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Cell state plasticity, stem cells, EMT, and the generation of intra-tumoral heterogeneity

, 1 , 2

NPJ Breast Cancer

Nature Publishing Group UK

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      Abstract

      Cellular heterogeneity in cancer represents a significant challenge. In order to develop effective and lasting therapies, it is essential to understand the source of this heterogeneity, and its role in tumor progression and therapy resistance. Here, we consider not only genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, but also inflammation and cell state reprogramming in creating tumor heterogeneity. We discuss similarities between normal mammary epithelial developmental states and various breast cancer molecular sub-types, and the cells that are thought to propagate them. We emphasize that while stem cell phenotypes and mesenchymal character have often been conflated, existing data suggest that the combination of intrinsic genetic and epigenetic changes, and microenvironmental influences generate multiple types of tumor propagating cells distinguishable by their positions along a continuum of epithelial to mesenchymal, stem to differentiated and embryonic to mature cell states. Consequently, in addition to the prospect of stem cell-directed tumor therapies, there is a need to understand interrelationships between stem cell, epithelial–mesenchymal, and tumor-associated reprogramming events to develop new therapies that mitigate cell state plasticity and minimize the evolution of tumor heterogeneity.

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      Induction of pluripotent stem cells from adult human fibroblasts by defined factors.

      Successful reprogramming of differentiated human somatic cells into a pluripotent state would allow creation of patient- and disease-specific stem cells. We previously reported generation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, capable of germline transmission, from mouse somatic cells by transduction of four defined transcription factors. Here, we demonstrate the generation of iPS cells from adult human dermal fibroblasts with the same four factors: Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc. Human iPS cells were similar to human embryonic stem (ES) cells in morphology, proliferation, surface antigens, gene expression, epigenetic status of pluripotent cell-specific genes, and telomerase activity. Furthermore, these cells could differentiate into cell types of the three germ layers in vitro and in teratomas. These findings demonstrate that iPS cells can be generated from adult human fibroblasts.
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        Molecular portraits of human breast tumours.

        Human breast tumours are diverse in their natural history and in their responsiveness to treatments. Variation in transcriptional programs accounts for much of the biological diversity of human cells and tumours. In each cell, signal transduction and regulatory systems transduce information from the cell's identity to its environmental status, thereby controlling the level of expression of every gene in the genome. Here we have characterized variation in gene expression patterns in a set of 65 surgical specimens of human breast tumours from 42 different individuals, using complementary DNA microarrays representing 8,102 human genes. These patterns provided a distinctive molecular portrait of each tumour. Twenty of the tumours were sampled twice, before and after a 16-week course of doxorubicin chemotherapy, and two tumours were paired with a lymph node metastasis from the same patient. Gene expression patterns in two tumour samples from the same individual were almost always more similar to each other than either was to any other sample. Sets of co-expressed genes were identified for which variation in messenger RNA levels could be related to specific features of physiological variation. The tumours could be classified into subtypes distinguished by pervasive differences in their gene expression patterns.
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          Comprehensive molecular portraits of human breast tumors

          Summary We analyzed primary breast cancers by genomic DNA copy number arrays, DNA methylation, exome sequencing, mRNA arrays, microRNA sequencing and reverse phase protein arrays. Our ability to integrate information across platforms provided key insights into previously-defined gene expression subtypes and demonstrated the existence of four main breast cancer classes when combining data from five platforms, each of which shows significant molecular heterogeneity. Somatic mutations in only three genes (TP53, PIK3CA and GATA3) occurred at > 10% incidence across all breast cancers; however, there were numerous subtype-associated and novel gene mutations including the enrichment of specific mutations in GATA3, PIK3CA and MAP3K1 with the Luminal A subtype. We identified two novel protein expression-defined subgroups, possibly contributed by stromal/microenvironmental elements, and integrated analyses identified specific signaling pathways dominant in each molecular subtype including a HER2/p-HER2/HER1/p-HER1 signature within the HER2-Enriched expression subtype. Comparison of Basal-like breast tumors with high-grade Serous Ovarian tumors showed many molecular commonalities, suggesting a related etiology and similar therapeutic opportunities. The biologic finding of the four main breast cancer subtypes caused by different subsets of genetic and epigenetic abnormalities raises the hypothesis that much of the clinically observable plasticity and heterogeneity occurs within, and not across, these major biologic subtypes of breast cancer.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]GRID grid.250671.7, , The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, ; 10010 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037 USA
            [2 ]GRID grid.223827.e, Huntsman Cancer Institute, , The University of Utah, ; 2000 Circle of Hope, Salt Lake City, UT 84112 USA
            Contributors
            wahl@salk.edu
            Journal
            NPJ Breast Cancer
            NPJ Breast Cancer
            NPJ Breast Cancer
            Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
            2374-4677
            19 April 2017
            19 April 2017
            2017
            : 3
            5460241 12 10.1038/s41523-017-0012-z
            © The Author(s) 2017

            This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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            © The Author(s) 2017

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