Publications by authors named "Cameron Herberts"

9 Publications

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Technical and biological constraints on ctDNA-based genotyping.

Trends Cancer 2021 Jul 1. Epub 2021 Jul 1.

Vancouver Prostate Centre, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada; Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Electronic address:

Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) enables real-time genomic profiling of cancer without the need for tissue biopsy. ctDNA-based technology is seeing rapid uptake in clinical practice due to the potential to inform patient management from diagnosis to advanced disease. In metastatic disease, ctDNA can identify somatic mutations, copy-number variants (CNVs), and structural rearrangements that are predictive of therapy response. However, the ctDNA fraction (ctDNA%) is unpredictable and confounds variant detection strategies, undermining confidence in liquid biopsy results. Assay design also influences which types of genomic alterations are identifiable. Here, we describe the relationships between ctDNA%, methodology, and sensitivity-specificity for major classes of genomic alterations in prostate cancer. We provide recommendations to navigate the technical complexities that constrain the detection of clinically relevant genomic alterations in ctDNA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.trecan.2021.06.001DOI Listing
July 2021

Evolution of Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer in ctDNA during Sequential Androgen Receptor Pathway Inhibition.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 Aug 3;27(16):4610-4623. Epub 2021 Jun 3.

Vancouver Prostate Centre, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada.

Purpose: Cross-resistance renders multiple lines of androgen receptor (AR) signaling inhibitors increasingly futile in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). We sought to determine acquired genomic contributors to cross-resistance.

Experimental Design: We collected 458 serial plasma cell-free DNA samples at baseline and progression timepoints from 202 patients with mCRPC receiving sequential AR signaling inhibitors (abiraterone and enzalutamide) in a randomized phase II clinical trial (NCT02125357). We utilized deep targeted and whole-exome sequencing to compare baseline and posttreatment somatic genomic profiles in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA).

Results: Patient ctDNA abundance was correlated across plasma collections and independently prognostic for sequential therapy response and overall survival. Most driver alterations in established prostate cancer genes were consistently detected in ctDNA over time. However, shifts in somatic populations after treatment were identified in 53% of patients, particularly after strong treatment responses. Treatment-associated changes converged upon the gene, with an average 50% increase in copy number, changes in mutation frequencies, and a 2.5-fold increase in the proportion of patients carrying AR ligand binding domain truncating rearrangements.

Conclusions: Our data show that the dominant genotype continues to evolve during sequential lines of AR inhibition and drives acquired resistance in patients with mCRPC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-1625DOI Listing
August 2021

, , and Defects Differentially Shape Prostate Tumor Driver Genomics and Clinical Aggression.

Clin Cancer Res 2021 Mar 7;27(6):1650-1662. Epub 2021 Jan 7.

Vancouver Prostate Centre, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Purpose: DNA damage repair (DDR) defects are common across cancer types and can indicate therapeutic vulnerability. Optimal exploitation of DDR defects in prostate cancer requires new diagnostic strategies and a better understanding of associated clinical genomic features.

Experimental Design: We performed targeted sequencing of 1,615 plasma cell-free DNA samples from 879 patients with metastatic prostate cancer. Depth-based copy-number calls and heterozygous SNP imbalance were leveraged to expose DDR-mutant allelic configuration and categorize mechanisms of biallelic loss. We used split-read structural variation analysis to characterize tumor suppressor rearrangements. Patient-matched archival primary tissue was analyzed identically.

Results: , and were the most frequently disrupted DDR genes in circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), collectively mutated in 15% of evaluable cases. Biallelic gene disruption via second somatic alteration or mutant allele-specific imbalance was identified in 79% of patients. A further 2% exhibited homozygous deletions. Tumor suppressors , and were controlled via disruptive chromosomal rearrangements in defective samples, but via oncogene amplification in context of defects. mutations were rare in cases with defects. DDR mutations were re-detected across 94% of serial ctDNA samples and in all available archival primary tissues, indicating they arose prior to metastatic progression. Loss of and , but not , was associated with poor clinical outcomes.

