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1.  Prognostic value of HLA class I, HLA-E, HLA-G and Tregs in rectal cancer: a retrospective cohort study 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:486.
Evasion of immune surveillance and suppression of the immune system are important hallmarks of tumorigenesis. The goal of this study was to establish distinct patterns that reflect a rectal tumors’ immune-phenotype and to determine their relation to patient outcome.
The study population consisted of 495 Stage I-IV non-preoperatively treated rectal cancer patients of which a tissue micro array (TMA) was available. Sections of this TMA were immunohistochemically stained and quantified for presence of Foxp3+ cells (Tregs) and tumor expression of HLA Class I and non-classical HLA-E and HLA-G. All markers were, separate and combined, analyzed for clinical prognostic value.
Expression of HLA class I (DFS HR 0.637 (0.458-0.886), p = 0.013), Foxp3+ infiltration above median (OS HR 0.637 (0.500-0.813), p < 0.001 and DFS HR 0.624 (0.491-0.793), p < 0.001) and expression of HLA-G (DFS HR 0.753 (0.574-0.989), p = 0.042) were related to a better clinical prognosis. When these markers were combined, patients with 2 or 3 markers associated with poor prognosis (loss of HLA Class I, Foxp3+ below median, and weak HLA-G expression), showed a significantly worse survival (OS and DFS p < 0.001). This immune-phenotype was an independent predictor for DFS (HR 1.56 (1.14-2.14), p = 0.019).
In conclusion, rectal tumors showing loss of HLA class I expression, Foxp3+ infiltration below median and weak HLA-G expression were related to a worse OS and DFS. Combining these immune markers lead to the creation of tumor immune-phenotypes , which related to patient outcome and were significant independent clinical prognostic markers in rectal cancer.
PMCID: PMC4094545  PMID: 24997850
Rectum; Rectal cancer; Immune surveillance; HLA Class I expression; Foxp3+ regulatory T cells; HLA-E; HLA-G; Outcome
2.  Integral analysis of p53 and its value as prognostic factor in sporadic colon cancer 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:277.
p53 (encoded by TP53) is involved in DNA damage repair, cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, aging and cellular senescence. TP53 is mutated in around 50% of human cancers. Nevertheless, the consequences of p53 inactivation in colon cancer outcome remain unclear. Recently, a new role of p53 together with CSNK1A1 in colon cancer invasiveness has been described in mice.
By combining data on different levels of p53 inactivation, we aimed to predict p53 functionality and to determine its effects on colon cancer outcome. Moreover, survival effects of CSNK1A1 together with p53 were also studied.
Eighty-three formalin fixed paraffin embedded colon tumors were enriched for tumor cells using flow sorting, the extracted DNA was used in a custom SNP array to determine chr17p13-11 allelic state; p53 immunostaining, TP53 exons 5, 6, 7 and 8 mutations were determined in combination with mRNA expression analysis on frozen tissue.
Patients with a predicted functional p53 had a better prognosis than patients with non functional p53 (Log Rank p=0.009). Expression of CSNK1A1 modified p53 survival effects. Patients with low CSNK1A1 expression and non-functional p53 had a very poor survival both in the univariate (Log Rank p<0.001) and in the multivariate survival analysis (HR=4.74 95% CI 1.45 – 15.3 p=0.009).
The combination of mutational, genomic, protein and downstream transcriptional activity data predicted p53 functionality which is shown to have a prognostic effect on colon cancer patients. This effect was specifically modified by CSKN1A1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3682902  PMID: 23739040
Colon cancer; p53; Prognosis; Survival; CSKN1A1
3.  Specific genomic aberrations in primary colorectal cancer are associated with liver metastases 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:662.
Accurate staging of colorectal cancer (CRC) with clinicopathological parameters is important for predicting prognosis and guiding treatment but provides no information about organ site of metastases. Patterns of genomic aberrations in primary colorectal tumors may reveal a chromosomal signature for organ specific metastases.
