With more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific publications, findings from the POG program are influencing precision oncology approaches around the world.
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.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs) are a genomically and clinically heterogeneous group of pancreatic neoplasms often diagnosed with distant metastases. Recurrent somatic mutations, chromosomal aberrations, and gene expression signatures in PNETs have been described, but the clinical significance of these molecular changes is still poorly understood, and the clinical outcomes of PNET patients remain highly variable. To help identify the molecular factors that contribute to PNET progression and metastasis, and as part of an ongoing clinical trial at the BC Cancer Agency (clinicaltrials.gov ID: NCT02155621), the genomic and transcriptomic profiles of liver metastases from five patients (four PNETs and one neuroendocrine carcinoma) were analyzed. In four of the five cases, we identified biallelic loss of MEN1 and DAXX as well as recurrent regions with loss of heterozygosity. Several novel findings were observed, including focal amplification of MYCN concomitant with loss of APC and TP53 in one sample with wild-type MEN1 and DAXX Transcriptome analyses revealed up-regulation of MYCN target genes in this sample, confirming a MYCN-driven gene expression signature. We also identified a germline NTHL1 fusion event in one sample that resulted in a striking C>T mutation signature profile not previously reported in PNETs. These varying molecular alterations suggest different cellular pathways may contribute to PNET progression, consistent with the heterogeneous clinical nature of this disease. Furthermore, genomic profiles appeared to correlate well with treatment response, lending support to the role of prospective genotyping efforts to guide therapy in PNETs.
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.
Background: NRG1 fusion-positive lung cancers have emerged as potentially actionable events in lung cancer, but clinical support is currently limited and no evidence of efficacy of this approach in cancers beyond lung has been shown.
Patients and methods: Here, we describe two patients with advanced cancers refractory to standard therapies. Patient 1 had lung adenocarcinoma and patient 2 cholangiocarcinoma. Whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing were carried out for these cases with select findings validated by fluorescence in situ hybridization.
Results: Both tumors were found to be positive for NRG1 gene fusions. In patient 1, an SDC4-NRG1 gene fusion was detected, similar gene fusions having been described in lung cancers previously. In patient 2, a novel ATP1B1-NRG1 gene fusion was detected. Cholangiocarcinoma is not a disease type in which NRG1 fusions had been described previously. Integrative genome analysis was used to assess the potential functional significance of the detected genomic events including the gene fusions, prioritizing therapeutic strategies targeting the HER-family of growth factor receptors. Both patients were treated with the pan HER-family kinase inhibitor afatinib and both displayed significant and durable response to treatment. Upon progression sites of disease were sequenced. The lack of obvious genomic events to describe the disease progression indicated that broad transcriptomic or epigenetic mechanisms could be attributed to the lack of prolonged response to afatinib.
Conclusion: These observations lend further support to the use of pan HER-tyrosine kinase inhibitors for the treatment of NRG1 fusion-positive in both cancers of lung and hepatocellular origin and indicate more broadly that cancers found to be NRG1 fusion-positive may benefit from such a clinical approach regardless of their site of origin.
Clinical trial information: Personalized Oncogenomics (POG) Program of British Columbia: Utilization of Genomic Analysis to Better Understand Tumour Heterogeneity and Evolution (NCT02155621).
Keywords: NRG1 gene fusion; afatinib; integrative genomic analysis; intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma; lung adenocarcinoma; personalized medicine.
Whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing were performed to identify potential therapeutic strategies in the absence of viable treatment options for a patient initially diagnosed with vulvar adenocarcinoma. Genomic events were prioritized by comparison against variant distributions in the TCGA pan-cancer data set and complemented with detailed transcriptome sequencing and copy-number analysis. These findings were considered against published scientific literature in order to evaluate the functional effects of potentially relevant genomic events. Analysis of the transcriptome against a background of 27 TCGA cancer types led to reclassification of the tumor as a primary HER2+ mammary-like adenocarcinoma of the vulva. This revised diagnosis was subsequently confirmed by follow-up immunohistochemistry for a mammary-like adenocarcinoma. The patient was treated with chemotherapy and targeted therapies for HER2+ breast cancer. The detailed pathology and genomic findings of this case are presented herein.