J Cancer 2020; 11(4):883-892. doi:10.7150/jca.34363

Research Paper

An Exon Signature to Estimate the Tumor Mutational Burden of Right-sided Colon Cancer Patients

Wenbing Guo1, Yelin Fu1, Liangliang Jin1, Kai Song1, Ruihan Yu1, Tianhao Li1, Lishuang Qi1, Yunyan Gu1, Wenyuan Zhao1✉, Zheng Guo1,2,3✉

1. College of Bioinformatics Science and Technology, Harbin Medical University, Harbin, 150086, China; Phone: (86 451) 8661-5933; Fax: (86 451) 8666-9617
2. Department of Bioinformatics, Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education for Gastrointestinal Cancer, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, 350122, China
3. Key Laboratory of Medical Bioinformatics, Fujian Province, Fuzhou 350122, China

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Guo W, Fu Y, Jin L, Song K, Yu R, Li T, Qi L, Gu Y, Zhao W, Guo Z. An Exon Signature to Estimate the Tumor Mutational Burden of Right-sided Colon Cancer Patients. J Cancer 2020; 11(4):883-892. doi:10.7150/jca.34363. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v11p0883.htm

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The clinical applicability of the whole-exome sequencing (WES) in estimating tumor mutational burden (TMB) is currently limited by high cost, time-consuming and tissue availability. And given to the differences in the mutational landscapes among different types of cancer, we aimed to develop a cancer-specific signature to estimate TMB for right-sided colon cancer patients (RCC). Using WES data of 315 RCC patients, we identified the exons in which the number of mutational sites of the coding DNA sequences associated with TMB through linear regression analysis. Then, among these exons, we extracted a signature composed by 102 exons (~0.13 Mbp) through a heuristic selection procedure. The TMB estimated by the signature was highly correlated with those calculated by WES in the discovery dataset (R2=0.9869) and three independent validation datasets (R2=0.9351, R2=0.8063 and R2=0.9527, respectively). And the performance of the signature was superior to a colorectal-specific TMB estimation model contained 22 genes (~0.24 Mbp). Moreover, between TMB-high and TMB-low RCC patients, there were significantly differences in the frequencies of microsatellite instability status, CpG island methylator phenotype, BRAF, KRAS and POLE/POLD1 mutation status (p<0.01). However, the performances of the signature in other types of cancer were dramatically degraded (left-sided colon cancer, R2=0.7849 and 0.9407, respectively; rectum, R2=0.5955 and R2=0.965, respectively; breast cancer, R2=0.8444; lung cancer, R2=0.5963), suggesting that it was necessary to develop cancer-specific TMB estimated signatures to estimate precisely the TMB in different types of cancer. In summary, we developed an exon signature that can accurately estimate TMB in RCC patients, and the cost and time required for the assessment of TMB can be considerably decreased, making it more suitable for blood and/or biopsy samples.

Keywords: tumor mutational burden, the right-sided colon cancer, the coding DNA sequences, a cancer-specific signature