Pan-Cancer Analysis of BRCA1 and BRCA2 Genomic Alterations and Their Association With Genomic Instability as Measured by Genome-Wide Loss of Heterozygosity

JCO Precis Oncol. 2020;4:442-465. doi: 10.1200/po.19.00345. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


Purpose: BRCA1 or BRCA2 loss of function results in homologous recombination deficiency (HRD), which is targetable by poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors and other DNA-damaging agents. In cancers associated with germline BRCA1/2 alterations (BRCA1/2-associated cancers: breast, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate), BRCA1/2 alterations result in HRD and are biomarkers for PARP inhibitor use. In other (non-BRCA1/2-associated) cancer types, the association between BRCA1/2 alteration and HRD is less clear.

Methods: A total of 234,154 tumor samples were sequenced by hybrid capture-based comprehensive genomic profiling. Somatic, germline, and zygosity status was determined computationally. BRCA1/2 alterations were classified as predicted germline/somatic and biallelic/monoallelic. Genome-wide loss of heterozygosity (gLOH) was evaluated as a marker of HRD.

Results: BRCA1/2 alterations were observed at a 4.7% frequency. BRCA1/2 mutations were predicted germline in 57.4% of BRCA1/2-associated and 37.2% of non-BRCA1/2-associated cancers. The fraction of BRCA1/2-altered cases that were biallelic was 68.7%, with a higher biallelic fraction in BRCA1/2-associated (89.9%) versus non-BRCA1/2-associated cancers (43.6%). Differences in tissue distribution of biallelic BRCA1 versus BRCA2 alterations were noted, including a higher rate of biallelic BRCA2 alteration in prostate cancer. Biallelic BRCA1/2 alteration was observed at a 3.2% frequency (BRCA1/2-associated cancers, 8.9%; non-BRCA1/2-associated cancers, 1.3%) and > 1% frequency in at least 13 cancer types. Across cancer types, biallelic BRCA1/2 alteration was associated with increased gLOH versus monoallelic or wild-type BRCA1/2; predicted germline or somatic mutations were both associated with elevated gLOH.

Conclusion: Biallelic BRCA1/2 alterations were associated with elevated gLOH in diverse cancer types, including those not traditionally associated with BRCA1/2 cancer syndromes. Biomarker development for PARP inhibitors should integrate methods to distinguish biallelic from monoallelic BRCA1/2 status, and biallelic BRCA1/2 alteration should be broadly evaluated across cancer types as a biomarker for underlying HRD and PARP inhibitor sensitivity.