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Br J Cancer. 2010 Jan 19;102(2):428-35. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605450.

Large meta-analysis of multiple cancers reveals a common, compact and highly prognostic hypoxia metagene.

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Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 9DS, UK.

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  • Br J Cancer. 2010 Sep 7;103(6):929.



There is a need to develop robust and clinically applicable gene expression signatures. Hypoxia is a key factor promoting solid tumour progression and resistance to therapy; a hypoxia signature has the potential to be not only prognostic but also to predict benefit from particular interventions.


An approach for deriving signatures that combine knowledge of gene function and analysis of in vivo co-expression patterns was used to define a common hypoxia signature from three head and neck and five breast cancer studies. Previously validated hypoxia-regulated genes (seeds) were used to generate hypoxia co-expression cancer networks.


A common hypoxia signature, or metagene, was derived by selecting genes that were consistently co-expressed with the hypoxia seeds in multiple cancers. This was highly enriched for hypoxia-regulated pathways, and prognostic in multivariate analyses. Genes with the highest connectivity were also the most prognostic, and a reduced metagene consisting of a small number of top-ranked genes, including VEGFA, SLC2A1 and PGAM1, outperformed both a larger signature and reported signatures in independent data sets of head and neck, breast and lung cancers.


Combined knowledge of multiple genes' function from in vitro experiments together with meta-analysis of multiple cancers can deliver compact and robust signatures suitable for clinical application.

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