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Exome and genome sequencing of nasopharynx cancer identifies NF-kB pathway activating mutations

Mar 31, 2017

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is an aggressive head and neck cancer characterized by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and dense lymphocyte infiltration. The scarcity of NPC genomic data hinders the understanding of NPC biology, disease progression and rational therapy design. Here we performed whole-exome sequencing (WES) on 111 micro-dissected EBV-positive NPCs, with 15 cases subjected to further whole-genome sequencing (WGS), to determine its mutational landscape. We identified enrichment for genomic aberrations of multiple negative regulators of the NF-kB pathway, including CYLD, TRAF3, NFKBIA and NLRC5, in a total of 41% of cases. Functional analysis confirmed inactivating CYLD mutations as drivers for NPC cell growth. The EBV oncoprotein latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) functions to constitutively activate NF-kB signalling, and we observed mutual exclusivity among tumours with somatic NF-kB pathway aberrations and LMP1-overexpression, suggesting that NF-kB activation is selected for by both somatic and viral events during NPC pathogenesis.

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