Publications by authors named "Guangwu Zhu"

18 Publications

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Therapeutic targeting of FOS in mutant cancers through removing TERT suppression of apoptosis via regulating and .

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Mar;118(11)

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287

The telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) has long been pursued as a direct therapeutic target in human cancer, which is currently hindered by the lack of effective specific inhibitors of TERT. The FOS/GABPB/(mutant) cascade plays a critical role in the regulation of mutant , in which FOS acts as a transcriptional factor for to up-regulate the expression of GABPB, which in turn activates mutant but not wild-type promoter, driving TERT-promoted oncogenesis. In the present study, we demonstrated that inhibiting this cascade by targeting FOS using FOS inhibitor T-5224 suppressed mutant cancer cells and tumors by inducing robust cell apoptosis; these did not occur in wild-type cells and tumors. Mechanistically, among 35 apoptotic cascade-related proteins tested, the apoptosis induced in this process specifically involved the transcriptional activation of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptor 2 () and inactivation of two key players in the apoptotic cascade, which normally initiate and suppress the apoptotic cascade, respectively. These findings with suppression of FOS were reproduced by direct knockdown of TERT and prevented by prior knockdown of TRAIL-R2. Further experiments demonstrated that TERT acted as a direct transcriptional factor of up-regulating its expression. Thus, this study identifies a therapeutic strategy for promoter mutation-driven cancers by targeting FOS in the FOS/GABPB/(mutant) cascade, circumventing the current challenge in pharmacologically directly targeting TERT itself. This study also uncovers a mechanism through which TERT controls cell apoptosis by transcriptionally regulating two key players in the apoptotic cascade.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2022779118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7980366PMC
March 2021

promoter mutation determines apoptotic and therapeutic responses of -mutant cancers to BRAF and MEK inhibitors: Achilles Heel.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 07 19;117(27):15846-15851. Epub 2020 Jun 19.

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21827;

Combination use of BRAF V600E inhibitor dabrafenib and MEK inhibitor trametinib has become a standard treatment for human cancers harboring  V600E. Its anticancer efficacies vary, however, with dramatic efficacy in some patients and drug resistance/tumor recurrence in others, which is poorly understood. Using thyroid cancer, melanoma, and colon cancer cell models, we showed that dabrafenib and trametinib induced robust apoptosis of cancer cells harboring both V600E and  promoter mutations but had little proapoptotic effect in cells harboring only  V600E. Correspondingly, the inhibitors nearly completely abolished the growth of in vivo tumors harboring both mutations but had little effect on tumors harboring only V600E. Upon drug withdrawal, tumors harboring both mutations remained hardly measurable but tumors harboring only  V600E regrew rapidly. BRAF V600E/MAP kinase pathway is known to robustly activate mutant promoter of TERT, a strong apoptosis suppressor. Thus, for survival, cancer cells harboring both mutations may have evolved to rely on  V600E-promoted and high-TERT expression-mediated suppression of apoptosis. As such, inhibition of BRAF/MEK can trigger strong apoptosis-induced cell death and hence tumor abolishment. This does not happen in cells harboring only  V600E as they have not developed reliance on TERT-mediated suppression of apoptosis due to the lack of mutant promoter-driven high- expression. promoter mutation governs BRAF-mutant cancer cells' apoptotic and hence therapeutic responses to BRAF/MEK inhibitors. Thus, the genetic duet of V600E and  promoter mutation represents an Achilles Heel for effective therapeutic targeting and response prediction in cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2004707117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7355024PMC
July 2020

The Genetic Duet of V600E and Promoter Mutations Robustly Predicts Loss of Radioiodine Avidity in Recurrent Papillary Thyroid Cancer.

J Nucl Med 2020 02 2;61(2):177-182. Epub 2019 Aug 2.

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; and

V600E and promoter mutations, particularly their genetic duet, are well known to be associated with poor clinical outcomes of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). Loss of radioactive iodine (RAI) avidity in recurrent PTC is a major cause of treatment failure and hence poor clinical outcomes. This study investigated the role of mutation patterns in loss of RAI avidity in recurrent PTC. This was a retrospective study of the relationship between loss of RAI avidity in structural recurrent PTC and the genotype patterns of V600E and promoter mutations in 164 patients (104 women and 60 men) with a median age of 50 y (interquartile range, 35-62 y). The overall prevalence of RAI avidity loss in recurrent PTC was 62.8% (103/164). When the cohort was divided into mutation and wild-type groups, the RAI avidity loss was 80.4% versus 33.9% ( < 0.001) in V600E versus wild-type patients, with an adjusted odds ratio of 7.11 (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.24-16.27), and 89.4% versus 52.1% ( < 0.001) in mutation versus wild-type patients, with an adjusted odds ratio of 6.89 (95% CI, 2.28-25.66). When the cohort was divided into 4 genotypes, the RAI avidity loss was 70.3% (45/64), 55.6% (5/9), and 97.4% (37/38) in patients with V600E alone, mutation alone, and the genetic duet of coexisting and mutations, versus 30.2% (16/53) in patients with neither mutation ( < 0.001, = 0.251, and < 0.001, respectively). These corresponded to odds ratios of 5.39 (95% CI, 2.31-13.13), 2.84 (95% CI, 0.53-16.32), and 81.04 (95% CI, 11.67-3559.83), respectively. The synergy index was 13.28 (95% CI, 1.54-114.46; = 0.019) between V600E and mutation in cooperatively affecting RAI avidity. A similar genotype-associated expression pattern was observed for thyroid iodide-handling genes. V600E alone and, particularly, coexisting V600E and promoter mutations are strongly associated with loss of RAI avidity and impairment of the iodide-metabolizing machinery in recurrent PTC, showing a robust predictive value for failure of RAI treatment of PTC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2967/jnumed.119.227652DOI Listing
February 2020

