Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology - Research Publications

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    LRH-1 expression patterns in breast cancer tissues are associated with tumour aggressiveness
    Pang, J-MB ; Molania, R ; Chand, A ; Knower, K ; Takano, EA ; Byrne, DJ ; Mikeska, T ; Millar, EKA ; Lee, CS ; O'Toole, SA ; Clyne, C ; Gorringe, KL ; Dobrovic, A ; Fox, SB (IMPACT JOURNALS LLC, 2017-10-13)
    The significance and regulation of liver receptor homologue 1 (LRH-1, NR5A2), a tumour-promoting transcription factor in breast cancer cell lines, is unknown in clinical breast cancers. This study aims to determine LRH-1/NR5A2 expression in breast cancers and relationship with DNA methylation and tumour characteristics. In The Cancer Genome Atlas breast cancer cohort NR5A2 expression was positively associated with intragenic CpG island methylation (1.4-fold expression for fully methylated versus not fully methylated, p=0.01) and inversely associated with promoter CpG island methylation (0.6-fold expression for fully methylated versus not fully methylated, p=0.036). LRH-1 immunohistochemistry of 329 invasive carcinomas and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) was performed. Densely punctate/coarsely granular nuclear reactivity was significantly associated with high tumour grade (p<0.005, p=0.033 in invasive carcinomas and DCIS respectively), negative estrogen receptor status (p=0.008, p=0.038 in overall cohort and invasive carcinomas, respectively), negative progesterone receptor status (p=0.003, p=0.013 in overall cohort and invasive carcinomas, respectively), HER2 amplification (overall cohort p=0.034) and non-luminal intrinsic subtype (p=0.018, p=0.038 in overall cohort and invasive carcinomas, respectively). These significant associations of LRH-1 protein expression with tumour phenotype suggest that LRH-1 is an important indicator of tumour biology in breast cancers and may be useful in risk stratification.
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    DNA methylation in ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast
    Pang, J-MB ; Dobrovic, A ; Fox, SB (BMC, 2013-01-01)
    Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-obligate precursor lesion of invasive carcinoma of the breast. Current prognostic markers based on histopathological examination are unable to accurately predict which DCIS cases will progress to invasive carcinoma or recur after surgical excision. Epigenetic changes have been shown to be a significant driver of tumorigenesis, and DNA methylation of specific gene promoters provides predictive and prognostic markers in many types of cancer, including invasive breast cancer. In general, the spectrum of genes that are methylated in DCIS strongly resembles that seen in invasive ductal carcinoma. The identification of specific prognostic markers in DCIS remains elusive and awaits additional work investigating a large panel of methylatable genes by using sensitive and reproducible technologies. This review critically appraises the role of methylation in DCIS and its use as a biomarker.
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    A multisite blinded study for the detection of BRAF mutations in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded malignant melanoma
    Richter, A ; Grieu, F ; Carrello, A ; Amanuel, B ; Namdarian, K ; Rynska, A ; Lucas, A ; Michael, V ; Bell, A ; Fox, SB ; Hewitt, CA ; Do, H ; McArthur, GA ; Wong, SQ ; Dobrovic, A ; Iacopetta, B (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2013-04-15)
    Melanoma patients with BRAF mutations respond to treatment with vemurafenib, thus creating a need for accurate testing of BRAF mutation status. We carried out a blinded study to evaluate various BRAF mutation testing methodologies in the clinical setting. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded melanoma samples were macrodissected before screening for mutations using Sanger sequencing, single-strand conformation analysis (SSCA), high resolution melting analysis (HRM) and competitive allele-specific TaqMan® PCR (CAST-PCR). Concordance of 100% was observed between the Sanger sequencing, SSCA and HRM techniques. CAST-PCR gave rapid and accurate results for the common V600E and V600K mutations, however additional assays are required to detect rarer BRAF mutation types found in 3-4% of melanomas. HRM and SSCA followed by Sanger sequencing are effective two-step strategies for the detection of BRAF mutations in the clinical setting. CAST-PCR was useful for samples with low tumour purity and may also be a cost-effective and robust method for routine diagnostics.
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    Detection of the transforming AKT1 mutation E17K in non-small cell lung cancer by high resolution melting.
