Gene Summary

Gene:HOXA11; homeobox A11
Aliases: HOX1, HOX1I, RUSAT1
Summary:In vertebrates, the genes encoding the class of transcription factors called homeobox genes are found in clusters named A, B, C, and D on four separate chromosomes. Expression of these proteins is spatially and temporally regulated during embryonic development. This gene is part of the A cluster on chromosome 7 and encodes a DNA-binding transcription factor which may regulate gene expression, morphogenesis, and differentiation. This gene is involved in the regulation of uterine development and is required for female fertility. Mutations in this gene can cause radio-ulnar synostosis with amegakaryocytic thrombocytopenia. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008]
Databases:VEGA, OMIM, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:homeobox protein Hox-A11
Source:NCBIAccessed: 15 March, 2017


What does this gene/protein do?
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Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1992-2017)
Graph generated 15 March 2017 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

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Tag cloud generated 15 March, 2017 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (8)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: HOXA11 (cancer-related)

Wang Q, Zhang J, Liu Y, et al.
A novel cell cycle-associated lncRNA, HOXA11-AS, is transcribed from the 5-prime end of the HOXA transcript and is a biomarker of progression in glioma.
Cancer Lett. 2016; 373(2):251-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
The comprehensive lncRNA expression signature in glioma has not yet been fully elucidated. We performed a high-throughput microarray to detect the ncRNA expression profiles of 220 human glioma tissues. Here, we found that a novel lncRNA, HOXA11-AS, was the antisense transcript of the HOX11 gene. It was shown that HOXA11-AS was closely associated with glioma grade and poor prognosis. Multivariate Cox regression analysis revealed that HOXA11-AS was an independent prognostic factor in glioblastoma multiforme patients, and its expression was correlated with the glioma molecular subtypes of the Cancer Genome Atlas. Gene set enrichment analysis indicated that the gene sets most correlated with HOXA11-AS expression were involved in cell cycle progression. Over-expression of the HOXA11-AS transcript promoted cell proliferation in vitro, while knockdown of HOXA11-AS expression repressed cell proliferation via regulation of cell cycle progression. The growth-promoting and growth-inhibiting effects of HOXA11-AS were also demonstrated in a xenograft mouse model. Our data confirms, for the first time, that HOXA11-AS is an important long non-coding RNA that primarily serves as a prognostic factor for glioma patient survival. HOXA11-AS could serve as a biomarker for identifying glioma molecular subtypes and as therapeutic target for glioma patients.

Unlu C, Celik O, Celik N, Otlu B
Expression of Endometrial Receptivity Genes Increase After Myomectomy of Intramural Leiomyomas not Distorting the Endometrial Cavity.
Reprod Sci. 2016; 23(1):31-41 [PubMed] Related Publications
This study was designed to investigate whether endometrial receptivity genes are altered in infertile patients with intramural leiomyomas (IM) not distorting the endometrial cavity undergoing myomectomy. We measured endometrial HOXA-10, HOXA-11, LIF, ITGB3, and ITGAV messenger RNA (mRNA) expressions levels before and after myomectomy/metroplasty during mid-luteal phase in participants with IM, submucosal leiomyomas (SM), and septate uterus and fertile participants without fibroids. Initial endometrial sampling was obtained at the time of surgery, and second sampling was obtained 3 months after myomectomy/metroplasty. Expressions of each gene were evaluated using real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). A trend toward decreased endometrial HOXA-10, HOXA-11, and ITGAV mRNA expression was detected in both SM and IM groups before myomectomy when compared to both fertile group and septate uterus. However, the differences failed to show statistical significance. After myomectomy of IM, we have detected 12.8-fold increase in endometrial HOXA-10 mRNA expression and 9.0-fold increase in endometrial HOXA-11 mRNA expression. This increase in endometrial HOXA-10 and 11 mRNA expression was significant. Accordingly, 2 patients having intramural fibroids greater than 5 cm were able to remain pregnant after myomectomy. Conversely, submucosal myomectomy did not cause any significant effect on endometrial receptivity markers. Likewise, all markers of endometrial receptivity remained unchanged after metroplasty. Myomectomy of IM have favorable effect on endometrial HOXA-10 and 11 mRNA expression.

Richards EJ, Permuth-Wey J, Li Y, et al.
A functional variant in HOXA11-AS, a novel long non-coding RNA, inhibits the oncogenic phenotype of epithelial ovarian cancer.
Oncotarget. 2015; 6(33):34745-57 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The homeobox A (HOXA) region of protein-coding genes impacts female reproductive system embryogenesis and ovarian carcinogenesis. The 5-prime end of HOXA includes three long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) (HOXA10-AS, HOXA11-AS, and HOTTIP) that are underexplored in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). We evaluated whether common genetic variants in these lncRNAs are associated with EOC risk and/or have functional roles in EOC development. Using genome-wide association study data from 1,201 serous EOC cases and 2,009 controls, an exonic variant within HOXA11-AS, rs17427875 (A>T), was marginally associated with reduced serous EOC risk (OR = 0.88 (95% CI: 0.78-1.01, p = 0.06). Functional studies of ectopic expression of HOXA11-AS minor allele T in EOC cells showed decreased survival, proliferation, migration, and invasion compared to common allele A expression. Additionally, stable expression of HOXA11-AS minor allele T reduced primary tumor growth in mouse xenograft models to a greater extent than common allele A. Furthermore, HOXA11-AS expression levels were significantly lower in human EOC tumors than normal ovarian tissues (p < 0.05), suggesting that HOXA11-AS has a tumor suppressor function in EOC which may be enhanced by the T allele. These findings demonstrate for the first time a role for HOXA11-AS in EOC with effects that could be modified by germline variants.

