Background: Recent advances in the treatment of cancer have focused on targeting genomic aberrations with selective therapeutic agents. In rare tumors, where large-scale clinical trials are daunting, this targeted genomic approach offers a new perspective and hope for improved treatments. Cancers of the ampulla of Vater are rare tumors that comprise only about 0.2% of gastrointestinal cancers. Consequently, they are often treated as either distal common bile duct or pancreatic cancers.
Methods: We analyzed DNA from a resected cancer of the ampulla of Vater and whole blood DNA from a 63 year-old man who underwent a pancreaticoduodenectomy by whole genome sequencing, achieving 37× and 40× coverage, respectively. We determined somatic mutations and structural alterations.
Results: We identified relevant aberrations, including deleterious mutations of KRAS and SMAD4 as well as a homozygous focal deletion of the PTEN tumor suppressor gene. These findings suggest that these tumors have a distinct oncogenesis from either common bile duct cancer or pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, this combination of genomic aberrations suggests a therapeutic context for dual mTOR/PI3K inhibition.
Conclusions: Whole genome sequencing can elucidate an oncogenic context and expose potential therapeutic vulnerabilities in rare cancers.