Among the structural variants observed in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), deletions (DELs) show a size preference of ~10 kb–1 Mb and are often found in common fragile sites (CFSs). To gain more insight into the biology behind the occurrence of these specific DELs in mCRC, and their possible association with outcome, we here studied them in detail in metastatic lesions of 429 CRC patients using available whole-genome sequencing and corresponding RNA-seq data. Breakpoints of DELs within CFSs are significantly more often located between two consecutive replication origins compared to DELs outside CFSs. DELs are more frequently located at the midpoint of genes inside CFSs with duplications (DUPs) at the flanks of the genes. The median expression of genes inside CFSs was significantly higher than those of similarly-sized genes outside CFSs. Patients with high numbers of these specific DELs showed a shorter progression-free survival time on platinum-containing therapy. Taken together, we propose that the observed DEL/DUP patterns in expressed genes located in CFSs are consistent with a model of transcription-dependent double-fork failure, and, importantly, that the ability to overcome the resulting stalled replication forks decreases sensitivity to platinum-containing treatment, known to induce stalled replication forks as well. Therefore, we propose that our DEL score can be used as predictive biomarker for decreased sensitivity to platinum-containing treatment, which, upon validation, may augment future therapeutic choices.
Bibliographical noteFunding: This research was funded by the Cancer Genomics Netherlands (CGC.nl) through a grant from the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO).
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