Background: RNA-seq has spurred important gene fusion discoveries in a number of different cancers, including lung, prostate, breast, brain, thyroid and bladder carcinomas. Gene fusion discovery can potentially lead to the development of novel treatments that target the underlying genetic abnormalities.
Results: In this study, we provide comprehensive view of gene fusion landscape in 185 glioblastoma multiforme patients from two independent cohorts. Fusions occur in approximately 30-50% of GBM patient samples. In the Ivy Center cohort of 24 patients, 33% of samples harbored fusions that were validated by qPCR and Sanger sequencing. We were able to identify high-confidence gene fusions from RNA-seq data in 53% of the samples in a TCGA cohort of 161 patients. We identified 13 cases (8%) with fusions retaining a tyrosine kinase domain in the TCGA cohort and one case in the Ivy Center cohort. Ours is the first study to describe recurrent fusions involving non-coding genes. Genomic locations 7p11 and 12q14-15 harbor majority of the fusions. Fusions on 7p11 are formed in focally amplified EGFR locus whereas 12q14-15 fusions are formed by complex genomic rearrangements. All the fusions detected in this study can be further visualized and analyzed using our website: http://ivygap.swedish.org/fusions.
Conclusions: Our study highlights the prevalence of gene fusions as one of the major genomic abnormalities in GBM. The majority of the fusions are private fusions, and a minority of these recur with low frequency. A small subset of patients with fusions of receptor tyrosine kinases can benefit from existing FDA approved drugs and drugs available in various clinical trials. Due to the low frequency and rarity of clinically relevant fusions, RNA-seq of GBM patient samples will be a vital tool for the identification of patient-specific fusions that can drive personalized therapy.