Matching molecularly targeted therapies with cancer subtype-specific gene mutations is revolutionizing oncology care. However, for rare cancers this approach is problematic due to the often poor understanding of the disease's natural history and phenotypic heterogeneity, making treatment of these cancers a particularly unmet medical need in clinical oncology. Advanced Sézary syndrome (SS), an aggressive, exceedingly rare variant of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a prototypical example of a rare cancer. Through whole genome and RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) of a SS patient's tumor we discovered a highly expressed gene fusion between CTLA4 (cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4) and CD28 (cluster of differentiation 28), predicting a novel stimulatory molecule on the surface of tumor T cells. Treatment with the CTLA4 inhibitor ipilimumab resulted in a rapid clinical response. Our findings suggest a novel driver mechanism for SS, and cancer in general, and exemplify an emerging model of cancer treatment using exploratory genomic analysis to identify a personally targeted treatment option when conventional therapies are exhausted.
CD28; CTLA4; Sézary syndrome
Oncogenic fusion genes underlie the mechanism of several common cancers. Next-generation sequencing based RNA-seq analyses have revealed an increasing number of recurrent fusions in a variety of cancers. However, absence of a publicly available gene-fusion focused RNA-seq data impedes comparative assessment and collaborative development of novel gene fusions detection algorithms. We have generated nine synthetic poly-adenylated RNA transcripts that correspond to previously reported oncogenic gene fusions. These synthetic RNAs were spiked at known molarity over a wide range into total RNA prior to construction of next-generation sequencing mRNA libraries to generate RNA-seq data.
Leveraging a priori knowledge about replicates and molarity of each synthetic fusion transcript, we demonstrate utility of this dataset to compare multiple gene fusion algorithms’ detection ability. In general, more fusions are detected at higher molarity, indicating that our constructs performed as expected. However, systematic detection differences are observed based on molarity or algorithm-specific characteristics. Fusion-sequence specific detection differences indicate that for applications where specific sequences are being investigated, additional constructs may be added to provide quantitative data that is specific for the sequence of interest.
To our knowledge, this is the first publicly available synthetic RNA-seq data that specifically leverages known cancer gene-fusions. The proposed method of designing multiple gene-fusion constructs over a wide range of molarity allows granular performance analyses of multiple fusion-detection algorithms. The community can leverage and augment this publicly available data to further collaborative development of analytical tools and performance assessment frameworks for gene fusions from next-generation sequencing data.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-824) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
RNA-seq; Gene fusions; Cancer genomics
The discovery and reliable detection of markers for neurodegenerative diseases have been complicated by the inaccessibility of the diseased tissue- such as the inability to biopsy or test tissue from the central nervous system directly. RNAs originating from hard to access tissues, such as neurons within the brain and spinal cord, have the potential to get to the periphery where they can be detected non-invasively. The formation and extracellular release of microvesicles and RNA binding proteins have been found to carry RNA from cells of the central nervous system to the periphery and protect the RNA from degradation. Extracellular miRNAs detectable in peripheral circulation can provide information about cellular changes associated with human health and disease. In order to associate miRNA signals present in cell-free peripheral biofluids with neurodegenerative disease status of patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, we assessed the miRNA content in cerebrospinal fluid and serum from postmortem subjects with full neuropathology evaluations. We profiled the miRNA content from 69 patients with Alzheimer's disease, 67 with Parkinson's disease and 78 neurologically normal controls using next generation small RNA sequencing (NGS). We report the average abundance of each detected miRNA in cerebrospinal fluid and in serum and describe 13 novel miRNAs that were identified. We correlated changes in miRNA expression with aspects of disease severity such as Braak stage, dementia status, plaque and tangle densities, and the presence and severity of Lewy body pathology. Many of the differentially expressed miRNAs detected in peripheral cell-free cerebrospinal fluid and serum were previously reported in the literature to be deregulated in brain tissue from patients with neurodegenerative disease. These data indicate that extracellular miRNAs detectable in the cerebrospinal fluid and serum are reflective of cell-based changes in pathology and can be used to assess disease progression and therapeutic efficacy.
