Education & Certifications
Master of Science, Stanford University, Medicine (2012)
Bachelor of Engineering, Princeton University, Chemical Engineering (2009)
Gene fusions, like BCR/ABL1 in chronic myelogenous leukemia, have long been recognized in hematologic and mesenchymal malignancies. The recent finding of gene fusions in prostate and lung cancers has motivated the search for pathogenic gene fusions in other malignancies. Here, we developed a "breakpoint analysis" pipeline to discover candidate gene fusions by tell-tale transcript level or genomic DNA copy number transitions occurring within genes. Mining data from 974 diverse cancer samples, we identified 198 candidate fusions involving annotated cancer genes. From these, we validated and further characterized novel gene fusions involving ROS1 tyrosine kinase in angiosarcoma (CEP85L/ROS1), SLC1A2 glutamate transporter in colon cancer (APIP/SLC1A2), RAF1 kinase in pancreatic cancer (ATG7/RAF1) and anaplastic astrocytoma (BCL6/RAF1), EWSR1 in melanoma (EWSR1/CREM), CDK6 kinase in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (FAM133B/CDK6), and CLTC in breast cancer (CLTC/VMP1). Notably, while these fusions involved known cancer genes, all occurred with novel fusion partners and in previously unreported cancer types. Moreover, several constituted druggable targets (including kinases), with therapeutic implications for their respective malignancies. Lastly, breakpoint analysis identified new cell line models for known rearrangements, including EGFRvIII and FIP1L1/PDGFRA. Taken together, we provide a robust approach for gene fusion discovery, and our results highlight a more widespread role of fusion genes in cancer pathogenesis.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003464
View details for PubMedID 23637631
Clear cell carcinoma (CCC) is a histologically distinct carcinoma subtype that arises in several organ systems and is marked by cytoplasmic clearing, attributed to abundant intracellular glycogen. Previously, transcription factor hepatocyte nuclear factor 1-beta (HNF1B) was identified as a biomarker of ovarian CCC. Here, we set out to explore more broadly the relation between HNF1B and carcinomas with clear cell histology. HNF1B expression, evaluated by immunohistochemistry, was significantly associated with clear cell histology across diverse gynecologic and renal carcinomas (P<0.001), as was hypomethylation of the HNF1B promoter (P<0.001). From microarray analysis, an empirically-derived HNF1B signature was significantly enriched for computationally-predicted targets (with HNF1 binding sites) (P<0.03), as well as genes associated with glycogen metabolism, including glucose-6-phophatase, and strikingly the blood clotting cascade, including fibrinogen, prothrombin and factor XIII. Enrichment of the clotting cascade was also evident in microarray data from ovarian CCC versus other histotypes (P<0.01), and HNF1B-associated prothrombin expression was verified by immunohistochemistry (P = 0.015). Finally, among gynecologic carcinomas with cytoplasmic clearing, HNF1B immunostaining was linked to a 3.0-fold increased risk of clinically-significant venous thrombosis (P = 0.043), and with a 2.3-fold increased risk (P = 0.011) in a combined gynecologic and renal carcinoma cohort. Our results define HNF1B as a broad marker of clear cell phenotype, and support a mechanistic link to glycogen accumulation and thrombosis, possibly reflecting (for gynecologic CCC) derivation from secretory endometrium. Our findings also implicate a novel mechanism of tumor-associated thrombosis (a major cause of cancer mortality), based on the direct production of clotting factors by cancer cells.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0074562
View details for PubMedID 24040285
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) have been reported to support tumor progression by a variety of mechanisms. However, their role in the progression of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains poorly defined. In addition, the extent to which specific proteins secreted by CAFs contribute directly to tumor growth is unclear. To study the role of CAFs in NSCLCs, a cross-species functional characterization of mouse and human lung CAFs was conducted. CAFs supported the growth of lung cancer cells in vivo by secretion of soluble factors that directly stimulate the growth of tumor cells. Gene expression analysis comparing normal mouse lung fibroblasts and mouse lung CAFs identified multiple genes that correlate with the CAF phenotype. A gene signature of secreted genes upregulated in CAFs was an independent marker of poor survival in patients with NSCLC. This secreted gene signature was upregulated in normal lung fibroblasts after long-term exposure to tumor cells, showing that lung fibroblasts are "educated" by tumor cells to acquire a CAF-like phenotype. Functional studies identified important roles for CLCF1-CNTFR and interleukin (IL)-6-IL-6R signaling in promoting growth of NSCLCs. This study identifies novel soluble factors contributing to the CAF protumorigenic phenotype in NSCLCs and suggests new avenues for the development of therapeutic strategies.
View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1097
View details for Web of Science ID 000311141300012
View details for PubMedID 22962265
Adenoid cystic carcinoma is a locally aggressive salivary gland neoplasm, which has a poor long-term prognosis. A chromosomal translocation involving the genes encoding the transcription factors, MYB and NFIB, has been recently discovered in these tumors.MYB translocation and protein expression were studied in 37 adenoid cystic carcinomas, 112 other salivary gland neoplasms, and 409 nonsalivary gland neoplasms by fluorescence in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. MYB translocation and expression status in adenoid cystic carcinoma was correlated with clinicopathologic features including outcome, with a median follow-up of 77.1 months (range, 23.2 to 217.5 mo) for living patients.A balanced translocation between MYB and NFIB is present in 49% of adenoid cystic carcinomas but is not identified in other salivary gland tumors or nonsalivary gland neoplasms. There is no apparent translocation of MYB in 35% of the cases. Strong Myb immunostaining is very specific for adenoid cystic carcinomas but is only present in 65% of all cases. It is interesting to note that Myb immunostaining is confined to the basal cell component although the translocation is present in all the cells. Neoplasms with MYB translocation show a trend toward higher local relapse rates, but the results are not statistically significant with the current number of cases.MYB translocation and expression are useful diagnostic markers for a subset of adenoid cystic carcinomas. The presence of the translocation may be indicative of local aggressive behavior, but a larger cohort may be required to show statistical significance.
View details for DOI 10.1097/PAS.0b013e3182002777
View details for Web of Science ID 000285409900011
View details for PubMedID 21164292
The interactions between pro- and anti-apoptotic members of the Bcl-2 class of proteins control whether a cell lives or dies, and the study of these protein-protein interactions has been an area of intense research. In this report, we describe a new tool for the study and engineering of apoptotic protein interactions that is based on the flow cytometric detection of these interactions on the surface of Escherichia coli. After validation of the assay with the well-studied interaction between the Bak(72-87) peptide and the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-x(L), the effect of both increasing and decreasing Bak peptide length on Bcl-x(L) binding was investigated. Previous work demonstrated that the Bak(72-87) peptide also binds to the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2, albeit with lower binding affinity compared to Bcl-x(L). Here, we demonstrate that a slightly longer Bak peptide corresponding to amino acids 72-89 of Bak binds Bcl-x(L) and Bcl-2 equally well. Approximate binding affinity calculations on these peptide-protein complexes confirm the experimental observations. The flow cytometric assay was also used to screen a saturation mutagenesis library of Bak(72-87) variants for improved affinity to Bcl-x(L). The best variants obtained from this library exhibit an apparent K(d) to Bcl-x(L) 4-fold lower than that of wild-type Bak(72-87).
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jmb.2009.09.023
View details for Web of Science ID 000271985700011
View details for PubMedID 19766123