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Background: The phenotypes of cancer cells are driven in part by somatic structural variants (SVs). SVs can initiate tumours, enhance their aggressiveness and provide unique therapeutic opportunities. Whole-genome sequencing of tumours can allow exhaustive identification of the specific SVs present in an individual cancer, facilitating both clinical diagnostics and the discovery of novel mutagenic mechanisms. A plethora of somatic SV detection algorithms have been created to enable these discoveries, however there are no systematic benchmarks of them. Rigorous performance evaluation of somatic SV detection methods has been challenged by the lack of gold-standards, extensive resource requirements and difficulties in sharing personal genomic information. Results: To facilitate SV detection algorithm evaluations, we created a robust simulation framework for somatic SVs by extending the BAMSurgeon algorithm. We then organized and enabled a crowd-sourced benchmarking within the ICGC-TCGA DREAM Somatic Mutation Calling Challenge (SMC-DNA). We report here the results of SV benchmarking on three different tumours, comprising 204 submissions from 15 teams. In addition to ranking methods, we identify characteristic error-profiles of individual algorithms and general trends across them. Surprisingly, we find that ensembles of analysis pipelines do not always outperform the best individual method, indicating a need for developing new ways to aggregate somatic SV detection approaches. Conclusions: The synthetic tumours and somatic SV detection leaderboards remain available as a community benchmarking resource, and BAMSurgeon is available at https://github.com/adamewing/bamsurgeon.

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