BRCA1/2 Functional Loss Defines a Targetable Subset in Leiomyosarcoma

Oncologist. 2019 Jul;24(7):973-979. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2018-0448. Epub 2018 Dec 12.


Background: Soft-tissue sarcomas (STS) describe a heterogeneous group of mesenchymal tumors with limited treatment options. Targeted therapies exist for BRCA1/2 gene alterations, but their prevalence and role have not been fully described in STS. Here, we present the largest effort to characterize the frequency of homologous recombination (HR) DNA repair pathway alterations in STS subtypes and highlight the unique nature of leiomyosarcoma (LMS).

Materials and methods: DNA sequencing data were analyzed for HR pathway alterations for 1,236 patients with STS. DNA sequencing data from an additional 1,312 patients were used to confirm the prevalence of HR pathway alterations in LMS. Four uterine LMS (uLMS) patients with functional BRCA2 loss were evaluated for response to poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibition.

Results: In an unselected STS study population, BRCA2 alterations were identified in 15 (1%) patients, and homozygous BRCA2 loss was detected in 9 (<1%). However, subset analysis revealed that these BRCA2 alterations were concentrated in uLMS as compared with any other STS subtype. Notably, 10% of uLMS tumors had a BRCA2 alteration. We further report that PARP inhibitors had demonstrated durable clinical benefit in four uLMS patients with BRCA2 loss.

Conclusion: HR pathway alterations are rare in most STS. However, we identify uLMS to be enriched for BRCA2 loss and report the positive outcomes of a series of patients treated with PARP inhibitors. Our data suggest that patients with uLMS should be considered for somatic BRCA2 profiling. Prospective trials are necessary to confirm the efficacy of PARP inhibition in uLMS.

Implications for practice: Soft-tissue sarcomas are a highly morbid, diverse set of tumors with limited treatment options. This study identifies an increased prevalence of functional BRCA1/2 loss in patients with uterine leiomyosarcoma (uLMS). It also presents four patients with uLMS and BRCA2 loss who achieved durable clinical benefit from poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibition. These data suggest that patients with uLMS in particular should be screened for BRCA1/2 alterations and may benefit from treatment targeted to these alterations.

Keywords: DNA repair; Homologous recombination; Poly (ADP‐ribose) polymerase inhibitors; Sarcoma.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics*
  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Leiomyosarcoma / drug therapy
  • Leiomyosarcoma / genetics*
  • Leiomyosarcoma / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA1 protein, human
  • BRCA2 Protein
  • BRCA2 protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors