With more than 35 peer-reviewed scientific publications, findings from the POG program are influencing precision oncology approaches around the world.
Importance: A molecular diagnostic method that incorporates information about the transcriptional status of all genes across multiple tissue types can strengthen confidence in cancer diagnosis.
Objective: To determine the practical use of a whole transcriptome-based pan-cancer method in diagnosing primary and metastatic cancers and resolving complex diagnoses.
Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional diagnostic study assessed Supervised Cancer Origin Prediction Using Expression (SCOPE), a machine learning method using whole-transcriptome RNA sequencing data. Training was performed on publicly available primary cancer data sets, including The Cancer Genome Atlas. Testing was performed retrospectively on untreated primary cancers and treated metastases from volunteer adult patients at BC Cancer in Vancouver, British Columbia, from January 1, 2013, to March 31, 2016, and testing spanned 10 822 samples and 66 output classes representing untreated primary cancers (n = 40) and adjacent normal tissues (n = 26). SCOPE's performance was demonstrated on 211 untreated primary mesothelioma cancers and 201 treatment-resistant metastatic cancers. Finally, SCOPE was used to identify the putative site of origin in 15 cases with initial presentation as cancers with unknown primary of origin.
Results: A total of 10 688 adult patient samples representing 40 untreated primary tumor types and 26 adjacent-normal tissues were used for training. Demographic data were not available for all data sets. Among the training data set, 5157 of 10 244 (50.3%) were male and the mean (SD) age was 58.9 (14.5) years. Testing was performed on 211 patients with untreated primary mesothelioma (173 [82.0%] male; mean [SD] age, 64.5 [11.3] years); 201 patients with treatment-resistant cancers (141 [70.1%] female; mean [SD] age, 55.6 [12.9] years); and 15 patients with cancers of unknown primary of origin; among the treatment-resistant cancers, 168 were metastatic, and 33 were the primary presentation. An accuracy rate of 99% was obtained for primary epithelioid mesotheliomas tested (125 of 126). The remaining 85 mesotheliomas had a mixed etiology (sarcomatoid mesotheliomas) and were correctly identified as a mixture of their primary components, with potential implications in resolving subtypes and incidences of mixed histology. SCOPE achieved an overall mean (SD) accuracy rate of 86% (11%) and F1 score of 0.79 (0.12) on the 201 treatment-resistant cancers and matched 12 of 15 of the putative diagnoses for cancers with indeterminate diagnosis from conventional pathology.
Conclusions and relevance: These results suggest that machine learning approaches incorporating multiple tumor profiles can more accurately identify the cancerous state and discriminate it from normal cells. SCOPE uses the whole transcriptomes from normal and tumor tissues, and results of this study suggest that it performs well for rare cancer types, primary cancers, treatment-resistant metastatic cancers, and cancers of unknown primary of origin. Genes most relevant in SCOPE's decision making were examined, and several are known biological markers of respective cancers. SCOPE may be applied as an orthogonal diagnostic method in cases where the site of origin of a cancer is unknown, or when standard pathology assessment is inconclusive.
The Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) program at BC Cancer integrates whole-genome (DNA) and RNA sequencing into practice for metastatic malignancies. We examined the subgroup of patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and report the prevalence of actionable targets, treatments, and outcomes. We identified patients who were enrolled in the POG program between 2012 and 2016 who had a tumor biopsy and blood samples with comprehensive DNA (80×, 40× normal) and RNA sequencing followed by in-depth bioinformatics to identify potential cancer drivers and actionable targets. In NSCLC cases, we compared the progression-free survival (PFS) of "POG-informed therapies" with the PFS of the last regimen prior to POG (PFS ratio). In 29 NSCLC cases, 11 were male (38%), the median age was 60.2 yr (range: 39.4-72.6), and histologies included were adenocarcinoma (93%) and squamous cell carcinoma (7%). Potential molecular targets (i.e., cancer drivers including TP53 mutations) were identified in 26 (90%), and 21 (72%) had actionable targets. Therapies based on standard-of-care mutation analysis, such as EGFR mutations, were not considered POG-informed therapies. Thirteen received POG-informed therapies, of which three had no therapy before POG; therefore a comparator PFS could not be obtained. Of 10 patients with POG-informed therapy, median PFS ratio was 0.94 (IQR 0.2-3.4). Three (30%) had a PFS ratio ≥1.3, and three (30%) had a PFS ratio ≥0.8 and <1.3. In this small cohort of NSCLC, 30% demonstrated longer PFS with POG-informed therapies. Larger studies will help clarify the role of whole-genome analysis in clinical practice.
