Dr. Lin applies computational and genomics methods to understand cancer. He focuses on translating basic scientific discoveries into clinial diagnostics and therapies for patients. His major scientific accomplishments include:**
- first genome-wide sequencing of human cancers including breast, colorectal, melanoma, pancreatic, and brain cancers
- first genome sequencing of an engineered anti-cancer bacteria: Clostridium novyi-NT
- first establishment of genetic link between neoantigens and immunotherapy
- discovery of importance of IDH1 and IDH2 in glioblastoma and PALB2 in pancreatic cancer
- profiling the human protein-DNA interactome to understand transcriptional signaling
Dr. Lin has published over 100+ papers, abstracts, and book chapters, in top academic journals, such as Science, Nature, Cell, Nature Genetics, Nature Medicine, Nature Biotechnology, Genome Research, and PNAS. He has presented at top scientific conferences and institutions including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, NCI/NIH, Vanderbilt, and Johns Hopkins.
The early detection of relapse following primary surgery for non-small-cell lung cancer and the characterization of emerging subclones, which seed metastatic sites, might offer new therapeutic approaches for limiting tumour recurrence. The ability to track the evolutionary dynamics of early-stage lung cancer non-invasively in circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) has not yet been demonstrated. Here we use a tumour-specific phylogenetic approach to profile the ctDNA of the first 100 TRACERx (Tracking Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Evolution Through Therapy (Rx)) study participants, including one patient who was also recruited to the PEACE (Posthumous Evaluation of Advanced Cancer Environment) post-mortem study. We identify independent predictors of ctDNA release and analyse the tumour-volume detection limit. Through blinded profiling of postoperative plasma, we observe evidence of adjuvant chemotherapy resistance and identify patients who are very likely to experience recurrence of their lung cancer. Finally, we show that phylogenetic ctDNA profiling tracks the subclonal nature of lung cancer relapse and metastasis, providing a new approach for ctDNA-driven therapeutic studies.
Synonymous mutations, which do not alter the protein sequence, have been shown to affect protein function [Sauna ZE, Kimchi-Sarfaty C (2011) Nat Rev Genet 12(10):683-691]. However, synonymous mutations are rarely investigated in the cancer genomics field. We used whole-genome and -exome sequencing to identify somatic mutations in 29 melanoma samples. Validation of one synonymous somatic mutation in BCL2L12 in 285 samples identified 12 cases that harbored the recurrent F17F mutation. This mutation led to increased BCL2L12 mRNA and protein levels because of differential targeting of WT and mutant BCL2L12 by hsa-miR-671-5p.
Substantial regressions of metastatic lesions have been observed in up to 70% of patients with melanoma who received adoptively transferred autologous tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in phase 2 clinical trials1, 2. In addition, 40% of patients treated in a recent trial experienced complete regressions of all measurable lesions for at least 5 years following TIL treatment3. To evaluate the potential association between the ability of TILs to mediate durable regressions and their ability to recognize potent antigens that presumably include mutated gene products, we developed a new screening approach involving mining whole-exome sequence data to identify mutated proteins expressed in patient tumors. We then synthesized and evaluated candidate mutated T cell epitopes that were identified using a major histocompatibility complex–binding algorithm4 for recognition by TILs.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), the largest human gene family, are important regulators of signaling pathways. However, knowledge of their genetic alterations is limited. In this study, we used exon capture and massively parallel sequencing methods to analyze the mutational status of 734 GPCRs in melanoma. This investigation revealed that one family member, GRM3, was frequently mutated and that one of its mutations clustered within one position. Biochemical analysis of GRM3 alterations revealed that mutant GRM3 selectively regulated the phosphorylation of MEK, leading to increased anchorage-independent growth and migration.
The incidence of melanoma is increasing more than any other cancer, and knowledge of its genetic alterations is limited. To systematically analyze such alterations, we performed whole-exome sequencing of 14 matched normal and metastatic tumor DNAs. Using stringent criteria, we identified 68 genes that appeared to be somatically mutated at elevated frequency, many of which are not known to be genetically altered in tumors.
Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common malignant brain tumor of children. To identify the genetic alterations in this tumor type, we searched for copy number alterations using high-density microarrays and sequenced all known protein-coding genes and microRNA genes using Sanger sequencing in a set of 22 MBs. We found that, on average, each tumor had 11 gene alterations, fewer by a factor of 5 to 10 than in the adult solid tumors that have been sequenced to date.
Protein-DNA interactions (PDIs) mediate a broad range of functions essential for cellular differentiation, function, and survival. However, it is still a daunting task to comprehensively identify and profile sequence-specific PDIs in complex genomes. Here, we have used a combined bioinformatics and protein microarray-based strategy to systematically characterize the human protein-DNA interactome. We identified 17,718 PDIs between 460 DNA motifs predicted to regulate transcription and 4,191 human proteins of various functional classes. Among them, we recovered many known PDIs for transcription factors (TFs). We identified a large number of unanticipated PDIs for known TFs, as well as for previously uncharacterized TFs. We also found that over three hundred unconventional DNA-binding proteins (uDBPs)–which include RNA-binding proteins, mitochondrial proteins, and protein kinases–showed sequence-specific PDIs. One such uDBP, ERK2, acts as a transcriptional repressor for interferon gamma-induced genes, suggesting important biological roles for such proteins.
