Background: Recent advances in the treatment of cancer have focused on targeting genomic aberrations with selective therapeutic agents. In radioiodine resistant aggressive papillary thyroid cancers, there remain few effective therapeutic options. A 62-year-old man who underwent multiple operations for papillary thyroid cancer and whose metastases progressed despite standard treatments provided tumor tissue.
Methods: We analyzed tumor and whole blood DNA by whole genome sequencing, achieving 80× or greater coverage over 94 % of the exome and 90 % of the genome. We determined somatic mutations and structural alterations.
Results: We found a total of 57 somatic mutations in 55 genes of the cancer genome. There was notably a lack of mutations in NRAS and BRAF, and no RET/PTC rearrangement. There was a mutation in the TRAPP oncogene and a loss of heterozygosity of the p16, p18, and RB1 tumor suppressor genes. The oncogenic driver for this tumor is a translocation involving the genes for anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase (ALK) and echinoderm microtubule associated protein like 4 (EML4). The EML4-ALK translocation has been reported in approximately 5 % of lung cancers, as well as in pediatric neuroblastoma, and is a therapeutic target for crizotinib.
Conclusions: This is the first report of the whole genomic sequencing of a papillary thyroid cancer in which we identified an EML4-ALK translocation of a TRAPP oncogene mutation. These findings suggest that this tumor has a more distinct oncogenesis than BRAF mutant papillary thyroid cancer. Whole genome sequencing can elucidate an oncogenic context and expose potential therapeutic vulnerabilities in rare cancers.