Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Queens University at Kingston (2012)
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Alberta (2007)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • Recurrent DICER1 Hotspot Mutations in Endometrial Tumours And Their Impact on MicroRNA Biogenesis. The Journal of pathology Chen, J., Wang, Y., McMonechy, M. K., Anglesio, M. S., Yang, W., Senz, J., Maines-Bandiera, S., Rosner, J., Trigo-Gonzalez, G., Grace Cheng, S. W., Kim, J., Matzuk, M. M., Morin, G. B., Huntsman, D. G. 2015


    DICER1 plays a critical role in microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis. Recurrent somatic "hotspot" mutations at the four metal binding sites within the RNase IIIb domain of DICER1 were identified in ovarian sex cord-stromal tumours and have since been described in other paediatric tumours. In this study, we screened the RNase IIIb domain of DICER1 in 290 endometrial tumours and identified six cases with hotspot mutations, including two cases affected by an atypical G1809R mutation directly adjacent to a metal binding site. Using Illumina and Sanger targeted resequencing we observed and validated biallelic DICER1 mutations in several cases with hotspot mutations. Through in vitro DICER1 cleavage assays, small RNA deep sequencing, and real-time PCR, we demonstrated that mutations adding a positively charged side chain to residue 1809 have similar detrimental effects on 5p miRNA production to mutations at the metal binding sites. As expected, 5p miRNAs were globally reduced in tumours and cell lines with hotspot mutations. Pathway analysis of gene expression profiles indicated that genes de-repressed due to loss of 5p miRNAs are strongly associated with pathways regulating the cell cycle. Using a Dicer1-null mouse cell line model, we found that expression of DICER1 hotspot mutants promoted cell proliferation whereas wildtype (WT) DICER1 inhibited cell proliferation. Furthermore, targets of let-7 family miRNAs are enriched among the upregulated genes, suggesting that loss of let-7 may be impacting downstream pathways. Our results reveal that DICER1 hotspot mutations are implicated in common malignancies and may constitute a unique oncogenic pathway.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/path.4569

    View details for PubMedID 26033159

  • The Oncogenic Roles of DICER1 RNase IIIb Domain Mutations in Ovarian Sertoli-Leydig Cell Tumors. Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.) Wang, Y., Chen, J., Yang, W., Mo, F., Senz, J., Yap, D., Anglesio, M. S., Gilks, B., Morin, G. B., Huntsman, D. G. 2015; 17 (8): 650-60


    DICER1, an endoribonuclease required for microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, is essential for embryogenesis and the development of many organs including ovaries. We have recently identified somatic hotspot mutations in RNase IIIb domain of DICER1 in half of ovarian Sertoli-Leydig cell tumors, a rare class of sex-cord stromal cell tumors in young women. These hotspot mutations lost IIIb cleavage activity of DICER1 in vitro and failed to produce 5p-derived miRNAs in mouse Dicer1-null ES cells. However, the oncogenic potential of these hotspot DICER1 mutations has not been studied. Here, we further revealed that the global expression of 5p-derived miRNAs was dramatically reduced in ovarian Sertoli-Leydig cell tumors carrying DICER1 hotspot mutations compared with those without DICER1 hotspot mutation. The miRNA production defect was associated with the deregulation of genes controlling cell proliferation and the cell fate. Using an immortalized human granulosa cell line, SVOG3e, we determined that the D1709N-DICER1 hotspot mutation failed to produce 5p-derived miRNAs, deregulated the expression of several genes that control gonadal differentiation and cell proliferation, and promoted cell growth. Re-expression of let-7 significantly inhibited the growth of D1709N-DICER1 SVOG3e cells, accompanied by the suppression of key regulators of cell cycle control and ovarian gonad differentiation. Taken together, our data revealed that DICER1 hotspot mutations cause systemic loss of 5p-miRNAs that can both drive pseudodifferentiation of testicular elements and cause oncogenic transformation in the ovary.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neo.2015.08.003

    View details for PubMedID 26408257

  • Stathmin 1 is a potential novel oncogene in melanoma ONCOGENE Chen, J., Abi-Daoud, M., Wang, A., Yang, X., Zhang, X., Feilotter, H. E., Tron, V. A. 2013; 32 (10): 1330-1337


    In previous studies, we demonstrated that miR-193b expression is reduced in melanoma relative to benign nevi, and also that miR-193b represses cyclin D1 and Mcl-1 expression. We suggested that stathmin 1 (STMN1) might be a target of miR-193b. STMN1 normally regulates microtubule dynamics either by sequestering free tubulin heterodimers or by promoting microtubule catastrophe. Increased expression of STMN1 has been observed in a variety of human malignancies, but its association with melanoma is unknown. We now report that STMN1 is upregulated during the progression of melanoma relative to benign nevi, and that STMN1 is directly regulated by miR-193b. Using an experimental cell culture approach, overexpression of miR-193b using synthetic microRNAs repressed STMN1 expression, whereas inhibition of miR-193b with anti-miR oligos increased STMN1 expression in melanoma cells. The use of a luciferase reporter assay confirmed that miR-193b directly regulates STMN1 by targeting the 3'-untranslated region of STMN1 mRNA. We further demonstrated that STMN1 is overexpressed in malignant melanoma compared with nevi in two independent melanoma cohorts, and that its level is inversely correlated with miR-193b expression. However, STMN1 expression was not significantly associated with patient survival, Breslow depth, mitotic count or patient age. STMN1 knockdown by small-interfering RNA in melanoma cells drastically repressed cell proliferation and migration potential, whereas ectopic expression of STMN1 using lentivirus increased cell proliferation and migration rates. Subsequent gene expression analysis indicated that interconnected cytoskeletal networks are directly affected following STMN1 knockdown. In addition, we identified deregulated genes associated with proliferation and migration, and revealed that p21(Cip1/Waf1) and p27(Kip) could be downstream effectors of STMN1 signaling. Taken together, our study suggests that downregulation of miR-193b may contribute to increased STMN1 expression in melanoma, which consequently promotes migration and proliferation of tumor cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/onc.2012.141

