Purpose: The abundance and effects of structural variation at BRCA1/2 in tumours are not well understood. In particular, the impact of these events on homologous recombination repair deficiency (HRD) has yet to be demonstrated.
Experimental Design: Exploiting a large collection of whole genome sequencing data from high grade serous ovarian carcinoma (N=205) together with matched RNA-seq for the majority of tumours (N=150), we have comprehensively characterised mutation and expression at BRCA1/2 Results: In addition to the known spectrum of short somatic mutations (SSMs), we discover that multi-megabase structural variants (SVs) are a frequent, unappreciated source of BRCA1/2 disruption in these tumours, and we find a genome wide enrichment for large deletions at the BRCA1/2 loci across the cohort. These SVs independently affect a substantial proportion of patients (16%) in addition to those affected by SSMs (24%), conferring homologous recombination repair deficiency (HRD) and impacting patient survival. We also detail compound deficiencies involving SSMs and SVs at both loci, demonstrating that the strongest risk of HRD emerges from combined SVs at both BRCA1 and BRCA2 in the absence of SSMs. Further, these SVs are abundant and disruptive in other cancer types.
Conclusions: These results extend our understanding of the mutational landscape underlying HRD, increase the number of patients predicted to benefit from therapies exploiting HRD, and suggest there is currently untapped potential in SV detection for patient stratification.