With more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific publications, findings from the POG program are influencing precision oncology approaches around the world.
Purpose: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have revolutionised the treatment of solid tumours with dramatic and durable responses seen across multiple tumour types. However, identifying patients who will respond to these drugs remains challenging, particularly in the context of advanced and previously treated cancers.
Experimental design: We characterised fresh tumour biopsies from a heterogeneous pan-cancer cohort of 98 patients with metastatic predominantly pre-treated disease through the Personalized OncoGenomics (POG) program at BC Cancer using whole genome and transcriptome analysis (WGTA). Baseline characteristics and follow up data were collected retrospectively.
Results: We found that tumour mutation burden (TMB), independent of mismatch repair status, was the most predictive marker of time to progression (TTP, p=0.007), but immune related CD8+ T cell and M1-M2 macrophage ratio scores were more predictive for overall survival (OS) (p=0.0014 and 0.0012 respectively). While CD274 (PD-L1) gene expression is comparable to protein levels detected by immunohistochemistry (IHC), we did not observe a clinical benefit for patients with this marker. We demonstrate that a combination of markers based on WGTA provides the best stratification of patients (p=0.00071, OS), and also present a case study of possible acquired resistance to pembrolizumab in a non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patient.
Conclusions: Interpreting the tumour-immune interface to predict ICI efficacy remains challenging. WGTA allows for identification of multiple biomarkers simultaneously that in combination may help to identify responders, particularly in the context of a heterogeneous population of advanced and previously treated cancers, thus precluding tumour type-specific testing.
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Introduction: Carcinogenesis is driven by an array of complex genomic patterns; these patterns can render an individual resistant or sensitive to certain chemotherapy agents. The Personalized Oncogenomics (POG) project at BC Cancer has performed integrative genomic analysis of whole tumour genomes and transcriptomes for over 700 patients with advanced cancers, with an aim to predict therapeutic sensitivities. The aim of this study was to utilize the POG genomic data to evaluate a discrete set of biomarkers associated with chemo-sensitivity or-resistance in advanced stage breast and colorectal cancer POG patients.
Methods: This was a retrospective multi-centre analysis across all BC CANCER sites. All breast and colorectal cancer patients enrolled in the POG program between July 1, 2012 and November 30, 2016 were eligible for inclusion. Within the breast cancer population, those treated with capecitabine, paclitaxel, and everolimus were analyzed, and for the colorectal cancer patients, those treated with capecitabine, bevacizumab, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin were analyzed. The expression levels of the selected biomarkers of interest (EPHB4, FIGF, CD133, DICER1, DPYD, TYMP, TYMS, TAP1, TOP1, CKDN1A, ERCC1, GSTP1, BRCA1, PTEN, ABCB1, TLE3, and TXNDC17) were reported as mRNA percentiles.
Results: For the breast cancer population, there were 32 patients in the capecitabine cohort, 15 in the everolimus cohort, and 12 in the paclitaxel cohort. For the colorectal cancer population, there were 29 patients in the bevacizumab cohort, 12 in the oxaliplatin cohort, 29 in the irinotecan cohort, and 6 in the capecitabine cohort. Of the biomarkers evaluated, the strongest associations were found between Bevacizumab-based therapy and DICER1 (P = 0.0445); and between capecitabine therapy and TYMP (P = 0.0553).
Conclusions: Among breast cancer patients, higher TYMP expression was associated with sensitivity to capecitabine. Among colorectal cancer patients, higher DICER1 expression was associated with sensitivity to bevacizumab-based therapy. This study supports further assessment of the potential predictive value of mRNA expression of these genomic biomarkers.
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Inherited genetic variation has important implications for cancer screening, early diagnosis, and disease prognosis. A role for germline variation has also been described in shaping the molecular landscape, immune response, microenvironment, and treatment response of individual tumors. However, there is a lack of consensus on the handling and analysis of germline information that extends beyond known or suspected cancer susceptibility in large-scale cancer genomics initiatives. As part of the Personalized OncoGenomics program in British Columbia, we performed whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing in paired tumor and normal tissues from advanced cancer patients to characterize the molecular tumor landscape and identify putative targets for therapy. Overall, our experience supports a multidisciplinary and integrative approach to germline data management. This includes a need for broader definitions and standardized recommendations regarding primary and secondary germline findings in precision oncology. Here, we propose a framework for identifying, evaluating, and returning germline variants of potential clinical significance that may have indications for health management beyond cancer risk reduction or prevention in patients and their families.
