Accurate stratification of tumors is imperative for adequate cancer management. In addition to staging, morphological subtyping allows stratification of patients into additional prognostic groups. In this study, we used an image-based computational method on pan-cytokeratin immunohistochemical (IHC) stainings to quantify tumor fragmentation (TF), a measure of tumor invasiveness of lung squamous cell carcinoma (LSCC). In two independent clinical cohorts from tissue microarrays (TMA: n=208 patients) and whole sections (WS: n=99 patients), TF was associated with poor prognosis and increased risk of blood vessel infiltration. A third cohort from the cancer genome atlas (TCGA: n=335 patients) confirmed the poor prognostic value of TF using a similar human-based score on haematoxylin-eosin (H&E) staining. Integration of RNA-seq data from TCGA and LC-MS/MS proteomics from WS revealed an upregulation of extracellular matrix remodeling and focal adhesion processes in tumors with high TF, supporting their increased invasive potential. This proposed histologic parameter is an independent and unfavorable prognostic marker that could be established as a new grading parameter for LSCC.
BACKGROUND: Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is a polycomb-group protein that is involved in stem cell renewal and carcinogenesis. In breast cancer, increased EZH2 expression is associated with aggressiveness and has been suggested to identify normal breast epithelium at increased risk of breast cancer development. However, the association between EZH2 expression in benign breast tissue and breast cancer risk has not previously been evaluated in a large prospective cohort.
METHODS: We examined the association between EZH2 protein expression and subsequent breast cancer risk using logistic regression in a nested case-control study of benign breast disease (BBD) and breast cancer within the Nurses' Health Studies. EZH2 immunohistochemical expression in normal breast epithelium and stroma was evaluated by computational image analysis and its association with breast cancer risk was analyzed after adjusting for matching factors between cases and controls, the concomitant BBD diagnosis, and the Ki67 proliferation index.
RESULTS: Women with a breast biopsy in which more than 20% of normal epithelial cells expressed EZH2 had a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer (odds ratio (OR) 2.95, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11-7.84) compared to women with less than 10% EZH2 epithelial expression. The risk of developing breast cancer increased for each 5% increase in EZH2 expression (OR 1.22, 95% CI 1.02-1.46, p value 0.026). Additionally, women with high EZH2 expression and low estrogen receptor (ER) expression had a 4-fold higher risk of breast cancer compared to women with low EZH2 and low ER expression (OR 4.02, 95% CI 1.29-12.59).
CONCLUSIONS: These results provide further evidence that EZH2 expression in the normal breast epithelium is independently associated with breast cancer risk and might be used to assist in risk stratification for women with benign breast biopsies.
The assessment of protein expression in immunohistochemistry (IHC) images provides important diagnostic, prognostic and predictive information for guiding cancer diagnosis and therapy. Manual scoring of IHC images represents a logistical challenge, as the process is labor intensive and time consuming. Since the last decade, computational methods have been developed to enable the application of quantitative methods for the analysis and interpretation of protein expression in IHC images. These methods have not yet replaced manual scoring for the assessment of IHC in the majority of diagnostic laboratories and in many large-scale research studies. An alternative approach is crowdsourcing the quantification of IHC images to an undefined crowd. The aim of this study is to quantify IHC images for labeling of ER status with two different crowdsourcing approaches, image-labeling and nuclei-labeling, and compare their performance with automated methods. Crowdsourcing- derived scores obtained greater concordance with the pathologist interpretations for both image-labeling and nuclei-labeling tasks (83% and 87%), as compared to the pathologist concordance achieved by the automated method (81%) on 5,338 TMA images from 1,853 breast cancer patients. This analysis shows that crowdsourcing the scoring of protein expression in IHC images is a promising new approach for large scale cancer molecular pathology studies.
