Germline Analysis from Tumor-Germline Sequencing Dyads to Identify Clinically Actionable Secondary Findings

Clin Cancer Res. 2016 Aug 15;22(16):4087-4094. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-0015. Epub 2016 Apr 15.


Purpose: To evaluate germline variants in hereditary cancer susceptibility genes among unselected cancer patients undergoing tumor-germline sequencing.

Experimental design: Germline sequence data from 439 individuals undergoing tumor-germline dyad sequencing through the LCCC1108/UNCseq™ (NCT01457196) study were analyzed for genetic variants in 36 hereditary cancer susceptibility genes. These variants were analyzed as an exploratory research study to determine whether pathogenic variants exist within the germline of patients undergoing tumor-germline sequencing. Patients were unselected with respect to indicators of hereditary cancer predisposition.

Results: Variants indicative of hereditary cancer predisposition were identified in 19 (4.3%) patients. For about half (10/19), these findings represent new diagnostic information with potentially important implications for the patient and their family. The others were previously identified through clinical genetic evaluation secondary to suspicion of a hereditary cancer predisposition. Genes with pathogenic variants included ATM, BRCA1, BRCA2, CDKN2A, and CHEK2 In contrast, a substantial proportion of patients (178, 40.5%) had Variants of Uncertain Significance (VUS), 24 of which had VUS in genes pertinent to the presenting cancer. Another 143 had VUS in other hereditary cancer genes, and 11 had VUS in both pertinent and nonpertinent genes.

Conclusions: Germline analysis in tumor-germline sequencing dyads will occasionally reveal significant germline findings that were clinically occult, which could be beneficial for patients and their families. However, given the low yield for unexpected germline variation and the large proportion of patients with VUS results, analysis and return of germline results should adhere to guidelines for secondary findings rather than diagnostic hereditary cancer testing. Clin Cancer Res; 22(16); 4087-94. ©2016 AACRSee related commentary by Mandelker, p. 3987.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing
  • Genomics / methods
  • Germ-Line Mutation*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / diagnosis
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / genetics
  • Prognosis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor