Genomic Analysis of Localized High-Risk Prostate Cancer Circulating Tumor Cells at the Single-Cell Level

Abstract :

Accurate risk classification of men with localized high-risk prostate cancer directly affects treatment management decisions and patient outcomes. A wide range of risk assessments and classifications are available. However, each one has significant limitations to distinguish between indolent and aggressive prostate cancers. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) may provide an alternate additional source, beyond tissue biopsies, to enable individual patient-specific clinical assessment, simply because CTCs can reveal both tumor-derived and germline-specific genetic information more precisely than that gained from a single diagnostic biopsy. In this study, we combined a filtration-based CTC isolation technology with prostate cancer CTC immunophenotyping to identify prostate cancer CTCs. Next, we performed 3-D telomere profiling prior to laser microdissection and single-cell whole-exome sequencing (WES) of 21 CTCs and 4 lymphocytes derived from 10 localized high-risk prostate cancer patient samples. Localized high-risk prostate cancer patient CTCs present a high number of telomere signals with lower signal intensities (short telomeres). To capture the genetic diversity/heterogeneity of high-risk prostate cancer CTCs, we carried out whole-exome sequencing. We identified 202,241 single nucleotide variants (SNVs) and 137,407 insertion-deletions (indels), where less than 10% of these genetic variations were within coding regions. The genetic variation (SNVs + indels) and copy number alteration (CNAs) profiles were highly heterogeneous and intra-patient CTC variation was observed. The pathway enrichment analysis showed the presence of genetic variation in nine telomere maintenance pathways (patients 3, 5, 6, and 7), including an important gene for telomere maintenance called telomeric repeat-binding factor 2 (TRF2). Using the PharmGKB database, we identified nine genetic variations associated with response to docetaxel. A total of 48 SNVs can affect drug response for 24 known cancer drugs. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) (patients 1, 3, 6, and 8) identified the presence of CNAs in 11 different pathways, including the DNA damage repair (DDR) pathway. In conclusion, single-cell approaches (WES and 3-D telomere profiling) showed to be useful in unmasking CTC heterogeneity. DDR pathway mutations have been well-established as a target pathway for cancer therapy. However, the frequent CNA amplifications found in localized high-risk patients may play critical roles in the therapeutic resistance in prostate cancer.

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