Characteristics of Germline Non-BRCA Mutation Status of High-Risk Breast Cancer Patients in China and Correlation with High-Risk Factors and Multigene Testing Suggestions

Front Genet. 2021 Nov 30;12:674094. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.674094. eCollection 2021.


Background: Expert consensus on BRCA1/2 genetic testing and clinical application in Chinese breast cancer patients recommends that BRCA1/2 testing should be performed in those with clinical risk factors, such as an early onset, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) or family history of cancer. With the increasing application of multigene panels, testing for genes beyond BRCA1/2 has become more prevalent. However, the non-BRCA mutation status of Chinese high-risk breast cancer patients has not been fully explored. Methods: A total of 230 high-risk breast cancer patients from Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center who had undergone peripheral blood germline 72 genes next-generation sequencing (NGS) from June 2018 to June 2020 were enrolled for retrospective analysis. The 72 genes include common hereditary breast cancer genes, such as homologous recombination repair (HRR) genes and other DNA damage repair genes. High-risk factors included: 1) TNBC; 2) male breast cancer; 3) primary bilateral breast cancer; 4) diagnosed with breast cancer at age less than or equal to 40 years; or 5) at least one first- and/or second-degree relative with BRCA-related cancer (breast or ovarian or prostate or pancreatic cancer). Results: The germline pathogenic or likely pathogenic mutation rate was 29.6% (68/230) in high-risk breast cancer patients. Among them, 44 (19.1%, 44/230) were identified as harboring BRCA1/2 mutation, and 28 (12.2%, 28/230) patients carried non-BRCA germline variants. Variants were detected in 16 non-BRCA genes, including PALB2 (5, 2.2%), ATM (4, 1.7%), RAD51D (3, 1.3%), TP53 (3, 1.3%), CHEK2 (2, 0.9%), FANCA (2, 0.9%) and ATR, BARD1, BRIP1, ERCC3, HOXB13, MLH1, MRE11, PMS2, RAD51C, RAD54L (1, 0.4%). Besides, 22 (9.6%, 22/230) patients were non-BRCA HRR gene mutation (including ATM, ATR, BARD1, BRIP1, CHEK2, FANCA, MRE11, PALB2, RAD51C RAD51D and RAD54L) carriers. Among high-risk factors, family history showed a correlation with both BRCA (p = 0.005) and non-BRCA HRR gene mutation status (p = 0.036). In addition, TNBC showed a correlation with BRCA1 gene mutation status (p = 0.038). However, other high-risk factors have not shown significantly related to BRCA1/2, non-BRCA genes and non-BRCA HRR gene mutations (p > 0.05). In addition, 312 unique variants of uncertain significance (VUS) were identified among 175 (76.1%, 175/230) patients and 65 different genes. Conclusions: Non-BRCA gene mutations are frequently identified in breast cancer patients with high risk factors. Family history showed a correlation with both BRCA (p = 0.005) and non-BRCA HRR gene mutation status (p = 0.036), so we strongly suggest that breast cancer patients with a BRCA-related family history receive comprehensive gene mutation testing in China, especially HRR genes, which are not only related to high risk of breast cancer, but also potentially related to poly ADP ribose polymerase inhibitor (PARPi) targeted therapy. The exact relationship of rare gene mutations to breast cancer predisposition and the pathogenicity of VUS need to be further investigated.

Keywords: Chinese; breast cancer; germline mutation; high risk; non-BRCA genes.