The brain is a common site of metastatic disease in patients with breast cancer, which has few therapeutic options and dismal outcomes. The purpose of our study was to identify common and rare events that underlie breast cancer brain metastasis. We performed deep genomic profiling, which integrated gene copy number, gene expression and DNA methylation datasets on a collection of breast brain metastases. We identified frequent large chromosomal gains in 1q, 5p, 8q, 11q, and 20q and frequent broad-level deletions involving 8p, 17p, 21p and Xq. Frequently amplified and overexpressed genes included ATAD2, BRAF, DERL1, DNMTRB and NEK2A. The ATM, CRYAB and HSPB2 genes were commonly deleted and underexpressed. Knowledge mining revealed enrichment in cell cycle and G2/M transition pathways, which contained AURKA, AURKB and FOXM1. Using the PAM50 breast cancer intrinsic classifier, Luminal B, Her2+/ER negative, and basal-like tumors were identified as the most commonly represented breast cancer subtypes in our brain metastasis cohort. While overall methylation levels were increased in breast cancer brain metastasis, basal-like brain metastases were associated with significantly lower levels of methylation. Integrating DNA methylation data with gene expression revealed defects in cell migration and adhesion due to hypermethylation and downregulation of PENK, EDN3, and ITGAM. Hypomethylation and upregulation of KRT8 likely affects adhesion and permeability. Genomic and epigenomic profiling of breast brain metastasis has provided insight into the somatic events underlying this disease, which have potential in forming the basis of future therapeutic strategies.
As next-generation sequencing continues to have an expanding presence in the clinic, the identification of the most cost-effective and robust strategy for identifying copy number changes and translocations in tumor genomes is needed. We hypothesized that performing shallow whole genome sequencing (WGS) of 900–1000-bp inserts (long insert WGS, LI-WGS) improves our ability to detect these events, compared with shallow WGS of 300–400-bp inserts. A priori analyses show that LI-WGS requires less sequencing compared with short insert WGS to achieve a target physical coverage, and that LI-WGS requires less sequence coverage to detect a heterozygous event with a power of 0.99. We thus developed an LI-WGS library preparation protocol based off of Illumina’s WGS library preparation protocol and illustrate the feasibility of performing LI-WGS. We additionally applied LI-WGS to three separate tumor/normal DNA pairs collected from patients diagnosed with different cancers to demonstrate our application of LI-WGS on actual patient samples for identification of somatic copy number alterations and translocations. With the evolution of sequencing technologies and bioinformatics analyses, we show that modifications to current approaches may improve our ability to interrogate cancer genomes.
Family history is a significant risk factor for prostate cancer, although the molecular basis for this association is poorly understood. Linkage studies have implicated chromosome 17q21-22 as a possible location of a prostate-cancer susceptibility gene.
We screened more than 200 genes in the 17q21-22 region by sequencing germline DNA from 94 unrelated patients with prostate cancer from families selected for linkage to the candidate region. We tested family members, additional case subjects, and control subjects to characterize the frequency of the identified mutations.
Probands from four families were discovered to have a rare but recurrent mutation (G84E) in HOXB13 (rs138213197), a homeobox transcription factor gene that is important in prostate development. All 18 men with prostate cancer and available DNA in these four families carried the mutation. The carrier rate of the G84E mutation was increased by a factor of approximately 20 in 5083 unrelated subjects of European descent who had prostate cancer, with the mutation found in 72 subjects (1.4%), as compared with 1 in 1401 control subjects (0.1%) (P = 8.5×10−7). The mutation was significantly more common in men with early-onset, familial prostate cancer (3.1%) than in those with late-onset, nonfamilial prostate cancer (0.6%) (P = 2.0×10−6).
The novel HOXB13 G84E variant is associated with a significantly increased risk of hereditary prostate cancer. Although the variant accounts for a small fraction of all prostate cancers, this finding has implications for prostate-cancer risk assessment and may provide new mechanistic insights into this common cancer. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.)
The development of accurate clinical biomarkers has been challenging in part due to the diversity between patients and diseases. One approach to account for the diversity is to use multiple markers to classify patients, based on the concept that each individual marker contributes information from its respective subclass of patients. Here we present a new strategy for developing biomarker panels that accounts for completely distinct patient subclasses. Marker State Space (MSS) defines “marker states” based on all possible patterns of high and low values among a panel of markers. Each marker state is defined as either a case state or a control state, and a sample is classified as case or control based on the state it occupies. MSS was used to define multi-marker panels that were robust in cross validation and training-set/test-set analyses and that yielded similar classification accuracy to several other classification algorithms. A three-marker panel for discriminating pancreatic cancer patients from control subjects revealed subclasses of patients based on distinct marker states. MSS provides a straightforward approach for modeling highly divergent subclasses of patients, which may be adaptable for diverse applications.