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Introduction Given the high level of uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of early phase clinical trials, whole genome and transcriptome analysis (WGTA) can be used to optimize patient selection and study assignment. In this retrospective analysis, we reviewed the impact of this approach on one such program. Methods Patients with advanced malignancies underwent fresh tumor biopsies as part of our personalized medicine program (NCT02155621). Tumour molecular data were reviewed for potentially clinically actionable findings and patients were referred to the developmental therapeutics program. Outcomes were reviewed in all patients, including those where trial selection was driven by molecular data (matched) and those where there was no clear molecular rationale (unmatched). Results From January 2014 to January 2018, 28 patients underwent WGTA and enrolled in clinical trials, including 2 patients enrolled in two trials. Fifteen patients were matched to a treatment based on a molecular target. Five patients were matched to a trial based upon single-gene DNA changes, all supported by RNA data. Ten cases were matched on the basis of genome-wide data (n = 4) or RNA gene expression only (n = 6). With a median follow-up of 6.7 months, the median time on treatment was 8.2 weeks. Discussion When compared to single-gene DNA-based data alone, WGTA led to a 3-fold increase in treatment matching. In a setting where there is a high level of uncertainty around both the investigational agents and the biomarkers, more data are needed to fully evaluate the impact of routine use of WGTA.
Advanced and metastatic tumors with complex treatment histories drive cancer mortality. Here we describe the POG570 cohort, a comprehensive whole-genome, transcriptome and clinical dataset, amenable for exploration of the impacts of therapies on genomic landscapes. Previous exposure to DNA-damaging chemotherapies and mutations affecting DNA repair genes, including POLQ and genes encoding Polζ, were associated with genome-wide, therapy-induced mutagenesis. Exposure to platinum therapies coincided with signatures SBS31 and DSB5 and, when combined with DNA synthesis inhibitors, signature SBS17b. Alterations in ESR1, EGFR, CTNNB1, FGFR1, VEGFA and DPYD were consistent with drug resistance and sensitivity. Recurrent noncoding events were found in regulatory region hotspots of genes including TERT, PLEKHS1, AP2A1 and ADGRG6. Mutation burden and immune signatures corresponded with overall survival and response to immunotherapy. Our data offer a rich resource for investigation of advanced cancers and interpretation of whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing in the context of a cancer clinic.
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Read the accepted publication at Nature Cancer.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide and represents a heterogeneous group of tumors, the majority of which are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Fluoropyrimidine (5-FU) and its oral prodrug, capecitabine, are commonly prescribed treatments for several solid tumor types including HNSCC. 5-FU-associated toxicity is observed in ∼30% of treated patients and is largely caused by germline polymorphisms in DPYD, which encodes dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase, a key enzyme of 5-FU catabolism and deactivation. Although the association of germline DPYD alterations with toxicity is well-described, the potential contribution of somatic DPYD alterations to 5-FU sensitivity has not been explored. In a patient with metastatic HNSCC, in-depth genomic and transcriptomic integrative analysis on a biopsy from a metastatic neck lesion revealed alterations in genes that are associated with 5-FU uptake and metabolism. These included a novel somatic structural variant resulting in a partial deletion affecting DPYD, a variant of unknown significance affecting SLC29A1, and homozygous deletion of MTAP There was no evidence of deleterious germline polymorphisms that have been associated with 5-FU toxicity, indicating a potential vulnerability of the tumor to 5-FU therapy. The discovery of the novel DPYD variant led to the initiation of 5-FU treatment that resulted in a rapid response lasting 17 wk, with subsequent relapse due to unknown resistance mechanisms. This suggests that somatic alterations present in this tumor may serve as markers for tumor sensitivity to 5-FU, aiding in the selection of personalized treatment strategies.
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Purpose: Identification of clinically actionable molecular subtypes of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is key to improving patient outcome. Intertumoral metabolic heterogeneity contributes to cancer survival and the balance between distinct metabolic pathways may influence PDAC outcome. We hypothesized that PDAC can be stratified into prognostic metabolic subgroups based on alterations in the expression of genes involved in glycolysis and cholesterol synthesis.
