miRNA plays an important role in human disease and cancer. We seek to investigate the expression status, clinical relevance, and functional role of miRNA in non-small cell lung cancer. In collaboration with Jun Jen et al., we conducted miRNA expression profiling in matched lung adenocarcinoma and uninvolved lung using 56 pairs of fresh-frozen (FF) and 47 pairs of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples from never smokers. The most differentially expressed miRNA genes were evaluated by Cox analysis and log-rank test. Among the best candidate, miR-708 was further examined for differential expression in two independent cohorts. Functional significance of miR-708 expression in lung cancer was examined by identifying its candidate mRNA target and through manipulating its expression levels in cultured cells. Among the 20 miRNAs most differentially expressed between tested tumor and normal samples, high expression level of miR-708 in the tumors was most strongly associated with an increased risk of death after adjustments for all clinically significant factors including age, sex, and tumor stage (FF cohort: HR, 1.90;95% CI, 1.08-3.35;P = 0.025 and FFPE cohort: HR, 1.93;95% CI, 1.02-3.63;P = 0.042). The transcript for TMEM88 gene has a miR-708 binding site in its 3'UTR and was significantly reduced in tumors high of miR-708. Forced miR-708 expression reduced TMEM88 transcript levels and increased the rate of cell proliferation, invasion, and migration in culture. miRNA-708 acts as an oncogene contributing to tumor growth and disease progression by directly downregulating TMEM88, a negative regulator of the Wnt signaling pathway in lung cancer. In collaboration with Tahaski Kohno et al., we identified in-frame fusion transcripts of KIF5B (the kinesin family 5B gene) and the RET oncogene, which are present in 1-2% of lung adenocarcinomas (LADCs) from people from Japan and the United States, using whole-transcriptome sequencing. The KIF5B-RET fusion leads to aberrant activation of RET kinase and is considered to be a new driver mutation of LADC because it segregates from mutations or fusions in EGFR, KRAS, HER2 and ALK, and a RET tyrosine kinase inhibitor, vandetanib, suppresses the fusion-induced anchorage-independent growth activity of NIH3T3 cells.The dismal lethality of lung cancer is due to late stage at diagnosis and inherent therapeutic resistance. The incorporation of targeted therapies has modestly improved clinical outcomes, but the identification of new targets could further improve clinical outcomes by guiding stratification of poor-risk early stage patients and individualizing therapeutic choices. In collaboration with Phil Dennis et al., we hypothesized that a sequential, combined microarray approach would be valuable to identify and validate new targets in lung cancer. We profiled gene expression signatures during lung epithelial cell immortalization and transformation, and showed that genes involved in mitosis were progressively enhanced in carcinogenesis. 28 genes were validated by immunoblotting and 4 genes were further evaluated in non-small cell lung cancer tissue microarrays. Although CDK1 was highly expressed in tumor tissues, its loss from the cytoplasm unexpectedly predicted poor survival and conferred resistance to chemotherapy in multiple cell lines, especially microtubule-directed agents. An analysis of expression of CDK1 and CDK1-associated genes in the NCI60 cell line database confirmed the broad association of these genes with chemotherapeutic responsiveness. These results have implications for personalizing lung cancer therapy and highlight the potential of combined approaches for biomarker discovery.

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National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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