Comparative oncology is a developing research discipline that is being used to assist our understanding of human neoplastic diseases. Companion canines are a preferred animal oncology model due to spontaneous tumor development and similarity to human disease at the pathophysiological level. We use a paired RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq)/microarray analysis of a set of four normal canine lymph nodes and ten canine lymphoma fine needle aspirates to identify technical biases and variation between the technologies and convergence on biological disease pathways. Surrogate Variable Analysis (SVA) provides a formal multivariate analysis of the combined RNA-Seq/microarray data set. Applying SVA to the data allows us to decompose variation into contributions associated with transcript abundance, differences between the technology, and latent variation within each technology. A substantial and highly statistically significant component of the variation reflects transcript abundance, and RNA-Seq appeared more sensitive for detection of transcripts expressed at low levels. Latent random variation among RNA-Seq samples is also distinct in character from that impacting microarray samples. In particular, we observed variation between RNA-Seq samples that reflects transcript GC content. Platform-independent variable decomposition without a priori knowledge of the sources of variation using SVA represents a generalizable method for accomplishing cross-platform data analysis. We identified genes differentially expressed between normal lymph nodes of disease free dogs and a subset of the diseased dogs diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma using each technology. There is statistically significant overlap between the RNA-Seq and microarray sets of differentially expressed genes. Analysis of overlapping genes in the context of biological systems suggests elevated expression and activity of PI3K signaling in B-cell lymphoma biopsies compared with normal biopsies, consistent with literature describing successful use of drugs targeting this pathway in lymphomas.
Recent advances in sample preparation and analysis for next generation sequencing have made it possible to profile and discover new miRNAs in a high throughput manner. In the case of neurological disease and injury, these types of experiments have been more limited. Possibly because tissues such as the brain and spinal cord are inaccessible for direct sampling in living patients, and indirect sampling of blood and cerebrospinal fluid are affected by low amounts of RNA. We used a mouse model to examine changes in miRNA expression in response to acute nerve crush. We assayed miRNA from both muscle tissue and blood plasma. We examined how the depth of coverage (the number of mapped reads) changed the number of detectable miRNAs in each sample type. We also found that samples with very low starting amounts of RNA (mouse plasma) made high depth of mature miRNA coverage more difficult to obtain. Each tissue must be assessed independently for the depth of coverage required to adequately power detection of differential expression, weighed against the cost of sequencing that sample to the adequate depth. We explored the changes in total mapped reads and differential expression results generated by three different software packages: miRDeep2, miRNAKey, and miRExpress and two different analysis packages, DESeq and EdgeR. We also examine the accuracy of using miRDeep2 to predict novel miRNAs and subsequently detect them in the samples using qRT-PCR.
miRNA; small RNA; nerve injury; analysis; next generation sequencing; plasma; muscle
Formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissues are a vast resource of annotated clinical samples. As such, they represent highly desirable and informative materials for the application of high definition genomics for improved patient management and to advance the development of personalized therapeutics. However, a limitation of FFPE tissues is the variable quality of DNA extracted for analyses. Furthermore, admixtures of non-tumor and polyclonal neoplastic cell populations limit the number of biopsies that can be studied and make it difficult to define cancer genomes in patient samples. To exploit these valuable tissues we applied flow cytometry-based methods to isolate pure populations of tumor cell nuclei from FFPE tissues and developed a methodology compatible with oligonucleotide array CGH and whole exome sequencing analyses. These were used to profile a variety of tumors (breast, brain, bladder, ovarian and pancreas) including the genomes and exomes of matching fresh frozen and FFPE pancreatic adenocarcinoma samples.