Distinguishing hyalinized stroma from osteoid production by a heterologous osteosarcomatous component can be challenging in gynecologic tract carcinosarcomas. As heterologous components in a carcinosarcoma may have prognostic and therapeutic implications, it is important that these are recognized. This study examines interobserver reproducibility among gynecologic pathologists in the diagnosis of osteosarcomatous components, and its correlation with expression of the novel antibody SATB2 (marker of osteoblastic differentiation) in these osteosarcomatous foci. Digital H&E images from 20 gynecologic tract carcinosarcomas were reviewed by 22 gynecologic pathologists with a request to determine the presence or absence of an osteosarcomatous component. The 20 preselected cases included areas of classic heterologous osteosarcoma (malignant cells producing osteoid; n=10) and osteosarcoma mimics (malignant cells with admixed nonosteoid matrix; n=10). Interobserver agreement was evaluated and SATB2 scored on all 20 cases and compared with the original diagnoses. Moderate agreement (Fleiss' κ=0.483) was identified for the 22 raters scoring the 20 cases with a median sensitivity of 7/10 and a median specificity of 9/10 for the diagnosis of osteosarcoma. SATB2 showed 100% sensitivity (10/10) and 60% (6/10) specificity in discriminating classic osteosarcoma from osteosarcoma mimics. Utilizing negative SATB2 as a surrogate marker to exclude osteosarcoma, 73% (16/22) of the reviewers would have downgraded at least 1 case to not contain an osteosarcomatous component (range, 1-6 cases, median 1 case). Gynecologic pathologists demonstrate only a moderate level of agreement in the diagnosis of heterologous osteosarcoma based on morphologic grounds. In such instances, a negative SATB2 staining may assist in increasing accuracy in the diagnosis of an osteosarcomatous component.
We investigate 71 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified in meta-analytic studies of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of breast cancer, the majority of which are located in intergenic or intronic regions. To explore regulatory impacts of these variants we conducted expression quantitative loci (eQTL) analyses on tissue samples from 376 invasive postmenopausal breast cancer cases in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) diagnosed from 1990-2004. Expression analysis was conducted on all formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples (and on 264 adjacent normal samples) using the Affymetrix Human Transcriptome Array. Significance and ranking of associations between tumor receptor status and expression variation was preserved between NHS FFPE and TCGA fresh-frozen sample sets (Spearman r = 0.85, p<10^-10 for 17 of the 21 Oncotype DX recurrence signature genes). At an FDR threshold of 10%, we identified 27 trans-eQTLs associated with expression variation in 217 distinct genes. SNP-gene associations can be explored using an open-source interactive browser distributed in a Bioconductor package. Using a new a procedure for testing hypotheses relating SNP content to expression patterns in gene sets, defined as molecular function pathways, we find that loci on 6q14 and 6q25 affect various gene sets and molecular pathways (FDR < 10%). Although the ultimate biological interpretation of the GWAS-identified variants remains to be uncovered, this study validates the utility of expression analysis of this FFPE expression set for more detailed integrative analyses.
Molecular pathological epidemiology (MPE) is a transdisciplinary and relatively new scientific discipline that integrates theory, methods, and resources from epidemiology, pathology, biostatistics, bioinformatics, and computational biology. The underlying objective of MPE research is to better understand the etiology and progression of complex and heterogeneous human diseases with the goal of informing prevention and treatment efforts in population health and clinical medicine. Although MPE research has been commonly applied to investigating breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, its methodology can be used to study most diseases. Recent successes in MPE studies include: (1) the development of new statistical methods to address etiologic heterogeneity; (2) the enhancement of causal inference; (3) the identification of previously unknown exposure-subtype disease associations; and (4) better understanding of the role of lifestyle/behavioral factors on modifying prognosis according to disease subtype. Central challenges to MPE include the relative lack of transdisciplinary experts, educational programs, and forums to discuss issues related to the advancement of the field. To address these challenges, highlight recent successes in the field, and identify new opportunities, a series of MPE meetings have been held at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. Herein, we share the proceedings of the Third International MPE Meeting, held in May 2016 and attended by 150 scientists from 17 countries. Special topics included integration of MPE with immunology and health disparity research. This meeting series will continue to provide an impetus to foster further transdisciplinary integration of divergent scientific fields.
Although expression of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and cell proliferation marker Ki67 serve as predictive and prognostic factors in breast cancers, little is known about their roles in normal breast tissue. Here in a nested case-control study within the Nurses' Health Studies (90 cases, 297 controls), we evaluated their expression levels in normal breast epithelium in relation to subsequent breast cancer risk among women with benign breast disease. Tissue microarrays were constructed using cores obtained from benign biopsies containing normal terminal duct lobular units and immunohistochemical stained for these markers. We found PR and Ki67 expression was non-significantly but positively associated with subsequent breast cancer risk, whereas ER expression was non-significantly inversely associated. After stratifying by lesion subtype, Ki67 was significantly associated with higher risk among women with proliferative lesions with atypical hyperplasia. However, given the small sample size, further studies are required to confirm these results.
In a Perspective, Francisco Beca and Andrew Beck discuss Charles Swanton and colleagues' accompanying Research Article on somatic mutations in patients with inflammatory breast cancer treated in a Phase II clinical trial.
