Whole genome sequencing technology has facilitated the discovery of a large number of somatic mutations in enhancers (SMEs), whereas the utility of SMEs in tumorigenesis has not been fully explored. Here we present Ennet, a method to comprehensively investigate SMEs enriched networks (SME-networks) in cancer by integrating SMEs, enhancer-gene interactions and gene-gene interactions. Using Ennet, we performed a pan-cancer analysis in 2004 samples from 8 cancer types and found many well-known cancer drivers were involved in the SME-networks, including ESR1, SMAD3, MYC, EGFR, BCL2 and PAX5. Meanwhile, Ennet also identified many new networks with less characterization but have potentially important roles in cancer, including a large SME-network in medulloblastoma (MB), which contains genes enriched in the glutamate receptor and neural development pathways. Interestingly, SME-networks are specific across cancer types, and the vast majority of the genes identified by Ennet have few mutations in gene bodies. Collectively, our work suggests that using enhancer-only somatic mutations can be an effective way to discover potential cancer-driving networks. Ennet provides a new perspective to explore new mechanisms for tumor progression from SMEs.
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