Array Comparative Genomic Hybridization (aCGH) was employed to asses DNA copy number changes in primary colorectal tumors of three distinctive patient groups. This included formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue of patients who developed liver metastases (LM; n = 36), metastases (PM; n = 37) and a group that remained metastases-free (M0; n = 25).
A novel statistical method for identifying recurrent copy number changes, KC-SMART, was used to find specific locations of genomic aberrations specific for various groups. We created a classifier for organ specific metastases based on the aCGH data using Prediction Analysis for Microarrays (PAM).
Specifically in the tumors of primary CRC patients who subsequently developed liver metastasis, KC-SMART analysis identified genomic aberrations on chromosome 20q. LM-PAM, a shrunken centroids classifier for liver metastases occurrence, was able to distinguish the LM group from the other groups (M0&PM) with 80% accuracy (78% sensitivity and 86% specificity). The classification is predominantly based on chromosome 20q aberrations.
Liver specific CRC metastases may be predicted with a high accuracy based on specific genomic aberrations in the primary CRC tumor. The ability to predict the site of metastases is important for improvement of personalized patient management.
PMCID: PMC3027605  PMID: 21126340
4.  Early onset MSI-H colon cancer with MLH1 promoter methylation, is there a genetic predisposition? 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:180.
To investigate the etiology of MLH1 promoter methylation in mismatch repair (MMR) mutation-negative early onset MSI-H colon cancer. As this type of colon cancer is associated with high ages, young patients bearing this type of malignancy are rare and could provide additional insight into the etiology of sporadic MSI-H colon cancer.
We studied a set of 46 MSI-H colon tumors cases with MLH1 promoter methylation which was enriched for patients with an age of onset below 50 years (n = 13). Tumors were tested for CIMP marker methylation and mutations linked to methylation: BRAF, KRAS, GADD45A and the MLH1 -93G>A polymorphism. When available, normal colon and leukocyte DNA was tested for GADD45A mutations and germline MLH1 methylation. SNP array analysis was performed on a subset of tumors.
We identified two cases (33 and 60 years) with MLH1 germline promoter methylation. BRAF mutations were less frequent in colon cancer patients below 50 years relative to patients above 50 years (p-value: 0.044). CIMP-high was infrequent and related to BRAF mutations in patients below 50 years. In comparison with published controls the G>A polymorphism was associated with our cohort. Although similar distribution of the pathogenic A allele was observed in the patients with an age of onset above and below 50 years, the significance for the association was lost for the group under 50 years. GADD45A sequencing yielded an unclassified variant. Tumors from both age groups showed infrequent copy number changes and loss-of-heterozygosity.
Somatic or germline GADD45A mutations did not explain sporadic MSI-H colon cancer. Although germline MLH1 methylation was found in two individuals, locus-specific somatic MLH1 hypermethylation explained the majority of sporadic early onset MSI-H colon cancer cases. Our data do not suggest an intrinsic tendency for CpG island hypermethylation in these early onset MSI-H tumors other than through somatic mutation of BRAF.
PMCID: PMC2880297  PMID: 20444249
5.  Colorectal carcinomas in MUTYH-associated polyposis display histopathological similarities to microsatellite unstable carcinomas 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:184.
MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP) is a recessively inherited disorder which predisposes biallelic carriers for a high risk of polyposis and colorectal carcinoma (CRC). Since about one third of the biallelic MAP patients in population based CRC series has no adenomas, this study aimed to identify specific clinicopathological characteristics of MAP CRCs and compare these with reported data on sporadic and Lynch CRCs.
From 44 MAP patients who developed ≥ 1 CRCs, 42 of 58 tumours were analyzed histologically and 35 immunohistochemically for p53 and beta-catenin. Cell densities of CD3, CD8, CD57, and granzyme B positive lymphocytes were determined. KRAS2, the mutation cluster region (MCR) of APC, p53, and SMAD4 were analyzed for somatic mutations.
