Background: DNA polymerase epsilon (POLE) is encoded by the POLE gene, and POLE-driven tumors are characterized by high mutational rates. POLE-driven tumors are relatively common in endometrial and colorectal cancer, and their presence is increasingly recognized in ovarian cancer (OC) of endometrioid type. POLE-driven cases possess an abundance of TCT>TAT and TCG>TTG somatic mutations characterized by mutational signature 10 from the Catalog of Somatic Mutations in Cancer (COSMIC). By quantifying the contribution of COSMIC mutational signature 10 in RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) we set out to identify POLE-driven tumors in a set of unselected Mayo Clinic OC.
Methods: Mutational profiles were calculated using expressed single-nucleotide variants (eSNV) in the Mayo Clinic OC tumors (n=195), The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) OC tumors (n=419), and the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) normal ovarian tissues (n=84). Non-negative Matrix Factorization (NMF) of the mutational profiles inferred the contribution per sample of four distinct mutational signatures, one of which corresponds to COSMIC mutational signature 10.
Results: In the Mayo Clinic OC cohort we identified six tumors with a predicted contribution from COSMIC mutational signature 10 of over five mutations per megabase. These six cases harbored known POLE hotspot mutations (P286R, S297F, V411L, and A456P) and were of endometrioid histotype (P=5e-04). These six tumors were hypermutated with a higher tumor mutation load (mean, 54.02 mutations per megabase) compared to non-POLE endometrioid OC cases (mean, 7.69 mutations per megabase; P=5e-04), and had an early onset (average age of patients at onset, 48.33 years) when compared to non-POLE endometrioid OC cohort (average age at onset, 60.13 years; P=.008). Samples from TCGA and GTEx had a low COSMIC signature 10 contribution (median 0.16 mutations per megabase; maximum 1.78 mutations per megabase) and carried no POLE hotspot mutations.
Conclusions: From the largest cohort of RNA-seq from endometrioid OC to date (n=53), we identified six hypermutated samples likely driven by POLE (frequency, 11%). Our result suggests the clinical need to screen for POLE driver mutations in endometrioid OC, which can guide enrollment in immunotherapy clinical trials.