Bridging Cancer Biology with the Clinic: Relative Expression of a GRHL2-Mediated Gene-Set Pair Predicts Breast Cancer Metastasis

Yang, Xinan; Vasudevan, Prabhakaran; Parekh, Vishwas; Penev, Aleks; Cunningham, John M.
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Identification and characterization of crucial gene target(s) that will allow focused therapeutics development remains a challenge. We have interrogated the putative therapeutic targets associated with the transcription factor Grainy head-like 2 (GRHL2), a critical epithelial regulatory factor. We demonstrate the possibility to define the molecular functions of critical genes in terms of their personalized expression profiles, allowing appropriate functional conclusions to be derived. A novel methodology, relative expression analysis with gene-set pairs (RXA-GSP), is designed to explore the potential clinical utility of cancer-biology discovery. Observing that Grhl2-overexpression leads to increased metastatic potential in vitro, we established a model assuming Grhl2-induced or -inhibited genes confer poor or favorable prognosis respectively for cancer metastasis. Training on public gene expression profiles of 995 breast cancer patients, this method prioritized one gene-set pair (GRHL2, CDH2, FN1, CITED2, MKI67 versus CTNNB1 and CTNNA3) from all 2717 possible gene-set pairs (GSPs). The identified GSP significantly dichotomized 295 independent patients for metastasis-free survival (log-rank tested p = 0.002; severe empirical p = 0.035). It also showed evidence of clinical prognostication in another independent 388 patients collected from three studies (log-rank tested p = 3.3e–6). This GSP is independent of most traditional prognostic indicators, and is only significantly associated with the histological grade of breast cancer (p = 0.0017), a GRHL2-associated clinical character (p = 6.8e–6, Spearman correlation), suggesting that this GSP is reflective of GRHL2-mediated events. Furthermore, a literature review indicates the therapeutic potential of the identified genes. This research demonstrates a novel strategy to integrate both biological experiments and clinical gene expression profiles for extracting and elucidating the genomic impact of a novel factor, GRHL2, and its associated gene-sets on the breast cancer prognosis. Importantly, the RXA-GSP method helps to individualize breast cancer treatment. It also has the potential to contribute considerably to basic biological investigation, clinical tools, and potential therapeutic targets.


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