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PAC) is among the most lethal malignancies. While research has implicated multiple genes in disease pathogenesis, identification of therapeutic leads has been difficult and the majority of currently available therapies provide only marginal benefit. To address this issue, our goal was to genomically characterize individual PAC patients to understand the range of aberrations that are occurring in each tumor. Because our understanding of PAC tumorigenesis is limited, evaluation of separate cases may reveal aberrations, that are less common but may provide relevant information on the disease, or that may represent viable therapeutic targets for the patient. We used next generation sequencing to assess global somatic events across 3 PAC patients to characterize each patient and to identify potential targets. This study is the first to report whole genome sequencing (WGS) findings in paired tumor/normal samples collected from 3 separate PAC patients. We generated on average 132 billion mappable bases across all patients using WGS, and identified 142 somatic coding events including point mutations, insertion/deletions, and chromosomal copy number variants. We did not identify any significant somatic translocation events. We also performed RNA sequencing on 2 of these patients' tumors for which tumor RNA was available to evaluate expression changes that may be associated with somatic events, and generated over 100 million mapped reads for each patient. We further performed pathway analysis of all sequencing data to identify processes that may be the most heavily impacted from somatic and expression alterations. As expected, the KRAS signaling pathway was the most heavily impacted pathway (P<0.05), along with tumor-stroma interactions and tumor suppressive pathways. While sequencing of more patients is needed, the high resolution genomic and transcriptomic information we have acquired here provides valuable information on the molecular composition of PAC and helps to establish a foundation for improved therapeutic selection.
Olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) is a rare cancer of the sinonasal tract with little molecular characterization. We performed whole genome sequencing (WGS) on paired normal and tumor DNA from a patient with metastatic-ONB to identify the somatic alterations that might be drivers of tumorigenesis and/or metastatic progression.
Genomic DNA was isolated from fresh frozen tissue from a metastatic lesion and whole blood, followed by WGS at >30X depth, alignment and mapping, and mutation analyses. Sanger sequencing was used to confirm selected mutations. Sixty-two somatic short nucleotide variants (SNVs) and five deletions were identified inside coding regions, each causing a non-synonymous DNA sequence change. We selected seven SNVs and validated them by Sanger sequencing. In the metastatic ONB samples collected several months prior to WGS, all seven mutations were present. However, in the original surgical resection specimen (prior to evidence of metastatic disease), mutations in KDR, MYC, SIN3B, and NLRC4 genes were not present, suggesting that these were acquired with disease progression and/or as a result of post-treatment effects.
This work provides insight into the evolution of ONB cancer cells and provides a window into the more complex factors, including tumor clonality and multiple driver mutations.
Next-generation sequencing enables use of whole-genome sequence typing (WGST) as a viable and discriminatory tool for genotyping and molecular epidemiologic analysis. We used WGST to confirm the linkage of a cluster of Coccidioides immitis isolates from 3 patients who received organ transplants from a single donor who later had positive test results for coccidioidomycosis. Isolates from the 3 patients were nearly genetically identical (a total of 3 single-nucleotide polymorphisms identified among them), thereby demonstrating direct descent of the 3 isolates from an original isolate. We used WGST to demonstrate the genotypic relatedness of C. immitis isolates that were also epidemiologically linked. Thus, WGST offers unique benefits to public health for investigation of clusters considered to be linked to a single source.
Fungi; next generation sequencing; Coccidioides; genotyping; molecular epidemiology; whole genome sequence typing; research
As a first step in analyzing high-throughput data in genome-wide studies, several algorithms are available to identify and prioritize candidates lists for downstream fine-mapping. The prioritized candidates could be differentially expressed genes, aberrations in comparative genomics hybridization studies, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in association studies. Different analysis algorithms are subject to various experimental artifacts and analytical features that lead to different candidate lists. However, little research has been carried out to theoretically quantify the consensus between different candidate lists and to compare the study specific accuracy of the analytical methods based on a known reference candidate list. Within the context of genome-wide studies, we propose a generic mathematical framework to statistically compare ranked lists of candidates from different algorithms with each other or, if available, with a reference candidate list. To cope with the growing need for intuitive visualization of high-throughput data in genome-wide studies, we describe a complementary customizable visualization tool. As a case study, we demonstrate application of our framework to the comparison and visualization of candidate lists generated in a DNA-pooling based genome-wide association study of CEPH data in the HapMap project, where prior knowledge from individual genotyping can be used to generate a true reference candidate list. The results provide a theoretical basis to compare the accuracy of various methods and to identify redundant methods, thus providing guidance for selecting the most suitable analysis method in genome-wide studies.