    Do, H ; Solomon, B ; Mitchell, PL ; Fox, SB ; Dobrovic, A (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2008-05-16)
    BACKGROUND: A recurrent somatic mutation, E17K, in the pleckstrin homology domain of the AKT1 gene, has been recently described in breast, colorectal, and ovarian cancers. AKT1 is a pivotal mediator of signalling pathways involved in cell survival, proliferation and growth. The E17K mutation stimulates downstream signalling and exhibits transforming activity in vitro and in vivo. FINDINGS: We developed a sensitive high resolution melting (HRM) assay to detect the E17K mutation from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumours. We screened 219 non-small cell lung cancer biopsies for the mutation using HRM analysis. Four samples were identified as HRM positive. Subsequent sequencing of those samples confirmed the E17K mutation in one of the cases. A rare single nucleotide polymorphism was detected in each of the remaining three samples. The E17K was found in one of the 14 squamous cell carcinomas. No mutations were found in 141 adenocarcinomas and 39 large cell carcinomas. CONCLUSION: The AKT1 E17K mutation is very rare in lung cancer and might be associated with tumorigenesis in squamous cell carcinoma. HRM represents a rapid cost-effective and robust screening of low frequency mutations such as AKT1 mutations in clinical samples.
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    A multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay for quality assessment of RNA extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues
    Takano, EA ; Mikeska, T ; Dobrovic, A ; Byrne, DJ ; Fox, SB (BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2010-12-17)
    BACKGROUND: RNA extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples is chemically modified and degraded, which compromises its use in gene expression studies. Most of the current approaches for RNA quality assessment are not suitable for FFPE derived RNA. RESULTS: We have developed a single-tube multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay specifically designed to evaluate RNA extracted from FFPE tissues for mRNA integrity and performance in reverse transcription - quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) assays. This single-tube quality control (QC) assay minimises the amount of RNA used in quality control. mRNA integrity and the suitability of RNA for RT-PCR is evaluated by the multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay using the TBP gene mRNA as the target sequence. The RT-PCR amplicon sizes, 92, 161, 252 and 300 bp, cover a range of amplicon sizes suitable for a wide range of RT-qPCR assays. The QC assay was used to evaluate RNA prepared by two different protocols for extracting total RNA from needle microdissected FFPE breast tumour samples. The amplification products were analysed by gel electrophoresis where the spectrum of amplicon sizes indicated the level of RNA degradation and thus the suitability of the RNA for PCR. The ability of the multiplex endpoint RT-PCR QC assay to identify FFPE samples with an adequate RNA quality was validated by examining the Cq values of an RT-qPCR assay with an 87 bp amplicon. CONCLUSIONS: The multiplex endpoint RT-PCR assay is well suited for the determination of the quality of FFPE derived RNAs, to identify which RT-PCR assays they are suitable for, and is also applicable to assess non-FFPE RNA for gene expression studies. Furthermore, the assay can also be used for the evaluation of RNA extraction protocols from FFPE samples.
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    The expression of the ubiquitin ligase SIAH2 (seven in absentia homolog 2) is mediated through gene copy number in breast cancer and is associated with a basal-like phenotype and p53 expression
    Chan, P ; Moeller, A ; Liu, MCP ; Sceneay, JE ; Wong, CSF ; Waddell, N ; Huang, KT ; Dobrovic, A ; Millar, EKA ; O'Toole, SA ; McNeil, CM ; Sutherland, RL ; Bowtell, DD ; Fox, SB (BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2011-01-01)
    INTRODUCTION: The seven in absentia homolog 2 (SIAH2) protein plays a significant role in the hypoxic response by regulating the abundance of hypoxia-inducible factor-α; however, its role in breast carcinoma is unclear. We investigated the frequency and expression pattern of SIAH2 in two independent cohorts of sporadic breast cancers. METHODS: Immunohistochemical evaluation of SIAH2protein expression was conducted in normal breast tissues and in tissue microarrays comprising ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and a cohort of invasive breast carcinomas. Correlation analysis was performed between SIAH2 and clinicopathological variables and intrinsic breast cancer subgroups and validated in a cohort of 293 invasive ductal carcinomas. Promoter methylation, gene copy number and mRNA expression of SIAH2 were determined in a panel of basal-like tumors and cell lines. RESULTS: There was a significant increase in nuclear SIAH2 expression from normal breast tissues through to DCIS and progression to invasive cancers. A significant inverse correlation was apparent between SIAH2 and estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor and a positive association with tumor grade, HER2, p53 and an intrinsic basal-like subtype. Logistic regression analysis confirmed the significant positive association between SIAH2 expression and the basal-like phenotype. No SIAH2 promoter methylation was identified, yet there was a significant correlation between SIAH2 mRNA and gene copy number. SIAH2-positive tumors were associated with a shorter relapse-free survival in univariate but not multivariate analysis. CONCLUSIONS: SIAH2 expression is upregulated in basal-like breast cancers via copy number changes and/or transcriptional activation by p53 and is likely to be partly responsible for the enhanced hypoxic drive through abrogation of the prolyl hydroxylases.