Conclusions: , and defects are each linked to distinct prostate cancer driver genomics and aggression. The consistency of DDR status in longitudinal samples and resolution of allelic status underscores the potential for ctDNA as a diagnostic tool.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-3708DOI Listing
March 2021

Activating AKT1 and PIK3CA Mutations in Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer.

Eur Urol 2020 12 22;78(6):834-844. Epub 2020 May 22.

Vancouver Prostate Centre, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Electronic address:

Background: Activating mutations in AKT1 and PIK3CA are undercharacterised in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), but are linked to activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signalling and sensitivity to pathway inhibitors in other cancers.

Objective: To determine the prevalence, genomic context, and clinical associations of AKT1/PIK3CA activating mutations in mCRPC.

Design, Setting, And Participants: We analysed targeted cell-free DNA (cfDNA) sequencing data from 599 metastatic prostate cancer patients with circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) content above 2%.

Outcome Measurements And Statistical Analysis: In patients with AKT1/PIK3CA mutations, cfDNA was subjected to PTEN intron sequencing and matched diagnostic tumour tissue was analysed when possible.

Results And Limitations: Of the patients, 6.0% (36/599) harboured somatic clonal activating mutation(s) in AKT1 or PIK3CA. Mutant allele-specific imbalance was common. Clonal mutations in mCRPC ctDNA were typically detected in pretreatment primary tissue and were consistent across serial ctDNA collections. AKT1/PIK3CA-mutant mCRPC had fewer androgen receptor (AR) gene copies than AKT1/PIK3CA wild-type mCRPC (median 4.7 vs 10.3, p =  0.003). AKT1 mutations were mutually exclusive with PTEN alterations. Patients with and without AKT1/PIK3CA mutations showed similar clinical outcomes with standard of care treatments. A heavily pretreated mCRPC patient with an AKT1 mutation experienced a 50% decline in prostate-specific antigen with Akt inhibitor (ipatasertib) monotherapy. Ipatasertib also had a marked antitumour effect in a patient-derived xenograft harbouring an AKT1 mutation. Limitations include the inability to assess AKT1/PIK3CA correlatives in ctDNA-negative patients.

Conclusions: AKT1/PIK3CA activating mutations are relatively common and delineate a distinct mCRPC molecular subtype with low-level AR copy gain. Clonal prevalence and evidence of mutant allele selection propose PI3K pathway dependency in selected patients. The use of cfDNA screening enables prospective clinical trials to test PI3K pathway inhibitors in this population.

Patient Summary: Of advanced prostate cancer cases, 6% have activating mutations in the genes AKT1 or PIK3CA. These mutations can be identified using a blood test and may help select patients suitable for clinical trials of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2020.04.058DOI Listing
December 2020

Identification of Hypermutation and Defective Mismatch Repair in ctDNA from Metastatic Prostate Cancer.

Clin Cancer Res 2020 03 19;26(5):1114-1125. Epub 2019 Nov 19.

Vancouver Prostate Centre, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada.

Purpose: DNA mismatch repair defects (MMRd) and tumor hypermutation are rare and under-characterized in metastatic prostate cancer (mPC). Furthermore, because hypermutated MMRd prostate cancers can respond to immune checkpoint inhibitors, there is an urgent need for practical detection tools.

Experimental Design: We analyzed plasma cell-free DNA-targeted sequencing data from 433 patients with mPC with circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) purity ≥2%. Samples with somatic hypermutation were subjected to 185 × whole-exome sequencing and capture of mismatch repair gene introns. Archival tissue was analyzed with targeted sequencing and IHC.

Results: Sixteen patients (3.7%) had somatic hypermutation with MMRd etiology, evidenced by deleterious alterations in , or , microsatellite instability, and characteristic trinucleotide signatures. ctDNA was concordant with mismatch repair protein IHC and DNA sequencing of tumor tissue. Tumor suppressors such as , and were inactivated by mutation rather than copy-number loss. Hotspot mutations in oncogenes such as , and were common, and the androgen receptor ()-ligand binding domain was mutated in 9 of 16 patients. We observed high intrapatient clonal diversity, evidenced by subclonal driver mutations and shifts in mutation allele frequency over time. Patients with hypermutation and MMRd etiology in ctDNA had a poor response to AR inhibition and inferior survival compared with a control cohort.