Chen J, Fu Z, Ji C, et al.
Systematic gene microarray analysis of the lncRNA expression profiles in human uterine cervix carcinoma.
Biomed Pharmacother. 2015; 72:83-90 [PubMed] Related Publications
The human uterine cervix carcinoma is one of the most well-known malignancy reproductive system cancers, which threatens women health globally. However, the mechanisms of the oncogenesis and development process of cervix carcinoma are not yet fully understood. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been proved to play key roles in various biological processes, especially development of cancer. The function and mechanism of lncRNAs on cervix carcinoma is still rarely reported. We selected 3 cervix cancer and normal cervix tissues separately, then performed lncRNA microarray to detect the differentially expressed lncRNAs. Subsequently, we explored the potential function of these dysregulated lncRNAs through online bioinformatics databases. Finally, quantity real-time PCR was carried out to confirm the expression levels of these dysregulated lncRNAs in cervix cancer and normal tissues. We uncovered the profiles of differentially expressed lncRNAs between normal and cervix carcinoma tissues by using the microarray techniques, and found 1622 upregulated and 3026 downregulated lncRNAs (fold-change>2.0) in cervix carcinoma compared to the normal cervical tissue. Furthermore, we found HOXA11-AS might participate in cervix carcinogenesis by regulating HOXA11, which is involved in regulating biological processes of cervix cancer. This study afforded expression profiles of lncRNAs between cervix carcinoma tissue and normal cervical tissue, which could provide database for further research about the function and mechanism of key-lncRNAs in cervix carcinoma, and might be helpful to explore potential diagnosis factors and therapeutic targets for cervix carcinoma.

Cheng Y, Jutooru I, Chadalapaka G, et al.
The long non-coding RNA HOTTIP enhances pancreatic cancer cell proliferation, survival and migration.
Oncotarget. 2015; 6(13):10840-52 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
HOTTIP is a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) transcribed from the 5' tip of the HOXA locus and is associated with the polycomb repressor complex 2 (PRC2) and WD repeat containing protein 5 (WDR5)/mixed lineage leukemia 1 (MLL1) chromatin modifying complexes. HOTTIP is expressed in pancreatic cancer cell lines and knockdown of HOTTIP by RNA interference (siHOTTIP) in Panc1 pancreatic cancer cells decreased proliferation, induced apoptosis and decreased migration. In Panc1 cells transfected with siHOTTIP, there was a decrease in expression of 757 genes and increased expression of 514 genes, and a limited gene analysis indicated that HOTTIP regulation of genes is complex. For example, Aurora kinase A, an important regulator of cell growth, is coregulated by MLL and not WDR5 and, in contrast to previous studies in liver cancer cells, HOTTIP does not regulate HOXA13 but plays a role in regulation of several other HOX genes including HOXA10, HOXB2, HOXA11, HOXA9 and HOXA1. Although HOTTIP and the HOX-associated lncRNA HOTAIR have similar pro-oncogenic functions, they regulate strikingly different sets of genes in Panc1 cells and in pancreatic tumors.

Cui Y, Gao D, Linghu E, et al.
Epigenetic changes and functional study of HOXA11 in human gastric cancer.
Epigenomics. 2015; 7(2):201-13 [PubMed] Related Publications
AIM: To examine epigenetic changes and the function of HOXA11 in human gastric cancer (GC).
MATERIALS & METHODS: Seven GC cell lines, five cases of normal gastric mucosa and 112 cases primary GC samples were used in this study.
RESULTS: Expression of HOXA11 and lack of promoter region methylation were found in NCI-N87, MKN45, BGC823 and HGC27 cells. Loss of expression and complete methylation were found in AGS gastric cancer cells. Reduced expression and partial methylation were found in MGC803 and SGC7901 cells. Restoration of HOXA11 expression was induced by 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. HOXA11 was methylated in 81.25% (91/112) of primary GCs. The presence of methylation was associated with male gender, tumor size, tumor differentiation and lymph node metastasis (all p < 0.05). Restoration of HOXA11 expression reduced cell proliferation, invasion, migration and induced apoptosis and G2/M phase arrest. HOXA11 was found to inhibit Wnt signaling by upregulating NKD1 expression.
CONCLUSION: Epigenetic silencing of HOXA11 promotes GC proliferation, migration and invasion through activation of Wnt signaling.

Fang F, Munck J, Tang J, et al.
The novel, small-molecule DNA methylation inhibitor SGI-110 as an ovarian cancer chemosensitizer.
Clin Cancer Res. 2014; 20(24):6504-16 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
PURPOSE: To investigate SGI-110 as a "chemosensitizer" in ovarian cancer and to assess its effects on tumor suppressor genes (TSG) and chemoresponsiveness-associated genes silenced by DNA methylation in ovarian cancer.
EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Several ovarian cancer cell lines were used for in vitro and in vivo platinum resensitization studies. Changes in DNA methylation and expression levels of TSG and other cancer-related genes in response to SGI-110 were measured by pyrosequencing and RT-PCR.
RESULTS: We demonstrate in vitro that SGI-110 resensitized a range of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin (CDDP) and induced significant demethylation and reexpression of TSG, differentiation-associated genes, and putative drivers of ovarian cancer cisplatin resistance. In vivo, SGI-110 alone or in combination with CDDP was well tolerated and induced antitumor effects in ovarian cancer xenografts. Pyrosequencing analyses confirmed that SGI-110 caused both global (LINE1) and gene-specific hypomethylation in vivo, including TSGs (RASSF1A), proposed drivers of ovarian cancer cisplatin resistance (MLH1 and ZIC1), differentiation-associated genes (HOXA10 and HOXA11), and transcription factors (STAT5B). Furthermore, DNA damage induced by CDDP in ovarian cancer cells was increased by SGI-110, as measured by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry analysis of DNA adduct formation and repair of cisplatin-induced DNA damage.
CONCLUSIONS: These results strongly support further investigation of hypomethylating strategies in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. Specifically, SGI-110 in combination with conventional and/or targeted therapeutics warrants further development in this setting.

