George Blanck

Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida, United States

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Publications (59)209.94 Total impact

  • Timothy J Fawcett · Michele L Parry · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Oncoprotein genes are over-represented in statically defined, low mutation-frequency fractions of cancer genome atlas (TCGA) datasets, consistent with a higher driver mutation density. Materials and methods: We developed a "continuously variable fraction" (CVF) approach to defining high and low mutation-frequency groups. Results and conclusion: Using the CVF approach, an oncoprotein set was shown to be associated with a TCGA, low mutation-frequency group in nine distinct cancer types, versus six, for statically defined sets; and a tumor-suppressor set was over-represented in the low mutation-frequency group in seven cancer types, notably including BRCA. The CVF approach identified single-mutation driver candidates, such as BRAF V600E in the thyroid cancer dataset. The CVF approach allowed investigation of cytoskeletal protein-related coding regions (CPCRs), leading to the conclusion that mutation of CPCRs occurs at a statistically significant, higher density in low mutation-frequency groups. Supporting online material for this article can be found at
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015
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    ABSTRACT: HLA-DR is the most commonly expressed and likely the most medically important human MHC class II, antigen presenting protein. In a normal immune response, HLA-DR binds to antigenic peptide and the HLA-DR/peptide complex binds to a T-cell receptor, thus contributing to T-cell activation and stimulation of an immune response against the antigen. When foreign antigen is not present, HLA-DR binds endogenous peptide which, under normal conditions does not stimulate an immune response. In most cases, the human peptide is CLIP, but a certain percentage of HLA-DR molecules will be present at the cell surface with other human peptides. We have recently shown that cell surface, CLIP/HLA-DR ratios are a measure of peptide heterogeneity, and in particular, changes in CLIP/HLA-DR ratios represent changes in the occupancy of HLA-DR by other, endogenous peptides. For example, treatment of cells with the HDAC inhibitor, Entinostat, leads to an upregulation of Cathepsin L1 and replacement of Cathepsin L1 senstitive peptides with HLA-DR binding, Cathepsin L1 resistant peptides, an alteration that can be at least partially assessed via assessment of CLIP/HLA-DR cell surface ratios. Here we assay for CLIP/HLA-DR ratios following treatment of immortalized B-cells with a variety of common drugs, almost all of which indicate significant changes in the CLIP/HLA-DR ratios. Furthermore, the CLIP/HLA-DR ratio changes parallel the impact of the drug panoply on cell viability, suggesting that alterations in the HLA-DR peptidome are governed by a variety of mechanisms, rather than exclusively dependent on a dedicated peptide loading process. These results raise questions about how FDA approved drugs may affect the immune response, and whether any of these drugs could be useful as vaccine adjuvants?
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics
  • Shanitra N Butler · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) is primarily oriented towards revealing the status of cancer cells but TCGA RNASeq data have the potential of representing gene expression for a variety of cells that are included during RNA preparation, i.e., cells that cannot be removed from the microenvironment during cancer sample isolation. Thus, we seek to determine whether RNASeq data can be used to pioneer greater precision for immunoscoring. We obtained the RNASeq results for HLA class II genes, the class II transactivator (CIITA) and T-cell receptor (TCR) alpha segments. The data indicated strong degrees of correlation of HLA class II expression with TCR expression. Furthermore, biomarkers of professional antigen-presenting cells also correlated with TCR expression, with the kidney renal papillary cell carcinoma (KIRP) dataset indicative of the highest level, immune function microenvironment. These analyses indicate that an immune function signature, with probable internal HLA class II-TCR verifications, can be obtained from individual TCGA samples; this in turn indicates that such signatures might provide a basis for correlations with prognosis or for convenient indications of therapy options, such as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte availability for ex-vivo amplification. Although tumor immunoscoring has been proposed, the above analysis represents the first immunoscoring approach that correlates antigen presentation capacity with TCR mRNA expression.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Cell and Tissue Research
  • George Blanck

    No preview · Article · Aug 2015 · AJP Heart and Circulatory Physiology
  • Michele L Parry · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: Osteogenesis imperfecta is inherited as a dominant disease because if one allele is mutated, it contributes a mutant, destructive subunit polypeptide to collagen, which requires many subunits to form normal, polymeric, collagenous structures. Recent cancer genome atlas (TCGA) data indicate that cytoskeletal-related proteins are among the most commonly mutated proteins in human cancers, in distinct mutation frequency groups, i.e., including low mutation frequency groups. Part of the explanation for this observation is likely to be the fact that many of the coding regions for these proteins are very large, and indeed, it is likely these coding regions are mutated in many cells that never become cancerous. However, it would not be surprising if mutations in cytoskeletal proteins, when combined with oncoprotein or tumor suppressor protein mutations, had significant impacts on cancer development, for a number of reasons, including results obtained almost five decades ago indicating that well-spread cells in tissue culture, with well-formed cytoskeletons, were less tumorigenic than spherical cells with disrupted cytoskeletons. This raises the question, are mutant cytoskeletal proteins, which would likely interfere with polymer formation, a new class of oncoproteins, in particular, dominant negative oncoproteins? If these proteins are so commonly mutant, could they be the bases for common cancer vaccines?