Conclusions: Hypermutated MMRd mPC is associated with oncogene activation and subclonal diversity, which may contribute to a clinically aggressive disposition in selected patients. In patients with detectable ctDNA, cell-free DNA sequencing is a practical tool to prioritize this subtype for immunotherapy..
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-1623DOI Listing
March 2020

Morphologic and genomic characterization of urothelial to sarcomatoid transition in muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

Urol Oncol 2019 11 1;37(11):826-836. Epub 2019 Oct 1.

Department of Urology, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, University of Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Introduction: The sarcomatoid morphology of muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) is associated with unfavorable prognosis. However, the genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic relationship between conventional urothelial and synchronous sarcomatoid morphology is poorly defined.

Methods: We compiled a cohort of 21 MIBC patients with components of conventional urothelial and adjacent sarcomatoid morphology within the same tumor focus. We performed comprehensive pathologic and immunohistochemical characterization and in 4 selected cases, subjected both morphologic components to targeted DNA sequencing and whole transcriptome analysis.

Results: Synchronous sarcomatoid and urothelial morphology from the same MIBC foci shared truncal somatic mutations, indicating a common ancestral clone. However, additional mutations or copy number alterations restricted to the either component suggested divergent evolution at the genomic level. This was confirmed at the transcriptome level since while the urothelial component exhibited a basal-like subtype (TCGA2014: cluster III, LundTax: basal/squamous-like), the sarcomatoid morphology was predominantly cluster IV (claudin-low). Protein expression was consistent with a basal-like phenotype in both morphologies in 18/21 of cases. However, most cases had evidence of active epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (E-Cad ↓ and Zeb1 or TWIST1 ↑) from urothelial toward the sarcomatoid morphology. Drug response signatures nominated different targets for each morphology and proposed agents under clinical investigation in liposarcoma or other sarcoma. PD-L1 expression was higher in the sarcomatoid than the urothelial component.

Conclusions: Conventional urothelial and adjacent sarcomatoid morphologies of MIBC arise from the same common ancestor and share a basal-like phenotype. However, divergence between the morphologies at the genome, transcriptome, and proteome level suggests differential sensitivity to therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.urolonc.2019.09.025DOI Listing
November 2019

Morphologic and genomic characterization of urothelial to sarcomatoid transition in muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

Urol Oncol 2019 09 26;37(9):573.e19-573.e29. Epub 2019 Jul 26.

Department of Urology, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, University of Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address:

Introduction: The sarcomatoid morphology of muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) is associated with unfavorable prognosis. However, the genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic relationship between conventional urothelial and synchronous sarcomatoid morphology is poorly defined.

Methods: We compiled a cohort of 21 MIBC patients with components of conventional urothelial and adjacent sarcomatoid morphology within the same tumor focus. We performed comprehensive pathologic and immunohistochemical characterization and in 4 selected cases, subjected both morphologic components to targeted DNA sequencing and whole transcriptome analysis.

Results: Synchronous sarcomatoid and urothelial morphology from the same MIBC foci shared truncal somatic mutations, indicating a common ancestral clone. However, additional mutations or copy number alterations restricted to the either component suggested divergent evolution at the genomic level. This was confirmed at the transcriptome level since while the urothelial component exhibited a basal-like subtype (TCGA2014: cluster III, LundTax: basal/squamous-like), the sarcomatoid morphology was predominantly cluster IV (claudin-low). Protein expression was consistent with a basal-like phenotype in both morphologies in 18/21 of cases. However, most cases had evidence of active epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (E-Cad ↓ and Zeb1 or TWIST1 ↑) from urothelial toward the sarcomatoid morphology. Drug response signatures nominated different targets for each morphology and proposed agents under clinical investigation in liposarcoma or other sarcoma. PD-L1 expression was higher in the sarcomatoid than the urothelial component.