Conway K, Edmiston SN, May R, et al.
DNA methylation profiling in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study defines cancer subclasses differing in clinicopathologic characteristics and survival.
Breast Cancer Res. 2014; 16(5):450 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
INTRODUCTION: Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease, with several intrinsic subtypes differing by hormone receptor (HR) status, molecular profiles, and prognosis. However, the role of DNA methylation in breast cancer development and progression and its relationship with the intrinsic tumor subtypes are not fully understood.
METHODS: A microarray targeting promoters of cancer-related genes was used to evaluate DNA methylation at 935 CpG sites in 517 breast tumors from the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, a population-based study of invasive breast cancer.
RESULTS: Consensus clustering using methylation (β) values for the 167 most variant CpG loci defined four clusters differing most distinctly in HR status, intrinsic subtype (luminal versus basal-like), and p53 mutation status. Supervised analyses for HR status, subtype, and p53 status identified 266 differentially methylated CpG loci with considerable overlap. Genes relatively hypermethylated in HR+, luminal A, or p53 wild-type breast cancers included FABP3, FGF2, FZD9, GAS7, HDAC9, HOXA11, MME, PAX6, POMC, PTGS2, RASSF1, RBP1, and SCGB3A1, whereas those more highly methylated in HR-, basal-like, or p53 mutant tumors included BCR, C4B, DAB2IP, MEST, RARA, SEPT5, TFF1, THY1, and SERPINA5. Clustering also defined a hypermethylated luminal-enriched tumor cluster 3 that gene ontology analysis revealed to be enriched for homeobox and other developmental genes (ASCL2, DLK1, EYA4, GAS7, HOXA5, HOXA9, HOXB13, IHH, IPF1, ISL1, PAX6, TBX1, SOX1, and SOX17). Although basal-enriched cluster 2 showed worse short-term survival, the luminal-enriched cluster 3 showed worse long-term survival but was not independently prognostic in multivariate Cox proportional hazard analysis, likely due to the mostly early stage cases in this dataset.
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that epigenetic patterns are strongly associated with HR status, subtype, and p53 mutation status and may show heterogeneity within tumor subclass. Among HR+ breast tumors, a subset exhibiting a gene signature characterized by hypermethylation of developmental genes and poorer clinicopathologic features may have prognostic value and requires further study. Genes differentially methylated between clinically important tumor subsets have roles in differentiation, development, and tumor growth and may be critical to establishing and maintaining tumor phenotypes and clinical outcomes.

Uchida K, Veeramachaneni R, Huey B, et al.
Investigation of HOXA9 promoter methylation as a biomarker to distinguish oral cancer patients at low risk of neck metastasis.
BMC Cancer. 2014; 14:353 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Metastasis to the cervical (neck) lymph nodes is one of the most significant clinical factors responsible for death from oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Therefore, the lymph nodes are frequently removed when the tumor is excised (neck dissection), even though the majority of patients will not benefit from the extra surgery. Two subtypes of oral SCC distinguished by the presence of tumor genomic aberrations +3q, -8p, +8q and/or +20 differ in risk for metastasis - high for the 3q8pq20 subtype, harboring one or more of the aberrations and low for the non-3q8pq20 subtype, lacking these alterations. A prior analysis of the literature suggested genes differentially methylated in the two subtypes. Therefore, the goal of this study was to further investigate the methylation status of candidate biomarkers of the non-3q8pq20 subtype, and evaluate their utility for identifying patients at low risk for metastasis.
METHODS: Methylation status of genes in a cohort of 52 oral SCC patients with at least five year follow up was determined by pyrosequencing. Gene expression levels were determined by quantitative RT-PCR. Growth following re-expression of HOXA9 in cultured oral SCC cells was assessed by proliferation and colony formation assays.
RESULTS: A pilot study evaluating methylation levels of HOXA9, MT1A and HOXA11 promoters in DNA from 12 tumors (six each of the 3q8pq20 and non-3q8pq20 subtypes) revealed that only HOXA9 was differentially methylated. Significant differences in methylation levels of HOXA9 were observed amongst the 52 oral SCCs with respect to genomic subtype and nodal status (p = 0.014, and p = 0.024, respectively, Wilcoxon rank sum test). High levels of HOXA9 methylation and low levels of expression in oral SCC cell lines were observed compared to HaCaT, a non-tumorigenic keratinocyte cell line. Re-expression of HOXA9 in the SCC4 oral cancer cell line resulted in diminished proliferation and colony formation.
CONCLUSIONS: HOXA9 methylation is frequent in oral cancers and levels are higher in tumors with greater risk of metastasis. Expression of HOXA9 is low in cells with high levels of methylation and reduced expression appears to confer a growth advantage.

Xavier FC, Destro MF, Duarte CM, Nunes FD
Epigenetic repression of HOXB cluster in oral cancer cell lines.
Arch Oral Biol. 2014; 59(8):783-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: Aberrant DNA methylation is a fundamental transcriptional control mechanism in carcinogenesis. The expression of homeobox genes is usually controlled by an epigenetic mechanism, such as the methylation of CpG islands in the promoter region. The aim of this study was to describe the differential methylation pattern of HOX genes in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) cell lines and transcript status in a group of hypermethylated and hypomethylated genes.
DESIGN: Quantitative analysis of DNA methylation was performed on two OSCC cell lines (SCC4 and SCC9) using a method denominated Human Homeobox Genes EpiTect Methyl qPCR Arrays, which allowed fast, precise methylation detection of 24 HOX specific genes without bisulfite conversion.
RESULTS: Methylation greater than 50% was detected in HOXA11, HOXA6, HOXA7, HOXA9, HOXB1, HOXB2, HOXB3, HOXB4, HOXB5, HOXB6, HOXC8 and HOXD10. Both cell lines demonstrated similar hypermethylation status for eight HOX genes. A similar pattern of promoter hypermethylation and hypomethylation was demonstrated for the HOXB cluster and HOXA cluster, respectively. Moreover, the hypermethylation profile of the HOXB cluster, especially HOXB4, was correlated with decreased transcript expression, which was restored following treatment with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine.
CONCLUSIONS: The homeobox methylation profile in OSCC cell lines is consistent with an epigenetic biomarker.