Experimental design: We performed bioinformatics analysis of genomic, transcriptomic, and clinical data in an integrated cohort of 325 resectable and nonresectable PDAC. The resectable datasets included retrospective The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) cohorts. The nonresectable PDAC cohort studies included prospective COMPASS, PanGen, and BC Cancer Personalized OncoGenomics program (POG).
Results: On the basis of the median normalized expression of glycolytic and cholesterogenic genes, four subgroups were identified: quiescent, glycolytic, cholesterogenic, and mixed. Glycolytic tumors were associated with the shortest median survival in resectable (log-rank test P = 0.018) and metastatic settings (log-rank test P = 0.027). Patients with cholesterogenic tumors had the longest median survival. KRAS and MYC-amplified tumors had higher expression of glycolytic genes than tumors with normal or lost copies of the oncogenes (Wilcoxon rank sum test P = 0.015). Glycolytic tumors had the lowest expression of mitochondrial pyruvate carriers MPC1 and MPC2. Glycolytic and cholesterogenic gene expression correlated with the expression of prognostic PDAC subtype classifier genes.
Conclusions: Metabolic classification specific to glycolytic and cholesterogenic pathways provides novel biological insight into previously established PDAC subtypes and may help develop personalized therapies targeting unique tumor metabolic profiles.
Purpose: Gene fusions involving neuregulin 1 (NRG1) have been noted in multiple cancer types and have potential therapeutic implications. Although varying results have been reported in other cancer types, the efficacy of the HER-family kinase inhibitor afatinib in the treatment of NRG1 fusion-positive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is not fully understood.
Experimental design: Forty-seven patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma received comprehensive whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing and analysis. Two patients with gene fusions involving NRG1 received afatinib treatment, with response measured by pretreatment and posttreatment PET/CT imaging.
Results: Three of 47 (6%) patients with advanced pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma were identified as KRAS wild type by whole-genome sequencing. All KRAS wild-type tumors were positive for gene fusions involving the ERBB3 ligand NRG1. Two of 3 patients with NRG1 fusion-positive tumors were treated with afatinib and demonstrated a significant and rapid response while on therapy.
Conclusions: This work adds to a growing body of evidence that NRG1 gene fusions are recurrent, therapeutically actionable genomic events in pancreatic cancers. Based on the clinical outcomes described here, patients with KRAS wild-type tumors harboring NRG1 gene fusions may benefit from treatment with afatinib.
Effective management of brain and spine tumors relies on a multidisciplinary approach encompassing surgery, radiation, and systemic therapy. In the era of personalized oncology, the latter is complemented by various molecularly targeting agents. Precise identification of cellular targets for these drugs requires comprehensive profiling of the cancer genome coupled with an efficient analytic pipeline, leading to an informed decision on drug selection, prognosis, and confirmation of the original pathological diagnosis. Acquisition of optimal tumor tissue for such analysis is paramount and often presents logistical challenges in neurosurgery. Here, we describe the experience and results of the Personalized OncoGenomics (POG) program with a focus on tumors of the central nervous system (CNS). Patients with recurrent CNS tumors were consented and enrolled into the POG program prior to accrual of tumor and matched blood followed by whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing and processing through the POG bioinformatic pipeline. Sixteen patients were enrolled into POG. In each case, POG analyses identified genomic drivers including novel oncogenic fusions, aberrant pathways, and putative therapeutic targets. POG has highlighted that personalized oncology is truly a multidisciplinary field, one in which neurosurgeons must play a vital role if these programs are to succeed and benefit our patients.
This study investigated therapeutic potential of integrated genome and transcriptome profiling of metastatic sarcoma, a rare but extremely heterogeneous group of aggressive mesenchymal malignancies with few systemic therapeutic options.
Forty-three adult patients with advanced or metastatic non-GI stromal tumor sarcomas of various histology subtypes who were enrolled in the Personalized OncoGenomics program at BC Cancer were included in this study. Fresh tumor tissues along with blood samples underwent whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing.
