The sequencing of aggressive pediatric solid tumors is revealing remarkably stable genomes. In the cases of malignant rhabdoid and retinoblastoma, there is a paucity of recurrently mutated genes, and oncogenesis appears to be driven, at least in part, by epigenetic deregulation. It has been suggested that pediatric tumors characterized by oncogenic fusions will exhibit relatively few additional somatic driver aberrancies. Ewing sarcoma, the second most common pediatric bone tumor, is characterized by rearrangements of the EWS gene and ETS-family transcription factor genes, most commonly FLI and ERG. In experimental models, Ewing sarcoma demonstrates dependency on the expression of the resulting chimeric fusion products. As such, Ewing sarcoma represents a paradigm for studying the genomic landscape of fusion-driven cancers. To this end, we performed whole-exome sequencing of 96 Ewing sarcoma tumors and 11 Ewing sarcoma cell lines, as well as whole-genome sequencing, transcriptome sequencing, and copy-number analysis of a subset of these samples. We found that Ewing sarcoma is one of the most genetically normal cancers sequenced to date, but that treatment, which generally employs genotoxic chemotherapy and radiation, is associated with an increase in mutation rate and single nucleotide substitutions associated with DNA damage. There was a marked absence of recurrent mutations in immediately druggable targets, such as tyrosine kinases, calling into question the feasibility of utilizing tumor sequencing to nominate targeted therapies for patients with Ewing sarcoma. Rather, these results highlight the importance of directly targeting the EWS/ETS fusion events or identifying synthetic lethal dependencies. To this end, we clarified a number of outstanding questions regarding the EWS/ETS fusions. We found that reciprocal ETS/EWS fusions are not expressed in Ewing sarcoma and therefore unlikely to play a role in Ewing pathogenesis as is seen with reciprocal fusions of PML-RARα in acute promyelocytic leukemia. We also found that wild-type FLI and wild-type ERG are not expressed in Ewing sarcoma tumors. However, there appears to be a role for ETS gene deregulation in this disease beyond the expression of EWS/ETS fusion proteins because we found recurrent somatic events in ERF and ETS1. We also identified a small number of other recurrently mutated genes that likely collaborate with EWS/ETS fusions in a minority of cases and confirmed that loss of STAG2 occurs in approximately 15% of Ewing sarcoma tumors. Thus, massively parallel sequencing of a large collection of Ewing sarcoma tumors supports the notion that fusion-driven pediatric malignancies bear quiet genomes, underscores the importance of identifying new treatment approaches targeting EWS/ETS fusions, and also identifies new genetic abnormalities that warrant further biological validation.
Citation Format: Brian Crompton, Chip Stewart, Amaro Taylor-Weiner, Gabriela Alexa, Kyle Kurek, Monica Calicchio, Adam Kiezun, Scott Carter, Sachet Shukla, Swapnil Mehta, Aaron Thorner, Carmen de Torres, Cinzia Lavarino, Mariona Sunol, Aaron McKenna, Andrey Sivachenko, Kristian Cibulskis, Michael Lawrence, Lauren Ambrogio, Daniel Auclair, Ivan Rosshandler, Angela Schwarz-Cruz y Celis, Miguel Rivera, Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, Mark Fleming, Todd Golub, Gad Getz, Jaume Mora, Kimberly Stegmaier. The genomic landscape of pediatric Ewing sarcoma. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2014 Apr 5-9; San Diego, CA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2014;74(19 Suppl):Abstract nr 999. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2014-999