Genomic and phenotypic analysis of BRCA2 mutated breast cancers reveals co-occurring changes linked to progression.

Breast Cancer Res 2011 Sep 29;13(5):R95. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

Cancer Research Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, Vatnsmyrarvegur 16, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Background: Inherited mutations in the BRCA2 gene greatly increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Consistent with an important role for BRCA2 in error-free DNA repair, complex genomic changes are frequently observed in tumors derived from BRCA2 mutation carriers. Here, we explore the impact of DNA copy-number changes in BRCA2 tumors with respect to phenotype and clinical staging of the disease.

Methods: Breast tumors (n = 33) derived from BRCA2 999del5 mutation carriers were examined in terms of copy-number changes with high-resolution aCGH (array comparative genomic hybridization) containing 385 thousand probes (about one for each 7 kbp) and expression of phenotypic markers on TMAs (tissue microarrays). The data were examined with respect to clinical parameters including TNM staging, histologic grade, S phase, and ploidy.

Results: Tumors from BRCA2 carriers of luminal and basal/triple-negative phenotypes (TNPs) differ with respect to patterns of DNA copy-number changes. The basal/TNP subtype was characterized by lack of pRb (RB1) coupled with high/intense expression of p16 (CDKN2A) gene products. We found increased proportions of Ki-67-positive cells to be significantly associated with loss of the wild-type (wt) BRCA2 allele in luminal types, whereas BRCA2wt loss was less frequent in BRCA2 tumors displaying basal/TNP phenotypes. Furthermore, we show that deletions at 13q13.1, involving the BRCA2wt allele, represents a part of a larger network of co-occurring genetic changes, including deletions at 6q22.32-q22.33, 11q14.2-q24.1, and gains at 17q24.1. Importantly, copy-number changes at these BRCA2-linked networking regions coincide with those associated with advanced progression, involving the capacity to metastasize to the nodes or more-distant sites at diagnosis.

Conclusions: The results presented here demonstrate divergent paths of tumor evolution in BRCA2 carriers and that deletion of the wild-type BRCA2 allele, together with co-occurring changes at 6 q, 11 q, and 17 q, are important events in progression toward advanced disease.

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