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Analysis of head and neck carcinoma progression reveals novel and relevant stage-specific genetic changes associated with immortalisation and malignancy.

By Ratna Veeramachaneni, Thomas Walker, Antoine de Weck, Timothée Revil, Dunarel Badescu, James O’Sullivan, Catherine Higgins, Louise Elliott, Triantafillos Liloglou, Janet M. Risk, Richard Shaw, Lynne Hampson, Ian Hampson, Simon Dearden, Robert Woodwards, Stephen Prime, Keith D Hunter, Eric Kenneth Parkinson, Ioannis Ragoussis, Nalin Thakker

Posted 09 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/365205 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-48229-7)

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a widely prevalent cancer globally with high mortality and morbidity. We report here changes in the genomic landscape in the development of these tumours from potentially premalignant lesions (PPOLS) to malignancy and lymph node metastases. Frequent likely pathological mutations are restricted to a relatively small set of genes including TP53, CDKN2A, FBXW7, FAT1, NOTCH1 and KMT2D; these arise early in tumour progression and are present in PPOLs with NOTCH1 mutations restricted to cell lines from lesions that subsequently progressed to HNSCC. The most frequent genetic changes are of consistent somatic copy number alterations (SCNA). The earliest SCNAs involved deletions of CSMD1 (8p23.2), FHIT (3p14.2) and CDKN2A (9p21.3) together with gains of chromosome 20. CSMD1 deletions or promoter hypermethylation were present in all of the immortal PPOLs and occurred at high frequency in the immortal HNSCC cell lines (promoter hypermethylation ~63%, hemizygous deletions ~75%, homozygous deletions ~18%). Forced expression of CSMD1 in the HNSCC cell line H103 showed significant suppression of proliferation (p=0.0053) and invasion in vitro (p=5.98X10-5) supporting a role for CSMD1 inactivation in early head and neck carcinogenesis. In addition, knockdown of CSMD1 in the CSMD1-expressing BICR16 cell line showed significant stimulation of invasion in vitro (p=1.82 x 10-5) but not cell proliferation (p=0.239). HNSCC with and without nodal metastases showed some clear differences including high copy number gains of CCND1, hsa-miR-548k and TP63 in the metastases group. GISTIC peak SCNA regions showed significant enrichment (adj P<0.01) of genes in multiple KEGG cancer pathways at all stages with disruption of an increasing number of these involved in the progression to lymph node metastases. Sixty-seven genes from regions with statistically significant differences in SCNA/LOH frequency between immortal PPOL and HNSCC cell lines showed correlation with expression including 5 known cancer drivers.

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