemotherapy net-enhancing tumor on the overall survival (OS) (p = 0.023) and for preoperative necrosis on progression-free survival (PFS) (p = 0.030). Furthermore, the multivariate analysis confirmed the importance of PS in PFS and OS of patients. MGMT promoter methylation was observed in 13/23 (43.5%) evaluable tumors; complete methylation was observed in 3/13 methylated tumors only. High rate of MGMT protein positivity (> 20% positive neoplastic nuclei) was inversely associated with pre-operative tumor necrosis (p = 0.021).
Conclusions
Our findings implicate that volumetric parameters may have a significant role in the prognosis of GBM patients. Furthermore, volumetry could help not only to improve the prediction of outcome but also the outcome itself by identifying patients at high risk of treatment failure and, thus, seek alternative treatment for these patients. In this small series, MGMT protein was associated with less aggressive tumor characteristics.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-3
PMCID: PMC3264493  PMID: 22214427
8.  Screening of the DNA mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6 in a Greek cohort of Lynch syndrome suspected families 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:544.
Background
Germline mutations in the DNA mismatch repair genes predispose to Lynch syndrome, thus conferring a high relative risk of colorectal and endometrial cancer. The MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6 mutational spectrum reported so far involves minor alterations scattered throughout their coding regions as well as large genomic rearrangements. Therefore, a combination of complete sequencing and a specialized technique for the detection of genomic rearrangements should be conducted during a proper DNA-testing procedure. Our main goal was to successfully identify Lynch syndrome families and determine the spectrum of MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6 mutations in Greek Lynch families in order to develop an efficient screening protocol for the Greek colorectal cancer patients' cohort.
Methods
Forty-two samples from twenty-four families, out of which twenty two of Greek, one of Cypriot and one of Serbian origin, were screened for the presence of germline mutations in the major mismatch repair genes through direct sequencing and MLPA. Families were selected upon Amsterdam criteria or revised Bethesda guidelines.
Results
Ten deleterious alterations were detected in twelve out of the twenty-four families subjected to genetic testing, thus our detection rate is 50%. Four of the pathogenic point mutations, namely two nonsense, one missense and one splice site change, are novel, whereas the detected genomic deletion encompassing exon 6 of the MLH1 gene has been described repeatedly in the LOVD database. The average age of onset for the development of both colorectal and endometrial cancer among mutation positive families is 43.2 years.
Conclusion
The mutational spectrum of the MMR genes investigated as it has been shaped by our analysis is quite heterogeneous without any strong indication for the presence of a founder effect.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-544
PMCID: PMC2976752  PMID: 20937110
9.  Mutational spectrum of APC and genotype-phenotype correlations in Greek FAP patients 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:389.
Background
Familial adenomatous polyposis, an autosomal dominant inherited disease caused by germline mutations within the APC gene, is characterized by early onset colorectal cancer as a consequence of the intrinsic phenotypic feature of multiple colorectal adenomatic polyps. The genetic investigation of Greek adenomatous polyposis families was performed in respects to APC and MUTYH germline mutations. Additionally, all available published mutations were considered in order to define the APC mutation spectrum in Greece.
Methods
A cohort of 25 unrelated adenomatous polyposis families of Greek origin has been selected. Genetic testing included direct sequencing of APC and MUTYH genes. APC gene was also checked for large genomic rearrangements by MLPA.
Results
Analysis of the APC gene performed in a Greek cohort of twenty five FAP families revealed eighteen different germline mutations in twenty families (80%), four of which novel. Mutations were scattered between exon 3 and codon 1503 of exon 15, while no large genomic rearrangements were identified.
Conclusion
This concise report describes the spectrum of all APC mutations identified in Greek FAP families, including four novel mutations. It is concluded that the Greek population is characterized by genetic heterogeneity, low incidence of genomic rearrangements in APC gene and lack of founder mutation in FAP syndrome.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-389
PMCID: PMC2918579  PMID: 20649969
10.  Prognostic stratification of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma treated with sunitinib: comparison with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering prognostic factors model 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:45.