Hou X, Peng JX, Hao XY, et al.
DNA methylation profiling identifies EYA4 gene as a prognostic molecular marker in hepatocellular carcinoma.
Ann Surg Oncol. 2014; 21(12):3891-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: DNA hypermethylation plays important roles in carcinogenesis by silencing key genes. This study aims to identify pivotal genes in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) by DNA methylation microarray and to assess their prognostic values.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: DNA methylation microarray was performed in 45 pairs of HCC and adjacent nontumorous tissues and six normal liver tissues to identify hypermethylated genes in HCC. Potential prognosis-related genes were selected among hypermethylated genes by analyzing influences of methylation levels on disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) in 45 patients. Their prognostic values were validated in 154 patients with HCC (including the initial 45 patients) to determine the independent prognostic gene.
RESULTS: Altogether, 54 CpG islands in 44 genes were hypermethylated in HCC compared with liver tissues. Among them, methylation levels of ERG and HOXA11 were inversely associated with DFS (both P < 0.050), and methylation levels of EYA4 were inversely related to DFS and OS (both P < 0.050). EYA4 expression was inversely related to tumor size (P < 0.050). Lower EYA4 expression and larger tumor size were independent predictors of both shorter DFS and OS, and higher Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) staging was an independent predictor of shorter OS (all P < 0.050).
CONCLUSIONS: EYA4 functions as a prognostic molecular marker in HCC. Its aberrant hypermethylation and subsequent down-regulation may promote tumor progression.

Hwang JA, Lee BB, Kim Y, et al.
HOXA11 hypermethylation is associated with progression of non-small cell lung cancer.
Oncotarget. 2013; 4(12):2317-25 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
This study was aimed at understanding the functional significance of HOXA11 hypermethylation in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). HOXA11 hypermethylation was characterized in six lung cancer cell lines, and its clinical significance was analyzed using formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues from 317 NSCLC patients, and Ki-67 expression was analyzed using immunohistochemistry. The promoter region of HOXA11 was highly methylated in six lung cancer cell lines, but not in normal bronchial epithelial cells. The loss of expression was restored by treatment of the cells with a demethylating agent, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-Aza-dC). Transient transfection of HOXA11 into H23 lung cancer cells resulted in the inhibition of cell migration and proliferation. HOXA11 hypermethylation was found in 218 (69%) of 317 primary NSCLCs. HOXA11 hypermethylation was found at a higher prevalence in squamous cell carcinoma than in adenocarcinoma (74% vs. 63%, respectively). HOXA11 hypermethylation was associated with Ki-67 proliferation index (P = 0.03) and pT stage (P = 0.002), but not with patient survival. Patients with pT2 and pT3 stages were 1.85 times (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.04-3.29; P = 0.04) and 5.47 times (95% CI = 1.18-25.50; P = 0.01), respectively, more likely to show HOXA11 hypermethylation than those with pT1 stage, after adjusting for age, sex, and histology. In conclusion, the present study suggests that HOXA11 hypermethylation may contribute to the progression of NSCLC by promoting cell proliferation or migration.

Kang JU
Characterization of amplification patterns and target genes on the short arm of chromosome 7 in early-stage lung adenocarcinoma.
Mol Med Rep. 2013; 8(5):1373-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
Chromosomal alterations are a predominant genomic force contributing to the development of lung adenocarcinoma (ADC). High density genomic arrays were conducted to identify critical genetic landmarks that may be important mediators in the formation or progression of early‑stage ADC. In this study, the most noteworthy and consistent observation was a copy number gain on the short arm of chromosome 7, which was detected in 85.7% (12/14) of cases. Notably, three distinct regions of amplification were identified between the 7p22.3 and q11.2 regions in 28.6% (4/14) of cases; at a size of 4.1 Mbp (7p22.3‑p21.1), 2.6 Mbp (7p15.2-p14.1) and 1.5 Mbp (7p12.3‑p11.2). Variations of the 7p11.2 locus that encodes EGFR are known to be oncogenic. Furthermore, potential target genes were identified that were previously not assumed to be involved in the pathogenesis of ADC, including CALM1P2 (7p11.2), HOXA4, HOXA5, HOXA6, HOXA7, HOXA9, HOXA10, HOXA11 and HOXA13 (7p15.2) and LOC442586, LOC442589, LOC442282, FAM20C and LOC442651 (7p22.3). The present study determined critical regions on the 7p arm of chromosome 7, which were implicated in ADC. The pattern of rearrangements on the 7p arm may be a consequence of the high density of potential targets and the identified genes at the 7p regions may aid in the development of therapeutic targets for ADC.

DeInnocentes P, Perry AL, Graff EC, et al.
Characterization of HOX gene expression in canine mammary tumour cell lines from spontaneous tumours.
Vet Comp Oncol. 2015; 13(3):322-36 [PubMed] Related Publications
Spatial/temporal controls of development are regulated by the homeotic (HOX) gene complex and require integration with oncogenes and tumour suppressors regulating cell cycle exit. Spontaneously derived neoplastic canine mammary carcinoma cell models were investigated to determine if HOX expression profiles were associated with neoplasia as HOX genes promote neoplastic potential in human cancers. Comparative assessment of human and canine breast cancer expression profiles revealed remarkable similarity for all four paralogous HOX gene clusters and several unlinked HOX genes. Five canine HOX genes were overexpressed with expression profiles consistent with oncogene-like character (HOXA1, HOXA13, HOXD4, HOXD9 and SIX1) and three HOX genes with underexpressed profiles (HOXA11, HOXC8 and HOXC9) were also identified as was an apparent nonsense mutation in HOXC6. This data, as well as a comparative analysis of similar data from human breast cancers suggested expression of selected HOX genes in canine mammary carcinoma could be contributing to the neoplastic phenotype.

Coenen EA, Zwaan CM, Reinhardt D, et al.
Pediatric acute myeloid leukemia with t(8;16)(p11;p13), a distinct clinical and biological entity: a collaborative study by the International-Berlin-Frankfurt-Munster AML-study group.
Blood. 2013; 122(15):2704-13 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
In pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML), cytogenetic abnormalities are strong indicators of prognosis. Some recurrent cytogenetic abnormalities, such as t(8;16)(p11;p13), are so rare that collaborative studies are required to define their prognostic impact. We collected the clinical characteristics, morphology, and immunophenotypes of 62 pediatric AML patients with t(8;16)(p11;p13) from 18 countries participating in the International Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster (I-BFM) AML study group. We used the AML-BFM cohort diagnosed from 1995-2005 (n = 543) as a reference cohort. Median age of the pediatric t(8;16)(p11;p13) AML patients was significantly lower (1.2 years). The majority (97%) had M4-M5 French-American-British type, significantly different from the reference cohort. Erythrophagocytosis (70%), leukemia cutis (58%), and disseminated intravascular coagulation (39%) occurred frequently. Strikingly, spontaneous remissions occurred in 7 neonates with t(8;16)(p11;p13), of whom 3 remain in continuous remission. The 5-year overall survival of patients diagnosed after 1993 was 59%, similar to the reference cohort (P = .14). Gene expression profiles of t(8;16)(p11;p13) pediatric AML cases clustered close to, but distinct from, MLL-rearranged AML. Highly expressed genes included HOXA11, HOXA10, RET, PERP, and GGA2. In conclusion, pediatric t(8;16)(p11;p13) AML is a rare entity defined by a unique gene expression signature and distinct clinical features in whom spontaneous remissions occur in a subset of neonatal cases.

