Background: It is well recognized that accumulation of somatic mutations in cancer genomes plays a role in carcinogenesis; however, the temporal sequence and evolutionary relationship of somatic mutations remain largely unknown.
Methods: In this study, we built a population-based statistical framework to infer the temporal sequence of acquisition of somatic mutations. Using the model, we analyzed the mutation profiles of 1954 tumor specimens across eight tumor types.
Results: As a result, we identified tumor type-specific directed networks composed of 2-15 cancer-related genes (nodes) and their mutational orders (edges). The most common ancestors identified in pairwise comparison of somatic mutations were TP53 mutations in breast, head/neck, and lung cancers. The known relationship of KRAS to TP53 mutations in colorectal cancers was identified, as well as potential ancestors of TP53 mutation such as NOTCH1, EGFR, and PTEN mutations in head/neck, lung and endometrial cancers, respectively. We also identified apoptosis-related genes enriched with ancestor mutations in lung cancers and a relationship between APC hotspot mutations and TP53 mutations in colorectal cancers.
Conclusion: While evolutionary analysis of cancers has focused on clonal versus subclonal mutations identified in individual genomes, our analysis aims to further discriminate ancestor versus descendant mutations in population-scale mutation profiles that may help select cancer drivers with clinical relevance.
Keywords: Cancer genome; Mutation accumulation; Somatic mutation.