Genomic and evolutionary classification of lung cancer in never smokers

Nat Genet. 2021 Sep;53(9):1348-1359. doi: 10.1038/s41588-021-00920-0. Epub 2021 Sep 6.


Lung cancer in never smokers (LCINS) is a common cause of cancer mortality but its genomic landscape is poorly characterized. Here high-coverage whole-genome sequencing of 232 LCINS showed 3 subtypes defined by copy number aberrations. The dominant subtype (piano), which is rare in lung cancer in smokers, features somatic UBA1 mutations, germline AR variants and stem cell-like properties, including low mutational burden, high intratumor heterogeneity, long telomeres, frequent KRAS mutations and slow growth, as suggested by the occurrence of cancer drivers' progenitor cells many years before tumor diagnosis. The other subtypes are characterized by specific amplifications and EGFR mutations (mezzo-forte) and whole-genome doubling (forte). No strong tobacco smoking signatures were detected, even in cases with exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. Genes within the receptor tyrosine kinase-Ras pathway had distinct impacts on survival; five genomic alterations independently doubled mortality. These findings create avenues for personalized treatment in LCINS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics*
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Female
  • Genome / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Non-Smokers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Activating Enzymes / genetics
  • Whole Genome Sequencing
  • Young Adult


  • AR protein, human
  • KRAS protein, human
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • UBA1 protein, human
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • Ubiquitin-Activating Enzymes