Skiriutė D, Vaitkienė P, Ašmonienė V, et al.
Promoter methylation of AREG, HOXA11, hMLH1, NDRG2, NPTX2 and Tes genes in glioblastoma.
J Neurooncol. 2013; 113(3):441-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
Epigenetic alterations alone or in combination with genetic mechanisms play a key role in brain tumorigenesis. Glioblastoma is one of the most common, lethal and poor clinical outcome primary brain tumors with extraordinarily miscellaneous epigenetic alterations profile. The aim of this study was to investigate new potential prognostic epigenetic markers such as AREG, HOXA11, hMLH1, NDRG2, NTPX2 and Tes genes promoter methylation, frequency and value for patients outcome. We examined the promoter methylation status using methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction in 100 glioblastoma tissue samples. The value for clinical outcome was calculated using Kaplan-Meier estimation with log-rank test. DNA promoter methylation was frequent event appearing more than 45 % for gene. AREG and HOXA11 methylation status was significantly associated with patient age. HOXA11 showed the tendency to be associated with patient outcome in glioblastomas. AREG gene promoter methylation showed significant correlation with poor patient outcome. AREG methylation remained significantly associated with patient survival in a Cox multivariate model including MGMT promoter methylation status. This study of new epigenetic targets has shown considerably high level of analyzed genes promoter methylation variability in glioblastoma tissue. AREG gene might be valuable marker for glioblastoma patient survival prognosis, however further analysis is needed to clarify the independence and appropriateness of the marker.

Li Z, Zhang Z, Li Y, et al.
PBX3 is an important cofactor of HOXA9 in leukemogenesis.
Blood. 2013; 121(8):1422-31 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Although PBX proteins are known to increase DNA-binding/transcriptional activity of HOX proteins through their direct binding, the functional importance of their interaction in leukemogenesis is unclear.We recently reported that overexpression of a 4-homeobox-gene signature (ie, PBX3/HOXA7/HOXA9/HOXA11) is an independent predictor of poor survival in patients with cytogenetically abnormal acute myeloid leukemia (CA-AML). Here we show that it is PBX3, but not PBX1 or PBX2, that is consistently coexpressed with HOXA9 in various subtypes of CA-AML, particularly MLL-rearranged AML, and thus appears as a potential pathologic cofactor of HOXA9 in CA-AML. We then show that depletion of endogenous Pbx3 expression by shRNA significantly inhibits MLL-fusion-mediated cell transformation, and coexpressed PBX3 exhibits a significantly synergistic effect with HOXA9 in promoting cell transformation in vitro and leukemogenesis in vivo. Furthermore, as a proof of concept, we show that a small peptide, namely HXR9, which was developed to specifically disrupt the interactions between HOX and PBX proteins, can selectively kill leukemic cells with overexpression of HOXA/PBX3 genes. Collectively, our data suggest that PBX3 is a critical cofactor of HOXA9 in leukemogenesis, and targeting their interaction is a feasible strategy to treat presently therapy resistant CA-AML (eg, MLL-rearranged leukemia) in which HOXA/PBX3 genes are overexpressed.

Matei D, Fang F, Shen C, et al.
Epigenetic resensitization to platinum in ovarian cancer.
Cancer Res. 2012; 72(9):2197-205 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Preclinical studies have shown that hypomethylating agents reverse platinum resistance in ovarian cancer. In this phase II clinical trial, based upon the results of our phase I dose defining study, we tested the clinical and biologic activity of low-dose decitabine administered before carboplatin in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer patients. Among 17 patients with heavily pretreated and platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, the regimen induced a 35% objective response rate (RR) and progression-free survival (PFS) of 10.2 months, with nine patients (53%) free of progression at 6 months. Global and gene-specific DNA demethylation was achieved in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and tumors. The number of demethylated genes was greater (P < 0.05) in tumor biopsies from patients with PFS more than 6 versus less than 6 months (311 vs. 244 genes). Pathways enriched at baseline in tumors from patients with PFS more than 6 months included cytokine-cytokine receptor interactions, drug transporters, and mitogen-activated protein kinase, toll-like receptor and Jak-STAT signaling pathways, whereas those enriched in demethylated genes after decitabine treatment included pathways involved in cancer, Wnt signaling, and apoptosis (P < 0.01). Demethylation of MLH1, RASSF1A, HOXA10, and HOXA11 in tumors positively correlated with PFS (P < 0.05). Together, the results of this study suggest that low-dose decitabine altered DNA methylation of genes and cancer pathways, restoring sensitivity to carboplatin in patients with heavily pretreated ovarian cancer and resulting in a high RR and prolonged PFS.

Li Z, Huang H, Li Y, et al.
Up-regulation of a HOXA-PBX3 homeobox-gene signature following down-regulation of miR-181 is associated with adverse prognosis in patients with cytogenetically abnormal AML.
Blood. 2012; 119(10):2314-24 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Increased expression levels of miR-181 family members have been shown to be associated with favorable outcome in patients with cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia. Here we show that increased expression of miR-181a and miR-181b is also significantly (P < .05; Cox regression) associated with favorable overall survival in cytogenetically abnormal AML (CA-AML) patients. We further show that up-regulation of a gene signature composed of 4 potential miR-181 targets (including HOXA7, HOXA9, HOXA11, and PBX3), associated with down-regulation of miR-181 family members, is an independent predictor of adverse overall survival on multivariable testing in analysis of 183 CA-AML patients. The independent prognostic impact of this 4-homeobox-gene signature was confirmed in a validation set of 271 CA-AML patients. Furthermore, our in vitro and in vivo studies indicated that ectopic expression of miR-181b significantly promoted apoptosis and inhibited viability/proliferation of leukemic cells and delayed leukemogenesis; such effects could be reversed by forced expression of PBX3. Thus, the up-regulation of the 4 homeobox genes resulting from the down-regulation of miR-181 family members probably contribute to the poor prognosis of patients with nonfavorable CA-AML. Restoring expression of miR-181b and/or targeting the HOXA/PBX3 pathways may provide new strategies to improve survival substantially.

