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Signatures of mutational processes in human cancer

Alexandrov LB, Nik-Zainal S, Wedge DC, Aparicio SA, Behjati S, Biankin AV, Bignell GR, Bolli N, Borg A, Børresen-Dale AL, Boyault S, Burkhardt B, Butler AP, Caldas C, Davies HR, Desmedt C, Eils R, Eyfjörd JE, Foekens JA, Greaves M, Hosoda F, Hutter B, Ili

Nature 500, 415–421 (22 August 2013)

Editor's comments:
This very impressive article gives for the first time detailed insight in the catalogue of somatic mutations from different cancer types. Interestingly melanoma is the cancer with the highest prevalence of somatic mutations across all human cancer types investigated. In this paper the signatures of mutational processes were categorized. Melanoma is characterized by signatures associated with advanced age, genotoxic effects of UV-light and interestingly by a signature of temozolomide, which is probably acquired during treatment of metastatic disease.

Abstract

All cancers are caused by somatic mutations; however, understanding of the biological processes generating these mutations is limited. The catalogue of somatic mutations from a cancer genome bears the signatures of the mutational processes that have been operative. Here we analysed 4,938,362 mutations from 7,042 cancers and extracted more than 20 distinct mutational signatures. Some are present in many cancer types, notably a signature attributed to the APOBEC family of cytidine deaminases, whereas others are confined to a single cancer class. Certain signatures are associated with age of the patient at cancer diagnosis, known mutagenic exposures or defects in DNA maintenance, but many are of cryptic origin. In addition to these genome-wide mutational signatures, hypermutation localized to small genomic regions, ‘kataegis’, is found in many cancer types. The results reveal the diversity of mutational processes underlying the development of cancer, with potential implications for understanding of cancer aetiology, prevention and therapy.