Thyroid-like follicular renal cell carcinoma (TLFRCC) is a rare cancer with few reports of metastatic disease. Little is known regarding genomic characteristics and therapeutic targets. We present the clinical, pathologic, genomic, and transcriptomic analyses of a case of a 27-yr-old male with TLFRCC who presented initially with bone metastases of unknown primary. Genomic DNA from peripheral blood and metastatic tumor samples were sequenced. A transcriptome of 280 million sequence reads was generated from the same tumor sample. Tumor somatic expression profiles were analyzed to detect aberrant expression. Genomic and transcriptomic data sets were integrated to reveal dysregulation in pathways and identify potential therapeutic targets. Integrative genomic analysis with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data set revealed the following outliers in gene expression profiles: CDK6 (81st percentile), MYC (99th percentile), AR (100th percentile), PDGFRA and PDGFRB (99th and 100th percentiles, respectively), and MAP2K2 (86th percentile). The patient received first-line sunitinib to target PDGFRA and PDGFRB and had stable disease for >6 mo, followed by nivolumab upon progression. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first reported case of comprehensive somatic genomic analyses in a patient with metastatic TLFRCC. Somatic analyses provided molecular confirmation of the primary site of cancer and potential therapeutic strategies in a rare disease with little evidence of efficacy on systemic therapy.
Homologous recombination (HR) facilitates error-free repair of double-strand DNA breaks and interstrand crosslinks.1 Mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, and other genes responsible for HR are prevalent among human cancers and cause HR deficiency (HRD) and genomic instability.2 Recent evidence has shown that BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are associated with improved outcomes on platinum-based chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer,3-5 which mirrors more-established findings from breast cancer.6
Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) efforts have identified mutational and structural rearrangement signatures linked to BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in breast and other cancers,7 which may predict response to platinum-based chemotherapy8 and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors.9 However, the role signature timing plays in treatment response has not been elucidated but could help to distinguish currently active, actionable mutational processes from historically active ones.
We present the first clinical application of HRD dynamics across spatially and temporally distinct biopsy specimens of a pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). This approach helped to reconcile the following paradoxical findings: genomic stability and low HRD mutation signature despite a germline BRCA1 mutation and exceptional response to fluorouracil, oxaliplatin, leucovorin, and irinotecan (FOLFIRINOX). The findings highlight the potential value of considering timing in the clinical interpretation of mutation signatures.
Clinical detection of sequence and structural variants in known cancer genes points to viable treatment options for a minority of children with cancer.1 To increase the number of children who benefit from genomic profiling, gene expression information must be considered alongside mutations.2,3 Although high expression has been used to nominate drug targets for pediatric cancers,4,5 its utility has not been evaluated in a systematic way.6 We describe a child with a rare sarcoma that was profiled with whole-genome and RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) techniques. Although the tumor did not harbor DNA mutations targetable by available therapies, incorporation of gene expression information derived from RNA-Seq analysis led to a therapy that produced a significant clinical response. We use this case to describe a framework for inclusion of gene expression into the clinical genomic evaluation of pediatric tumors.
Metastatic adenoid cystic carcinomas (ACCs) can cause significant morbidity and mortality. Because of their slow growth and relative rarity, there is limited evidence for systemic therapy regimens. Recently, molecular profiling studies have begun to reveal the genetic landscape of these poorly understood cancers, and new treatment possibilities are beginning to emerge. The objective is to use whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing and analysis to better understand the genetic alterations underlying the pathology of metastatic and rare ACCs and determine potentially actionable therapeutic targets. We report five cases of metastatic ACC, not originating in the salivary glands, in patients enrolled in the Personalized Oncogenomics (POG) Program at the BC Cancer Agency. Genomic workup included whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing, detailed analysis of tumor alterations, and integration with existing knowledge of drug-target combinations to identify potential therapeutic targets. Analysis reveals low mutational burden in these five ACC cases, and mutation signatures that are commonly observed in multiple cancer types. Notably, the only recurrent structural aberration identified was the well-described MYB-NFIB fusion that was present in four of five cases, and one case exhibited a closely related MYBL1-NFIB fusion. Recurrent mutations were also identified in BAP1 and BCOR, with additional mutations in individual samples affecting NOTCH1 and the epigenetic regulators ARID2, SMARCA2, and SMARCB1. Copy changes were rare, and they included amplification of MYC and homozygous loss of CDKN2A in individual samples. Genomic analysis revealed therapeutic targets in all five cases and served to inform a therapeutic choice in three of the cases to date.
Children with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) may relapse despite response to radioactive iodine (RAI). Two children with multiply relapsed PTC underwent whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing. A TPM3-NTRK1 fusion was identified in one tumor, with outlier NTRK1 expression compared to the TCGA thyroid cancer compendium and to Illumina BodyMap normal thyroid. This patient demonstrated resolution of multiple pulmonary nodules without toxicity on oral TRK inhibitor therapy. A RET fusion was identified in the second tumor, another potentially actionable finding. Identification of oncogenic drivers in recurrent pediatric PTC may facilitate targeted therapy while avoiding repeated RAI.
