Resistance promoting effects of ependymoma treatment revealed through genomic analysis of multiple recurrences in a single patient.

Rubin JB, Miller CA, Smyth MD, Fulton R, Li T, Dunn GP, Mardis ER, Dahiya S
Cold Spring Harb Mol Case Stud in press 02/13/2018


BACKGROUND : As in other brain tumors, multiple recurrences after complete resection and irradiation of supratentorial ependymoma are common and frequently result in patient death. This standard-of-care treatment was established in the pre-genomic era without the ability to evaluate the effect that mutagenic therapies may exert on tumor evolution and in promoting resistance, recurrence, and death. We seized a rare opportunity to characterize treatment effects and the evolution of a single patient's ependymoma across four recurrences after different therapies.

METHODS AND FINDINGS : A combination of high depth whole genome and exome-based DNA sequencing of germline and tumor specimens, RNA sequencing of tumor specimens, and advanced computational analyses were employed. Treatment with radiation and chemotherapies resulted in a substantial increase in mutational burden and diversification of the tumor subclonal architecture without eradication of the founding clone. Notable somatic alterations included a MEN1 driver, several epigenetic modifiers, and therapy-induced mutations that impacted multiple other cancer-relevant pathways and altered the neoantigen landscape.

CONCLUSIONS : This genomic data provided new mechanistic insights into the genesis of ependymoma and pathways of resistance. It also revealed that radiation and chemotherapy were significant forces in shaping the increased subclonal complexity of each tumor recurrence, while also failing to eradicate the founding clone. This raises the question of whether standard-of-care treatments have similar consequences in other patients with ependymoma and other types of brain tumors. If so, the perspective obtained by real-time genomic characterization of a tumor may be essential for making effective patient-specific and adaptive clinical decisions.

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