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics
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    ABSTRACT: Apoptosis- and proliferation-effector genes are substantially regulated by the same transactivators, with E2F-1 and Oct-1 being notable examples. The larger proliferation-effector genes have more binding sites for the transactivators that regulate both sets of genes, and proliferation-effector genes have more regions of active chromatin, i.e, DNase I hypersensitive and histone 3, lysine-4 trimethylation sites. Thus, the size differences between the two classes of genes suggest a transcriptional regulation paradigm whereby the accumulation of transcription factors that regulate both sets of genes, merely as an aspect of stochastic behavior, accumulate first on the larger proliferation-effector gene "traps", and then accumulate on the apoptosis effector genes, thereby effecting sequential activation of the two different gene sets. As IRF-1 and p53 levels increase, tumor suppressor proteins are first activated, followed by the activation of apoptosis-effector genes, for example during S-phase pausing for DNA repair. Tumor suppressor genes are larger than apoptosis-effector genes and have more IRF-1 and p53 binding sites, thereby likewise suggesting a paradigm for transcription sequencing based on stochastic interactions of transcription factors with different gene classes. In this report, using the ENCODE database, we determined that tumor suppressor genes have a greater number of open chromatin regions and histone 3 lysine-4 trimethylation sites, consistent with the idea that a larger gene size can facilitate earlier transcriptional activation via the inclusion of more transactivator binding sites.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)
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    ABSTRACT: Successful use of anticancer designer drugs is likely to depend on simultaneous combinations of these drugs to minimize the development of resistant cancer cells. Considering the knowledge base of cancer signaling pathways, mechanisms of designer drug resistance should be anticipated, and early clinical trials could be designed to include arms that combine new drugs specifically with currently US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs expected to blunt alternative signaling pathways. In this review, we indicate examples of alternative signal pathways for recent anticancer drugs, and the use of original, Python-based software to identify systematically signaling pathways that could facilitate resistance to drugs targeting a particular protein. Pathway alternatives can be assessed at, developed with this review article. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Drug Discovery Today
  • Mark C Lloyd · Karoly Szekeres · Joel S Brown · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: Melanoma cells express high levels of HLA class II, cell surface antigen-presenting proteins, which is an anomalous phenotype among solid tumors. There has never been a satisfying explanation for how this HLA class II-positive phenotype is related to tumor development. Lugini and colleagues demonstrated that melanoma cells have the capacity to engulf T-cells. We considered the possibility that this capacity could be dependent on HLA class II expression. We co-cultured melanoma and CD4-positive, labeled, Jurkat-C T-cells. The melanoma cells were transformed with an expression vector for CIITA, the obligate HLA class II gene transactivator. We then assayed for the transfer of label to the melanoma cells. CIITA expression facilitated engulfment of the T-cell material but not material from B-cells. The results suggest a possible mechanism for HLA class II-positive melanoma cells in blunting an anti-tumor response and suggest a possible target for melanoma therapy. Copyright© 2015 International Institute of Anticancer Research (Dr. John G. Delinassios), All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Anticancer research
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    ABSTRACT: A continuing conundrum of cancer biology is the dichotomous function of transcription factors that regulate both proliferation and apoptosis, seemingly opposite results. Previous results have indicated that regulated entry into the S-phase of the cell cycle can be anti-apoptotic. Indeed, tumor suppressor genes can be amplified in tumors and certain, slow growing cancers can represent a relatively poor prognosis, both phenomena likely related to reduced cancer cell apoptosis, in turn due to reduced, unproductive entry into S-phase. In this report, we demonstrate that the Oct-1 transcription factor, commonly considered pro-proliferative, indeed facilitates IFN-γ induced apoptosis in 5637 bladder carcinoma cells, consistent with the role of the retinoblastoma protein in down-regulating Oct-1 DNA binding activity and in suppressing IFN-γ induced apoptosis. More importantly, despite the commonly appreciated process of IFN-γ induced apoptosis, IFN-γ at low concentrations stimulated cell bladder cancer cell proliferation, consistent with apoptosis being dependent on an overstimulation of what is otherwise a pro-proliferative pathway. This observation is in turn consistent with a feed forward mechanism of apoptosis, whereby transcription factors activate proliferation-effector genes at relatively low levels, then apoptosis-effector genes when the transcription factors over-accumulate. Finally, Oct-1 mediated apoptosis is inhibited by co-culture with Raji B-cells, raising the question of whether the normal lymph node environment, or other microenvironments with high concentrations of B-cells, is protective against Oct-1 facilitated apoptosis.