Stage II Differentiated Thyroid Cancer Is a High-Risk Disease in Patients <45/55 Years Old.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2019 11;104(11):4941-4948

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Department of Medicine; Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Purpose: The mortality risk of stage II differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) based on the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system requires further investigation.

Methods: Retrospective study of DTC in the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program for disease-specific mortality risk in various AJCC stages, with patient age stratification of stage II disease.

Results: Using AJCC staging system 6.0, hazard ratios (HRs) of mortality for stage II DTC in patients <45 yo and patients ≥45 yo and stages III, IVA, IVB, and IVC compared with stage I were 46.95, 4.95, 9.82, 57.37, 222.10, and 468.68, respectively, showing a robustly higher mortality risk in stage II disease in patients <45 yo than in older patients (P < 0.001), comparable with stage IVA (P = 0.482). Similar results were obtained with AJCC 7.0. With AJCC 8.0, HRs of mortality for stage II in patients <55 yo and patients ≥55 yo and stages III, IVA, and IVB compared with stage I were 75.16, 11.23, 69.45, 134.94, and 235.70, respectively, showing a robustly higher risk in stage II disease in patients <55 yo than in older patients (P < 0.001), comparable with stage III (P = 0.57). Kaplan-Meier survival curves displayed a sharp decline with stage II disease in patients <45/55 yo compared with older patients.

Conclusions: The mortality risk of stage II DTC was sharply differentiated at patient age 45/55 years, being robustly high in younger patients and comparable with stage III/IVA. This emphasizes the importance of considering age when managing stage II DTC and not treating it as a uniformly low-risk disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2018-02809DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7453036PMC
November 2019

BRAF V600E Confers Male Sex Disease-Specific Mortality Risk in Patients With Papillary Thyroid Cancer.

J Clin Oncol 2018 09 2;36(27):2787-2795. Epub 2018 Aug 2.

Fei Wang, Shihua Zhao, and Yangang Wang, The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University, Qingdao, People's Republic of China; Fei Wang, Xiaopei Shen, Guangwu Zhu, Rengyun Liu, and Mingzhao Xing, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; David Viola and Rossella Elisei, University of Pisa, Pisa; Efisio Puxeddu, University of Perugia, Perugia; Laura Fugazzola and Carla Colombo, Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Istituto di Recovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), and University of Milan, Milan; Caterina Mian, University of Padua; Federica Vianello, Veneto Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Padua, Italy; Barbara Jarzab and Agnieszka Czarniecka, Maria Sklodowska-Curie Institute Oncology Center, Gliwice, Poland; Alfred K. Lam, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland; Christine J. O'Neill, Mark S. Sywak, and Roderick Clifton-Bligh, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Linwah Yip, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Garcilaso Riesco-Eizaguirre, Hospital Universitario La Paz and Hospital Universitario de Móstoles; Garcilaso Riesco-Eizaguirre and Pilar Santisteban, Biomedical Research Institute "Alberto Sols" and Health Institute Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; and Bela Bendlova and Vlasta Sýkorová, Institute of Endocrinology, Prague, Czech Republic.

Purpose To test whether the prognostic risk of male sex in papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) is determined by BRAF V600E and can thus be stratified by BRAF status. Patients and Methods We retrospectively investigated the relationship between male sex and clinicopathologic outcomes in PTC, particularly mortality, with respect to BRAF status in 2,638 patients (male, n = 623; female, n = 2,015) from 11 centers in six countries, with median age of 46 years (interquartile range, 35-58 years) at diagnosis and median follow-up time of 58 months (interquartile range, 26-107 months). Results Distant metastasis rates in men and women were not different in wild-type BRAF PTC but were different in BRAF V600E PTC: 8.9% (24 of 270) and 3.7% (30 of 817; P = .001), respectively. In wild-type BRAF PTC, mortality rates were 1.4% (five of 349) versus 0.9% (11 of 1175) in men versus women ( P = .384), with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.59 (95% CI, 0.55 to 4.57), which remained insignificant at 0.70 (95% CI, 0.23 to 2.09) after clinicopathologic multivariable adjustment. In BRAF V600E PTC, mortality rates were 6.6% (18 of 272) versus 2.9% (24 of 822) in men versus women ( P = .006), with an HR of 2.43 (95% CI, 1.30 to 4.53), which remained significant at 2.74 (95% CI, 1.38 to 5.43) after multivariable adjustment. In conventional-variant PTC, male sex similarly had no effect in wild-type BRAF patients; mortality rates in BRAF V600E patients were 7.2% (16 of 221) versus 2.9% (19 of 662) in men versus women ( P = .004), with an HR of 2.86 (95% CI, 1.45 to 5.67), which remained significant at 3.51 (95% CI, 1.62 to 7.63) after multivariable adjustment. Conclusion Male sex is a robust independent risk factor for PTC-specific mortality in BRAF V600E patients but not in wild-type BRAF patients. The prognostic risk of male sex in PTC can thus be stratified by BRAF status in clinical application.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2018.78.5097DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6145834PMC
September 2018

