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Br J Cancer. 2019 Oct;121(8):666-678. doi: 10.1038/s41416-019-0572-9. Epub 2019 Sep 16.

Aberrations in Notch-Hedgehog signalling reveal cancer stem cells harbouring conserved oncogenic properties associated with hypoxia and immunoevasion.

Author information

1
Institute of Health Informatics, University College London, 222 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DA, UK.
2
Institute of Health Informatics, University College London, 222 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DA, UK. alvina.lai@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have innate abilities to resist even the harshest of therapies. To eradicate CSCs, parallels can be drawn from signalling modules that orchestrate pluripotency. Notch-Hedgehog hyperactivation are seen in CSCs, yet, not much is known about their conserved roles in tumour progression across cancers.

METHODS:

Employing a comparative approach involving 21 cancers, we uncovered clinically-relevant, pan-cancer drivers of Notch and Hedgehog. GISTIC datasets were used to evaluate copy number alterations. Receiver operating characteristic and Cox regression were employed for survival analyses.

RESULTS:

We identified a Notch-Hedgehog signature of 13 genes exhibiting high frequencies of somatic amplifications leading to transcript overexpression. The signature successfully predicted patients at risk of death in five cancers (n = 2278): glioma (P < 0.0001), clear cell renal cell (P = 0.0022), papillary renal cell (P = 0.00099), liver (P = 0.014) and stomach (P = 0.011). The signature was independent of other clinicopathological parameters and offered an additional resolution to stratify similarly-staged tumours. High-risk patients exhibited features of stemness and had more hypoxic tumours, suggesting that hypoxia may influence CSC behaviour. Notch-Hedgehog+ CSCs had an immune privileged phenotype associated with increased regulatory T cell function.

CONCLUSION:

This study will set the stage for exploring adjuvant therapy targeting the Notch-Hedgehog axis to help optimise therapeutic regimes leading to successful CSC elimination.

PMID:
31523055
DOI:
10.1038/s41416-019-0572-9

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