Everolimus, an inhibitor of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), is effective in treating tumors harboring alterations in the mTOR pathway. Mechanisms of resistance to everolimus remain undefined. Resistance developed in a patient with metastatic anaplastic thyroid carcinoma after an extraordinary 18-month response. Whole-exome sequencing of pretreatment and drug-resistant tumors revealed a nonsense mutation in TSC2, a negative regulator of mTOR, suggesting a mechanism for exquisite sensitivity to everolimus. The resistant tumor also harbored a mutation in MTOR that confers resistance to allosteric mTOR inhibition. The mutation remains sensitive to mTOR kinase inhibitors.
Cancer genome characterization has revealed driver mutations in genes that govern ubiquitylation; however, the mechanisms by which these alterations promote tumorigenesis remain incompletely characterized. Here, we analyzed changes in the ubiquitin landscape induced by prostate cancer-associated mutations of SPOP, an E3 ubiquitin ligase substrate-binding protein. SPOP mutants impaired ubiquitylation of a subset of proteins in a dominant-negative fashion. Of these, DEK and TRIM24 emerged as effector substrates consistently up-regulated by SPOP mutants. We highlight DEK as a SPOP substrate that exhibited decreases in ubiquitylation and proteasomal degradation resulting from heteromeric complexes of wild-type and mutant SPOP protein. DEK stabilization promoted prostate epithelial cell invasion, which implicated DEK as an oncogenic effector. More generally, these results provide a framework to decipher tumorigenic mechanisms linked to dysregulated ubiquitylation.
Defining the chronology of molecular alterations may identify milestones in carcinogenesis. To unravel the temporal evolution of aberrations from clinical tumors, we developed CLONET, which upon estimation of tumor admixture and ploidy infers the clonal hierarchy of genomic aberrations. Comparative analysis across 100 sequenced genomes from prostate, melanoma, and lung cancers established diverse evolutionary hierarchies, demonstrating the early disruption of tumor-specific pathways. The analyses highlight the diversity of clonal evolution within and across tumor types that might be informative for risk stratification and patient selection for targeted therapies. CLONET addresses heterogeneous clinical samples seen in the setting of precision medicine.
Ongoing cancer genome characterization studies continue to elucidate the spectrum of genomic abnormalities that drive many cancers, and in the clinical arena assessment of the driver genetic alterations in patients is playing an increasingly important diagnostic and/or prognostic role for many cancer types. However, the landscape of genomic abnormalities is still unknown for less common cancers, and the influence of specific genotypes on clinical behavior is often still unclear. To address some of these deficiencies, we developed Profile, a prospective cohort study to obtain genomic information on all patients at a large tertiary care medical center for cancer-related care. We enrolled patients with any cancer diagnosis, and, for each patient (unselected for cancer site or type) we applied mass spectrometric genotyping (OncoMap) of 471 common recurrent mutations in 41 cancer-related genes. We report the results of the first 5000 patients, of which 26% exhibited potentially actionable somatic mutations. These observations indicate the utility of genotyping in advancing the field of precision oncology.
Cisplatin-based chemotherapy is the standard of care for patients with muscle-invasive urothelial carcinoma. Pathologic downstaging to pT0/pTis after neoadjuvant cisplatin-based chemotherapy is associated with improved survival, although molecular determinants of cisplatin response are incompletely understood. We performed whole-exome sequencing on pretreatment tumor and germline DNA from 50 patients with muscle-invasive urothelial carcinoma who received neoadjuvant cisplatin-based chemotherapy followed by cystectomy (25 pT0/pTis "responders," 25 pT2+ "nonresponders") to identify somatic mutations that occurred preferentially in responders. ERCC2, a nucleotide excision repair gene, was the only significantly mutated gene enriched in the cisplatin responders compared with nonresponders (q < 0.01). Expression of representative ERCC2 mutants in an ERCC2-deficient cell line failed to rescue cisplatin and UV sensitivity compared with wild-type ERCC2. The lack of normal ERCC2 function may contribute to cisplatin sensitivity in urothelial cancer, and somatic ERCC2 mutation status may inform cisplatin-containing regimen usage in muscle-invasive urothelial carcinoma.
Molecular profiling of tumors promises to advance the clinical management of cancer, but the benefits of integrating molecular data with traditional clinical variables have not been systematically studied. Here we retrospectively predict patient survival using diverse molecular data (somatic copy-number alteration, DNA methylation and mRNA, microRNA and protein expression) from 953 samples of four cancer types from The Cancer Genome Atlas project. We find that incorporating molecular data with clinical variables yields statistically significantly improved predictions (FDR < 0.05) for three cancers but those quantitative gains were limited (2.2-23.9%). Additional analyses revealed little predictive power across tumor types except for one case. In clinically relevant genes, we identified 10,281 somatic alterations across 12 cancer types in 2,928 of 3,277 patients (89.4%), many of which would not be revealed in single-tumor analyses. Our study provides a starting point and resources, including an open-access model evaluation platform, for building reliable prognostic and therapeutic strategies that incorporate molecular data.
Translating whole-exome sequencing (WES) for prospective clinical use may have an impact on the care of patients with cancer; however, multiple innovations are necessary for clinical implementation. These include rapid and robust WES of DNA derived from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor tissue, analytical output similar to data from frozen samples and clinical interpretation of WES data for prospective use. Here, we describe a prospective clinical WES platform for archival formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor samples. The platform employs computational methods for effective clinical analysis and interpretation of WES data. When applied retrospectively to 511 exomes, the interpretative framework revealed a 'long tail' of somatic alterations in clinically important genes. Prospective application of this approach identified clinically relevant alterations in 15 out of 16 patients. In one patient, previously undetected findings guided clinical trial enrollment, leading to an objective clinical response. Overall, this methodology may inform the widespread implementation of precision cancer medicine.
Most melanomas harbor oncogenic BRAF(V600) mutations, which constitutively activate the MAPK pathway. Although MAPK pathway inhibitors show clinical benefit in BRAF(V600)-mutant melanoma, it remains incompletely understood why 10% to 20% of patients fail to respond. Here, we show that RAF inhibitor-sensitive and inhibitor-resistant BRAF(V600)-mutant melanomas display distinct transcriptional profiles. Whereas most drug-sensitive cell lines and patient biopsies showed high expression and activity of the melanocytic lineage transcription factor MITF, intrinsically resistant cell lines and biopsies displayed low MITF expression but higher levels of NF-?B signaling and the receptor tyrosine kinase AXL. In vitro, these MITF-low/NF-?B-high melanomas were resistant to inhibition of RAF and MEK, singly or in combination, and ERK. Moreover, in cell lines, NF-?B activation antagonized MITF expression and induced both resistance marker genes and drug resistance. Thus, distinct cell states characterized by MITF or NF-?B activity may influence intrinsic resistance to MAPK pathway inhibitors in BRAF(V600)-mutant melanoma.
Members of the ETS transcription factor family have been implicated in several cancers, where they are often dysregulated by genomic derangement. ETS variant 1 (ETV1) is an ETS factor gene that undergoes chromosomal translocation in prostate cancers and Ewing sarcomas, amplification in melanomas, and lineage dysregulation in gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Pharmacologic perturbation of ETV1 would be appealing in these cancers; however, oncogenic transcription factors are often deemed "undruggable" by conventional methods. Here, we used small-molecule microarray screens to identify and characterize drug-like compounds that modulate the biologic function of ETV1. We identified the 1,3,5-triazine small molecule BRD32048 as a top candidate ETV1 perturbagen. BRD32048 binds ETV1 directly, modulating both ETV1-mediated transcriptional activity and invasion of ETV1-driven cancer cells. Moreover, BRD32048 inhibits p300-dependent acetylation of ETV1, thereby promoting its degradation. These results point to a new avenue for pharmacologic ETV1 inhibition and may inform a general means to discover small molecule perturbagens of transcription factor oncoproteins.