Background
The treatment paradigm in advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) has changed in the recent years. Sunitinib has been established as a new standard for first-line therapy. We studied the prognostic significance of baseline characteristics and we compared the risk stratification with the established Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) model.
Methods
This is a retrospective analysis of patients treated in six Greek Oncology Units of HECOG. Inclusion criteria were: advanced renal cell carcinoma not amenable to surgery and treatment with Sunitinib. Previous cytokine therapy but no targeted agents were allowed. Overall survival (OS) was the major end point. Significance of prognostic factors was evaluated with multivariate cox regression analysis. A model was developed to stratify patients according to risk.
Results
One hundred and nine patients were included. Median follow up has been 15.8 months and median OS 17.1 months (95% CI: 13.7-20.6). Time from diagnosis to the start of Sunitinib (<= 12 months vs. >12 months, p = 0.001), number of metastatic sites (1 vs. >1, p = 0.003) and performance status (PS) (<= 1 vs >1, p = 0.001) were independently associated with OS. Stratification in two risk groups ("low" risk: 0 or 1 risk factors; "high" risk: 2 or 3 risk factors) resulted in distinctly different OS (median not reached [NR] vs. 10.8 [95% confidence interval (CI): 8.3-13.3], p < 0.001). The application of the MSKCC risk criteria resulted in stratification into 3 groups (low and intermediate and poor risk) with distinctly different prognosis underlying its validity. Nevertheless, MSKCC model did not show an improved prognostic performance over the model developed by this analysis.
Conclusions
Studies on risk stratification of patients with advanced RCC treated with targeted therapies are warranted. Our results suggest that a simpler than the MSKCC model can be developed. Such models should be further validated.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-45
PMCID: PMC2837011  PMID: 20163744
11.  Topoisomerase I but not thymidylate synthase is associated with improved outcome in patients with resected colorectal cancer treated with irinotecan containing adjuvant chemotherapy 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:339.
Background
Thymidylate synthase (TS) and Topoisomerase I (Topo I) are significant biomarkers in colorectal cancer (CRC). We aimed to study the expression of TS and Topo I in patients with resected CRC who received adjuvant chemotherapy and correlated it with clinical outcome.
Methods
All patients diagnosed with CRC between 1989 and 2007 and treated with adjuvant chemotherapy within Hellenic Cooperative Oncology Group's (HeCOG) protocols, were identified. Archival paraffin-embedded tumor tissues were used for immunohistochemical detection of TS and Topo I. Immunohistochemistry was performed on tissue microarray slides using monoclonal antibodies against TS and Topo I. The results were correlated with survival (OS) and disease free survival (DFS).
Results
A cohort of 498 patients with a median age of 61 years and Dukes' stage B (49%) and C (51%) fulfilled the criteria of the study. All patients received adjuvant 5-FU-based chemotherapy, 38% irinotecan-containing. Positive TS and Topo I expression was found in 43% and 48% of cases, respectively. Five-year OS was 74% and DFS was 68%. In univariate analysis no association of TS and Topo I expression with OS and DFS was identified. In multivariate analysis however, Topo I expression was associated with a reduced risk of death (HR = 0.61, 95% CI 0.42-0.88, p = 0.009). In the irinotecan-treated subgroup, those patients who expressed Topo I had a better OS (HR = 0.47, 95% CI 0.23-0.94, p = 0.033).
Conclusion
Patients with resected CRC expressing Topo I seem to benefit from irinotecan-containing adjuvant chemotherapy. However randomised prospective trials are needed to confirm these results.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-339
PMCID: PMC2759966  PMID: 19775480
12.  Potential value of PTEN in predicting cetuximab response in colorectal cancer: An exploratory study 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:234.