Safikhani Z, El-Hachem N, Smirnov P, Freeman M, Goldenberg A, Birkbak NJ, Beck AH, Aerts HJWL, Quackenbush J, Haibe-Kains B. Safikhani et al. reply. Nature 2016;540(7631):E11-E12.
Safikhani Z, El-Hachem N, Smirnov P, Freeman M, Goldenberg A, Birkbak NJ, Beck AH, Aerts HJWL, Quackenbush J, Haibe-Kains B. Safikhani et al. reply. Nature 2016;540(7631):E2-E4.
Safikhani Z, El-Hachem N, Smirnov P, Freeman M, Goldenberg A, Birkbak NJ, Beck AH, Aerts HJWL, Quackenbush J, Haibe-Kains B. Safikhani et al. reply. Nature 2016;540(7631):E6-E8.
AIMS: Computational pathology platforms incorporate digital microscopy with sophisticated image analysis to permit rapid, continuous measurement of protein expression. We compared two computational pathology platforms on their measurement of breast tumour oestrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) expression.
METHODS: Breast tumour microarrays from the Nurses' Health Study were stained for ER (n=592) and PR (n=187). One expert pathologist scored cases as positive if ≥1% of tumour nuclei exhibited stain. ER and PR were then measured with the Definiens Tissue Studio (automated) and Aperio Digital Pathology (user-supervised) platforms. Platform-specific measurements were compared using boxplots, scatter plots and correlation statistics. Classification of ER and PR positivity by platform-specific measurements was evaluated with areas under receiver operating characteristic curves (AUC) from univariable logistic regression models, using expert pathologist classification as the standard.
RESULTS: Both platforms showed considerable overlap in continuous measurements of ER and PR between positive and negative groups classified by expert pathologist. Platform-specific measurements were strongly and positively correlated with one another (r≥0.77). The user-supervised Aperio workflow performed slightly better than the automated Definiens workflow at classifying ER positivity (AUCAperio=0.97; AUCDefiniens=0.90; difference=0.07, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.09) and PR positivity (AUCAperio=0.94; AUCDefiniens=0.87; difference=0.07, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.12).
CONCLUSIONS: Paired hormone receptor expression measurements from two different computational pathology platforms agreed well with one another. The user-supervised workflow yielded better classification accuracy than the automated workflow. Appropriately validated computational pathology algorithms enrich molecular epidemiology studies with continuous protein expression data and may accelerate tumour biomarker discovery.
While much research has examined the use of glucose and glutamine by tumor cells, many cancers instead prefer to metabolize fats. Despite the pervasiveness of this phenotype, knowledge of pathways that drive fatty acid oxidation (FAO) in cancer is limited. Prolyl hydroxylase domain proteins hydroxylate substrate proline residues and have been linked to fuel switching. Here, we reveal that PHD3 rapidly triggers repression of FAO in response to nutrient abundance via hydroxylation of acetyl-coA carboxylase 2 (ACC2). We find that PHD3 expression is strongly decreased in subsets of cancer including acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and is linked to a reliance on fat catabolism regardless of external nutrient cues. Overexpressing PHD3 limits FAO via regulation of ACC2 and consequently impedes leukemia cell proliferation. Thus, loss of PHD3 enables greater utilization of fatty acids but may also serve as a metabolic and therapeutic liability by indicating cancer cell susceptibility to FAO inhibition.
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been implicated in normal cellular homeostasis as well as pathophysiological conditions, including cancer. Here we performed global gene expression profiling of mammary epithelial cells transformed by oncogenic v-Src, and identified a large subset of uncharacterized lncRNAs potentially involved in breast cancer development. Specifically, our analysis revealed a novel lncRNA, LINC00520 that is upregulated upon ectopic expression of oncogenic v-Src, in a manner that is dependent on the transcription factor STAT3. Similarly, LINC00520 is also increased in mammary epithelial cells transformed by oncogenic PI3K and its expression is decreased upon knockdown of mutant PIK3CA. Additional expression profiling highlight that LINC00520 is elevated in a subset of human breast carcinomas, with preferential enrichment in the basal-like molecular subtype. ShRNA-mediated depletion of LINC00520 results in decreased cell migration and loss of invasive structures in 3D. RNA sequencing analysis uncovers several genes that are differentially expressed upon ectopic expression of LINC00520, a significant subset of which are also induced in v-Src-transformed MCF10A cells. Together, these findings characterize LINC00520 as a lncRNA that is regulated by oncogenic Src, PIK3CA and STAT3, and which may contribute to the molecular etiology of breast cancer.