Interaction Landscape of Inherited Polymorphisms with Somatic Events in Cancer

Cancer Discov. 2017 Apr;7(4):410-423. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-16-1045. Epub 2017 Feb 10.


Recent studies have characterized the extensive somatic alterations that arise during cancer. However, the somatic evolution of a tumor may be significantly affected by inherited polymorphisms carried in the germline. Here, we analyze genomic data for 5,954 tumors to reveal and systematically validate 412 genetic interactions between germline polymorphisms and major somatic events, including tumor formation in specific tissues and alteration of specific cancer genes. Among germline-somatic interactions, we found germline variants in RBFOX1 that increased incidence of SF3B1 somatic mutation by 8-fold via functional alterations in RNA splicing. Similarly, 19p13.3 variants were associated with a 4-fold increased likelihood of somatic mutations in PTEN. In support of this association, we found that PTEN knockdown sensitizes the MTOR pathway to high expression of the 19p13.3 gene GNA11 Finally, we observed that stratifying patients by germline polymorphisms exposed distinct somatic mutation landscapes, implicating new cancer genes. This study creates a validated resource of inherited variants that govern where and how cancer develops, opening avenues for prevention research.Significance: This study systematically identifies germline variants that directly affect tumor evolution, either by dramatically increasing alteration frequency of specific cancer genes or by influencing the site where a tumor develops. Cancer Discovery; 7(4); 410-23. ©2017 AACR.See related commentary by Geeleher and Huang, p. 354This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 339.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics*
  • Germ-Line Mutation / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • RNA Splicing / genetics
  • RNA Splicing Factors / genetics
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics


  • GNA11 protein, human
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RBFOX1 protein, human
  • RNA Splicing Factors
  • SF3B1 protein, human
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • PTEN protein, human