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    A high-throughput protocol for mutation scanning of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
    Hondow, HL ; Fox, SB ; Mitchell, G ; Scott, RJ ; Beshay, V ; Wong, SQ ; Dobrovic, A (BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2011-06-24)
    BACKGROUND: Detection of mutations by DNA sequencing can be facilitated by scanning methods to identify amplicons which may have mutations. Current scanning methods used for the detection of germline sequence variants are laborious as they require post-PCR manipulation. High resolution melting (HRM) is a cost-effective rapid screening strategy, which readily detects heterozygous variants by melting curve analysis of PCR products. It is well suited to screening genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 as germline pathogenic mutations in these genes are always heterozygous. METHODS: Assays for the analysis of all coding regions and intron-exon boundaries of BRCA1 and BRCA2 were designed, and optimised. A final set of 94 assays which ran under identical amplification conditions were chosen for BRCA1 (36) and BRCA2 (58). Significant attention was placed on primer design to enable reproducible detection of mutations within the amplicon while minimising unnecessary detection of polymorphisms. Deoxyinosine residues were incorporated into primers that overlay intronic polymorphisms. Multiple 384 well plates were used to facilitate high throughput. RESULTS: 169 BRCA1 and 239 BRCA2 known sequence variants were used to test the amplicons. We also performed an extensive blinded validation of the protocol with 384 separate patient DNAs. All heterozygous variants were detected with the optimised assays. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first HRM approach to screen the entire coding region of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes using one set of reaction conditions in a multi plate 384 well format using specifically designed primers. The parallel screening of a relatively large number of samples enables better detection of sequence variants. HRM has the advantages of decreasing the necessary sequencing by more than 90%. This markedly reduced cost of sequencing will result in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation testing becoming accessible to individuals who currently do not undergo mutation testing because of the significant costs involved.
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    Mutational profiling of familial male breast cancers reveals similarities with luminal A female breast cancer with rare TP53 mutations
    Deb, S ; Wong, SQ ; Li, J ; Do, H ; Weiss, J ; Byrne, D ; Chakrabarti, A ; Bosma, T ; Fellowes, A ; Dobrovic, A ; Fox, SB (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2014-12-09)
    BACKGROUND: Male breast cancer (MBC) is still poorly understood with a large proportion arising in families with a history of breast cancer. Genomic studies have focused on germline determinants of MBC risk, with minimal knowledge of somatic changes in these cancers. METHODS: Using a TruSeq amplicon cancer panel, this study evaluated 48 familial MBCs (3 BRCA1 germline mutant, 17 BRCA2 germline mutant and 28 BRCAX) for hotspot somatic mutations and copy number changes in 48 common cancer genes. RESULTS: Twelve missense mutations included nine PIK3CA mutations (seven in BRCAX patients), two TP53 mutations (both in BRCA2 patients) and one PTEN mutation. Common gains were seen in GNAS (34.1%) and losses were seen in GNAQ (36.4%), ABL1 (47.7%) and ATM (34.1%). Gains of HRAS (37.5% vs 3%, P=0.006), STK11 (25.0% vs 0%, P=0.01) and SMARCB1 (18.8% vs 0%, P=0.04) and the loss of RB1 (43.8% vs 13%, P=0.03) were specific to BRCA2 tumours. CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to perform high-throughput somatic sequencing on familial MBCs. Overall, PIK3CA mutations are most commonly seen, with fewer TP53 and PTEN mutations, similar to the profile seen in luminal A female breast cancers. Differences in mutation profiles and patterns of gene gains/losses are seen between BRCA2 (associated with TP53/PTEN mutations, loss of RB1 and gain of HRAS, STK11 and SMARCB1) and BRCAX (associated with PIK3CA mutations) tumours, suggesting that BRCA2 and BRCAX MBCs may be distinct and arise from different tumour pathways. This has implications on potential therapies, depending on the BRCA status of MBC patients.
