Causality and functional relevance of BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathogenic variants in non-high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas.


The identification of causal BRCA1/2 pathogenic variants (PVs) in epithelial ovarian carcinoma (EOC) aids the selection of patients for genetic counselling and treatment decision-making. Current recommendations therefore stress sequencing of all EOCs, regardless of histotype. Although it is recognised that BRCA1/2 PVs cluster in high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas (HGSOC), this view is largely unsubstantiated by detailed analysis. Here, we aimed to analyse the results of BRCA1/2 tumour sequencing in a centrally revised, consecutive, prospective series including all EOC histotypes. Sequencing of n = 946 EOCs revealed BRCA1/2 PVs in 125 samples (13%), only eight of which were found in non-HGSOC histotypes. Specifically, BRCA1/2 PVs were identified in high-grade endometrioid (3/20; 15%), low-grade endometrioid (1/40; 2.5%), low-grade serous (3/67; 4.5%), and clear cell (1/64; 1.6%) EOCs. No PVs were identified in any mucinous ovarian carcinomas tested. By re-evaluation and using loss of heterozygosity and homologous recombination deficiency analyses, we then assessed: (1) whether the eight 'anomalous' cases were potentially histologically misclassified and (2) whether the identified variants were likely causal in carcinogenesis. The first 'anomalous' non-HGSOC with a BRCA1/2 PV proved to be a misdiagnosed HGSOC. Next, germline BRCA2 variants, found in two p53-abnormal high-grade endometrioid tumours, showed substantial evidence supporting causality. One additional, likely causal variant, found in a p53-wildtype low-grade serous ovarian carcinoma, was of somatic origin. The remaining cases showed retention of the BRCA1/2 wildtype allele, suggestive of non-causal secondary passenger variants. We conclude that likely causal BRCA1/2 variants are present in high-grade endometrioid tumours but are absent from the other EOC histotypes tested. Although the findings require validation, these results seem to justify a transition from universal to histotype-directed sequencing. Furthermore, in-depth functional analysis of tumours harbouring BRCA1/2 variants combined with detailed revision of cancer histotypes can serve as a model in other BRCA1/2-related cancers. © 2023 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

More about this publication

The Journal of pathology
  • Volume 262
  • Issue nr. 2
  • Pages 137-146
  • Publication date 01-02-2024

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