Regulation of mutant TERT by BRAF V600E/MAP kinase pathway through FOS/GABP in human cancer.

Nat Commun 2018 02 8;9(1):579. Epub 2018 Feb 8.

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism, Department of Medicine, John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 21287, USA.

The unique oncogene duet of coexisting BRAF V600E and TERT promoter mutations are widely found to be a robust genetic background promoting human cancer aggressiveness, but the mechanism is unclear. Here, we demonstrate that the BRAF V600E/MAP kinase pathway phosphorylates and activates FOS, which in turn acts as a transcription factor to bind and activate the GABPB promoter, increasing GABPB expression and driving formation of GABPA-GABPB complex; the latter selectively binds and activates mutant TERT promoter, upregulating TERT expression. Elevated TERT functions as a strong oncoprotein, robustly promoting aggressive behaviors of cancer cells and tumor development. We thus identify a molecular mechanism for the activation of mutant TERT by the BRAF V600E/MAP kinase pathway, in which FOS as a transcriptional factor of GABPB promoter plays a key role in functionally bridging the two oncogenes in cooperatively promoting oncogenesis, providing important cancer biological and clinical implications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03033-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805723PMC
February 2018

Patient Age-Associated Mortality Risk Is Differentiated by BRAF V600E Status in Papillary Thyroid Cancer.

J Clin Oncol 2018 02 14;36(5):438-445. Epub 2017 Dec 14.

Xiaopei Shen, Guangwu Zhu, Rengyun Liu, and Mingzhao Xing, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; David Viola and Rossella Elisei, University of Pisa, Pisa; Efisio Puxeddu, University of Perugia, Perugia; Laura Fugazzola and Carla Colombo, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), Istituto Auxologico Italiano and University of Milan, Milan; Caterina Mian, University of Padua; Federica Vianello, Veneto Institute of Oncology, IRCCS, Padua, Italy; Barbara Jarzab and Agnieszka Czarniecka, Maria Sklodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology, Gliwice, Poland; Alfred K. Lam, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland; Christine J. O'Neill, Mark S. Sywak, and Roderick Clifton-Bligh, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Linwah Yip, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA; Garcilaso Riesco-Eizaguirre, Hospital Universitario La Paz and Hospital Universitario de Móstoles; Garcilaso Riesco-Eizaguirre and Pilar Santisteban, Biomedical Research Institute "Alberto Sols," Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; Garcilaso Riesco-Eizaguirre and Pilar Santisteban, Ciberonc, Health Institute Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; and Bela Bendlova and Vlasta Sýkorová, Institute of Endocrinology, Prague, Czech Republic.

Purpose For the past 65 years, patient age at diagnosis has been widely used as a major mortality risk factor in the risk stratification of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), but whether this is generally applicable, particularly in patients with different BRAF genetic backgrounds, is unclear. The current study was designed to test whether patient age at diagnosis is a major mortality risk factor. Patients and Methods We conducted a comparative study of the relationship between patient age at diagnosis and PTC-specific mortality with respect to BRAF status in 2,638 patients (623 men and 2,015 women) with a median age of 46 years (interquartile range, 35 to 58 years) at diagnosis and a median follow-up time of 58 months (interquartile range, 26 to 107 months). Eleven medical centers from six countries participated in this study. Results There was a linear association between patient age and mortality in patients with BRAF V600E mutation, but not in patients with wild-type BRAF, in whom the mortality rate remained low and flat with increasing age. Kaplan-Meier survival curves rapidly declined with increasing age in patients with BRAF V600E mutation but did not decline in patients with wild-type BRAF, even beyond age 75 years. The association between mortality and age in patients with BRAF V600E was independent of clinicopathologic risk factors. Similar results were observed when only patients with the conventional variant of PTC were analyzed. Conclusion The long-observed age-associated mortality risk in PTC is dependent on BRAF status; age is a strong, continuous, and independent mortality risk factor in patients with BRAF V600E mutation but not in patients with wild-type BRAF. These results question the conventional general use of patient age as a high-risk factor in PTC and call for differentiation between patients with BRAF V600E and wild-type BRAF when applying age to risk stratification and management of PTC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2017.74.5497DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5807010PMC
February 2018

BRAF V600E Mutation-Assisted Risk Stratification of Solitary Intrathyroidal Papillary Thyroid Cancer for Precision Treatment.