Background
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is over-expressed in 70–75% of colorectal adenocarcinomas (CRC). The anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab has been approved for the treatment of metastatic CRC, however tumor response to cetuximab has not been found to be associated with EGFR over-expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC). The aim of this study was to explore EGFR and the downstream effector phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) as potential predictors of response to cetuximab.
Methods
CRC patients treated with cetuximab by the Hellenic Cooperative Oncology group, whose formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissue was available, were included. Tissue was tested for EGFR and PTEN by IHC and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH).
Results
Eighty-eight patients were identified and 72 were included based on the availability of tissue blocks with adequate material for analysis on them. All patients, except one, received cetuximab in combination with chemotherapy. Median follow-up was 53 months from diagnosis and 17 months from cetuximab initiation. At the time of the analysis 53% of the patients had died. Best response was complete response in one and partial response in 23 patients. In 16 patients disease stabilized. Lack of PTEN gene amplification was associated with more responses to cetuximab and longer time to progression (p = 0.042).
Conclusion
PTEN could be one of the molecular determinants of cetuximab response. Due to the heterogeneity of the population and the retrospective nature of the study, our results are hypothesis generating and should be approached with caution. Further prospective studies are needed to validate this finding.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-234
PMCID: PMC2527615  PMID: 18700047
13.  Rare mutations predisposing to familial adenomatous polyposis in Greek FAP patients 
BMC Cancer  2005;5:40.
Background
Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) is caused by germline mutations in the APC (Adenomatous Polyposis Coli) gene. The vast majority of APC mutations are point mutations or small insertions / deletions which lead to truncated protein products. Splicing mutations or gross genomic rearrangements are less common inactivating events of the APC gene.
Methods
In the current study genomic DNA or RNA from ten unrelated FAP suspected patients was examined for germline mutations in the APC gene. Family history and phenotype were used in order to select the patients. Methods used for testing were dHPLC (denaturing High Performance Liquid Chromatography), sequencing, MLPA (Multiplex Ligation – dependent Probe Amplification), Karyotyping, FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization) and RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription – Polymerase Chain Reaction).
Results
A 250 Kbp deletion in the APC gene starting from intron 5 and extending beyond exon 15 was identified in one patient. A substitution of the +5 conserved nucleotide at the splice donor site of intron 9 in the APC gene was shown to produce frameshift and inefficient exon skipping in a second patient. Four frameshift mutations (1577insT, 1973delAG, 3180delAAAA, 3212delA) and a nonsense mutation (C1690T) were identified in the rest of the patients.
Conclusion
Screening for APC mutations in FAP patients should include testing for splicing defects and gross genomic alterations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-5-40
PMCID: PMC1097718  PMID: 15833136
14.  Angiogenesis in cancer of unknown primary: clinicopathological study of CD34, VEGF and TSP-1 
BMC Cancer  2005;5:25.
Background
Cancer of unknown primary remains a mallignancy of elusive biology and grim prognosis that lacks effective therapeutic options. We investigated angiogenesis in cancer of unknown primary to expand our knowledge on the biology of these tumors and identify potential therapeutic targets.
Methods
Paraffin embedded archival material from 81 patients diagnosed with CUP was used. Tumor histology was adenocarcinoma (77%), undifferentiated carcinoma (18%) and squamous cell carcinoma (5%). The tissue expression of CD34, VEGF and TSP-1 was assessed immunohistochemically by use of specific monoclonal antibodies and was analyzed against clinicopathological data.
Results
VEGF expression was detected in all cases and was strong in 83%. Stromal expression of TSP-1 was seen in 80% of cases and was strong in 20%. The expression of both proteins was not associated with any clinical or pathological parameters. Tumor MVD was higher in tumors classified as unfavorable compared to more favorable and was positively associated with VEGF and negatively with TSP-1.
Conclusion
Angiogenesis is very active and expression of VEGF is almost universal in cancers of unknown primary. These findings support the clinical investigation of VEGF targeted therapy in this clinical setting.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-5-25
PMCID: PMC555600  PMID: 15743540

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