Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a heterogenous disease that develops through somatic mutations in driver genes, leading to activation of diverse neoplastic pathways. To systematically examine if somatically mutated genes and pathways impact survival, we sequenced tumor and normal DNA samples for 4,512 CRC cases using a targeted panel. We performed Cox regression to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for associations of disease-specific (DS)-survival with somatically mutated genes and pathways, adjusting for age and sex, and stratifying baseline hazards by study population. We assessed statistical significance using Bonferroni p-value thresholds to account for multiple testing of 214 genes (2.34x10-4) and 6 key CRC pathways (8.3x10-3). We limited analyses to non-silent mutations.

We observed that DS-survival was significantly more favorable among individuals with hypermutated (HM) tumors, primarily consisting of microsatellite unstable and POLE-mutated tumors, as compared to those with non-hypermutated (NHM) tumors (HR=0.4, 95% CI: 0.3-0.5, p=1.2x10-17). BRAF V600E mutations were associated with poorer survival (HR=2.0, 95% CI: 1.6-2.5, p=1.6x10-10). This association was more pronounced among NHM tumors (HR=2.3, 95% CI: 1.8-2.9, p=4.3x10-12). We identified suggestive associations (p-values < 5.0x10-3 in overall or stratified analyses) between DS-survival and mutations in B2M, TP53, and SMAD4. Mutations in B2M may provide more favorable prognosis for survival (HR=0.5, 95% CI: 0.3-0.8, p=4.4x10-3), with similar effect sizes in HM and NHM tumors. Poorer survival may be associated with mutations in TP53 (HR=1.2, 95% CI:1.2-1.4, p=9.3x10-4) and SMAD4 (HR=1.3, 95% CI:1.1-1.6, p=3.2x10-3) in NHM tumors.

We further observed statistically significant associations between survival and three mutated pathways: TP53/ATM (HR=1.2, 95% CI:1.1-1.4, p=9.0x10-4), receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) and RAS (HR=1.3, 95% CI:1.1-1.5, p=4.5x10-5), and TGF-beta (HR=1.3, 95% CI:1.1-1.5, p=2.9x10-4). Findings for TP53/ATM and RTK/RAS were primarily due to mutations in one gene within each pathway (TP53 and BRAF, respectively). However, the TGF-beta pathway finding, which was more pronounced in NHM tumors, included two genes with p-values less than 0.05 (SMAD4 p=3.2x10-3 and TGFBR2 p=0.01).

Despite our large sample size, relatively few somatically mutated genes were significantly associated with DS-survival. It may be that pathway-level testing affords more power for analyses and that larger sample sizes are needed. It is of interest that non-silent mutations in B2M, whose product is a component of the class I major histocompatibility complex, was associated with improved DS-survival, though our finding was not statistically significant after multiple testing correction so further exploration and replication is needed.

Citation Format: Tabitha A. Harrison, Syed H. Zaidi, Conghui Qu, Amanda I. Phipps, Robert S. Steinfelder, Quang M. Trinh, Sonja I. Berndt, Daniel D. Buchanan, Peter T. Campbell, Andrew T. Chan, Kim F. Doheny, David A. Drew, Jane C. Figueiredo, Steven J. Gallinger, Marios Giannakis, Andrea Gsur, Marc J. Gunter, Michael Hoffmeister, Wen-Yi Huang, Paul J. Limburg, Victor Moreno, Polly A. Newcomb, Shuji Ogino, Ross L. Prentice, Tameka Shelford, Wei Sun, Stephen N. Thibodeau, Li Hsu, Ulrike Peters. Associations of somatically mutated genes and pathways with colorectal cancer specific survival in 4,500 colorectal cancer patients [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr LB090.