Shu Y, Wang B, Wang J, et al.
Identification of methylation profile of HOX genes in extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.
World J Gastroenterol. 2011; 17(29):3407-19 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
AIM: To identify methylation profile and novel tumor marker of extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) with high throughout microarray.
METHODS: Differential methylation profile was compared between normal bile duct epithelial cell lines and CCA cell lines by methyl-DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) microarray. Bisulfite-polymerase chain reaction (BSP) was performed to identify the methylated allels of target genes. Expression of target genes was investigated before and after the treatment with DNA demethylating agent. Expression of candidate genes was also evaluated by immunofluorescence in 30 specimens of CCA tissues and 9 normal bile duct tissues.
RESULTS: Methylation profile of CCA was identified with MeDIP microarray in the respects of different gene functions and signaling pathways. Interestingly, 97 genes with hypermethylated CpG islands in the promoter region were homeobox genes. The top 5 hypermethylated homeobox genes validated by BSP were HOXA2 (94.29%), HOXA5 (95.38%), HOXA11 (91.67%), HOXB4 (90.56%) and HOXD13 (94.38%). Expression of these genes was reactivated with 5'-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. Significant expression differences were found between normal bile duct and extrahepatic CCA tissues (66.67%-100% vs 3.33%-10%).
CONCLUSION: HOXA2, HOXA5, HOXA11, HOXB4 and HOXD13 may work as differential epigenetic biomarkers between malignant and benign biliary tissues.

Son JW, Jeong KJ, Jean WS, et al.
Genome-wide combination profiling of DNA copy number and methylation for deciphering biomarkers in non-small cell lung cancer patients.
Cancer Lett. 2011; 311(1):29-37 [PubMed] Related Publications
Early detection of lung cancer provides the highest potential for saving lives. To date, no routine screening method enabling early detection is available, which is a key factor in the disease's high mortality rate. Copy number changes and DNA methylation alterations are good indicators of carcinogenesis and cancer prognosis. In this study, we attempted to combine profiles of DNA copy number and methylation patterns in 20 paired cancerous and noncancerous tissue samples from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, and we detected several clinically important genes with genetic and epigenetic relationships. Using array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), statistically significant differences were observed across the histological subtypes for gains at 1p31.1, 3q26.1, and 3q26.31-3q29 as well as for losses at 1p21.1, 2q33.3, 2q37.3, 3p12.3, 4q35.2, and 13q34 in squamous cell carcinoma (SQ) patients, and losses at 12q24.33 were measured in adenocarcinoma (AD) patients (p < 0.05). In an analysis of DNA methylation at 1505 autosomal CpG loci that are associated with 807 cancer-related genes, we identified six and nine loci with higher and lower DNA methylation levels, respectively, in tumor tissue compared to non-tumor lung tissues from AD patients. In addition, three loci with higher and seven loci with lower DNA methylation levels were identified in tumor tissue from SQ patients compared to non-tumor lung tissue. Subsequently, we searched for regions exhibiting concomitant hypermethylation and genomic loss in both ADs and SQs. One clone representing 7p15.2 (which includes candidate genes such as HOXA9 and HOXA11) and one target ID representing HOXA9_E252_R were detected. Quantitative real-time PCR identified the potential candidate gene HOXA9 as being down-regulated in the majority of NSCLC patients. Moreover, following HOXA9 over-expression, the invasion of representative cell lines, A549 and HCC95, were significantly inhibited. Taken together, our results show that the combined profiling analysis technique is a useful tool for identifying biomarkers in lung cancer and that HOXA9 might be a potential candidate gene for the pathogenesis and diagnosis of NSCLC patients.

Rønneberg JA, Fleischer T, Solvang HK, et al.
Methylation profiling with a panel of cancer related genes: association with estrogen receptor, TP53 mutation status and expression subtypes in sporadic breast cancer.
Mol Oncol. 2011; 5(1):61-76 [PubMed] Related Publications
Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease that can be divided in subtypes based on histology, gene expression profiles as well as differences in genomic aberrations. Distinct global DNA methylation profiles have been reported in normal breast epithelial cells as well as in breast tumors. However, the influence of the tumor methylome on the previously described subgroups of breast cancer is not fully understood. Here we report the DNA methylation profiles of 80 breast tumors using a panel of 807 cancer related genes interrogating 1505 CpG sites. We identified three major clusters based on the methylation profiles; one consisting of mainly tumors of myoepithelial origin and two other clusters with tumors of predominantly luminal epithelial origin. The clusters were different with respect to estrogen receptor status, TP53 status, ErbB2 status and grade. The most significantly differentially methylated genes including HDAC1, TFF1, OGG1, BMP3, FZD9 and HOXA11 were confirmed by pyrosequencing. Gene Ontology analysis revealed enrichment for genes involved in developmental processes including homeobox domain genes (HOXA9, HOXA11, PAX6, MYBL2, ISL1 and IPF1) and (ETS1, HDAC1, CREBBP, GAS7, SPI1 and TBX1). Extensive correlation to mRNA expression was observed. Pathway analyses identified a significant association with canonical (curated) pathways such as hepatic fibrosis including genes like EGF, NGFR and TNF, dendritic cell maturation and the NF-κB signaling pathway. Our results show that breast tumor expression subtypes harbor major epigenetic differences and tumors with similar gene expression profiles might belong to epigenetically different subtypes. Some of the transcription factors identified, with key roles in differentiation and development might play a role in inducing and maintaining the different phenotypes.

