BACKGROUND Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a pediatric brain tumor (glioma), resistant to chemotherapy, with only a temporary response to radiotherapy and an extremely bad prognosis. Genomic abnormalities have been found, indicating abnormal activation of certain growth factor signaling pathways, while expression analysis suggests involvement of developmental signaling pathways.10–15 signal transduction pathways can drive cancer growth and metastasis. We have developed, and biologically validated, a method which enables quantitative measurements of functional activity of signal transduction pathways in individual cell/tissue samples, based on Bayesian computational model inference of pathway activity from measurements of mRNA levels of target genes of the transcription factor associated with the respective signalling pathway. A major envisioned clinical utility is prediction of therapy response.
MATERIAL AND METHODS For signaling pathway analysis, Affymetrix expression microarray data were available (GEO dataset GSE26576) from 2 normal brain stem samples and from 6 low grade glioma and 26 DIPG samples (post-mortem after therapy). Of one DIPG patient samples were available before and after therapy. Signaling pathway activity scores were calculated for estrogen and androgen receptor, PI3K-FOXO, MAPK-AP1, JAK-STAT, NF?B, Hedgehog (HH), TGF?, NOTCH and Wnt pathways. PI3K pathway activity is the reverse of FOXO activity, in the absence of oxidative stress (measured by SOD2 expression). Pathway activity scores were compared between normal tissue and low grade glioma samples and DIPG, and k-means cluster analysis was performed on the DIPG pathway activity scores.
RESULTS After treatment, HH pathway activity was increased in DIPG compared to low grade glioma (p=0.0003), PI3K pathway activity scores showed large variations in activity in the DIPG group. Tumors with cell cycle (CDK4/6, CCND1-3) or Receptor Tyrosine Kinase-related gene amplifications had higher PI3K and HH pathway activity compared to tumors without identified amplifications (p<0.05) which, in contrast, had higher MAPK-AP1 pathway activity (p<0.002). Pathway-based clustering analysis revealed two DIPG clusters, C1: high TGF?/MAPK-AP1 and low PI3K/HH pathway activity; C2: low TGF?/MAPK-AP1, high PI3K/HH pathway activity. C1 best resembled low grade glioma. In the patient with pre/post treatment samples, a C1 pathway profile switched to a C2 profile after treatment.
CONCLUSION Using our quantitative analysis of signaling pathway activity in post-treatment DIPG, two pathway activity subtypes were identified, of which the HH/PI3K high, TGF? low activity subtype was associated with defined gene amplifications, and may have been induced by chemoradiation therapy. Clusters are supported by a clear biological rationale. Identified signaling pathways are potentially drug targetable.