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Discovery of cancer drivers has traditionally focused on the identification of protein-coding genes. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of putative cancer driver mutations in both protein-coding and non-coding genomic regions across >2,500 whole cancer genomes from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium. We developed a statistically rigorous strategy for combining significance levels from multiple driver discovery methods and demonstrate that the integrated results overcome limitations of individual methods. We combined this strategy with careful filtering and applied it to protein-coding genes, promoters, untranslated regions (UTRs), distal enhancers and non-coding RNAs. These analyses redefine the landscape of non-coding driver mutations in cancer genomes, confirming a few previously reported elements and raising doubts about others, while identifying novel candidate elements across 27 cancer types. Novel recurrent events were found in the promoters or 5'UTRs of TP53, RFTN1, RNF34, and MTG2, in the 3'UTRs of NFKBIZ and TOB1, and in the non-coding RNA RMRP. We provide evidence that the previously reported non-coding RNAs NEAT1 and MALAT1 may be subject to a localized mutational process. Perhaps the most striking finding is the relative paucity of point mutations driving cancer in non-coding genes and regulatory elements. Though we have limited power to discover infrequent non-coding drivers in individual cohorts, combined analysis of promoters of known cancer genes show little excess of mutations beyond TERT.

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