Karthik GM, Rantalainen M, Stålhammar G, Lövrot J, Ullah I, Alkodsi A, Ma R, Wedlund L, Lindberg J, Frisell J, Bergh J, Hartman J
BMC Cancer 17 (1) 802 [2017-11-29; online 2017-11-29]
Transcriptomic profiling of breast tumors provides opportunity for subtyping and molecular-based patient stratification. In diagnostic applications the specimen profiled should be representative of the expression profile of the whole tumor and ideally capture properties of the most aggressive part of the tumor. However, breast cancers commonly exhibit intra-tumor heterogeneity at molecular, genomic and in phenotypic level, which can arise during tumor evolution. Currently it is not established to what extent a random sampling approach may influence molecular breast cancer diagnostics. In this study we applied RNA-sequencing to quantify gene expression in 43 pieces (2-5 pieces per tumor) from 12 breast tumors (Cohort 1). We determined molecular subtype and transcriptomic grade for all tumor pieces and analysed to what extent pieces originating from the same tumors are concordant or discordant with each other. Additionally, we validated our finding in an independent cohort consisting of 19 pieces (2-6 pieces per tumor) from 6 breast tumors (Cohort 2) profiled using microarray technique. Exome sequencing was also performed on this cohort, to investigate the extent of intra-tumor genomic heterogeneity versus the intra-tumor molecular subtype classifications. Molecular subtyping was consistent in 11 out of 12 tumors and transcriptomic grade assignments were consistent in 11 out of 12 tumors as well. Molecular subtype predictions revealed consistent subtypes in four out of six patients in this cohort 2. Interestingly, we observed extensive intra-tumor genomic heterogeneity in these tumor pieces but not in their molecular subtype classifications. Our results suggest that macroscopic intra-tumoral transcriptomic heterogeneity is limited and unlikely to have an impact on molecular diagnostics for most patients.