Standard surgery followed by radioactive iodine (131I, RAI) therapy are not curative for 5-20% of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) patients with RAI refractory disease. Early predictors indicating therapeutic response to RAI therapy in PTC are yet to be elucidated. Whole-exome sequencing was performed (at median depth 198x) on 66 RAI-refractory and 92 RAI-avid PTCs with patient-matched germline. RAI-refractory tumors were significantly associated with distinct aggressive clinicopathological features, including positive surgical margins (p = 0.016) and the presence of lymph node metastases at primary diagnosis (p = 0.012); higher nonsilent tumor mutation burden (p = 0.011); TERT promoter (TERTp) mutation (p < 0.0001); and the enrichment of the APOBEC-related single-base substitution (SBS) COSMIC mutational signatures 2 (p = 0.030) and 13 (p < 0.001). Notably, SBS13 (odds ratio [OR] 30.4, 95% confidence intervals [CI] 1.43-647.22) and TERTp mutation (OR 41.3, 95% CI 4.35-391.60) were revealed to be independent predictors of RAI refractoriness in PTC (p = 0.029 and 0.001, respectively). Although SBS13 and TERTp mutations alone highly predicted RAI refractoriness, when combined, they significantly increased the likelihood of predicting RAI refractoriness in PTC. This study highlights the APOBEC SBS13 mutational signature as a novel independent predictor of RAI refractoriness in a distinct subgroup of PTC.
Keywords: APOBEC-related mutations; COSMIC mutational signatures; SBS13; papillary thyroid cancer; radioactive iodine refractory.