Tyrosine phosphorylation is important in signaling pathways underlying tumorigenesis. We performed a mutational analysis of the protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) gene family in cutaneous metastatic melanoma. We identified 30 somatic mutations affecting the kinase domains of 19 PTKs and subsequently evaluated the entire coding regions of the genes encoding these 19 PTKs for somatic mutations in 79 melanoma samples. We found ERBB4 mutations in 19% of individuals with melanoma and found mutations in two other kinases (FLT1 and PTK2B) in 10% of individuals with melanomas.
A mutational analysis of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) gene family in human melanoma identified somatic mutations in 23% of melanomas. Five mutations in one of the most commonly mutated genes, MMP8, reduced MMP enzyme activity. Expression of wild-type but not mutant MMP8 in human melanoma cells inhibited growth on soft agar in vitro and tumor formation in vivo, suggesting that wild-type MMP-8 has the ability to inhibit melanoma progression.
Through complete sequencing of the protein-coding genes in a patient with familial pancreatic cancer, we identified a germline, truncating mutation in PALB2 that appeared responsible for this patient’s predisposition to the disease. Analysis of 96 additional patients with familial pancreatic cancer revealed three distinct protein-truncating mutations, thereby validating the role of PALB2 as a susceptibility gene for pancreatic cancer. PALB2 mutations have been previously reported in patients with familial breast cancer, and the PALB2 protein is a binding partner for BRCA2. These results illustrate that complete, unbiased sequencing of protein-coding genes can lead to the identification of a gene responsible for a hereditary disease.
We have performed a genome-wide analysis of copy number changes in breast and colorectal tumors using approaches that can reliably detect homozygous deletions and amplifications. We found that the number of genes altered by major copy number changes, deletion of all copies or amplification to at least 12 copies per cell, averaged 17 per tumor. We have integrated these data with previous mutation analyses of the Reference Sequence genes in these same tumor types and have identified genes and cellular pathways affected by both copy number changes and point alterations.
There are currently few therapeutic options for patients with pancreatic cancer, and new insights into the pathogenesis of this lethal disease are urgently needed. Toward this end, we performed a comprehensive genetic analysis of 24 pancreatic cancers. We first determined the sequences of 23,219 transcripts, representing 20,661 protein-coding genes, in these samples. Then, we searched for homozygous deletions and amplifications in the tumor DNA by using microarrays containing probes for approximately 10(6) single-nucleotide polymorphisms. We found that pancreatic cancers contain an average of 63 genetic alterations, the majority of which are point mutations. These alterations defined a core set of 12 cellular signaling pathways and processes that were each genetically altered in 67 to 100% of the tumors.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common and lethal type of brain cancer. To identify the genetic alterations in GBMs, we sequenced 20,661 protein coding genes, determined the presence of amplifications and deletions using high-density oligonucleotide arrays, and performed gene expression analyses using next-generation sequencing technologies in 22 human tumor samples. This comprehensive analysis led to the discovery of a variety of genes that were not known to be altered in GBMs. Most notably, we found recurrent mutations in the active site of isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) in 12% of GBM patients.
Human cancer is caused by the accumulation of mutations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. To catalog the genetic changes that occur during tumorigenesis, we isolated DNA from 11 breast and 11 colorectal tumors and determined the sequences of the genes in the Reference Sequence database in these samples. Based on analysis of exons representing 20,857 transcripts from 18,191 genes, we conclude that the genomic landscapes of breast and colorectal cancers are composed of a handful of commonly mutated gene “mountains” and a much larger number of gene “hills” that are mutated at low frequency.
A recent study of a large number of genes in a panel of breast and colorectal cancers identified somatic mutations in 1149 genes. To identify potential biological processes affected by these genes, we examined their putative roles based on sequence similarity, membership in known functional groups and pathways, and predicted interactions with other proteins. These analyses identified functional groups and pathways that were enriched for mutated genes in both tumor types. Additionally, the results pointed to differences in molecular mechanisms that underlie breast and colorectal cancers, including various intracellular signaling and metabolic pathways. These studies provide a multidimensional framework to guide further research and help identify cellular processes critical for malignant progression and therapeutic intervention.
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Dr. Lin has published over 100+ papers, book chapters, and abstracts including top academic journals such as Science, Nature, and Cell and has spoken at top universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.
Dr. Lin has delivered over 100+ keynotes, speeches, and panels in 19 countries on 5 continents, including TED, Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the White House and the European Commission.
Dr. Lin has been featured or mentioned in over 300+ media outlets including New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Financial Times, Forbes, BBC, WIRED and TIME.