Cooperation of Dominant Oncogenes with Regulatory Germline Variants Shapes Clinical Outcomes in Childhood Cancer

Julian Musa, Florencia Cidre-Aranaz, Marie-Ming Aynaud, Martin F Orth, Olivier Mirabeau, Mor Varon, Sandrine Grossetête, Didier Surdez, Shunya Ohmura, Julia S Gerke, Barak Rotblat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Deciphering principles of inter-individual tumor heterogeneity is essential for refinement of personalized anti-cancer therapy. Unlike cancers of adulthood, pediatric malignancies including Ewing sarcoma (EwS) feature a striking paucity of somatic alterations except for pathognomonic driver-mutations that cannot explain overt variations in clinical outcome. Here we demonstrate in the EwS model how cooperation of a dominant oncogene and regulatory variants determine tumor growth, patient survival and drug response. We show that binding of the oncogenic EWSR1-FLI1 fusion transcription factor to a polymorphic enhancer-like DNA element controls expression of the transcription factor MYBL2, whose high expression promotes poor patient outcome via activation of pro-proliferative signatures. Analysis of paired germline and tumor whole-genome sequencing data revealed that regulatory variability at this locus is inherited via the germline. CRISPR-mediated interference with this regulatory element almost abolished MYBL2 transcription, and MYBL2 knockdown decreased cell proliferation, cell survival and tumorigenicity of EwS cells. Combined RNA- and ChIP-seq analyses as well as functional experiments and clinical data identified CCNF, BIRC5 and AURKB as direct MYBL2 targets and critical mediators of its phenotype. In drug-response experiments, high MYBL2 levels sensitized EwS cells for inhibition of its activating cyclin dependent kinase CDK2 in vitro and in vivo, suggesting MYBL2 as a predictive biomarker for targeted anti-CDK2-therapy. Collectively, our findings establish cooperation of somatic mutations and regulatory germline variants as a major determinant of tumor progression and indicate the importance of integrating the regulatory genome in the process of developing new diagnostic and/or therapeutic strategies to fully harness the potential of precision medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Article number506659
Number of pages1
StatePublished - 2018


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