genome-wide association studies; candidate lists
Age-related hearing impairment (ARHI), or presbycusis, is the most prevalent sensory impairment in the elderly. ARHI is a complex disease caused by an interaction between environmental and genetic factors. Here we describe the results of the first whole genome association study for ARHI. The study was performed using 846 cases and 846 controls selected from 3434 individuals collected by eight centers in six European countries. DNA pools for cases and controls were allelotyped on the Affymetrix 500K GeneChip® for each center separately. The 252 top-ranked single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified in a non-Finnish European sample group (1332 samples) and the 177 top-ranked SNPs from a Finnish sample group (360 samples) were confirmed using individual genotyping. Subsequently, the 23 most interesting SNPs were individually genotyped in an independent European replication group (138 samples). This resulted in the identification of a highly significant and replicated SNP located in GRM7, the gene encoding metabotropic glutamate receptor type 7. Also in the Finnish sample group, two GRM7 SNPs were significant, albeit in a different region of the gene. As the Finnish are genetically distinct from the rest of the European population, this may be due to allelic heterogeneity. We performed histochemical studies in human and mouse and showed that mGluR7 is expressed in hair cells and in spiral ganglion cells of the inner ear. Together these data indicate that common alleles of GRM7 contribute to an individual's risk of developing ARHI, possibly through a mechanism of altered susceptibility to glutamate excitotoxicity.
Summary: For many genome-wide association (GWA) studies individually genotyping one million or more SNPs provides a marginal increase in coverage at a substantial cost. Much of the information gained is redundant due to the correlation structure inherent in the human genome. Pooling-based GWA studies could benefit significantly by utilizing this redundancy to reduce noise, improve the accuracy of the observations and increase genomic coverage. We introduce a measure of correlation between individual genotyping and pooling, under the same framework that r2 provides a measure of linkage disequilibrium (LD) between pairs of SNPs. We then report a new non-haplotype multimarker multi-loci method that leverages the correlation structure between SNPs in the human genome to increase the efficacy of pooling-based GWA studies. We first give a theoretical framework and derivation of our multimarker method. Next, we evaluate simulations using this multimarker approach in comparison to single marker analysis. Finally, we experimentally evaluate our method using different pools of HapMap individuals on the Illumina 450S Duo, Illumina 550K and Affymetrix 5.0 platforms for a combined total of 1 333 631 SNPs. Our results show that use of multimarker analysis reduces noise specific to pooling-based studies, allows for efficient integration of multiple microarray platforms and provides more accurate measures of significance than single marker analysis. Additionally, this approach can be extended to allow for imputing the association significance for SNPs not directly observed using neighboring SNPs in LD. This multimarker method can now be used to cost-effectively complete pooling-based GWA studies with multiple platforms across over one million SNPs and to impute neighboring SNPs weighted for the loss of information due to pooling.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
We use high-density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping microarrays to demonstrate the ability to accurately and robustly determine whether individuals are in a complex genomic DNA mixture. We first develop a theoretical framework for detecting an individual's presence within a mixture, then show, through simulations, the limits associated with our method, and finally demonstrate experimentally the identification of the presence of genomic DNA of specific individuals within a series of highly complex genomic mixtures, including mixtures where an individual contributes less than 0.1% of the total genomic DNA. These findings shift the perceived utility of SNPs for identifying individual trace contributors within a forensics mixture, and suggest future research efforts into assessing the viability of previously sub-optimal DNA sources due to sample contamination. These findings also suggest that composite statistics across cohorts, such as allele frequency or genotype counts, do not mask identity within genome-wide association studies. The implications of these findings are discussed.
In this report we describe a framework for accurately and robustly resolving whether individuals are in a complex genomic DNA mixture using high-density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping microarrays. We develop a theoretical framework for detecting an individual's presence within a mixture, show its limits through simulation, and finally demonstrate experimentally the identification of the presence of genomic DNA of individuals within a series of highly complex genomic mixtures. Our approaches demonstrate straightforward identification of trace amounts (<1%) of DNA from an individual contributor within a complex mixture. We show how probe-intensity analysis of high-density SNP data can be used, even given the experimental noise of a microarray. We discuss the implications of these findings in two fields: forensics and genome-wide association (GWA) genetic studies. Within forensics, resolving whether an individual is contributing trace amounts of genomic DNA to a complex mixture is a tremendous challenge. Within GWA studies, there is a considerable push to make experimental data publicly available so that the data can be combined with other studies. Our findings show that such an approach does not completely conceal identity, since it is straightforward to assess the probability that a person or relative participated in a GWA study.