We report somatic mutations of RNF43 in over 18% of colorectal adenocarcinomas and endometrial carcinomas. RNF43 encodes an E3 ubiquitin ligase that negatively regulates Wnt signaling. Truncating mutations of RNF43 are more prevalent in microsatellite-unstable tumors and show mutual exclusivity with inactivating APC mutations in colorectal adenocarcinomas. These results indicate that RNF43 is one of the most commonly mutated genes in colorectal and endometrial cancers.
Understanding the genetic mechanisms of sensitivity to targeted anticancer therapies may improve patient selection, response to therapy, and rational treatment designs. One approach to increase this understanding involves detailed studies of exceptional responders: rare patients with unexpected exquisite sensitivity or durable responses to therapy. We identified an exceptional responder in a phase I study of pazopanib and everolimus in advanced solid tumors. Whole-exome sequencing of a patient with a 14-month complete response on this trial revealed two concurrent mutations in mTOR, the target of everolimus. In vitro experiments demonstrate that both mutations are activating, suggesting a biologic mechanism for exquisite sensitivity to everolimus in this patient. The use of precision (or "personalized") medicine approaches to screen patients with cancer for alterations in the mTOR pathway may help to identify subsets of patients who may benefit from targeted therapies directed against mTOR.
While fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) is frequently mutated or overexpressed in nonmuscle-invasive urothelial carcinoma (UC), the prevalence of FGFR3 protein expression and mutation remains unknown in muscle-invasive disease. FGFR3 protein and mRNA expression, mutational status, and copy number variation were retrospectively analyzed in 231 patients with formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded primary UCs, 33 metastases, and 14 paired primary and metastatic tumors using the following methods: immunohistochemistry, NanoString nCounterTM, OncoMap or Affymetrix OncoScanTM array, and Gain and Loss of Analysis of DNA and Genomic Identification of Significant Targets in Cancer software. FGFR3 immunohistochemistry staining was present in 29% of primary UCs and 49% of metastases and did not impact overall survival (P = 0.89, primary tumors; P = 0.78, metastases). FGFR3 mutations were observed in 2% of primary tumors and 9% of metastases. Mutant tumors expressed higher levels of FGFR3 mRNA than wild-type tumors (P < 0.001). FGFR3 copy number gain and loss were rare events in primary and metastatic tumors (0.8% each; 3.0% and 12.3%, respectively). FGFR3 immunohistochemistry staining is present in one third of primary muscle-invasive UCs and half of metastases, while FGFR3 mutations and copy number changes are relatively uncommon.
Recent studies have revealed that ARID1A, encoding AT-rich interactive domain 1A (SWI-like), is frequently mutated across a variety of human cancers and also has bona fide tumor suppressor properties. Consequently, identification of vulnerabilities conferred by ARID1A mutation would have major relevance for human cancer. Here, using a broad screening approach, we identify ARID1B, an ARID1A homolog whose gene product is mutually exclusive with ARID1A in SWI/SNF complexes, as the number 1 gene preferentially required for the survival of ARID1A-mutant cancer cell lines. We show that loss of ARID1B in ARID1A-deficient backgrounds destabilizes SWI/SNF and impairs proliferation in both cancer cells and primary cells. We also find that ARID1A and ARID1B are frequently co-mutated in cancer but that ARID1A-deficient cancers retain at least one functional ARID1B allele. These results suggest that loss of ARID1A and ARID1B alleles cooperatively promotes cancer formation but also results in a unique functional dependence. The results further identify ARID1B as a potential therapeutic target for ARID1A-mutant cancers.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the sixth most common type of cancer worldwide. The increasing amount of genomic information on human tumors and cell lines provides more biologic data to design preclinical studies. We and others previously reported whole-exome sequencing data of 106 HNSCC primary tumors. In 2012, high-throughput genomic data and pharmacologic profiling of anticancer drugs of hundreds of cancer cell lines were reported. Here, we compared the genomic data of 39 HNSCC cell lines with the genomic findings in 106 HNSCC tumors. Amplification of eight genes (PIK3CA, EGFR, CCND2, KDM5A, ERBB2, PMS1, FGFR1, and WHSCIL1) and deletion of five genes (CDKN2A, SMAD4, NOTCH2, NRAS, and TRIM33) were found in both HNSCC cell lines and tumors. Seventeen genes were only mutated in HNSCC cell lines (>10%), suggesting that these mutations may arise through immortalization in tissue culture. Conversely, 11 genes were only mutated in >10% of human HNSCC tumors. Several mutant genes in the EGF receptor (EGFR) pathway are shared both in cell lines and in tumors. Pharmacologic profiling of eight anticancer agents in six HNSCC cell lines suggested that PIK3CA mutation may serve as a predictive biomarker for the drugs targeting the EGFR/PI3K pathway. These findings suggest that a correlation of gene mutations between HNSCC cell lines and human tumors may be used to guide the selection of preclinical models for translational research.
The underpinnings of STAT3 hyperphosphorylation resulting in enhanced signaling and cancer progression are incompletely understood. Loss-of-function mutations of enzymes that dephosphorylate STAT3, such as receptor protein tyrosine phosphatases, which are encoded by the PTPR gene family, represent a plausible mechanism of STAT3 hyperactivation. We analyzed whole exome sequencing (n = 374) and reverse-phase protein array data (n = 212) from head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs). PTPR mutations are most common and are associated with significantly increased phospho-STAT3 expression in HNSCC tumors. Expression of receptor-like protein tyrosine phosphatase T (PTPRT) mutant proteins induces STAT3 phosphorylation and cell survival, consistent with a "driver" phenotype. Computational modeling reveals functional consequences of PTPRT mutations on phospho-tyrosine-substrate interactions. A high mutation rate (30%) of PTPRs was found in HNSCC and 14 other solid tumors, suggesting that PTPR alterations, in particular PTPRT mutations, may define a subset of patients where STAT3 pathway inhibitors hold particular promise as effective therapeutic agents.
Although a few cancer genes are mutated in a high proportion of tumours of a given type (>20%), most are mutated at intermediate frequencies (2-20%). To explore the feasibility of creating a comprehensive catalogue of cancer genes, we analysed somatic point mutations in exome sequences from 4,742 human cancers and their matched normal-tissue samples across 21 cancer types. We found that large-scale genomic analysis can identify nearly all known cancer genes in these tumour types. Our analysis also identified 33 genes that were not previously known to be significantly mutated in cancer, including genes related to proliferation, apoptosis, genome stability, chromatin regulation, immune evasion, RNA processing and protein homeostasis. Down-sampling analysis indicates that larger sample sizes will reveal many more genes mutated at clinically important frequencies. We estimate that near-saturation may be achieved with 600-5,000 samples per tumour type, depending on background mutation frequency. The results may help to guide the next stage of cancer genomics.
The molecular mechanisms underlying chordoma pathogenesis are unknown. We therefore sought to identify novel mutations to better understand chordoma biology and to potentially identify therapeutic targets. Given the relatively high costs of whole genome sequencing, we performed a focused genetic analysis using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometer (Sequenom iPLEX genotyping). We tested 865 hotspot mutations in 111 oncogenes and selected tumor suppressor genes (OncoMap v. 3.0) of 45 human chordoma tumor samples. Of the analyzed samples, seven were identified with at least one mutation. Six of these were from fresh frozen samples, and one was from a paraffin embedded sample. These observations were validated using an independent platform using homogeneous mass extend MALDI-TOF (Sequenom hME Genotyping). These genetic alterations include: ALK (A877S), CTNNB1 (T41A), NRAS (Q61R), PIK3CA (E545K), PTEN (R130), CDKN2A (R58*), and SMARCB1 (R40*). This study reports on the largest comprehensive mutational analysis of chordomas performed to date. To focus on mutations that have the greatest chance of clinical relevance, we tested only oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes that have been previously implicated in the tumorigenesis of more common malignancies. We identified rare genetic changes that may have functional significance to the underlying biology and potential therapeutics for chordomas. Mutations in CDKN2A and PTEN occurred in areas of chromosomal copy loss. When this data is paired with the studies showing 18 of 21 chordoma samples displaying copy loss at the locus for CDKN2A, 17 of 21 chordoma samples displaying copy loss at PTEN, and 3 of 4 chordoma samples displaying deletion at the SMARCB1 locus, we can infer that a loss of heterozygosity at these three loci may play a significant role in chordoma pathogenesis.