J Natl Cancer Inst 2018 04;110(4):362-370

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

Background: Precise risk stratification-based treatment of solitary intrathyroidal papillary thyroid cancer (SI-PTC) that is larger than 1.0 cm and 4.0 cm or less is undefined.

Methods: A genetic-clinical risk study was performed on BRAF V600E in 955 patients (768 women and 187 men) with SI-PTC, with median age of 46 years and median clinical follow-up time of 64 months at 11 medical centers in six countries. The chi-square test or, for analyses with small numbers, Fisher's exact test was performed to compare recurrence rates. Recurrence-free probability was estimated by Kaplan-Meier (KM) analysis, and the independent effect of BRAF mutation on the recurrence was analyzed by Cox regression and Cox proportional hazard analyses. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: Recurrence of SI-PTC larger than 1.0 cm and 4.0 cm or less was 9.5% (21/221) vs 3.4% (11/319) in BRAF mutation vs wild-type BRAF patients, with a hazard ratio (HR) of 3.03 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.46 to 6.30) and a patient age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio of 3.10 (95% CI = 1.49 to 6.45, P = .002). Recurrence rates of SI-PTC larger than 2.0 cm and 4.0 cm or less were 16.5% (13/79) vs 3.6% (5/139) in mutation vs wild-type patients (HR = 5.44, 95% CI = 1.93 to 15.34; and adjusted HR = 5.58, 95% CI = 1.96 to 15.85, P = .001). Recurrence rates of SI-PTC larger than 3.0 cm and 4 cm or less were 30.0% (6/20) vs 1.9% (1/54) in mutation vs wild-type patients (HR = 18.40, 95% CI = 2.21 to 152.98; and adjusted HR = 14.73, 95% CI = 1.74 to 124.80, P = .01). Recurrences of mutation-positive SI-PTC were comparable with those of counterpart invasive solitary PTC, around 20% to 30%, in tumors larger than 2.0 cm to 3.0 cm. BRAF mutation was associated with a statistically significant decrease in recurrence-free patient survival on KM analysis, particularly in SI-PTC larger than 2.0 cm and 4.0 cm or less. Similar results were obtained in conventional SI-PTC. The negative predictive values of BRAF mutation for recurrence were 97.8% (95% CI = 96.3% to 98.8%) for general SI-PTC and 98.2% (95% CI = 96.3% to 99.3%) for conventional SI-PTC.

Conclusions: BRAF V600E identifies a subgroup of SI-PTC larger than 1.0 cm and 4.0 cm or less, particularly tumors larger than 2.0 cm and 4.0 cm or less, that has high risk for recurrence comparable with that of invasive solitary PTC, making more aggressive treatment reasonable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djx227DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6658860PMC
April 2018

The Prognostic Value of Tumor Multifocality in Clinical Outcomes of Papillary Thyroid Cancer.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2017 09;102(9):3241-3250

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287.

Context: Multifocality is often treated as a risk factor for papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), prompting aggressive treatments, but its prognostic value remains unestablished.

Objective: To investigate the role of tumor multifocality in clinical outcomes of PTC.

Methods: Multicenter study of the relationship between multifocality and clinical outcomes of PTC in 2638 patients (623 men and 2015 women) with median [interquartile range (IQR)] age of 46 (35 to 58) years and median (IQR) follow-up time of 58 (26 to 107) months at 11 medical centers in six countries. Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data were used for validation.

Results: Disease recurrence in multifocal and unifocal PTC was 198 of 1000 (19.8%) and 221 of 1624 (13.6%) (P < 0.001), with a hazard ratio of 1.55 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.28 to 1.88], which became insignificant at 1.13 (95% CI, 0.93 to 1.37) on multivariate adjustment. Similar results were obtained in PTC variants: conventional PTC, follicular-variant PTC, tall-cell PTC, and papillary thyroid microcarcinoma. There was no association between multifocality and mortality in any of these PTC settings, whereas there was a strong association between classic risk factors and cancer recurrence or mortality, which remained significant after multivariate adjustment. In 1423 patients with intrathyroidal PTC, disease recurrence was 20 of 455 (4.4%) and 41 of 967 (4.2%) (P = 0.892) and mortality was 0 of 455 (0.0%) and 3 of 967 (0.3%) (P = 0.556) in multifocal and unifocal PTC, respectively. The results were reproduced in 89,680 patients with PTC in the SEER database.

Conclusions: Tumor multifocality has no independent risk prognostic value in clinical outcomes of PTC; its indiscriminate use as an independent risk factor, prompting overtreatments of patients, should be avoided.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2017-00277DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5587077PMC
September 2017

Epigenetically upregulated WIPF1 plays a major role in BRAF V600E-promoted papillary thyroid cancer aggressiveness.

Oncotarget 2017 Jan;8(1):900-914

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.