The most frequent genomic alterations in this cohort are large-scale structural variation and somatic copy number variation. Outlier RNA expression as well as somatic copy number variations, structural variations, and small mutations together suggest the presence of one or more potential therapeutic targets in the majority of patients in our cohort. Point mutations or deletions in known targetable cancer genes are rare; for example, tuberous sclerosis complex 2 provides a rationale for targeting the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway, resulting in a few patients with exceptional clinical benefit from everolimus. In addition, we observed recurrent 17p11-12 amplifications, which seem to be a sarcoma-specific event. This may suggest that this region harbors an oncogene(s) that is significant for sarcoma tumorigenesis. Furthermore, some sarcoma tumors carrying a distinct mutational signature suggestive of homologous recombination deficiency seem to demonstrate sensitivity to double-strand DNA–damaging agents.
Integrated large-scale genomic analysis may provide insights into potential therapeutic targets as well as novel biologic features of metastatic sarcomas that could fuel future experimental and clinical research and help design biomarker-driven basket clinical trials for novel therapeutic strategies.
Next generation RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) is a flexible approach that can be applied to a range of applications including global quantification of transcript expression, the characterization of RNA structure such as splicing patterns and profiling of expressed mutations. Many RNA-seq protocols require up to microgram levels of total RNA input amounts to generate high quality data, and thus remain impractical for the limited starting material amounts typically obtained from rare cell populations, such as those from early developmental stages or from laser micro-dissected clinical samples. Here, we present an assessment of the contemporary ribosomal RNA depletion-based protocols, and identify those that are suitable for inputs as low as 1-10 ng of intact total RNA and 100-500 ng of partially degraded RNA from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues.
Tissues used in pathology laboratories are typically stored in the form of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples. One important consideration in repurposing FFPE material for next generation sequencing (NGS) analysis is the sequencing artifacts that can arise from the significant damage to nucleic acids due to treatment with formalin, storage at room temperature and extraction. One such class of artifacts consists of chimeric reads that appear to be derived from non-contiguous portions of the genome. Here, we show that a major proportion of such chimeric reads align to both the 'Watson' and 'Crick' strands of the reference genome. We refer to these as strand-split artifact reads (SSARs). This study provides a conceptual framework for the mechanistic basis of the genesis of SSARs and other chimeric artifacts along with supporting experimental evidence, which have led to approaches to reduce the levels of such artifacts. We demonstrate that one of these approaches, involving S1 nuclease-mediated removal of single-stranded fragments and overhangs, also reduces sequence bias, base error rates, and false positive detection of copy number and single nucleotide variants. Finally, we describe an analytical approach for quantifying SSARs from NGS data.
Curation and storage of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples are standard procedures in hospital pathology laboratories around the world. Many thousands of such samples exist and could be used for next generation sequencing analysis. Retrospective analyses of such samples are important for identifying molecular correlates of carcinogenesis, treatment history and disease outcomes. Two major hurdles in using FFPE material for sequencing are the damaged nature of the nucleic acids and the labor-intensive nature of nucleic acid purification. These limitations and a number of other issues that span multiple steps from nucleic acid purification to library construction are addressed here. We optimized and automated a 96-well magnetic bead-based extraction protocol that can be scaled to large cohorts and is compatible with automation. Using sets of 32 and 91 individual FFPE samples respectively, we generated libraries from 100 ng of total RNA and DNA starting amounts with 95-100% success rate. The use of the resulting RNA in micro-RNA sequencing was also demonstrated. In addition to offering the potential of scalability and rapid throughput, the yield obtained with lower input requirements makes these methods applicable to clinical samples where tissue abundance is limiting.
Pancreatic adenocarcinoma presents as a spectrum of a highly aggressive disease in patients. The basis of this disease heterogeneity has proved difficult to resolve due to poor tumor cellularity and extensive genomic instability. To address this, a dataset of whole genomes and transcriptomes was generated from purified epithelium of primary and metastatic tumors. Transcriptome analysis demonstrated that molecular subtypes are a product of a gene expression continuum driven by a mixture of intratumoral subpopulations, which was confirmed by single-cell analysis. Integrated whole-genome analysis uncovered that molecular subtypes are linked to specific copy number aberrations in genes such as mutant KRAS and GATA6. By mapping tumor genetic histories, tetraploidization emerged as a key mutational process behind these events. Taken together, these data support the premise that the constellation of genomic aberrations in the tumor gives rise to the molecular subtype, and that disease heterogeneity is due to ongoing genomic instability during progression.