MAP CRCs frequently localized to the proximal colon (69%, 40/58), were mucinous in 21% (9/42), and had a conspicuous Crohn's like infiltrate reaction in 33% (13/40); all of these parameters occurred at a higher rate than reported for sporadic CRCs. Tumour infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) were also highly prevalent in MAP CRCs. Somatic APC MCR mutations occurred in 14% (5/36) while 64% (23/36) had KRAS2 mutations (22/23 c.34G>T). G>T tranversions were found in p53 and SMAD4, although the relative frequency compared to other mutations was low.
MAP CRCs show some similarities to micro-satellite unstable cancers, with a preferential proximal location, a high rate of mucinous histotype and increased presence of TILs. These features should direct the practicing pathologist towards a MAP aetiology of CRC as an alternative for a mismatch repair deficient cause. High frequent G>T transversions in APC and KRAS2 (mutated in early tumour development) but not in P53 and SMAD4 (implicated in tumour progression) might indicate a predominant MUTYH effect in early carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2706846  PMID: 19527492
6.  Integrating chromosomal aberrations and gene expression profiles to dissect rectal tumorigenesis 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:314.
Accurate staging of rectal tumors is essential for making the correct treatment choice. In a previous study, we found that loss of 17p, 18q and gain of 8q, 13q and 20q could distinguish adenoma from carcinoma tissue and that gain of 1q was related to lymph node metastasis. In order to find markers for tumor staging, we searched for candidate genes on these specific chromosomes.
We performed gene expression microarray analysis on 79 rectal tumors and integrated these data with genomic data from the same sample series. We performed supervised analysis to find candidate genes on affected chromosomes and validated the results with qRT-PCR and immunohistochemistry.
Integration of gene expression and chromosomal instability data revealed similarity between these two data types. Supervised analysis identified up-regulation of EFNA1 in cases with 1q gain, and EFNA1 expression was correlated with the expression of a target gene (VEGF). The BOP1 gene, involved in ribosome biogenesis and related to chromosomal instability, was over-expressed in cases with 8q gain. SMAD2 was the most down-regulated gene on 18q, and on 20q, STMN3 and TGIF2 were highly up-regulated. Immunohistochemistry for SMAD4 correlated with SMAD2 gene expression and 18q loss.
On basis of integrative analysis this study identified one well known CRC gene (SMAD2) and several other genes (EFNA1, BOP1, TGIF2 and STMN3) that possibly could be used for rectal cancer characterization.
PMCID: PMC2584339  PMID: 18959792
7.  HNPCC versus sporadic microsatellite-unstable colon cancers follow different routes toward loss of HLA class I expression 
BMC Cancer  2007;7:33.
Abnormalities in Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) class I expression are common in colorectal cancer. Since HLA expression is required to activate tumor antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL), HLA class I abnormalities represent a mechanism by which tumors circumvent immune surveillance. Tumors with high microsatellite instability (MSI-H) are believed to face strong selective pressure to evade CTL activity since they produce large amounts of immunogenic peptides. Previous studies identified the prevalence of HLA class I alterations in MSI-H tumors. However, those reports did not compare the frequency of alterations between hereditary and sporadic MSI-H tumors neither the mechanisms that led to HLA class I alterations in each subgroup.
To characterize the HLA class I expression among sporadic MSI-H and microsatellite-stable (MSS) tumors, and HNPCC tumors we compared immunohistochemically the expression of HLA class I, β2-microglobulin (β2m), and Antigen Processing Machinery (APM) components in 81 right-sided sporadic and 75 HNPCC tumors. Moreover, we investigated the genetic basis for these changes.
HLA class I loss was seen more frequently in MSI-H tumors than in MSS tumors (p < 0.0001). Distinct mechanisms were responsible for HLA class I loss in HNPCC and sporadic MSI-H tumors. Loss of HLA class I expression was associated with β2m loss in HNPCC tumors, but was correlated with APM component defects in sporadic MSI-H tumors (p < 0.0001). In about half of the cases, loss of expression of HLA class I was concordant with the detection of one or more mutations in the β2m and APM components genes.
