Background GI stromal tumours (GISTs) are clinically heterogenous exhibiting varying degrees of disease aggressiveness in individual patients.
Objectives We sought to identify genetic alterations associated with high-risk GIST, explore their molecular consequences, and test their utility as prognostic markers.
Designs Exome sequencing of 18 GISTs was performed (9 patients with high-risk/metastatic and 5 patients with low/intermediate-risk), corresponding to 11 primary and 7 metastatic tumours. Candidate alterations were validated by prevalence screening in an independent patient cohort (n=120). Functional consequences of SETD2 mutations were investigated in primary tissues and cell lines. Transcriptomic profiles for 8 GISTs (4 SETD2 mutated, 4 SETD2 wild type) and DNA methylation profiles for 22 GISTs (10 SETD2 mutated, 12 SETD2 wild type) were analysed. Statistical associations between molecular, clinicopathological factors, and relapse-free survival were determined.
Results High-risk GISTs harboured increased numbers of somatic mutations compared with low-risk GISTs (25.2 mutations/high-risk cases vs 6.8 mutations/low-risk cases; two sample t test p=3.1×10−5). Somatic alterations in the SETD2 histone modifier gene occurred in 3 out of 9 high-risk/metastatic cases but no low/intermediate-risk cases. Prevalence screening identified additional SETD2 mutations in 7 out of 80 high-risk/metastatic cases but no low/intermediate-risk cases (n=29). Combined, the frequency of SETD2 mutations was 11.2% (10/89) and 0% (0/34) in high-risk and low-risk GISTs respectively. SETD2 mutant GISTs exhibited decreased H3K36me3 expression while SETD2 silencing promoted DNA damage in GIST-T1 cells. In gastric GISTs, SETD2 mutations were associated with overexpression of HOXC cluster genes and a DNA methylation signature of hypomethylated heterochromatin. Gastric GISTs with SETD2 mutations, or GISTs with hypomethylated heterochromatin, showed significantly shorter relapse-free survival on univariate analysis (log rank p=4.1×10−5).
Conclusions Our data suggest that SETD2 is a novel GIST tumour suppressor gene associated with disease progression. Assessing SETD2 genetic status and SETD2-associated epigenomic phenotypes may guide risk stratification and provide insights into mechanisms of GIST clinical aggressiveness.
- GENE MUTATION
- GASTROINTESTINAL CANCER
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