ERBB2 amplification has been identified in ∼5% of KRAS wild-type colorectal cancers (CRCs). A recent clinical trial showed response to HER2-directed therapy in a subset of ERBB2-amplified metastatic CRCs resistant to chemotherapy and EGFR-directed therapy. With the aim of better understanding mechanisms of resistance to HER2-directed and EGFR-directed therapies, we report the complete molecular characterization of two cases of ERBB2-amplified CRC. PCR-free whole-genome sequencing was used to identify mutations, copy-number alterations, structural variations, and losses of heterozygosity. ERBB2 copy number was also measured by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Single-stranded mRNA sequencing was used for gene expression profiling. Immunohistochemistry and protein mass spectrometry were used to quantify HER2 protein expression. The cases showed ERBB2 copy number of 86 and 92, respectively. Both cases were immunohistochemically positive for HER2 according to CRC-specific scoring criteria. Fluorescence in situ hybridization and protein mass spectrometry corroborated significantly elevated ERBB2 copy number and abundance of HER2 protein. Both cases were microsatellite stable and without mutation of RAS pathway genes. Additional findings included altered expression of PTEN, MET, and MUC1 and mutation of PIK3CA The potential effects of the molecular alterations on sensitivity to EGFR and HER2-directed therapies were discussed. Identification of ERBB2 amplification in CRC is necessary to select patients who may respond to HER2-directed therapy. An improved understanding of the molecular characteristics of ERBB2-amplified CRCs and their potential mechanisms of resistance will be useful for future research into targeted therapies and may eventually inform therapeutic decision-making.
Eccrine porocarcinomas (EPs) are rare malignant tumours of the intraepidermic sweat gland duct and most often arise from benign eccrine poromas. Some recurrent somatic genomic events have been identified in these malignancies, but very little is known about the complexity of their molecular pathophysiology. We describe the whole genome and whole transcriptome genomic profiling of a metastatic EP in a 66-year-old male patient with a previous history of localized porocarcinoma of the scalp. Whole genome and whole transcriptome genomic profiling was performed on the metastatic EP. Whole genome sequencing was performed on blood-derived DNA in order to allow a comparison between germline and somatic events. We found somatic copy losses of several tumour suppressor genes including APC, PTEN and CDKN2A, CDKN2B and CDKN1A. We identified a somatic hemizygous CDKN2A pathogenic splice site variant. De novo transcriptome assembly revealed abnormal splicing of CDKN2A p14ARF and p16INK4a. Elevated expression of oncogenes EGFR and NOTCH1 was noted and no somatic mutations were found in these genes. Wnt pathway somatic alterations were also observed. In conclusion, our results suggest that the molecular pathophysiology of malignant EP features high complexity and subtle interactions of multiple key genes. Cell cycle dysregulation and CDKN2A loss of function was found to be a new potential driver in EP tumourigenesis. Moreover, the combination of somatic copy number variants and abnormal gene expression perhaps partly related to epigenetic mechanisms, all likely contribute to the development of this rare malignancy in our patient.
Purpose: Recent studies have identified mutation signatures of homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) in over 20% of breast cancers, as well as pancreatic, ovarian, and gastric cancers. There is an urgent need to understand the clinical implications of HRD signatures. Whereas BRCA1/2 mutations confer sensitivity to platinum-based chemotherapies, it is not yet clear whether mutation signatures can independently predict platinum response.Experimental Design: In this observational study, we sequenced tumor whole genomes (100× depth) and matched normals (60×) of 93 advanced-stage breast cancers (33 platinum-treated). We computed a published metric called HRDetect, independently trained to predict BRCA1/2 status, and assessed its capacity to predict outcomes on platinum-based chemotherapies. Clinical endpoints were overall survival (OS), total duration on platinum-based therapy (TDT), and radiographic evidence of clinical improvement (CI).Results: HRDetect predicted BRCA1/2 status with an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.94 and optimal threshold of 0.7. Elevated HRDetect was also significantly associated with CI on platinum-based therapy (AUC = 0.89; P = 0.006) with the same optimal threshold, even after adjusting for BRCA1/2 mutation status and treatment timing. HRDetect scores over 0.7 were associated with a 3-month extended median TDT (P = 0.0003) and 1.3-year extended median OS (P = 0.04).Conclusions: Our findings not only independently validate HRDetect, but also provide the first evidence of its association with platinum response in advanced breast cancer. We demonstrate that HRD mutation signatures may offer clinically relevant information independently of BRCA1/2 mutation status and hope this work will guide the development of clinical trials.