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Most cancers are characterized by the somatic acquisition 52 of genomic rearrangements during tumour evolution that eventually drive the oncogenesis. There are different mutational mechanisms causing structural variation, some of which are specific to particular cancer types. Here, using multiplatform sequencing technologies, we identify and characterize a remarkable mutational mechanism in human hepatocellular carcinoma caused by Hepatitis B virus, by which DNA molecules from the virus are inserted into the tumour genome causing dramatic changes in its configuration, including non-homologous chromosomal fusions and megabase-size telomeric deletions. This aberrant mutational process, present in at least 8% of all HCC tumours, is active early during liver cancer evolution and can provide the driver rearrangements that a cancer clone requires to survive and grow.

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