Analysis on GENIE reveals novel recurrent variants that affect molecular diagnosis of sizable number of cancer patients
Background: Significant numbers of variants detected in cancer patients are often left labeled only as variants of unknown significance (VUS). In order to expand precision medicine to a wider population, we need to extend our knowledge of pathogenicity and drug response in the context of VUS's. Methods: In this study, we analyzed variants from AACR Project GENIE Consortium APG (Cancer Discov 7:818-831, 2017) and compared them to the COSMIC database Forbes et al. (Nucleic Acids Res 43:D805-811, 2015) to identify recurrent variants that would merit further study. We filtered out known hotspot variants, inactivating variants in tumor suppressors, and likely benign variants by comparing with COSMIC and ExAC Lee et al. (Science 337:967-971, 2012). Results: We have identified 45,933 novel variants with unknown significance unique to GENIE. In our analysis, we found on average six variants per patient where two could be considered as pathogenic or likely pathogenic and the majority are VUS's. More importantly, we have discovered 730 recurrent variants that appear more than 3 times in GENIE but less than 3 in COSMIC. If we combine the recurrences of GENIE and COSMIC for all variants, 2586 are newly identified as occurring more than 3 times than when using COSMIC alone. Conclusions: Although it would be inappropriate to blindly accept these recurrent variants as pathogenic, they may warrant higher priority than other observed VUS's. These newly identified recurrent variants might affect the molecular profiles of approximately 1 in 6 patients. Further analysis and characterization of these variants in both research and clinical contexts will improve patient treatments and the development of new therapeutics.