Carcinogenesis and neoplastic progression are mediated by the accumulation of somatic mutations. Here we report that the local density of somatic mutations in cancer genomes is highly reduced specifically in accessible regulatory DNA defined by DNase I hypersensitive sites. This reduction is independent of any known factors influencing somatic mutation density and is observed in diverse cancer types, suggesting a general mechanism. By analyzing individual cancer genomes, we show that the reduced local mutation density within regulatory DNA is linked to intact global genome repair machinery, with nearly complete abrogation of the hypomutation phenomenon in individual cancers that possess mutations in components of the nucleotide excision repair system. Together, our results connect chromatin structure, gene regulation and cancer-associated somatic mutation.
Treatment of BRAF-mutant melanoma with combined dabrafenib and trametinib, which target RAF and the downstream MAP-ERK kinase (MEK)1 and MEK2 kinases, respectively, improves progression-free survival and response rates compared with dabrafenib monotherapy. Mechanisms of clinical resistance to combined RAF/MEK inhibition are unknown. We performed whole-exome sequencing (WES) and whole-transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) on pretreatment and drug-resistant tumors from five patients with acquired resistance to dabrafenib/trametinib. In three of these patients, we identified additional mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway alterations in the resistant tumor that were not detected in the pretreatment tumor, including a novel activating mutation in MEK2 (MEK2(Q60P)). MEK2(Q60P) conferred resistance to combined RAF/MEK inhibition in vitro, but remained sensitive to inhibition of the downstream kinase extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). The continued MAPK signaling-based resistance identified in these patients suggests that alternative dosing of current agents, more potent RAF/MEK inhibitors, and/or inhibition of the downstream kinase ERK may be needed for durable control of BRAF-mutant melanoma.
Most patients with BRAF(V600)-mutant metastatic melanoma develop resistance to selective RAF kinase inhibitors. The spectrum of clinical genetic resistance mechanisms to RAF inhibitors and options for salvage therapy are incompletely understood. We performed whole-exome sequencing on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumors from 45 patients with BRAF(V600)-mutant metastatic melanoma who received vemurafenib or dabrafenib monotherapy. Genetic alterations in known or putative RAF inhibitor resistance genes were observed in 23 of 45 patients (51%). Besides previously characterized alterations, we discovered a "long tail" of new mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway alterations (MAP2K2, MITF) that confer RAF inhibitor resistance. In three cases, multiple resistance gene alterations were observed within the same tumor biopsy. Overall, RAF inhibitor therapy leads to diverse clinical genetic resistance mechanisms, mostly involving MAPK pathway reactivation. Novel therapeutic combinations may be needed to achieve durable clinical control of BRAF(V600)-mutant melanoma. Integrating clinical genomics with preclinical screens may model subsequent resistance studies.
Background DNA aptamers represent a novel strategy in anti-cancer medicine. AS1411, a DNA aptamer targeting nucleolin (a protein which is overexpressed in many tumor types), was evaluated in patients with metastatic, clear-cell, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) who had failed treatment with ?1 prior tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Methods In this phase II, single-arm study, AS1411 was administered at 40 mg/kg/day by continuous intravenous infusion on days 1-4 of a 28-day cycle, for two cycles. Primary endpoint was overall response rate; progression-free survival (PFS) and safety were secondary endpoints. Results 35 patients were enrolled and treated. One patient (2.9 %) had a response to treatment. The response was dramatic (84 % reduction in tumor burden by RECIST 1.0 criteria) and durable (patient remains free of progression 2 years after completing therapy). Whole exome sequencing of this patients tumor revealed missense mutations in the mTOR and FGFR2 genes which is of interest because nucleolin is known to upregulate mTOR pathway activity by enhancing AKT1 mRNA translation. No other responses were seen. Thirty-four percent of patients had an AS1411-related adverse event, all of which were mild or moderate. Conclusions AS1411 appears to have minimal activity in unselected patients with metastatic RCC. However, rare, dramatic and durable responses can be observed and toxicity is low. One patient in this study had an excellent response and was found to have FGFR2 and mTOR mutations which will be of interest in future efforts to discover and validate predictive biomarkers of response to nucleolin targeted compounds. DNA aptamers represent a novel way to target cancer cells at a molecular level and continue to be developed with a view to improving treatment and imaging in cancer medicine.
The high rate of clinical response to protein-kinase-targeting drugs matched to cancer patients with specific genomic alterations has prompted efforts to use cancer cell line (CCL) profiling to identify additional biomarkers of small-molecule sensitivities. We have quantitatively measured the sensitivity of 242 genomically characterized CCLs to an Informer Set of 354 small molecules that target many nodes in cell circuitry, uncovering protein dependencies that: (1) associate with specific cancer-genomic alterations and (2) can be targeted by small molecules. We have created the Cancer Therapeutics Response Portal (http://www.broadinstitute.org/ctrp) to enable users to correlate genetic features to sensitivity in individual lineages and control for confounding factors of CCL profiling. We report a candidate dependency, associating activating mutations in the oncogene ?-catenin with sensitivity to the Bcl-2 family antagonist, navitoclax. The resource can be used to develop novel therapeutic hypotheses and to accelerate discovery of drugs matched to patients by their cancer genotype and lineage.
3q26 is frequently amplified in several cancer types with a common amplified region containing 20 genes. To identify cancer driver genes in this region, we interrogated the function of each of these genes by loss- and gain-of-function genetic screens. Specifically, we found that TLOC1 (SEC62) was selectively required for the proliferation of cell lines with 3q26 amplification. Increased TLOC1 expression induced anchorage-independent growth, and a second 3q26 gene, SKIL (SNON), facilitated cell invasion in immortalized human mammary epithelial cells. Expression of both TLOC1 and SKIL induced subcutaneous tumor growth. Proteomic studies showed that TLOC1 binds to DDX3X, which is essential for TLOC1-induced transformation and affected protein translation. SKIL induced invasion through upregulation of SLUG (SNAI2) expression. Together, these studies identify TLOC1 and SKIL as driver genes at 3q26 and more broadly suggest that cooperating genes may be coamplified in other regions with somatic copy number gain.
Melanomas that contain B-RAF(V600E) mutations respond transiently to RAF and MEK inhibitors; however, resistance to these agents remains a formidable challenge. Although B- or C-RAF dysregulation represents prominent resistance mechanisms, resistance-associated point mutations in RAF oncoproteins are surprisingly rare. To gain insights herein, we conducted random mutagenesis screens to identify B- or C-RAF mutations that confer resistance to RAF inhibitors. Whereas bona fide B-RAF(V600E) resistance alleles were rarely observed, we identified multiple C-RAF mutations that produced biochemical and pharmacologic resistance. Potent C-RAF resistance alleles localized to a 14-3-3 consensus binding site or a separate site within the P loop. These mutations elicited paradoxical upregulation of RAF kinase activity in a dimerization-dependent manner following exposure to RAF inhibitors. Knowledge of resistance-associated C-RAF mutations may enhance biochemical understanding of RAF-dependent signaling, anticipate clinical resistance to novel RAF inhibitors, and guide the design of "next-generation" inhibitors for deployment in RAF- or RAS-driven malignancies.
Genome-scale clinical sequencing is being adopted more broadly in medical practice. The National Institutes of Health developed the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research (CSER) program to guide implementation and dissemination of best practices for the integration of sequencing into clinical care. This study describes and compares the state of the art of incorporating whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing results into the electronic health record, including approaches to decision support across the six current CSER sites.