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Experimental and Molecular Pathology
  • Shea A Ford · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: Research in cancer biology has been largely driven by experimental approaches whereby discreet inputs are used to assess discreet outputs, for example, gene-knockouts to assess cancer occurrence. However, cancer hallmarks are only rarely, if ever, exclusively dependent on discreet regulatory processes. Rather, cancer-related regulatory factors affect multiple cancer hallmarks. Thus, novel approaches and paradigms are needed for further advances. Signal pathway persistence and amplification, rather than signal pathway activation resulting from an on/off switch, represent emerging paradigms for cancer research, closely related to developmental regulatory paradigms. In this review, we address both mechanisms and effects of signal pathway persistence and amplification in cancer settings; and address the possibility that hyper-activation of pro-proliferative signal pathways in certain cancer settings could be exploited for therapy. Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier B.V.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Reviews on Cancer
  • Michele L Parry · Michael Ramsamooj · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: We determined the most commonly mutated genes in five cancer genome atlas (TCGA) datasets. Many of these genes were extraordinarily large, as are many cancer fusion gene partners. And many of these genes had cytoskeletal related functions. We further determined that these genes were distributed into high and low frequency mutation groups largely according to overall rate of gene-occurrence in the high and low mutation frequency groups, as was also the case with common metastasis and tumor suppressor genes. Oncoproteins were selectively mutated in the low mutation frequency groups in colon and lung datasets. Thus, genes that have very large coding regions and may impact the cytoskeleton are more commonly mutated than are common metastasis and tumor suppressor genes in both high and low frequency mutation groups. These analyses raise questions related to cell shape: (i) Are cancer cells often spherical because cytoskeletal-related proteins are large mutagen targets? (ii) Is drug-resistance facilitated by relatively common mutant proteins that lead to round cells, with altered cell physiology or reduced surface to volume ratios that could reduce intra-cellular drug concentrations? Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Cancer Letters
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer cells undergo a variety of DNA copy number gains and losses (CNV), raising two important questions related to cancer development: (i) Which genes are affected? (ii) And how do CNVs, that do not represent complete deletions but do represent gene-dosage alterations, impact cancer cell functions? Recent studies have indicated that CNVs in cancer can impact genes for regulatory proteins long known to be associated with cancer development, but less is understood about CNVs affecting effector genes. Also, we have recently indicated the likely importance of transcription factor binding site (TFBS) copies in effector genes, in regulating the transition from a proliferative to an apoptotic state. Here we report data-mining analyses that indicate that copies of apoptosis-effector genes are commonly lost in cancer development, in comparison to proliferation-effector genes, and when not, apoptosis effector genes have silenced chromatin structures.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Gene