    View details for Web of Science ID 000316454500013

    View details for PubMedID 22665054

  • miR-193b Regulates Mcl-1 in Melanoma AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PATHOLOGY Chen, J., Zhang, X., Lentz, C., Abi-Daoud, M., Pare, G. C., Yang, X., Feilotter, H. E., Tron, V. A. 2011; 179 (5): 2162-2168


    MicroRNAs play important roles in gene regulation, and their expression is frequently dysregulated in cancer cells. In a previous study, we reported that miR-193b represses cell proliferation and regulates cyclin D1 in melanoma cells, suggesting that miR-193b could act as a tumor suppressor. Herein, we demonstrate that miR-193b also down-regulates myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (Mcl-1) in melanoma cells. MicroRNA microarray profiling revealed that miR-193b is expressed at a significantly lower level in malignant melanoma than in benign nevi. Consistent with this, Mcl-1 is detected at a higher level in malignant melanoma than in benign nevi. In a survey of melanoma samples, the level of Mcl-1 is inversely correlated with the level of miR-193b. Overexpression of miR-193b in melanoma cells represses Mcl-1 expression. Previous studies showed that Mcl-1 knockdown cells are hypersensitive to ABT-737, a small-molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2, Bcl-X(L), and Bcl-w. Similarly, overexpression of miR-193b restores ABT-737 sensitivity to ABT-737-resistant cells. Furthermore, the effect of miR-193b on the expression of Mcl-1 seems to be mediated by direct interaction between miR-193b and seed and seedless pairing sequences in the 3' untranslated region of Mcl-1 mRNA. Thus, this study provides evidence that miR-193b directly regulates Mcl-1 and that down-regulation of miR-193b in vivo could be an early event in melanoma progression.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.07.010

    View details for Web of Science ID 000298307600005

    View details for PubMedID 21893020

  • MicroRNA-193b Represses Cell Proliferation and Regulates Cyclin D1 in Melanoma AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PATHOLOGY Chen, J., Feilotter, H. E., Pare, G. C., Zhang, X., Pemberton, J. G., Garady, C., Lai, D., Yang, X., Tron, V. A. 2010; 176 (5): 2520-2529


    Cutaneous melanoma is an aggressive form of human skin cancer characterized by high metastatic potential and poor prognosis. To better understand the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in melanoma, the expression of 470 miRNAs was profiled in tissue samples from benign nevi and metastatic melanomas. We identified 31 miRNAs that were differentially expressed (13 up-regulated and 18 down-regulated) in metastatic melanomas relative to benign nevi. Notably, miR-193b was significantly down-regulated in the melanoma tissues examined. To understand the role of miR-193b in melanoma, functional studies were undertaken. Overexpression of miR-193b in melanoma cell lines repressed cell proliferation. Gene expression profiling identified 314 genes down-regulated by overexpression of miR-193b in Malme-3M cells. Eighteen of these down-regulated genes, including cyclin D1 (CCND1), were also identified as putative miR-193b targets by TargetScan. Overexpression of miR-193b in Malme-3M cells down-regulated CCND1 mRNA and protein by > or = 50%. A luciferase reporter assay confirmed that miR-193b directly regulates CCND1 by binding to the 3'untranslated region of CCND1 mRNA. These studies indicate that miR-193b represses cell proliferation and regulates CCND1 expression and suggest that dysregulation of miR-193b may play an important role in melanoma development.

    View details for DOI 10.2353/ajpath.2010.091061

    View details for Web of Science ID 000280078600046

    View details for PubMedID 20304954

  • An Array-Based Analysis of MicroRNA Expression Comparing Matched Frozen and Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded Human Tissue Samples JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR DIAGNOSTICS Zhang, X., Chen, J., Radcliffe, T., LeBrun, D. P., Tron, V. A., Feilotter, H. 2008; 10 (6): 513-519


    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, noncoding RNAs that suppress gene expression at the posttranscriptional level via an antisense RNA-RNA interaction. miRNAs used for array-based profiling are generally purified from either snap-frozen or fresh samples. Because tissues found in most pathology departments are available only in formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) states, we sought to evaluate miRNA derived from FFPE samples for microarray analysis. In this study, miRNAs extracted from matched snap-frozen and FFPE samples were profiled using the Agilent miRNA array platform (Agilent, Santa Clara, CA). Each miRNA sample was hybridized to arrays containing probes interrogating 470 human miRNAs. Seven cases were compared in either duplicate or triplicate. Intrachip and interchip analyses demonstrated that the processes of miRNA extraction, labeling, and hybridization from both frozen and FFPE samples are highly reproducible and add little variation to the results; technical replicates showed high correlations with one another (Kendall tau, 0.722 to 0.853; Spearman rank correlation coefficient, 0.891 to 0.954). Our results showed consistent high correlations between matched frozen and FFPE samples (Kendall tau, 0.669 to 0.815; Spearman rank correlation coefficient, 0.847 to 0.948), supporting the use of FFPE-derived miRNAs for array-based, gene expression profiling.

    View details for DOI 10.2353/jmoldx.2008.080077

    View details for Web of Science ID 000260533600008

    View details for PubMedID 18832457

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