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    Methylation profiling of ductal carcinoma in situ and its relationship to histopathological features
    Pang, J-MB ; Deb, S ; Takano, EA ; Byrne, DJ ; Jene, N ; Boulghourjian, A ; Holliday, A ; Millar, E ; Lee, CS ; O'Toole, SA ; Dobrovic, A ; Fox, SB (BMC, 2014-01-01)
    INTRODUCTION: DNA methylation is a well-studied biomarker in invasive breast cancer, but its role in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is less well characterized. The aims of this study are to assess the methylation profile in DCIS for a panel of well-characterized genes that are frequently methylated in breast cancer, to investigate the relationship of methylation with pathological features, and to perform a proof-of-principle study to evaluate the practicality of methylation as a biomarker in diagnostic DCIS material. METHODS: Promoter CpG island methylation for a panel of 11 breast cancer-related genes was performed by methylation-sensitive high resolution melting (MS-HRM). Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) biopsies from 72 samples of pure DCIS (DCIS occurring in the absence of synchronous invasive carcinoma), 10 samples of mixed DCIS (DCIS adjacent to invasive carcinoma), and 18 samples of normal breast epithelium adjacent to a DCIS lesion were micro-dissected prior to DNA extraction. RESULTS: Methylation was seen for all the tested genes except BRCA1. RASSF1A was the most frequently methylated gene (90% of DCIS samples) and its methylation was associated with comedo necrosis (p = 0.018). Cluster analysis based on the methylation profile revealed four groups, the highly methylated cluster being significantly associated with high nuclear grade, HER2 amplification, negative estrogen receptor (ER) α status, and negative progesterone receptor (PgR) status, (p = 0.038, p = 0.018, p <0.001, p = 0.001, respectively). Methylation of APC (p = 0.017), CDH13 (p = 0.017), and RARβ (p <0.001) was associated with negative ERα status. Methylation of CDH13 (p <0.001), and RARβ (p = 0.001) was associated with negative PgR status. Methylation of APC (p = 0.013) and CDH13 (p = 0.026) was associated with high nuclear grade. Methylation of CDH13 (p = 0.009), and RARβ (p = 0.042) was associated with HER2-amplification. CONCLUSIONS: DNA methylation can be assessed in FFPE-derived samples using suitable methodologies. Methylation of a panel of genes that are known to be methylated in invasive breast cancer was able to classify DCIS into distinct groups and was differentially associated with phenotypic features in DCIS.
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    Sequence artefacts in a prospective series of formalin-fixed tumours tested for mutations in hotspot regions by massively parallel sequencing
    Wong, SQ ; Li, J ; Tan, AY-C ; Vedururu, R ; Pang, J-MB ; Do, H ; Ellul, J ; Doig, K ; Bell, A ; McArthur, GA ; Fox, SB ; Thomas, DM ; Fellowes, A ; Parisot, JP ; Dobrovic, A (BMC, 2014-05-13)
    BACKGROUND: Clinical specimens undergoing diagnostic molecular pathology testing are fixed in formalin due to the necessity for detailed morphological assessment. However, formalin fixation can cause major issues with molecular testing, as it causes DNA damage such as fragmentation and non-reproducible sequencing artefacts after PCR amplification. In the context of massively parallel sequencing (MPS), distinguishing true low frequency variants from sequencing artefacts remains challenging. The prevalence of formalin-induced DNA damage and its impact on molecular testing and clinical genomics remains poorly understood. METHODS: The Cancer 2015 study is a population-based cancer cohort used to assess the feasibility of mutational screening using MPS in cancer patients from Victoria, Australia. While blocks were formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded in different anatomical pathology laboratories, they were centrally extracted for DNA utilising the same protocol, and run through the same MPS platform (Illumina TruSeq Amplicon Cancer Panel). The sequencing artefacts in the 1-10% and the 10-25% allele frequency ranges were assessed in 488 formalin-fixed tumours from the pilot phase of the Cancer 2015 cohort. All blocks were less than 2.5 years of age (mean 93 days). RESULTS: Consistent with the signature of DNA damage due to formalin fixation, many formalin-fixed samples displayed disproportionate levels of C>T/G>A changes in the 1-10% allele frequency range. Artefacts were less apparent in the 10-25% allele frequency range. Significantly, changes were inversely correlated with coverage indicating high levels of sequencing artefacts were associated with samples with low amounts of available amplifiable template due to fragmentation. The degree of fragmentation and sequencing artefacts differed between blocks sourced from different anatomical pathology laboratories. In a limited validation of potentially actionable low frequency mutations, a NRAS G12D mutation in a melanoma was shown to be a false positive. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that DNA damage following formalin fixation remains a major challenge in laboratories working with MPS. Methodologies that assess, minimise or remove formalin-induced DNA damaged templates as part of MPS protocols will aid in the interpretation of genomic results leading to better patient outcomes.