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The cancer-mutation network and the number and specificity of driver mutations

By Jaime Iranzo, Inigo Martincorena, Eugene V Koonin

Posted 19 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/237016 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1803155115)

Cancer genomics has produced extensive information on cancer-associated genes but the number and specificity of cancer driver mutations remains a matter of debate. We constructed a bipartite network in which 7665 tumors from 30 cancer types are connected via shared mutations in 198 previously identified cancer-associated genes. We show that 27% of the tumors can be assigned to statistically supported modules, most of which encompass 1-2 cancer types. The rest of the tumors belong to a diffuse network component suggesting lower gene-specificity of driver mutations. Linear regression of the mutational loads in cancer-associated genes was used to estimate the number of drivers required for the onset of different cancers. The mean number of drivers is ∼2, with a range of 1 to 5. Cancers that are associated to modules had more drivers than those from the diffuse network component, suggesting that unidentified and/or interchangeable drivers exist in the latter.

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