Fang F, Balch C, Schilder J, et al.
A phase 1 and pharmacodynamic study of decitabine in combination with carboplatin in patients with recurrent, platinum-resistant, epithelial ovarian cancer.
Cancer. 2010; 116(17):4043-53 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Aberrant DNA methylation is a hallmark of cancer, and DNA methyltransferase inhibitors have demonstrated clinical efficacy in hematologic malignancies. On the basis of preclinical studies indicating that hypomethylating agents can reverse platinum resistance in ovarian cancer cells, the authors conducted a phase 1 trial of low-dose decitabine combined with carboplatin in patients with recurrent, platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.
METHODS: Decitabine was administered intravenously daily for 5 days, before carboplatin (area under the curve, 5) on Day 8 of a 28-day cycle. By using a standard 3 + 3 dose escalation, decitabine was tested at 2 dose levels: 10 mg/m(2) (7 patients) or 20 mg/m(2) (3 patients). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and plasma collected on Days 1 (pretreatment), 5, 8, and 15 were used to assess global (LINE-1 repetitive element) and gene-specific DNA methylation.
RESULTS: Dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) at the 20-mg/m(2) dose was grade 4 neutropenia (2 patients), and no DLTs were observed at 10 mg/m(2). The most common toxicities were nausea, allergic reactions, neutropenia, fatigue, anorexia, vomiting, and abdominal pain, the majority being grades 1-2. One complete response was observed, and 3 additional patients had stable disease for >/=6 months. LINE-1 hypomethylation on Days 8 and 15 was detected in DNA from PBMCs. Of 5 ovarian cancer-associated methylated genes, HOXA11 and BRCA1 were demethylated in plasma on Days 8 and 15.
CONCLUSIONS: Repetitive low-dose decitabine is tolerated when combined with carboplatin in ovarian cancer patients, and demonstrates biological (ie, DNA-hypomethylating) activity, justifying further testing for clinical efficacy. Cancer 2010. (c) 2010 American Cancer Society.

Widschwendter M, Apostolidou S, Jones AA, et al.
HOXA methylation in normal endometrium from premenopausal women is associated with the presence of ovarian cancer: a proof of principle study.
Int J Cancer. 2009; 125(9):2214-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
DNA methylation of polycomb group target (PCGT) genes is an early step in carcinogenesis and could potentially be assayed to determine cancer risk prediction. To assess whether methylation changes in PCGT genes in normal tissue is able to predict the presence of cancer, we studied HOXA gene methylation in normal endometrium from premenopausal ovarian cancer patients and age-matched healthy controls without ovarian cancer. DNA methylation of HOXA9 and HOXA11 genes in normal endometrium was associated with ovarian cancer in an initial test set and this was subsequently confirmed in independent validation sample sets. The overall risk of ovarian cancer was increased 12.3-fold by high HOXA9 methylation for all stages, and 14.8-fold for early stage ovarian cancers, independent of age, phase of the menstrual cycle and histology of the cancer. The results of this proof of principle study demonstrate the potential to detect ovarian cancer via analysis of normal endometrial cells and provide insight into the possible contribution of this novel approach in ovarian cancer risk prediction and prevention.

Apostolidou S, Hadwin R, Burnell M, et al.
DNA methylation analysis in liquid-based cytology for cervical cancer screening.
Int J Cancer. 2009; 125(12):2995-3002 [PubMed] Related Publications
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women worldwide. Preinvasive disease can be detected by cervical cytology. All currently available cytology technologies rely on the visual analysis of exfoliated cells from the uterine cervix. Improvement of conventional cytological screening has been proposed by the introduction of molecular-based markers applied to liquid-based cytology (LBC), the suspension of cells collected from the cervix. DNA methylation changes occur very early in carcinogenesis and identification of appropriate DNA methylation markers in such samples should be able to distinguish high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL) from nonspecific cytology changes and the normal cervix. To address this potential, we have undertaken a proof-of-principle study of methylation status of LBC samples from HSIL cytology cases compared against matched normal controls. Using quantitative methylation-specific PCR on 28 genes, we found SOX1, HOXA11 and CADM1 to significantly discriminate between the groups analyzed (p<0.01). Area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve (AUC) demonstrated that methylation of SOX1, HOXA11 and CADM1 could discriminate between HSIL cases and controls with high sensitivity and specificity (AUC 0.910, 0.844 and 0.760, respectively). The results were further validated in an independent set. This proof-of-principle study is the first to validate the results in an independent case/control set and presents HOXA11, a gene that is important for cervical development, as a potentially useful DNA marker in LBC samples. Further assessment of these preliminary estimates will need to be performed in a larger cohort to confirm clinical utility.

Martinez R, Martin-Subero JI, Rohde V, et al.
A microarray-based DNA methylation study of glioblastoma multiforme.
Epigenetics. 2009; 4(4):255-64 [PubMed] Related Publications
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most frequent and devastating primary brain tumor in adults. The presence of epigenetic lesions, like hypermethylation of known tumor suppressor genes such as MGMT, has been widely described in GBM, but to our knowledge, a genome-wide profile of DNA methylation changes in these lethal tumors is not yet available. In the present analysis, we have quantified the DNA methylation level of 1,505 CpG dinucleotides (807 genes) in 87 consecutive GBMs using universal BeadArrays. Supervised cluster analyses identified 25 and seven genes that were respectively hypermethylated and hypomethylated in more than 20% of the cases studied. The most frequently hypermethylated genes were HOXA11, CD81, PRKCDBP, TES, MEST, TNFRSF10A and FZD9, being involved in more than half of the cases. Studying the biological features of hypermethylated genes, we found that the group of genes hypermethylated in GBM was highly enriched (41%, p < 0.001) for targets of the PRC2 (Polycomb repressive complex 2) in embryonic stem cells. This suggests that GBM might be derived from precursor cells with stem cell-like features. DNA methylation profiles were associated with overall survival in GBM, and we confirmed the favorable prognostic impact of MGMT methylation in patients treated with alkylating agents. Furthermore, we identified that promoter hypermethylation of the transcription factor gene GATA6 (occurring in 30% of GBM) was significantly associated with unfavorable patient survival.