HLA class I aberrations are found at varying frequencies in different colorectal tumor types and are caused by distinct genetic mechanisms. Chiefly, sporadic and hereditary MSI-H tumors follow different routes toward HLA class I loss of expression supporting the idea that these tumors follow different evolutionary pathways in tumorigenesis. The resulting variation in immune escape mechanisms may have repercussions in tumor progression and behavior.
PMCID: PMC1808468  PMID: 17316446
8.  A procedure for the detection of linkage with high density SNP arrays in a large pedigree with colorectal cancer 
BMC Cancer  2007;7:6.
The apparent dominant model of colorectal cancer (CRC) inheritance in several large families, without mutations in known CRC susceptibility genes, suggests the presence of so far unidentified genes with strong or moderate effect on the development of CRC. Linkage analysis could lead to identification of susceptibility genes in such families. In comparison to classical linkage analysis with multi-allelic markers, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays have increased information content and can be processed with higher throughput. Therefore, SNP arrays can be excellent tools for linkage analysis. However, the vast number of SNPs on the SNP arrays, combined with large informative pedigrees (e.g. >35–40 bits), presents us with a computational complexity that is challenging for existing statistical packages or even exceeds their capacity. We therefore setup a procedure for linkage analysis in large pedigrees and validated the method by genotyping using SNP arrays of a colorectal cancer family with a known MLH1 germ line mutation.
Quality control of the genotype data was performed in Alohomora, Mega2 and SimWalk2, with removal of uninformative SNPs, Mendelian inconsistencies and Mendelian consistent errors, respectively. Linkage disequilibrium was measured by SNPLINK and Merlin. Parametric linkage analysis using two flanking markers was performed using MENDEL. For multipoint parametric linkage analysis and haplotype analysis, SimWalk2 was used.
On chromosome 3, in the MLH1-region, a LOD score of 1.9 was found by parametric linkage analysis using two flanking markers. On chromosome 11 a small region with LOD 1.1 was also detected. Upon linkage disequilibrium removal, multipoint linkage analysis yielded a LOD score of 2.1 in the MLH1 region, whereas the LOD score dropped to negative values in the region on chromosome 11. Subsequent haplotype analysis in the MLH1 region perfectly matched the mutation status of the family members.
We developed a workflow for linkage analysis in large families using high-density SNP arrays and validated this workflow in a family with colorectal cancer. Linkage disequilibrium has to be removed when using SNP arrays, because it can falsely inflate the LOD score. Haplotype analysis is adequate and can predict the carrier status of the family members.
PMCID: PMC1784097  PMID: 17222328
9.  High-resolution analysis of HLA class I alterations in colorectal cancer 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:233.
Previous studies indicate that alterations in Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) class I expression are frequent in colorectal tumors. This would suggest serious limitations for immunotherapy-based strategies involving T-cell recognition. Distinct patterns of HLA surface expression might conceal different immune escape mechanisms employed by the tumors and are worth further study.
We applied four-color multiparameter flow cytometry (FCM), using a large panel of alloantigen-specific anti-HLA-A and -B monoclonal antibodies, to study membranous expression of individual HLA alleles in freshly isolated colorectal cancer cell suspensions from 21 patients.
Alterations in HLA class I phenotype were observed in 8 (38%) of the 21 tumors and comprised loss of a single A or B alleles in 4 cases, and loss of all four A and B alleles in the other 4 cases. Seven of these 8 tumors were located on the right side of the colon, and those showing loss of both HLA-A and -B membranous expression were all of the MSI-H phenotype.
FCM allows the discrimination of complex phenotypes related to the expression of HLA class I. The different patterns of HLA class I expression might underlie different tumor behavior and influence the success rate of immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC1599746  PMID: 17014712

Results 1-9 (9)