Genomic findings underscore the heterogeneity of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Identification of mutations that predict therapeutic response would be a major advance. We determined the mutationally altered, targetable mitogenic pathways in a large HNSCC cohort. Analysis of whole-exome sequencing data from 151 tumors revealed the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway to be the most frequently mutated oncogenic pathway (30.5%). PI3K pathway-mutated HNSCC tumors harbored a significantly higher rate of mutations in known cancer genes. In a subset of human papillomavirus-positive tumors, PIK3CA or PIK3R1 was the only mutated cancer gene. Strikingly, all tumors with concurrent mutation of multiple PI3K pathway genes were advanced (stage IV), implicating concerted PI3K pathway aberrations in HNSCC progression. Patient-derived tumorgrafts with canonical and noncanonical PIK3CA mutations were sensitive to an mTOR/PI3K inhibitor (BEZ-235), in contrast to PIK3CA-wild-type tumorgrafts. These results suggest that PI3K pathway mutations may serve as predictive biomarkers for treatment selection.
Major international projects are underway that are aimed at creating a comprehensive catalogue of all the genes responsible for the initiation and progression of cancer. These studies involve the sequencing of matched tumour-normal samples followed by mathematical analysis to identify those genes in which mutations occur more frequently than expected by random chance. Here we describe a fundamental problem with cancer genome studies: as the sample size increases, the list of putatively significant genes produced by current analytical methods burgeons into the hundreds. The list includes many implausible genes (such as those encoding olfactory receptors and the muscle protein titin), suggesting extensive false-positive findings that overshadow true driver events. We show that this problem stems largely from mutational heterogeneity and provide a novel analytical methodology, MutSigCV, for resolving the problem. We apply MutSigCV to exome sequences from 3,083 tumour-normal pairs and discover extraordinary variation in mutation frequency and spectrum within cancer types, which sheds light on mutational processes and disease aetiology, and in mutation frequency across the genome, which is strongly correlated with DNA replication timing and also with transcriptional activity. By incorporating mutational heterogeneity into the analyses, MutSigCV is able to eliminate most of the apparent artefactual findings and enable the identification of genes truly associated with cancer.
A majority of cancers are driven by genomic alterations that dysregulate key oncogenic pathways influencing cell growth and survival. However, the ability to harness tumor genetic information for its full clinical potential has only recently become manifest. Over the past several years, the convergence of discovery, technology, and therapeutic development has created an unparalleled opportunity to test the hypothesis that systematic knowledge of genomic information from individual tumors can improve clinical outcomes for many patients with cancer. Rigorous evaluation of this genomics-driven cancer medicine hypothesis will require many logistic innovations that are guided by overarching conceptual advances in tumor genomic profiling, data interpretation, clinical trial design, and the ethical return of genetic results to oncologists and their patients. The results of these efforts and the rigor with which they are implemented will determine whether and how comprehensive tumor genomic information may become incorporated into the routine care of patients with cancer.
Malignant melanomas harbouring point mutations (Val600Glu) in the serine/threonine-protein kinase BRAF (BRAF(V600E)) depend on RAF-MEK-ERK signalling for tumour cell growth. RAF and MEK inhibitors show remarkable clinical efficacy in BRAF(V600E) melanoma; however, resistance to these agents remains a formidable challenge. Global characterization of resistance mechanisms may inform the development of more effective therapeutic combinations. Here we carried out systematic gain-of-function resistance studies by expressing more than 15,500 genes individually in a BRAF(V600E) melanoma cell line treated with RAF, MEK, ERK or combined RAF-MEK inhibitors. These studies revealed a cyclic-AMP-dependent melanocytic signalling network not previously associated with drug resistance, including G-protein-coupled receptors, adenyl cyclase, protein kinase A and cAMP response element binding protein (CREB). Preliminary analysis of biopsies from BRAF(V600E) melanoma patients revealed that phosphorylated (active) CREB was suppressed by RAF-MEK inhibition but restored in relapsing tumours. Expression of transcription factors activated downstream of MAP kinase and cAMP pathways also conferred resistance, including c-FOS, NR4A1, NR4A2 and MITF. Combined treatment with MAPK-pathway and histone-deacetylase inhibitors suppressed MITF expression and cAMP-mediated resistance. Collectively, these data suggest that oncogenic dysregulation of a melanocyte lineage dependency can cause resistance to RAF-MEK-ERK inhibition, which may be overcome by combining signalling- and chromatin-directed therapeutics.
Epigenetic dysregulation is an emerging hallmark of cancers. We developed a high-information-content mass spectrometry approach to profile global histone modifications in human cancers. When applied to 115 lines from the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia, this approach identified distinct molecular chromatin signatures. One signature was characterized by increased histone 3 lysine 36 (H3K36) dimethylation, exhibited by several lines harboring translocations in NSD2, which encodes a methyltransferase. A previously unknown NSD2 p.Glu1099Lys (p.E1099K) variant was identified in nontranslocated acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cell lines sharing this signature. Ectopic expression of the variant induced a chromatin signature characteristic of NSD2 hyperactivation and promoted transformation. NSD2 knockdown selectively inhibited the proliferation of NSD2-mutant lines and impaired the in vivo growth of an NSD2-mutant ALL xenograft. Sequencing analysis of >1,000 pediatric cancer genomes identified the NSD2 p.E1099K alteration in 14% of t(12;21) ETV6-RUNX1-containing ALLs. These findings identify NSD2 as a potential therapeutic target for pediatric ALL and provide a general framework for the functional annotation of cancer epigenomes.
As genomic and exomic testing expands in both the research and clinical arenas, determining whether, how, and which incidental findings to return to the ordering clinician and patient becomes increasingly important. Although opinion is varied on what should be returned to consenting patients or research participants, most experts agree that return of medically actionable results should be considered. There is insufficient evidence to fully inform evidence-based clinical practice guidelines regarding return of results from genome-scale sequencing, and thus generation of such evidence is imperative, given the rapidity with which genome-scale diagnostic tests are being incorporated into clinical care. We present an overview of the approaches to incidental findings by members of the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research network, funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, to generate discussion of these approaches by the clinical genomics community. We also report specific lists of "medically actionable" genes that have been generated by a subset of investigators in order to explore what types of findings have been included or excluded in various contexts. A discussion of the general principles regarding reporting of novel variants, challenging cases (genes for which consensus was difficult to achieve across Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research network sites), solicitation of preferences from participants regarding return of incidental findings, and the timing and context of return of incidental findings are provided.Genet Med 15 11, 860-867.Genetics in Medicine (2013); 15 11, 860-867. doi:10.1038/gim.2013.133.
We identified new gene fusions in patients with lung cancer harboring the kinase domain of the NTRK1 gene that encodes the high-affinity nerve growth factor receptor (TRKA protein). Both the MPRIP-NTRK1 and CD74-NTRK1 fusions lead to constitutive TRKA kinase activity and are oncogenic. Treatment of cells expressing NTRK1 fusions with inhibitors of TRKA kinase activity inhibited autophosphorylation of TRKA and cell growth. Tumor samples from 3 of 91 patients with lung cancer (3.3%) without known oncogenic alterations assayed by next-generation sequencing or fluorescence in situ hybridization demonstrated evidence of NTRK1 gene fusions.
Although targeting oncogenic mutations in the BRAF serine/threonine kinase with small molecule inhibitors can lead to significant clinical responses in melanoma, it fails to eradicate tumors in nearly all patients. Successful therapy will be aided by identification of intrinsic mechanisms that protect tumor cells from death. Here, we used a bioinformatics approach to identify drug-able, "driver" oncogenes restricted to tumor versus normal tissues. Applying this method to 88 short-term melanoma cell cultures, we show that the antiapoptotic BCL2 family member BCL2A1 is recurrently amplified in ?30% of melanomas and is necessary for melanoma growth. BCL2A1 overexpression also promotes melanomagenesis of BRAF-immortalized melanocytes. We find that high-level expression of BCL2A1 is restricted to melanoma due to direct transcriptional control by the melanoma oncogene MITF. Although BRAF inhibitors lead to cell cycle arrest and modest apoptosis, we find that apoptosis is significantly enhanced by suppression of BCL2A1 in melanomas with BCL2A1 or MITF amplification. Moreover, we find that BCL2A1 expression is associated with poorer clinical responses to BRAF pathway inhibitors in melanoma patients. Cotreatment of melanomas with BRAF inhibitors and obatoclax, an inhibitor of BCL2A1 and other BCL2 family members, overcomes intrinsic resistance to BRAF inhibitors in BCL2A1-amplified cells in vitro and in vivo. These studies identify MITF-BCL2A1 as a lineage-specific oncogenic pathway in melanoma and underscore its role for improved response to BRAF-directed therapy.
