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Generalizability of "GWAS hits" in clinical populations: Lessons from childhood cancer survivors

By Cindy Im, Na Qin, Zhaoming Wang, Weiyu Qiu, Carrie R. Howell, Yadav Sapkota, Wonjong Moon, Wassim Chemaitilly, Todd M. Gibson, Daniel A. Mulrooney, Kirsten K. Ness, Carmen L. Wilson, Lindsay M Morton, Gregory T. Armstrong, Smita Bhatia, Jinghui Zhang, Melissa M. Hudson, Leslie L. Robison, Yutaka Yasui

Posted 02 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.02.930818 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.08.014)

With mounting interest in translating GWAS hits from large meta-analyses (meta-GWAS) in diverse clinical settings, evaluating their generalizability in target populations is crucial. Here we consider long-term survivors of childhood cancers from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study and show the limited generalizability of 1,376 robust SNP associations reported in the general population across 12 complex anthropometric and cardiometabolic phenotypes (N=2,231; observed-to-expected replication ratio=0.68, P=2.4x10-9). An examination of five comparable phenotypes in a second independent cohort of survivors from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study corroborated the overall limited generalizability of meta-GWAS hits to survivors (N=4,212, observed-to-expected replication ratio=0.53, P=1.1x10-16). Meta-GWAS hits were less likely to be replicated in survivors exposed to cancer therapies associated with phenotype risk. Examination of complementary DNA methylation data in a subset of survivors revealed that treatment-related methylation patterns at genomic sites linked to meta-GWAS hits may disrupt established genetic signals in survivors.

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