DNA defects, epigenetics, and gene expression in cancer-adjacent breast: a study from The Cancer Genome Atlas

NPJ Breast Cancer. 2016 May 4;2:16007. doi: 10.1038/npjbcancer.2016.7. eCollection 2016.


Recurrence rates after breast-conserving therapy may depend on genomic characteristics of cancer-adjacent, benign-appearing tissue. Studies have not evaluated recurrence in association with multiple genomic characteristics of cancer-adjacent breast tissue. To estimate the prevalence of DNA defects and RNA expression subtypes in cancer-adjacent, benign-appearing breast tissue at least 2 cm from the tumor margin, cancer-adjacent, pathologically well-characterized, benign-appearing breast tissue specimens from The Cancer Genome Atlas project were analyzed for DNA sequence, copy-number variation, DNA methylation, messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence, and mRNA/microRNA expression. Additional samples were also analyzed by at least one of these genomic data types and associations between genomic characteristics of normal tissue and overall survival were assessed. Approximately 40% of cancer-adjacent, benign-appearing tissues harbored genomic defects in DNA copy number, sequence, methylation, or in RNA sequence, although these defects did not significantly predict 10-year overall survival. Two mRNA/microRNA expression phenotypes were observed, including an active mRNA subtype that was identified in 40% of samples. Controlling for tumor characteristics and the presence of genomic defects, this active subtype was associated with significantly worse 10-year survival among estrogen receptor (ER)-positive cases. This multi-platform analysis of breast cancer-adjacent samples produced genomic findings consistent with current surgical margin guidelines, and provides evidence that extratumoral RNA expression patterns in cancer-adjacent tissue predict overall survival among patients with ER-positive disease.