In this issue of Cancer Cell, Weischenfeldt and colleagues report on the whole genome sequencing of 11 early-onset prostate cancers. Compared to elderly onset prostate cancer, these tumors demonstrate enrichment for androgen-driven structural rearrangements involving ETS family genes. This study confirms observations that prostate cancer manifests discrete genomic subclasses.
Systematic studies of the cancer genome have exploded in recent years. These studies have revealed scores of new cancer genes, including many in processes not previously known to be causal targets in cancer. The genes affect cell signaling, chromatin, and epigenomic regulation; RNA splicing; protein homeostasis; metabolism; and lineage maturation. Still, cancer genomics is in its infancy. Much work remains to complete the mutational catalog in primary tumors and across the natural history of cancer, to connect recurrent genomic alterations to altered pathways and acquired cellular vulnerabilities, and to use this information to guide the development and application of therapies.
Although prostate cancer (PCa) is the second leading cause of cancer death among men worldwide, not all men diagnosed with PCa will die from the disease. A critical challenge, therefore, is to distinguish indolent PCa from more advanced forms to guide appropriate treatment decisions. We used Enhanced Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing, a genome-wide high-coverage single-base resolution DNA methylation method to profile seven localized PCa samples, seven matched benign prostate tissues, and six aggressive castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) samples. We integrated these data with RNA-seq and whole-genome DNA-seq data to comprehensively characterize the PCa methylome, detect changes associated with disease progression, and identify novel candidate prognostic biomarkers. Our analyses revealed the correlation of cytosine guanine dinucleotide island (CGI)-specific hypermethylation with disease severity and association of certain breakpoints (deletion, tandem duplications, and interchromosomal translocations) with DNA methylation. Furthermore, integrative analysis of methylation and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) uncovered widespread allele-specific methylation (ASM) for the first time in PCa. We found that most DNA methylation changes occurred in the context of ASM, suggesting that variations in tumor epigenetic landscape of individuals are partly mediated by genetic differences, which may affect PCa disease progression. We further selected a panel of 13 CGIs demonstrating increased DNA methylation with disease progression and validated this panel in an independent cohort of 20 benign prostate tissues, 16 PCa, and 8 aggressive CRPCs. These results warrant clinical evaluation in larger cohorts to help distinguish indolent PCa from advanced disease.
Systematic sequencing of human cancer genomes has identified many recurrent mutations in the protein-coding regions of genes but rarely in gene regulatory regions. Here, we describe two independent mutations within the core promoter of telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT), the gene coding for the catalytic subunit of telomerase, which collectively occur in 50 of 70 (71%) melanomas examined. These mutations generate de novo consensus binding motifs for E-twenty-six (ETS) transcription factors, and in reporter assays, the mutations increased transcriptional activity from the TERT promoter by two- to fourfold. Examination of 150 cancer cell lines derived from diverse tumor types revealed the same mutations in 24 cases (16%), with preliminary evidence of elevated frequency in bladder and hepatocellular cancer cells. Thus, somatic mutations in regulatory regions of the genome may represent an important tumorigenic mechanism.
The analysis of exonic DNA from prostate cancers has identified recurrently mutated genes, but the spectrum of genome-wide alterations has not been profiled extensively in this disease. We sequenced the genomes of 57 prostate tumors and matched normal tissues to characterize somatic alterations and to study how they accumulate during oncogenesis and progression. By modeling the genesis of genomic rearrangements, we identified abundant DNA translocations and deletions that arise in a highly interdependent manner. This phenomenon, which we term "chromoplexy," frequently accounts for the dysregulation of prostate cancer genes and appears to disrupt multiple cancer genes coordinately. Our modeling suggests that chromoplexy may induce considerable genomic derangement over relatively few events in prostate cancer and other neoplasms, supporting a model of punctuated cancer evolution. By characterizing the clonal hierarchy of genomic lesions in prostate tumors, we charted a path of oncogenic events along which chromoplexy may drive prostate carcinogenesis.
RAF inhibitors such as vemurafenib and dabrafenib block BRAF-mediated cell proliferation and achieve meaningful clinical benefit in the vast majority of patients with BRAF(V600E)-mutant melanoma. However, some patients do not respond to this regimen, and nearly all progress to therapeutic resistance. We used a pooled RNA interference screen targeting more than 16,500 genes to discover loss-of-function events that could drive resistance to RAF inhibition. The highest ranking gene was NF1, which encodes neurofibromin, a tumor suppressor that inhibits RAS activity. NF1 loss mediates resistance to RAF and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitors through sustained MAPK pathway activation. However, cells lacking NF1 retained sensitivity to the irreversible RAF inhibitor AZ628 and an ERK inhibitor. NF1 mutations were observed in BRAF-mutant tumor cells that are intrinsically resistant to RAF inhibition and in melanoma tumors obtained from patients exhibiting resistance to vemurafenib, thus showing the clinical potential for NF1-driven resistance to RAF/MEK-targeted therapies.
It has been demonstrated for some cancers that the frequency of somatic oncogenic mutations may vary in ancestral populations. To determine whether key driver alterations might occur at different frequencies in colorectal cancer, we applied a high-throughput genotyping platform (OncoMap) to query 385 mutations across 33 known cancer genes in colorectal cancer DNA from 83 Asian, 149 Black and 195 White patients. We found that Asian patients had fewer canonical oncogenic mutations in the genes tested (60% vs Black 79% (P = 0.011) and White 77% (P = 0.015)), and that BRAF mutations occurred at a higher frequency in White patients (17% vs Asian 4% (P = 0.004) and Black 7% (P = 0.014)). These results suggest that the use of genomic approaches to elucidate the different ancestral determinants harbored by patient populations may help to more precisely and effectively treat colorectal cancer.
Knowledge of "actionable" somatic genomic alterations present in each tumor (e.g., point mutations, small insertions/deletions, and copy-number alterations that direct therapeutic options) should facilitate individualized approaches to cancer treatment. However, clinical implementation of systematic genomic profiling has rarely been achieved beyond limited numbers of oncogene point mutations. To address this challenge, we utilized a targeted, massively parallel sequencing approach to detect tumor genomic alterations in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumor samples. Nearly 400-fold mean sequence coverage was achieved, and single-nucleotide sequence variants, small insertions/deletions, and chromosomal copynumber alterations were detected simultaneously with high accuracy compared with other methods in clinical use. Putatively actionable genomic alterations, including those that predict sensitivity or resistance to established and experimental therapies, were detected in each tumor sample tested. Thus, targeted deep sequencing of clinical tumor material may enable mutation-driven clinical trials and, ultimately, "personalized" cancer treatment.
RAF inhibitors are effective against melanomas with BRAF V600E mutations but may induce keratoacanthomas (KAs) and cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (cSCCs). The potential of these agents to promote secondary malignancies is concerning. We analyzed cSCC and KA lesions for genetic mutations in an attempt to identify an underlying mechanism for their formation.
