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J Thorac Oncol. 2015 Feb;10(2):373-80. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0000000000000397.

Massively parallel sequencing identifies recurrent mutations in TP53 in thymic carcinoma associated with poor prognosis.

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Departments of *Pathology, †Surgery, ‡Medicine, and §Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY.



The characterization of the molecular alterations in thymic epithelial tumors may lead to a better understanding of tumorigenesis, new therapeutic targets, and biomarkers in these tumors.


Paired tissue (tumor and matched normal) from 15 thymic carcinomas (TCA) and six B3 thymomas were evaluated by exon capture of 275 cancer-related genes, followed by deep coverage next-generation sequencing, which identifies somatic sequence variants, small insertions and deletions, and copy number alterations involving all exons of the captured genes.


Non-silent somatic mutations were identified in 12 of 15 (80%) TCA with a median of one mutation per tumor (range 0-26). Recurrent mutations were identified in tumor suppressor genes TP53 (n = 4), SMAD4 (n = 2), and CYLD (n = 2); and chromatin remodeling genes KDM6A (n = 3), SETD2 (n = 2), MLL3 (n = 2), and MLL2 (n = 2). Tumors with TP53 mutation appeared to exhibit more aggressive behavior. Therefore, the role of P53 was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in an additional ten cases. P53 overexpression correlated with TP53 mutation. These tumors had a higher rate of recurrence and death of disease compared to carcinoma with normal p53 expression (p = 0.02 for disease-free survival and p = 0.05 for overall survival). Among the B3 thymomas, mutations were identified in four of six tumors. Mutations in BCOR (BCL6 co-repressor) were seen in three thymomas and MLL3 (involved in histone methylation) in one tumor.


Next-generation sequencing of cancer genes in thymic epithelial tumors revealed a low frequency of mutation, with different patterns between TCA and B3 thymomas. TP53 and BCOR were the most frequently mutated genes in TCA and B3 thymomas, respectively. Alterations in p53 are associated with worse prognosis in TCA.

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