  • George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: Background: U.S. medical colleges commonly administer both M.D. and Ph.D. programs, but the value and application of these degrees are being challenged by economic developments. Summary: In medicine, the country faces a long-term period of cost cutting and new models for efficient healthcare delivery. In research, the outlook for the independently creative career is bleak, owing to the failure of the National Institutes of Health to engineer a sustainable program of scientists' training and subsequent funding of the trained scientists' research. However, an educational bright spot for medical colleges has been the biomedical science master's program. Conclusions: These programs have been highly popular with students and have the potential of reinvigorating the pool of student researchers, educating professionals in allied fields who are competent advocates for biomedical research, and providing professionals who can enter the healthcare delivery system with reduced expense, for example, as genetic or personalized medicine counselors.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Teaching and Learning in Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to investigate and quantify the morphological and molecular changes in the thymus for common causes of human infant death. Thymic architecture and molecular changes apparent in human infant head trauma victims were assessed by microscopy and quantified by image analysis of digital whole slide images. Thymuses from victims of SIDS and suffocated infants displaying normal thymus architecture were used for comparison. Molecular expression of proliferation and serotonin receptor and transporter protein markers was evaluated. Duplicate morphological and molecular studies of rodent thymuses were completed with both mouse and rat models. Quantification of novel parameters of digital images of thymuses from human infants suffering mortal head trauma revealed a disruption of the corticomedullary organization of the thymus, particularly involving dissolution of the corticomedullary border. A similar result was obtained for related mouse and rat models. The human thymuses from head trauma cases also displayed a higher percentage of Ki-67-positive thymocytes. Finally, we determined that thymus expression of the human serotonin receptor, and the serotonin transporter, occur almost exclusively in the thymic medulla. Head trauma leads to a disruption of the thymic, corticomedullary border, and molecular expression patterns in a robust and quantifiable manner.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014
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    George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: New cancer research strategies have developed very rapidly over the past five years, including extensive DNA sequencing of tumor and normal cells; use of highly sensitive cancer cell detection methods; vaccine development and tumor-specific (designer) drugs. These developments have raised questions about where to concentrate efforts in the near future when establishing clinical trials, particularly important in an age of diminishing resources and during a period when competing strategies for cancer control are likely to overwhelm the opportunities for establishing large, effective clinical trials. In particular, it behooves the research community to be mindful of the inevitable, challenging obligation to responsibly choose between clinical trials that offer the credible hope of incremental advances vs. trials that are less traditional but may have revolutionary outcomes.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics
  • James A Mauro · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: In cancer biology, most molecular regulatory mechanisms are casually treated as on/off switches for specific cancer hallmarks, despite the lack of compelling evidence that cancer hallmarks can be exclusively attributed to specific regulatory proteins. To consider a novel paradigm for the basis of regulating a set of effector genes for proliferation, versus apoptosis-effector genes, we used a bioinformatics approach to ascertain differences between the transcription factor binding site occurrences in the two sets of genes. Results indicated that there are more binding sites per gene, for transcription factors that regulate both proliferation and apoptosis, among the proliferation-effector genes than among the apoptosis-effector genes. Proliferation-effector genes also had more open chromatin regions. We also applied this paradigm to the question of why p53 and interferon regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1) first activate cell cycle arrest genes followed by apoptosis genes, with results indicating the cycle arrest genes are bigger p53 and IRF-1 traps. These data support the idea that, as a set of transcription factors becomes active, there is a stochastic component leading to the accumulation of these transcription factors on genes that effect an initial phenotype before their accumulation on genes that effect a subsequent phenotype.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Gene
