Chromosomal instability selects gene copy-number variants encoding core regulators of proliferation in ER+ breast cancer


Chromosomal instability (CIN) is associated with poor outcome in epithelial malignancies, including breast carcinomas. Evidence suggests that prognostic signatures in estrogen receptor-positive (ER(+)) breast cancer define tumors with CIN and high proliferative potential. Intriguingly, CIN induction in lower eukaryotic cells and human cells is context dependent, typically resulting in a proliferation disadvantage but conferring a fitness benefit under strong selection pressures. We hypothesized that CIN permits accelerated genomic evolution through the generation of diverse DNA copy-number events that may be selected during disease development. In support of this hypothesis, we found evidence for selection of gene amplification of core regulators of proliferation in CIN-associated cancer genomes. Stable DNA copy-number amplifications of the core regulators TPX2 and UBE2C were associated with expression of a gene module involved in proliferation. The module genes were enriched within prognostic signature gene sets for ER(+) breast cancer, providing a logical connection between CIN and prognostic signature expression. Our results provide a framework to decipher the impact of intratumor heterogeneity on key cancer phenotypes, and they suggest that CIN provides a permissive landscape for selection of copy-number alterations that drive cancer proliferation.

Journal details

Journal Cancer Research
Volume 74
Issue number 17
Pages 4853-4863
Publication date