Rate of Incidental Germline Findings Detected by Tumor-Normal Matched Sequencing in Cancer Types Lacking Hereditary Cancer Testing Guidelines

ASCO Annual Meeting 2021 Presentation
Authors Timothy A. Yap, Arya Ashok, Jessica Stoll, Anna Ewa Schwarzbach, Kimberly L. Blackwell, Tianhong Li, Hyunseok Kang, Judy Ellen Garber, Funda Meric-Bernstam

Background: Up to 10% of all cancers are associated with hereditary cancer syndromes; however, guidelines for germline testing are currently limited to patients and families with specific cancer types (ovarian, breast, prostate, pancreatic, etc.). Although germline alterations have been shown in genes associated with cancers such as bile-duct, head & neck, brain, bladder, esophageal, and lung cancers, genetic testing is not routinely offered (PMID: 28873162). In such cancers, a guidelines-based approach may fail to detect cancer risk variants found by tumor-normal (T/N) matched sequencing. Here, we report the prevalence of incidental germline findings in patients with the aforementioned 6 cancer types and highlight frequently mutated genes by cancer type.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed next-generation sequencing data from de-identified records of 19,630 patients tested using Tempus|xT T/N matched assay. Incidental germline findings (i.e., single nucleotide variants and small insertions/deletions) detected in 50 hereditary cancer genes were determined for: bile duct (n = 466), head & neck (n = 673), esophageal (n = 395), brain (n = 1,391), bladder (n = 810), and lung (n = 5,544), where n = total patients. For comparison, we also included 4 cancer types that frequently undergo germline testing: ovarian (n = 2,042), breast (n = 3,542), prostate (n = 2,146), and pancreatic (n = 2,621).

Results: We detected incidental pathogenic/likely pathogenic germline variants (P/LPV) in 6.5% (601/9,279) of patients diagnosed with the 6 selected cancer types lacking hereditary cancer testing guidelines. The highest prevalence of P/LPV was identified in patients with bladder (8%), brain (6.9%), and lung (6.5%) cancers. Frequently mutated genes (Table) include ATM (n = 62), BRCA2 (n = 60), BRCA1 (n = 33), APC (n = 27), and CHEK2 (n = 21). Of note, the Ashkenazi Jewish variant (p.I1307K) was the most frequent mutation in APC. For cancer types where patients frequently undergo germline testing, the rates of incidental germline findings in descending order were ovarian (15%), breast (12%), prostate (9.4%), and pancreatic (8.5%) cancers.

Conclusions: In addition to enhanced variant calling, T/N matched sequencing may identify germline variants missed by a guidelines-based approach to testing. The identification of such germline findings may have clinical implications for the patient, as well as at-risk family members, thereby resulting in the opportunity for genetic counseling and risk-stratified intervention.