How the BRAF V600E mutation promotes the pathogenesis and aggressiveness of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) is not completely understood. Here we explored a novel mechanism involving WASP interacting protein family member 1 (WIPF1). In PTC tumors, compared with the wild-type BRAF, BRAF V600E was associated with over-expression and hypomethylation of the WIPF1 gene. In thyroid cancer cell lines with wild-type BRAF, WIPF1 expression was robustly upregulated upon introduced expression of BRAF V600E (P=0.03) whereas the opposite was seen upon BRAF knockdown or treatment with BRAF V600E or MEK inhibitors in cells harboring BRAF V600E. Methylation of a functionally critical region of the WIPF1 promoter was decreased by expressing BRAF V600E in cells harboring the wild-type BRAF and increased by BRAF knockdown or treatment with BRAF V600E or MEK inhibitors in cells harboring BRAF V600E mutation. Under-expression and hypermethylation of WIPF1 induced by stable BRAF knockdown was reversed by DNA demethylating agent 5'-azadeoxycytidine. Knockdown of WIPF1 robustly inhibited anchorage-independent colony formation, migration, and invasion of thyroid cancer cells and suppressed xenograft thyroid cancer tumor growth and vascular invasion, mimicking the effects of BRAF knockdown. In human PTC tumors, WIPF1 expression was associated with extrathyroidal invasion (P=0.01) and lymph node metastasis (P=2.64E-05). In summary, BRAF V600E-activated MAP kinase pathway causes hypomethylation and overexpression of WIPF1; WIPF1 then functions like an oncoprotein to robustly promote aggressive cellular and tumor behaviors of PTC. This represents a novel mechanism in BRAF V600E-promoted PTC aggressiveness and identifies WIPF1 as a novel therapeutic target for thyroid cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13400DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352205PMC
January 2017

Mortality Risk Stratification by Combining BRAF V600E and TERT Promoter Mutations in Papillary Thyroid Cancer: Genetic Duet of BRAF and TERT Promoter Mutations in Thyroid Cancer Mortality.

JAMA Oncol 2017 Feb;3(2):202-208

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Importance: BRAF V600E and TERT promoter mutations can coexist in papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). This genetic duet was indicated to be involved in the aggressiveness of PTC, but its prognostic value in PTC-related mortality remains to be specifically established.

Objective: To establish the prognostic power of this genetic duet in PTC-specific mortality.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This genetic-clinical correlation study examined BRAF V600E and TERT promoter mutations (chr5:1,295,228C>T and chr5:1,295,250C>T) and PTC-specific mortality in 1051 patients (764 women and 287 men) with a median (interquartile range [IQR]) age of 46 (36-57) years, with a median (IQR) follow-up time of 89 (48-142) months (7.4 years).

Main Outcomes And Measures: BRAF V600E and TERT promoter mutation patterns and associated patient deaths caused by PTC.

Results: Papillary thyroid cancer-specific mortality occurred in 4 of 629 patients (0.6%) with neither mutation; 7 of 292 (2.4%) with BRAF V600E alone; 4 of 64 (6.3%) with TERT promoter mutation alone; and 15 of 66 (22.7%) with the genetic duet; and deaths per 1000-person years in patients harboring neither mutation, BRAF V600E alone, TERT mutation alone, or both mutations were 0.80 (95% CI, 0.30-2.13), 3.08 (95% CI, 1.47-6.46), 6.62 (95% CI, 2.48-17.64), and 29.86 (95% CI, 18.00-49.52), respectively. Compared with patients harboring neither mutation, HRs (95% CIs) for PTC-specific mortality were 3.08 (0.87-10.84) for BRAF V600E alone; 8.18 (2.04-32.75) with TERT mutation alone; and 37.77 (12.50-114.09) with both mutations. Papillary thyroid cancer-specific mortality for cases with both mutations remained significant (HR, 9.34; 95% CI, 2.53-34.48) after adjustment for clinicopathological factors, and the genetic duet showed a strong incremental and synergistic impact over either mutation alone. Kaplan-Meier analyses revealed a flat PTC-specific patient survival curve with neither mutation, a modest decline in the curve with either mutation alone, and a sharp decline in the curve with coexisting mutations. Even more robust mortality associations of the genetic duet were seen when only conventional-variant PTC (CPTC) was analyzed (HR, 54.46; 95% CI, 12.26-241.82), which remained strongly significant (HR, 18.56; 95% CI, 2.97-116.18) after adjustment for clinicopathological factors.

Conclusions And Relevance: These results demonstrate a simple 4-genotype classification of PTC, particularly CPTC, with a disease-specific mortality risk order of the genetic duet>BRAF V600E alone = TERT promoter mutation alone > wild-type for both genes, representing a powerful molecular prognostic system that can help pinpoint patients with the highest mortality risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.3288DOI Listing
February 2017

Robust Thyroid Gene Expression and Radioiodine Uptake Induced by Simultaneous Suppression of BRAF V600E and Histone Deacetylase in Thyroid Cancer Cells.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2016 Mar 11;101(3):962-71. Epub 2016 Jan 11.

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research (W.C., R.L., G.Z., M.X.), Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287; and Department of Nuclear Medicine (H.W.), Xin Hua Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200092, China.

Context: Use of BRAF V600E inhibitors to restore thyroid iodide-handling gene expression and radioactive iodine (RAI) avidity is an attractive therapeutic strategy for RAI-refractory thyroid cancer, but recent initial clinical responses were modest. Given histone deacetylation at the sodium/iodide symporter promoter by histone deacetylase (HDAC) as a mechanism, simultaneously targeting BRAF V600E and HDAC could be a more effective strategy.

