Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Unsuspected gene found frequently mutated in colorectal, endometrial cancers


Mutation might make tumors sensitive to new cancer drugs

Scientists say they have identified in about 20 percent of colorectal and endometrial cancers a genetic mutation that had been overlooked in recent large, comprehensive gene searches. With this discovery, the altered gene, called RNF43, now ranks as one of the most common mutations in the two cancer types.

Reporting in the October 26, 2014 edition of Nature Genetics, investigators from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard said the mutated gene helps control an important cell-signaling pathway, Wnt, that has been implicated in many forms of cancer. They suggest that the RNF43 mutation may serve as a biomarker that identifies patients with colorectal and endometrial cancer who could benefit from precision cancer drugs that target the Wnt pathway, although no such drugs are currently available.

"Tumors that have this mutation may be telling us that they are dependent on the Wnt signaling pathway, and they will be uniquely sensitive to drugs that inhibit this pathway," said Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, an author of the paper and director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer at Dana-Farber. He is also affiliated with Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health.

In animal models of cancer, tumors that harbor RNF43 mutations have been found to be sensitive to new Wnt pathway inhibitors that are now in clinical trials in humans, according to Marios Giannakis, MD, PhD, who is affiliated with Dana-Farber and is also a postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute.

The researchers were surprised to find RNF43 mutations in such a significant proportion of colorectal and endometrial cancers because they had not been detected in recent comprehensive searches of tumor DNA conducted by scientists of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TGCA) project.

Authors of the new study believe computer algorithms used by TCGA to parse data from DNA sequencing of tumors may have interpreted the "signal" of the RNF45 mutation as an artifact, and discarded it, much as a legitimate email will sometimes be trapped in a junk filter.

"These mutations occur in repetitive regions of the genome where you often have errors in DNA sequencing, so the algorithm may have been more likely to assume that the RNF43 mutation was an artifact of the sequencing process," explained Eran Hodis, an MD/PhD student at Harvard Medical School and MIT and also affiliated with the Broad and Dana-Farber. Giannakis and Hodis are co-first authors on the new report.

Other frequently mutated genes in colorectal cancer include APC (73 percent), P53 (50 percent), and KRAS (40 percent).

The new evidence for RNF45 mutations first came from analysis of tumor samples of colorectal cancer that were obtained from two large cohort studies – the Nurses' Health Study, which has been following 121,000 healthy women since 1976, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which includes 52,000 men enrolled in 1986. About 10 years ago, Fuchs, along with Dana-Farber pathologist Shugi Ogino, MD, PhD, MS, began collecting and studying gastrointestinal tumor samples that had been taken from men and women in the studies who developed cancer. Because these specimens are accompanied by a wealth of data about the patients' lifestyle, medical history, and other factors, Fuchs calls this collection of tumor samples "a gold mine."

For the new study, 185 colorectal cancer specimens from this collection were analyzed by whole-exome DNA sequencing at the Broad Institute under the leadership of Levi Garraway, MD, PhD, who is affiliated with Dana-Farber, the Broad, and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and is corresponding author of the report. The RNF43 mutation was identified in 18.9 percent of the colorectal tumors.

This surprising result prompted the investigators to re-analyze 222 colorectal cancer samples from TCGA project and found the RNF43 mutation in 17.6 percent. The researchers, noting that endometrial cancer is dependent on abnormal Wnt signaling, then re-analyzed 248 DNA samples from endometrial cancer that had been previously analyzed by TCGA scientist. They found a strikingly similar proportion – 18.1 percent – of RNF43 mutations in those cancers. The scientists predict they will find the mutation in stomach cancers as well, which also are driven by abnormal Wnt signaling.

The study authors noted that the discovery of such a significant cancer mutation that hadn't been picked up in the previous gene hunts shows that carrying out these comprehensive genomic searches continues to have value.


Important Points

  • Discovery shows comprehensive genomic searches continue to have value 
  • Altered gene now ranks as one of the most common mutations in two cancer types


The National Institutes of Health provided research funding under grants U54HG003067, K07CA190673, P01 CA87969, UM1 CA167552, R01 CA151993, R01 CA118553, R01 CA168141, and P50 CA127003. The Paula and Russell Agrusa Fund for Colorectal Cancer Research, the 2014 Colon Cancer Alliance-AACR Fellowship for Biomarker Research, the Perry S. Levy Endowed Fellowship and the Herchel Smith Fellowship also supported and provided funding for this study.

About Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is world renowned for its leadership in adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research. Designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), it is one of the largest recipients among independent hospitals of NCI and National Institutes of Health grant funding.

Anne Doerr | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>