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous molecular eff ects have been attributed to histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACI’s), including the induction of major histocompatibility (MHC) genes. Here we report that one FDA approved HDACI, Vorinostat, and a second HDACI currently in clinical trials, Entinostat, reduce the ratio of class II associated invariant peptide (CLIP) to the MHC class II molecule, HLA-DR, indicating an increase in the non-CLIP peptides bound to HLA-DR. The HDACI eff ects are apparent with immortalized B-cells, HLA-DR constitutive melanoma cells and with melanoma cells expressing HLA-DR due to transformation with an expression vector for the HLA-DR gene co-activator, CIITA. Entinostat treatment leads to upregulation of Cathepsin L1, and the HLA-DR peptidome of the Entinostat treated cells is consistent with increased Cathepsin L1 mediated proteolysis. These results indicate that HDACI treatments may alter the HLA-DR peptidome of cells in patients and provide a way to identify novel immunogens for vaccinations and the study of autoantigens.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · Human vaccines
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous molecular effects have been attributed to histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACI's), including the induction of major histocompatibility (MHC) genes. Here we report that one FDA approved HDACI, Vorinostat, and a second HDACI currently in clinical trials, Entinostat, reduce the ratio of class II associated invariant peptide (CLIP) to the MHC class II molecule, HLA-DR, indicating an increase in the non-CLIP peptides bound to HLA-DR. The HDACI effects are apparent with immortalized B-cells, HLA-DR constitutive melanoma cells and with melanoma cells expressing HLA-DR due to transformation with an expression vector for the HLA-DR gene co-activator, CIITA. Entinostat treatment leads to upregulation of Cathepsin L1, and the HLA-DR peptidome of the Entinostat treated cells is consistent with increased Cathepsin L1 mediated proteolysis. These results indicate that HDACI treatments may alter the HLA-DR peptidome of cells in patients and provide a way to identify novel immunogens for vaccinations and the study of autoantigens.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2013 · Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics
  • Libia M Pava · Daniel T Morton · Ren Chen · George Blanck
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    ABSTRACT: Genes that fuse to cause cancer have been studied to determine molecular bases for proliferation, to develop diagnostic tools, and as targets for drugs. To facilitate identification of additional, cancer fusion genes, following observation of a chromosomal translocation, we have characterized the genomic features of the fusion gene partners. Previous work indicated that cancer fusion gene partners, are either large or evolutionarily conserved in comparison to the neighboring genes in the region of a chromosomal translocation. These results raised the question of whether large cancer fusion gene partners were also evolutionarily conserved. Methods and We developed two methods for quantifying evolutionary conservation values, allowing the conclusion that both large and small cancer fusion gene partners are more evolutionarily conserved than their neighbors. Additionally, we determined that cancer fusion gene partners have more 3' untranslated region secondary structures than do their neighbors. Coupled with previous algorithms, with or without transcriptome approaches, we expect these results to assist in the rapid and efficient use of chromosomal translocations to identify cancer fusion genes. The above parameters for any gene of interest can be accessed at
    No preview · Article · Nov 2012
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    ABSTRACT: The induction of the major histocompatibility (MHC), antigen-presenting class II molecules by interferon-gamma, in solid tumor cells, requires the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein (Rb). In the absence of Rb, a repressosome blocks the access of positive-acting, promoter binding proteins to the MHC class II promoter. However, a complete molecular linkage between Rb expression and the disassembly of the MHC class II repressosome has been lacking. By treating A549 lung carcinoma cells with a novel small molecule that prevents phosphorylation-mediated, Rb inactivation, we demonstrate that Rb represses the synthesis of an MHC class II repressosome component, YY1. The reduction in YY1 synthesis correlates with the advent of MHC class II inducibility; with loss of YY1 binding to the promoter of the HLA-DRA gene, the canonical human MHC class II gene; and with increased Rb binding to the YY1 promoter.. These results support the concept that the Rb gene regulatory network (GRN) subcircuit that regulates cell proliferation is linked to a GRN subcircuit regulating a tumor cell immune function.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2012 · Gene

Publication Stats

620 Citations
209.94 Total Impact Points


  • 2015
    • Moffitt Cancer Center
      Tampa, Florida, United States
  • 1995-2015
    • University of South Florida
      • • Division of Molecular Medicine
      • • Morsani College of Medicine
      • • Moffitt Cancer Center
      • • Department of Chemistry
      Tampa, Florida, United States
  • 1997
    • The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
      Tampa, Florida, United States
  • 1995-1996
    • Emory University
      Atlanta, Georgia, United States