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Biomarkers of disease progression and chemotherapeutic resistance in canine osteosarcoma


Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone malignancy in both humans and dogs. Over 10,000 canine patients develop this highly aggressive cancer annually and many succumb to metastatic disease in less than a year. In recent years, canine osteosarcoma has been increasingly recognized as an excellent model for the disease in humans, especially with regard to the molecular biology of the disease. Thus, research targeted at canine osteosarcoma benefits not only dogs but the field of human oncology as well. Research into the genetic and molecular derangements of osteosarcoma in both species has identified a number of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes that may contribute to tumorigenesis. Additionally, some mediators of invasion and metastasis have been recognized (e.g. Ezrin, matrix metallopeptidases). Despite this, only a limited number of studies have been performed that examine the molecular genetics of osteosarcoma in the context of patient outcome. Thus, with the aim of identifying new target genes and pathways that contribute to disease progression and chemoresistance in osteosarcoma, we first performed transcriptomic and genomic analyses of primary tumors from dogs that had experienced good or poor outcomes following definitive treatment for osteosarcoma. These broad survey experiments yielded a selection of targets for future investigation. To further focus in on the genes that were most deranged from "normal" expression patterns, we compared gene expression patterns from tumors to those of normal bone. This study provided valuable perspective on genes that were identified in the outcome-based experiments, allowing selection of four promising gene targets to pursue. We next set out to validate in vitro models of canine osteosarcoma so that mechanistic studies could be pursued. Assays to test species and short tandem repeat identity were adapted to cell lines in use in our facility and presumed osteosarcoma cell lines were verified to be bone-derived via PCR testing of a bone-specific marker. Additionally, four anti-human antibodies were validated for use in canine samples. Two genes whose expression progressively altered with increased tumor aggressiveness where chosen for further study: insulin-like growth factor 2 mRNA binding protein 1 (IGF2BP1) and n-Myc downstream regulated gene 2 (NDRG2). IGF2BP1 has been identified as an oncofetal protein and its mRNA was strongly overexpressed in patients with the worst outcome while it was virtually undetectable in normal bone. We identified one possible mechanism for dysregulation of this gene in OSA and we also discovered that knock down of this gene in a canine osteosarcoma cell line inhibited cell invasion. NDRG2 has been dubbed a tumor suppressor in a number of different tumor types yet had not been previously investigated in osteosarcoma. We found NDRG2 mRNA to be underexpressed in all tumors relative to normal bone; patients with poor outcomes had the lowest expression levels. Multiple isoforms of the gene were found to be expressed in canine samples: these were cloned and transfected into a low-NDRG2-expressing cell line. Exogenous expression of NDRG2 in this in vitro system enhanced sensitivity to doxorubicin, one of the drugs most commonly used to treat osteosarcoma. Additionally, three possible mechanisms of dysregulation of this gene were identified. The studies presented herein progress from fact-finding surveys to in-depth functional examination of two genes that likely contribute to osteosarcoma invasion and chemoresistance. Furthermore, additional genes identified in our survey experiments offer promise for future studies into molecular mechanisms of osteosarcoma metastases and chemotherapeutic resistance. Finally, these studies have laid the groundwork for the development of gene-expression-based prognostic screens for dogs with osteosarcoma.


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