Objectives: The objective of the study was to test whether suppressing both BRAF V600E and HDAC could more effectively induce thyroid gene expression and RAI uptake in thyroid cancer cells.

Research Design: We tested the BRAF V600E inhibitor PLX4032 (vemurafenib) and the HDAC inhibitor SAHA (vorinostat), two major anticancer drugs currently approved for clinical use, in inducing thyroid gene expression and RAI uptake in thyroid cancer cells.

Results: PLX4032 alone induced a modest expression of thyroid genes and RAI uptake preferentially in thyroid cancer cells harboring BRAF V600E. SAHA showed an effect in a genetic-independent manner in all the cells. A robust synergistic effect on thyroid gene expression and RAI uptake was observed in BRAF V600E-positive thyroid cancer cells when the two inhibitors were simultaneously used. This was dramatically enhanced further by TSH; triple combination of PLX4032, SAHA, and TSH showed the most robust effect on thyroid gene expression and RAI uptake in cells harboring BRAF V600E. Abundant sodium/iodide symporter protein expression in thyroid cancer cells under these conditions was confirmed by immunofluorescent microscopy.

Conclusions: Simultaneously suppressing BRAF V600E and HDAC, particularly when cotreated with TSH, induced a far more robust expression of thyroid genes and RAI uptake in thyroid cancer cells than suppressing BRAF V600E alone. Triple combination of PLX4032, SAHA, and TSH is a specific robust regimen to restore RAI avidity in RAI-refractory BRAF V600E-positive thyroid cancer, which warrants clinical trials to confirm.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2015-3433DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4803151PMC
March 2016

REC8 is a novel tumor suppressor gene epigenetically robustly targeted by the PI3K pathway in thyroid cancer.

Oncotarget 2015 Nov;6(36):39211-24

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.

The role of the PI3K pathway in human cancer has been well established, but much of its molecular mechanism, particularly the epigenetic aspect, remains to be defined. We hypothesized that aberrant methylation and hence altered expression of certain unknown important genes induced by the genetically activated PI3K pathway signaling is a major epigenetic mechanism in human tumorigenesis. Through a genome-wide search for such genes that were epigenetically controlled by the PI3K pathway in thyroid cancer cells, we found a wide range of genes with broad functions epigenetically targeted by the PI3K pathway. The most prominent among these genes was REC8, classically known as a meiotic-specific gene, which we found to be robustly down-regulated by the PI3K pathway through hypermethylation. REC8 hypermethylation was strongly associated with genetic alterations and activities of the PI3K pathway in thyroid cancer cell lines, thyroid cancer tumors, and some other human cancers; it was also associated with poor clinicopathological outcomes of thyroid cancer, including advanced disease stages and patient mortality. Demethylating the hypermethylated REC8 gene restored its expression in thyroid cancer cells in which the PI3K pathway was genetically over-activated and induced expression of REC8 protein inhibited the proliferation and colony formation of these cells. These findings are consistent with REC8 being a novel major bona fide tumor suppressor gene and a robust epigenetic target of the PI3K pathway. Aberrant inactivation of REC8 through hypermethylation by the PI3K pathway may represent an important mechanism mediating the oncogenic functions of the PI3K pathway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5391DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4770767PMC
November 2015

Association of TERT promoter mutation 1,295,228 C>T with BRAF V600E mutation, older patient age, and distant metastasis in anaplastic thyroid cancer.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2015 Apr 13;100(4):E632-7. Epub 2015 Jan 13.

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research (X.S., R.L., G.Z., X.L., M.X.), Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287; Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism (S.Q.), Shanghai Tenth People's Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200072, China; Department of Pathology (J.B.), The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287; Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Surgical Translational Medicine (H.S.), Department of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery, China-Japan Union Hospital, Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin Province 130033, China; Department of Pathology (E.W.), The First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning Province 110001, China; Department of Medical Image (Y.L.), Liaoning Cancer Hospital & Institute, Shenyang, Liaoning Province 110001, China; Department of Pathology (X.Y.), Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning Province 110004, China; Department of Endocrinology (J.Z.), Shandong Provincial Hospital Affiliated to Shandong University, Jinan, Shandong Province 250021, China; Department of Endocrinology (J.D.), The First Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical University, Dalian, Liaoning Province 116011, China; Department of Pathology (A.K.E.-N.), University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030; and The Endocrine Institute and The Liaoning Provincial Key Laboratory of Endocrine Diseases (X.S., Z.S., W.T.), Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, The First Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning Province 110001, China.

Context: The aggressive role of TERT promoter mutations has been well established in differentiated thyroid cancer but has not been established in anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC).

Research Design: We tested the mutation status by sequencing genomic tumor DNA and examined its relationship with clinicopathological characteristics of ATC.

