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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of specific genomic alterations in small cell lung cancer aggressiveness Coe, Bradley P.


Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) is a very aggressive neuroendocrine tumour of the lung, which demonstrates a 5 year survival of only 10% for extensive stage disease (20-30% for limited stage), with only modest improvement over the last few decades. Identification of new molecular diagnostic and therapeutic targets is thus imperative. Previous efforts in identifying molecular changes in SCLC by gene expression profiling using microarrays have facilitated disease classification but yielded very limited information on SCLC biology. Previous DNA studies have been successful in identifying several loci important to SCLC. However the low resolution of conventional chromosomal Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) has limited the findings to large chromosomal regions with only a few specific candidate genes discovered to date. Thus, to further understand the biological behaviour of SCLC, better methods for studying the genomic alterations in SCLC are necessary. This thesis highlights the development of array CGH technology for the high resolution dissection of aneuploidy in cancer genomes and the application of this new technology to the study of SCLC. I present the development of the first whole genome CGH array which offered unprecedented resolution in the profiling of cancer genomes allowing fine mapping of genes in a single experiment. Through application of DNA based analysis in conjunction with integrated expression analysis and comparison of SCLC to less aggressive non-small cell lung tumours I have identified novel patterns of pathway disruption specific to SCLC. This included alteration to Wnt pathway members and striking patterns of cell cycle activation through predominantly downstream disruption of signalling pathways including direct activation of the E2F transcription factors, which are normally repressed by the Rb gene. Analysis of targets of the E2F/Rb pathway identified EZH2 as being specifically hyper-activated in SCLC, compared to NSCLC. EZH2 is a polycomb group gene involved in the control of many cellular functions including targeted DNA methylation and escape from senescence in hematopoietic stem cells. Taken together these results suggest that in SCLC, downstream disruption may replace multiple upstream alterations leading to activation independent of a specific mitogenic pathway, and that EZH2 represents a potentially important therapeutic target.

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