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a heterogeneous non-Hodgkins lymphoma that may variably involve the skin, lymph nodes, and peripheral blood. Malignant burden ranges from cutaneous patches and plaques with little evidence of blood involvement to erythroderma often in association with frank leukemia, as in Sézary syndrome. Toward a better understanding of the pathogenesis of this CD4+ T-cell malignancy, we conducted a high-resolution genomic analysis combining DNA (23 samples) and mRNA (12 samples) data of peripheral blood isolates from CTCL patients across a spectrum of stages. Strikingly, even patients with limited involvement, e.g., normal CD4 counts, contained significant copy-number alterations. Defining genomic characteristics of CTCL blood involvement included gains on 8q and 17q, and deletions on 17p and chromosome 10. A consensus analysis of 108 leukemic CTCL samples demonstrated global similarities among patients with varied blood involvement, narrowing 38 of 62 loci. Toward an annotated framework for in vitro testing, we also characterized genomic alterations in five CTCL cell lines (HH, HUT78, PNO, SeAx, and Sez4), revealing intact core features of leukemic CTCL. Together, these studies produce the most comprehensive view of the leukemic CTCL genome to date, with implications for pathogenesis, molecular classification, and potential future therapeutic developments.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a common, morbid, and frequently lethal malignancy. To uncover its mutational spectrum, we analyzed whole-exome sequencing data from 74 tumor-normal pairs. The majority exhibited a mutational profile consistent with tobacco exposure; human papillomavirus was detectable by sequencing DNA from infected tumors. In addition to identifying previously known HNSCC genes (TP53, CDKN2A, PTEN, PIK3CA, and HRAS), our analysis revealed many genes not previously implicated in this malignancy. At least 30% of cases harbored mutations in genes that regulate squamous differentiation (for example, NOTCH1, IRF6, and TP63), implicating its dysregulation as a major driver of HNSCC carcinogenesis. More generally, the results indicate the ability of large-scale sequencing to reveal fundamental tumorigenic mechanisms.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive cancer often diagnosed after it has metastasized. Despite the need to better understand this disease, SCLC remains poorly characterized at the molecular and genomic levels. Using a genetically engineered mouse model of SCLC driven by conditional deletion of Trp53 and Rb1 in the lung, we identified several frequent, high-magnitude focal DNA copy number alterations in SCLC. We uncovered amplification of a novel, oncogenic transcription factor, Nuclear factor I/B (Nfib), in the mouse SCLC model and in human SCLC. Functional studies indicate that NFIB regulates cell viability and proliferation during transformation.
A comprehensive understanding of the molecular vulnerabilities of every type of cancer will provide a powerful roadmap to guide therapeutic approaches. Efforts such as The Cancer Genome Atlas Project will identify genes with aberrant copy number, sequence, or expression in various cancer types, providing a survey of the genes that may have a causal role in cancer. A complementary approach is to perform systematic loss-of-function studies to identify essential genes in particular cancer cell types. We have begun a systematic effort, termed Project Achilles, aimed at identifying genetic vulnerabilities across large numbers of cancer cell lines. Here, we report the assessment of the essentiality of 11,194 genes in 102 human cancer cell lines. We show that the integration of these functional data with information derived from surveying cancer genomes pinpoints known and previously undescribed lineage-specific dependencies across a wide spectrum of cancers. In particular, we found 54 genes that are specifically essential for the proliferation and viability of ovarian cancer cells and also amplified in primary tumors or differentially overexpressed in ovarian cancer cell lines. One such gene, PAX8, is focally amplified in 16% of high-grade serous ovarian cancers and expressed at higher levels in ovarian tumors. Suppression of PAX8 selectively induces apoptotic cell death of ovarian cancer cells. These results identify PAX8 as an ovarian lineage-specific dependency. More generally, these observations demonstrate that the integration of genome-scale functional and structural studies provides an efficient path to identify dependencies of specific cancer types on particular genes and pathways.
The identification of new genes that are mutated in osteosarcomas is critical to developing a better understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of this disease and discovering new targets for therapeutic development.
Cancer cells adapt their metabolic processes to drive macromolecular biosynthesis for rapid cell growth and proliferation. RNA interference (RNAi)-based loss-of-function screening has proven powerful for the identification of new and interesting cancer targets, and recent studies have used this technology in vivo to identify novel tumour suppressor genes. Here we developed a method for identifying novel cancer targets via negative-selection RNAi screening using a human breast cancer xenograft model at an orthotopic site in the mouse. Using this method, we screened a set of metabolic genes associated with aggressive breast cancer and stemness to identify those required for in vivo tumorigenesis. Among the genes identified, phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH) is in a genomic region of recurrent copy number gain in breast cancer and PHGDH protein levels are elevated in 70% of oestrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancers. PHGDH catalyses the first step in the serine biosynthesis pathway, and breast cancer cells with high PHGDH expression have increased serine synthesis flux. Suppression of PHGDH in cell lines with elevated PHGDH expression, but not in those without, causes a strong decrease in cell proliferation and a reduction in serine synthesis. We find that PHGDH suppression does not affect intracellular serine levels, but causes a drop in the levels of ?-ketoglutarate, another output of the pathway and a tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediate. In cells with high PHGDH expression, the serine synthesis pathway contributes approximately 50% of the total anaplerotic flux of glutamine into the TCA cycle. These results reveal that certain breast cancers are dependent upon increased serine pathway flux caused by PHGDH overexpression and demonstrate the utility of in vivo negative-selection RNAi screens for finding potential anticancer targets.
Prior studies have identified recurrent oncogenic mutations in colorectal adenocarcinoma and have surveyed exons of protein-coding genes for mutations in 11 affected individuals. Here we report whole-genome sequencing from nine individuals with colorectal cancer, including primary colorectal tumors and matched adjacent non-tumor tissues, at an average of 30.7× and 31.9× coverage, respectively. We identify an average of 75 somatic rearrangements per tumor, including complex networks of translocations between pairs of chromosomes. Eleven rearrangements encode predicted in-frame fusion proteins, including a fusion of VTI1A and TCF7L2 found in 3 out of 97 colorectal cancers. Although TCF7L2 encodes TCF4, which cooperates with ?-catenin in colorectal carcinogenesis, the fusion lacks the TCF4 ?-catenin-binding domain. We found a colorectal carcinoma cell line harboring the fusion gene to be dependent on VTI1A-TCF7L2 for anchorage-independent growth using RNA interference-mediated knockdown. This study shows previously unidentified levels of genomic rearrangements in colorectal carcinoma that can lead to essential gene fusions and other oncogenic events.
A detailed understanding of the mechanisms by which tumors acquire resistance to targeted anticancer agents should speed the development of treatment strategies with lasting clinical efficacy. RAF inhibition in BRAF-mutant melanoma exemplifies the promise and challenge of many targeted drugs; although response rates are high, resistance invariably develops. Here, we articulate overarching principles of resistance to kinase inhibitors, as well as a translational approach to characterize resistance in the clinical setting through tumor mutation profiling. As a proof of principle, we performed targeted, massively parallel sequencing of 138 cancer genes in a tumor obtained from a patient with melanoma who developed resistance to PLX4032 after an initial dramatic response. The resulting profile identified an activating mutation at codon 121 in the downstream kinase MEK1 that was absent in the corresponding pretreatment tumor. The MEK1(C121S) mutation was shown to increase kinase activity and confer robust resistance to both RAF and MEK inhibition in vitro. Thus, MEK1(C121S) or functionally similar mutations are predicted to confer resistance to combined MEK/RAF inhibition. These results provide an instructive framework for assessing mechanisms of acquired resistance to kinase inhibition and illustrate the use of emerging technologies in a manner that may accelerate personalized cancer medicine.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of male cancer deaths in the United States. However, the full range of prostate cancer genomic alterations is incompletely characterized. Here we present the complete sequence of seven primary human prostate cancers and their paired normal counterparts. Several tumours contained complex chains of balanced (that is, copy-neutral) rearrangements that occurred within or adjacent to known cancer genes. Rearrangement breakpoints were enriched near open chromatin, androgen receptor and ERG DNA binding sites in the setting of the ETS gene fusion TMPRSS2-ERG, but inversely correlated with these regions in tumours lacking ETS fusions. This observation suggests a link between chromatin or transcriptional regulation and the genesis of genomic aberrations. Three tumours contained rearrangements that disrupted CADM2, and four harboured events disrupting either PTEN (unbalanced events), a prostate tumour suppressor, or MAGI2 (balanced events), a PTEN interacting protein not previously implicated in prostate tumorigenesis. Thus, genomic rearrangements may arise from transcriptional or chromatin aberrancies and engage prostate tumorigenic mechanisms.