Conclusions: Conventional urothelial and adjacent sarcomatoid morphologies of MIBC arise from the same common ancestor and share a basal-like phenotype. However, divergence between the morphologies at the genome, transcriptome, and proteome level suggests differential sensitivity to therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.urolonc.2019.06.021DOI Listing
September 2019

Circulating Tumor DNA Abundance and Potential Utility in De Novo Metastatic Prostate Cancer.

Eur Urol 2019 04 10;75(4):667-675. Epub 2019 Jan 10.

Department of Urologic Sciences, Vancouver Prostate Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Electronic address:

Background: Several systemic therapeutic options exist for metastatic castrate-sensitive prostate cancer (mCSPC). Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) can molecularly profile metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and can influence decision-making, but remains untested in mCSPC.

Objective: To determine ctDNA abundance at de novo mCSPC diagnosis and whether ctDNA provides complementary clinically relevant information to a prostate biopsy.

Design, Setting, And Participants: We collected plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from 53 patients newly diagnosed with mCSPC and, where possible, during treatment. Targeted sequencing was performed on cfDNA and DNA from diagnostic prostate tissue.

Results And Limitations: The median ctDNA fraction was 11% (range 0-84%) among untreated patients but was lower (1.0%, range 0-51%) among patients after short-term (median 22d) androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). TP53 mutations and DNA repair defects were identified in 47% and 21% of the cohort, respectively. The concordance for mutation detection in matched samples was 80%. Combined ctDNA and tissue analysis identified potential driver alterations in 94% of patients, whereas ctDNA or prostate biopsy alone was insufficient in 19 cases (36%). Limitations include the use of a narrow gene panel and undersampling of primary disease by prostate biopsy.

Conclusions: ctDNA provides additional information to a prostate biopsy in men with de novo mCSPC, but ADT rapidly reduces ctDNA availability. Primary tissue and ctDNA share relevant somatic alterations, suggesting that either is suitable for molecular subtyping in de novo mCSPC. The optimal approach for biomarker development should utilize both a tissue and liquid biopsy at diagnosis, as neither captures clinically relevant somatic alterations in all patients.

Patient Summary: In men with advanced prostate cancer, tumor DNA shed into the bloodstream can be measured via a blood test. The information from this test provides complementary information to a prostate needle biopsy and could be used to guide management strategies. Sequencing data were deposited in the European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA) under study identifier EGAS00001003351.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2018.12.042DOI Listing
April 2019

Biallelic tumour suppressor loss and DNA repair defects in de novo small-cell prostate carcinoma.

J Pathol 2018 10 28;246(2):244-253. Epub 2018 Aug 28.

Vancouver Prostate Centre, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada.

Small-cell prostate carcinoma (SCPC) is an aggressive malignancy that is managed similarly to small-cell lung cancer. SCPC can evolve from prostate adenocarcinoma in response to androgen deprivation therapy, but, in rare cases, is present at initial cancer diagnosis. The molecular aetiology of de novo SCPC is incompletely understood, owing to the scarcity of tumour tissue and the short life-expectancy of patients. Through a retrospective search of our regional oncology pharmacy database, we identified 18 patients diagnosed with de novo SCPC between 2004 and 2017. Ten patients had pure SCPC pathology, and the remainder had some admixed adenocarcinoma foci, but all were treated with first-line platinum-based chemotherapy. The median overall survival was 28 months. We performed targeted DNA sequencing, whole exome sequencing and mRNA profiling on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded archival tumour tissue. We observed frequent biallelic deletion and/or mutation of the tumour suppressor genes TP53, RB1, and PTEN, similarly to what was found in treatment-related SCPC. Indeed, at the RNA level, pure de novo SCPC closely resembled treatment-related SCPC. However, five patients had biallelic loss of DNA repair genes, including BRCA1, BRCA2, ATM, and MSH2/6, potentially underlying the high genomic instability of this rare disease variant. Two patients with pure de novo SCPC harboured ETS gene rearrangements involving androgen-driven promoters, consistent with the evolution of de novo SCPC from an androgen-driven ancestor. Overall, our results reveal a highly aggressive molecular landscape that underlies this unusual pathological variant, and suggest opportunities for targeted therapy strategies in a disease with few treatment options. Copyright © 2018 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/path.5137DOI Listing
October 2018
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