Bennett LB, Schnabel JL, Kelchen JM, et al.
DNA hypermethylation accompanied by transcriptional repression in follicular lymphoma.
Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2009; 48(9):828-41 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
High-throughput microarray technologies were used to study DNA methylation accompanied by transcriptional changes in follicular lymphoma (FL). Using Methylated CpG Island Amplification with Microarrays to study CpG Island DNA methylation in FL, we discovered widespread hypermethylation of homeobox genes and previously identified targets of polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) in cell lines and primary tumors, but not in benign follicular hyperplasia (BFH). DNA methylation for HOXA11, HOXD10, HOXB7, HOXC12, PAX6, LHX9, SFMBT2, EN2, and PAX7 was independently validated in the RL cell line and HOXA11, HOXD10, PAX6, and EN2 in primary tumors. Combined Bisulfite Restriction Analysis (COBRA) also established DNA methylation for the previously identified PRC2 targets DCC, DES, GAD2, AQP5, GPR61, GRIA4, GJD2, and AMPH in FL but not in BFH. Gene expression analyses revealed 411 genes that were hypermethylated and transcriptionally repressed in RL, 74% of which were reactivated by the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-azaD) plus or minus the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA). Forty genes were also downregulated in primary FL. Our results suggest that extensive hypermethylation in promoters of polycomb target genes is a characteristic of FL and that loss of expression of certain SUZ12 target genes could be functionally relevant for lymphomagenesis.

Mizoguchi Y, Fujita N, Taki T, et al.
Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia with t(7;11)(p15;p15) and NUP98-HOXA11 fusion.
Am J Hematol. 2009; 84(5):295-7 [PubMed] Related Publications
The t(7;11)(p15;p15) translocation has been reported as a rare and recurrent chromosomal abnormality in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. The NUP98-HOXA9 fusion gene with t(7;11)(p15;p15) was identified and revealed to be essential for leukemogenesis and myeloproliferative disease. To date, t(7;11)(p15;p15) with NUP98-HOXA11 fusion has been reported only in one case of ph-negative chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Here, we report a case of a 3-year-old girl with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) carrying t(7;11)(p15;p15) abnormality with NUP98-HOXA11 fusion. AML chemotherapy followed by bone marrow transplantation (BMT) was found to be effective in treating this disorder, and she remains in complete remission for 3 years after BMT. We suggest the possibility that AML chemotherapy might be effective for treating JMML with t(7;11)(p15;p15) abnormality and NUP98-HOXA11 fusion.

Rackow BW, Taylor HS
Submucosal uterine leiomyomas have a global effect on molecular determinants of endometrial receptivity.
Fertil Steril. 2010; 93(6):2027-34 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of uterine leiomyomas on the endometrium using molecular markers of endometrial receptivity: HOXA10, HOXA11, LIF, and BTEB1.
DESIGN: Case-control study.
SETTING: University medical center.
PATIENT(S): Thirty reproductive-aged women with submucosal, intramural, or no uterine myomas who underwent hysteroscopy or hysterectomy.
INTERVENTION(S): Proliferative phase endometrial sampling was performed at the time of surgery. In uteri with a submucosal myoma, directed endometrial biopsies were obtained over the myoma and over normal myometrium.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Endometrial HOXA10 expression was evaluated as a primary endpoint using quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunohistochemistry. HOXA11, BTEB1, and LIF were evaluated using real-time RT-PCR.
RESULT(S): Endometrial HOXA10 and HOXA11 messenger RNA (mRNA) expression were significantly decreased in uteri with submucosal myomas compared with controls and with uteri with intramural myomas. A similar trend was seen in BTEB1 mRNA expression; however, no difference was found in LIF mRNA expression. Immunohistochemistry localized the decrease in endometrial HOXA10 protein expression to stroma. In the presence of a submucosal myoma, there were no regional differences in gene expression.
CONCLUSION(S): The molecular mechanism by which submucosal myomas adversely affect reproduction includes a global decrease in endometrial HOX gene expression, not simply a focal change over the myoma. This may explain the reproductive dysfunction observed with submucosal myomas.

Chow KU, Nowak D, Kim SZ, et al.
In vivo drug-response in patients with leukemic non-Hodgkin's lymphomas is associated with in vitro chemosensitivity and gene expression profiling.
Pharmacol Res. 2006; 53(1):49-61 [PubMed] Related Publications
Only a few approaches are available to address the mechanisms of cell death in vivo which are induced by anticancer treatment in patients with malignancies. In this study in vitro chemosensitivity testing of primary peripheral blood leukemic cells of five patients suffering from different leukemic non-Hodgkin's lymphomas was combined with the analysis of the in vivo rate of apoptosis by flow-cytometry (Annexin V and depolarisation of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) by JC-1). Furthermore, changes in expression patterns of apoptosis related proteins during chemotherapeutic treatment were detected by Western Blot. Gene expression profiling (HG-U133A, Affymetrix, Santa Clara, CA) was employed to identify common marker genes of in vivo drug response. In vitro chemosensitivity was tested using the cytotoxic agents which the patients were scheduled to receive and was strongly correlated with effective reduction of leukemic lymphoma cells in patients resulting in complete remissions in all five cases. Due to the rapid clearance of apoptotic tumor cells in vivo neither the analysis of the in vivo rate of apoptosis and depolarisation of MMP nor the assessment of expression of regulators of apoptosis showed concordant results concerning the drug response. However, assessment of gene expression during therapy could identify a set of 30 genes to significantly discriminate between samples from patients before treatment compared to samples from the same patients after receiving cytotoxic therapy. Among these 30 genes we found a high proportion of genes associated with apoptotic cell death, cell proliferation and cell cycle signalling including complement lysis inhibitor (clusterin/CLU), beta-catenin interacting protein (ICAT), peroxisome proliferator activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha), TNF alpha converting enzyme (ADAM17/TACE), homeo box A3 (HOX1), inositol polyphosphatase 5-phosphatase type IV (PPI5PIV) and inhibitor of p53 induced apoptosis alpha (IPIA-Alpha/NM23-H6). These results indicate that in vitro chemosensitivity testing and gene expression profiling can successfully be utilised to analyse in vivo drug response in patients with leukemic NHL's and can be used to explore new pathway models of drug-induced cell death in vivo which are independent of different lymphoma subtypes and different treatment regimens.

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