Background: TP53 and BRCA1/2 mutations are the main drivers in high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC). We hypothesise that combining tissue phenotypes from image analysis of tumour sections with genomic profiles could reveal other significant driver events.
Results: Automatic estimates of stromal content combined with genomic analysis of TCGA HGSOC tumours show that stroma strongly biases estimates of PTEN expression. Tumour-specific PTEN expression was tested in two independent cohorts using tissue microarrays containing 521 cases of HGSOC. PTEN loss or downregulation occurred in 77% of the first cohort by immunofluorescence and 52% of the validation group by immunohistochemistry, and is associated with worse survival in a multivariate Cox-regression model adjusted for study site, age, stage and grade. Reanalysis of TCGA data shows that hemizygous loss of PTEN is common (36%) and expression of PTEN and expression of androgen receptor are positively associated. Low androgen receptor expression was associated with reduced survival in data from TCGA and immunohistochemical analysis of the first cohort.
Conclusion: PTEN loss is a common event in HGSOC and defines a subgroup with significantly worse prognosis, suggesting the rational use of drugs to target PI3K and androgen receptor pathways for HGSOC. This work shows that integrative approaches combining tissue phenotypes from images with genomic analysis can resolve confounding effects of tissue heterogeneity and should be used to identify new drivers in other cancers.