Genetic Determinants of Somatic Selection of Mutational Processes in 3,566 Human Cancers

Cancer Res. 2021 Jul 2;canres.0086.2021. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-0086. Online ahead of print.


The somatic landscape of the cancer genome results from different mutational processes represented by distinct "mutational signatures". Although several mutagenic mechanisms are known to cause specific mutational signatures in cell lines, the variation of somatic mutational activities in patients, which is mostly attributed to somatic selection, is still poorly explained. Here we introduce a quantitative trait, mutational propensity (MP), and describe an integrated method to infer genetic determinants of variations in the mutational processes in 3,566 cancers with specific underlying mechanisms. As a result, we report 2,314 candidate determinants with both significant germline and somatic effects on somatic selection of mutational processes, of which 485 act via cancer gene expression and 1,427 act through the tumor immune microenvironment. These data demonstrate that the genetic determinants of MPs provide complementary information to known cancer driver genes, clonal evolution, and clinical biomarkers.