Alterations of BRAF are the most common known genetic aberrations in pediatric gliomas. They frequently are found in pilocytic astrocytomas, where genomic duplications involving BRAF and the poorly characterized gene KIAA1549 create fusion proteins with constitutive B-Raf kinase activity. BRAF V600E point mutations are less common and generally occur in nonpilocytic tumors. The development of BRAF inhibitors as drugs has created an urgent need for robust clinical assays to identify activating lesions in BRAF. KIAA1549-BRAF fusion transcripts have been detected in frozen tissue, however, methods for FFPE tissue have not been reported. We developed a panel of FFPE-compatible quantitative RT-PCR assays for the most common KIAA1549-BRAF fusion transcripts. Application of these assays to a collection of 51 low-grade pediatric gliomas showed 97% sensitivity and 91% specificity compared with fluorescence in situ hybridization or array comparative genomic hybridization. In parallel, we assayed samples for the presence of the BRAF V600E mutation by PCR pyrosequencing. The data further support previous observations that these two alterations of the BRAF, KIAA1549 fusions and V600E point mutations, are associated primarily with pilocytic astrocytomas and nonpilocytic gliomas, respectively. These results show that fusion transcripts and mutations can be detected reliably in standard FFPE specimens and may be useful for incorporation into future studies of pediatric gliomas in basic science or clinical trials.
Multiple myeloma is an incurable malignancy of plasma cells, and its pathogenesis is poorly understood. Here we report the massively parallel sequencing of 38 tumour genomes and their comparison to matched normal DNAs. Several new and unexpected oncogenic mechanisms were suggested by the pattern of somatic mutation across the data set. These include the mutation of genes involved in protein translation (seen in nearly half of the patients), genes involved in histone methylation, and genes involved in blood coagulation. In addition, a broader than anticipated role of NF-?B signalling was indicated by mutations in 11 members of the NF-?B pathway. Of potential immediate clinical relevance, activating mutations of the kinase BRAF were observed in 4% of patients, suggesting the evaluation of BRAF inhibitors in multiple myeloma clinical trials. These results indicate that cancer genome sequencing of large collections of samples will yield new insights into cancer not anticipated by existing knowledge.
The most common mutation in human melanoma, BRAF(V600E), activates the serine/threonine kinase BRAF and causes excessive activity in the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. BRAF(V600E) mutations are also present in benign melanocytic naevi, highlighting the importance of additional genetic alterations in the genesis of malignant tumours. Such changes include recurrent copy number variations that result in the amplification of oncogenes. For certain amplifications, the large number of genes in the interval has precluded an understanding of the cooperating oncogenic events. Here we have used a zebrafish melanoma model to test genes in a recurrently amplified region of chromosome 1 for the ability to cooperate with BRAF(V600E) and accelerate melanoma. SETDB1, an enzyme that methylates histone H3 on lysine 9 (H3K9), was found to accelerate melanoma formation significantly in zebrafish. Chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with massively parallel DNA sequencing and gene expression analyses uncovered genes, including HOX genes, that are transcriptionally dysregulated in response to increased levels of SETDB1. Our studies establish SETDB1 as an oncogene in melanoma and underscore the role of chromatin factors in regulating tumorigenesis.
Cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCLs) are malignancies of skin-homing lymphoid cells, which have so far not been investigated thoroughly for common oncogenic mutations. We screened 90 biopsy specimens from CTCL patients (41 mycosis fungoides, 36 Sézary syndrome, and 13 non-mycosis fungoides/Sézary syndrome CTCL) for somatic mutations using OncoMap technology. We detected oncogenic mutations for the RAS pathway in 4 of 90 samples. One mycosis fungoides and one pleomorphic CTCL harbored a KRAS(G13D) mutation; one Sézary syndrome and one CD30(+) CTCL harbored a NRAS(Q61K) amino acid change. All mutations were found in stage IV patients (4 of 42) who showed significantly decreased overall survival compared with stage IV patients without mutations (P = .04). In addition, we detected a NRAS(Q61K) mutation in the CTCL cell line Hut78. Knockdown of NRAS by siRNA induced apoptosis in mutant Hut78 cells but not in CTCL cell lines lacking RAS mutations. The NRAS(Q61K) mutation sensitized Hut78 cells toward growth inhibition by the MEK inhibitors U0126, AZD6244, and PD0325901. Furthermore, we found that MEK inhibitors exclusively induce apoptosis in Hut78 cells. Taken together, we conclude that RAS mutations are rare events at a late stage of CTCL, and our preclinical results suggest that such late-stage patients profit from MEK inhibitors.
Cancer is a disease of the genome. Most tumors harbor a constellation of structural genomic alterations that may dictate their clinical behavior and treatment response. Whereas elucidating the nature and importance of these genomic alterations has been the goal of cancer biologists for several decades, ongoing global genome characterization efforts are revolutionizing both tumor biology and the optimal paradigm for cancer treatment at an unprecedented scope. The pace of advance has been empowered, in large part, through disruptive technological innovations that render complete cancer genome characterization feasible on a large scale. This article highlights cardinal biologic and clinical insights gleaned from systematic cancer genome characterization. We also discuss how the convergence of cancer genome biology, technology, and targeted therapeutics articulates a cohesive framework for the advent of personalized cancer medicine.
When it escapes early detection, malignant melanoma becomes a highly lethal and treatment-refractory cancer. Melastatin is greatly downregulated in metastatic melanomas and is widely believed to function as a melanoma tumor suppressor. Here we report that tumor suppressive activity is not mediated by melastatin but instead by a microRNA (miR-211) hosted within an intron of melastatin. Increasing expression of miR-211 but not melastatin reduced migration and invasion of malignant and highly invasive human melanomas characterized by low levels of melastatin and miR-211. An unbiased network analysis of melanoma-expressed genes filtered for their roles in metastasis identified three central node genes: IGF2R, TGFBR2, and NFAT5. Expression of these genes was reduced by miR-211, and knockdown of each gene phenocopied the effects of increased miR-211 on melanoma invasiveness. These data implicate miR-211 as a suppressor of melanoma invasion whose expression is silenced or selected against via suppression of the entire melastatin locus during human melanoma progression.
The serine/threonine kinase AKT functions as a critical mediator of signaling downstream of PI3 kinase. Studies over the last two decades have firmly established the importance of AKT in the regulation of cell survival, proliferation, and insulin-dependent metabolic cell responses. AKT executes these diverse tasks through phosphorylation of numerous cellular substrates. Substantial progress has been made in understanding the regulation of AKT activity by upstream kinases and elucidating downstream mechanisms that mediate its myriad cellular effects. Here, we present an overview of AKT regulation and function in physiological and pathological settings. An emphasis is placed on the involvement of aberrant AKT signaling in human diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer and neurological diseases.
In a series of articles published in February 2010, The New York Times chronicled, from a personal perspective, the rollercoaster experience of those associated with clinical trials of a RAF inhibitor for the treatment of melanoma. In this issue of Science Translational Medicine, Whittaker et al. describe research that reconciles some of the bewildering aspects of the discovery and development of drugs that inhibit such protein kinase targets in cancer.
Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) has a broad spectrum of clinical behaviors; some cases are self-limited, whereas others involve multiple organs and cause significant mortality. Although Langerhans cells in LCH are clonal, their benign morphology and their lack (to date) of reported recurrent genomic abnormalities have suggested that LCH may not be a neoplasm. Here, using 2 orthogonal technologies for detecting cancer-associated mutations in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded material, we identified the oncogenic BRAF V600E mutation in 35 of 61 archived specimens (57%). TP53 and MET mutations were also observed in one sample each. BRAF V600E tended to appear in younger patients but was not associated with disease site or stage. Langerhans cells stained for phospho-mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (phospho-MEK) and phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (phospho-ERK) regardless of mutation status. High prevalence, recurrent BRAF mutations in LCH indicate that it is a neoplastic disease that may respond to RAF pathway inhibitors.
Systematic characterization of cancer genomes has revealed a staggering number of diverse aberrations that differ among individuals, such that the functional importance and physiological impact of most tumor genetic alterations remain poorly defined. We developed a computational framework that integrates chromosomal copy number and gene expression data for detecting aberrations that promote cancer progression. We demonstrate the utility of this framework using a melanoma data set. Our analysis correctly identified known drivers of melanoma and predicted multiple tumor dependencies. Two dependencies, TBC1D16 and RAB27A, confirmed empirically, suggest that abnormal regulation of protein trafficking contributes to proliferation in melanoma. Together, these results demonstrate the ability of integrative Bayesian approaches to identify candidate drivers with biological, and possibly therapeutic, importance in cancer.