Results: Among 106 American and Chinese ATC samples, TERT 1,295,228 C>T (termed TERT C228T) mutation was found in 37 (34.9%) cases, TERT promoter mutation 1,295,250 C>T was found in four cases (3.8%), and the two mutations were mutually exclusive and collectively found in 41 cases (38.7%). TERT C228T occurred in 28 of 90 (31.1%) wild-type BRAF cases vs nine of 16 (56.3%) BRAF V600E cases, with an odds ratio of 2.85 (95% confidence interval, 0.96-8.42; P = .05). Patient age was 67.6 ± 13.6 vs 61.6 ± 11.4 years in the TERT C228T vs wild-type TERT patients (P = .02), demonstrating an association between TERT C228T and older patient age. This association was also seen within the American cohort. In this cohort, which had more available clinicopathological data, TERT C228T was associated with distant metastasis of the tumor; specifically, distant metastasis occurred in 15 of 18 (83.3%) TERT C228T patients vs eight of 26 (30.8%) wild-type TERT patients, with an odds ratio of 11.25 (95% confidence interval, 2.53-50.08; P = .001). No association was found with patient sex, tumor size, lymph node metastasis, and extrathyroidal invasion of ATC.

Conclusions: This is the largest study on the aggressive role of TERT promoter mutations in ATC, demonstrating an association of TERT C228T with BRAF V600E, older patient age, and tumor distant metastasis in ATC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2014-3606DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399285PMC
April 2015

BRAF V600E and TERT promoter mutations cooperatively identify the most aggressive papillary thyroid cancer with highest recurrence.

J Clin Oncol 2014 Sep 14;32(25):2718-26. Epub 2014 Jul 14.

All authors: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

Purpose: To investigate the prognostic value of the BRAF V600E mutation and the recently identified TERT promoter mutation chr5:1,295,228C>T (C228T), individually and in their coexistence, in papillary thyroid cancer (PTC).

Patients And Methods: We performed a retrospective study of the relationship of BRAF and TERT C228T mutations with clinicopathologic outcomes of PTC in 507 patients (365 women and 142 men) age 45.9 ± 14.0 years (mean ± SD) with a median follow-up of 24 months (interquartile range, 8 to 78 months).

Results: Coexisting BRAF V600E and TERT C228T mutations were more commonly associated with high-risk clinicopathologic characteristics of PTC than they were individually. Tumor recurrence rates were 25.8% (50 of 194;77.60 recurrences per 1,000 person-years; 95% CI, 58.81 to 102.38) versus 9.6% (30 of 313; 22.88 recurrences per 1,000 person-years; 95% CI, 16.00 to 32.72) in BRAF mutation-positive versus -negative patients (hazard ratio [HR], 3.22; 95% CI, 2.05 to 5.07) and 47.5% (29 of 61; 108.55 recurrences per 1,000 person-years; 95% CI, 75.43 to 156.20) versus 11.4% (51 of 446; 30.21 recurrences per 1,000 person-years; 95% CI, 22.96 to 39.74) in TERT mutation-positive versus -negative patients (HR, 3.46; 95% CI, 2.19 to 5.45). Recurrence rates were 68.6% (24 of 35; 211.76 recurrences per 1,000 person-years; 95% CI, 141.94 to 315.94) versus 8.7% (25 of 287; 21.60 recurrences per 1,000 person-years; 95% CI, 14.59 to 31.97) in patients harboring both mutations versus patients harboring neither mutation (HR, 8.51; 95% CI, 4.84 to 14.97), which remained significant after clinicopathologic cofactor adjustments. Disease-free patient survival curves displayed a moderate decline with BRAF V600E or TERT C228T alone but a sharp decline with two coexisting mutations.

Conclusion: Coexisting BRAF V600E and TERT C228T mutations form a novel genetic background that defines PTC with the worst clinicopathologic outcomes, providing unique prognostic and therapeutic implications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2014.55.5094DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4145183PMC
September 2014

TERT promoter mutations and their association with BRAF V600E mutation and aggressive clinicopathological characteristics of thyroid cancer.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2014 Jun 11;99(6):E1130-6. Epub 2014 Mar 11.

Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Thyroid Research (X.L., R.L., X.S., G.Z., A.K.M., M.X.), Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287; Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism (S.Q., C.S.), Shanghai Tenth People's Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200072, China; Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism and Institute of Endocrinology (H.G., Z.S., W.T.), The First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning Province 110001, China; Department of Pathology (H.Y.), Changzheng Hospital, The Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200003, China; Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism (Y.W.), The Affiliated Hospital of Medical College, Qingdao University, Qingdao, Shandong Province 266003, China; and Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Surgical Translational Medicine (H.S.), Department of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery, China-Japan Union Hospital, Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin Province 130033, China.

Context: Promoter mutations chr5:1,295,228C>T and chr5:1,295,250C>T (termed C228T and C250T, respectively) in the gene for telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) have been reported in various cancers and need to be further investigated in thyroid cancer.

Objective: The aim of the study was to explore TERT promoter mutations in various thyroid tumors and examine their relationship with BRAF V600E mutation, iodine intake, and clinicopathological behaviors of thyroid cancer.

Design: TERT promoter and BRAF mutations were identified by sequencing genomic DNA of primary thyroid tumors from normal- and high-iodine regions in China, and clinicopathological correlation was analyzed.

