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New genetic etiology in teenage-onset colorectal cancer identified

Medicover Genetics Editorial Team |
September 28th 2022

Colorectal cancer (CRC) in adolescents and young adults (AYA) is rare. Genetic causes include autosomal recessive and dominant monogenic disorders due to pathogenic variants (PVs) in genes involved in DNA repair. However, the genetic etiology of the majority of AYA-CRC remains unidentified. In two teenage siblings with CRC, we show to our knowledge for the first time that AYA-CRC cases can be caused by digenic inheritance of each a heterozygous pathogenic variant (PV) in the mismatch-repair (MMR) gene PMS2 and the proofreading polymerase (PP) Pol δ gene POLD1. With the aim to elucidate how the constitutional polymerase proofreading defect and the high propensity to MMR deficiency (MMRd) interact, we performed a comprehensive tumor analysis of the two siblings’ tumors. Results indicate that tumorigenesis is initiated by MMRd and the inherited POLD1 PV contributes to fast tumor progression reflected by an ultra-high tumor mutational burden (TMB) and specific mutational signatures.

Abstract

Colorectal cancer (CRC) in adolescents and young adults (AYA) is very rare. Known predisposition syndromes include Lynch syndrome (LS) due to highly penetrant MLH1 and MSH2 alleles, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), constitutional mismatch-repair deficiency (CMMRD), and polymerase proofreading-associated polyposis (PPAP). Yet, 60% of AYA-CRC cases remain unexplained. In two teenage siblings with multiple adenomas and CRC, we identified a maternally inherited heterozygous PMS2 exon 12 deletion, NM_000535.7:c.2007-786_2174+493del1447, and a paternally inherited POLD1 variant, NP_002682.2:p.Asp316Asn. Comprehensive molecular tumor analysis revealed ultra-mutation (>100 Mut/Mb) and a large contribution of COSMIC signature SBS20 in both siblings’ CRCs, confirming their predisposition to AYA-CRC results from a high propensity for somatic MMR deficiency (MMRd) compounded by a constitutional Pol δ proofreading defect. COSMIC signature SBS20 as well as SBS26 in the index patient’s CRC were associated with an early mutation burst, suggesting MMRd was an early event in tumorigenesis. The somatic second hits in PMS2 were through loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in both tumors, suggesting PPd-independent acquisition of MMRd. Taken together, these patients represent the first cases of cancer predisposition due to heterozygous variants in PMS2 and POLD1. Analysis of their CRCs supports that POLD1-mutated tumors acquire hypermutation only with concurrent MMRd.

Reference

Schamschula E, Kinzel M, Wernstedt A, Oberhuber K, Gottschling H, Schnaiter S, Friedrichs N, Merkelbach-Bruse S, Zschocke J, Gallon R, Wimmer K. Teenage-Onset Colorectal Cancers in a Digenic Cancer Predisposition Syndrome Provide Clues for the Interaction between Mismatch Repair and Polymerase δ Proofreading Deficiency in Tumorigenesis. Biomolecules. 2022; 12(10):1350. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom12101350

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