The number of agents that are potentially effective in the adjuvant treatment of locally advanced resectable colon cancer is increasing. Consequently, it is important to ascertain which subgroups of patients will benefit from a specific treatment. Despite more than two decades of research into the molecular genetics of colon cancer, there is a lack of prognostic and predictive molecular biomarkers with proven utility in this setting. A secondary objective of the Pan European Trials in Adjuvant Colon Cancer-3 trial, which compared irinotecan in combination with 5-fluorouracil and leucovorin in the postoperative treatment of stage III and stage II colon cancer patients, was to undertake a translational research study to assess a panel of putative prognostic and predictive markers in a large colon cancer patient cohort. The Cancer and Leukemia Group B 89803 trial, in a similar design, also investigated the use of prognostic and predictive biomarkers in this setting. In this article, the authors, who are coinvestigators from these trials and performed similar investigations of biomarker discovery in the adjuvant treatment of colon cancer, review the current status of biomarker research in this field, drawing on their experiences and considering future strategies for biomarker discovery in the postgenomic era.
Oncogenic mutations in the serine/threonine kinase B-RAF (also known as BRAF) are found in 50-70% of malignant melanomas. Pre-clinical studies have demonstrated that the B-RAF(V600E) mutation predicts a dependency on the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling cascade in melanoma-an observation that has been validated by the success of RAF and MEK inhibitors in clinical trials. However, clinical responses to targeted anticancer therapeutics are frequently confounded by de novo or acquired resistance. Identification of resistance mechanisms in a manner that elucidates alternative druggable targets may inform effective long-term treatment strategies. Here we expressed ?600 kinase and kinase-related open reading frames (ORFs) in parallel to interrogate resistance to a selective RAF kinase inhibitor. We identified MAP3K8 (the gene encoding COT/Tpl2) as a MAPK pathway agonist that drives resistance to RAF inhibition in B-RAF(V600E) cell lines. COT activates ERK primarily through MEK-dependent mechanisms that do not require RAF signalling. Moreover, COT expression is associated with de novo resistance in B-RAF(V600E) cultured cell lines and acquired resistance in melanoma cells and tissue obtained from relapsing patients following treatment with MEK or RAF inhibitors. We further identify combinatorial MAPK pathway inhibition or targeting of COT kinase activity as possible therapeutic strategies for reducing MAPK pathway activation in this setting. Together, these results provide new insights into resistance mechanisms involving the MAPK pathway and articulate an integrative approach through which high-throughput functional screens may inform the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
Global studies of transcript structure and abundance in cancer cells enable the systematic discovery of aberrations that contribute to carcinogenesis, including gene fusions, alternative splice isoforms, and somatic mutations. We developed a systematic approach to characterize the spectrum of cancer-associated mRNA alterations through integration of transcriptomic and structural genomic data, and we applied this approach to generate new insights into melanoma biology. Using paired-end massively parallel sequencing of cDNA (RNA-seq) together with analyses of high-resolution chromosomal copy number data, we identified 11 novel melanoma gene fusions produced by underlying genomic rearrangements, as well as 12 novel readthrough transcripts. We mapped these chimeric transcripts to base-pair resolution and traced them to their genomic origins using matched chromosomal copy number information. We also used these data to discover and validate base-pair mutations that accumulated in these melanomas, revealing a surprisingly high rate of somatic mutation and lending support to the notion that point mutations constitute the major driver of melanoma progression. Taken together, these results may indicate new avenues for target discovery in melanoma, while also providing a template for large-scale transcriptome studies across many tumor types.
A powerful way to discover key genes with causal roles in oncogenesis is to identify genomic regions that undergo frequent alteration in human cancers. Here we present high-resolution analyses of somatic copy-number alterations (SCNAs) from 3,131 cancer specimens, belonging largely to 26 histological types. We identify 158 regions of focal SCNA that are altered at significant frequency across several cancer types, of which 122 cannot be explained by the presence of a known cancer target gene located within these regions. Several gene families are enriched among these regions of focal SCNA, including the BCL2 family of apoptosis regulators and the NF-kappaBeta pathway. We show that cancer cells containing amplifications surrounding the MCL1 and BCL2L1 anti-apoptotic genes depend on the expression of these genes for survival. Finally, we demonstrate that a large majority of SCNAs identified in individual cancer types are present in several cancer types.
Copy gains involving chromosome 7p represent one of the most common genomic alterations found in melanomas, suggesting the presence of "driver" cancer genes. We identified several tumor samples that harbored focal amplifications situated at the peak of common chromosome 7p gains, in which the minimal common overlapping region spanned the ETV1 oncogene. Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis revealed copy gains spanning the ETV1 locus in >40% of cases, with ETV1 amplification (>6 copies/cell) present in 13% of primary and 18% of metastatic melanomas. Melanoma cell lines, including those with ETV1 amplification, exhibited dependency on ETV1 expression for proliferation and anchorage-independent growth. Moreover, overexpression of ETV1 in combination with oncogenic NRAS(G12D) transformed primary melanocytes and promoted tumor formation in mice. ETV1 overexpression elevated microphthalmia-associated transcription factor expression in immortalized melanocytes, which was necessary for ETV1-dependent oncogenicity. These observations implicate deregulated ETV1 in melanoma genesis and suggest a pivotal lineage dependency mediated by oncogenic ETS transcription factors in this malignancy.
Aberrations in oncogenes and tumor suppressors frequently affect the activity of critical signal transduction pathways. To analyze systematically the relationship between the activation status of protein networks and other characteristics of cancer cells, we did reverse phase protein array (RPPA) profiling of the NCI60 cell lines for total protein expression and activation-specific markers of critical signaling pathways. To extend the scope of the study, we merged those data with previously published RPPA results for the NCI60. Integrative analysis of the expanded RPPA data set revealed five major clusters of cell lines and five principal proteomic signatures. Comparison of mutations in the NCI60 cell lines with patterns of protein expression showed significant associations for PTEN, PIK3CA, BRAF, and APC mutations with proteomic clusters. PIK3CA and PTEN mutation enrichment were not cell lineage-specific but were associated with dominant yet distinct groups of proteins. The five RPPA-defined clusters were strongly associated with sensitivity to standard anticancer agents. RPPA analysis identified 27 protein features significantly associated with sensitivity to paclitaxel. The functional status of those proteins was interrogated in a paclitaxel whole genome small interfering RNA (siRNA) library synthetic lethality screen and confirmed the predicted associations with drug sensitivity. These studies expand our understanding of the activation status of protein networks in the NCI60 cancer cell lines, demonstrate the importance of the direct study of protein expression and activation, and provide a basis for further studies integrating the information with other molecular and pharmacological characteristics of cancer.
Soft-tissue sarcomas, which result in approximately 10,700 diagnoses and 3,800 deaths per year in the United States, show remarkable histologic diversity, with more than 50 recognized subtypes. However, knowledge of their genomic alterations is limited. We describe an integrative analysis of DNA sequence, copy number and mRNA expression in 207 samples encompassing seven major subtypes. Frequently mutated genes included TP53 (17% of pleomorphic liposarcomas), NF1 (10.5% of myxofibrosarcomas and 8% of pleomorphic liposarcomas) and PIK3CA (18% of myxoid/round-cell liposarcomas, or MRCs). PIK3CA mutations in MRCs were associated with Akt activation and poor clinical outcomes. In myxofibrosarcomas and pleomorphic liposarcomas, we found both point mutations and genomic deletions affecting the tumor suppressor NF1. Finally, we found that short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-based knockdown of several genes amplified in dedifferentiated liposarcoma, including CDK4 and YEATS4, decreased cell proliferation. Our study yields a detailed map of molecular alterations across diverse sarcoma subtypes and suggests potential subtype-specific targets for therapy.
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