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Germline mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 (BRCA) genes predispose to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and, mostly in the case of BRCA2, are also prevalent in cases of pancreatic and prostate malignancies. Tumours from these patients tend to lose both copies of the wild-type BRCA gene, which makes them exquisitely sensitive to platinum drugs and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors (PARPi), treatments of choice in these disease settings. Reversion secondary mutations with the capacity of restoring BRCA protein expression have been documented in the literature as bona fide mechanisms of resistance to these treatments. We analysed published sequencing data of BRCA genes (from tumour or circulating tumour DNA) in 327 patients with tumours harbouring mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 (234 patients with ovarian cancer, 27 with breast cancer, 13 with pancreatic cancer, 11 with prostate cancer and 42 with a cancer of unknown origin) that progressed on platinum or PARPi treatment. We describe 269 cases of reversion mutations in 86 patients in this cohort (26.0%). Detailed analyses of the reversion events highlight that most amino acid sequences encoded by exon 11 in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are dispensable to generate resistance to platinum or PARPi, whereas other regions are more refractory to sizeable amino acid losses. They also underline the key role of mutagenic end-joining DNA repair pathways in generating reversions, especially in those affecting BRCA2, as indicated by the significant accumulation of DNA sequence microhomologies surrounding deletions leading to reversion events. Our analyses suggest that pharmacological inhibition of DNA end-joining repair pathways could improve durability of drug treatments by preventing the acquisition of reversion mutations in BRCA genes. They also highlight potential new therapeutic opportunities when reversions result in expression of hypomorphic versions of BRCA proteins, especially with agents targeting the response to DNA replication stress. Copyright © 2020 European Society for Medical Oncology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


L Tobalina, J Armenia, E Irving, M J O'Connor, J V Forment. A meta-analysis of reversion mutations in BRCA genes identifies signatures of DNA end-joining repair mechanisms driving therapy resistance. Annals of oncology : official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology. 2021 Jan;32(1):103-112

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PMID: 33091561

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