Results: The C228T mutation was found in 9.6% (39 of 408) of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), C250T was found in 1.7% (7 of 408) of PTC, and they were collectively found in 11.3% (46 of 408) of PTC. C228T was found in 31.8% (7 of 22) and C250T in 4.6% (1 of 22) of follicular thyroid cancer (FTC), and they were collectively found in 36.4% (8 of 22) of FTC. No TERT mutation was found in 44 benign thyroid tumors. The two mutations occurred in 3.8% (6 of 158) of BRAF mutation-negative PTC vs 16.0% (40 of 250) of BRAF mutation-positive PTC (P = 5.87 × 10(-4)), demonstrating their association. Unlike BRAF mutation, TERT promoter mutations were not associated with high iodine intake, but they were associated with older patient age, larger tumor size, extrathyroidal invasion, and advanced stages III/IV of PTC. Coexisting TERT and BRAF mutations were even more commonly and more significantly associated with clinicopathological aggressiveness.

Conclusions: In this large cohort, we found TERT promoter mutations to be common, particularly in FTC and BRAF mutation-positive PTC, and associated with aggressive clinicopathological characteristics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-4048DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4037723PMC
June 2014

Association of the T1799A BRAF mutation with tumor extrathyroidal invasion, higher peripheral platelet counts, and over-expression of platelet-derived growth factor-B in papillary thyroid cancer.

Endocr Relat Cancer 2008 Mar;15(1):183-90

Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.

The relationship among BRAF mutation, platelet counts, and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) with respect to clinicopathological outcomes of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) may play a role in PTC pathogenesis but remains undefined. We examined the T1799A BRAF mutation by direct genomic DNA sequencing in 108 primary PTC samples from a Chinese cohort and analyzed its relationship with clinicopathological, hematological, and other laboratory results as well as the levels of expression of PDGF in tumors. We found that the BRAF mutation was significantly associated with extrathyroidal invasion and advanced tumor stages III and IV. Specifically, extrathyroidal invasion was seen in 30/54 (56%) PTC with BRAF mutation versus 18/54 (33%) PTC without the mutation (P=0.02). Tumor stages III and IV were seen in 16/54 (30%) PTC with BRAF mutation versus 7/54 (13%) PTC without the mutation (P=0.04). The BRAF mutation was also significantly associated with a higher platelet count, with 249.28+/-53.76 x 10(9)/l in the group of patients with BRAF mutation versus 207.79+/-58.98 x 10(9)/l in the group without the mutation (P=0.001). An association of higher platelet accounts with extrathyroidal invasion was also seen, with 242.66+/-51.85 x 10(9)/l in patients with extrathyroidal invasion versus 218.49+/-59.10 x 10(9)/l in patients without extrathyroidal invasion (P=0.03). The BRAF T1799A-positive PTC tissues harbored a significantly higher level of PDGF-B than BRAF T1799A-negative PTC tissues. The data suggest that the BRAF T1799A mutation is associated with aggressive pathological outcomes of PTC in which high platelet counts and increased PDGF production may play a role.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1677/ERC-07-0182DOI Listing
March 2008

High prevalence and mutual exclusivity of genetic alterations in the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/akt pathway in thyroid tumors.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2007 Jun 10;92(6):2387-90. Epub 2007 Apr 10.

Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.

Context: Genetic alterations in the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway and their role in thyroid tumor pathogenesis in Chinese people remain undefined.

Objective: The objective of the study was to examine the major genetic alterations and their relationship in the PI3K/Akt pathway in differentiated thyroid tumors in a Chinese cohort.

Design: We used real-time quantitative PCR for the analysis of PIK3CA copy gain and direct DNA sequencing for the detection of PIK3CA, RAS, and PTEN mutations on genomic DNA isolated from 234 thyroid tumors, including 31 follicular thyroid cancer (FTC), 141 papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), and 62 follicular thyroid adenoma (FTA).

Results: We found PIK3CA copy gain (defined as four or more copies) in nine of 31 FTC (29%), 20 of 141 PTC (14%), and five of 62 FTA (8%); PIK3CA gene mutations in four of 31 FTC (13%), one of 141 PTC (1%), and none of 62 FTA (0%); Ras mutations in three of 31 FTC (10%) and none of the 141 PTC and 62 FTA; and PTEN mutations in two of 31 FTC (6%) and none of 62 FTA (0%). Collectively, nine of 31 FTC (29%) vs. none of 62 FTA (0%) (P < 0.01) harbored one of the mutations, and when PIK3CA copy gain was included, 16 of 31 FTC (52%) vs. five of 62 FTA (8%) (P < 0.01) harbored any genetic alteration in the PI3K/Akt pathway. Mutual exclusivity was seen among all these PI3K/Akt pathway-related genetic alterations in all thyroid tumors except for two cases that harbored two genetic alterations.

Conclusion: These data from a Chinese cohort provide further genetic evidence suggesting that dysregulated PI3K/Akt pathway plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of thyroid tumors, particularly FTC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2006-2019DOI Listing
June 2007